3.2 Component 2: Study of religion

Students must study one Component 2 option from the following:

3.2.1 2A Buddhism

Students are required to study aspects of the religious beliefs, teachings, values and practices of Buddhism specified below and the different ways these are expressed in the lives of individuals, communities and societies.

They should develop a knowledge and critical understanding of:

  • the specified material
  • how the texts specified for study are interpreted and applied
  • the influence of beliefs and teachings on individuals, communities and societies
  • the causes, meanings and significance of similarities and differences in religious thought belief and practice within Buddhism.
  • approaches to the study of religion and belief.

They should be able to analyse and evaluate issues arising from the topics studied, and the views and arguments of the scholars prescribed for study.

Questions may be set that span more than one topic.

Students may study any version of the specified texts, but should be aware of issues related to translation where relevant. Quotations will not be used in questions.

Students should be able to use specialist language and terminology appropriately.

Exam questions will show a translation for any non-English terms (except for names of people, texts and schools of thought). However students are expected to recognise and understand the following technical terms: Dukkha, Anicca, Nirvana, karma, ahimsa.

Sources of wisdom and authority

  • The Buddha: the significance the life of Gautama Buddha for Theravada Buddhists with reference to his relevance as a role model and his authority as ‘the enlightened one’; the Mahayana view that the life and teaching of Gautama Buddha was ‘skilful means’, with reference to the parable of the burning house in the Lotus Sutra.

  • The meaning and relevance of Buddha’s teaching about Dukkha, including the debate about whether Buddhism is pessimistic.

  • The Pali Canon: the nature and authority of the Pali Canon; different views about how far this is an accurate record of Gautama Buddha’s teaching and the relevance for Buddhists of this debate; the use of Pali Canon in worship and daily life.

Ultimate reality

  • The key differences between the Theravada and Mahayana concepts of Buddha; the key features of the Trikaya doctrine in Mahayana Buddhism.
  • Anicca: the meaning and importance of the concept of Anicca; the development of that idea in the Mahayana doctrine of emptiness.
  • Nirvana: Nirvana in this life and after death; Nirvana as indescribable and beyond understanding; attempts in scripture to describe it and their strengths and weaknesses with reference to the 80th dilemma of the Questions of King Milinda.

Self, death and afterlife

  • The meaning and purpose of life: better rebirth and Nirvana as goals of life and their relative importance; the ideal of the arhat and bodhisattva in Theravada and Mahayana Buddhism.
  • Anatta (no-self): the concept of anatta; the five aggregates and the analogy of the chariot in the Questions of King Milinda, Book II chapter 1.1.
  • Samsara: the cycle of birth, death and rebirth; the nature of karma and its role on the wheel of becoming; the realms of becoming and their significance including literal, metaphorical and psychological interpretations; Tibetan Buddhist beliefs about the 14th Dalai Lama as an expression of the Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara.

Good conduct and key moral principles

  • Good conduct: the importance of good moral conduct in the Buddhist way of life; the importance of intention; actions as kusala (healthy) or akusala (unhealthy); the extent of human free will and moral responsibility.
  • The nature of the five precepts and the distinctive features of the six perfections of the Mahayana Buddhism.
  • Ahimsa: the concept of ahimsa and its application to issues concerning the embryo and the unborn child, treatment of animals and war, including the use of weapons of mass destruction; different Buddhist views.

Expressions of religious identity

  • The Sangha: the monastic Sangha and its changing roles in Thailand; the traditional lifestyle and role of the Sangha in Thailand including its relationship with the lay community; the Sangha in the 21st century; the main features of the Wat Phra Dhammakaya movement.
  • Devotion and its purposes: acts of devotion in Theravada and Mahayana Buddhism; the nature and role of Buddha images and the importance of making and sharing merit; the different perspectives of Theravada and Mahayana Buddhism about the significance of worship.
  • Meditation: the nature and purpose of meditation on the eightfold path; modern usage of Buddhist meditation as a form of therapy and how Buddhists have responded to this.

3.2.2 2B Christianity

Students are required to study those aspects of the religious beliefs, teachings, values and practices of Christianity specified below and the different ways in which these are expressed in the lives of individuals, communities and societies.

They should develop a knowledge and critical understanding of:

  • the specified material
  • how the texts specified for study are interpreted and applied
  • the influence of beliefs and teachings on individuals, communities and societies
  • the causes, meanings and significance of similarities and differences in religious thought belief and practice within Christianity
  • approaches to the study of religion and belief.

They should be able to analyse and evaluate issues arising from the topics studied, and the views and arguments of the scholars prescribed for study.

Questions may be set that span more than one topic.

Students may study any version of the specified texts, but should be aware of issues related to translation where relevant. Quotations will not be used in questions.

Students should be able to use specialist language and terminology appropriately.

Exam questions will show a translation for any non-English terms (except for names of people, texts and schools of thought).

Sources of wisdom and authority

  • The Bible: different Christian beliefs about the nature and authority of the Bible and their impact on its use as a source of beliefs and teachings, including the Bible as inspired by God but written by humans beings.
  • The Church: the different perspectives of the Protestant and Catholic traditions on the relative authority of the Bible and the Church.
  • The authority of Jesus: different Christian understandings of Jesus’ authority, including Jesus’ authority as God’s authority and Jesus’ authority as only human; implications of these beliefs for Christian responses to Jesus’ teaching and his value as a role model with reference to his teaching on retaliation and love for enemies in the Sermon on the Mount: Matthew 5:38–48.

God

  • Christian Monotheism: one God, omnipotent creator and controller of all things; transcendent and unknowable; the doctrine of the Trinity and its importance; the meaning and significance of the belief that Jesus is the son of God; the significance of John 10:30; 1 Corinthians 8:6
  • God as Personal, God as Father and God as Love: the challenge of understanding anthropomorphic and gender specific language about God: God as Father and King, including Christian feminist perspectives.
  • The concept of God in process theology: God as neither omnipotent nor creator.

Self, death and afterlife

  • The meaning and purpose of life: the following purposes and their relative importance: to glorify God and have a personal relationship with him; to prepare for judgement; to bring about God’s kingdom on earth.
  • Resurrection: the concept of soul; resurrection of the flesh as expressed in the writings of Augustine; spiritual resurrection; the significance of 1 Corinthians 15:42-44 and 50-54.
  • Different interpretations of judgement, heaven, hell and purgatory as physical, spiritual or psychological realities; objective immortality in process thought.

Good conduct and key moral principles

  • Good conduct: the importance of good moral conduct in the Christian way of life, including reference to teaching about justification by works, justification by faith and predestination.
  • Sanctity of life: the concept of sanctity of life; different views about its application to issues concerning the embryo and the unborn child; the just war theory and its application to the use of weapons of mass destruction.
  • Dominion and stewardship: the belief that Christians have dominion over animals; beliefs about the role of Christians as stewards of animals and the natural environment and how changing understandings of the effects of human activities on the environment have affected that role.

Expressions of religious identity

  • Baptism: the significance of infant baptism in Christianity with particular reference to the Catholic and Baptist traditions; arguments in favour of and against infant baptism.
  • Holy Communion: differing practices associated with Holy Communion, and differing understandings of Holy Communion and its importance, in the Catholic and Baptist Churches; different Christian understandings of the significance of Jesus’ actions at the last supper, Luke 22:17–20.
  • The mission of the Church: developments in Christian ideas of ‘mission’ from the early 20th century to today.

3.2.3 2C Hinduism

Students are required to study those aspects of the religious beliefs, teachings, values and practices of Hinduism specified below and the different ways in which these are expressed in the lives of individuals, communities and societies.

They should develop a knowledge and critical understanding of:

  • the specified material
  • how the texts specified for study are interpreted and applied
  • the influence of beliefs and teachings on individuals, communities and societies
  • the causes, meanings and significance of similarities and differences in religious thought belief and practice within Hinduism
  • approaches to the study of religion and belief.

They should be able to analyse and evaluate issues arising from the topics studied, and the views and arguments of the scholars prescribed for study.

Questions may be set that span more than one topic.

Students may study any version of the specified texts, but should be aware of issues related to translation where relevant. Quotations will not be used in questions.

Students should be able to use specialist language and terminology appropriately.

Exam questions will show a translation for any non-English terms (except for names of people, texts and schools of thought). However students are expected to recognise and understand the following technical terms: Trimurti, avatar, karma, ahimsa, darshan.

Sources of wisdom and authority

  • The Vedas: concept of shruti (that which is heard); the nature and authority of the Vedas, their use in worship and their importance; the distinctive nature of the Upanishads and their importance for Hindu thought; the significance of the teaching in the Purusha Sukta of the Rig Veda about the origin of the caste system.
  • The smrti texts: the status of the smrti (remembered) texts; the importance of the following: the Ramayana; the Bhagavad Gita and the Manusmrti.
  • Gurus: the role and authority of gurus in the modern world with reference to Swami Sivananda.

Ultimate reality

  • Differing ideas about God and gods in the Rig Veda, and their importance for Hinduism today.
  • The Trimurti: the nature and roles of the three elements of the Trimurti and their relationship with Brahman; the concept of avatar with particular reference to Krishna and Rama; the importance of the Trimurti and avatars in Hinduism.
  • Nirguna and Saguna Brahman: Nirguna Brahman as nothingness, without qualities, beyond description and understanding; Saguna Brahman with qualities and as a personal God; the importance of both concepts for Hindus, Kena Upanishad 1:3–8.

Self, death and afterlife

  • The meaning and purpose of life: the four aims of life; and their relative importance; different understandings of the nature of moksha.
  • Atman: the concept of atman and its relationship with the body and with Brahman, with reference to the views of Advaita Vedanta (non-dualism) and Samkhya (dualism) the parable of the chariot: Katha Upanishad 3.
  • Samsara: the concept of samsara; beliefs about reincarnation and the causes of reincarnation with reference to the different types of karma; the realms of reincarnation and the interconnectedness of all life.

Good conduct and key moral principles

  • Good conduct: the importance of good moral conduct in Hinduism with reference to karma and karma yoga (selfless effort).
  • Dharma: the concepts of Sanatana dharma (universal dharma), Varnashrama dharma (dharma for class and stage of life) and the relationship between them; the importance of each for the Hindu way of life.
  • Ahimsa: the virtue of ahimsa, its application to issues concerning the embryo and the unborn child, treatment of animals and war including the use of weapons of mass destruction; different Hindu views on these issues including Gandhi’s views on non-violence.

Expressions of religious identity

  • Yoga: the different paths of Yoga, their suitability for different types of character and the links between them.
  • Bhakti Yoga: the nature and importance of bhatki yoga; darshan at shrines, temples and on pilgrimage with particular reference to the Ganges; the key aspects of puja.
  • The changing role of ashrams: ashrams (spiritual retreat centres) in Hinduism; their role prior to the 20th century and the variety of types of ashram today, with particular reference to the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Dhanwantari Ashram in Kerala, and Skanda Vale Ashram UK.

3.2.4 2D Islam

Students are required to study those aspects of the religious beliefs, teachings, values and practices of Islam specified below and the different ways in which these are expressed in the lives of individuals, communities and societies.

They should develop a knowledge and critical understanding of:

  • the specified material
  • how the texts specified for study are interpreted and applied
  • the influence of beliefs and teachings on individuals, communities and societies
  • the causes, meanings and significance of similarities and differences in religious thought belief and practice within Islam
  • approaches to the study of religion and belief.

They should be able to analyse and evaluate issues arising from the topics studied, and the views and arguments of the scholars prescribed for study.

Questions may be set that span more than one topic.

Students may study any version of the specified texts, but should be aware of issues related to translation where relevant. Quotations will not be used in questions.

Students should be able to use specialist language and terminology appropriately.

Exam questions will show a translation for any non-English terms (except for names of people, texts and schools of thought). However students are expected to recognise and understand the following technical terms: Tawhid, Barzakh, Al-Qadr, Jihad.

Sources of wisdom and authority

  • The Qur’an: its nature and authority; Muslim beliefs about the revelation and compilation of the the Qur’an; the importance of the Arabic text and how this is reflected in the treatment and use of the Qur’an in worship and in everyday life; translation as interpretation and the importance of trustworthy interpretation of the Qur’an.
  • The Prophet: the status of Muhammad as Khatam an-Nabiyyin (seal of the Prophets) and his significance for Muslims today; different views about the nature and value of hadiths as sources of knowledge of the sayings and actions of Muhammad.
  • Imams: the authority of the Imams in Shi’a Islam.

God

  • Tawhid: the Oneness of God; God as transcendent and indescribable, the omnipotent creator and controller of all things; teaching about God in the Throne verse: 2:255.
  • Personal aspects of God: The significance of ‘The Merciful’ and ‘The Compassionate’ as Names of God; different Muslim views about how anthropomorphic descriptions of God in the Qur’an should be interpreted. Ashari, Hanbali and Mutazili views, with particular reference to the hand of God and the face of God.
  • Aspects of the Sufi concept of God: God as incomparable and unknowable in Himself ; Creation as emanation and God as immanent; the soul as one with God; Sufi understandings of the teaching about God in the verse of Light: 24:35.

Self, death and afterlife

  • Muslim views about the purpose of life as being to worship God and a moral test; the concept of worship and consideration of the view that, for Muslims, this life is only important as a preparation for the life to come.
  • Al-Qadr: different understandings of the relationship between divine control, human freedom and responsibility. Mutazili and Ashari perspectives and the Shi’a concept of Bada.
  • Akhirah (afterlife): the concept of soul; beliefs about Barzakh, judgement heaven and hell including different understandings of resurrection and of the descriptions of heaven and hell in the Qur’an including 47:15.

Good conduct and key moral principles

  • Good conduct: the importance of good moral conduct in Islam including reference to the duty of obedience to God and the Prophet and to the greater jihad; the role of personal freedom and judgement in the Shari’ah law, with reference to the five-fold classification of actions.
  • Sanctity of life: the concept of the sanctity of life and its application to issues concerning the embryo and the unborn child; lesser jihad as a duty of the Ummah and how it applied to warfare at the time of the Prophet; debates about its application today, including to the use of weapons of mass destruction and terrorism.
  • Stewardship: the role of the Ummah as Khalifah (stewards) and their responsibilities towards the environment and to animal life; how changing understandings of the impact of human activities on the world change Muslim understandings of their responsibilities.

Expressions of religious identity

  • The concept of Muslim: the similarities and differences between Shi’a and Sunni views about what it means to be a Muslim.
  • The Pillars of Islam: the concept of pillar and purpose of the five pillars of Islam; Salah: differences in Sunni and Shi’a practices; the importance of the outward actions of prayer and the underlying intentions and state of mind; the importance of daily and Jummah prayers; Hajj: developments in the practice of Hajj in the 20th century and the significance and importance of Hajj today.
  • The mosque: the changing role of the mosque in the community, with particular reference to the history and developing work of the London Central Mosque.

3.2.5 2E Judaism

Students are required to study those aspects of the religious beliefs, teachings, values and practices of Judaism specified below and the different ways in which these are expressed in the lives of individuals, communities and societies.

They should develop a knowledge and critical understanding of:

  • the specified material
  • how the texts specified for study are interpreted and applied
  • the influence of beliefs and teachings on individuals, communities and societies
  • the causes, meanings and significance of similarities and differences in religious thought belief and practice within Judaism
  • approaches to the study of religion and belief.

They should be able to analyse and evaluate issues arising from the topics studied, and the views and arguments of the scholars prescribed for study.

Questions may be set that span more than one topic.

Students may study any version of the specified texts, but should be aware of issues related to translation where relevant. Quotations will not be used in questions.

Students should be able to use specialist language and terminology appropriately.

Exam questions will show a translation for any non-English terms (except for names of people, texts and schools of thought). However students are expected to recognise and understand the following technical terms: ‘Eternal Thou’, She’ol, pikuach nephesh, agunot, minyan.

Sources of wisdom and authority

  • The Tenakh: different Jewish beliefs about the nature and authority of the Tenakh, including: as the absolute Word of God, complete and unchangeable and as inspired by God but written by human beings; the influence of these beliefs on the way in which the Tenakh is used as a source of authority in worship and in everyday life.
  • The Babylonian Talmud: different Jewish beliefs about its nature, authority and importance.
  • Rabbis: their role and authority in contemporary Judaism, including reference to the Beth Din.

God

  • Monotheism: God as one, eternal, omniscient and omnipotent creator and controller of all things; beliefs about God expressed in Maimonides’ Thirteen Principles of the Faith.
  • God as personal: the personal God of the Bible, and debates about how the anthropomorphic and gender based language about God should be interpreted, with particular reference to God as King and Father and Genesis 3:8.
  • Martin Buber: key ideas about God in Martin Buber’s theology: God as the ‘Eternal Thou’; God known in and through personal human relationships.

Self, death and afterlife

  • The meaning and purpose of life: different purposes of life and their relative importance: obedience; to bring the Messiah and to repair the world; different Jewish understandings of the Messianic Age.
  • Life after death: In the Tenakh: including I Samuel 28:11–20 and the concept of She’ol; nature of the soul; resurrection of the flesh in the Thirteen Principles of the Faith and modern attitudes to this belief; immortality of the soul in later Jewish thinking including the expression of these beliefs in the Pittsburgh Platform; the link between belief in the afterlife and belief in the justice of God.
  • Reincarnation in some kabbalistic thinking.

Good conduct and key moral principles

  • Good moral conduct: the importance of good moral conduct in Judaism with reference to obedience to God and the mitzvot; and the extent of human freedom and moral responsibility; the place of individual reasoning and decision-making including the principle of pikuach nephesh.
  • The sanctity of life: the concept of the sanctity of life and its application to issues concerning the embryo and the unborn child and war; issues including the use of weapons of mass destruction; different Jewish views on these issues.
  • Stewardship: the concept of stewardship and Jewish attitudes to animals and the environment, and how changing understandings of the effects of human activities on the environment have affected that role.

Expressions of religious identity

  • The concept of ‘Jew’, and different understandings of what it means to be a Jew, including: the importance of being born a Jewish mother; attitudes to circumcision and to bar/bat mitzvah.
  • Expressions of Jewish identity in daily life: different attitudes to dress, keeping a kosher home and keeping Shabbat; expressions of Jewish identity in worship including the diversity of practice within synagogue worship, Yom Kippur and Pesach.
  • The changing role of the synagogue in society with reference to its developments during the Exile in Babylon and its role today.