PP3GRB-God and Religious Belief

Module Provider: Philosophy
Number of credits: 10 [5 ECTS credits]
Terms in which taught: Autumn term module
Non-modular pre-requisites:
Modules excluded:
Module version for: 2017/8

Module Convenor: Dr Mark Tebbit

Email: m.w.tebbit@reading.ac.uk

Summary module description:

This module introduces students to some of the specific philosophical problems arising from the central debates in traditional and contemporary religious thought, which will be the main concern of this module. In lectures and seminars, we will be taking a selection of religious themes in which we will apply philosophical analysis to some of the central disputes between theologians and between theists and atheists. There are numerous concepts of God, many ways in which he has been understood. Our attention in this module will be confined to the concepts of the monotheistic faiths, especially the ways in which God has been understood in the tradition of Christianity. Some have seen him as the sum of all perfections, or as the greatest imaginable power. Others have understood him as ‘the poet of the world’, a creative force at the heart of evolution. Philosophers under consideration will include classics such as Plato, Anselm, Aquinas, Descartes, Hume and Kant. In relation to the modern world, it will include Kierkegaard, Gabriel Marcel and A.N.Whitehead, along with those in the analytic tradition, such as Swinburne, Ward and Plantinga.


This module will encourage students to focus on conceptual problems in religious thought and learn how to analyse them. You will be introduced to these problems by a research-active member of staff who publishes in this area. The module aims at providing a better understanding of the reasoning processes underlying religious belief. It will aim at improving the analytic skills of students that they have been learning in in earlier stages of their philosophy degree. It will enable students to develop new insights by means of lectures, seminars and guided independent learning. In particular, this module aims to develop the following skills:


  • A familiarisation with the texts of famous philosophers and theologians such as those referred to above.

  • An understanding of specific theological problems.

  • The ability to discuss possible solutions to these problems.

Assessable learning outcomes:

Students will gain more awareness of the variety of religious beliefs and how they are justified and challenged, to develop more understanding and sensitivity to what motivates people to arrive at such divergence of opinion on the persuasiveness of theological arguments. They will develop these skills through interaction with tutor and other students in seminars, through effective use of the library and other electronic resources, and by presenting their own interpretations and responses in class.

Additional outcomes:

Outline content:

Topics covered on the module will typically include:


  1. Contemporary Cosmology and Religious Interpretations

  2. Science, Evolution and Religious Belief

  3. God, Morality and Evil

  4. Religious Existentialism and ‘the Death of God’

  5. Whitehead’s Concept of God and the Problem of Evil

Global context:

Religious belief is one of the most vital areas of research in the world today. In the context of the religious conflicts in every part of the globe in the 21st century, the international relevance of religious studies has never been greater.

Brief description of teaching and learning methods:

The module is taught by lectures and seminars. Students are expected to attend 10 hours of lectures and 5 hours of seminars during the term in which the module’s lecture and seminar classes take place. All students are required to write a single essay from a list of questions supplied by the module convenor. The essay assignment will be due in week 5 of the Summer term. In addition, students will be required to write a short précis of the topic for discussion in each seminar class. Students are encouraged to be active in all classes, asking questions and trying to answer the questions posed by others. A reading list and sample questions will be given out at the start of the course.

Contact hours:
  Autumn Spring Summer
Lectures 10
Seminars 5
Guided independent study 85
Total hours by term 100.00
Total hours for module 100.00

Summative Assessment Methods:
Method Percentage
Written assignment including essay 100

Other information on summative assessment:

Formative assessment methods:

Students will write a short précis of the topic for discussion for every seminar class. Some classes may involve quizzes.

Penalties for late submission:
The Module Convenor will apply the following penalties for work submitted late, in accordance with the University policy.

  • where the piece of work is submitted up to one calendar week after the original deadline (or any formally agreed extension to the deadline): 10% of the total marks available for the piece of work will be deducted from the mark for each working day (or part thereof) following the deadline up to a total of five working days;
  • where the piece of work is submitted more than five working days after the original deadline (or any formally agreed extension to the deadline): a mark of zero will be recorded.

  • The University policy statement on penalties for late submission can be found at: http://www.reading.ac.uk/web/FILES/qualitysupport/penaltiesforlatesubmission.pdf
    You are strongly advised to ensure that coursework is submitted by the relevant deadline. You should note that it is advisable to submit work in an unfinished state rather than to fail to submit any work.

    Length of examination:

    Requirements for a pass:

    A mark of 40% overall.

    Reassessment arrangements:

    Written assignment, to be completed in August.

    Additional Costs (specified where applicable):

    Last updated: 31 March 2017

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