Answer any four of the following questions :
1. In describing those instances when religion fails, Kenneth Pargament warns the reader that his evaluation is value laden and that “…value issues cannot be avoided in scientific study, and the psychology of religion and coping is no exception to this rule.” Is Pargament correct that psychology cannot avoid claiming a number of biases? Does science also include bias when addressing its understanding of truth?
2. A number of scholars of American religion including Karen Armstrong have suggested that fundamentalism is a modern phenomenon, drawing from the certainty of the scientific world view and the rationalism that has characterized religion in the West since the Enlightenment. Yet, Pargament describes American Christian fundamentalism as a type of failure suggesting that it has been responsible for creating prejudice and discrimination. Is Pargament correct or, contrary to his beliefs, does fundamentalism represent a successful form of religious coping?
3. What dimensions of mysticism are appropriate subjects of study in the psychology of religion? What areas of mystical experience pose difficulties for sustained psychological study?
4. William James was the first theorist to suggest that religious experience is pluralistic and defined by the role of the individual. Describe the impact of this idea for the study of religion and its implications for other disciplines such as the Anthropology and Sociology of Religion which have understood religion as primarily an aspect of culture and community.
5. In 1965 Harvey Cox wrote The Secular City which described the marginalization of American religion. Almost forty years later, in the wake of 9/11, many Americans have experienced the re-emergence of spirituality in their lives in a time now called post secular. At the same time, many people increasingly distance themselves from organized religion. If we are entering a new period in which the sacred occupies more of a central role in our lives, what does this suggest about the role of both boundaries and orienting systems in American religion? How, in the new American religious landscape, have the boundaries and orienting systems changed?
6. In developing his theoretical approach to coping, Kenneth Pargament builds on the work of a number of other theorists including Viktor Frankl and William James. Explain the connections between these early theorists and Pargament’s approach. Why would Pargament’s work have not been possible without these earlier studies?
7. Imagine that Karl Jung and Kenneth Pargament could have met. If the two theorists sat down together, what would they each have to say about the other’s work as it applies to religion? Specifically, what would Pargament say about the process of individuation, archetypes, and the role of the collective unconscious in human experience? How would Jung feel about orienting systems, the nature of conservation/transformation, and the process of coping as a form of learned behavior?
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