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Perspectives Essay Assignment Discussion

Perspectives Essay Assignment Discussion

Perspectives Essay Assignment Discussion

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

  • 1. Textbook: Chapter 1
    • Molloy, M. (2013). Experiencing the world’s religions (6th ed.). New York City, NY: McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
  • 2. Lesson (Attached)
  • 3. Minimum of 2 scholarly sources (1 for the etic view, and 1 for the emic view. Your source for the emic view should come from someone who writes with authority in the religion you chose. For example, if you chose Buddhism, you could use a quotation from His Holiness, Dalai Lama XIV).


Make sure to read the lesson this week to learn about etic and emic perspectives so that you can appropriately apply them in this assignment. In an essay, apply the etic and emic perspectives to your own religion or a religion with which you have some familiarity.

  • How would your tradition be described etically? Remember that this is an outsider’s perspective of what can be measured, studied, or observed.
  • How would it be described emically? Remember that this is an insider’s perspective as seen by practitioners

Make sure that you are using at least one source for each approach and include citations from the assigned readings and additional scholarly sources.

Writing Requirements (APA format)

  • Length: 350-500 words (not including title page or references page)
  • 1-inch margins
  • Double spaced
  • 12-point Times New Roman font
  • Title page
  • References page
  • attachment



    The human religious impulse includes a “brush with mystery,” an “experience of sacredness.” The holy is sometimes perceived as a reality beyond the self and sometimes as within the self. In either case, personal experience of the holy is qualitatively different from other experiences, so it is difficult to describe, and people often turn to poetry to express these experiences. The object of that experience transcends the ordinary in a way that defies rational explanation. Martin Buber, a Jewish philosopher, wrote the following:

    If you explore the life of things and of conditioned being, you come to the unfathomable. If you deny the life of things and of conditioned being, you stand before nothingness, and if you hallow this life, you meet the living God. Perspectives Essay Assignment Discussion

    The Study of Religion: Three Approaches

    For the past several decades, the study of religion has become quite common at both private and public colleges and universities. And while the study of religion on an academic level is rather new compared to older academic disciplines, three basic approaches to the study of religion have evolved:

    · the normative, or those approaches that see one perspective as true

    · the social scientific, or those that draw from the social sciences like anthropology, psychology, and sociology

    · the humanistic, those that are grounded in the humanities

    While many courses on world religions use one or all of these approaches, it is the third that offers the most balance and can act as a mediating perspective to the other two.

    The  normative approach  to religious studies encompasses all those courses that take as their starting point the idea that one religious perspective is true. This traditionally includes the kind of courses one might find at a seminary or fundamentalist religious school. This approach takes as its starting point revelation, or the word of God as revealed in Scripture. Students then go on to study scripture and those accepted theologians who have commented upon it in detail. For example, a typical course schedule for a first year student in a normative course of studies might include such titles as Divine Revelation, Scripture, and Moral Theology. All of these courses are informed with the belief that their particular view of God’s revelation is true. Such accepted theologians as St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas are then studied as examples of “correct doctrine.” Aquinas is illustrative of this approach. He argued that truths of faith cannot be discovered through reason alone because such truths come from revelation. Revelation is the culmination of faith and reason; by faith comes knowledge that is not accessible to reason, and by revelation comes knowledge that is not accessible to faith. As Aquinas stated, “truths of reason will never contradict the truths of faith, but the truths of faith go beyond truths of reason.”

    The social scientific approach to religious studies is to look at religion through the eyes of the social scientist. These approaches try to quantify religious behavior into one or several scientific categories. They take as their premise Francis Bacon’s approach to science, that is, to be neutral in regard to any truth. Like Bacon, the social scientist attempts to gather information about religion and then propose a theory as to its origins. The Canadian anthropologist Anthony F.C. Wallace (1923– ), who studied Native American cultures, argued that religious practices evolved from the simple or individualistic (e.g., the vision quest), to specialized religious practitioners (e.g., shamans), to the communal (an entire set of rituals and peoples organized by tribe). Carl Gustav Jung (1875–1961), an early disciple of Freud, argued that religion grew out of an individual’s need to attain personal fulfillment. Jung broke from Freud over many fundamental issues, including religion. While Freud saw religion as a neurosis, Jung saw it as a noble response to the human condition. In his most important work on the subject, Memories, Dreams, Reflections, Jung argued that religion leads man to individuation, that center of one’s existence. The cross and mandala are symbols of this “path to individuation.”

    Now, it might seem that the above two approaches are completely irreconcilable. But the truth is that they often coexist and work peacefully in many religious studies departments. The reason they can cooperate is due to the mediating influence of the humanistic approach. The goal of this approach, often called comparative religions or the history of religions, is to explore the religious experience of many cultures and to compare how these experiences have changed over time. For example, the history of Christianity shows that it divided over two millennia into three major divisions: Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant. Comparative studies attempt to explain the causes of these divisions without judging which one was right or wrong. The humanistic approach relies on the discipline known as phenomenology. Pioneered by such 20th century philosophers as Martin Heidegger and Jean-Paul Sartre, phenomenology can be loosely defined as the study of the structures of experience or consciousness. Phenomenology studies the religious experience from the point of view of the person who experiences it, that is, from the first-person poi

    The Ethic and Emic Approaches:

    As we begin to explore different religious traditions, it is important that we have some understanding about what it is that we are intending to do. While religion is often deeply personal, and tied to our own meaning-making processes, it is not the purview of religious studies to evaluate “Truth.” Religious Studies, instead, seeks to understand different religious traditions on their own merits, and within their own social and historical contexts. There is no attempt made in religious studies to validate, or invalidate, the truths offered by any religious tradition. To that end, scholars of religious studies do their best to avoid “I think…,” “I feel…,” or “I believe…” statements, and instead rely on statements such as “this tradition thinks…,” “this religion feels…,” or “practitioners of this faith believe…” The evaluation and determination of “Truth” is the purview of Theology. It is important in a course such as this that we are staying true to this goal, both in the interest of creating a safe and open environment, and in the interest of supporting the most effective environment in which to learn about these diverse religious traditions. Perspectives Essay Assignment Discussion

    In the study of religion, there are two approaches that can be helpful in informing our exploration:

    Ethic: The first is the etic, or outsider’s, view. This view attempts to evaluate a religious tradition from the perspective of what can be measured, studied, or observed. The etic lens can help us to understand the larger historical context in which a religion exists, it can be used in the analysis of sacred texts, and it can be applied to the observation of the material expressions and culture of a given religious tradition.

    Emic: Second is the emic, or insider’s, view. This is the view of the religion as it is seen by practitioners. This view, though it may be aware of the objective approach, understands the beliefs and culture of a given religion from within the context of that religion’s traditions and core beliefs. In the emic view, sacred texts would be interpreted from the point of view of belief, rather than from the point of view of literary analysis or criticism. The emic view can help us to understand how a given tradition is practiced, how it has developed in terms of its own theological understandings, and how it locates itself in relation to the world around it.


    While both views are valuable and informative, they also have their blind spots. The etic view lends itself to authoritarian interpretations, with scholars making statements about the “true” practice of a religion, while they reject and denigrate the practices and understandings of adherents of a given tradition. We see this often being the case, for example, in Buddhism where many early and contemporary Western scholars, influenced by the values of the Protestant Reformation and the Renaissance, have suggested that they (as outsiders) understand “True Buddhism,” free from the trappings of “superstition and magic.” The emic view also has limitations, in that practitioners often have difficulty analyzing their own tradition with objectivity. In many cases the emic view favors a traditional view over a historical one, and rejects the insights that come from such disciplines as anthropology, sociology, psychology, or textual analysis. In this course, we will attempt to focus on an etic perspective, with some exploration of the emic view. This is especially important to remember when we study a tradition in which we ourselves practice. Our emic lens can give us some insight into the ways in which our religion of choice is practiced, but it can also cause us to reject other perspectives and insights. For this reason, as scholars of religion, we attempt to limit the emic view, especially as it pertains to our own religious tradition.

    Four Paths to Salvation:

    The experience of the holy is central to all religious expressions. Most sacred stories tell of action by the gods or heroes. Belief systems are built upon concepts of a holy reality. Rituals convey a sense of the presence of the holy to the worshipping community. Moral codes are derived from and given sanction by this sacredness. Painters, poets, and musicians seek to capture the holy in their art. Behind, beyond, and within all symbolic expression is an intimation of a “presence,” a “holiness.” While there are many schemas for discussing world religions, one that is useful as a general framework is based on the concept of salvation, or liberation from this world. The ways of achieving salvation have varied in the history of religions, but four discernable “paths” emerge in almost all major religions. Perspectives Essay Assignment Discussion

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