Religious Studies at Fine Arts College is the study of the Philosophy of Religion; Moral Philosophy; and textual analysis of Scripture.
‘Philosophy’ literally means the love of wisdom. It is a subject that seeks to determine ways of looking at the questions that intrigue humanity, such as ‘What is knowledge?’ or ‘What is the purpose of life?’ By focusing specifically on the moral and religious branches of philosophy, we address how ideas of God, goodness, and the nature of belief have affected society and the development of thought throughout the ages. Combined with the study of Scripture, we look at how and why we see religious texts as being authoritative; the nature of authorship and interpretation; and how these texts are used to influence social and cultural laws or customs.
The most important thing to note about this subject is that it is academic and analytical. It equips the student with the critical analysis skills required for future studies in many subject areas, most notably Law, Journalism, Politics, or Media.
What will I learn?
There are three areas of study within this subject. First, in the Philosophy of Religion section you will look at the nature of the philosophical arguments put forward for God’s existence, arguments relating to the credibility of religious experiences, and arguments against religious belief. You will also look at psychological and sociological critiques of religious belief.
The second area of study is Moral Philosophy. Here you will look at the differences in the construction of theories of ethics, the theories of natural law, Kantian ethics, virtue ethics and utilitarianism. You will also look at applied ethics (medical ethics and environmental ethics) and how we understand the concept of GOOD.
Lastly, in the Textual Studies unit, you will look at the social, historical, and religious context of the New Testament, as well as various ways to interpret Scripture as a historical and classical artefact.
What exams will I take?
At the end of two years of study you will sit six hours of exams consisting of three 2-hour papers in each of the following units: Philosophy of Religion, Religion and Ethics, and New Testament Studies. Each paper constitutes a third of your final grade at A level, and comprises a range of questions designed to assess your knowledge, understanding, and assessment and evaluation skills.
How should I prepare myself?
You do not need any background in Religious Studies in order to study the A Level. However, the minimum entry requirement to do this subject is a C grade in English Literature GCSE and C in Mathematics GCSE. Students will find the course easier if they have an A grade at GCSE in at least one of these subjects.
At the very heart of this subject is the desire to question and inquire, and so intellectual curiosity is vital. Reading is also essential as a preparation, whether this is of newspapers (e.g. The Guardian; The Times or The Independent online), literature, or nonfiction. The more you read, the more ideas and varying viewpoints you will be exposed to, which in turn should make you think about the nature of things. Philosophical questions are also inherent within many films (e.g. Inception, AI, Minority Report, The Matrix) and TV programmes (e.g. CSI, the Big Bang Theory), so do watch, enjoy, and think about them.
Some past students at Fine Arts have gone on to study Religious Studies at universities such as the University of St Andrews, King’s College London, and the University of Manchester.
Religious Studies is listed as a preferred A level by Trinity College, Cambridge.
Sophie’s World by Jostein Gaarder
Examination board: Edexcel/Pearson