Final Exam Questions

What is Religion?
Fall 1997

As we decided in class, your assignment is to answer two of these questions. You get to pick which two. You may either e-mail the answers to me, put the typed answers in my mailbox, deliver same to me by hand, or show up in class during the scheduled exam time (Thur. Dec 18, 3:00-5:00) and take it in the traditional fashion.

A note on collaboration: Since most of you will be doing this at home, I should say something about what is acceptable and unacceptable regarding working with others on your exam. You are welcome, even encouraged, to prepare with others. However, you must write the essay yourself without the aid of others and certainly without looking at others' answers. While this may seem obvious to most of you, a number of the makeup papers I have received this semester makes it clear to me that it is not obvious to all. If I receive identical exams, or even exams that are obviously simply paraphrases of each other, I will deny credit to all such exams without asking who copied from whom. So, not only should you not look at others' essays, you should jealously guard your own as well.

For this exam you will be given two of the following questions and asked to respond to one of those. As a general target, answers should be in the neighborhood of one blue book, single sided. However, it is certainly possible to give a good response in less space, and you are not compelled to limit it to that space.

In reference to the chapter "God Burns Idols" (from Mel Tari's book, Like a Mighty Wind), you may find it helpful to look at a selection from the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament): 1 Kings 18:19-39. What does Tari's story illustrate regarding different attitudes in even closely allied religious traditions about artistic representation of God and/or holy men and women? Tari claims that the events described in this book actually happened to members of his church. Is that possible? If so, what does that say about the nature of God? If not, where might this story have come from?

We have had several opportunities to examine various functions of, and attitudes toward, sex within several of the religions we have looked at. Describe the range of those functions and attitudes, giving examples. In your opinion, do these functions and/or attitudes play into the social importance of gender in their respective traditions? Explain your answer. Do you find any of these positions 'weird' or disturbing? Why (or why not)?

Design you own religion from the ground up. What earlier traditions will you draw from? How will you function in your role as leader? Be sure to include how your group will address the following issues: afterlife, ethics/morality, your relationship with the outside world, sex, theodicy (the problem of evil), money, religious experience, dissension within the group. For a good grade, your religion must appear viable and attractive to inquirers. Will the religion survive you? If so, how? If not, why not?

What are the major world religions? What are their connections historically (where this can be known)? Compare and contrast their basic beliefs on the nature of God or the gods, afterlife, good & evil, creation and eschatology.

Religion has undergone a number of attacks in the modern world. Choosing either the conflict between religion and science, the issue of miracles, the problem of evil, or proofs of the existence of God, briefly describe the criticism and then show how religious communities are likely to respond.

Contrast/compare the two rabbis from the stories "The Law" and "A Day in the Life of a Desert Rider" in Michener's The Source. Specifically, how do rabbi Asher and the unnamed rabbi of Makor during the Muslim conquest differ in regards to their approach to the Law and Jewish traditions? How do their approaches overflow into their handling of difficult situations within their own communities?


Last Modified Dec. 11, 1997
by Alan Humm