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Unit information: Atheism in 2019/20

Please note: Due to alternative arrangements for teaching and assessment in place from 18 March 2020 to mitigate against the restrictions in place due to COVID-19, information shown for 2019/20 may not always be accurate.

Please note: you are viewing unit and programme information for a past academic year. Please see the current academic year for up to date information.

Unit name Atheism
Unit code THRS30050
Credit points 20
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Dr. David Leech
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of Religion and Theology
Faculty Faculty of Arts


Today atheism is a major option for interpreting the world. This unit explores key issues in philosophy of religion through the lens of philosophical atheism. It explores the emergence of philosophical atheism as a rejection of forms of early modern philosophical theology, and examines contemporary atheist arguments proposed by atheist philosophers of religion. Topics addressed include atheism and meaning, atheism and the problem of evil, and atheist claims about the incoherence of God-talk.

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this unit students will have (1) developed a thorough understanding of the historical development of modern philosophical atheism; (2) demonstrated an ability to articulate and criticise contemporary atheist positions in philosophy of religion and their theist and non-theist alternatives; (3) gained the ability to think critically about whether the historical development of atheism might have a bearing on the validity of some contemporary atheist critiques of religion; (4) demonstrated the ability to identify and evaluate pertinent evidence/data in order to illustrate/demonstrate a cogent argument. Additionally, as part of a level 6/H unit, students will be expected to (5) display high level skills in evaluating, analysing, synthesising and (where apt) critiquing images and ideas.

Teaching details

Seminars - 3 hours per week

Assessment Details

One summative coursework essay of 3000 words (50%) and one unseen examination of two hours comprising 2 questions out of 6 (50%).

Reading and References

Buckley, Michael J. Denying and disclosing God :the ambiguous progress of modern atheism. New Haven, Conn.; London: Yale University Press, 2004. BL2747.3 BUC. The Cambridge companion to atheism. Edited by Michael Martin. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007. Electronic Version. Turner, Denys. How to be an atheist. New Blackfriars, Volume 83, Issue 977-978, pages 317335, July 2002. Serial BX3501.N4. Everitt, Nicholas. The non-existence of God. London: Routledge, 2004. BL2747.3 EVE. Westphal, Merold. Suspicion and faith : the religious uses of modern atheism. New York: Fordham University Press,1998. BR128.A8 WES.