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Philosophy of Religion

Course Number: PHL 204
Transcript Title: Philosophy of Religion
Created: September 1, 2012
Updated: December 1, 2014
Total Credits: 4
Lecture Hours: 40
Lecture / Lab Hours: 0
Lab Hours: 0
Satisfies Cultural Literacy requirement: No
Satisfies General Education requirement: Yes
Grading options: A-F (default), P-NP, audit

Prerequisites

WR 115, RD 115, MTH 20 or equivalent placement test scores

Course Description

Examines the existence and attributes of God, faith, reason, the phenomena of fundamentalism and mysticism, religion and science, religion and gender, the problem of evil, religious language and life after death from multiple disciplines, historical and cultural perspectives. Prerequisites: WR 115, RD 115 and MTH 20 or equivalent placement test scores. Audit available.

Intended Outcomes

Upon successful completion of this course, students will be able to:

  1. Demonstrate cognitive competence in thirteen areas of philosophical concern central to classic and contemporary discussions of religion.
  2. Reflect on and evaluate the philosophical assumptions that are embedded in one’s own ideas about religious issues and those that permeate our culture in order to effectively communicate with others that might have divergent points of view.
  3. Recognize and reflect on the interconnectedness and the historical development of ideas regarding religious issues in order to be conscious of the historical context of religious ideas and their significance in our culture and the culture of others.
  4. Separate one’s experience of faith from religious belief in order to put belief under the scrutiny of the social sciences and philosophy.

Outcome Assessment Strategies

Due to the complex nature of philosophical readings, formative assessment strategies are the most effective measurement of evaluating comprehension. Formative assessment strategies like the reading comprehension tool (REAP), study questions attached to the text, movie reviews, and small group report outs help students to encode their understanding of the text and ponder the material using their own critical thinking skills. 

Critical to effective formative assessments are clear scoring rubrics that identify the expectations, length, and point allocation. Because an accurate comprehension of   philosophy text can rarely be achieved on a first attempt, relying on the methodology of proficient learning is recommended. Offering students an opportunity to modify the main assignments is successful in achieving a greater and more complete understanding of the text.

A summative assessment in the format of a brief multiple-choice and essay exam is may be used at the end of the quarter to measure levels of cognitive competence and retention.

Course Activities and Design

In philosophy class, the exchange of ideas and discussion is critical to comprehension, the development of critical thinking skills and cultivating a tolerance for different points of views. A classroom activity that can facilitate this exchange and skill building is collaborative learning. For example, in small groups, students share and compare each other’s assignments. This gives students the opportunity to express their point of view in a low-risk environment and help each other’s understanding of the text. On occasion, these small groups could have different reading assignments from each other, so they are responsible for “teaching” the material to the rest of the class. Using the collaborative learning approach, the instructor facilitates the discussion, more than giving a straight lecture.

To maximize the students’ exposure to a diversity of ideas, guest speakers are an ideal opportunity to bring them in direct contact with people from different religious traditions.

In lieu of a guest speaker, the regular use of YouTube, TedTalks, OPB and movie clips is an excellent way to enhance the course content. Many of these online resources are now available on the Moodle course website. Starting in 2014, an online textbook was created and is housed in Moodle along with additional online resources collected and stored for future courses. This online text book is a valuable resource to anyone teaching this course. 

Course Content (Themes, Concepts, Issues and Skills)

There is a standard stable of philosophical concerns that are raised by classical and contemporary thinkers. The following topics are found in every textbook and anthology of philosophical readings:

  1. Religion and life
  2. Proofs of God’s existence 
  3. The relation between faith and reason
  4. The relation between science and religion
  5. Religious language and gender
  6. Role of myth and symbols
  7. Mysticism
  8. The phenomena of fundamentalism
  9. The problem of evil
  10. The miraculous
  11. Religious experience
  12. God’s attributes
  13. The existence of the soul and life after death.

Department Notes

This course involves a great deal of difficult reading. Thus, the student must be able to follow complex articles and to write fluently. This is primarily a readings course and will concentrate on the writings of major figures in this history of philosophy - from early Greek philosophers to contemporary writers.