PY 601 - Philosophy of Religion and Secular Thought

Module Level

8 (Undergraduate)

Time Allowance

Lectures 24 Hours Private Study: 24 Hours


Continuous Assessment: 40% Final Examination: 60%

Module Aims

Aim: To introduce students to the philosophical debate pertaining to the existence and nature of God.

Module Overview: This module takes as its starting point the philosophical debate concerning the existence and nature of God. It will also consider the interplay between reason, science, and religion. The most common arguments for the existence of God, namely; the cosmological, ontological and teleological arguments, will be identified and outlined with a view to assessing their validity. Particular attention will be paid to the philosophical issues that arise within the contemporary ‘God debate’ in connection with the theory of evolution, and theories concerning the make-up and origins of the universe. The philosophical problem of evil will be examined as it presents a major challenge to belief in an all-knowing, all-powerful and all-good God. Finally, some aspects of secular thought and religion will be outlined. Such discussion will begin with reference to the German philosopher Ludwig Feuerbach (1804-1872) and trace secular thinking from the 19th century. Philosophical theological responses to secular thinking will be considered.

Learning Outcomes

  • Identify the historical lines of argument concerning the existence and nature of God
  • Discuss philosophically the relationship between reason, science, and religion.
  • Explain the various proofs for the existence of God (ontological, cosmological, teleological), and assess their validity and reference to the contemporary debate concerning God’s existence.
  • Analyse the problem of evil, and assess its major challenges for the existence of an omnipotent, all-knowing, and benevolent God.
  • Explain the theory of evolution, and assess its impact on belief in the existence of God.
  • Discuss the positions of a number of key atheist thinkers including Feuerbach, Nietzsche, Dawkins, etc., and assess their findings on the question of the existence and nature of God.
  • Course Text: Brian Davies, Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion (Oxford: OUP, 2004)


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