What Constitutes a Religion?

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Assigned Paper 1: “What Constitutes a Religion”.

You are to write a three-page essay [900 – 1,000 words, pages plus a works cited page] on the topic, “What Constitutes a Religion”. The paper is to be double spaced, 12 point, Times Roman Font, with one inch margins. Your paper must be submitted on Canvas. Due on Canvas by Midnight September 14, 2019.

Begin, as with every paper you will ever write, by writing down everything you know or think you know about the topic – in this case, what constitutes or what it is that makes something a religion. Do you know or have ideas about the difference between a religion and a philosophy? Between religion and spirituality? Between religion and politics?

This becomes your base line. Everything you learn from this point on that you use in your paper needs a citation showing the source of your information. If it is in your own words, your own paraphrases or summaries it still needs a citation showing the source of your ideas. If it is your sources’ words, they must be in quotation marks [“ . . . ”] and with a citation.

Even for your own original thoughts and ideas it is never a bad idea to provide citations to show that other people agree with you, or citations to show that some people do not agree with you, but that you have taken their ideas into consideration.

Remember that a paper that consists of mostly quotations, all properly formatted and cited demonstrates your ability to cut and paste but does not make a good paper. A proper academic paper should consist of no more that 15% of exact quotations. A good paper will reflect that you have researched multiple sources, seriously reflected upon what you have found, and on the basis of those reflections combine and put what you have learned in your own words, all with appropriate citations to the materials that are the sources of your ideas.

On Canvas I have provided a page from Huston Smith’s in well-known textbook, The Illustrated World’s Religions [San Francisco. HarperOne. 1986. P. 67] where he lists and defines six features that regularly found in every religion. Also, I have provided you with the text from introductions and selections from five other books that attempt to describe general features that characterize all religions. Make notes, and compare these. Where do they agree? How do they differ?

John Bowker. World Religions. New York. DK. 2006. Pp. 5-10.

Jeffrey Brodd. World Religions: A Voyage of Discovery. 3d ed. Winona, MN. St. Mary’s. 2009. Pp. 11-19.

Michael D. Coogan (ed.) The Illustrated Guide to World Religions. New York. Oxford University Press. 2002. Pp. 6-13.

Christopher Partridge (ed.) Introduction to World Religions. Minneapolis, MN. Fortress. 2005. Pp. 10-18.

Nancy Ring, Kathleen S. Nash, Mary N. MacDonald, and Fred Glennon (eds.). Introduction to the Study of Religion. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis. 2012. Pp. 79-83.

            In addition to what I have provided I want you to find a couple of additional sources on-line sources related to this topic that you find useful in formulating your essay. Be aware that not everything that shows up on-line is necessarily authoritative. But I do want you to use and cite material from at least one on-line source in your essay.

In your reading, note how in extended discussions of religion the writers’ tendency is to move from definitions of religion to descriptions of religion. Note how, in describing religion, the authors tend to focus on multiple features that are typical in religions. Also note that the exact extent to which any particular religion exhibits any one of these features can vary greatly. Again, take careful notes and gather all the information you need for a proper citation to each of your sources.

Now organize your thoughts and ideas. From your notes create an outline of how you will use what you have read to compose your answer to the question “What Constitutes a Religion”.

You want a good introduction to your paper, but I suggest that you save that to last. So, while your outline begins with an Introduction that you will write later, move on to an outline of the body of your paper. You might want to explain why it is better to discuss characteristics of religion than to try and define religion. Select characteristics that for you best apply to most religions. Plan to devote a paragraph to each. Use some examples from different religions gathered from your reading to illustrate your points about different characteristics. And you will want a conclusion that summarizes what you have found.

Then go back and re-read and polish the body of your paper. Is it organized? Does it follow your outline? Is your paper balanced? Do you provide proper space and attention to each topic? Does each paragraph develop one single idea? Are your sentences clear and crisp?

Now write a short conclusion summarizing what you have done, and what you have discovered.

Finally go back to the beginning and now write a short introduction in which you introduce the topic, “What Constitutes a Religion”, suggest reasons why the topic is important, and tell your reader how you are going to approach the topic in your paper. In short, write a short guide to the work that you have already done.

Re-read your paper out loud. Can you read it comfortably, understanding what you have said? Run it through spell-check. Use a grammar program to spot and correct difficulties. Have a friend or family member read your paper and point out difficulties and inconsistencies.

Double check your citations and your works cited page. Make sure that every citation in your paper has a full reference on your works cited page. Make sure that every item on your works cited page has at least one reference in your paper.

Submit your paper on Canvas by Midnight, Saturday September 14.

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