Philosophy of Religion

Religion is central to the personal lives of many people and is integrated into the cultural heritage of every people, understanding it is crucial to understanding the human condition. We examine religious experience from many different sources. Some of these will be: Anthropology, in which we will look at the origins of religions and the theories of how and why they emerged; Psychology, which studies the mental states of belief and faith; Sociology, which attempts to understand the social functions of religion in societies; Political theory, which studies the deep and ongoing connection between religious structures and political frameworks. We will also examine topics such as: Is it possible to have a personal spirituality without a religion? The ongoing debate between religion and science; What is the role of ‘wonder’ in human life; And the paradox of religious violence, given that the core beliefs of many religions are about the need for love, kindness, hospitality, and peace.


COURSE OUTLINE

  • What is Religion?: Do all religions have supernatural beings; What is the distinction between sacred and profane objects; Are all religions also ‘moral systems’. We will address these issues and many more, in our quest for a definition of what religion is.
  • Anthropology: This week we will look at the origins of religions and the theories of how and why they emerged. We will consider: Mythological narratives, music, dancing, miracles and taboos, which all play a part in the early stages of human religious history.
  • Sociology: Sociology attempts to understand the social functions of religion in societies. Early societies no doubt were advantaged by the tribal bonding of shared religion, but what is their function now.
  • Psychology: Psychology studies the mental states of belief and faith. If humans have a natural propensity for religious belief states then we must enquire into the roles which religions play in our need for emotional satisfaction and person values. We will also ask whether these functions can be replaced by other systems of thought.
  • Political Theory: There is a deep and ongoing connection between religious structures and political frameworks. Some theorists believe that religions are only covert political/power intuitions; we will examine this idea.
  • Spirituality: The idea of ‘spirituality’ seems to be a broader term than religion; it can cover our relation to nature, art and the Cosmos without an institutional base, so we will ask: Is it possible to have a personal spirituality without a religion?
  • Phenomenology: One of the most long standing elements of religion is the powerful feeling of something more than the ordinary world that we inhabit. The Subjective religious experience can be both very personal or group shared, as in most ecstatic faith ceremonies. How should we understand these extra- ordinary experiences?
  • Religion and Science: The ongoing debate between religion and science pits one against the other on an either/or basis, but we will look at some of the ‘compatabilists’ who argue that you can have the benefits of both without an unacceptable paradox.
  • Wonder: What is the role of wonder in human life. Wonder is the common origin of Philosophy/Science/Religion, but is ‘wonder’ just a state of lack of knowledge to be filled in, or a necessary recognition of a universe beyond our comprehension.
  • Religion – Violence and Non-Violence: Given that the core beliefs of many religions are about the need for love, kindness, hospitality, and peace, there seems to be a paradox concerning religious violence, we will examine this paradox.


PLANNED LEARNING OTCOMES
By the end of this course, students will be able to:

  1. Have gained an overall understanding of the key concepts in the Philosophy of Religion.
  2. Have gained an insight into the many approaches to Religion in: Anthropology, Psychology, Sociology, Phenomenology and Philosophy.
  3. Relate ideas about religion and spirituality to the history of politics and contemporary issues.
  4. Discuss the issues involved in the debate between science and religion.
  5. Apply these ideas to their personal lives and choices.
$270 Limited / $243

<p>Religion is central to the personal lives of many people and is integrated into the cultural heritage of every people, understanding it is crucial to understanding the human condition. We examine

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11 Oct

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