PHIL/RELI 134/126.001 – Reason, Faith, and God: Philosophy of Western Religion
Instructor: Meredith Sheeks. This course meets MTWRF 9:45 – 11:15 a.m. in PE 2066 via in-person (IP) instruction.
Few of us, when asked whether we believe in God, lack a ready answer. Likewise, most of us are confident in how to respond if someone asks us whether we are religious or not. But as commonplace as these questions and answers are, upon reflection, the notions of religion and of God are rather complex. Who, or what, is God? What is religion? Is it rational to believe that God exists? This course serves as an introduction to the philosophy of religion, more specifically the critical analysis and evaluation of religious concepts, practices, and beliefs, with a special emphasis on Western religions.
The course will proceed in four stages. We will begin with a brief introduction to the philosophy of religion—its considered methods, aims, and scope—followed by a survey of attempts to specify the nature of religion and other religious concepts, including God. We will then question to what extent, if any, it is reasonable to believe in the existence of God or to practice a theistic religion. In doing so, we will consider the “classic” philosophical arguments for and against the existence of God, puzzles concerning religious practices (e.g., petitionary prayer), and the relationship between science and religion. In the third stage of the course, we will take a step back from considerations of religious practices and the existence of God on the basis of reason alone and consider the roles that faith and religious experience may play in the critical examination of religious concepts. Last but not least, we will explore the intriguing tie, if any, between God and morality.
Assignments for the course will incorporate a balanced mix of historical and contemporary texts in the philosophy of Western religion.