3.2 Component 2: Study of religion and dialogues

Students must study one Component 2 option from the following:

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.

Section A: Buddhism

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.

Buddhism, gender and sexuality

Historical and social factors that have influenced developments in Buddhist thinking about these issues with particular reference to Thailand, including: encounter with western lifestyles and values with the development of tourism after the 1980s; the changing roles of men and women in society outside of religion; the rights given to women by secular Thai governments.

Developments in Buddhist thought including feminist approaches:

  • The debate leading to the revival of the Theravada order of nuns in the late 1990s.
  • Continuing debates about female ordination and the role of women in Theravada Buddhism with reference to the work of Dhammananda and the Sakyadhita organisation.
  • Different Buddhist views about celibacy, marriage and homosexuality and transgender issues.

Buddhism and science

How and why science has influenced Buddhism and how Buddhism has responded, with particular reference to: emphasis on evidence and reason in science; specific scientific discoveries; science as a stimulus to Buddhist ethical thinking.

Developments in Buddhist thought:

  • How scientific explanation has challenged belief in karma and in miracles and Buddhist responses to that challenge.
  • The value of science: the Buddha’s attitude to the search for answers to unanswerable questions; the belief that science agrees with some Buddhist teaching with particular reference to quantum physics; the views of Thich Nhat Hanh and the 14th Dalai Lama about the relationship between Buddhism and science.
  • Different Buddhist responses to ethical issues raised by science: genetic engineering.

Buddhism and the challenge of secularisation

This topic may be studied with exclusive reference to the British context.

Challenges of secularisation including: the replacement of religion as the source of truth and moral values; relegation of religion to the personal sphere; the rise of militant atheism: the view that religion is irrational.

Developments in Buddhist thought:

  • Buddhist responses to materialistic secular values: the value of wealth and possessions.
  • The preservation of traditional forms of Buddhism with reference to Amaravati and the Forest Tradition; the emergence of new forms of Buddhism with reference to Triratna and Secular Buddhism; the appeal of some forms of Buddhism as an alternative to other forms of religious expression.
  • Emphasis on the contribution of Buddhism to society: including the principles and work of Engaged Buddhism as a liberationist approach in supporting the poor and oppressed.
  • Comparison between the significant ideas of Stephen Batchelor and David Brazier about the nature of Buddhism.

Buddhism, migration and religious pluralism

How migration has created multicultural societies which include Buddhism, with particular reference to the development of Buddhism in Britain; diversity within the Buddhist community in Britain; freedom of religion as a human right in European law and religious pluralism as a feature of modern secular states. The influence of this context on Buddhist thought.

Developments in Buddhist thought:

  • How far Buddhism should be seen as a collection of different traditions with little in common, with reference to two contrasting forms of Buddhism.
  • Edict 12 of Ashoka on attitudes to other faiths; Buddhist attitudes to religious pluralism with reference both to diversity within Buddhism and diversity between religions, including the views of Nichiren Buddhism.
  • Buddhist responses to issues of freedom of religious expression in society.

Section B: Dialogues

This section of the specification is focused on the connections between various elements of the course and requires students to develop breadth and depth in their understanding of the connections between the knowledge, understanding and skills set out in the specification. There are two areas for study, firstly the dialogue between Buddhism and philosophy: how developments in belief have, over time, influenced and been influenced by philosophical studies of religion, secondly the dialogue between Buddhism and ethics: how developments in belief have influenced and been influenced by ethical studies.

Students will be required to demonstrate a critical awareness of these connections and to analyse their nature.

The dialogue between Buddhism and philosophy

Beliefs and teachings about:

  • ultimate reality
  • self, death and afterlife
  • sources of wisdom and authority
  • religious experience
  • the relationship between scientific and religious discourses
  • the truth claims of other religions
  • miracles.

The following issues, and the impact of the discussion on religious belief past and present, should be considered:

  • How far the belief is reasonable – that is based on reason and/or consistent with reason.
  • How meaningful the statements of faith are, and for whom.
  • How coherent the beliefs are, and how consistent with other beliefs within the belief system.
  • The relevance of philosophical enquiry for religious faith, with particular reference to the debate about the nature of faith as ‘belief in’ or ‘belief that’.

Two unstructured questions will be set. Students must answer one.

The dialogue between Buddhism and ethics

  • Buddhist responses to the following approaches to moral decision-making in the light of key Buddhist moral principles:
    • deontological, with reference to Kant
    • teleological and consequential, with reference to Bentham
    • character based, with reference to virtue ethics.
  • How far Buddhist ethics can be considered to be deontological, teleological, consequential, or character based.
  • Buddhist responses to: the issues of human life and death and issues of animal life and death prescribed for study; theft and lying; marriage; homosexuality and transgender issues; genetic engineering.
  • Buddhist responses to issues surrounding wealth, tolerance and freedom of religious expression.
  • Buddhist understandings of free will and moral responsibility, and the value of conscience in Buddhist moral decision-making.

The impact of other ethical perspectives and ethical studies on Buddhist views about these issues, both past and present. This may include challenges to and support for Buddhist views; compatibility of Buddhist views with those of other ethical perspectives; the relative strengths and weaknesses of Buddhist perspectives and the other ethical perspectives studied on these issues; the implications of criticisms of Buddhist ethical teaching for the religion as a whole and its sources of authority.

Two unstructured questions will be set. Students must answer one.

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).

Section A: Christianity

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.

Christianity, gender and sexuality

Historical and social factors that have influenced developments in Christian thinking about these issues including: the development of Biblical criticism, especially in the 19th century, and the resulting freedom to challenge traditional readings of passages such as 1 Tim 2:8-15; the changing roles of men and women in society outside of religion; the rights given to women by secular governments.

Developments in Christian thought, including feminist approaches:

  • Debates about female ordination in the Church of England up to and after 1994, the continuing debate today.
  • A comparison of the significant ideas of Daphne Hampson and Rosemary Radford Ruether about the patriarchal nature of Christianity including Hampson’s view that Christianity is irredeemably sexist and Ruether’s ideas about the androgynous Christ and her view that the female nature is more Christlike than the male.
  • Different Christian views about celibacy, marriage, homosexuality and transgender issues.

Christianity and science

How and why science has influenced Christianity and how Christianity has responded, with particular reference to: emphasis on evidence and reason in science; specific scientific discoveries; science as a stimulus to Christian ethical thinking.

Developments in Christian thought:

  • How scientific explanation has challenged Christian belief with reference to the ‘God of the gaps’; 19th century Christian responses to Darwin’s theory of evolution and contemporary responses to the Big Bang theory, including reference to creationist views.
  • The belief that science is compatible with Christianity with reference to the views John Polkinghorne.
  • Different Christian responses to issues raised by science: genetic engineering.

Christianity and the challenge of secularisation

This topic may be studied with exclusive reference to the British context.

The challenge of secularisation including the replacement of religion as the source of truth and moral values; relegation of religion to the personal sphere; the rise of militant atheism: the view that religion is irrational.

Developments in Christian thought:

  • Responses to materialistic secular values: the value of wealth and possessions.
  • McGrath’s defence of Christianity in ‘The Dawkins delusion’.
  • Emergence of new forms of expression, such as Fresh Expressions and the House Church movement.
  • Emphasis on the social relevance of Christianity including liberationist approaches as supporting the poor and defending the oppressed.

Christianity, migration and religious pluralism

How migration has created multicultural societies which include Christianity, with particular reference to the diversity of faiths in Britain today; freedom of religion as a human right in European law and religious pluralism as a feature of modern secular states. The influence of this context on Christian thought.

Developments in Christian thought:

  • Christian attitudes to other faiths: Exclusivism with reference to John 14:6; Inclusivism with reference to the concept of ‘anonymous Christians’; how Christian denominations view each other.
  • Pluralism with reference to John Hick; its implications for interfaith and interdenominational relations.
  • Christian responses to issues of freedom of religious expression in society.

Section B: Dialogues

This section of the specification is focused on the connections between various elements of the course and requires students to develop breadth and depth in their understanding of the connections between the knowledge, understanding and skills set out in the specification. There are two areas for study, firstly the dialogue between Christianity and philosophy: how developments in belief have, over time, influenced and been influenced by philosophical studies of religion, secondly the dialogue between Christianity and ethics: how developments in belief have influenced and been influenced by ethical studies.

Students will be required to demonstrate a critical awareness of these connections and to analyse their nature.

The dialogue between Christianity and philosophy

Beliefs and teachings about:

  • God
  • self, death and the afterlife
  • sources of wisdom and authority
  • religious experience
  • the relationship between scientific and religious discourses
  • the truth claims of other religions
  • miracles.

The following issues, and the impact of the discussion on religious belief past and present, should be considered:

  • How far the belief is reasonable – that is based on reason and/or consistent with reason.
  • How meaningful the statements of faith are, and for whom.
  • How coherent the beliefs are, and how consistent they are with other beliefs in the belief system.
  • The relevance of philosophical enquiry for religious faith, with particular reference to the debate about the nature of faith as ‘belief in’ or ‘belief that’.

Two unstructured questions will be set. Students must answer one.

The dialogue between Christianity and ethics

  • Christian responses to the following approaches to moral decision-making in the light of key Christian moral principles:
    • deontological, with reference to Kant.
    • teleological and consequential, with reference to Bentham.
    • character based, with reference to virtue ethics.
  • How far Christian ethics can be considered to be deontological, teleological, consequential, or character based.
  • Christian responses to: the issues of human life and death and issues of animal life and death prescribed for study; theft and lying; marriage; homosexuality and transgender issues; genetic engineering.
  • Christian responses to issues surrounding wealth, tolerance and freedom of religious expression.
  • Christian understandings of free will and moral responsibility, and the value of conscience in Christian moral decision-making.

The impact of other ethical perspectives and ethical studies on Christian views about these issues, both past and present. This may include challenges to and support for Christian views; compatibility of Christian views with those of other ethical perspectives; the relative strengths and weaknesses of Christian perspectives and other ethical perspectives studied on these issues; the implications of criticisms of Christian ethical teaching for the religion as a whole and its sources of authority.

Two unstructured questions will be set. Students must answer one.

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.

Section A: Hinduism

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.

Hinduism, gender and sexuality

Historical and social factors that have influenced developments in Hindu thinking about these issues with particular reference to India, including: encounter with western values and lifestyles as part of the British Empire; the changing roles of men and women in society outside of religion, the rights given to women by secular governments.

Developments in Hindu thought including feminist approaches:

  • Debates about the role and status of women in Hinduism with particular reference to the contribution of Ram Mohan Roy.
  • The work of the Manushi organisation in modern India.
  • Different Hindu views about celibacy, marriage and divorce, homosexuality and transgender issues.

Hinduism and science

How and why science has influenced Hinduism and how Hinduism has responded, with particular reference to: science’s emphasis on evidence and reason; specific scientific discoveries; science as a stimulus to Hindu ethical thinking.

Developments in Hindu thought:

  • How science has challenged Hinduism and Hindu responses to Darwin’s theory of evolution and the Big Bang theory, including the views of ISKCON.
  • The belief that science is compatible with Hinduism with reference to the views of Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan about the scientific basis of Hinduism, and the belief that scientific discoveries were revealed in the Vedas.
  • Different Hindu responses to ethical issues raised by science: genetic engineering.

Hinduism and the challenge of secularisation

In India: the 19th century context and the encounter with western values; comparison of the significant ideas of Ram Mohan Roy and Dayananda Saraswati about the nature of Hinduism.

Practical Vedanta: the reinterpretation of Advaita Vedanta in the work of Vivekananda and its present expression in the work of the Ramakrishna Mission, a liberationist Hindu approach, supporting the poor and defending the oppressed.

In Britain: the challenge of secularisation including the replacement of religion as the source of truth and moral values; relegation of religion to the personal sphere; how Hinduism has responded to this challenge including: the preservation of existing sects such as Brahmo Samaj UK; the emergence of new forms of Hinduism including ISKCON.

Hinduism, migration and religious pluralism

How migration has created multicultural societies which include Hinduism, with particular reference to the development of Hinduism in Britain; diversity within the Hindu community in Britain; freedom of religion as a human right in European law and religious pluralism as a feature of modern secular states; the influence of this context on Hindu thought.

Developments in Hindu thought as a response to this context including:

  • Vedanta as religion: the view that all faiths, and all traditions within Hinduism, are partial expressions of Vedanta and Hindu responses to that view.
  • The importance of India for Hindus living elsewhere, and the possibility of sacred sites developing outside India.
  • Hindu responses to issues of freedom of religious expression in society, including Hindutva.

The 21st century Indian secular context with particular reference to issues arising from freedom of religion, and the application of personal law to non-Hindu communities; different Hindu responses to this, including the response of the Sangh Parivar: its concept of Hindutva and definition of Hindu.

Section B: Dialogues

This section of the specification is focused on the connections between various elements of the course and requires students to develop breadth and depth in their understanding of the connections between the knowledge, understanding and skills set out in the specification. There are two areas for study, firstly the dialogue between Hinduism and philosophy: how developments in belief have, over time, influenced and been influenced by philosophical studies of religion, secondly the dialogue between Hinduism and ethics: how developments in belief have influenced and been influenced by ethical studies.

Students will be required to demonstrate a critical awareness of these connections and to analyse their nature.

The dialogue between Hinduism and philosophy

Beliefs and teachings about:
  • ultimate reality
  • self, death and afterlife
  • sources of widsom and authority
  • religious experience
  • the relationship between scientific and religious discourses
  • the truth claims of other religions
  • miracles.

The following issues, and the impact of the discussion on religious belief past and present, should be considered:

  • How far the belief is reasonable – that is based on reason and/or consistent with reason
  • How meaningful the statements of faith are, and for whom.
  • How coherent the beliefs are, and how consistent with other beliefs within the belief system.
  • The relevance of philosophical enquiry for religious faith, with particular reference to the debate about the nature of faith as ‘belief in’ or ‘belief that’.

Two unstructured questions will be set. Students must answer one.

The dialogue between Hinduism and ethics

  • Hindu responses to the following approaches to moral decision-making in the light of key Hindu moral principles:
    • deontological, with reference to Kant.
    • teleological and consequential, with reference to Bentham.
    • character based, with reference to virtue ethics.
  • How far Hindu ethics can be considered to be deontological, teleological, consequential, or character based.
  • Hindu response to: the issues of human life and death and issues of animal life and death prescribed for study; theft and lying; marriage; homosexuality and transgender issues; genetic engineering.
  • Hindu responses to issues surrounding wealth, tolerance and freedom of religious expression.
  • Hindu understandings of free will and moral responsibility, and the value of conscience in Hindu moral decision-making.

The impact of other ethical perspectives and ethical studies on Hindu views about these issues, both past and present. This may include challenges to and support for Hindu views; compatibility of Hindu views with those of other ethical perspectives; the relative strengths and weaknesses of Hindu perspectives and the other ethical perspectives studied on these issues; the implications of criticisms of Hindu ethical teaching for the religion as a whole and its sources of authority.

Two unstructured questions will be set. Students must answer one.

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.

Section A: Islam

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.

Islam, gender and sexuality

Historical and social factors that have influenced developments in Muslim thinking about these issues including: encounter with western values and lifestyles as part of the British Empire and through later immigration into Britain; the changing roles of men and women in society outside of religion; the rights given to women by secular governments.

Developments in Muslim thought, including feminist approaches:

  • The veil seen as a barrier to achievement in Qasim Amin’s work in 1899 and other Muslim views on this issue.
  • Debates about the role and status of women in Islam with particular reference to the interpretation of 4:34 and the views of Amina Wadud.
  • Contemporary Muslim views about celibacy, marriage, homosexuality and transgender issues.

Islam and science

How and why science has influenced Islam and how Islam has responded, with particular reference to: science’s emphasis on evidence and reason; specific scientific discoveries; science as a stimulus to Muslim ethical thinking.

Developments in Muslim thought:

  • How science has challenged Muslim belief and different Muslim responses to Darwin’s theory of evolution and the Big Bang theory.
  • The importance of science in early Muslim thought: science as a duty required by the Qur’an. The belief that the Qur’an revealed what science later confirmed with reference to the work of Maurice Bucaille.
  • Different Muslim responses to ethical issues raised by science: genetic engineering.

Islam and the challenge of secularisation

This topic may be studied with exclusive reference to the British context.

Challenges of secularisation including: the replacement of religion as the source of truth and moral values; relegation of religion to the personal sphere; the rise of militant atheism: the view that religion is irrational.

Developments in Muslim thought:

  • Responses to materialistic secular values: the value of wealth and possessions and the debate about capital punishment; comparison of the significant ideas of Tariq Ramadan and Sheikh Ahmad Ash-Sharabasi concerning capital punishment.
  • Emphasis on the preservation of Muslim identity with reference to dress and diet, prayer places of worship, and the self-reliance of the Muslim community; different attitudes to democracy and to involvement in the democratic process.
  • Emphasis on the social relevance of Islam, liberationist approaches supporting the poor and defending the oppressed.

Islam, migration and religious pluralism

How migration has created multicultural societies which include Islam, with particular reference to migration by Muslims into the United Kingdom from the 1950s onwards; the diversity within the Muslim community in Britain; freedom of religion as a human right in European law and religious pluralism as a feature of modern secular states; the influence of this context on Muslim thought.

Developments in Muslim thought:

  • Emphasis on exclusivism; its basis in the Qur’an, 3:85; attitudes within Islam to minority Muslim groups.
  • Inclusivism and its basis in the Qur’an with reference to both Abrahamic and non-Abrahamic faiths; the debate about whether good deeds without faith in God or Islam are rewarded by God.
  • Muslim responses to issues of freedom of religious expression in society.

Section B: Dialogues

This section of the specification is focused on the connections between various elements of the course and requires students to develop breadth and depth in their understanding of the connections between the knowledge, understanding and skills set out in the specification. There are two areas for study, firstly the dialogue between Islam and philosophy: how developments in belief have, over time, influenced and been influenced by philosophical studies of religion, secondly the dialogue between Islam and ethics: how developments in belief have influenced and been influenced by ethical studies.

Students will be required to demonstrate a critical awareness of these connections and to analyse their nature.

The dialogue between Islam and philosophy

Beliefs and teachings about:

  • God
  • self, death and afterlife
  • sources of wisdom and authority
  • religious experience
  • the relationship between scientific and religious discourses
  • the truth claims of other religions
  • miracles.

The following issues, and the impact of the discussion on religious belief past and present, should be considered:

  • How far the belief is reasonable – that is based on reason and/or consistent with reason.
  • How meaningful the statements of faith are, and for whom.
  • How coherent the beliefs are, and how consistent with other beliefs within the belief system.
  • The relevance of philosophical enquiry for religious faith, with particular reference to the debate about the nature of faith as ‘belief in’ or ‘belief that’.

Two unstructured questions will be set. Students must answer one.

The dialogue between Islam and ethics

  • Muslim responses to the following approaches to moral decision making in the light of key Muslim moral principles:
    • deontological, with reference to Kant
    • teleological and consequential, with reference to Bentham
    • character based, with reference to virtue ethics.
  • How far Muslim ethics can be considered to be deontological, teleological, consequential, or character based.
  • Muslim response to: the issues of human life and death and issues of animal life and death prescribed for study; theft and lying; marriage; homosexuality and transgender issues; genetic engineering including.
  • Muslim responses to issues surrounding wealth, tolerance and freedom of religious expression.
  • Muslim understandings of free will and moral responsibility, and the value of conscience in Muslim moral decision-making.

The impact of other ethical perspectives and ethical studies on Muslim views about these issues, both past and present. This may include challenges to and support for Muslim views; compatibility of Muslim views with those of other ethical perspectives; the relative strengths and weaknesses of Muslim perspectives and the other ethical perspectives studied on these issues; the implications of criticisms of Muslim ethical teaching for the religion as a whole and its sources of authority.

Two unstructured questions will be set. Students must answer one.

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.

Section A: Judaism

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.

Judaism, gender and sexuality

Historical and social factors that have influenced developments in Jewish thinking about these issues including: the changing roles of men and women in society outside of religion; different understandings of the Torah and Halakah; the rights given to women by secular governments.

Developments in Jewish thought, including feminist approaches:

  • Debates about the ordination of women as rabbis from c1970 to the present.
  • The work of the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance, including its views on the issues of agunot and minyan.
  • Different Jewish views about celibacy, marriage, homosexuality and transgender issues, including the views of Rachel Adler.

Judaism and science

How and why science has influenced Judaism and how Judaism has responded, with particular reference to: science’s emphasis on evidence and reason; specific scientific discoveries; science as a stimulus to Jewish ethical thinking.

Developments in Jewish thought:

  • The importance of science: Maimonides: how contemplation of nature reveals the glory of God.
  • How science can challenge religious beliefs; different Jewish responses to Darwin’s theory of evolution and the Big Bang theory of the origin of the universe, including the views of Gerald Schroeder.
  • Different Jewish responses to ethical issues raised by science: genetic engineering.

Judaism and the challenge of secularisation

Updated

The challenge of secularisation including: the replacement of religion as the source of truth and moral values; relegation of religion to the personal sphere; the rise of militant atheism: the view that religion is irrational and a threat to social stability.

Developments in Jewish thought:

  • Ghettoism: the preservation of Jewish identity with reference to Nehemiah 10:28–31 alternative responses of assimilation and integration.
  • Responses to materialistic secular values: the value of wealth and possessions.
  • Different responses to the state of Israel including Political Zionism and Religious Zionism.
  • Emphasis on the social relevance of Judaism: liberationist approaches as supporting the poor and defending the oppressed with reference to the Jewish Social Action Forum (JSAF).

Judaism, migration and religious pluralism

How migration has created multicultural societies which include Judaism, with particular reference to the development of Judaism in Britain; diversity within the Jewish community in Britain; freedom of religion as a human right in European law and religious pluralism as a feature of modern secular states. The influence of this context on Jewish thought.

Developments in Jewish thought:

  • The concept of Pluralistic Judaism, its implications for relationships between the different traditions of Judaism and between Judaism and other faiths.
  • Jewish understandings of their role as the chosen people and its implications for their relationship with other faiths.
  • Jewish responses to issues of freedom of religious expression in society.

A comparison of the significant ideas in the post holocaust theology of Ignatz Maybaum and Richard Rubenstein: Maybaum – churban, remnant and suffering servant; Rubenstein: the ‘death’ of God and of the Covenant.

Section B: Dialogues

This section of the specification is focused on the connections between various elements of the course and requires students to develop breadth and depth in their understanding of the connections between the knowledge, understanding and skills set out in the specification. There are two areas for study, firstly the dialogue between Judaism and philosophy: how developments in belief have, over time, influenced and been influenced by philosophical studies of religion, secondly the dialogue between Judaism and ethics: how developments in belief have influenced and been influenced by ethical studies.

Students will be required to demonstrate a critical awareness of these connections and to analyse their nature.

The dialogue between Judaism and philosophy

Beliefs and teachings about:

  • God
  • self, death and afterlife
  • sources of wisdom and authority
  • religious experience
  • the relationship between scientific and religious discourses
  • the truth claims of other religions
  • miracles.

The following issues, and the impact of the discussion on religious belief past and present, should be considered:

  • How far the belief is reasonable – that is based on reason and/or consistent with reason.
  • How meaningful the statements of faith are, and for whom.
  • How coherent the beliefs are, and how consistent with other beliefs within the belief system.
  • The relevance of philosophical enquiry for religious faith, with particular reference to the debate about the nature of faith as ‘belief in’ or ‘belief that’.

Two unstructured questions will be set. Students must answer one.

The dialogue between Judaism and ethics

  • Jewish responses to the following approaches to moral decision-making in the light of key Jewish moral principles:
    • deontological, with reference to Kant.
    • teleological and consequential, with reference to Bentham.
    • character based, with reference to virtue ethics.
  • How far Jewish ethics can be considered to be deontological, teleological, consequential, or character based.
  • Jewish response to: the issues of human life and death and issues of animal life and death prescribed for study; theft and lying; marriage; homosexuality and transgender issues; genetic engineering.
  • Jewish responses to issues surrounding wealth, tolerance and freedom of religious expression.
  • Jewish understandings of free will and moral responsibility, and the value of conscience in Jewish moral decision-making.

The impact of other ethical perspectives and ethical studies on Jewish views about these issues, both past and present. This may include challenges to and support for Jewish views; compatibility of Jewish views with those of other ethical perspectives; the relative strengths and weaknesses of Jewish perspectives and the other ethical perspectives studied on these issues; the implications of criticisms of Jewish ethical teaching for the religion as a whole and its sources of authority.

Two unstructured questions will be set. Students must answer one.