The purpose of this class is to consider central philosophical questions arising from the nature of religious belief. We will explore such matters as the nature and existence of God, the character of the miraculous, differing conceptions of immortality found among the world’s religions, and the problems posed by religious pluralism. Throughout the class will emphasize the importance of reason and argument—the significance of analyzing arguments both for and against the existence of God, for example. We will be covering a variety of issues in the philosophy of religion, including the arguments about the existence of God, the problem of evil, the phenomenology of religious experience and mysticism, prudential and psychological arguments for believing in God, shamanism and “primitive” religions, issues of verification of the miraculous, the function and efficacy of prayer, the afterlife in different religious traditions, as well as the overall diversity of religious thought. We will also be comparing some religious traditions, and their respective theologies, including both Islam and Buddhism.
Field WorkCountry: Spain
Day: 5 - Monday, 19 October
On this field trip, students will experience the architecture and environment of three different religious locations in Barcelona. The purpose of the visit is to see how religious experience is enhanced by the intentionally created space, and the natural setting of the place where religion is practiced. Students will first travel by bus (about an hour) to Montserrat outside of Barcelona in the mountains. Started as a hermitage in the 11th century, Montserrat became a place of miracles and pilgrimage. Students will get to witness pilgrims coming to see the Moraneta, or little black Virgin, and to experience the beauty of the rugged mountains. After lunch, we will return to Barcelona and visit Barcelona Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia. The construction of this cathedral began in the 11th century; it is one of the finest pieces of Gothic architecture in Barcelona. After a stop at the Ancient Synagogue in the Jewish quarter, we will return to the ship. The field lab will give students the opportunities to explore how the various concepts of God that we have studied in the course manifest themselves in the material aspects of worship, and what impact the interaction of architecture and natural beauty might have upon religious experience. Academic Objectives:
- For students to learn more about the history of the Catholic Church in Spain.
- For students to learn more about Judaism in Spain.
- For students to experience the architecture of La Sea, and to reflect upon how this intentionally designed space manifests the attributes of the deity in this religious tradition.
- For students to see the interaction between nature and worship, and to reflect upon what the interaction of the two tells us about the attributes of the deity in this religious tradition---and how they affect religious experience.
- For students to witness people on a pilgrimage, and to understand the function of pilgrimage, as well as the meaning that being in the presence of a sacred object has for pilgrims.