Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Some Changes In My Philosophy of Religion Classes

(Queen Anne's Lace - a very lofty name for a weed!)

The new Philosophy of Religion text I'll be teaching out of at MCCC is Philosophy of Religion: Selected Readings.

I'm keeping the three-section approach with three one-on-one oral exams with the students.

Section I will be on the existence of God. Like the previous years I'll begin with Anselm's ontological argument for God's existence. But then I will present Alvin Plantinga's contemporary modal version of the ontological argument. This will be challenging, both for me and for my students. I'll continue to use W.L. Craig's "Kalam Cosmological Argument." I'll use Betty and Cordell's "Anthropic Teleological Argument," plus Robert Adams on "Moral Arguments for God's Existence."

Section III will be on the Argument from Evil Against God's Existence.

Section II will be, for me, completely new. I'll teach on Religious Experience. First we'll look at Teresa of Avila's visions of God. Next, I'll teach William James's famous "Religious Experiences as Feelings Forming the Root of Religion." Both Teresa and James will be easy to teach. But then we come to some very dense essays. William P. Alston's work that makes an analogy between direct mystical experience of God and sense perception is important. It's also tough going. I'm doing some work tonight on Alston. I need to make these quite difficult essays clear to my students. I'll probably teach Michael Martin's "Critique of Religious Experience," and end with Merold Westphal's "A Phenomenological Account of Religious Experience." Alston, Martin, and Westphal will be impossible for my students to read. So it will all depend on my ability to teach them.

But why? Because:

1) Students today are extremely interested in religious experience.
2) I am finding myself increasingly interested in the nature of religious experience.
3) Teaching this new section will be refreshing for me as a professor. It will cause me to grow in a very important philosophy of religion area.