What is the history of the examples of the mixing and melding of Church and state? Support of the slave trade by « born again » Christians to the dangerous trends of today promoting holy war and imperialism. In which ways does Religion – as a collection of cultural and belief systems – establishes symbols that relate humanity to moral values? How does religion differs from private belief?
What is the importance of the organized behaviors of most religions and what defines what constitutes adherence or membership? What is the role of congregations of laity, meeting and services for the purposes of veneration/prayer, and the existence of holy places and/or scriptures? What is the precise function of commemorations, sermons, sacrifices, festivals, feasts, initiations, funeral and matrimonial services?
How should we judge the association of religions with public institutions, from schools and hospitals to government and political hierarchies? Can we divide religions to the categories of world religions (transcultural and international faiths), indigenous (nation-specific groups) and the new religious movements? Is theology apologetical in nature, committed only to the defense and not the investigation of particular religious positions?
What is the difference between monotheism and monolatry, pantheism and panentheism, animism and shamanism, theism and deism? How are we to think about the variety of different religions and their even stronger variety in specific denominations and actual practices? How does religion influences modern culture and how does culture in turn influences religion?
What is the economic reality and impact of religions? Can Religion be recognized as a universal impulse? In which way and with what results many religious practitioners have aimed to band together in interfaith dialogue and cooperation? Do the terms atheist and agnostic mean by definition the opposite of religious?
What are the arguments of the critics of religion who consider it to be outdated, harmful to the individual and the society? Do religions try to impede the progress of science and even encourage immoral acts? How can we interpret brainwashing of children, faith healing and circumcision as well as holy wars and discrimination against women and homosexuals?
Do religions require beliefs that are irrational, unscientific, or unreasonable? Could religions include superstitions or make use of magical thinking? What is the influence of myth symbolism in religions? What does the history of religious violence shows us, from the Crusades to jihad? What is the role of violence in the scriptures of world’s religions?
Why have religious differences produced so much horror? Do religions have a special sense of righteousness and do they use violence to promote their goals claiming divine favor for themselves? What are the benefits of faith for an individual or a community?
Fundamental, “difficult” questions: abortion access, equal rights and protections for lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgender persons, transsexuals, same-sex marriage, construction of Muslim community centres. Polygamy and plural marriage. Capital punishment. Religions and the Law.
Religion in public schools. Acceptance of inter-racial, same-sex, inter-faith marriage. Use of condoms, pre-marital sex. Faith-based, government-financed schools. Politics of organised religions and the influence of churches and religions worldwide.
Changes of religious teachings and policies over time as to various topics. Access to abortion, and reducing the abortion rate. Sexual abuse of children/young people by clergy. Cremation vs. burial.
Embryo and stem cell research / Therapeutic cloning. Euthanasia and assisted suicide. Medical management of pain. Faith healing vs. medical treatment. Female ordination (priests, pastors, ministers, rabbis).
Compassion in politics, the Pope & Dalai Lama as (successful?) State leaders. Separation of Church and State. The issue of Suicide. The impressive rise of sects worldwide, their functioning and influence. Are there any real efforts towards Ecumenism? Equal rights for religious minorities.
Understanding the causes of religious hatred. Cults and new religious movements. Discrimination against people motivated by religious belief. The debate on the Muslim veil. Did traditional religion become privatized and lose its public relevance? At which point?
Can there be morality without any religion? The tremendous influence of religious thought patterns: promise and threat, rules and commands, reward and punishment, compassion and charity, sins, regret and forgiveness, power of (common) belief, love, grace, praying. Communities defined by religious traditions, rituals and aesthetics, clear guidelines of instruction of right and wrong, encouragement to act ethically and oppose unethical actions.
Does religion exercise renewed public influence? Its role as source of collective obligation and limit-setting, of legitimatizing certain norms. Religious-politic movements and their attempts to create public influence. When religion is “applied” to problems generated in other systems but not solved there : economic poverty, political oppression, familial estrangement.
On linking religions. Communication and social problems. Secularization of modern society and globalization. Differences and similarities between Buddhist, Christian, Confucian, Taoist, Hindu, Islamic, Jewish, Shinto ethics. Comparative theology ethics.
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