Human Existence

 “First Paper; My Grand Myth

Each of us is born into a specific society, family, set of traditions, and era of history.  In addition, we each have certain experiences and character traits that form us as individuals.  Fortunately or unfortunately we often have communities and parents who may not foster a deep sense or awareness of the peculiarities of our traditions, our faith, our master story, or the reasons behind all of them.  Most probably because they assume we will automatically follow in the faith, the tradition, and the mores of the society without question.

Religions and cultures have good reasons for what they teach, do, and believe. If you want to understand why people do and think as they do, you need to find a way to understand them from the inside. That does not mean not critically evaluating beliefs, or understanding them solely as functional, but there are rationales for much of what appears strange or different.

But to understand others, you might want to know something about your own tradition. Some critical understanding of what makes up your world view will be essential in this course.

  • This paper should be four to seven hundred words in length.

 “Thought Experiment”

A general awareness about what you believe will be helpful as we look at other world traditions.  In this first paper, do some critical thinking about your world view and where it comes from.  Consider your beliefs and ideas, both religious or non-religious.  Describe where your views come from and how they are formed.

We will be using the questions below to evaluate the religions of the world.  These might give you some ideas for your paper.  Describe your understanding of the mysterious, the meta-physical, the holy or the lack thereof. Analyze where your beliefs come from, how they create a world view for you, and how that creates a social order.

The Seven Basic [Religious or Non-Religious] Questions of Human Existence:

The  great  religions  of  the  world  have  been  around  so  long  and  have  gathered  adherents  in  each  new generation because they provide  answers  for most, if not all, of these questions.  Though often stated in many different ways, these are the fundamental questions that most people wrestle with in trying to find meaning and purpose in life.

  1. Who or what is the numinous in each tradition? What qualities are inherent in the numinous and how is the numinous revealed to or understood by humans?
  2. What is a person’s relationship to the numinous? In what ways are we like or unlike the numinous, how do we interact with the numinous, and what influence does the numinous have on our lives?
  3. Where do evil and suffering come from? How does each religion deal with the problem of why evil and suffering exist and how people can deal with, escape, transcend, overcome, or endure them?
  4. What is the purpose of life and creation? What are the meaning, value, and reason for human life and the existence of all creation?  Is there some inherent value or given value for the existence of reality and of life?
  5. What is the origin of the cosmos? Where did people come from and why were they created, formed, or evolved?  What is the purpose or value of the universe?
  6. What happens to people after this life? Do we cease to exist or is there an afterlife? Does that afterlife involve punishment or reward or cycles of reincarnation?
  7. How does the religion in question create a social order? What does it tell us about who we are and what we should be like?  How are we to relate to others?  What is of value in society and what is the  value  of  life,  both  human  and  other?    What  are  the  definitions  of  right  and  wrong, what  is acceptable, and what is socially unacceptable?”

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