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Religious Studies, Philosophy and Ethics – What students will learn from the courses

This subject has much to teach us and equip us for living in today’s multi-cultural and multi-faith society. Students gain a much better understanding of the importance of faith to millions of people world-wide and how it impacts on their culture and society. Much of British history has been formed with the influence of the institutions such as the Church or people of faith: the formation of hospitals, schools, universities, prison reform and the abolition of slavery. The influence of some of these measures has impacted across the globe.

In today’s RS we study Philosophy and Ethics as part of the curriculum. These subjects again have greatly influenced British politics and law. The Philosophers of the Enlightenment period: John Locke, Voltaire, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Immanuel Kant, David Hume, Rene Descartes, Adam Smith and Francis Bacon are just some of the many philosophers who radically changed thinking, challenging religious belief and promoting logic and the use of scientific evidence to prove understanding.

Politics has also been influenced by the Philosophers of their age. Voltaire, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Denis Diderot and Montesquieu played an important role in inspiring the populace to rise up and fight against injustices of the King and ruling classes which led to the French Revolution (1789 – 1799). Karl Marx is considered the Father of Communism, a political system which seemingly empowered the working classes and fought against the injustices of the ruling classes. Communism was adopted by the Russian people following the Russian Revolution (1917-1923) forming the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). Many satellite states also became communist under the Soviet banner. The People’s Republic of China was formed in 1949 by leader Mao Zedong. Today, only China, Cuba, Laos and Vietnam are known as Communist countries, but the influence of a super-state such as China is very important.

Students can find difficulties in studying the many different faiths included in the curriculum and may also struggle with their languages such as Hebrew, Arabic and Sanskrit.  Philosophers need to be recognized by their teaching, but also the period in which they taught and published their works. Scientific knowledge also influenced them, so students should make a time-line to keep these facts in view for written work.

Ethics is a key topic today for RS. It is important that students are able to have an informed, factual view on the many ethically challenging situations we face in today’s world: abortion, euthanasia, just war, climate change, human rights, human slavery, diversity and equality, child labor and addiction. These are some of the issues which may be studied and need to be addressed in our world.