Exploring Religious Meaning, Fall 2015 1
EXAM # 2
Due Date: Dec. 20th:
The weekly write-ups, in-class exercises, and group discussions have been designed to prepare
you to succeed on this exam. Keep that in mind. The focus of the exam will be on chapters 9 and
12 of Comparing Religions, but the expectation is that you will incorporate the critical thinking,
terminology, concepts, and self-reflexivity we have been working on since the beginning of the
Exam #2 is four questions.
• Write a half-page to one-page response for each of the four questions.
• Address each question separately, rather than weaving them into a single write-up.
The format is very similar to your weekly write-ups. Exam #2 differs in that the expectations will
be significantly higher.
Your weekly write-ups are graded based on the amount of work you spent thinking about the
concepts, engaging the reading, and demonstrating that you have examined, questioned, and
enhanced your own worldview/beliefs/faith/religious views, etc. For Exam #2, you will be
expected to do each of these things better. What does that mean?
1. Your interpretation of the course content will be more accurate.
2. Your analysis will be deeper, which means it will be more detailed, more nuanced, more “andboth,” and less dogmatic.
3. Your writing will be significantly more polished.
4. The structure of your answers will be more organized, meaning that each sentence builds on
the previous ones without repeating the same points, jumping around from idea to idea, etc.
1. What is the relationship between William James’ Divided Self (conscious vs. sub- or, unconscious), Kripal’s Double Self, and Left-side vs. Right-side brain, as described by
neuroscientist Jill Bolte Taylor’s TED talk (shown tomorrow in class)? Having described these
relationships, as you see them, use this explanation to analyze the ways in which you—rationally,
experientially, transcendentally etc.—have arrived at your own worldview/beliefs/faith/religious
2. Throughout the text, Kripal has emphasized that “trauma” is an important part of the
paranormal experience. He has also defined the paranormal in a fairly narrow manner. I have
described the paranormal in a far looser manner and under-emphasized the importance of trauma.
Explain the differences in our descriptions, and, more importantly, explain your own definition
of the paranormal, a definition that applies to your life, your understanding of the limits of what
you know, or can know, and the benefits/problems (for you) of using the paranormal to redefine,
or stretch, your “normal.”
3. Kripal has offered several interpretations of how religion becomes easier to understand.
Explain at least 2 of these interpretations and explain the interpretation of religion that works
best for you. You are free to critique Kripal (and myself), but provide a solid, nuanced argument
of how you interpret, positively and negatively, religion, or, if you prefer, spirituality.
4. Focus on “Ch. 12: Reflexive Re-readings,” and then present your interpretation of a reflexive
re-reading. Having done so, consider how this type of reading produced
understandings/experience that were personally meaningful to you during the course. Choose one
(or a couple) examples of these understandings/experiences and unpack them in as much as
detail as possible, perhaps providing the “and-both” approach, rational reductionism and/or “the
school of more,” approach, etc.
Formatting: Times or Times New Roman from 12 pt to 11 or 10pt. Or, change the line spacing to
1.5. Just no single-spaced, please. Email me to with word (no pdfs, no pages). Label the word
file “Last Name, Exam 2.” For example, “Gruber, Exam 2.”
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