This scheme of work for A-level Religious Studies (7062) is designed to help you plan your teaching.
This scheme of work is based on 360 guided learning hours.
Arguments for the existence of God
Ensure the following aims are covered for each argument:
faith: as intellectual assent – the belief that God exists
faith: ‘belief in’ a personal relationship with God – not necessarily based on reason and ‘reasons’ may not be offered for it
reason: as justification and defence of something people have already come to believe by other means
reason: as basis of faith (belief that)
proof: deductive proof, inductive argument – ‘personal proof’, ie an argument that convinces/establishes beyond reasonable doubt but does not entail truth of the conclusion.
The arguments may be:
aimed at non-believers to persuade them of the truth of the beliefs
aimed at believers to give them ammunition against critics
a reflection on faith to deepen understanding of, test, or confirm, what is already believed.
Dialogues: these would all be useful in Dialogues. The evaluation of whether beliefs are reasonable is vital.
Handout covering basic philosophical concepts for development during the course.
A handout with an explanation of the steps of the argument could be useful – but the process of working through those steps in discussion makes the reasoning clearer.
A ‘borrowing’ chain as an analogy of a chain that cannot start without someone first having the money to lend can be a good analogy.
Discuss strengths and weaknesses of the argument: students to look at the stages of the argument and finding weaknesses in each one. It is likely that they will raise points developed by Hume and/or Russell. These could be assessed as a 300 word AO1 answer. For AO2, students will need to be able to debate these criticisms.
Students create a chart of strengths and weaknesses, leaving space to add contrasts and counters from the other arguments as they go through, eg the particular strengths of ‘a posteriori’ reasoning over ‘a priori’ etc.
Explain the value for faith: Including the distinction between the ‘God of philosophy’ and ‘the God of faith’ Apply understanding of the concept of faith and, where relevant, understanding of the concept of God studied for Component 2.
Dialogues: the above is useful.
Extension: the problem of induction and drawing conclusions that go beyond the evidence available; impossibility of empirical proof for an immaterial being and the nature of inference from observation to the explanation of that observation both in science and in religion.
Starter activities: images of workings of a watch/cogs and wheels etc, diagram of eye/butterfly’s wings – students to compare. Also ask students to look out of window and spot things that are designed, look at each other’s eyes, own thumbs etc.
Summarise Paley’s watch argument from Natural Theology, the exact wording of Paley’s conclusion after observing the watch is worth using to elicit discussion and evaluation.
Hume’s text (an extract from Dialogues concerning natural religion) is fairly accessible, but students may need help in organising their ideas by way of a chart or mind map.
For discussion: two sets of criticisms may be found:
of the reasoning supporting the claim that the universe has been designed
from the reasoning that leads to the conclusion that the designer is God.
Consider the strengths and weaknesses of the argument and value for faith. Students could add to their chart from Cosmological.
Extension: the ambiguity of the ‘evidence’ can be taken as support for the idea of a ‘hidden’ God who preserves human freedom by making his presence sufficiently clear to allow humanity to believe in him, but conceals it sufficiently for it not to be coercive. This will link to the epistemic distance of Hick’s theodicy. The whole topic anticipates the Problem of Evil debate.
Paley, Natural theology, OUP
Hume, Dialogues concerning natural religion
Identify the two forms of the ontological argument in Anselm’s Proslogion. The first form in Proslogion 2, the second in Proslogion 3.
Dialogues: does faith require a basis in logic/reason? Would the argument have any impact on faith?
Discussion of Gaunilo’s criticisms – links to second form of the argument.
Discussion of Kant’s criticisms.
Consider value for faith: Aquinas rejected the argument; the only characteristic of God considered is necessary existence so Anselm’s argument does not on its own show what kind of being may have that quality or explain why it/he may be worthy of worship.
Extension: consider whether omnipotence, omniscience, consciousness (personal nature) could be argued to be necessary qualities of the GCB and the extent to which this God is the God of philosophy rather than of faith.
Dialogues: the extension work also links.
Students can add a section on Ontological to their chart, emphasise the strengths and weakness of the three arguments and how they can be used to critique each other etc.
Dialogues: the evaluation of types of reasoning, value for faith, etc, is useful.
Article – objections to the Ontological argument
Evil and suffering
Explanations of natural and moral evil, and presentations of arguments.
In groups, students could mind map as many as possible and classify them; use newspapers etc. Then the examples of natural and moral evil can be used to ‘test’ the claims of the logical and evidential problems. Each student/small group of students should be able to explain the two problems of evil with reference to different examples.
Summarise Hick’s soul-making: ‘the encounter with ‘evil’ is the way to maximise human potential’ and evaluate its strengths and weaknesses when applied to the problems of evil.
Internet encyclopedia of philosophy – the evidential problem of evil
Discuss key ideas of the free will defence, use examples such as Swinburne’s ‘toy world, Genesis 3, Hick’s robots etc.
Identify and evaluate strengths and weaknesses of FWD.
Key ideas of process theodicy according to Griffin.
Consider the strengths and weaknesses.
Summarise the three theodicies as responses to the problems of evil. Students could complete an AO1 style question explaining each theodicy or problem. In small groups plan AO2 responses evaluating the success of each theodicy, or whether evil means there is no God etc. Get students to use the mark schemes to self-assess their answers.
Religious experience and verifying religious experiences
Visions: students can identify examples and explain the classification of each. They could write, or plan in detail, an AO1 essay on visions.
Numinous experiences: explanation of each aspect.
Mystical experiences: explanation of each aspect. (Passive and noetic are often the least well understood).
Discuss the challenges of verification, science and the responses to the challenges. Students could work in groups and critique a variety of examples of experiences from the perspectives of science and other atheist/theist views, eg Teresa of Avila, Pam Reynolds, Moses and the burning bush, Mohammad’s night journey, the Buddha’s enlightenment, Davey Falcus, John Wesley etc.
It is recommended, but not required, that students study the influence of religious experiences solely on the religion they are studying for Component 2.
Dialogues: the above will also be useful.
Discuss the influence of religious experiences. To avoid generalisations this needs to be specific, eg:
source of knowledge of/about God
motivation, including conversion
‘proof’ of divine credentials.
Discuss the value for religious faith: contrasting views could consider the positive contribution of such experiences both past and present and scepticism among believers today, both about the experiences of others from within their faith and the experiences of those from other faiths. The problem of contradictory revelations.
Dialogues: include discussion.
Britannica – Otto
Search mysterium, tremendum et fascinans
The mystical experience registry
James,W The varieties of religious experience
Cole, P. Religious Experience
Link Year 1 and 2 content by spending some introductory lessons looking at ‘bigger picture’ issues in the study of Philosophy and Ethics, which can help underpin the Dialogues section from the outset. For example:
are the beliefs of your chosen religion about the nature of God/Ultimate reality reasonable? Is any belief in a God reasonable?
how does your religion approach ethical decision-making? Is it largely deontological, absolute, how useful is it in the 21st century for dealing with moral issues such as those studied at AS? Could your chosen religion work alongside ethical theories you have studied?
Throughout this section consider how examples from chosen religion can be applied to language about God, life after death claims etc.
Introduction: the problem with words used of God, eg ‘He’ and ‘Said’. The way language anthropomorphises or objectifies God.
Link to the Ontological argument and the definitions of God used, the criticism of attempting to define God in human terms (eg Aquinas) and the responses to problem of evil based on our human lack of understanding of terms like ‘omnibenevolent’ when applied to God.
Define and give examples of cognitive/non-cognitive statements eg ‘The Eiffel Tower is in Paris’ (observable by sense experience) and ‘This weather makes me feel happy’ (not directly dependent on observable facts).
Overall consideration of whether religious language is cognitive or non-cognitive with reference to the arguments below from Hick, Hare, Wittgenstein.
Internet encyclopedia of philosophy – religious language
Internet encyclopedia of philosophy – philosophy of religion
Jordan, Lockyer and Tate, AQA A2 Religious Studies: Philosophy of Religion, pg 21, Oxford
Verification Principle – A.J Ayer.
Explain Falisifcation – Popper (scientific falsification); Flew and the example of Wisdom’s ‘Parable of the Gardener’.
Evaluate these theories – draw on AO2 evaluative skills throughout by adding criticism to each viewpoint. Use examples of statements to help qualify claims made.
Jordan, Lockyer and Tate, AQA A2 Religious Studies: Philosophy of Religion, Oxford pp 22-27
Eschatological Verification – Hick and his example of the ‘Celestial City’.
Hare’s ‘bliks’ and the example of the ‘lunatic and the don’.
Examples of ‘language games’ that can be applied to the ideas of Wittgenstein, eg explaining a game of cricket to an alien and talking about team spirit.
Evaluate these theories.
Jordan, Lockyer and Tate, AQA A2 Religious Studies: Philosophy of Religion, Oxford pg 27
Internet encyclopedia of philosophy – Ludwig Wittgenstein
Link Paley’s design argument and Aquinas’ analogy of proportionality and attribution. (Extension: Ian Ramsey’s models and qualifiers).
Via negativa – link to Religious Experience and the ineffability of God (Otto, Stace). Mainmonides, Aquinas.
Symbols – examples of symbolism used within religious traditions, eg bread and wine of the Eucharist, water, light.
Dialogues: link to content from ‘Religion’, eg God as Love etc.
Explore Tillich as a possible solution to the problem of analogy and via negativa.
Evaluation of these theories
Jordan, Lockyer and Tate, AQA A2 Religious Studies: Philosophy of Religion, Oxford pp 29-34
Internet encyclopedia of philosophy – Maimonides
Evaluation of all the above ideas. Does religious language have meaning?
Dialogues: the meaningfulness of religious claims is a topic for discussion. Links to units on Miracles, Religious experience and Arguments for God’s existence and the impact of an understanding of language on their claims. This may help students to draw on useful examples to add to their answers. Ensure that examples from chosen religion are used.
General introduction to the study of miracles could possibly include discussion of issues such as: are miracles a literal/physical possibility? Why does God do some miracles but let others suffer? If he created the world out of love and nature reflects him, then why is there a need for miracles? How can we understand miracles in light of scientific discovery? Explore whether or not it is rational to believe in miracles and perhaps look at Swinburne’s toys in the cupboard example.
Consideration of the views of Aquinas, Augustine. Scriptural and ‘modern’ miracles examples.
Dialogues: links to content on religious experience and verifying religious experiences.
Choir miracle at West Side baptist church – Beatrice, Nebraska
Parting the Red sea (Exodus 13:17–14:22)
R.F Holland’s train example
Miracles of Jesus such as walking on water (Mk 6:45–52); turning water into wine (Jn 2:1–11); raising Jairus’ daughter (Mk 5:21–43); woman with the haemorrhage (Mk 5:25–34)
Modern ‘miracles’ can be found in various places and are useful for evaluation, including Catholic news agency
Explain/discuss the following:
miracles as chance or coincidence; expression of God’s action through a person; events which have no known cause; violation of laws of nature
realist views generally accept the ‘truth’ in claims, such as scientific claims (contrast with Religious language). For a realist a miracle is a ‘real’ event, the resurrection for example is understood as a historical event by believers. Flew and Hume (Hume takes a realist view, although he believes that the claims that are made are false)
an anti-realist will argue that we can have no knowledge of a mind-independent world, since the phenomena observed by our senses are interpreted by the mind. We can have no knowledge of a transcendent realm, so the idea of miraculous intervention in this world by a transcendent God is not a sensible idea. Miracles are ‘in the mind’ – they are mental states or attitudes that are to be understood in terms of psychology and sociology. Tillich and Hick
if natural laws cannot be violated, then clearly miracles must be natural events. This approach would fit well with anti-real understandings of miracles such as those we looked at from Tillich, Hick and Holland
violation of natural law – Mackie, Hume
evaluation of these views.
Jordan A, AQA AS Religious Studies: Philosophy of Religion, Nelson Thornes
Internet encyclopedia of philosophy – miracles
Wiles and Hume.
Comparison and evaluation of the two arguments – students could create venn diagrams, charts or debate which view is the most plausible.
Jordan A, AQA AS Religious Studies: Philosophy of Religion, Nelson Thornes
Article – David Hume
Consider the relevance of miracles to proving the existence and nature of God; whether miracles revive a ‘God of the gaps’ approach; evil and suffering (eg Keith Ward) and so on.
Dialogues: links to Science and religion from the perspective of the religion studied. How has the religion responded to scientific claims? Does science compromise the authority of such religious claims in a secular society? Evidence and observation versus faith?
Self, death and the afterlife
Explore beliefs about the nature and existence of the soul, and therefore the possibility of continued personal existence beyond death/the existence of a self or soul. Useful scholars could include Plato, Aristotle, and Descartes.
Compare and evaluate these views.
A sorting exercise or chart for students to learn which view comes from which philosopher. Group presentations, guessing games, hot seating could also be used.
Jordan, Lockyer and Tate, AQA A2 Religious Studies: Philosophy of Religion, pp 44–46, Oxford
YouTube – chariot's allegory: Plato
Dualism – this could be addressed during the previous section on Descartes’ beliefs about the soul as well as using Plato. Plato’s charioteer analogy is a useful illustration.
Materialism (Physicalism) – could be covered initially as part of the ‘nature and existence of the soul’. Useful views to consider could be Richard Dawkins and Gilbert Ryle’s ‘Ghost in the Machine’. Around the room display quotes from Dawkins, and others. Students can then gather these ideas and evaluate them in pairs along with contrasting them against the beliefs about the soul from Descartes etc.
Dialogues: contrast with the view of the chosen religion on the soul and the possibility of continuing personal existence.
Jordan, Lockyer and Tate, AQA A2 Religious Studies: Philosophy of Religion, pp 39–44, Oxford
Ryle G, The concept of mind, 1949
Article – David Hume
Richard Dawkins' views
Study of near death experiences (NDE) and whether they are evidence of life after death. Useful points could be the research of Raymond Moody/the Greyson scale; Phylis Atwater and other popular examples, as well as the possibility of ‘negative’ or hell-like experiences. How valid are the NDE accounts given by children?
Students could gather information on different beliefs about continuing existence after death in the form of a mind map, or through a group jigsawing activity or mini presentations.
Resurrection – one way in which our personal existence could continue. Jesus’ resurrection as central to Christianity. See also Augustine, Hick’s replica theory (Replica theory is also an interesting extension of Hick’s theodicy from the Problem of evil unit).
Other possibilites that have been researched or suggested such as: Price’s Dream World, Hameroff and Penrose’s consciousness studies relating to the quantum level particles in the brain.
Reincarnation and Rebirth as alternative ideas, see any basic summaries of Hindu and Buddhist concepts.
Evaluation of these theories – is continuing personal existence possible? How conclusive is the evidence we have from NDEs, scripture, research?
Dialogues: are any of these claims reasonable?
Jordan, Lockyer and Tate, AQA A2 Religious Studies: Philosophy of Religion, pp 47–59, Oxford
The transfiguration, Mark 9:1–13
YouTube – Phylis Atwater: near death experience
YouTube – NDE
See the film ‘Heaven is Real’
YouTube – Pam Reynolds' NDE
YouTube – Hick's theory of replicas
YouTube – Hick's theory of replicas: brief overview
Introduction to ethics – focus on the debate between actions being intrinsically right and wrong and actions being wrong only because of their consequence, eg drinking alcohol. Students could create a handout summarising the view that drinking alcohol is intrinsically evil and the view that it may or may not be ‘good’ depending on the consequences. Use examples to illustrate two views of ‘duty’ the duty to obey the moral/ divine law, the duty to avoid harm to self or others, eg the killing of Bin Laden by US forces.
Natural moral law – understandings of the concepts of Eternal law and Natural moral law from Aquinas. What is our purpose? Students could list ideas, or consider examples such as a pen, chair etc.
Aquinas: ‘all those things to which man has a natural inclination are naturally (seen) by reason as being good.’ Evaluate this view as a class.
Note: Aquinas treats the precepts as three – many sources list them as five.
Self-preservation – a natural inclination humans share with all things.
Those things that nature has taught all animals such as the inclination to sexual intercourse and education of offspring.
To know God and to live in society – these inclinations are natural to human beings as rational beings.
Dialogues: Natural moral law theory is conventionally described as deontological but like other theories may also be considered a hybrid system of ethics.
Classroom activities could include:
students to suggest secondary precepts following from primary precepts already identified. Examples of secondary precepts given by Aquinas – he regarded the following as wrong in themselves (intrinsically wrong) regardless of their consequence: masturbation; adultery; fornication; theft; lying; killing the innocent (murder). Most of the secondary precepts devised by Aquinas are absolutist, but he allows that there will be debate about what the primary precepts require people to do, the secondary principles ‘may be changed in some particular cases of rare occurrence’
justifying your answer with reference to the primary precepts, why might it sometimes be right not to return to someone something they put into your care for safe keeping?
how would natural moral law apply to theft and lying? (could the example above could be considered theft?)
construct a revision guide for the question ‘Explain what Aquinas believed was the difference between a good and an evil action’ which must include case studies (which may be related to the ethical issues that follow). Students can demonstrate their understanding of the four conditions by applying them to the case studies
create a scenario in which lying might be justified by proportionalism. Refer to the value of lying for those involved, the intention of the moral agent and the disvalue. Repeat for a scenario involving ectopic pregnancy and double effect.
Introduction to ethics and types of ethics
Jordan A, AQA AS Religious Studies: religion and ethics, Nelson Thornes
Aquinas’ Summa Theologica
Doctrine of double effect
Fletcher’s situation ethics as an example of teleological ethics.
Creation of mind map/revision aid/mnemonic for concept of agape and how Fletcher justifies it as the ruling norm of Christian moral-decision making; contrast with natural law ethics.
Apply the examples of lying and theft to show objections to following the law in specific situations and how a ‘loving’ decision is made and how that decision could be different in other circumstances.
Also consider the following in groups:
how would someone using situation ethics make a decision in the following scenario? A group of shipwrecked sailors in a lifeboat. One has been fatally injured, is unconscious, and obviously dying of his wounds. All in the boat are starving and will also die if they do not eat soon. Someone has suggested that they should kill the dying man and eat his flesh
explain why theft may be right in some situations but not in others according to situation ethics.
Discuss the strengths and weaknesses of situation ethics.
Jordan A, AQA AS Religious Studies: religion and ethics, Nelson Thornes
Fletcher J, Situation ethics: the new morality
what are the purpose(s) of education and how may these be seen to aim at happiness; is ‘happiness’ the ultimate goal/purpose in life?
why pleasure, money and honours given by society may not be seen as ultimate goals in life
a working definition of happiness
Aristotle’s context in classical Greek society – the idea of being judged by one’s character etc (clips of films like Troy could be useful).
‘Have a go hero’: a man steps in when he sees a man with a knife threatening a woman. Looking at the description of a ‘virtuous person’ above explain why this may or may not be a virtuous act.
Doctrine of the mean: students can create scenarios in which they can apply various virtues and illustrate the mean. Role plays could be used.
Devise scenarios in which lying is a possible course of action – the group should decide if lying can be justified by virtue ethics in those situations.
Strengths and weaknesses of virtue ethics. Create a revision sheet with the three theories and their evaluations on; this can be used to complete an AO1 style question on the features of the theories, or their strengths and weaknesses. Students to self-assess which theory they need to practise the most, complete a question, then this could be peer-assessed using the mark schemes.
Jordan, Lockyer and Tate, AQA A2 Religious Studies: ethics, Oxford
Aristotle, Nicomachean ethics
Article – ethics
Free handouts – ethics
The application of natural moral law, situation ethics and virtue ethics
Review the approach each theory takes to moral decision-making, imagined as a general list for decision-makers. Students could create a ‘crib sheet’ for use when applying each theory to each ethical issue to aid scaffolding of answers.
For each issue, students need to be aware of intended benefits and of the relevant ethical issues that need to be addressed; then, using this key information, they need to apply the theories.
This can lead to evaluation work using questions such as: does the application to ‘real’ issues show any strengths and weaknesses of the theories? Do they lead to definite answers? Does the teleological approach work best? and so on.
Dialogues: issues of human and animal life and death including analysis of ethical theory responses and those from the religion studied.
Free handouts – ethics
Podcasts and articles – ethics
Article – animal ethics
Compassion in world farming website
Foot P, The problem of abortion and the doctrine of double effect
YouTube – Hursthouse, virtue, theory and abortion part 1
YouTube – Hursthouse, virtue, theory and abortion part 2
Hursthouse R, Applying virtue ethics to our treatment of other animals
Introduction to meta ethics: the meaning of right and wrong
General introduction to types of ethics – normative, applied, descriptive, meta.
Types of ethical statement as cognitive (naturalism/non-naturalism) and non-cognitive.
Dialogues: link with Religious language. Discussion on whether religious statements have any meaning.
Work on the following:
evaluation of this view, including the euthyphro dilemma
Betham’s utilitarianism (link to topic on Bentham and Kant) as naturalist because it rests on the observation of human nature and our motivation as hedonistic
evaluation of this way of doing ethics as a consequentialist, naturalist, cognitive approach. Consider GE Moore’s naturalistc fallacy amongst other common strengths and weakness of utilitarianism and ethical naturalism in general
GE Moore (links to Religious language)
evaluation of this approach as a contrast to naturalism, discussion of divine command theory as non-naturalism.
Dialogues: chosen religion’s view on divine command, moral absolutes etc.
Evaluate each approach as you go, however doing an overall evaluation at the end and applying this to AO2 style questions would also be useful.
Bowie and Frye, AS Religious Studies: ethics, pp: 19–21 and 26–28, Nelson Thornes
Bowie, Ethical studies, pp 36–52 and 64–75
YouTube – utilitarianism
Free will and moral responsibility
The relationship between freedom and responsibility with reference to examples, factors which inhibit our responsibilty etc.
Where does our understanding of right and wrong come from? Innate knowledge, social/cultural context.
Dialogues: link to Conscience.
Include idea of responsibility for actions, eg the cases of Clarence Darrow and others.
how genes/environment are claimed to affect behaviour, eg bullying, sexuality, drug dependency
how one’s free will can be curtailed or compromised
determinism including: Locke’s ‘man in the locked room’, Spinoza, Skinner’s psychological determinism, theological determinism, scientific determinsim (inlcuding contrasts from quantum theory which suggest events are far more random)
libertarianism (possible link to Descartes’ mind/body dualism)
socially deviant and criminal behaviour could be explored – how would each approach studied explain crime? Are the criminals morally responsible? How should it be punished?
Religious responses relating to judgement, karma etc. Could be explored briefly also.
Dialogues: how does this impact on moral decision-making, does acting out of fear of punishment compromise the ‘goodness’ of actions?
Bowie R, Ethical Studies, pp 87–98
Article – theological determinism
Conscience and Bentham and Kant
Non-religious could include: Freud, Kohlberg, Fromm, Durkheim.
Religious views could include: Aquinas, Augustine, Fletcher, Butler, scriptural references to conscience.
Application of the above viewpoints to the scenarios listed. Students to create a chart, conduct talk-show style interviews/hot seating to apply each perspective to the examples.
Evaluation of the value of the conscience, considering issues raised by the above approaches and applications.
Bentham’s utilitarianism: hedonistic nature of humans, principle of utility, hedonic calculus, act utilitarianism
Kant: duty and good will, role of reason, three formulations of the categorical imperative.
Comparison between these theories and a religious approach to moral decision-making.
Dialogues: application to examples from ethics topics to illustrate and evaluate their methods of decision-making. Which system of ethics is most useful? Most compatible with religious ethics? Is your chosen religion’s approach largely deontological/teleological? Why?
Bowie and Frye, AS Religious Studies: ethics, pp: 19–21, 26–28, 48–53 and 54–56 Nelson Thornes
UCL – Bentham project
Article – Jeremy Bentham
Guyer P and Wood A (eds), The Cambridge edition of the works of Immanuel Kant, Cambridge University Press, 1992