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Religious Studies: Philosophy of Religion and Ethics A Level at Newport Girls' High School

Course description

During the course students will develop many transferable skills that will be beneficial in further study, be it in Philosophy, Theology or Religion or any academic discipline that requires independent, critical, analytical and evaluative thinking.

Course content

The AQA course provides the opportunity for students to explore ultimate questions about existence and morality.  It covers a variety of relevant and contemporary themes that will inspire engaging classroom discussion and help students to develop the independent thinking, critical and evaluative skills sought by higher education and employers.  Students will become familiar with the responses philosophers and religions have made to ultimate questions and are encouraged to formulate their own responses to such questions.  Throughout the course emphasis is placed on critical analysis and the construction of balanced, informed arguments within the context of religious, philosophical and ethical awareness.

Component 1: Philosophy of religion

Section A

In this section students will study a range of philosophical ideas, methods and issues. These include:

Arguments for the existence of God:

Students will study the Design, Ontological and Cosmological arguments for the existence of God and examine the concept of philosophical proof.

Evil and suffering:

Students will study the concepts of natural and moral evil, reasons why evil challenges belief in God (the logical and evidential problem of evil) and theodicies which attempt to justify evil in a world created by an omnibenevolent, omniscient, omnipotent and wholly good God.

Religious Experience:

Throughout the history of religion people have claimed to have experienced God. In this unit students will explore the characteristics of religious experience and consider whether they are genuine experiences of God or whether they have a naturalistic explanation.

Religious Language:

In this unit pupils will explore the nature, meaningfulness and challenges of religious language. For example, how can human language be used to describe something which is completely other (God)? Does using such language simply lead to misunderstanding about God’s nature?


Students will explore different definitions and interpretations of miracles and consider whether they are acts of Divine intervention or can be explained in other ways.

Self, death and the afterlife:

In this unit pupils will explore different arguments and ideas about the nature and existence of the soul and whether life after death is possible.

Section B

In this section students will explore different approaches to ethical decision making and apply ethical theories to a range of contemporary moral issues. Students will study the following:

Normative ethical theories:

Students will explore teleological and deontological approaches to ethical decision making and consider the strengths and weaknesses of each approach. The ethical approaches studied are natural moral law, situation ethics and virtue ethics.

The application of natural moral law, situation ethics and virtue ethics to:

Issues of human life and death (embryo research; cloning; ‘designer’ babies; abortion, voluntary euthanasia and assisted suicide; capital punishment).

Issues of non-human life and death (use of animals as food; intensive farming; use of animals in scientific procedures; cloning; bloods sports; animals as a source of organs for transplants).

The meaning of right and wrong:

In this unit students will explore different ideas about the criteria for what makes something right or wrong. For example, the idea that right is what causes pleasure and wrong is what causes pain (a Utilitarian perspective).

Free will and moral responsibility:

Students will consider what is required for moral responsibility and whether humans are actually free to choose how to act (libertarianism; hard determinism, compatibilism).


Pupils will explore different ideas about the nature of conscience (God-given or a result of human evolution?) and the role of conscience in making moral decision about telling lies and breaking promises and adultery.

Component 2: Study of religion and dialogues

Section A

In this section students will explore the religious beliefs, teachings, values and practices of Christianity. The content includes:

Sources of wisdom and authority.

Christian beliefs about God.

Beliefs about Self, death and the afterlife.

Beliefs about good conduct and key moral principles.

Ways in which Christians express their religious identity.

Christianity, gender and sexuality.

Development in Christian though, including feminist approaches.

Christianity and Science.

Christianity and secularization.

Christianity, migration and religious pluralism.

Section B: The dialogue between Christianity and philosophy

Students will consider the following issues:

How far the beliefs specified are reasonable.

How meaningful statements of faith are, and for whom.

How coherent the specified beliefs are, and how consistent they are with other beliefs in the belief system.

The relevance of philosophical enquiry for religious faith.

Section C: The dialogue between Christianity and ethics.

Students will consider the following:

Christian responses to deontological, teleological and character based approaches to moral decision making.

How far Christian ethics can be considered deontological, teleological or character based.

Christian responses to the issues of human life and death.

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.

Entry requirements

It is not a requirement that students have studied GCSE Religious Studies.  Anyone who is interested in philosophical and ethical ideas and problems, is open minded, enquiring and enjoys discussion and challenge will enjoy this course. The course does involve reading and extended writing. 


Component :

3 hour written examination.

50% of A-level.

Section A - two compulsory two-part questions.

Section B - two compulsory two-part questions.

Component 2:

3 hour written examination.

50% of A-level.

Section A - two compulsory two-part questions.

Section B – One unstructured synoptic question from a choice of two.

Section C – One unstructured synoptic question from a choice of two.

How to apply

If you want to apply for this course, you will need to contact Newport Girls' High School directly.

Last updated date: 20 October 2016
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Key information

  • Start date: Next September
  • Duration: 1-2 Years


  • More information
    • Transport may be available in conjunction with other providers from Telford, Market Drayton and Wolverhampton.  Public service buses run from Stafford, Telford and Shrewsbury.  A number of local arrangements are also coordinated by parents.  A leaflet detailing bus routes and times is available from the school.