Undergraduate Course: Atheism in Debate: Dawkins, his allies and his opponents (DIVI08002)
|School||School of Divinity
||College||College of Humanities and Social Science
|Credit level (Normal year taken)||SCQF Level 8 (Year 1 Undergraduate)
||Availability||Available to all students
|Summary||This course investigates contemporary atheism and its critics. It considers the great atheists of the past as predecessors to the writings of Richard Dawkins (The God Delusion), Daniel Dennett (Breaking the Spell), Sam Harris (The End of Faith) and Christopher Hitchens (God is not Great), together with fierce rebuttals by their opponents. Visiting students are especially welcome.
The course aims to compare the concerns and arguments of contemporary atheists with those of their predecessors from the Enlightenment onwards. Lectures and tutorials will focus on primary texts from Voltaire to Ayer; the two essays will require students to evaluate contemporary atheist writings in the light of contemporary responses and in the light of the concerns of their predecessors. The themes of suffering and oppression will be especially prominent.
The course deals in strong contrasts between the concerns of 'classical' atheists, including Voltaire, Marx and Nietzsche, and 'contemporary' atheists, including Dawkins, Dennett, Harris and Hitchens. Texts include Voltaire's Candide, Marx's Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right and Nietzsche's Anti-Christ.
Student Learning Experience Information:
The course has a programme of three one-hour weekly lectures plus a one-hour tutorial per week. There will be interactive elements to the lectures, and there are key readings prescribed for each tutorial. Through participation in lecture and tutorial discussions, as well as through the mid-semester essay and the final exam essay in the assessment schedule, students will demonstrate their achievement of the intended learning outcomes.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
||Other requirements|| None
Information for Visiting Students
|Pre-requisites||Visiting students especially welcome. Students should usually have at least one introductory level course in theology or religious studies at grade B or above at university level.
|High Demand Course?
Course Delivery Information
|Not being delivered|
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
- Understand the main texts set for tutorials and show an abilityto summarise a significant body of material concisely and clearly
- Summarise the principal arguments of the atheists and their critics; identify key terms and their meanings; identify their strengths and weaknesses and offer critical analysis of one or more topics in the set texts
- Differentiate the views of the atheists and those of their interpreters
- Demonstrate good judgement about how to judge the relative importance of items on course bibliographies, and of arguments made in individual works.
- Demonstrate the ability to structure an argument using correct grammar (where this is relevant to the shape of an argument) and support claims with reference to relevant primary and secondary literature
Richard Dawkins The God Delusion (Black Swan, 2007)
Daniel Dennett Breaking the Spell (Penguin, 2007)
Sam Harris The End of Faith (Free Press, 2006)
Christopher Hitchens God Is Not Great (Atlantic, 2007)
Gotthold Lessing On the Proof of the Spirit and of Power
David Hume Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding (Section X)
JS Mill Autobiography
AJ Ayer Language Truth and Logic
GWF Hegel Phenomenology of Spirit
DF Strauss Life of Jesus Critically Examined
Ludwig Feuerbach Essence of Christianity
Karl Marx A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel┐s Philosophy of Right
Friedrich Nietzsche: The Antichrist
David Fergusson Faith and its Critics (OUP, 2011)
David Bentley Hart Atheist Delusions (Yale, 2010)
Terry Eagleton Reason, Faith and Revolution (Yale, 2010)
John Humphrys In God We Doubt (Hodder, 2008)
Alister McGrath The Dawkins Delusion (SPCK, 2007)
Michael Poole The New Atheism (Lion Hudson, 2009)
David Robertson The Dawkins Letters (Christian Focus, 2007)
Jonathan Sacks The Great Partnership (Hodder & Stoughton, 2011)
Keith Ward Why There Almost Certainly Is A God (Lion Hudson, 2008)
|Graduate Attributes and Skills
||Ability to summarise difficult material;
Ability to structure arguments logically;
Ability to interpret set texts;
Ability to produce a properly referenced essay.
|Course organiser||Prof David Fergusson
Tel: (0131 6)50 8912
|Course secretary||Ms Katrina Munro
Tel: (0131 6)50 8900