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Anatomy of the Sacred

Answer three (3) questions in essay form. Each essay should be at least two (2) pages in length, double- spaced, 12 pt. font. The total length should be 6-8 pages..

• E. B. Tylor (in 1871) and to some degree James Frazer (1890-1915) articulated what we can call the first attempt to give an anthropological (in the modern sense of the term) account of religion. First, how do their accounts differ, for example, from the Enlightenment’s naturalistic explanation of and attitude toward religion? Secondly, do Tylor and Frazer agree that religion must in the end disappear and yield to modern science as a better explanation of reality; and if so, was religion ever an explanation of reality to them at all?)? And Thirdly, what was specifically Tylor’s way of understanding religion and how does Frazer’s understanding of religion go beyond Tylor’s (i.e. does Frazer contribute anything new)? (To answer this question you must carefully read the chapter on “Tylor and Frazer in Pals.)

• The (radical) Enlightenment (Spinoza, Reimarus, Hume, and Kant) had a very negative view of revealed religion in general, and Christianity in particular. For example, Reimarus looked at Christianity as a fraud, a fabrication of the power-hungry early disciples of Jesus. Kant had a complete disregard for revealed religion (which he found full of superstitions and gross immoralities) and sought translate Christianity into a moral system, which we can get on our own through Reason (not revelation). Hume proposed a naturalistic explanation of religion and attacked all attempts to rationally prove the existence of God. Assess the critique of religion proffered by the Enlightenment. Is it persuasive? Is it fair to religion?

• Although Schleiermacher and Hegel were influenced by the Enlightenment in their critique of revelation and dogma, and were both influenced by Kant and Spinoza, they had a different analysis and interpretation of religion. 1. State the (radical) Enlightenment understanding of religion and compare it and contrast it with that of Schleiermacher and Hegel. 2. In what ways the way Schleiermacher, and Hegel see religion a more positive and sympathetic interpretation of religion and Christianity? 3. Are the views of religion offered by Schleiermacher and Hegel in the end more harmful to Christianity in particular, and religion in general (e.g. by making too many concessions to scientific naturalism and the Enlightenment)? (For this essay Handout #1 is essential, and my lectures on the Enlightenment, Schleiermacher, Hegel. As I said in class, the Strauss selection posted on Blackboard will give you a pretty good idea of Hegel’s position.)

• Emile Durkheim offered a major interpretation of religion that rivaled Tylor’s and Frazer’s in depth and in many ways surpassed them in influence. 1. Explain Durkheim’s interpretation and analysis of religion. 2. Explain how Durkheim’s analysis is similar to Marx’s (and Feuerbach’s), and ways in which it is different. 3. Is Durkheim’s analysis of religion continuous (in sync) with the Enlightenment (Hume, Reimarus), or does it significantly go beyond the Enlightenment? (For this question you must read carefully the chapter on Durkheim in Pals, as well my lectures on Marx, Feuerbach, and Strauss.)

• Discuss Marx’s thesis, building on the work of Feuerbach and Hegel (as Hegel was interpreted by Feuerbach) that religion is a major obstacle to the emancipation of humanity from superstition and oppression, that religion has been a major force in legitimizing and justifying the conquest of subjugation of peoples in the name of their god and religion. Is Marx’s critique of religion for the most part correct, partially correct, or too simplistic (black and white) to be right? (You must read the Marx selection in Pals, and I strongly recommend that you read the Feuerbach selection posted on Canvas as well.)

• The Bhagavad Gita is one of the greatest synthesis in the history of religions. Explain how the way it reconciles the different paths to salvation (Karma/Action, Jñana/Knowledge, and Bhakti/Devotion or faith in God) offered, respectively, by the Vedas (action in the world), the Upanishads (knowledge of Brahman or the Absolute), and the Gita (devotion or faith in a personal, loving and savior God who takes on human form to make his message available to us humans) represents either one of the greatest spiritual achievements, or, as Marx would say, the kind of deceptive and manipulative attempt to keep a decadent and dying religion alive for the benefit of the upper Hindu priestly and warrior classes who saw their power and influence over the masses decline and who needed to reinvent themselves and their religion to secure and prolong their power and control over the people. Defend one of these interpretations. (Recommended Reading: Peter Berger selection posted on Canvas.)

• In Chapter 6 on Sacred Scripture, Livingston discusses the role of scripture in different world religions. For example, the Muslim Qur’an, the Sikh Granth Sahib (Adi Granth), and the Hebrew and Christian Bible are considered not only authoritative (canonical) but also the inspired and infallible or inerrant Word of God (without error not only in matters of faith and morals, but in scientific and historical matters as well). 1. Is this view of scripture defensible in the light of the critique of inerrancy and infallibility arising out of the Enlightenment and continued in the 19th century (read Handout #1)? 2. Is allegorical (or symbolical, spiritual) interpretation as used by the Catholic church since Origen and Augustine, Buddhists, and Hindus a way to defend inerrancy or the authority of scripture at the spiritual level, while admitting error at the literal, factual level (read article on “Origen and the Bible” on Blackboard? 3. Or
(a) do we believe in the literal truth of sacred scripture over any scientific and historical evidence that

challenges it, or (b) do we stop being a true Christian, Muslim, Sikh, Hindu if we reject the literal truthfulness of sacred scripture in all matters, or (c) do we wait for science to come around in the future and confirm the literal interpretation of our sacred scripture?

• In Chapter 9 of Anatomy of the Sacred, different understandings of origins (cosmogony), across modern and ancient religions are discussed. Is there one conception that recommends itself to being more literally true than the others? In other words, can we say that one of the narratives is more literally true, more true to reality, and less “mythical” than the others? Make sure you define what you mean by “mythical.” You may find Livingston’s treatment of myth and symbol in Chapter 4 of Anatomy of the Sacred helpful.

• Chapter 8 of Anatomy of the Sacred discusses different views of ultimate reality. Explain the difference between these views: polytheism, pantheism, dualism, monism, and monotheism. Do you find one of these views more “true” or more compelling than the others? Or are they equally defensible characterizations or approaches to ultimate reality?

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