Friday, January 06, 2006

Religion Project III

I hope that everyone had a pleasant Winter Break, and I trust that you are all ready to begin learning again. Our first project will be a religious one.

Background: Syncretism is the process by which two or more religious practices become intertwined. Generally, when two groups with competing beliefs encounter one another, they are mutually hostile, and one group is militarily successful over the other. However, this does not always mean that the religious beliefs of the defeated tribe vanish: women and children, taken as slaves and wives, may perpetuate their beliefs (though obviously these beliefs will have to change somewhat) even in captivity, and from time to time these beliefs and practices will appeal to the victorious group and become gradually incorporated into the victors' religion. There is some evidence, to name but one example, that Judaism shaped and was shaped by the religious practices of the Canaanites (who were conquered by the Israelites) and Babylonians (who conquered the Israelites).

Goals and Methods: You will be divided into groups of three or four students each, and I will select a combination of two or three religions for each group at random, which combination is written at the bottom of this page. Your groups will then be responsible for creating a syncretistic religion around the combination of founding religions I assign. You may wish to divide up the responsibility for different aspects of the resulting belief system among the different members of your group: for example, one member might focus on specific beliefs (how many deities? what are their names, relationships to one another, and responsibilities? What is the religion's creation myth?), one on day-to-day rituals and practices (special holidays and observances, particular beliefs relating to moral behavior, rituals and their symbolism), one on objects relating to the belief system (for example: scriptures, temples or places of worship, iconic objects or idols, locations of particular significance, etc.), and one on continuity, which is to say, making the contributions of the other members fit into a coherent whole. The last member, the one responsible for the continuity, will also be preparing the final report and presenting it to the class, along with whatever other materials (models, scriptures, songs, etc.) have been prepared.

The final report should include the following:

-Name of the founder(s)
-Approximate date of the beginnings of the religion
-Name of the religion
-Brief history of the followers, their persecution, etc.
-Holy sites, if any (with models as appropriate)
-Holy scriptures, if any
-Beliefs regarding the afterlife
-Beliefs regarding sexuality (appropriate age, number of husbands/wives, marriage ceremonies, acceptable partnerings, etc.)
-Number of gods and their responsibilities, interests, abilities, etc.
-Holy days
-Unusual features (cannibalism, transvestitism, self-sacrifice, alien worship, etc.)

Your group will then be asked to answer questions from myself and the rest of the class. Your final grade will depend on your overall thoroughness, visual aids (if any), and coherence.

Your combination is: Seventh-Day Adventism + Shaktism.

If your group feels that this is not a workable combination (as is possible; these were chosen at random), you may substitute either of the following:

Cargo cults + Unitarian Universalism

Pastafarianism + Evangelical Christianity