Writing Religion Assignment #1: Defining Terms

What is “religion,” anyway?  As we’ve discussed and seen in our readings, there are many conflicting definitions of “religion” currently in use: some see it as a set of guiding rules to be obeyed, others as a personal relationship with a benevolent God, others as a form of mystic meditation, and so on.  If we are to read, talk, think, and write about religion throughout the semester, then we ought to ponder on what we mean by that word.   What do we mean when we use it, and why?  Framing your view against those suggested by at least TWO of our sources, your paper will explain to the rest of the class what definition of religion you think we should use for our discussions this semester and why.

Audience: the class

Format: 3 double-spaced pages; MLA style

Advice: Obviously, considering the enormity of this issue and your limited page length, you will have to organize your paper clearly and get to the point quickly.  Taking into account what we’ve discussed in class, determine a few issues raised by our sources that you think are important to answering the paper’s question (whether you agree with those sources or not) and use your responses to those as the basis of body paragraphs to structure your paper. Do not: get caught up merely in summarizing our sources or give an extended personal response that neither clearly explains your definition nor refers to our sources.  Do: explain your answer to the question; accurately represent our sources and thoughtfully respond to each; structure your paper so that each paragraph helps demonstrate your claim.


Type: Develop an argument to analyze the tension you see between two primary sources

Rationale: The purpose of this assignment is to give students practice distilling the terms of an argument, using the course readings [Rick Warren’s The Purpose-Driven Life, Karen Armstrong’s The Case for God, Greg Epstein’s Good Without God] as a model for how to identify and build upon the terms of their own arguments; instructors may want to remind the class of their definitions in these papers as the semester’s discussion progresses.

Pre-Draft Activities:

1. Determining the meaning of “God” as used in several popular songs (see pre-draft exercise 1.1)

2. Opening paragraph exercise (see pre-draft exercise 1.2)

3. In-group exercise on paper structure (see pre-draft exercise 1.3)

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