Philosophy of Religion syllabus (Fall 2011)

Schedule and assigned readings
- also find links to videos and handouts in SacCT

1. What is religion? wks 1-2

  • Part 1: The Nature of Religion - intro
  • Dennett, p. 10: An evolutionary account of religion
  • Trigg, p. 22: A defense of religious realism

2. What do mystical experiences tell us? wk 3

  • Part 2: Religious Experience - intro
  • Teresa, p. 40: Religious experiences
  • James, p. 43: Religious experience as feelings forming the root of religion
  • Alston, p. 51: Religious experience as perception of God
  • Martin, p. 68: Critique of religious experience

3. Should one believe in miracles? wks 4-5

  • Part 10: Miracles - intro
  • Hume, p. 441: The evidence for miracles is weak
  • Mackie, p. 448: Miracles and testimony
  • Swinburne, p. 455: Miracles and historical evidence

4. Can one be good without God? wk 6

  • Part 14: Religion and Morality - intro
  • MacIntyre, p. 612: Which God ought we to obey?
  • Aquinas, p. 619: Ethics and natural law
  • Sartre, p. 622: Ethics without religion

5. Why is there so much pain and suffering? wks 7-8

  • Part 7: The Problem of Evil - intro
  • Hume, p. 276: Evil makes a strong case against God's existence
  • Leibniz, p. 282: Best of all possible worlds theodicy
  • Hick, p. 316: Soul-making theodicy
  • Rowe, p. 324: The evidential argument from evil

6. Can one prove God exists? wks 9-11

  • Part 5: Arguments About God's Existence - intro
  • Anselm, p. 169: The classical ontological argument
  • Gaunilo, p. 171: Critique of Anselm's argument
  • Aquinas, p. 184: The classical cosmological argument
  • Mackie, p. 205: Critique of the cosmological argument
  • Paley, p. 212: The analogical teleological argument
  • Hume, p. 215: Critique of the analogical teleological argument
  • Collins: The Case for Cosmic Design - link -
  • Draper: Collins' Case for Cosmic Design - link -

7. Does reason support or undermine faith? wks 12-13

  • Part 3: Faith and Reason - intro
  • Aquinas, p. 92: The harmony of reason and revelation
  • Pascal, p. 96: The wager
  • Clifford, p. 99: The ethics of belief
  • Dawkins: Viruses of the Mind - link -
  • Hitchens: Belief in Belief - link -
  • Harris: An Atheist Manifesto - link -
  • The God Debate: Hitchens vs. D'Souza - video -
  • The God Debate II: Harris vs. Craig - video -

8. Are science and religion compatible? wks 14-15

  • Part 12: Science and Religion - intro
  • Gould, p. 515: Two separate domains
  • Dawkins, p. 523: Science discredits religion

adam & eve

Course Description

PHIL 131. Philosophy of Religion. Introduction to philosophical theology, the philosophical study of religious assertions, arguments, and beliefs: the existence and nature of God; the rationality of religious belief; the relation of faith to reason; the problem of evil; immortality and resurrection; the possibility of miracles; the meaning of religious language. Includes both traditional and contemporary approaches. 3 units.

I present this course as a reasoned debate about two worldviews: theism and atheism. Expect a rigorous, critical examination of religious assertions, arguments, explanations and beliefs, including but not limited to: answers to enduring questions about God; the relation of faith to reason; the problem of evil and human freedom; the possibility of miracles; the implications of religious experience; the tensions between religion and science, religion and ethics.

This course satisfies GE Area C3: Introduction to the Humanities
by discussing over two thousand years of human history, tradition and debate about the nature and scope of the divine while considering typical faith-based and intellectual attitudes, values and beliefs from major religious traditions such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

Required course text: Philosophy of Religion: Selected Readings, edited by Michael Peterson, William Hasker, Bruce Reichenbach and David Basinger (2010, 4th ed.) and supplemental readings listed on the schedule above. Only this edition of the text will suffice. Appx. $50 at

Assignments, Grades and Attendance


  1. DEFINE philosophical and theological terms used in the course,
  2. DISTINGUISH various philosophical concepts, theories and positions,
  3. ENGAGE in cogent and respectful discussion about controversial religious issues,
  4. ANALYZE and PRODUCE practical, principle-based philosophical arguments,
  5. APPLY philosophical theories to religious dilemmas in professional and personal life.


Services to CSUS Students with Disabilities

If you have a disability and require accommodations, you need to provide disability documentation to SSWD, Lassen Hall 1008, (916) 278-6955. Please discuss accomodations needs with me after class or during my office hours early in the semester.

CSUS Policies and Procedures Regarding Academic Honesty

Review all academic responsibilities, definitions, sanctions and rights described here.



"When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child;
when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways."

- I Corinthians, 13: 11.

"A great many people think they are thinking when they are merely rearranging their prejudices."

- William James