Humanities - Philosophy 2350:
Philosophy of Religion
To satisfy the depth requirement for my degree, I took Philosophy 2350: Philosophy of Religion during the Spring Semester of 2018. Reasons I chose Philosophy of Religion over any other applicable course, were that I had gotten a taste of the philoophy of religion in the Introduction to Philosophy and World Religions courses I had taken previously and I was genuinely excited to learn about the world-renowned philosophers and their arguments for myself. Additionally, I knew that this course would help me to whittle down my own previously held beliefs on religion to have a stronger foundation of what I truly believe, and of how to justify it through philosophical arguments. My thoughts going into the course were that it would probably be an exciting, but also intellectually demanding course to take, and that it may get a bit heated in the discussions since religion can be a contentious subject to talk about in depth.
Challenges I faced within this course were fully comprehending the various religious arguments, their merits and drawbacks, and setting aside any disbelief or willed ignorance to give each argument its chance to fully explain itself and its value in the modern day to me. Another challenge was keeping us with the reading schedule, since the readings could be a bit lengthy and hard to understand at first glance, but became much easier to understand as I reviewed them and we went over them in class. For the signature assignment, I am including my ten-page essay on the traditional characteristics applied to God, how they connect to make God a perfect being, and some potential problems with the divine attributes.
For the signature assignment, I am including a PDF version of my ten-page essay describing and explaining the characteristics that the Judeo-Christian God must possess in order to be a perfect being, according to Perfect Being Theologians and Classical Theists (how he is portrayed in traditional Christianity). The characteristics that God must possess according to them are impassibility (the inability to feel emotions, pain, or suffer or be affected emotionally by what his creations do), immutability (unchanging and fixed in his nature and decisions for the world), omniscience (all-knowing), omnibenevolence (all-good and all-loving), omnipotence (all-powerful), and timelessness, meaning that God must be outside of time altogether and have always existed.
Also included are the ways that the divine attributes are interconnected and combine to make God a "perfect" being, and potential problems and questions that arise when one considers all of these characteristics together. For example, "How does God's omniscience affect our free will?" and "Could God create a rock so heavy that even he could not lift it?" I provide the solutions put forth by Classical Theists to these questions and explain why these answers should be seen as answering the problems with the divine attributes.
Writing this essay turned out to be pretty easy for me since I had first learned the divine characteristics attributed to God in my World Religions course during the summer of 2017. Given this and the Introduction to Philosophy course I had also previously taken, writing the paper came easily for me. Although, it was an easier paper for me to write, I still truly enjoyed writing it and contemplating how the qualities of impassibility, immutability, omniscience, omnibenevolence, omnipotence and timelessness, connect with one another to make God a perfect type of being, and the problems that come up when one considers all of the characteristics of God at once.
An example of how the divine characteristics connect is in the fact that if God could feel emotions, i.e. if he was passible instead of impassible, if he could feel emotions as we humans do, he would naturally be at least a little mutable, or able to change his mind about the course of events he wants to occur in the world. An example of a problem with God's characteristic of omniscience is whether we actually do possess free will, or if we are compelled to act in specific ways due to divine decrees, and God's perfect knowledge of our lives. This question points out that if we do something contrary to what God knows we are going to do, then we single-handly strip God of a portion of his omniscience, and he cannot be said to be perfect in knowledge anymore. So, there is no way we could have free will to do as we want if God is omniscient. Classical theists respond that knowledge does not imply causation, so God may know you will behave in specific ways during your lifetime, but he did not directly cause you to say sin, or to not treat those around you with respect. All of these actions are on you. Therefore you can be held morally accountable for the actions you have chosen to take during your life and be "lovingly" sent to heaven or hell by God.
Overall, this course has made me contemplate my own religious beliefs more critically, and to examine the philosophical arguments for and against belief in an omnicompetent creator God to a much greater degree than I had ever considered them before. It also allowed me to consider the Problem of Evil in depth, how compelling it can be as a reason against religious belief, and how theologians have created rational arguments for why the existence of evil does not imply the nonexistence or incompetency of God. Finally, this course has helped me to consider the relationship between science and faith and that they do not have to always be in contention with one another. Conversely, that they can exist harmoniously within society and avoid conflict and strife with one another, but the small but very vocal intelligent design movement, young earthers, and other science deniers do make this balance and peaceful discourse hard to achieve though.
This course-related heavily to the World Religions and Introduction to Philosophy courses I had previously taken since they both covered the aspects that God is said to possess, the problems that arise from the characteristics said about God, answers to these problems, different types of religious beliefs, and the problem of evil. Philosophy of Religion related more to my Introduction to Philosophy course, since some of the philosophers were included in both courses, and the history of philosophy includes a lot of religious arguments for and against a belief in a deity or multiple deities. Taking Introduction to Philosophy and World religions beforehand gave me an advantage in the course and allowed me to connect what I had learned before to the parts of the course that were brand new to me, such as the answers to the problem of evil posited by theologians. Overall, it was a great course, and I'm glad I took it when I did so that I could examine my own beliefs more critically.
Bonus - Awesome Philosophy series on YouTube
This series on YouTube helped me out tremendously in both the Introduction to Philosophy and Philosophy of Religion courses I have taken to fully comprehend and evaluate the content of the courses, and to learn even more about philosophy. It is a very entertaining and educational series to watch so I wanted to included in my ePortfolio in case anyone else is interested in learning more about philosophy. If you click on the icon in the left hand corner of the video player, you can scroll through all of the videos they have made to find a specific topic within philosophy. Enjoy!