Within a degree course dissertations are heavily weighted and thus vitally important to your final result. Handing in a mediocre attempt can be the difference between a 2:1 and a 2:2 or a 2:1 and a First. As your dissertation is usually the only independently set question, your grade isn’t simply based on covering the basic points or how you present your work. What topic or question you choose and what your work adds to the subject area is also critically important. No lecturer is expecting you to come up with completely new theological theories, but they will expect your literature to add to what is already out there. To help you to prepare for your religious studies dissertation, this article makes suggestions of topics on which to base your dissertation.
2.0 World Religions
Modules in world religion cover all aspects of traditions from around the world. Studies can be on belief systems as niche as the Samurai or as mainstream as Catholicism. The focus is on fully exploring and gaining new insight into the highly diverse nature of faith. Ideas of how to specify an area on which to research for a religious studies dissertation are suggested by the following titles:
- Compare and contrast the basic principles of Eastern and Western religious faiths. Are the two factions really that different?
- What social beliefs influenced the creation of Japanese religion and how much change to Japanese belief has there been in modern times?
- What can be learnt from the religious conflict in the Sudan?
- Compare and contrast modern day Egyptian religious traditions to those from the pre-dynastic period.
- All religious paths lead to the same mountain top. Discuss.
- Has the Christian dominance in Ireland subsided enough for the Catholics and Protestants to live in peace?
- Atheism is the new world religion. Discuss.
- Compare religious belief in modern day India to their beliefs in the early 20th Century. What has changed and why?
3.0 Religious History
Religious history is the study of belief systems throughout time. The subject pays particular attention to which religions were dominant and which religions have had a historical impact on cultures throughout time. It will often involve close examination of all literature and culture from a specific era in search of religious references. Although the institution that you study in may have bias or emphasis to a particular faith, studies in this area are not restricted to mainstream religions such as Christianity or Islam. Religious history is a key component to how the human race has evolved through time. A religious studies dissertation in this area will create many areas of research for you. Some are suggested below.
- What religious conflicts were faced by the people of Elizabethan England and what evidence do we have of such conflicts from this time?
- History has taught us that the belief system of a nation depends on who is sitting on the throne. Discuss.
- In their book ‘ Pagan Christianity Exploring the Roots of Our Church Practices ’ authors Viola and Barna suggest overwhelming similarity between the Pagan and Christian faiths. How far do you agree with their theory of Christianity being historically rooted in Pagan tradition?
- What were the foundations of the Islamic faith and how close are modern day rituals and traditions to those thought to have been practiced in 7th Century Saudi Arabia?
- Historically speaking, which country and cultures have been unable to resolve religious conflict and how has this impacted on their culture today?
- Was Adolf Hitler influenced by religious ideas and doctrines?
- Where did religion as we know it today originate?
- Historically, human beings have failed in matters of religious tolerance. Discuss.
4.0 Religion in the contemporary world
As the heading suggests, this topic focuses on how religions operate in the contemporary world. This might be questioning whether a faith is applicable to modern day dilemmas, or how a faith is portrayed by the media. This is a particularly important study for those wanting to continue their study in theology to post graduate levels, as academics are increasingly questioning the relevance of religion to modern day life and making this a focus of religious discussion. For topics suggestions for your religious studies dissertation, see below.
- Old Testament teachings from the Christian Bible are too outdated and no longer applicable to life in the 21st Century. Discuss.
- Which religious code of ethics is most applicable to modern day life and why?
- How can religious faith justify the existence of international terrorism and an all-loving, omnipotent god?
- Do religious belief systems contradict modern day notions of equality for women?
- According to the Bible homosexuals can have no god. Discuss.
- Is Buddhism the only religion applicable to modern life in the UK?
- In post 9/11 culture, Eastern religions have no chance of a fair trial in the media. Discuss.
- What do pagan and neo-wicca belief systems have to offer in the face of 21st century living?
5.0 Religion and Ethics
Religious ethics or religion and ethics is concerned with understanding the morality of religion, how it applies to every day life and key moments throughout history. If you are looking to base your religious studies dissertation in this area, the following topic suggestions may help you.
- Religion and morality are synonymous. Discuss.
- What ethical beliefs are involved in the Hindu faith and in what situations are they most applicable?
- Can military action ever be ethically justified through religious ethics?
- Which religions use situation ethics in their moral code and how effective are their codes in moral dilemmas?
- In the 21st century ethical egoism is the only logical moral code. Discuss.
- Which ethical codes are used in Judaism and where do these codes fall short?
- The taking of even one innocent life can never be ethically and religiously justified. Discuss.
- Islamic fundamentalists have no moral code. Discuss.
6.0 Philosophy of Religion
Philosophy of religion is concerned with logical arguments for and against the existence of a superior being and for and against the potency of religious faith. The objective is to question all aspects of religion to ascertain whether religion can be philosophically justified as a possibility. The following are just some of the topics you could discuss for your religious studies dissertation.
- The existence of life on earth is evidence of the existence of a higher being. Discuss.
- A world so full of evil can not co-exist with an all-loving omnipotent God.
- If God exists, who made him?
- God only exists in the minds of the people who follow him. Discuss.
- What challenges are there to the Christian belief that there is only one omnipotent God?
- Does divinity exist in nature as the Egyptians once believed?
- Religion is nothing more than a safety net in the face of death. Discuss.
7.0 Religious Mythology
Religious mythology is concerned with the myths and religious stories that accompany the various religious factions across the world. You will often be asked to offer interpretation and fresh insights into what such literature means to believers.
- What does the Egyptian myth of Isis and Osiris teach us about Ancient Egyptian life?
- What conflicting behaviour do Jesus and his disciples display in the Bible and how should believers interpret these inconsistencies?
8.0 Religious buildings and Architecture
This topic focuses on the role architecture plays in the realm of religion and within religious communities. To effectively study this topic you need to look beyond the physical aesthetics of a building and attempt to understand what buildings symbolise for those following a religious faith. With many religious buildings around the world, a religious studies dissertation in this area will provide you with many research possibilities.
- What makes a church?
- Buildings such as the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona are evidence of divine inspiration. Discuss.
- Expensive religious buildings are insensitive to those living in poverty; the very people religion is supposed to support. Discuss.
- Demolishing a religious building is an act against the divine. Discuss.
- Do believers need religious buildings to connect with their deity?
- Do grand religious buildings cause religious leaders to lose touch with their followers?
- Without the focus of religious buildings, religion would die out. Discuss.
- Do you agree that people are only in the presence of the divine when they enter a religious building?
9.0 Worship and Ritual
Worship and ritual is concerned with the physical and spiritual rites people of religious faith use to honour their principles and their deity. Within this subject you may study life changing ceremonies such as weddings and funerals or simple methods of connecting with a deity such as meditation or chanting. Factors still prominent in modern society, a religious studies dissertation on one of the following topics could be very intriguing.
- Being married in a church is the only way to be recognised as a couple in the eyes of God. Discuss.
- What evidence is there to support that Wiccan and Pagan followers can actually work real spells?
- What do differing methods of prayer tell us about differing religions?
- How has Christian worship evolved over time?
- Is it necessary to baptise a baby to save its soul?
- How does Islamic worship and ritual differ to that of other world religions, and what do Islamic customs indicate about Islamic culture?
- Do all polytheistic followers worship the divine in the same way?
- Ritual may differ but at their core all religions are the same. Discuss.
10.0 Religion and Politics
Religion and politics examine the relationship between these two discourses and their impact upon one another. For further topic suggestions for your religious studies dissertation, see the examples below.
- Politicians should not interfere in religious conflicts. Discuss.
- How has politics influenced religion in the UK over the last 500 years?
- Should religious leaders have some legal and political power?
- Can the religious leaning of a political candidate win or lose them an election?
- All wars use politics as a mask when religion is at their core. Discuss.
- Should politicians keep their religious beliefs a secret and keep their political decision religiously objective?
- The most effective world leaders have followed a religious pathway. Discuss.
- Politicians only pay lip service to religion for popularity. Discuss.
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