Philosophy and Religion Research
Philosophy and Religion Research
Introduction to World Religions
Philosophy and Religion ï In your opinion, what is the meaning of life? Is belief in God necessary for a meaningful life? ï The science historian, Michael Shermer, has suggested that people come to faith for nonrational (i.e., familial, societal) reasons. Logical arguments, he believes, usually do not play a significant role in the process. Do you agree with this statement? If so, how has your background (family, culture, education, life events) influenced your religious worldview? Are there any criticisms that you can think of? ï Must morality be undergirded by religion? Is it true that there could be no morality without God? Can one lead a morally virtuous life without belief in God? ï What are we to make of the relationship between science and religion? Are they mutually independent, complementary, or antithetical ways of knowing? Is one way of knowing Superior to the other? Are religious beliefs irrefutable? Can they ever be verified in this lifetime? If so, how (e.g., scientific, rational, experiential, prophetic means)? Or will belief always require a leap of faith? ï Is it acceptable to evangelize another person to our faith? Why or why not? Or, should everyone adopt a live and let live mentality? Evaluate the following quotation from Mahatma Gandhi: ìThe various religions are like different roads converging on the same point. What difference does it make if we follow different routes, provided we arrive at the same destination?î ï Evaluate the following quotation from the physicist, Steven Weinberg: ìIn the same way that each of us has had to grow up to resist the temptation of wishful thinking . . ., so our species has had to learn in growing up that we are not playing the starring role in any sort of grand cosmic drama.î ï Consider the following quotation by Bertrand Russell: religion is something left over from the infancy of our intelligence; it will fade away as we adopt reason and science as our guidelines.î Do you agree with this statement? Do you see religion fading away in any foreseeable future? ï Which of the following do you find to be the most compelling reason for belief in God? Which do you find to be the least persuasive? A. Good design, natural beauty, perfection, or complexity of the world. (28.6%) B. Experience of God in everyday life; God is in us. (20.6%) C. It is comforting, relieving, consoling, gives meaning and purpose to life. (10.3%) D. The Bible says so. (9.8%) E. Just because; faith; need to believe in something. (8.2%) F. Raised to believe in God. (7.2%) G. God answers prayers. (6.4%) H. Without God there would be no morality. (4.0%) I. God has a plan for the world, history, destiny, and us. (3.8%) J. To account for good and avenge evil in the world. (1.0%) Nature of Religion ï Categorize the five major world religions according to their worldviews. How are they similar? How are they different?
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ï Do most people work out a religion for themselves or simply follow their parents religion? ï How would you define a “religion”? What properties must a belief system have in order for it to be a “religion”? If a belief system did not include “faith,î a god, and worship would it still be a religion? ï Do you think that religion in general has had a positive or negative effect on the world? Can you think of any examples? ï What characteristics are common in fundamentalist religious groups? ï Should religion be taught in state schools? Why/why not? If so, should the religion taught be the most common one or the most historical for the country? And should the class be mandatory or optional? ï Should prayer be obligatory in schools? Why/why not? ï In the United States in 2005, around 40% of the population believed that evolution did not take place. Do you believe that a person of faith can also accept evolutionary theory? ï Do you believe in an afterlife? What do you think of the idea of hell? What do you think of the idea of heaven? ï In what areas does religion have an impact in your country? ï What are the differences and similarities of cults and religions? Do you think that cults are dangerous? Why or why not? ï How would you define a cult? Should the government try to eliminate cults and other fringe religious groups? Why or why not? If so, how? ï What factors differentiate theistic and atheistic worldviews? What factors differentiate perspectives within these worldviews? ï The Church of the Spaghetti Monster (Pastafarianism) is a religious group started in 2005. The members of this religious group believe that a religion does not need to require its members to have literal belief in order to attain spiritual enlightenment. While many people view this religion as a “joke” or making fun of “serious” religious groups, the members claim that it is completely legitimate. What elements are required to create a new religion? Can anyone create a new religion? Why or why not? Religious Freedom and the Government ï Do you think a government should be guided by religious principles? Why or why not? ï The freedom of religion is a right included in the U.S. Constitution. It allows people to practice any religion in public or private without being persecuted. How does this policy of religious freedom compare with how people are allowed to practice (or not practice) religion in another country? ï Should everyone in a country have the right to practice any religion they wish? Why or why not? ï Do you think the government should have the ability to “manage” religious expression? Why or why not? Religious Symbols ï There is debate in some European countries – especially France – about the appropriateness of certain forms of traditional Islamic dress, especially in schools and other state institutions. The debate centers around the wearing of the “hijab.î This can refer to a large number of things ranging from the “Islamic headscarf” to the “burqa” or “burka,î which covers the whole body including the head and the face. What do you think about legal attempts in some European countries to control the use of these forms of dress? Would it be equally reasonable to prohibit Sikh men from wearing a turban? What is the difference – if any?
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ï If it were banned, it would presumably become a criminal offence. What punishment might be applied? How would Amnesty International react to jail terms? ï Is it reasonable to prevent men from wearing these things if they want to, or should any restriction only be applied to women? ï If Western countries forbid the wearing of the burka or other forms of Islamic dress, would it be reasonable for Islamic countries to insist that Western women wear burkas when visiting? Why or why not? ï If a person’s religion obliged them to always have their face covered, and if a state accepted this was a religious right which could not be taken away, how would it deal with passport photographs and photographs for driving licenses? ï Most European countries have their own clothing taboos. For instance you can get arrested or cause major disturbance if you walk around naked. What do you think about this apparent double standard? ï Priests, monks and nuns wear clothing which is, in some ways, similar to the burka. What would be the implications for these forms of dress, if the burka was banned? Freethinkers (nonbelievers, atheists, agnostics, secular humanists, etc.) ï Do nonbelievers have any special problems in certain countries? Do you think they are treated worse, the same, or better in the U.S. in certain circumstances? ï In 2009 a campaign started which promoted the slogan: “God probably doesn’t exist, now stop worrying and get on with your life.î What is your opinion of this? ï Can freethinkers go to church regularly for service but still remain as freethinkers? ï The well-known atheist Richard Dawkins once said: “We are all atheists about 99% of the Gods which have ever existed–some of us just go one God further.” What is your opinion of this statement? ï Many atheists maintain they do not believe in God because there is no sufficient, compelling evidence for Godís existence. What is your opinion? ï Can atheism be considered a religion? Can “not collecting stamps” be considered a hobby? ï What factors differentiate atheistic perspectives? How many different atheistic perspectives are there? ï What do different atheistic perspectives have in common? How do they differ? ï Do you think people who don’t believe in God or gods can live good lives? Why or why not? ï Upon what basis can nonbelievers make ethical decisions?
Religion and Conflict ï Do you think religion is the cause of most conflict in the world? Why or why not? ï If religion isn’t the primary justification used to wage wars, what is? ï Do you believe that religion is sometimes used to justify violence and oppression? If so, can you give some examples?
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