Touchstone 3: Evaluating the Impact of Religion on Individuals, Society, and the World. Instructions
ASSIGNMENT: In each of the three units in this course, you have learned about the role of religions in our world. You have already reflected on some of the major approaches to studying religions, and compared and contrasted two religions. In Unit 3, you have investigated the impact of religion on individuals and society, including learning about religion’s role in shaping morality and ethics, as well as ritual and material culture. Finally, you also thought about religion’s influence on government and global affairs.
For your final Touchstone, you will evaluate the impact of religion on individuals, society, and the world.
In a 400-600 word short essay, you will evaluate some of the ways in which religions both unite and divide, using specific examples from the lessons in Units 1, 2, and 3 to support your conclusions, by responding to this question: How do religions both unite and divide humanity?
In order to foster learning and growth, all work you submit must be newly written specifically for this course. Any plagiarized or recycled work will result in a Plagiarism Detected alert. Review Touchstones: Academic Integrity Guidelines for more about plagiarism and the Plagiarism Detected alert. For guidance on the use of generative AI technology, review Ethical Standards and Appropriate Use of AI.
A. Assignment Guidelines
DIRECTIONS: Write a short essay of 400-600 words that responds to this question: How do religions both unite and divide humanity?
As you develop your response, you should choose two of the following areas of religious influence from Unit 3 to analyze:
Religion & the Individual
Religions & Society
Morality & Ethics
Ritual & Material Culture
Religion in Government
Religion in Global Affairs
Your short essay should include four parts:
Briefly introduce your topic and develop a clear and succinct response to the question: How do religions both unite and divide humanity?
Support your response by analyzing the first area of religious influence that you have selected from Unit 3. Use at least two specific examples from the lessons in any unit in your analysis.
Support your response by analyzing the second area of religious influence that you have selected from Unit 3. Use at least two specific examples from the lessons in any unit in your analysis.
Briefly summarize and conclude your short essay.
You will use information from the Sophia tutorials to support your response. When citing material from a tutorial, please include the name of the tutorial and use the following format (using Sophia’s Primal Religions tutorial as an example):
In-text citation: (Primal Religions, n.d.)
Reference: (n.d.). Primal Religions [MOOC]. In Approaches to Studying Religions. Sophia Learning. https://app.sophia.org/spcc/approaches-to-studying-religions–2/unit1/study-guide/7845/primal-religions-2
The following requirements must be met for your submission to be graded:
Composition must be between 400-600 words.
Double-space the composition and use one-inch margins.
Use a readable 12-point font.
All writing must be appropriate for an academic context.
Composition must be original and written for this assignment.
Plagiarism of any kind is strictly prohibited.
Submission must include your name, the name of the course, the date, and the title of your composition.
Include all of the assignment components in a single file.
Acceptable file formats include .doc and .docx.
In-text citations should use this style: (National Religions, n.d.)
References should use this style: (n.d.). National Religions [MOOC]. In Approaches to Studying Religions. Sophia Learning. https://app.sophia.org/spcc/approaches-to-studying-religions–2/unit3/study-guide/8190/national-religions-2
Religion: Uniting and Dividing Humanity
Religions have played a complex role in both uniting and dividing humanity throughout history. On one hand, religions can foster a shared sense of community and morality. However, religious differences have also led to conflicts and tensions between groups. This article will analyze how religions both unite and divide through their influence on individuals, society, morality and global affairs.
Religion and the Individual
On an individual level, religions often unite people by providing meaning, purpose and comfort during life’s difficulties (Primal Religions, n.d.). Members of a religious community derive psychological and social benefits from participating in shared rituals and beliefs. For example, rites of passage help individuals navigate major life transitions by integrating them into a larger religious framework (National Religions, n.d.). Religions also unite individuals through common worship practices and festivals that strengthen communal bonds.
However, religious differences can divide individuals when they feel their beliefs or identities are threatened. People may perceive others who do not share their religious views as “outsiders” (Approaches to Studying Religion, 2016). This “us vs. them” mentality has led to tensions, especially regarding issues of conversion between faiths. Individuals may feel their personal sense of meaning is challenged by those who interpret scripture or traditions differently. Overall, while religion unites individuals through community, it can also divide by fostering an exclusionary sense of religious identity.
Religions and Society
On a societal level, religions have significantly shaped cultures and moral systems throughout history. Shared religious traditions often underpin a society’s core values and norms of behavior (National Religions, n.d.). For example, Abrahamic faiths emphasize concepts of justice, charity and sanctity of life that continue influencing legal and political systems in many nations. In this way, religion unites societies by providing a common moral framework.
However, religious diversity within a society can also divide it. When religious groups hold incompatible views on social issues like sexuality, gender roles or state authority, it can strain social cohesion and lead to conflict (Approaches to Studying Religion, 2016). For instance, debates over religious displays, dress codes and holidays in public spaces often divide citizens along religious lines. Overall, while religion unites societies through moral systems, religious pluralism within a population presents challenges to social unity.
Morality and Ethics
Religions have profoundly influenced concepts of morality and ethics through both uniting and dividing effects. On one hand, core teachings of most faiths around virtues of compassion, honesty and respect for life unite people of different backgrounds in their moral understanding (Primal Religions, n.d.). However, religions also divide on some moral issues based on divergent interpretations. Disagreements exist between and even within faiths on topics like abortion, war, sexuality, and treatment of minorities (National Religions, n.d.). When moral stances become politicized, they can polarize societies along religious lines. While religion provides a shared moral language, differences in applying religious doctrines to ethics can divide.
Religion in Global Affairs
On a global scale, religion plays a complex role in both uniting and dividing humanity. Religiously-motivated cooperation on issues like development aid and disaster relief helps unite people internationally (Approaches to Studying Religion, 2016). However, religiously justified violence has divided populations and polarized geopolitics. For example, tensions between some Muslim majority nations and Western countries stem in part from religiously framed narratives of conflict (National Religions, n.d.). While religion inspires transnational social movements, it has also fueled divisions when co-opted to support political agendas. Overall, religion operates both as a unifying and dividing force in global affairs.
In summary, this article has analyzed how religions impact individuals, societies, morality and global dynamics in both uniting and dividing ways. Religions unite through community, shared traditions and moral frameworks. However, religious differences also divide by fostering exclusionary identities, incompatible social values and polarized debates. Moving forward, greater understanding of diverse religious perspectives could help minimize tensions while maximizing religion’s capacity to unite.
Approaches to Studying Religion. (2016). Sophia Learning. https://www.sophia.org/tutorials/approaches-to-studying-religion–2
National Religions. (n.d.). Sophia Learning. https://www.sophia.org/tutorials/national-religions–2
Primal Religions. (n.d.). Sophia Learning. https://www.sophia.org/tutorials/primal-religions-2
Eck, D. L. (2018). On common ground: World religions in America. Columbia University Press.
Ciftci, S., Jones, J. M., & Eiche, K. M. (2013). Islamophobia and threat perceptions of Muslims in the United States: On the persistence of negative stereotypes. Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs, 33(4), 475-484.