The first thing to understand when approaching an essay in religious studies is the unique nature of the discipline. Apart from its distinctive subject matter, the interdisciplinary nature of the field makes the study of religion both fascinating and highly challenging.
The academic study of religion requires more than knowledge of individual texts, beliefs and practices, and may draw upon fields as diverse as history, sociology, anthropology, hermeneutics, and linguistics. For this reason, your instructors will expect you to familiarise yourself with and be able to employ a variety of different theories and methods. The interdisciplinary nature of the subject is also reflected in the various kinds of essays you will be asked to write, which may include a mixture of comparative, textual, ethnographic, hermeneutical, sociological and historical approaches.
The academic study of religion takes place in a secular rather than a faith-based context. Since it aims to understand religion from a perspective that can be shared by all, and limits itself to evidence that is available to all, you will not be required to try to prove or refute particular religious beliefs.
As an interdisciplinary academic subject, religious studies employs historical, textual, cultural, sociological and anthropological methods to contextualise, interpret and understand religious beliefs, practices, traditions and communities. As such, it is important not to let your personal religious beliefs influence your conclusions. In the context of academic writing, neither faith nor tradition constitutes an adequate basis for an argument.
Answer the Question
Whether the essay you are asked to write requires a textual, comparative, historical or ethnographic approach, or some mixture of each, your first task is to make sure that you understand the question and how it relates to the course material. The question you are given will be set for a reason and so should not be understood as an invitation for you to write about something only loosely related to it that happens to interest you.
Make sure your reading is always guided by the essay question in order to produce focused notes, and only include in the essay what is relevant to answering the question. Keep the essay question in mind as you read and write, and make sure that everything you include in the essay contributes towards answering it. Avoid introducing irrelevant information, however interesting you may happen to find it.
The Structure of a Religious Studies Essay
In most cases a religious studies essay will be organised around a clear problem and comprise a single basic thesis or argument.
Essays should present balanced arguments in support of the thesis while drawing upon relevant texts and evidence to lend it plausibility.
All essays require a clear introductory section circumscribing the parameters of the topic and the way you intend to tackle it.
This should be followed by the main body of your argument, comprising well-structured paragraphs each of which should provide a step forward in the argument.
Your arguments should be set out in a logical and cogent manner, making it easy for the reader to follow your thought processes. The relationship between one idea and the next should be made clear by the use of transitional phrases and sentences.
Ensure that each step in the argument is clearly signposted so that the reader is never left wondering why a particular point is being made.
Substantiate your claims with arguments and evidence, avoid over-reliance on particular texts, critically evaluate your sources, demonstrate awareness of different points of view, and be sure to anticipate counter-objections to your claims.
Your conclusion should draw together all of your arguments and demonstrate how they support the original thesis set forth in your introduction.
Carefully proof-read, revise and edit your work (or have somebody else do it for you) to ensure correct spelling, grammar and punctuation, and be sure to format and reference it in accordance with your department’s preferred specifications.
Consult an Expert
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Hello EssayForum Team,
This is my final essay for my Introduction to Religion class. Any feedback will be greatly appreciated.
A Spiritual Journey
It's the year 1999. I am sitting inside my great-aunt's apartment in Cali, Colombia. She quickly urges me to pick up the rosary and hold each bead and to start chanting, "Jesus, Jesus, Jesus." The ritual is called: 1000 Jesus. As Roman Catholics, we were required to perform this ritual every year. I did not understand why we had to do it, but if I didn't participate, my aunt would be very angry. I felt the same way about religion throughout my whole life. I never really understood the concept and was never enthused by prayer, nor did I believe that there was a higher power watching over us. When I moved to the United States, I never saw religion again; it became part of my past, and I never looked back to search the answer for the question I had: "What is religion for?" If I felt the same way about religion, how about those who still live in Colombia that follow religion by reading scripture and who are disconnected from the outside world of reality? How about the people that live in the United States that have come slaves of technology and who have forgotten the meaning of spirituality? How about the many people who suffer daily and who become slaves of their own problems and who forget their purpose in life? Where has humanity gone? Where has religion gone? Where has spirituality gone? These are the questions I ask myself everyday. I truly believe that by getting to know a religion and establishing rituals, we can learn about compassion and of our own spirituality, thus, helping us answer those vital existential questions in our lives.
It wasn't until last year in July when I truly came face to face with religion and with God. I was in my place of work and a song was playing on the radio. It was Lauren Daigle's single, "How Can It Be?" The song talked about God accepting us humans no matter how dirty our hands were. It told that God would still love me despite my dark past. In that moment, I sat down on the floor and began to reflect on my life. I began to cry because I had been living in some dark times. I was unhappy and my heart was closed to everyone around me. In that moment, I decided that I needed to change my life around for the better. I needed to talk to someone, and that someone, was God. The following week, I began going to church, and things began to change. I began to love and open my heart to everyone around me. This moment was like living in the Axial Age, learning about religion and compassion for the first time. I learned about rituals and spirituality too.
Religion has also opened my eyes to the way things are. I realize that many people around me are consumed by materialism. Some people importance on gaining wealth, rising in society, and attaining the best technology, cars, and houses; but they have also forgotten themselves in the way. They have forgotten the meaning of compassion for one another. I noticed this with my close family members as well, of which none are part of a church or a ritual. Both the people in society and in my family have lost that spiritual hunger that Allan Hunter mentioned in his video, "Spiritual Hunger." He says that we all posses that hunger, and that many suffer from it. He talks about depression and hopelessness as a result from this longing that is never unfulfilled. Hunter claims that part of the reason why our society feels that way is because we do not have rituals. I concur with that. Once we remove our selves from the material and focus on ritual and our spirituality, we will begin to see what really matters in our lives: Our well being, finding our purpose, and sympathy for others.
I began attending church every Sunday and establishing a ritual. Sunday became a day were I would forget about all of my troubles and as a day where I could communicate with God. While at church, I learned the meaning of love and compassion. Every Sunday, I was learning something new: how to be better, how to love, and how to lead a good life of service. Every time I attended church, I felt the collective effervescence. Church to me became sacred. Emily Durkheim talked about the sacred as an object that "receives the collective force and is thereby infused with the power of the community." Being inside the church and singing along with a group of people was igniting to my soul. This collective force brought the church to another level, and it connected me to the spiritual side that I longed for. I would often close my eyes and feel an energy throughout my body that I never felt before. It was a moment of Enlightment where I saw God and was able to communicate with him. It was a raw experience. This affected my life in many positive ways. I began smiling more and was kind to everyone. I started having more confidence in myself and saw the beauty in everything around me. Church and ritual were both pragmatic.
Participating in a religion changed my life drastically, and it made me connect with myself and realize that there was a side of me that was unknown: my spirituality. Diana Bass mentions, "Spirituality is a grass-roots adventure of seeking God, a journey of insight and inspiration involving authenticity and purpose that might or might not happen in a church, synagogue or mosque." For me, it happened inside a church. The moment I closed my eyes while the community sang as a whole, I felt emotions that were unknown to me; I felt revelation; I felt true spirituality. Hegel explains this moment as the "absolute spirit," and how religion can help us reach that level of spirituality. He calls it as a "way-station in the process of spirit." Edward Taylor too said something similar. He stated that believing in spiritual beings could get us to a higher spiritual state. In my life, believing in spiritual beings took me to another level where I was now questioning this force and energy within me. I was questioning this "tremendum," as mentioned by Rudolf Otto, as a feeling of awe, over empowering, and energy. I then began seeking answers by exploring rituals from other religions, which led me to finding transcendence through meditation. Combining what I had learned through Christianity and Buddhism has led me to answer many of the existential questions I have had throughout my life. I have begun to understand that all religions can help us reach that state of transcendence, thus I accept the concept of pluralism. There is no set truth. We must find our own truth by exploring what is out there and what makes sense to our soul.
My experiences with religion have encouraged me to learn more about religion. Learning about religion's past and present, makes me think about the future of religion. I believe the best way to teach people about their spirituality, is by introducing them to courses like introductory religion, so people can learn the meaning of religion and why it exists. By re-introducing religion, we can teach our children that there lays something extraordinary beyond the material and technology. We can teach everyone that we all have a sense of purpose. But we need to wake up and open our eyes before it is too late. We also need to encourage people to find their path. We should be aware that spirituality exists, and that religion can help us get there if we do it right.
That night in Cali makes more sense now than ever before. I was counting the beads to repent and ask God for forgiveness for all of the sins I had committed. I was trying to have a connection with the higher power that was over me. By saying Jesus, I was acknowledging God's existence and of his presence at all times. Religion served me as a bridge to find myself and to look beyond the material to fulfill my spiritual hunger. It opened my eyes the reality of our world today, and it served me well. I hope that more people in our modern society would seek religion in order to relieve them from their daily troubles. We all want to know why we came to this world, but we first need to be reminded that those questions are part of what makes us humans.
Hi Juan, I must say that more than completing this particular task, what I like about your essay is that, it has a heart, the reader, just like me felt the journey that you've been through and it was like we relive the moment you are trying to reminisce min this writing.
Now, with regards to the length of the essay, I'm not sure if this is the way to go, as there are some parts of this essay that can be summarized;, paragraphs 3 and 4, can be rolled into one paragraphs, this is true for paragraphs 6 and 7, I believe you can already draw a conclusion by coming up with a far better and stronger paragraph base on this two.
I hope to read your revision and as mentioned, it is a good essay and definitely a stronger one than the previous ones reviewed here on EF.