Complete three (3) of five essays (at least 1000 words each / 33 points each / 99 points total/ 1 point for good luck). Please note which question you are answering with each essay by giving the number at the beginning.

  1. Think of the various origin stories we read and their purposes (Vedas, Upanishads, Tao te Ching, Genesis). No one was ‘there’ for creation, so they cannot be straightforward accounts of series’ of events. It doesn’t ultimately matter whether they gel with current science; science does not know why the big bang happened with any degree of accuracy either. So, what purpose or purposes do they serve for a particular tradition? Give as many examples from actual creation tales as you possibly can. We do not know who wrote these, what they intended, or what ‘really’ spurred their authoring. So, how do they work? What do they do? What kinds of concepts do they help define (i.e. good/evil/being/nothing)? And how is definition important for the beginning of a tradition. Give lots of examples, and stay close to the texts! There are arguments to make here, not opinions to express. At the end, I would like to hear whether you think that humans need a ‘beginning of everything’ or not? Why or why not?
  2. Using the material we have read concerning Hinduism, Buddhism, and Eastern Religions more generally (including Smith), explain the following dialogue about ‘Karma’ from the Buddhist Scriptures (WR 97) in relation to its wider cosmological, religious, and ethical significance: “If a man should steal another man’s mangoes, would he deserve a thrashing?—Yes, of course—But he would not have stolen the same mangoes that the other man planted. Why does he deserve a thrashing?—Because the stolen mangoes are a result of the planted ones.—Just so, it is because of the deeds one does, pure or impure, with this psycho-physical organism that one is linked to another, and is not freed from one’s past evils.”
  3. Using the material we have read concerning Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, and Zen Buddhism (including Smith and the Mumonkan, pdf on Canvas), explain the metaphysical, ethical, and ‘spiritual’ significances of the following tale: Tanzan and Ekido were once traveling together down a muddy road. A heavy rain was still falling. Coming around a bend, they met a lovely girl in a silk kimono and sash, unable to cross the intersection. “Come on, girl” said Tanzan at once. Lifting her in his arms, he carried her over the mud. Ekido did not speak again until that night when they reached a lodging temple. Then he no longer could restrain himself. “We monks don’t go near females,” he told Tanzan, “especially not young and lovely ones. It is dangerous. Why did you do that?” “I left the girl there,” said Tanzan. “Are you still carrying her?”
  4. Using the material we have read concerning Judaism, Christianity, and Islam (including Smith), unpack the cosmological, historical, and religious, and ethical significance of the following psalm (song of praise) (WR 308; Psalm 96:9-10): “Bow down to the LORD majestic in holiness; tremble in His presence all the earth!/Declare among the nations, “The LORD is king!”/The world stands firm; it cannot be shaken; He judges people with equity.” How would each of the three monotheistic religions understand this command commonly, and how would they understand it differently?
  5. Using the first three essays we read in the Philosophy of Religion Reader, tell me whether you think that hard pluralism, soft pluralism, or exclusivism is the better option for confronting the fact that there are multiple living religious traditions in the world. Think back to the first powerpoint, which provided a number of distinctions of kinds of incompatible truths. Make sure you talk about each of the three pieces and take your time organizing your discussion. Show some of the back and forth between these positions while explaining your choice. Fully describe each position. Make an outline with your reasons and arguments. Summarize the arguments succinctly, but in a way that your peers would understand them. Don’t simply tell me why you like one position and not the others. I need to know the principle upon which you ultimately make your decision for one position over the others. I want to see why you think it is better. The reason could be epistemic (i.e. with regard to Truth), metaphysical (i.e. with regard to Being and Non-being), ethical (i.e., with regard to what is just or right), or pragmatic (i.e., with regard to what puts you in right relation to reality). Whichever reason kind of reason you formulate, be clear about it.
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