Introduction to comparative religion

For this second essay, I want you to write a short (700 – 1000 word, 3 – 4 page) essay discussing and analyzing some sacred “element” of one of the religions you have studied. This can be a teaching, a ritual, a way people in the tradition understand the sacred, etc.. You must describe the sacred element, help the reader understand why it is considered sacred and what role it provides in the religion, and provide an analysis of the element and how it creates an relationship with the sacred for the adherents of the tradition who engage that element. In order to do this, you will also need to lay out a discussion of what the “sacred” is.

This element is likely something you will draw from your readings, either from the first four chapters. You may want to do a little extra research, and I have linked to a research guide in our library you may find useful for finding additional information.  If you have knowledge, background, or personal experience, you can draw on those — just make sure you clearly communicate where you are drawing on your own experience or knowledge. Although I do not require you to have research, I do want you to have an accurate representation of that sacred element or religious experience.  You may, of course, use the book as one of your main sources.

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The key of this essay, though, is your thinking and analysis.  I will be looking for you to provide a clear description of the element or experience (ritual, sacred space, sacred item, etc. based on your readings of our textbook) and a discussion of its sacred nature, using the concepts we have explored in our readings and in class. You should try to include comparison and discussion with related concepts and elements from our readings, as they apply, and you can reference other traditions.

For example, let’s say you are interested in Buddhism, and you decide you want to write a paper on Buddhist myths.  You discover an interesting story about the relationship between a famous Buddhist teacher named Marpa and his student Milarepa (who would also become a very important teacher).  You decide to analyze this story by thinking of it in relation to the other myths and sacred stories we have studied, and the ways we have analyzed and thought about them.

You can focus the essay on whatever you want from the traditions we have studied as long as you can provide the analysis that is required to fulfill the assignment criteria.

There is no requirement for outside research for this essay, per se, but you do need to document the source of your information, and you do need to make sure you use authoritative sources.  (If you have questions on how to find authoritative sources, remember that your ACC libraries provide reference librarians to help you with this kind of research — and you can always ask me if you have questions). There are no specific formatting requirements, but your document should be clean, edited, and professional in presentation.

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