Philosophy of Religion


PHIL 3570-001 / REL 3570-001                                 Fall Semester 2007

M W  3:30 – 4:45                                                        Rocket Hall 1549

Nita de Oliveira, Ph.D.                                     Office: Scott Hall 3012

Phone: 419-530-4517                                                  Office Hours: MWF 11-12:00

Email: [email protected]                                          F 3:00 - 5:00 or by appointment


Personal Website:


U Toledo HomePage

Existentialism - PHIL 3240
Intro to Philosophy - PHIL 2200

יִרְאַת יְהוָה רֵאשִׁית דָּעַת

"The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge"


Course Description:


[3 hours] A critical and philosophical analysis of topics in religion including the problem of evil, faith and reason, the existence of God and the nature of religious experience. This is a “writing across the curriculum” (WAC) course, so that students are expected to use a variety of writing assignments as a tool for learning. The course will allow for discussions of the reading assignments and will encourage students to develop their own critical reflections in this field.


Required Text:


Michael Peterson, William Hasker, Bruce Reichenbach and David Basinger, Editors. Philosophy of Religion: Selected Readings (Paperback). Oxford University Press, 2006.


Further Reading / Reserved Materials (Library):

Clack, Beverley and Brian R. Clack. The philosophy of religion: a critical introduction. Cambridge: Polity Press ; Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishers, 1998

Davies, Brian (Editor). Philosophy of religion: a guide to the subject. Washington, D.C.: Georgetown University Press, 1998.

Kierkegaard, Soren. Fear and Trembling. Princeton University Press, 1983.

Thiselton, Anthony C. A concise encyclopedia of the philosophy of religion. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Academic, 2005.

Yandell, Keith E. Philosophy of Religion: A Contemporary Introduction. Routledge Contemporary Introductions to Philosophy (Net Lib)


WAC – Writing Assignments Course:

“The philosophy of our WAC program has become: Written expression of information expands the learning process. This requires frequent practice by the student, frequent feedback to the student, interest by the student in the topics under consideration, and importantly, insight on how the thought processes within the student’s own mind work.” This philosophy has been derived, in part, from ideas expressed by Toby Fulwiler from the University of Vermont who is a nationally recognized consultant for WAC programs. Fulwiler has stated: “The more students write, the more active they become in creating their own education: writing frequently ... helps students discover, rehearse, express and defend their own ideas.”


WAC-Specific Goals:

• To read various styles of literature in the philosophy of religion.

• To discuss the literature in the ways of a professional philosopher or expert in religion.

• To write short impressions and analyses of these readings using varying techniques.

• To prepare writing assignments and critical essays on subjects chosen by the student.

These goals will be accomplished by using a variety of techniques. You will search for information in the primary literature, learn how to read and criticize the scientific literature and to communicate clearly and effectively your opinions and thoughts about the topic.




The course grade will be based on writing assignments, term paper, and class participation. Grades are based on point accumulation throughout the semester.  There are 3 Writing Assignments worth 10 points each and 2 Midterm Essays worth 15 points each.  NO LATE ASSIGNMENTS WILL BE ACCEPTED, unless they are accompanied by evidence of a medical emergency (e.g., signed doctor’s note) or death in the family (e.g., funeral program).  There are two midterms (critical essays) worth 15 points each.  Make-up exams will be given only to those students who inform me of their emergency by email on the day of the exam. The cumulative final exam is worth 40 points, so as to make up 100 points:


30 points – Writing Assignments

30 points – Midterms / Critical Essays

40 points –Final Exam


100 total points


Final grades for the course are based on the following scale:


93-100 pts. = A                       77-79 pts. = C+

90-92 pts.   = A-                      73-76 pts. = C

87-89 pts.   = B+                     70-72 pts. = C-

83-86 pts.   = B                       60-69 pts. = D

80-82 pts.   = B-                      59 and below = F


Academic Honesty:

Neither plagiarism (i.e., presenting the written work of another as one’s own) nor cheating (i.e., providing answers to exam questions or receiving exam answers from another) will be tolerated. Any academic dishonesty will be disciplined according to the guidelines in the University of Toledo student handbook.



If you need special accommodations to attend my class, please notify me immediately. Your need for special accommodations, including special testing requests, will need to be documented by the Office of Accessibility, located at 1400 Snyder Memorial.


Reading Assignments & Class Structure:

Make sure to prepare all the readings before the date given. The reading assignments are usually short and hopefully pleasant. Writing Assignments are turned in at the beginning of class on the day it’s due. Class participation is essential. That includes class attendance as well as active involvement and discussions in all phases of the class.
For your Writing Assignment #3 due on December 5, you can write a 2-3 page paper trying to address the problem of religious language, miracles, life after death, science and religion, morality and religion, natural theology, and/or religious diversity.
If possible, try to write your essay in digital (computer-generated) format, so that you could print it out and keep a copy of your own text for further studies --this is actually a good practice for your own academic development. But if you cannot type or use a computer, please make sure your handwriting is legible and staple all the pages before turning your homework in. The idea is to explore your writing skills and get as close as you can to developing an essay style, featuring clarity, well-formulated sentences and good arguments. Even if some of the study questions (from the textbook) or the proposed topics may not seem to require more than simply addressing some definition of a concept or idea, try to avoid mere reproduction, by making explicit your own understanding of concepts and ideas, just as it would be required in a philosophical essay. You can use the texts you read and material available on the internet, but make sure you cite your sources properly.
For the FINAL EXAM on Dec. 11, be prepared to write an in-class essay (2-3 pages) on one of the following topics:
the nature of religion, religious experience, the problem of rationality in religion, faith and reason, natural theology, the proofs for God's existence, the problem of evil, the problem of religious language, miracles, life after death, science and religion, morality and religion, natural theology, and/or religious diversity.
You might want to take a look at Jeff McLaughlin, How to Write a Philosophy Paper and/or P. Bokulich, Paper Writing Hints.

Suggested & Related Links:


Philosophy Dept - UT

What is Philosophy ?

Religious Studies at UT

Program in Law and Social Thought - UT

Nietzsche, Foucault, and the Death of God

Nietzsche's Genealogy of Modernity

Jean-Paul Sartre's Existential Phenomenology of Liberation

Paul Ricoeur’s Revelatory Hermeneutics of Suspicion

Dialectic and existence in Kant and Kierkegaard

Husserl, Heidegger and the Transcendental Problem of Signification

Heidegger and Heraclitus

Edmund Husserl's Phenomenology of Meaning

Jean Calvin's Philosophical Anthropology

Rawls’s Normative Conception of the Person

Social Justice, Secularization, Democratization (Research Project)

Transcendental-Semantic Perspectivism (Research Project)

The Philosophical Foundations of Human Rights (Research Project)

Reformed, Catholic, Jew: An Experiment in Self-Identity

Philosophy Soccer (Monty Python)



Class Schedule:


August              20: Introduction: What is Religion ? What is Philosophy of Religion ?


                        22: Religion as a Social Phenomenon , Emile Durkheim
Emile Durkheim, The Elementary Forms of Religious Life, (1912)
[you may read this text online, in case the Library does not make available the indicated excerpt]

                        27: A Defense of Religious Realism, Roger Trigg
Roger Trigg: "Theological realism and antirealism," in: Philip L. Quinn & Charles Taliaferro (eds.): A Companion to Philosophy of Religion. Oxford: Blackwell 1997, 213–220. Discussed in Eberhard Herrmann, "A Pragmatic Realist Philosophy of Religion"
[you may read this text online, in case the Library does not make available the indicated excerpt]

                        29: The Meaning of Religious Beliefs Is in Their Use , D. Z. Phillips
Wikipedia entry on Wittgenstein

September         3: Labor Day – No Class


                         5: Religious Experience as the Root of Religion , William James

                        10: A Phenomenological Account of Religious Experience , Merold Westphal


                        12: The Harmony of Reason and Revelation [SUMMA CONTRA GENTILES], Thomas Aquinas

17: Truth Is Subjectivity , Søren Kierkegaard / Commentary

                        19: Writing Assignment #1 & Review

                        24: MIDTERM # 1/ Critical Essay #1


                        26: Negative Theology , Moses Maimonides / The Guide for the Perplexed


October             1: A Contemporary Modal Version of the Ontological Argument , Plantinga

                          3: Moral Arguments for God's Existence, Robert Merrihew Adams


                          8: Experience, Proper Basicality, and Belief in God , Robert Pargetter

                        10: The Case of the Intellectually Sophisticated Theist, William Hasker

                        15: Fall Break -- No Class


                        17: Horrendous Evils and The Goodness of God , Marilyn McCord Adams / Theodicy / evil / The problem of evil


22: God Is Creative - Responsive Love , John B. Cobb and David Ray Griffin

                        24: Writing Assignment #2 & Review

                        29: MIDTERM #2 / Critical Essay #2


                        31: Sexism and God-Talk, Rosemary Radford Ruether


November        5: Miracles and Testimony, J. L. Mackie


7: The Soul Needs a Brain to Continue to Function, Richard Swinburne

                        12: Veteran’s Day -- No Class

                        14: Resurrection of the Person , John Hick / Life After Death


19: Two Separate Domains, Stephen Jay Gould

21-23: Thanksgiving Break -- No Class

                        26: Science Discredits Religion, Richard Dawkins


                        28: Religious Pluralism, John Hick


December        3: Ethics Without Religion , Jean-Paul Sartre / Outline

                        5: Writing Assignment #3 & Review

December        11: FINAL EXAM Tuesday 2:45-4:45

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