Philosophy Compare and Contrast Paper

APHI 214 World Religions

An important skillset when studying world religions and the philosophy of religion is the ability to examine similarities and differences between different religious groups This helps us see how different religions can use similar or unique methods to meet the needs of their followers or to influence the world around them, which in turn allows us to better understand how our own worldviews mimic those techniques. To that end, you may choose to earn points by writing short papers that compare and contrast specific features of two of the religions that you have studied. This document will give you requirements and suggested topics for these papers as well as the grading rubric I will use to evaluate your work.

What is Required?

  1. Papers should be short (i.e., 2-5 pgs). You will NOT be graded on the length of your paper, so don’t feel the need to write more just to get to a higher number of pages. Instead, try saying as much as possible in as few words as possible. This is a very difficult, but very important academic skill to develop.
  2. Include scripture references from the readings. You should be including scripture references from the readings to serve as evidence in support of the claims you make. Remember the religious studies assignment? You tried to learn something about people by listening to the radio they listen to. Here, you’re trying to learn something about people by reading the scriptures they hold sacred.
  3. Make an argument. Good philosophy papers make arguments and are organized around arguments. This is very important, especially for the way that I grade papers. I strongly recommend reading the document “How to Write a Philosophy Paper” on blackboard before you submit a paper.
  4. Draw conclusions about the value of the comparison or contrast. Don’t just tell me that two religions share a certain feature, or that they value something in the same way, or that they differ on some critical point. Make sure you tell me why that is important to know. How does it affect the way they interact with the world or the way they can be understood by non-believers? Tell me something about why I should care.

What’s a Good Topic?

A good compare/contrast paper will be focused on specific features of two different religions, or two different versions/denominations within the same religion. Here are few examples. (The list below is NOT exhaustive!)

  • Compare the methods of proselytizing used in Christianity and Islam.
  • Contrast the worship services of Catholic Christians with those of evangelical Christians
  • How are the notions of reincarnation similar and different between Tibetan Buddhism and Hinduism.
  • How are women valued similarly and differently in Judaism from Christianity?
  • How is the concept of Jihad in Islam similar to the struggle for righteousness in Christianity?

The key is to make sure that the comparison or point of contrast is specific and relevant to both religions. You don’t want to compare all of Hinduism to all of Mormonism, because those are much too broad; nor would you want to compare Buddhist conceptions of God with Muslim conceptions of God since Buddhism is, classically, atheistic (unless you can make a good argument to the contrary!).

Also, the list above is definitely NOT exhaustive. So feel free to come up with your own topics! If you aren’t sure if what you want to write about is appropriate, then just email me and ask!

Grading Rubric:

Below is the rubric I will use to grade your compare/contrast projects. There are 30 points available on the rubric and each paper can earn up to 20 of those points.

The point(s) of comparison/contrast is (or are) specific 5 points
Relevant scriptures are used to successfully articulate the comparison 5 points
External resources are reliable, used responsibly, and reflect careful research 5 points
Significant conclusions are drawn and real-world impacts described 5 points
The format of the presentation is well constructed to aid in understanding (i.e., good grammar, organized around a clear argument, etc…) 5 points
Makes a good argument that is clearly stated at the beginning of the paper 5 Points
Total Possible Points 30 points
 
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