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Religious Studies & Philosophy


Dear prospective Religious Studies student,

So you're interested in 'Religious Studies' at A level? If you're curious, and you like thinking, this subject is for you.  We'll study 3 units - Philosophy, Ethics and Religious thought. You will choose to study either Christianity or Hinduism for the 3rd unit, have a look at the Topics and Questions sheet above to help you decide which you are most interested in, or contact us for more info.
 
You don't need to be religious, but you can be, and you don’t need to have a GCSE in RS, you just need to be interested in people and thinking about big questions in life. Religious Studies will develop your critical thinking skills, your ability to build an argument, and to recognise the flaws in other arguments. You will learn to listen to and argue different points of view, and you will learn how to research and write philosophical essays, making this an excellent subject if you are thinking about going to University to study any subject, and it is a valued subject for students hoping to build a career in many areas including; law, medicine, journalism, government departments/civil service.
 
The taster activities above will get you thinking about some of the big issues we'll be looking at in Philosophy, you will also find examples of the types of topics and questions you will be looking at in the different units. You can send your answers and any questions back to a.fleming@sfx.ac.uk and we'll get back to you, or for any queries about the Hinduism pathway in particular please contact r.shortland@sfx.ac.uk

To get you thinking over the summer:

 
Reading good quality writing is the best way of improving your own writing. Different writers express themselves in different ways, and by reading them you will develop your own ‘voice’.
 
Thinking skills can be developed if you try to take a questioning attitude to the things you watch, hear and read. Do you agree with what’s being said? If you watch a film where people have different attitudes towards something, which do you agree with most, or least, and why?
 
Here are some different things you could look at over the summer if you want to. In Religious Studies, some of the topics can be quite sensitive, so if the activity involves an issue that might make you upset, choose a different one. These times are already difficult enough.
 
Things to read:
 
These are just some ideas –there are so many good books in the world that this list could go on forever but it’s a start:
 
  • ‘Sophie's World’ - by Jostein Gaarder – a great introduction to philosophical thinking and scholars, written as a story and very accessible.
 
  • ‘The Solitaire Mystery’ – by Jostein Gaarder. Another enjoyable story with philosophical and ethical thinking at its centre.
 
  • ‘A Christmas Mystery’ – by Jostein Gaarder. Try reading this throughout advent if that takes your fancy, one chapter per day!)
 
  • 'Without God is everything permitted? 20 big questions in Ethics.' – by Julian Baggini
 
  • ‘The Pig That Wants To Be Eaten: And 99 Other Thought Experiments’ – by Julian Baggini
 
  • ‘The Philosophy Files’ – by Stephen Law
 
  • ‘The Blind Watchmaker’, and/or ‘The God Delusion’ – by Richard Dawkins
 
  • “The Puzzle of…” series (including topics such as God, Ethics, The Gospels, Sex) – by Peter Vardy – this series of non-fiction books is about issues in religion and philosophy, very readable and you don’t have to be an expert to enjoy them. You can dip in and out of different chapters rather than having to start at the beginning and work through to the end.
 
Things to watch:
 
All kinds of films and series have philosophical and religious ideas in them, so follow your own interests! You could try these, or choose something else, but try and use them as a stimulus for thinking, rather than just sitting in front of them. Why not watch them with other people in the house and talk about the ideas in them?
 
  • The Good Place (Netflix)
  • The Handmaid’s Tale (from novel by Margaret Atwood)
  • The Matrix
  • Inception
  • Bruce Almighty
  • Me Before You
  • Million Dollar Baby
  • My Sister's Keeper
  • The Children Act (from novel by Ian McEwan)
  • Ghost in the Shell
  • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (novel, Douglas Adams)
  • Blade Runner
  • The Truman Show
  • Unorthodox (Netflix)
  • Twelve Angry Men 
Online resources:
 
The Philosophy Manhttps://www.thephilosophyman.com/
 
this website gives you lots of different ideas to think about. Some are for younger children but you could try the ‘brainsqueezers’.
 
 
Philosophers Magazinehttp://www.philosophersmag.com/
 
Try the games on this website and read the commentaries that go with them. Lots to think about!
 
 
Pepedhttps://peped.org/
 
This website has a lot of good resources that you might use once you start your A level course; you could dip in and start exploring some of the ideas you will meet next year.
Ted Talks:
 
TED talks – these are usually wonderful, with plenty to stimulate your questioning and reasoning skills.
 
Some favourites:
 
Elizabeth Loftus – how reliable is your memory?
 
Dan Gilbert – why we make bad decisions
 
Richard Dawkins – militant atheism
 
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – We should all be feminists
 
Damon Horowitz – Philosophy in prison
 
There are loads of talks on here, so use the search engine to find topics that interest you. Ask yourself questions when you get to the end: what were the speaker’s key messages? Do you agree with the speaker? What might someone who disagreed say, and what might their reasons be?
Best wishes,
Ms Fleming                                          Ms Shortland
a.fleming@sfx.ac.uk                           r.shortland@sfx.ac.uk