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Philosophy of Religion. Welcome and Orientation Dr. Elizabeth Shadish. Orientation Session. Roster and Adds If space permits, I will add at the end of class today Brief review of handouts My comments and your questions about the content of this course. While the Roster is Called….

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Philosophy of Religion

Welcome and Orientation

Dr. Elizabeth Shadish

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Orientation Session

  • Roster and Adds

    • If space permits, I will add at the end of class today

  • Brief review of handouts

  • My comments and your questions about the content of this course

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While the Roster is Called…

  • Review handouts – your first quiz will be on this information.

    • Bring a 10-question Scantron on Tuesday, Feb 19 for this quiz

  • For a good semester - be prepared to talk openly, rationally and respectfully with each other.

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Course Content – Required Material

  • Textbooks

    • Kessler – Philosophy of Religion: Toward and Global Perspective

    • Judd – Taking Sides: Clashing Views on Controversial Issues in Religion

  • Research access to materials beyond encyclopedias (either paper or online)

  • Recommended: Instructor-generated and Internet-accessible support materials

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Assignments and Grading – Individual Work

  • ThreeExams (non-cumulative) - taken in class. Bring clean-edged paper or a blue book for these tests.

  • Three 1 – 1 ½ page Reflection Papers – personal views on specific topics in the philosophy of religion (typed, double-spaced)

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Assignments and Grading – Class-Oriented Work

  • Debate Team Presentation and Report – each of you will be a presenter in one debate. Some research is required. To be submitted immediately after the debate.

  • Audience Participation Reports – short responses to, and questions about, our various debates.

    • Must be typed/double-spaced, in preparation for debates

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Questions about Logistics?

  • Suggestions:

    • Keep your syllabus handy – we have lots of assignments that can’t be submitted late.

      • One exception – the “NQA” or “No Questions Asked” pass for one debate report.

    • Read actively – think about what you’re reading, ask questions as you read, not your agreements and disagreements with what you’re reading…

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Thinking Philosophically about Religion

  • We are not:

    • Systematically covering world religions

    • Promoting or debunking religious beliefs and practices

  • We are:

    • Questioning and analyzing religious beliefs and practices

      • For their reasonableness

      • For their truth

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Examples of Questions:

Who is God?

Is There a Life after Death?

Does Religion Oppress Women?

Are All Religions True?

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Philosophy and Truth

  • Aquinas: faith is superior to reason and argument (with regard to religious doctrines)

  • Three reasons to seek evidence that religious doctrines are in fact true:

  • We are rational beings who naturally seek to exercise our minds

  • Many argue that at least some aspects of religious doctrine can be supported by reason

  • The contemporary appeal of evidentialism

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Philosophy and Meaning

  • If you don’t understand a concept or belief, you can’t begin to question it fairly.

  • Determining meaning = providing a workable and reasonable definition

  • Example:

    • “What is the nature of religion?”

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Consider: Religious Diversity

  • Taoism

  • Buddhism

  • Judaism, Christianity and Islam

  • Ba’hai

  • Unitarianism

  • Wicca

  • Atheism or Science?

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Both deal with fundamental issues, and with the meaning of life.


  • Questions all assumptions

  • Seeks wisdom in the context of rational inquiry

  • Accepts fundamental assumptions

  • Seeks wisdom in the context of spiritual growth

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Answering our Questions

  • Both readings and debates are designed to help you explore our questions.

  • Remember that tests are not about your views (unless asked)

  • No final or definitive answers are expected – just well-reasoned answers

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Your Resources

  • You will have plenty of help

    • Each other!

    • Professor accessibility

      • [email protected]

      • SOCS 213B – TTh, 8:00 – 9:30 amOnline (instant email) – W, 4 – 6:00 pm

  • Website with some resources:


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So – Let’s Get Started!

  • Be sure that you ask about anything that confuses you early in the class.

  • Keep a dictionary handy

  • Start by reading Sections 1.1 and 1.4 in the Kessler text.

See you next class!