Conversation about differing religions

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Required Resources
Read/review the following resources for this activity:

Article: Talking About Religion – How to Do It Right (see attachment)

Minimum of 1 scholarly source

Text book (see 8 elements of religion below)

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:

1.What are the material expressions of their tradition (statues, paintings, music, etc.)?

2.Do they see any conflict between the stated beliefs of their tradition and their own beliefs?

3.Based on your partner’s description, which theory of the origin of religions (Week 1) offers the best explanation for their approach to religion?

4.What challenges can your partner identify that their religious tradition faces in the modern world? Do they feel that their tradition is responding positively?

5.Is the tradition focused on belief (orthodoxy) or behavior (orthopraxis)?

6. 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.

Conclude with your personal reaction to this experience and any additional questions that came up after your conversation. Be kind!

This is a formal academic paper so pay careful attention to the basics of writing a good English composition.

Writing Requirements (APA format)

Length: 1000-1200 words (not including title page or references page)

1-inch margins

Double spaced

12-point Times New Roman font

Title page

References page (minimum of 1 scholarly source)


8 Elements of Religion

Traditional dictionary definitions of religion read something like this: a system of belief that involves worship of a God or gods, prayer, ritual, and a moral code. But there are so many exceptions to that definition that it is neither comprehensive nor accurate. So instead of saying that a religion must have certain characteristics, it is more useful to list a series of characteristics that are found in what are commonly accepted as religions. Scholars note that what we ordinarily call religions manifest to some degree the following eight elements:4

Belief system Several beliefs fit together into a fairly complete and systematic interpretation of the universe and the human being’s place in it; this is also called a worldview.

Community The belief system is shared, and its ideals are practiced by a group.

Central myths Stories that express the religious beliefs of a group are retold and often reenacted. Examples of central myths include the major events in the life of the Hindu god Krishna, the enlightenment experience of the Buddha, the exodus of the Israelites from oppression in Egypt, the death and resurrection of Jesus, or Muhammad’s escape from Mecca to Medina. Scholars call such central stories myths. We should note that the term myth, as scholars use it, is a specialized term. It does not in itself mean that the stories are historically untrue (as in popular usage) but only that the stories are central to the religion.

Ritual Beliefs are enacted and made real through ceremonies.

Ethics Rules about human behavior are established. These are often viewed as having been revealed from a supernatural realm, but they can also be viewed as socially generated guidelines.

Characteristic emotional experiences Among the emotional experiences typically associated with religions are dread, guilt, awe, mystery, devotion, conversion, “rebirth,” liberation, ecstasy, bliss, and inner peace.

Material expression Religions make use of an astonishing variety of physical elements—statues, paintings, musical compositions, musical instruments, ritual objects, flowers, incense, clothing, architecture, and specific locations.

Sacredness A distinction is made between the sacred and the ordinary; ceremonies often emphasize this distinction through the deliberate use of different language, clothing, and architecture. Certain objects, actions, people, and places may share in the sacredness or express it.

Each of the traditions that we will study in the pages ahead will exhibit most of these characteristics. But the religious traditions, like the people who practice them, will manifest the characteristics in different ways and at different times.


Molloy, M. (2013). Experiencing the World’s Religions, 6th Edition. [VitalSource]. Retrieved from

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