Reli335: Essay 1: Public debates about religion Essay: write 1500 words Presentation: After finishing writing the essay please make sure to write up to 600 words in separate page as a summary so I can present it in class Essay 1 will address a contemporary religious debate in the public sphere (gay marriage; public wearing of burka; religion in schools; etc.) Your essay will present two sides of a debate. You can choose any public debate that focusses on religion. Your task is not to decide which side is right, but to think about what the debate tells us about religion in the modern world. Given that it is a short essay, just focus on two different positions in the debate, even though there are often more than two distinct parties engaging in important public debates. First, present the content of each side of the debate. What is each side arguing? What is their concern? What is at stake for them? Then, ask more analytical questions that may shed light on the way religion is debated in public. • What does the debate tell us about religion in the modern world? • How does each side define or characterise religion? What are the differences in their definitions? Which definition is more aligned with the way religious studies defines religion? • Who makes up the groups that have come into conflict? Are there interesting coalitions/alliances (e.g., religious groups that would normally keep their distance from one another)? Were their groups that you thought would be opposed to a specific position but are not? You should also tell us which major participants in these debates you WON’T be focussing on, just to give us a sense of the scope of the debate. • What does each side cite as the bases of their authority? (Bible, rationality, constitutional laws, etc.) • What role does the state play in the debate? • How do the groups respond to each other? That is, how do they describe, and counter, the views of their opponents? • What is at stake in the debate? Who are the winners and losers? • What vision do they have of the role of religion in the public sphere? • What vision do they have of an ideal society? That is, what sort of society are they trying to build? Use direct quotations from your sources, which communicate to your audience the voices and concerns of the participants. There is certainly a place for paraphrasing in your essay, but sometimes paraphrasing blunts the message of participants engaged in passionate debate. When you give a direct quotation, tell us who the speaker is, and give details about him/her/it. Is it a religious leader, a politician, an ordinary person, a law, an official church statement, etc.? Sources: 1. Primary sources. These are ‘sources’ which contain the writings and words of the participants in the debate. The internet can be a good source of primary materials. For example, if you are writing about abortion in the Catholic Church, you will be able to find online official Church policy on abortion, and official justification of that policy. Look at online newspapers that will tell you about the different positions taken by groups on the debate. Even reader comments could be useful statements of positions. Interviews with participants are also primary sources. In your essay, clearly state the position and status of your participants. Are you focussing on church leaders, or on ordinary worshippers? Government officials, or marginalised people? 2. Secondary sources. However, you should go beyond primary sources. Look at journal databases to see if there are scholarly articles about the specific debate you are interested in. You might also look at scholarly sources that give relevant historical background to a debate. For example, if you are writing on a debate over whether scientology is a ‘cult’ or a ‘religion’, you should look at academic writings on the Church of Scientology. However, because of the brevity of the essay, use more than about 3-4 scholarly sources.
Writing a research paper gives you an opportunity to explore a topic of special interest, research that topic, and organize your research findings in writing for an academic audience. Through your preparation work, you have established an argumentative thesis statement and have planned a clear organization of your main