When exploring a topic like religion, it is important to directly experience it in some small way, to be able to recognize its appearances in the world, and to critically engage with the many ways that religious beliefs shape and influence social and political life. The capstone project for this class is an “enrichment activity” meant to foster one of these capacities. While you are taking the course, choose ONE of the following activities and write a report on what you did and learned.
Spend at least an hour visiting the facilities of a religion other than your own. Given the spread of the world religions today, there are usually meetings places of several of them near by. For example, sit in on the services at a Buddhist or Hindu temple, a synagogue, a mosque, or an Orthodox church.
Participate in a ritual, festival, or other specific activity being held by a religion other than your own. During the span of our class, there are bound to be a number of religious celebrations being observed. You might also have the opportunity to attend activities such as a bar mitzvah or a Hindu wedding.
For at least two weeks, undertake a traditional spiritual practice that belongs to a religion other than your own. Many such practices are available: participate in regular sessions of yoga or meditation, honor the Buddhist practice of “right speech,” maintain the Islamic prayer schedule, follow Jewish dietary rules, and so on.
After taking a course on world religions, many people are surprised by the fact that they now recognize religion in places they never had before. The cultural world is filled with religious motifs and imagery. For instance, it is not uncommon for students to watch a favorite movie again only to discover that it contains significant religious themes they had previously overlooked. This option asks you to try that as well. Watch TWO mainstream movies with significant religious themes that you can identify and analyze. Some examples, by religion, include:
Judaism: “The Chosen,” “A Serious Man,” “A Price Above Rubies”
Christianity: “The Apostle,” “Jesus of Montreal,” “Saved,” “The Last Temptation of Christ”
Islam: “The Kite Runner,” “Monsieur Ibrahim,” “The White Balloon”
Hinduism: “Slumdog Millionaire,” “The Legend of Bagger Vance,” “The Razor’s Edge”
Buddhism: “Fight Club,” “Groundhog Day,” “I (heart) Huckabees”
Shinto: “Princess Mononoke"
If you happen to be the kind of student who likes traditional term papers, then a final option is to produce a research paper. However, you must pick a topic that is both controversial and directly related to the role of religion in contemporary social or political life. Examples include debates over prayer in schools, abortion, homosexuality, separation of church and state, creationism vs. evolution, end of life questions, war and religion, or gender issues. The paper should include an accurate summary of the arguments involved on all sides of the issue as well as a conclusion presenting your critical perspective on the theme in light of the research you have done. The paper must also include proper citation and a bibliography that shows the sources used. A paper with only website sources is not acceptable.
Rubric For Evaluation: You will submit a report on what you did, exactly what you saw or experienced, and your own critical reflections on what you learned in the process. Each student will receive points for this activity. The enrichment activity assignment is worth 35 points. The report must be at least 1,000 words in length. I will grade these reports based on how well they meet the following criteria: (1) clarity of report about what was done; (2) accuracy of report about what was encountered; (3) cogency and critical value of the personal insights given; and, (4) quality of writing. Because not all computers share similar software, be sure to format and submit the report either as a Word document or as an .rft file. The report is due by end of Week 8.
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