Ethos Education

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: How do we determine whether claims for God’s existence are believable?

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Learning Objectives:

  • Understand some of the reasons for believing (or not believing) in the existence of God.
  • Knowledge of ways in which, according to believers, God can be known.

Learning Outcomes:

  • Students will reflect on the difficulty of determining truth when there is limited evidence.
  • Reflect on what evidence they would require to come to a decision about whether to believe in the existence of God.
  • Evaluate the roles of evidence and experience in exploring the notion of truth.
  • Analyse the basis for Christian claims for the existence of God.
  • Synthesise learning by compiling lists of reasons to believe or disbelieve Christian arguments for the existence of God, and then by writing a short statement based on those lists.

Supporting Values Education:

The value of mutual respect between those of different faiths and beliefs is based on a belief that humans are able to weigh the evidence for religious belief and come to their own conclusions on the matter. This lesson encourages students to consider the basis for reaching such conclusions.

STARTER:

Play ‘No-clue Cluedo’. Display a list of the Cluedo suspects, weapons and rooms at the front. This game is based on the original version of the classic board game, not the recently revamped one. In case any students have never played the original form of the game, explain that in it, players gather clues to solve a murder, attempting to identify the murderer, the murder weapon and the place where the murder took place. No-clue Cluedo works in exactly the same way, but there are no clues – simply a list of possible suspects, weapons and places. For your reference, here is the full list of official Cluedo clues:

Suspects:

  • Colonel Mustard
  • Miss Scarlet
  • Professor Plum
  • Reverend Green
  • Mrs White
  • Mrs Peacock

Weapons:

  • Dagger
  • Revolver
  • Lead piping
  • Candlestick
  • Rope
  • Spanner

Rooms:

  • Hall
  • Lounge
  • Dining room
  • Kitchen
  • Ballroom
  • Conservatory
  • Billiard room
  • Library
  • Study

In advance of the lesson, prepare an envelope with the correct solution (one suspect, one weapon, one location) inside it. Ask the students to write down which cards they think are inside the envelope, then swap their answers with another student. You could offer a prize for the correct answer if you wanted to (the chances are that you won’t have to give it out to anyone, but only offer something that you are prepared to give away, just in case). Reveal the solution and find out whether anyone has won. Point out that it is impossible to work out the right answer without any clues (if anyone did happen to get the right answer, make the point that they didn’t work it out, they just got lucky and had no more insight than anyone else in the class). Ask the students what kind of evidence would have helped them to guess the solution more accurately.

Explain that in this lesson you will be considering how we know what is true and what helps us decide whether to believe in something.

MAIN ACTIVITIES:

Introduce the clip from the film Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (Lionsgate, 2016, certificate 15). Click here to buy the DVD online.

This scene they are about to see comes from the beginning of the film, so the context is explained within it. Ask them to pay particular attention to Darcy’s (Sam Riley) dilemma: how does he determine whether a zombie has hidden himself in a room of healthy human beings, with no apparent clues to aid him?

  • Start time: 0.00.55 (in chapter 1 of the DVD)
  • End time: 0.05.45
  • Clip length: 4 minutes and 50 seconds

The clip begins with a horseman galloping past soldiers on guard duty across a bridge. It is the very beginning of the film, after the production company credits. It ends after Darcy cuts off the zombie’s head. The final line is Darcy saying, ‘Good evening’ and leaving.

Ask the students how Darcy found the zombie? Draw out from them that the carrion flies he carried with him were drawn to dead flesh, thus enabling him to locate his zombie. Explain that although the task seemed hopeless at first, Darcy was able to focus on key facts that helped him to reach the correct conclusion.

Put the students into small groups and ask each group to discuss what evidence might be required to help them to weigh up whether to believe claims supporting the existence of God. Give them a few minutes to discuss, then allow the groups to feed their conclusions back to the whole class.

If it comes up naturally, point out that some people might say that they would believe in God if he actually made himself known to them, rather than being an unseen, unfelt presence (or, depending on your point of view, absence). Explain that many Christians would argue that their claims about the existence of God are based, at least in part, on personal experience. For the rest of this lesson you are going to help the students to explore those claims.

Get the students to read John 1:14 and 18. Explain that ‘the Word’ is Jesus, who Christians believe is God come to earth as a human. Discuss what implications these verses have for what Christians understand to be true about God.

Hand out the William Lane Craig worksheet and ask the students to consider why Dr William Lane Craig decided to believe in God. (Dr William Lane Craig is a respected philosopher and Christian speaker whose work is part of the WJEC Philosophy and Ethics ‘A’ level syllabus. The story on this worksheet is taken from www.leaderu.com/offices/billcraig/docs/craig-curley08.html where it is part of a larger debate between Dr Craig and Dr Edwin Curley on the existence (or otherwise) of God. You could refer more able students to the full transcript of the debate to provide differentiation within this lesson.) Ask the students to write down the main reasons why experience might prompt people to believe something is true, as well as writing down any objections they can think of to these arguments.

SUMMARY AND ASSESSMENT OF LEARNING:

Ask the students to prepare a list of reasons for trusting the evidence cited by Christians for believing in the existence of God, and a parallel list of reasons to not trust that evidence. Students should use their lists to write a short statement about the merits of believing (or not believing) in God. They can choose to let this statement reflect their own personal point of view, or to generally address the issue of weighing evidence and coming to a decision without nailing their own colours to the mast. You might want to remind them that they won’t be marked for coming to the ‘right’ conclusion (whatever you deem that to be), only for demonstrating their understanding of the relevant issues.

YOU WILL NEED:

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