Examination Questions

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                                                             Between 10 and 12 points


1. Suppose that a book either claims or assumes that religion is a product of human fantasy, or human imagination or human instinct. What makes this claim or assumption unscientific, if the book intends to put across a scientific theory about religion? (Assume here that science provides you with knowledge about an object.)


2. Are you able to provide an interpretation of the notion of ‘atheistic religiosity’ without becoming nonsensical? (You are limited here by the notions of ‘religiosity’ as formulated by the believers.) If yes, please elaborate. If no, show why not.


3. Show why either of these two problems cannot be solved by definitional means.



Between 12 and 14 Points



4. Suppose that I say the following: “Religiosity is the feeling I have whenever I look up at the starry skies, or enter a huge meadow in the evening: I feel insignificant in contrast to the immensity of the Cosmos or the majesty of Nature”. Would this description be adequate to develop a characterisation of Religion? If yes, explain how. If not, why not? Justify your answer with arguments.


5. One of the possible objections to my hypothesis about religion is the following: I take the Semitic religions as examples in developing my arguments and, therefore, my hypothesis is limited to these religions in terms of its applicability. I disagree with this objection. Could you develop arguments in defence of my standpoint?




Between 14 and 16 points



6. In Flanders, the free-thinkers accuse the Christians of “pretending to have the truth in custody”. Are the free-thinkers any different? What are the cognitive assumptions about religion that the free-thinkers make, which transform them into committing a symmetrical error?


7. Does the debate between, say, creationists and evolutionary biologists settle the case one way or another about the compatibility between ‘science’ and ‘religion’? Is there a cognitive inconsistency involved in being a believer and a scientist at the same time? In providing your answers, kindly do not try to solve the problem by using convenient definitions.



Between 16 and 18 points


8. When Cotta says that “the reason” to believe in gods has to do with the “authority of his forefathers”, is he not being dogmatic? Could ‘beliefs’ held by his forefathers prove the truth of Cotta’s belief in the existence of gods? Is this claim any different from saying that one ‘believes in witches’ because one’s forefathers believed in the latter’s existence as well? Please argue your answers.


9. Should a scientific explanation of religion explain the origin of religion or not? If yes, what, if anything, is wrong in providing an explanation of the origin of religion? Illustrate your answer by using some or another book, which tries to develop a theory about the origin of religion. If no, what should such a scientific explanation do instead? Justify your position.




For 18 points or more



10. In chapters 10 and 11, I speak about the reproduction of religion and the conditions that enable it. As I have sketched it, ‘worldview’ is a formal and abstract entity, which is a mere secularisation of religion. How, then, is ‘world view’ reproduced in a culture? That is to say, what are the mechanisms for the reproduction of ‘world view’?


11. Rogerius claims that despite “living in Paliacatta for ten years” he was unable to see religion over there; yet all of us see religion immediately in the India of today. Both in terms of his knowledge of India and Christianity, Rogerius is undoubtedly ahead of most westerners who see religion in India. How, despite their ignorance, are westerners (and Indians) able to see religion everywhere in India today, when, despite his knowledge, Rogerius was unable to do the same yesterday?


12. On the basis of the book, could you develop an argument that answers the following question: what makes some difference, any difference, into a cultural difference and not, say a psychological or sociological difference?

Note: Except for the task involving 10-12 points, answer any one of the questions. Question 3 is compulsory for those attempting either 1 or 2.