Philosophy of Religion

Instructor: Dr. Elizabeth Shadish
Office: SOCS 213B Phone: 310-660-3763

Office Hours: On-Campus: TTh, 8:00 - 9:30 am
Online: W, 4:00 to 6:00 pm through "instant email"


COURSE DESCRIPTION: In this class, we will learn how philosophical problems with religious belief arise, and what various philosophers have had to say about these problems. Some of these problems are not difficult to discover. Many people, for instance, have wondered why evil must exist in a divinely created world. On the other hand, some problems only arise through some relatively deep and sustained reflections on the origins and nature of religious belief. These, too, we will explore; in a way which, hopefully will enable each student to appreciate some of the more subtle concerns of philosophers of religion.

COURSE GOALS: Generally, this course is designed to familiarize students with the issues and themes that dominate in the philosophy of religion and to develop the student's ability to think critically about philosophical problems related to religious belief. Students will learn to:

1. describe and practice what it means to argue philosophically about religious issues;
2. identify philosophical issues related to religious beliefs and practices;
3. explain and critique various positions taken in response to these issues;
4. become familiar with some aspects of a few different religions; and
4. develop a more informed understanding of their own views on religious issues.


1. Bear in mind that critical thinking is not always easy to do. While some philosophers are entirely supportive of religious institutions and/or beliefs, other are highly critical of the same. Thus, the success of this course for all of us will depend on our abilities to listen and talk freely, openly and rationally with one another.

2. This is not a course in "Comparative Religions" or "World Religions." While the course is intentionally designed to study many issues from the perspective of different religious traditions, we will not be making any systematic effort to "cover" or explore world religions as such.


Gary E. Kessler, Philosophy of Religion: Toward a Global Perspective (Thompson/Wadsworth, 1999)
Daniel Judd, Taking Sides: Clashing Views on Controversial Issues in Religion (McGraw-Hill/Dushkin, 2003)


1. One orientation quiz, worth 10 points

2. Three exams, each non-cumulative. The first will be worth 50 points; the two following exams will be worth 70 points each. 190 points total.

3 . Each student will participate in 6 class debates about issues in religion, as presented in our Judd text. Detailed instructions for these assignments are given separately. 10 points each for participation; 60 points total.

4 . Each student will also be a member of a debate team, researching and presenting one of our debates from the Judd text to the class as a whole. Detailed instructions for this assignment are given separately. 50 points.

5.Three brief reflection papers submitted as 1 - 1 1/2 page typed, double-spaced essays. 10 points each; 30 points total.

Points/Grade Scale: A = 350 - 315 (90%) B = 314 - 280 (80%)
C = 279 - 227 (65%) D = 226 - 187 (50%)