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    What is religion? How do religious people think? Where do their ideas come from? Are any of them true? These and other questions are addressed.

    Philosophy of Religion courses often focus on arguments for and against the existence of God, that is to say, the God of Christianity. But Christianity is just one kind of religion; there are many others. Some have a supreme God, others have many gods, some (arguably) have no gods at all. So this course takes a wider view of religion, looking at what people regard as sacred: that which derives its authority from the "hidden realm" (te wāhi ngaro) of gods, spirits, and ancestors. It asks about the character of religious language, looks at what religious practices aim to do, and then examines the various sources of religious knowledge: divination, dreams, visions, mystical experience, spirit possession and prophecy, and (finally) arguments, including those for the existence of God.

    About this paper

    Paper title Reason, Belief and the Sacred
    Subject Philosophy
    EFTS 0.15
    Points 18 points
    Teaching period Semester 2 (On campus)
    Domestic Tuition Fees ( NZD ) $981.75
    International Tuition Fees Tuition Fees for international students are elsewhere on this website.
    One PHIL paper or 72 points
    PHIL 210 and PHIL 329
    Schedule C
    Arts and Music
    Suitable for all students who have an interest in philosophical questions. No previous philosophical knowledge is required, but students will be expected to read widely and write clearly.
    Teaching staff

    Course co-ordinator and lecturer: Professor Greg Dawes

    Paper Structure
    The paper has four parts:
    • Part One: Religious Language and Thought
    • Part Two: The Aims of Religion
    • Part Three: Modes of Knowing
    • Part Four: Assessing Religious Beliefs
    Teaching Arrangements

    There will be three 50-minute classes each week, with one devoted to tutorial-style discussion.


    • Weekly exercises in class: 15%
    • Essay Outline 5%
    • An essay of no more than 2,000 words: 25%
    • Final examination: 55%

    As well as the course outline distributed in class, a course book will be made available. Other recommended works will be accessible on Blackboard or in the Library, on Reserve.

    Graduate Attributes Emphasised
    Global perspective, Interdisciplinary perspective, Scholarship, Critical thinking, Cultural understanding, Ethics, Research, Self-motivation.
    View more information about Otago's graduate attributes.
    Learning Outcomes

    Students who successfully complete the paper will:

    • Outline what is distinctive about religious language and thought
    • Describe the various aims of religion
    • Describe and evaluate the sources from which devotees draw their claims to knowledge
    • Evaluate those (assumed) sources of religious knowledge


    Semester 2

    Teaching method
    This paper is taught On Campus
    Learning management system


    Stream Days Times Weeks
    A1 Monday 13:00-13:50 29-35, 37-42
    Wednesday 13:00-13:50 29-35, 37-42
    Friday 13:00-13:50 29-35, 37-42
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