Religion, Philosophy and Ethics
"A thought which is not independent is a thought only half understood." - Ludwig Wittgenstein
"The unexamined life is not worth living." – Socrates
Religion, Philosophy and Ethics (RPE) is a subject that builds empathy, understanding and respect in a world often characterized by diversity, conflict and change. The subject provides a unique opportunity to learn about, and from, cultures and people in an open, respectful and objective way. It hopes to increase understanding about faith communities which are so often misrepresented by the extremists. It celebrates the contributions religion and religious people have made to our world. It is also a subject that puts religions, its believers and beliefs on trial. It questions the implications of certain religious moralities. It holds religions to account for its part in slavery, racism and terrorism. God is placed in the docks, accused of all sorts of crimes, from genocide to perjury, with some of the greatest philosophers acting in defence and prosecution – and the students playing the role of judge and jury. It is a subject which questions its very own relevance, meaning and foundation all the time, both directly and indirectly. It is also a subject which questions each individual's own relevance, meaning and foundation. It is not a safe haven for religion, as some presume. It is not a safe haven for anyone. Everyone and everything is questioned. It encourages students to be sceptical of experts, gurus and their own beliefs - to be doubtful of their capacity to know they're right and therefore exclude the other. It encourages students to be intolerant of their own prejudices, hatred and fear and the prejudice, hatred and fear of others. It is a subject centred on questions rather than answers.
The department has three teachers who are passionate, creative and committed specialists, and leading advocates of the subject in the city.
Key Stage 3 (Year 8 & 9)
The Key Stage 3 curriculum compliments the whole-school ‘Big 8’ initiative. Students engage in a scheme of work that fosters important skills and attributes such as curiosity and courage, through exploring questions such as: Who am I? What are ‘myths’? What did Jesus look like? Jesus – miracle maker or magician? Was the resurrection a hoax? Why are people Islamophobic? What has Christianity done for us? How can there be an all-loving, all-powerful and all-knowing God when there is so much suffering in the world?
Key Stage 4 (Year 9 - 11)
All students complete the AQA Short Course GCSE ‘Religion and Life Issues’ in Years 9 & 10, which explores ethical questions and religious responses to a variety of important and engaging issues.
Is it ever right to fight? Can nuclear and biological weapons ever be justified? Who are the victims of war? Who is Irena Sendler and why do the RS department feel she should have won the Nobel Peace Prize?
Is abortion a good thing? Should women choose what happens to their bodies? What are the alternatives? Should fathers have rights? Is the law in the UK fair? When is a life a life?
Why did the earth come about? How did the earth come about? Why should we care for the planet? How are we destroying the earth? How can we save the earth? Do religions have an extra responsibility to care for the planet?
Are animals as important as humans? Is it ok to eat meat? Can we use animals as pets? Is the circus ethical? Should we test on animals? Animals and Sport – what are your thoughts on fox hunting? Would you wear a fur coat?
PREJUDICE & DISCRIMINATION
Types we investigate = Sexism, Ageism, Racism, Islamophobia, Anti-Semitism etc. Why are people prejudice? What is discrimination? Who was Martin Luther King? What did Ghandi do? How should we respond to prejudice?
In year 11 students study RS as part of the PHSCE programme investigating in particular the very important issues and ideas associated with ‘Death and Dying’.
What the students say:
“RS is awesome.”
“RS is full of debating and lets you have a say on your view on the world”
Key Stage 5 – AS & A2 Edexcel Religious Studies: Philosophy & Ethics
Students study both the Philosophy of Religion and Ethics at A Level. This is a fascinating course that looks at questions such as:
• 'Can we know that God exists?'
• 'Can we speak meaningfully about God?'
• 'Why is there evil and suffering?'
• 'Is it ever morally right to go to war?'
• 'What does good mean?'
• 'Do consequences justify actions, or vice versa?'
The course gives students the opportunity to develop their philosophical thinking skills and put very famous arguments to the test. It is an excellent preparation for university, as we encourage learning through discussion, engagement with famous primary texts and independent research.
What the 6th Form students say:
‘I’ve learnt effective thinking and decision making’
‘I’ll be more patient and understanding of others’ arguments’
‘I’ve learnt independence and a different way of thinking’
‘I get more out of Philosophy than any other subject’
Trips and visits:
• ‘A Level’ students attend a variety of Ebor Lectures at York Minster and York St John University.
• We have people from religious communities to speak and answer questions, including our local vicar.
• We take our ‘A Level’ students to York St John Library to assist them with their independent research and give them a real flavour of university life.
• Year 13 Students go to Spiers Bank in the North Yorkshire Moors to revise, philosophise and have lots of fun.