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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Divinity : Divinity

Undergraduate Course: Atheism in Debate: Dawkins, his allies and his opponents (DIVI08002)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Divinity CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 8 (Year 1 Undergraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThis 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.
Course description Academic Description:
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.

Syllabus/Outline Content:
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)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
Pre-requisitesVisiting 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? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Not being delivered
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Understand the main texts set for tutorials and show an abilityto summarise a significant body of material concisely and clearly
  2. 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
  3. Differentiate the views of the atheists and those of their interpreters
  4. Demonstrate good judgement about how to judge the relative importance of items on course bibliographies, and of arguments made in individual works.
  5. 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
Reading List
Primary Texts:

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)

Historical Texts:

Voltaire Candide
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

Secondary Texts:

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)
Additional Information
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 organiserProf David Fergusson
Tel: (0131 6)50 8912
Course secretaryMs Katrina Munro
Tel: (0131 6)50 8900
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