Prompt:  You are asked to write a 3-4 page (1000-1200 words) autobiographical paper using the course readings to better understand your own experience and background, especially your views on what it means to be a human being and how we relate to the natural world. This is a chance to reflect on how your values and beliefs have been shaped.

Remember Portier’s argument that we are shaped by our cultural and religious tradition (or traditions, as you may identify with more than one culture/religion).  You should address your religious tradition, if any, as well the specific culture in which you were raised. Keep in mind that secular Western culture is itself a tradition, which is likely to influence most members of the class, but is often left unexamined. It is the “water” that we swim in but do not notice.

You should use the readings to frame your discussion of your experience, including Portier’s chapter and at least one other reading. 

Some things you might explore:

What cultural values have you inherited? What shapes your worldview?  What “deep questions” have you been challenged with in your life?

You might draw on Portier’s discussion of extraordinary experience that raise deep questions.  Have you had an experienced that challenged you to think more deeply about human nature or the natural world? You could also discuss what our other readings have said about the modern, Western worldview of religion.

Because the paper is autobiographical, I do not necessarily expect individual papers to give all of Portier’s ideas equal weight; however, you must use readings from the course. At least a third of your paper should explain concepts from the reading including Portiers discussion of the great questions, and the nature of tradition. Your grade will be based primarily on your ability to use the reading to critically reflect on your experience.

Grading Rubric: The paper will be graded on both content and style. The two cannot be easily separated because a lack of clarity in writing style indicates a lack of clarity in ones thinking. The paper will be graded on the following criteria:

25 pts Understanding of Portier (tradition, extraordinary experience, great questions)

20 pts Application of readings to personal experience

20 pts Insight into personal history and formation within tradition(s)

10 pts Writing style (transitions, organization, clear thesis)

5 pts Mechanics (grammar, spelling, citation)

Other details: Please include your name and date in the upper left-hand corner of the first page. It is good to include a page number in one corner on each page in case they are separated. The paper is to be typed and double-spaced. Feel free to print two-sided tor on scrap paper, and do not include a cover sheet.

Do cite your sources in the text, with author name and page number.  I will not require a works cited, however if you do quote or cite an outside source, do give me the details.  You do not need to do (and should not do) any additional research for this paper.  Use the sources we have read in class.  Yet there may be a quote or text that has been important to your formation which you wish to quote.