First, I will note that the subdistribution was as follows:
3/2 Christian Practice
T: Japan, Opus Dei, Church of the Holy Sepulchre
B: Mount Athos/Axion Estin/Ecumenical Patriarch, television/Brazil/Robert Schuller
1/2 Jewish Practice
B: fish/borer/hamsa, Rashbi/Kabbalah/Isaac Luria
1/2 Christian Bible
B: Marcion/Luke/Ebionites, Isaiah/Phillip the Evangelist/the Temple
2/1 Hebrew Bible
T: Moab, Azazel
T: Alawites, Gabriel, Abraham
B: bid'ah/Mawlid/five, Arabs/jizya/Bilal, Abu Sufyan/Mahdi/black
T: garlands, Adi Shankara
B: Brahmo Samaj/sati/murti, threads/ashram/Gayatri mantra
T: Nichiren, Burma
B: catuskoti/Nagarjuna/Mahayana, Dorje Shugden/Gelug/China
B: haoma/Ab-Zohr/fire temple
Overall, I wanted to have an emphasis on the Judaeo-Christian tradition, as a nod to the importance of those religions in Western culture and to the demographics of the quizbowl community, but I also wanted to ensure that Islam and Dharmic religions have significant representation. In aggregate, I sought to deflect focus away from less-widely practiced (if no less important) religions like the Bahá'í Faith and Zoroastrianism that have been heavily asked about in the past towards areas of major religions that have not been widely explored. My key points are the following:
- 1. Religion content that is academic in nature can be incorporated without sacrificing content about scriptures and practice. For example, my tossup on Moab led in with clues about biblical archeology, which is an interesting academic area that hasn't really been explored much in quizbowl, but it ended with clues taken straight from scripture in Ruth and Genesis. Another example of this would be my Marcion bonus, where I incorporated scholarship on early Christianity and early Christian writings into a bonus with a very straighforward easy part taken from the Gospels (Luke). I would argue incorporating academic content into religion in ways like common links and bonus parts is important for accessibility and player empathy because it allows for a much broader range of players to answer the question, while still allowing for those with deeper academic knowledge to gain an advantage.
2. Religion is contemporary as much as ancient and this fact should be reflected when possible. While every major religion obviously originated over a millennium ago, there are so many important religious movements that have only arisen in the last two centuries. It seemed odd to me, then, that many quizbowl tournaments would place such a major focus on older movements and personalities when there are many newer ones that have had just as much impact, if not more, on people living today. For examples of this, you could look at my tossup on Opus Dei or my bonus on Brahmo Samaj, or Aseem's bonus on televangelism. Obviously, this might not be as feasible at lower-difficulty tournaments due to difficulty concerns.
3. I recognize that the difficulty of some of these questions may have been higher than I anticipated (Clement, Adi Shankara), and for that I apologize. However, I hope that the effect of the difficulty was not to cause people to think "Who even cares about this?" (a thought that I have had in the past about a non-zero number of questions), but to think "I don't know this but it seems important." For this reason, I sought to avoid overly focusing on minor details with these difficult answerlines but to connect them to the broader contexts in which they are important (the development of the Christian canon in the case of Clement, the various schools of Hindu philosophy in the case of Adi Shankara).