Introduction To Philosophy – Philosophy of Religion

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Introduction To Philosophy 3

As fledgling Philosophers, you have learned that philosophy requires one to suspend judgment until all the obtainable facts are available. Sometimes, as we read in Metaphysics, all the facts may not be fully developed and thus conclusions can remain in development for centuries. Religion is also that way. There are simply things which people of all Faiths must take on faith rather than what a Scientist or Philosopher would deem to be a fact.

The Philosopher’s job is to critically evaluate the facts. For Philosophy of Religion, this means contemplating the facts having to do with experiences of religion: the God(s), the soul, good and evil, the afterlife, etc. Sahakian & Sahakian (2005) explain that although there are multiple disciplines about religion (sociology of, history of, psychology of…) they are not in place to actually evaluate the religion, but rather to merely report on it. Thinking about it that way, you would likely agree that these other disciplines will report the facts and historical context of a theology, but not delve into the notional facts, values, or validity espoused by them. That’s philosophy’s job.

Philosophy of Religion should not be confused with the religion itself though. Sahakian & Sahakian (2005) write, “[t]he philosopher’s quest is unrestricted by bias, authority, revelation, or faith, seizing upon all pertinent data as a means of attaining the most coherent evaluation” (pg. 85). This can be tricky. Many people of Faith will struggle with the concept of challenging their own belief system from a philosophical point of view. But how can we truly know what we believe if we disallow ourselves from answering questions about the validity of those beliefs? That is, it is only if your belief system can stand up to a conversation, question, comedy, and scrutiny, that can you claim that its truths are irrefutable.

This Unit will come to you in three parts: Research, reaction, and writing. First, you will be presented with ancient and modern thoughts about religion as a belief system. Second, we will have a robust discussion about what we have read about. Last, you will be given a writing assignment from the reading assignments.

Sahakian, W, & Sahakian, M. (2005) The Ideas of Great Philosophers. New York: Fall River Press.


Polytheism: Perhaps the oldest and most familiar form of religion. It is the belief system with multiple Gods with each God having a specific purpose or “job.” The ancient world was basically fully polytheistic from the Bronze Age, Iron Age, and through the Axial Age. This lasted until the formation of the Abrahamic Religions – which are strictly monotheist.

  • Fairbanks, A. (1898). Literary Influence in the Development of Greek Religion. The Biblical World,11(5), 294-305. Retrieved from
    • In Fairbanks (1898) read pages 294 to the end of the first paragraph on page 297.
    • Note how for the Greeks, the Gods also had strong Human characteristics.


  • Watch Professor of Sociology Frank Furedi’s 18-minute lecture on Humanism.:

Furedi, F. (2013). Alternative lectures: What is Humanism (Part 1). [Video File]. Available at

    • Who does Dr. Furedi say is the author of our destiny?
  • Watch his 19-minute follow-up as well.

Furedi, F. (2013). What is humanism? Part 2. [Video File]. Available at

The problem of Evil and Suffering to Religion: Read the entire entry (all 11 sub-sections) from the IEP entry for the “Logical Problem of Evil” available at


For this PART 1:

  • Your FIRST of TWO posts this week:
    • Please post your thoughts about who or whom you believe is the author of your destiny (Free Will or not). Use the terms from class to describe your belief system. You may introduce other terms if something more concise would work better.
  • Your SECOND topic posts in the Discussion Forum this week:
    • Why do you think evil exists? If you believe in a God or Gods, why does he/she/they allow evil in the world?


  • Do not write more than 1-2 paragraphs per topic (try to be succinct; it is the sign of a sharp mind to be able to collate and present an argument succinctly)

For this PART 2:

Pick one of the three following and present a 3-page Research Paper on them, their views, and their specific Philosophical underpinnings to religion using the rubric below.

Please look briefly at each and pick the one that will give you the most rewarding experience to learn more about.

Free Will vs. Omnipotence

  • How can we have Free Will if God knows everything that has or will happen, and therefore it has already happened or couldn’t be known?

Evil and Suffering

  • How does a purely good God allow evil to happen to good people?

Thomas Paine and God

  • Although a humanist, Paine believed in God and the afterlife. Explain his logic and offer your own.

In the paper, identify your topic of choice in the title and opening sentences.

From there:

  • Describe the challenge through the open-minded lens of philosophical inquiry
  • Give several examples of the arguments for and against the prevailing logic, for example:
    • For Free Will, for example, you may wish to discuss the ramifications of Free Will vs. a God who knows everything
    • For Evil and Suffering, you may want to explore why evil is necessary or could be argued to be so
    • For Thomas Paine, you may want to discuss how a humanist could also believe in a God and still be an actual humanist
  • Why is it still something modern students of philosophy are compelled to study? Why is this topic still important to the philosophy or religion?

Assignment Guidelines

Write a fully APA-compliant 3- page paper for this Unit

  • You should include a reference page, with APA citations, at the end of your paper. This page is not part of the 3-pages of written work
  • Standard margins, 12-point font, New Times Roman or similar
  • Do not write less, do not write more
  • Be sure to read the assessment criteria before you begin writing

For more information on APA formatting:

Assessment Criteria

  • Does the paper clearly identify the chosen Philosopher and why he fits into the topic of Metaphysics?
  • Does the paper consider the historical, theological, and cultural context of the chosen Philosopher’s metaphysical arguments?
  • Does the writer give meaningful examples (plural) of the Philosopher’s view on metaphysics?
  • APA and overall look and feel of the paper is college-level work

For this PART 3:

Hopefully, you know now what men and women have been discussing for eons; we are all philosophers; we all have valid opinions and judgments about the world around us.

For this part, please share what the most interesting part (lesson/discussion) this week was to you. How did that experience change your worldview? Please explain how you thought before, and how the new viewpoint changed that old thinking into something new.

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