Religion, Philosophy and Ethics
We aim to:
- Encourage pupils to develop intellectual curiosity, including an interest and enthusiasm for gaining knowledge of different systems of belief, ethics and ways of life, including religious, moral, philosophical and cultural;
- Promote an understanding and appreciation of the impact that beliefs and values have on actions;
- Enable pupils to develop key critical thinking skills of analysis, interpretation, evaluation and argument;
- Empower pupils to become independent learners who are creative and collaborative;
- Engender pupils with an awareness and appreciation of the role that Religion, Philosophy and Ethics play in the lives of individuals and communities; fostering cross-curricular connections through investigating a range of contemporary issues.
Do I need to have a religious belief?
There is absolutely no reason for students of religion to be religious. All that is asked is that pupils adopt an open mind and attempt to appreciate the subtleties, nuances and intellectually demanding nature of the concepts contained in religious beliefs and practices.
What is Religion, Philosophy and Ethics in the Lower School like?
In Years 1 and 2, themes and skills that are central to the subject are introduced through the Life Studies curriculum. All pupils will have the opportunity to increase their knowledge of religion, as well as developing their philosophical acumen, in the course of their Life Studies lessons. The emphasis on developing critical thinking skills as well as gaining knowledge is deliberate and reflects the wider aims of the department and school. In particular, pupils will approach moral, social and political problems from a range of religious and secular perspectives in an attempt to cultivate a more sophisticated understanding of the complexity of contemporary world issues.
Religion, Philosophy and Ethics is formally taught from 3rd Year, where all pupils will have 1 lesson per week. The course is primarily concerned with the study of religions, philosophy and contemporary moral issues. It provokes challenging questions about the ultimate meaning and purpose of life; beliefs about God, the self and the nature of reality; issues of right and wrong; and what it means to be human. The course will develop pupils’ knowledge and understanding of religious traditions and world views that offer answers to these questions. Our aim is to encourage pupils to explore their own beliefs (whether they are religious or not), in the light of what they learn, and how these impact on personal, institutional and social ethics. Pupils are then encouraged to express their responses in a clear, logical and considerate manner, developing critical skills of analysis, interpretation and evaluation, both verbally and in writing.
What happens further up the school?
Religious Studies is offered at GCSE where the course comprises of two main components: Study of Religion and Religious, Philosophical and Ethical Themes. The course requires pupils to gain an in-depth knowledge and understanding of two major world religions (Christianity and Islam) through a study of the various beliefs, teachings and sources of wisdom that are central to those traditions.
The course also enables pupils to examine fundamental questions regarding the nature and existence of God and the impact of religion in the 21st century through a study of topics such as peace and conflict, and human rights and social justice. This provides an opportunity to apply philosophical and religious teachings to a variety of ethical and contemporary issues, all of which have relevance in our everyday lives.
The course makes no assumption concerning faith background. Indeed, the atheist’s position is welcomed as just as valid as that of the theist. What is demanded is an ability to construct well-reasoned arguments to support your view and a willingness to challenge the often unthinking acceptance of the consensus.
At A-level, the department offers Religious Studies as well as Philosophy, which is taught as a distinct subject. Both courses allow pupils to consider a wide range of philosophical and ethical topics, ranging from war and euthanasia to the nature of the world around us and our place in it.
Students who opt for Religious Studies will be required to demonstrate knowledge, understanding and skills in two broad areas: Philosophy of Religion and Ethics, and Study of Religion and Dialogues. Both components will be studied from the perspective of Christianity. Below are some of the topics that we cover:
Component 1: Philosophy and Religion
Philosophy of religion
• Arguments for the existence of God
• Evil and suffering
• Religious experience
• Self and life after death
Ethics and religion
• Ethical theories
• Issues of life and death
• Introduction to meta-ethics
• Free will and moral responsibility
Component 2: Study of Religion and Dialogues
Study of Religion
• Sources of wisdom and authority
• The nature of God
• Self, death and the afterlife
• Religion, gender and sexuality
• Religion and science
The Dialogue between religion, philosophy and ethics
• How religion is influenced by, and has an influence on the philosophy of religion and ethical studies