Final Exam Study Questions

Philosophy of Religion


Arthur on Separation of Church and State

1.         State the language (the two clauses) in the 1st amendment to the U.S. Constitution that pertain to the separation of Church and State. What are the goals of this language?

2.         State some reasons for and some reasons against this separation

3.         Give two examples (one pertaining to each of the clauses) of church state “integration” (opposite of separation) that are clear and uncontroversial examples of too close ties between Church and State. Now give two examples of church state “integration” that are the least problematic you can think of.

4.         Do you accept an absolute wall of separation between church and state? Why? Why not?

5.         What is an example of a modern Western nation that has an “established” religion.

6.         Did some supporters of state established religions support the 1st amendment in order to keep the Federal government out of the state’s control over religion?

Silverman, Atheism, and Humanism

7.         Describe Silverman’s attempts to change S.C. state laws concerning the separation of church and state.

8.         Give some examples of how atheists are discriminated against.

9.         What is atheism? What is humanism? How might they be related?

Russell, Why I’m Not a Christian

10.       What three things must one believe in order to be "a Christian" according to Russell? Is this a good definition of "Christian?"

11.       What "moral defects" does Russell find in Jesus' character? Do you agree that these are moral defects? Why or why not?

12.       According to Russell, what motivates people to be religious (besides fear of eternal damnation)? Do you think he is right? Why or why not?

13.       Explain Russell's reasons for claiming that religion has, on balance, been a negative force in human history. Do you agree with him?

14.       Explain why Russell thinks that religious belief is "unworthy of free and rational people." Do you think he is right?

15.       What is Russell’s alternative to religious belief that might address some of the same concerns that religious belief addresses?

Russell, A Free Man’s Worship

16.       What are Russell’s recommendations in this essay concerning the meaning of life? How are we to find meaning and value in the world as Russell sees it? What according to Russell makes humans so special?

Mavrodes, Religion and the Queerness of Morality

17.       State the famous line from Dostoevsky suggesting a connection between religion and morality. Does Mavrodes accept Dostoevsky’s claim? Do you?

18.       How would Mavrodes respond to the claim that morality does not depend on religion because atheists (e.g., Herb Silverman) believe in acting morally.

19.       What is objective morality according to Mavrodes? What is subjective/relativistic morality? What kind of morality is “queer according to Mavrodes? Objective or subjective/relativistic morality?

20.       Does Mavrodes think objective morality is queer in any sort of a world? In a world with God? In Russell’s world? Explain.

21.       According to Mavrodes, why is objective morality queer in a Russellian world?

22.       Do you think that if morality might require you to do something that involves seriously sacrificing your own self interest that we would live in a “crazy,” “queer,” “absurd” world? On Mavrodes view, how would the existence of God make such demands not queer?

23.       Explain: “There can be no reasonable moral demand on me unless reality is itself committed to morality in some deep way.”

Notes on Religion and Morality

24.       If God does not exist does it follow that everything is permissible?

25.       What might be the basis of objective morality if not God?

26.       Explain the difference between two possible relations between God’s commandments and what is morally right: 1) Conduct is right because God commands it; 2) God commands conduct because it is right.

27.       Describe two problems with the idea that “conduct is right because God commands it.”

Pascal, The Wager

28.       As persuasively as you can, state Pascal's wager. Is this a good reason to believe in God? Why or why not?

29.       Does the logic of Pascal's wager depend on the likelihood that God exists? That is, does it matter to the wager whether the chance of God existing is 40% or 1%? Why or why not?

30.       What are the four options one must consider in assessing Pascal's wager? What are the benefits and costs of each of these options? Are there any significant costs of believing in God?

31.       Is the wager crass? What reasons are there for thinking it is and what reasons for thinking it is not?

32.       What are the reasons for thinking that God wouldn't reward those who believed based on the wager? What are the reasons for thinking that God would reward those who believed based on the wager? Which side has the stronger case, in your judgment?

Clifford, The Ethics of Belief

33.       What is Clifford’s dictum? That is, what ethical duty does Clifford think we have with regard to belief? To whom to we owe this duty?

34.       As persuasively as you can, explain why Clifford believes that we have a duty to humanity (and to ourselves) to withhold belief until we have sufficient evidence.

35.       How might believing without sufficient evidence hurt other people? If one believes something without sufficient evidence and it does not hurt others, is it morally wrong to hold that belief according to Clifford? Why or why not? Do you think he is right?

36.       Does Clifford think that an individual's belief belongs to that individual? Why or why not? Are one’s own beliefs private or public according to Clifford? Why?

37.       Is it always wrong to believe something on insufficient evidence? Why or why not?

38.       Give examples where it is appears rational (and seems to make sense) to believe in the truth of something even though the evidence for it is not sufficient. Do these examples undermine Clifford's position on the ethics of belief?

James, The Will to Believe

39.       What are the two ways that James suggests we can arrive at beliefs?

40.       Are we free to choose to believe in something or not believe in it? What reasons are there for thinking that belief is not under control of the will? Give examples to explain this point.

41.       Does James think that our passionate nature ever does decide our beliefs? If so, give examples. If not, explain why not.

42.       James argues that Clifford lets his passionate decide something of great importance and hence makes a choice that is not based on sufficient evidence. What is this choice?

43.       Does James think that it is ever appropriate for the passions to decide our beliefs? If so when? If not, why not?

44.       What does James mean by a genuine option? Explain each of its three components using examples. Do you think religion is a genuine option? Why or why not?

45.       Explain the difference between a forced option and one that is not forced? Give examples of each. Is belief in god a forced option? Why or why not? Would God treat agnostics and atheists the same?

46.       Explain the difference between a live and dead option. Between a momentous and trivial option.

47.       James provides a couple of reasons for thinking under certain conditions it is irrational to wait for sufficient evidence before one believes something. What are those two reasons.

48.       Why does James think it is irrational to wait until one has conclusive proof for God's existence before one believes in God?

49.       Can the desire for something being true ever help bring about that truth? Give an example. Could this be the case with God's existence?

50.       How might refusal to believe shut one off from evidence crucial to confirming the belief?

Pojman, Faith, Hope, and Doubt

51.       Does Pojman think belief in God is necessary for (Christian) religious faith? Why or why not?

52.       Does Pojman think doubt is incompatible with religious faith?

53.       Explain Pojman’s distinctions between belief, acceptance, and faith and the relations between them. Which are “volitional” (chosen) and which not?

54.       What does he mean by “volitionalism?” Does Pojman accept volitionalism? Why or why not? Do you accept it? Can we willingly and directly choose our beliefs?

55.       Does Pojman believe we can be judged for our beliefs? Why or why not?

56.       Does Pojman think it appropriate for God to judge people based on whether or not they have religious belief? Why or why not?

57.       Does Pojman believe we can indirectly will to have certain beliefs? How?

58.       Concerning belief, does Pojman agree with Clifford or James? Would Pojman accept Pascal’s wager?

59.       According to Pojman, does hope require possibility, allow for certainty, and/or involve motivation? Is hope volitional? Can we morally evaluate each other’s hope’s?

60.       According to Pojman, religious faith involves something other than belief in God. What does he think it involves?

John Hick, Religious Pluralism

61.       Is Hick a religious pluralist, an exclusivist, or neither? Describe Hick's position on this issue.

62.       Does Hick think that all religions are equally good? Why or why not? Does he think all religious beliefs are true? Why or why not? Does he think every conception of the divine is true and equally valid? Why or why not?

63.       How does Hick account for the diversity of religions around the world? If there is one ultimate reality, why didn’t that reality reveal itself to everyone around the world at the same time and in the same way?

64.       Does Hick think the major world religions are rivals and inconsistent with each other? How does he account for the conflicts in theological claims between these religions?

65.       Explain why someone might think that it is impossible for all the major world religions to be true. Use examples from these religions to explain this position. Do you agree with this idea? Why or why not?

66.       Explain how Hick uses the parable of the blind men and the elephant to develop his position on religious exclusivism versus pluralism.

67.       If religious pluralism is true, what dimension or interpretation of Christianity is false?

68.       What is Hick's vision of the future of the different religions and their relationship to each other?

Dalai Lama on Buddhism, Christianity, and Prospects for World Religion

69.       Does the Dalai Lama think it possible to join Christianity and Buddhism and come up with a composite religion?

70.       Is the Dalai Lama an exclusivist? Why or why not? In what way?

71.       Does the Dalai Lama believe the variety of world religions is good? Why or why not?

72.       Does he believe in converting people to Buddhism? Why or why not?

73.       Why might it be easier for a Buddhist exclusivist to refrain from attempts at converting people than it would be for a Christian exclusivist?

Plantinga, A Defense of Religious Exclusivism

74.       Is missionary work whose goal is to convert those of some other religion morally permissible? Morally required? Is it arrogant and morally wrong?

75.       What is the difference between a religious pluralist and a religious exclusivist?

76.       What are the two types of objections to religious exclusivism that Plantinga considers? How in general does Plantinga respond to these criticism?

77.       Is it morally arrogant to believe that one's religion is the sole proper approach to God? How does Plantinga respond to this objection?

78.       Is it irrational to believe one’s religion is the sole proper approach to God? How does Plantinga respond to this objection?

79.       Does Plantinga believe that before one may think that one's religious beliefs are correct (and other's religious beliefs are mistaken) that one must be able to produce an argument that will convince rational and intelligent people who disagree with you? (“Condition C”) Why or why not? How does Plantinga respond to that objection that since he can't produce such an argument he has no right to be an exclusivist and that he therefore should accept religious pluralism?

80.       What is Plantinga’s “tar baby argument?”

81.       Is it arrogant (or irrational) to believe a moral or political position even though you don’t have an argument that would convince rational and thoughtful people who disagree with you?

82.       What could a religious exclusivist like Plantinga say in response to the objection that if he had been brought up in India, he would be a Hindu rather than a Christian? Does this objection undermine religious exclusivism? Consider the same objection applied to moral exclusivism: “You would had a different attitude toward Jews if you had been brought up in Nazi Germany, so therefore it is irrational for you to believe what you now do about the moral rights of Jews.”

83.       Are religious pluralists exclusivist concerning atheists? Must they be? Explain.

Olen, Personal Identity and Life after Death

84.       What is the difference between the memory criterion of personal identify and the body criterion of personal identity?

85.       Describe Olen’s Badger and Everglade case in two different ways: One using the body criterion and the other using the memory criterion of personal identity.

86.       Explain Olen’s distinction between a human being and a person. Give examples of one that are not examples of the other.

87.       Does our notion of moral responsibility support the memory or the bodily criterion (according to Olen)? Why?

88.       Explain the difference between these two types of materialists (=only material substances exist) concerning the mind: Identity theorists and functionalists.

89.       Use the analogy between a computer program and the mind/consciousness to explain how a functionalist thinks of mind/consciousness and its relation to the brain.

90.       Can the identity theorist believe in life after death? Why? Can the functionalist? How?

91.       Can a materialist believe in life after death? Does Olen believe life after death is possible?

92.       Does Olen agree or disagree with the following (and explain why or why not): “If one believes in life after death, one must be a dualist, that is, one must believe the mind/soul/consciousness is a separate substance from the body/matter substance and can exist without it (that is, body/material substance).”

93.       Raise an objection to the following idea of survival after death: The mind survives death, but the memories, personality, character traits, and body do not.

White, The Historical Roots of our Ecologic Crisis

94.       According the White, what are the historical roots of our ecological crisis?

95.       Describe the features of Christianity that White thinks result in ecologically irresponsible world views and behavior. Identify three distinct features.

96.       What does it mean to say a religion is anthropocentric?

97.       Does White think science and technology have played a major role in getting us into the environmental crisis? Does he think more science and technology are the way out of this crisis?

98.       Does White think there are any redeeming resources in the Christian tradition that would help move us toward a more environmentally friendly worldview?

Berry, Christianity and the Survival of Creation

99.       Does Berry agree with White about Christianity’s role in the environmental crisis? In what ways yes and in what ways no?

100.     Does Berry think that Christianity (as practiced) and/or Bible is conducive to environmentally responsible worldview?

101.     What are some of the messages for our relation to the earth that Berry draws from the Bible? Who does the earth belong to? Is nature of intrinsic value (good in itself)?

102.     Where does Berry locate the holy? Church? Home? Work? Nature? Economy?

103.     On Berry’s view, why does economic life have (or lack) spiritual value (i.e., religious significance)?

104.     Identify some of the dualisms that Berry thinks it important to avoid. Explain why.

105.     Are White and Berry right that religion is both a great causative factor in our environmental problems and a crucial part of the solution to those problems? What would someone who disagreed with this analysis claim instead?