The research essay will explore how a particular religious tradition has responded to a specific problem or issue in the modern era. Students can select any religious tradition that we have touched upon throughout the course and select from the following issues: environmental concerns/ethics, fundamentalism, gender roles, questions pertaining to sexuality, and the issue of religious diversity/pluralism.
This is a research essay and students will be expected to use a minimum of three academic sources (journal articles or academic books). Students are permitted to use the textbook as a source but must use three additional sources, which may include scholarly books or journal articles. The essay must be a minimum of 6 pages (12-point New Times Roman font, double-spaced, and regular margins) in length but students may to write up to a maximum of 8 pages. In addition, students are expected to include a title page (name, student number, course information & essay title), in-text citations, and a bibliography at the end of the essay. Therefore, the title page and bibliography do not count toward the required 6-pages of writing. It is preferred that students use the Chicago Style citation method by students may also use APA or MLA. **Wikipedia may NOT be used as a source. Using these specifications, there are approximately 300 words per page, which means the word count should be about 1,800 (not including the bibliography and title page).
Essay Topic: Religion in the Modern World
For the research essay, students will select ONE Western religious tradition and ONE particular contemporary issue on which to focus. Such issues may include (but are not limited to):
- environmental ethics (PICK ONE: ie. pollution, climate change, global warming, etc.)
- the role of women (PICK ONE: ie. in positions of religious authority, in the domestic sphere, in monastic life, etc.)
- issues of gender and sexuality (PICK ONE: i.e. homosexuality, abortion, birth control, etc.)
- bioethics and medical technologies (PICK ONE: ie. fertility treatments, organ transplants, blood transfusions, etc.)
Students will research the varied responses that may exist within a specific WESTERN religious tradition (such as Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Indigenous Traditions, or New Religious Movements) and the research essay should address the following questions: How has the tradition you have chosen responded to the selected issue? Has there been a varied response by different sectarian groups within that tradition? Have religious officials/institutions justified their position using sacred texts? Did you find both conservative and liberal viewpoints on the chosen topic?
*Religious of Mediterranean Antiquity will not be a possible tradition to write on because students must focus on a contemporary issue.
Students will research the varied responses that may exist within a specific religion (such as Christianity, Judaism, Indigenous traditions, or Islam) and the research essay should address the following questions: How has the tradition you have chosen responded to the selected issue? Has there been a varied response by different sectarian groups within that tradition? How have religious officials/institutions justified their position using sacred texts or religious philosophies? Did you find both conservative and liberal viewpoints on the chosen topic?
Additionally, students must articulate a thesis statement or argument after their preliminary research has been completed. This will be the basis for the research essay, which must go beyond description and include some critical analysis. It is also important to note that the essay should NOT include your personal opinion on the topic. For example, if you select the issue of abortion within the context of Christianity, you do not want to include your personal views on the issue; rather, you want to focus on why particular Christian sectarian groups have responded to the issue of abortion and how they justify their view. Students are welcome to send their thesis statement in advance of the due date to receive feedback from the instructor.
Students can make their own topic selection but here are some sample topics if you are having difficulty making a choice:
1. Views in Christianity on homosexuality
2. Views in Islam on abortion
3. Views in Judaism on birth control
4. Views in Indigenous traditions on climate change
5. Views in an NMR (ie. such as Scientology) on Assisted Reproductive Technologies