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interview essay, talking about religions

For this assignment you are required to sit down for a conversation with someone whose religious identity differs from your own (this means that if you identify as Christian, for example, you should find a conversation partner who does not identify as such). The purpose of this exercise is for you to engage with someone else in conversation. That means that you will not only ask questions, but you will hopefully answer questions about your own beliefs, as well.

Review the article for this activity, “Talking About Religion – How to Do It Right” (link in Required Resources), for some guidance on how to engage in conversations about religion before meeting with your partner. You may also wish to share this information with your partner.

In this exercise, you will listen to the ideas of someone who you identify as religiously “other.” You will share your own ideas and report on what you learned. This would include what you learned about your conversation partner’s beliefs, and how those beliefs compare to your own religious upbringing and/or current practice.

The report should give a description of the major topics of discussion and a detailed summary of what you learned. As part of your assignment you should include the following:

  • Describe your conversation partner’s beliefs. Some things to consider include the following:
    • What are the material expressions of their tradition (statues, paintings, music, etc.)?
    • Do they see any conflict between the stated beliefs of their tradition and their own beliefs?
    • Based on your partner’s description, which theory of the origin of religions (Week 1) offers the best explanation for their approach to religion?
    • What challenges can your partner identify that their religious tradition faces in the modern world? Do they feel that their tradition is responding positively?
    • Is the tradition focused on belief (orthodoxy) or behavior (orthopraxis)?
    • Apply the 8 elements of religion from Week 1.
  • Provide some cultural and historical context for the religious tradition of your conversation partner. (It is important that you do some research before you have your conversation so that you are able to ask informed questions that come from genuine interest.) Make sure you use citations in your discussion of what you learned from your research.
  • Compare your partner’s beliefs and practices to your own religious upbringing and/or current practice. This is to be done in the report not as a debate with your partner.

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