Gce religious Studies

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Suggested teaching time

6 hours


The Cosmological Argument

Topic outline

Suggested teaching and homework activities

Suggested resources

Points to note


  • Set up a domino rally using dominoes or textbooks. What causes each item to fall? What started the chain of events? Link to the start of the universe.

  • Present a simple Cosmological argument. How is this different form the Teleological Argument?

  • Dominoes or old textbooks.

The Cosmological Argument from Aquinas: his understanding of the need for evidence in establishing the reasonableness of belief in the existence of God – his presentation of the cosmological argument in the Five Ways

  • Compare Aquinas’ 1st and 2nd way (motion and causation). What strengths and weaknesses are present.

  • Introduce 3rd Way, argument from contingency, step by step. Explain difference between necessary and contingent.

  • ‘Philosophy for AS and A2.’ (Burns and Law).

  • The Question of God (Michael Palmer).

  • www.newadvent.org/summa/1002/htm gives original text.

Challenges to it from Hume; his criticisms of the view that the existence of the universe is evidence for the existence of God.

  • Present jumbled list of the criticisms of David Hume. Students write each one in their own words and link to the argument of Aquinas.

  • Students could discuss Hume’s view on causation. Is he right to suggest that we have no good reason to expect the sun to rise in the morning?

  • ‘Why expect the sun to rise tomorrow?’ (Chapter in ‘The Philosophy Gym’ by Stephen Law).

  • More able students may see Hume’s problem of induction and causality as raising difficulties for science.

Critical Discussion of their views

  • Consider whether Aquinas or Hume’s argument is stronger.

  • Philosophy of Religion (Peter Cole).

The arguments put forward by Copleston in the 1948 radio debate with Russell and Russell’s counter arguments

  • Introduce the debate and look at extracts on the Cosmological argument. Students imagine they are presenting a highlights programme. Summarise key points of what each has said.

  • Transcript of part of the Copleston-Russell debate (available on several internet sites or from Russell’s book ‘Why I am not a Christian.’).

  • The Question of God (Palmer).

  • Students could present this as ‘Philosophy: Match of the Day.’ They could role play this and imagine that they are commentators analysing the arguments.

  • Students write Copleston’s argument in steps.

  • Structured written work on Russell. What are his key criticisms? Is the view that the universe is a ‘brute fact’ answering or avoiding the question?

  • Consider who ‘won’ the debate. What do you think and why?

  • The Puzzle of God (Vardy).

Religious Studies H172: Philosophy of Religion G571

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