Religious Studies

The RS Department encourages a genuine exploration of the world faiths to provide pupils with vital tools– an open mind and the habit of analysis. The aim is to explore the relevance of religion to everyday life and contemporary ethical issues.

As a Cathedral School, there is a commitment to the teaching of Christianity. Religious Studies is about our responses to profound experiences such as death, suffering, good and evil, as well as the search for meaning and purpose in life. It is hoped pupils will find “ransacking the treasures of the world religions illuminating, challenging and meaningful” as they figure out their own philosophy of life.
 

> Years 7-9

  • Christianity, Buddhism and Islam are investigated through text & story, film, artwork, authentic artefacts, as well as writing and discussion. Ceremonies and ritual are examined alongside beliefs and values. 
  • An ‘Introduction to Philosophy’ engages pupils with the philosophical method, which is then applied to key questions such as the meaning and purpose of life, the existence of God, life after death, and whether belief in God can be justified in light of evil and suffering in the world.
  • An ‘Introduction to Ethics’ enables pupils to study some of the great ethical systems used throughout the ages such as Natural Law, Utilitarianism, Kantian Ethics, and Situation Ethics. Pupils apply these systems to a range of ethical issues, and also consider such questions as ‘Is it always wrong to steal’?, ‘What is meant by right and wrong?’

Pupils also have the opportunity to enter a range of competitions, including the national ‘Spirited Arts’ and ‘Spirited Poetry’ competitions, and the Cranmer Awards.

> GCSE

All pupils take GCSE Short Course Religious Studies: OCR (J125).  
  • The beliefs and teachings of Christianity and Islam are covered in depth.  
  • Pupils then study ‘Religion, philosophy and ethics in the modern world’, focusing on Christian attitudes to cohabitation, marriage, family life, divorce, contraception, and issues surrounding the equality of men and women.   
  • This is followed by an in-depth focus on the relevance of Christianity in the United Kingdom today. The challenges posed to Christianity by the rise of Secularism and Humanism are considered, including the issue of faith schools, and potential clashes between Christian beliefs and issues such as equality law, euthanasia, abortion, and genetic manipulation. The question of whether Christians should follow their religious belief or secular law is discussed. Pupils then reflect on how Christians respond to the UK as a multi-faith society, and consider questions such as whether it is right to attempt to convert people from other religions.  
The course enables pupils to develop consistent views of their own on faith and lifestyles. In this subject, they are awarded marks for their own opinions so long as they supply rational, considered reasons.

> A Level

A Level: OCR Philosophy, Ethics, and modern developments in Christian thought

Students are prepared for three two-hour papers at the end of Year 13:

  • Philosophy of Religion: The course begins by exploring the far-reaching influence of Aristotle and Plato on Western philosophy: Is there a soul? What do we mean by ‘mind’? Various views are considered ranging from Plato to Descartes and Dawkins. Students then evaluate the classical arguments for God’s existence, for example the Design Argument, the Cosmological Argument, and the Ontological Argument. The challenge of evil and suffering to belief in God is studied, along with a range of solutions from thinkers such as Augustine, Irenaeus, and CS Lewis. Other areas of study include the question of whether mystical experiences of the Divine, such as those of Julian of Norwich, are real. The course concludes by asking whether religious language has any meaning; the views of ancient thinkers such as Aquinas are contrasted with those of the Logical Positivists and philosophers such as Wittgenstein.
  • Ethics: In the Ethics module, students examine four classical ethical theories: the Utilitarianism of Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill, Aquinas’s Natural Law, Fletcher’s Situation Ethics, and Kantian Ethics. These theories are then applied to three key areas: business ethics, euthanasia, and sexual ethics. Students also consider the nature of ‘the conscience’ from the religious viewpoint of St Thomas Aquinas and the secular viewpoint of Freud. A final unit on ‘Meta-ethics’ explores what is meant by such terms as ‘right’ and ‘good’, and whether they have any meaning.
  • Developments in Christian thought: This wide-ranging paper focuses on how Christianity has responded to a range of contemporary issues including: Liberation Theology and the rise of Marxism, Feminist Theology and issues of gender, how Christianity responds to the challenges posed by Secularism and Humanism, and a multi-faith society.
     

> Trips

During the 2017-18 academic year, students will enjoy enrichment activities such as the Philosophy and Ethics conference with Dr Peter Vardy (Manchester, November 2017) and the Hay Festival, as well as membership of Hereford Cathedral’s famous library. Students are also strongly encouraged to enter national essay writing competitions.