3.1 Section A: The study of religions: beliefs and teachings

Students should study two of the following:
  • Christianity
  • Islam
  • Judaism
  • Buddhism.

3.1.1 Christianity

Students should be aware that Christianity is one of the diverse religious traditions and beliefs in Great Britain today and that the main religious tradition in Great Britain is Christianity. This knowledge may be applied throughout the assessment of the specified content.

Students should study the beliefs and teachings of Christianity specified below and their basis in Christian sources of wisdom and authority. They should be able to refer to scripture and/or sacred texts where appropriate. Some texts are prescribed for study in the content set out below and questions may be set on them. Students may refer to any relevant text in their answers and AQA will publish a list of appropriate texts as part of the supporting material for this specification. These additional texts will not be required for study, alternatives may be used, and questions will not be set on them.

Students should study the influence of the beliefs and teachings studied on individuals, communities and societies.

Common and divergent views within Christianity in the way beliefs and teachings are understood and expressed should be included throughout. Students may refer to a range of different Christian perspectives in their answers including Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant. They must study the specific differences identified below.

3.1.1.1 Key beliefs

  • The nature of God:
    • God as omnipotent, loving and just, and the problem of evil and suffering
    • the oneness of God and the Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
  • Different Christian beliefs about creation including the role of Word and Spirit (John 1:1-3 and Genesis 1:1-3).
  • Different Christian beliefs about the afterlife and their importance, including: resurrection and life after death; judgement, heaven and hell.

3.1.1.2 Jesus Christ and salvation

  • Beliefs and teachings about:

    • the incarnation and Jesus as the Son of God
    • the crucifixion, resurrection and ascension
    • sin, including original sin
    • the means of salvation, including law, grace and Spirit
    • the role of Christ in salvation including the idea of atonement.

3.1.2 Islam

Students should be aware that Islam is one of the diverse religious traditions and beliefs in Great Britain today and that the main religious tradition in Great Britain is Christianity. This knowledge may be applied throughout the assessment of the specified content.

Students should study the beliefs and teachings of Islam specified below and their basis in Islamic sources of wisdom and authority. They should be able to refer to scripture and other writings where appropriate. Some texts are prescribed for study in the content set out below and questions may be set on them. Students may refer to any relevant text in their answers and AQA will publish a list of appropriate texts as part of the supporting material for this specification. These additional texts will not be required for study, alternatives may be used, and questions will not be set on them.

Students should study the influence of the beliefs and teachings studied on individuals, communities and societies.

Common and divergent views within Islam in the way beliefs and teachings are understood and expressed should be included throughout. Students may refer to a range of different Muslim perspectives in their answers, including those from Sunni and Shi’a Islam. They must study the specific differences identified below.

3.1.2.1 Key beliefs

  • The six articles of faith in Sunni Islam and five roots of ‘Usul ad-Din in Shi’a Islam, including key similarities and differences.
  • The Oneness of God (Tawhid), Qur'an Surah 112.
  • The nature of God: omnipotence, beneficence, mercy, fairness and justice (Adalat in Shi’a Islam), including different ideas about God’s relationship with the world: immanence and transcendence.
  • Angels, their nature and role, including Jibril and Mika’il.
  • Predestination and human freedom and its relationship to the Day of Judgement.
  • Life after death (Akhirah), human responsibility and accountability, resurrection, heaven and hell.

3.1.2.2 Authority

  • Risalah (Prophethood) including the role and importance of Adam, Ibrahim and Muhammad.
  • The holy books:
    • Qur’an: revelation and authority
    • the Torah, the Psalms, the Gospel, the Scrolls of Abraham and their authority.
  • The imamate in Shi'a Islam: its role and significance.

3.1.3 Judaism

Students should be aware that Judaism is one of the diverse religious traditions and beliefs in Great Britain today and that the main religious tradition in Great Britain is Christianity. This knowledge may be applied throughout the assessment of the specified content.

Students should study the beliefs and teachings of Judaism specified below and their basis in Jewish sources of wisdom and authority. They should be able to refer to scripture and/or sacred texts where appropriate. Some texts are prescribed for study in the content set out below and questions may be set on them. Students may refer to any relevant text in their answers and AQA will publish a list of appropriate texts as part of the supporting material for this specification. These additional texts will not be required for study, alternatives may be used, and questions will not be set on them.

Students should study the influence of the beliefs and teachings studied on individuals, communities and societies.

Common and divergent views within Judaism in the way beliefs and teachings are understood and expressed should be included throughout. Students may refer to a range of different Jewish perspectives in their answers, for example, Orthodox, Reform and Liberal Judaism. They must also study the differences identified below.

3.1.3.1 Key beliefs

  • The nature of God:
    • God as one
    • God as Creator
    • God as Law-Giver and Judge, loving and merciful.
  • The divine presence (Shekhinah).
  • Beliefs about life after death, including judgement and resurrection.
  • The nature and role of the Messiah, including different views on the role and importance of the Messiah.

3.1.3.2 The Covenant and the mitzvot

  • The promised land and the Covenant with Abraham, Genesis 12:1-3.
  • The Covenant at Sinai and its importance including the role of Moses and the Ten Commandments, Exodus 20:1-17.
  • Key moral principles including justice, healing the world, charity and kindness to others.
  • The importance of the sanctity of human life, including the concept of ‘saving a life’ (Pikuach Nefesh).
  • The relationship between free will and the 613 mitzvot.
  • Mitzvot between man and God and mitzvot between man and man, including the difference between them and their importance.

3.1.4 Buddhism

Students should be aware that Buddhism is one of the diverse religious traditions and beliefs in Great Britain today and that the main religious tradition in Great Britain is Christianity. This knowledge may be applied throughout the assessment of the specified content.

Students should study the beliefs, teachings and practices of Buddhism specified below and their basis in Buddhist sources of wisdom and authority. They should be able to refer to scripture and/or sacred texts where appropriate. Some texts are prescribed for study in the content set out below and questions may be set on them. Students may refer to any relevant text in their answers and AQA will publish a list of appropriate texts as part of the supporting material for this specification. These additional texts will not be required for study, alternatives may be used, and questions will not be set on them.

Students should study the influence of the beliefs, teachings and practices studied on individuals, communities and societies.

Common and divergent views within Buddhism in the way beliefs and teachings are understood and expressed should be included throughout. Students may refer to a range of Buddhist perspectives in their answers, for example, Theravada, Mahayana, Zen and Pure Land. They must study the specific differences identified below.

3.1.4.1 Key Beliefs

The Dhamma (Dharma)

  • The concept of Dhamma (Dharma).
  • The concept of dependent arising (paticcasamupada).
  • The Three Marks of Existence:
    • anicca (impermanence)
    • anatta (no fixed self)
    • dukkha (unsatisfactoriness of life, suffering).
  • The human personality, in the Theravada and Mahayana traditions:
    • Theravada: the Five Aggregates (skandhas) of form, sensation, perception, mental formations, consciousness
    • Mahayana: sunyata, the possibility of attaining Buddhahood and Buddha-nature.
  • Human destiny:
    • different ideals in Theravada and Mahayana traditions: Arhat (a ‘perfected person’) and Bodhisattva ideals
    • Buddhahood and the Pure Land.

3.1.4.2 The Buddha and the Four Noble Truths

  • The Buddha’s life and its significance:
    • the birth of the Buddha and his life of luxury
    • the Four Sights: illness, old age, death, holy man (Jataka 075)
    • the Buddha’s ascetic life
    • the Buddha’s Enlightenment.

  • The Four Noble Truths:
    • suffering (dukkha) including different types of suffering
    • the causes of suffering (samudaya); the Three Poisons, ignorance, greed and hate
    • the end of craving (tanha), interpretations of nibbana (nirvana) and Enlightenment
    • the Eightfold Path (magga) to nibbana/nirvana; the pathas the Threefold Way: ethics (sila), meditation (samadhi) and wisdom (panna). Dhammapada 190–191.

  • Ethical teachings:
    • kamma (karma) and rebirth
    • compassion (karuna)
    • loving kindness (metta)
    • the five moral precepts:
      • do not take life
      • do not take what is given
      • do not misuse the senses
      • do not speak falsehoods
      • do not take intoxicants that cloud the mind.
    • the six perfections in the Mahayanan tradition:
      • generosity
      • morality
      • patience
      • energy
      • meditation
      • wisdom, including how the individuals develop these perfections within themselves.