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5.6: Study Questions
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- What negative stereotypes and caricatures of the different ways are you aware of? Suppose that there are a few individual instances of which these stereotypes capture some truth. But now imagine variations of these same practices without the negative traits. In other words, imagine the practices ideally carried out in ways that inspire others and merit respect.
- In regard to the thought experiment in question 1, do a research project to determine whether there have been actual examples of such ideal practice and learn about them.
- Do a field research project in which you build empathetic rapport with insiders to a specific religious practice sufficient to learn from them what sorts of things constitute virtue in that practice and what sorts of things constitute vice. Don't limit yourself to a single informant. Use the three parameters of assessment identified in this chapter to prompt questions, but avoid using jargon. (For example: what are some of the things that would indicate competence in the performance of this role and what are some that would indicate incompetence? Can self-centeredness sometimes be a problem? Is it possible to be so caught up in the details that the spirit is lost or missed altogether? On the other hand, is it possible to be so enthused about the overall goal that one fails to take care of the necessary details?)
- Do the research project in question 3 on another tradition for the purpose of eventually comparing the results with the first project. Pick a practice representing the same way of being religious but in another subtradition of the same religion. Or, pick a practice representing the same way but in a completely different religion. Or, pick a practice representing another way in the same religion.
- Take one of the tables of virtues and vices of one way of being religious at a time, and see if you can identify particular examples from your own observation, reading, or secondhand knowledge of the traits listed. For any one example of a virtue, imagine, if you can, what a corresponding vice in that practice would be like. For any one example of a vice, imagine, if you can, what a corresponding virtue in that practice would be like. In a similar way, work through each of the other five tables.
- Are there other virtues or vices of a commonsense nature in religious practice than the principal ones identified in this chapter? Are there positive or negative traits specific to the quality of practice of one of the ways of being religious other than those listed in the six tables?
- What problems do you see, if any, with the approach to evaluative judgment in quality of religious practice advocated in this chapter?