PHIL 295: Special Topic: Philosophy of Religion

Crosslisted with Sophomore Seminar: SEMN 295

Instructor: Lars Enden

Course Description

The course will set out three tasks. Our first task will be to acquire and develop distinctly philosophical skills: e.g. reading persuasive essays, analyzing concepts, understanding arguments, criticizing our own views and the views of others, and writing persuasively in a clear and concise manner. Our second task will be to examine the most important philosophical questions asked about religion: e.g. Can the existence of God be proven or disproven? Is religious faith rational? Does morality require a divine moral-lawgiver? Should we hope for a life after death? And what is the appropriate response to religious diversity? Our third task will be to evaluate religion critically as a distinctive type of culture: one which establishes specific beliefs and practices, and which involves various personal, social, and political values and goals. To accomplish this, we will ground our discussions in the examples provided by the major religions of the world while we consider the various philosophical issues presented by a critical evaluation of religion.

Required Text

Philosophy of Religion: Selected Readings, 5th edition, Edited by Michael Peterson, William Hasker, Bruce Reichenbach, and David Basinger.

Reading Schedule

All required reading should be completed before class on the day the reading is due. Check the schedule every day to be sure you are keeping up on your reading. It is also a good idea to reread a section after we have talked about it. This helps to increase your understanding dramatically.

Assigned Work


I expect you to be present and engaged in seminar activities at all times. Therefore, participation is a graded component of this course. There are two points available for participation every day. One point is for attendance. To receive this point, you must arrive on time and stay until the end. If you arrive late or leave early, you lose your attendance point for the day. The other point is for engagement. To receive this point, you must pay attention and make at least one substantive contribution to the discussion. This is what a seminar is all about.

Reading Questions

For every class (except the first), there will be reading questions available on Moodle. The reading questions are designed to help you focus your attention and to help you understand the main ideas while you are reading. Your answers must be completed before class begins.

Research Paper

The research paper will be divided into three parts, which will be due at various times throughout the term. You will be expected to do some outside research for some parts of the paper. In the end, you should have a well-researched paper you should be proud of. There will also be a peer-review process for the first two parts of the paper.


You will give a presentation on one of the articles we will be reading this term. Your presentation should be approximately 10 minutes in length, after which you will lead a discussion on the article. You will prepare a handout (one side of an 8½” x 11” piece of paper) which clearly outlines the main points of the article, and presents some questions for discussion. You must email your handout to me at least one class day before your presentation so I can help direct your thinking and iron out any misunderstandings.

Grading Procedures

Grades are determined on a Credit/No Credit basis. To get a CR in this course, you must do all of the following:

  • Get at least 45 out of 60 participation points (75%).
  • Successfully complete at least 20 of the 27 reading questions (about 74%) to the minimum standards.
  • Successfully complete each part of the paper (and the peer-reviews) to the minimum standards. You may be asked to revise a part of the paper if it does not meet the minimum standards.
  • Successfully complete the presentation to the minimum standards. You may be asked to do another presentation if you do not meet the minimum standards.

Class Policies


For a seminar to function, everyone must be engaged with the discussion at all times. So, while the seminar is in session, it is your responsibility to remain focused on the discussion rather than, say, surfing the internet or looking at social media.

Late Work

In general, I do not accept late work. It is your responsibility to get your work turned in on time. However, if you have a problem with getting your work turned in on time, you should contact me.


You may have strong opinions about some of the issues we will discuss in this class, and your peers may not agree with you. However, it is important everyone feels they are welcome to contribute to the conversation. Therefore, it is important we treat each other (and the philosophers we will be reading) with respect. In philosophy, respect means we criticize ideas; we do not criticize people.

Academic Honesty

This course operates under the College Honor System. This means we treat each other with respect, we nurture independent thought, we take responsibility for personal behavior, and we accept environmental responsibility. Academic honesty is a critical part of our value system at K. When you borrow an idea, express the idea in your own words, thus thinking it through and making it your own, and acknowledge the source of the idea in a note, or, in certain situations, use the exact words of the source in quotation marks and acknowledge with a note. Ideas raised in class are part of the public domain and, therefore, sources of those ideas need not be acknowledged. If you are ever in doubt about this, you should ask.


If you believe a specific accommodation may be appropriate for you, please contact the student development office. They can evaluate your specific accessibility needs and provide you with a letter detailing the accommodations appropriate for you.

General Advice

  • Take your education seriously: You will probably only get one chance at college; don’t waste it. Remember your reasons for being here.
  • Always do your work and come to class: The ultimate key to success in this class is keeping up with your work and participating in the discussions. Do not miss our class unless you absolutely must, and, while you are in class, pay attention, ask questions, and contribute to the discussion.
  • Keep reading: Some of the reading is difficult. Please do not give up on the reading just because you don’t understand it right away. Just keep reading even if you are not sure you understand it. You probably understand more than you think, and you will get better at reading difficult texts the more you practice it. It is not easy, but do not give up. Just keep going.
  • Have an opinion: I will not tell you what I think about any of the issues we will be discussing in this course. What I think is not important. Part of your responsibility in this course is to think through these issues for yourself. So, go ahead and give yourself the luxury of having an opinion. Try to avoid saying or thinking things like, “Who is to say what is right or wrong?” I am asking what you think, so you get to say.
  • Be willing to change your mind: The philosophers we will be reading and your classmates, will be sharing their thoughts with you about these issues. Try to keep an open mind to their ideas. Part of what we are trying to do is to determine which answers are backed up by the best reasons. We cannot accomplish this if we always stick with our initial opinions. Honest philosophers do not think they have it all figured out; they are willing to listen to reasons and to change their minds when they encounter good reasons to do so.


Readings are listed on the days we will discuss them. So, you should read each reading and do the reading questions associated with it before class begins on this day.

Week One

  • Monday: No Classes
  • Wednesday: Syllabus
  • Friday: Plato & Nietzsche: In Files Section on Teams

Week Two

  • Monday: The Twitchell Case: In Files Section on Teams
  • Wednesday: The Buddha & Roger Trigg: Part 1: Essays 2 & 3
  • Friday: William Paley: Part 4: Essay 8

Week Three

  • Monday: William Lane Craig: Part 4: Essay 6
  • Wednesday: St. Anselm & Gaunilo: Part 4: Essays 1 & 2
  • Friday: J. L. Mackie: Part 8: Essay 3

Week Four

  • Monday: Alvin Plantinga: Part 8: Essay 4
  • Wednesday: John Hick: Part 8: Essay 5
  • Friday: Marilyn McCord Adams: Part 8: Essay 7

Week Five

  • Monday: Mohammed Ghaly: Part 8: Essay 8
    • Paper Part 1 Due
  • Wednesday: William Clifford: Part 3: Essay 3
  • Friday: William James: Part 3: Essay 4
    • Peer Review Part 1 Due

Week Six

  • Monday: Blaise Pascal: Part 3: Essay 2
  • Wednesday: William A. Alston: Part 2: Essay 3
  • Friday: Wayne Proudfoot: Part 2: Essay 4

Week Seven

  • Monday: Michael Martin: Part 2: Essay 5
  • Wednesday: David Hume: Part 10: Essay 2
  • Friday: Richard Swinburne: Part 10: Essay 4

Week Eight

  • Monday: H. H. Price: Part 11: Essay 1
    • Paper Part 2 Due
  • Wednesday: Linda Badham Part 11: Essay 3
  • Friday: St. Aquinas & Mengzi Part 14: Essays 3 & 4
    • Peer Review Part 2 Due

Week Nine

  • Monday: Memorial Day – No Class
  • Wednesday: Jean-Paul Sartre: Part 14: Essay 5
  • Friday: Paul Griffiths: Part 13: Essay 2

Week Ten

  • Monday: Karl Rahner: Part 13: Essay 3
  • Wednesday: John Hick: Part 13: Essay 4
  • Friday: Extra Day for DOGL

The Final Paper is due by Monday, at noon