Philosophy 255: Philosophy of Religion

T, Th 9:25-10:40, Maybank 206


             Ned Hettinger                                                                                               Office: 16 Glebe, Rm. 201

             Fall 2008                                                                                                      Office Hrs: W 10-2

             Office Phone: 953-5786                                                                              (Also, stop by my office or

             Email:                                                                         make an appointment)

             Web page:

             Course web page:

Course Description and Goals

This course evaluates religious phenomena from a philosophical perspective. We consider the question--Does God exist?--by examining the traditional philosophical arguments for God's existence. Must God exist because anything exists? Is God the best account for the marvelous complexity and design apparent in our world? Does religious experience provide sufficient evidence for belief in God? Is the utility of belief in God a good reason for such belief? The course also examines the possible relationships between religion and science, religion and morality, religion and women, and religion and the environment. Other questions the course will address include: Is religious belief rational? What is faith and does it provide reason for belief in God? Does the existence of evil show that a certain type of god can't exist? Are atheism and/or humanism rational alternatives to religious belief? Is there only one true religion? What are appropriate implications of our society’s commitment to the separation of church and state?

The course does not aim to provide definitive answers to these questions but to get you to carefully examine your own ideas about these matters and to develop well-informed and well-grounded views on these topics.


             Pojman and Rea, Philosophy of Religion, 5th edition

             Some readings will be posted on the course webpage (see above)


Midterm Exam (23%)

Final Exam (23%) Thursday, Dec 11, 12pm

It will stress the material from the second half of the course, but also include relevant material from the first half.

Major Paper (including a paper proposal): (34%)

6-8 page paper exploring a topic of your choosing in the philosophy of religion. A paper proposal will be due on Friday, October 24th, 3pm, 14 Glebe mailbox. The paper is due on Friday, November 14th 3pm, 14 Glebe mailbox.

Reading Quizzes (12%)

Weekly unannounced quizzes on the reading for that day. No makeups, but I give “free quizzes” that can be used to substitute for a missed quiz, and for any class that you must miss, you can email me a brief description of the reading before class and that will count for the quiz, should we have one.

Class Participation and Attendance (8%)

This includes quality of class involvement and attendance. Attendance is particularly important in this class. I want you to learn from each other and from class discussion. Developing the skill of thinking philosophically requires practice and following examples. These can't be adequately done on your own. Poor attendance will lower your grade; extremely poor attendance (missing over two weeks of class) is sufficient grounds for failing the course. If you have a good reason for missing class, please write it on a piece of paper (or email me) and include the date missed and your name. Please come to class on time: Assignments, reading quizzes and an attendance sheet are given at the beginning of class. It is your responsibility to sign the attendance sheet.