The attempts to found a morality apart from religion are like the attempts of children who, wishing to transplant a flower that pleases them, pluck it from the roots that seem to them unpleasing and superfluous, and stick it rootless into the ground. Without religion there can be no real, sincere morality, just as without roots there can be no real flower. Leo Tolstoy
Religion matters more than ever before.
It has had a huge role in the shaping of civilisations, providing meaning and purpose to the lives and moral framework of billions of people. In a secularised climate, with religion under attack from radical anti-theists such as AC Grayling and Richard Dawkins, it becomes ever more crucial to promote the pursuit of truth, philosophical endeavour and theological study. In a world described by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI as one dominated by ‘a dictatorship of relativism,’ Religious Studies asks whether life can have any meaning.
Religion is fascinating as a topic for academic study, because it deals with all the ‘ultimate’ questions: What is the point of human existence? Are there any arguments that can prove the existence of a God? If so, why does God allow suffering? How do we decide what is right and wrong? Is morality absolute or relative? What is justice? What happens when I die?
Religious Studies at A level is a rigorous, academic subject, which provides a platform for further study in many disciplines. It can lead to employment in numerous areas, including law, journalism, medicine and the armed forces. At A level, it links well with humanities subjects, such as History and Geography, but can also be combined with Languages and Science subjects, such as Physics, as it requires skills of critical thinking and listening. Proceeding in a spirit of critical inquiry, it helps develop the ability to formulate a logical, coherent and succinct argument. A sensitive and open minded attitude, which can listen to and understand other points of view, is essential. The Department requires a B grade or higher in both Religious Studies and English GCSE in order to study Religious Studies at A level.
The AS and A level qualifications comprise three papers each. In the first paper, Philosophy of Religion, students answer essay questions on topics including: Ancient Greek Philosophy; Soul, Mind and Body; Arguments for the Existence of God; Religious Experience; the Problem of Evil and Religious Language.
In the second paper, Religion and Ethics, students answer essay questions on topics including: Natural Moral Law; Situation Ethics; Kantian Ethics; Utilitarianism; Euthanasia; Business Ethics; Ethical Language; Conscience and Sexual Ethics.
In the third Paper, Developments in Christian Thought, students answers essay questions on topics including: Original Sin; the Existence of God; the Person of Jesus; Christian Morality; Religious Pluralism; Gender and Society and Secularism.
The Department organises a variety of trips and extra-curricular activities. Sixth Form boys attend various lectures and outside learning experiences during their course. Past examples include visiting Cambridge University for a lecture on logic, hearing Alister McGrath speak on Christian apologetics and attending a ‘Mock the Week’ style Philosophy quiz. Much individual support is available to enable boys to catch up or to seek further help and advice with their work.