rel questions

rel questions


Rel 376 Spring, 2017. Exam #2.  Worth up to 100 points


The questions for this exam are intended to give you a chance to make cross-comparisons among the various theories we have looked at, as a way of giving you a larger map of the territory rather than end up only with familiarity with individuals pieces of the terrain, though ability to describe these individual pieces will provide a starting point for your comparisons.  Major aspects that allow for comparisons include these: a common tendency to use functionalist reductionism to explain the origin and function of religion, as well as a range of types of explanation of the origin of religion – intellectualist, psychological, genetic, and sociological.


1.Both Tylor and Feuerbach have somewhat intellectualist theories of religion, in that both think that it is human awareness of certain questions which lead people to believe there are anthropomorphic beings or a Being.  Describe these two different theories of why people believe in spiritual beings or Beings, but also describe the differences between the two theories.


2.Both Marx and Freud accepted Feuerbach’s basic idea that people create God, so to speak, rather than the other way around.  Explain their basic ideas about how and why we do this, particularly the differences in the two theories as to what particular human need or needs are being fulfilled by belief in God.


3.Both Barrett and Guthrie think that the human tendency to believe in anthropomorphic beings have a genetic origin.  Barrett does not much speculate on the origin of this tendency itself.  Guthrie, however, does.  Describe both Barrett’s type of evidence that children do this, and also describe Guthrie’s theory as to the origin of this tendency.


4.Berger provides a sociological theory focused on the problem of human identity and social stability.  He does not provide an explanation, however, of how humankind might have hit upon using “cosmization in a sacred mode” as a way of solving this problem.  First describe his basic theory in some detail.  Then discuss how this might be characterized also as a “functional reductionism.”



5.Feuerbach, Freud, and Barrett (see the last paragraphs on the sheet summarizing his views) all address the response theologians have made to their theories about anthropomorphizations by saying the only valid description of God is non-anthropomorphic.  Describe the non-anthropomorphic notion of God (see #3 on the pink handout with 3 notions of God), and describe how Feuerbach, Freud, and Barrett respond to the theologians.  (You will find material for this in the handout from Feuerbach, and in Pals’ analysis and critique of Freud).

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