Paper Assignment

Philosophy of Religion (F08)

The paper should be 6-8 pages (double space, typewritten) and explore a topic of your choosing in the philosophy of religion. The paper counts for 34% of your course grade and so it should be a significant effort..

A one page paper proposal is due Wednesday, October 29th, at 1pm, in my mailbox, 1st floor 14 Glebe. It should include a title, characterization of your topic, the major lines of argument you intend to pursue, tentative thesis, and a brief review of one key philosophical article you will use in your paper (including how you will use it). Please put this article review in a separate paragraph and fully cite the article (i.e., author, title, journal or book name, publication date, and so on) so I can find it if I want to. Keep a copy of the proposal for yourself.

The paper is due on Friday, November 14th at 1pm, in my 14 Glebe mailbox. Staple the paper proposal (with my comments) to the back of the final paper, and keep an extra copy of the final paper for yourself.

This paper should be a philosophy paper not a religion paper. Focus on the conceptual issues and arguments involved in your topic. Factual information about certain religions or scientific matters might be relevant but should be a relatively minor part. Statements about your own religious faith or beliefs (or lack of them) are not particularly appropriate; what matters is your reasons or support for you views.

You may write either on a topic that we address in the course or on one that is not specifically addressed by the course. In either case, you must tie your paper into the central themes of the course. The paper must show that it was written by someone who took this course. If an assigned article has bearing on your topic, you must discuss what it says about it and your response.

At least one outside (not assigned in the course) philosophical reading is required for this paper. You can use a philosophical article from our text that has not been assigned for the course. I suggest looking for articles in the following journals: International Journal for Philosophy of Religion (College library has this on line); The Journal of Law and Religion (College library has on line); the Journal of Women and Religion (College library has on line); Worldviews: Environment, Culture, Religion (College library has on line); Journal of Religious Ethics (College library has on line); Zygon (College library has on line); Philo (; Faith and Philosophy ( – look at “article index”). You can also use the reference (in the Library Reference section) called “Philosophers Index” (it is also available on line through the library) which lists by subject, title, and author most philosophical articles that have been published. Don't get bogged down on this dimension of the paper. I want you to think for your self; the outside reading is meant only to help stimulate your own thinking. Still, every paper description should include such an article (fully referenced so I can find it) and a discussion of how you will use it and each paper must use one such article to some extent.

Talk with each other (and me) about your ideas. Read ahead for topics on the syllabus we have not yet discussed. Look in the table of contents of our text for topics of interest. Make sure you write on an issue you want to spend some time thinking about. Use the College Skills Lab and the Philosophy Writing Lab. See the flier on the Philosophy Writing Lab.

Some possible topics (you are not limited to these and if you choose one of these topics, you must make these your own):


1.         Role of reason, rationality, argument, and faith in religion. What is faith and how does it relate to reason?

2.         The problem of evil; in general or specific dimensions of it.

3.         The relationships between science and religion. Can they conflict? Can (does) science support religion?

4.         Paper on any of the arguments for God’s existence: Cosmological argument, design/teleological argument, argument from religious experience, moral argument (God is needed for objective morality), ontological argument (An all perfect being must exist because of the nature of the idea of such a being), pragmatic argument (we gain more by believing in God than we stand to lose, e.g., Pascal’s Wager)

5.         Free will and God’s omniscience

6.         Worries about God’s omnipotence, including the paradox of omnipotence

7.         The relationship between God and time

8.         Philosophical analysis of miracles

9.         Philosophical analysis of immortality: Would it really be me?

10.       Freud and the truth/falsity of religion, including worries about the genetic fallacy

11.       Is there one true religion or might several different religions all be true? Is it permissible to believe that one’s religion is the correct one? Are any religions better than other religions? Can non-believers be saved?

12.       Exploration of atheism (and/or agnosticism).

13.       Humanism as an alternative to religion

14.       Intelligent design and creationism: a philosophical analysis

15.       Separation between church and state

16.       Women and religion: philosophical issues

17.       Religion and environment

18.       Is there a hell?

19.       Religion and the meaning of life