Religion & Society

Why Study Religion & Society?

The beliefs, values and ideas of religious traditions can play an important part in shaping and maintaining culture. Religious beliefs about the nature of existence and the purpose of human life provide a frame of reference for understanding the world and for guiding daily personal and communal action.

VCE Religion and Society is designed for students to engage with the great questions of life. It aims to develop understanding and respect for the perceptions of the participants in religious traditions. It values and promotes open inquiry, without bias towards any one tradition, while drawing on the personal and collective experience of the students.

Structure

The study is made up of four units:


Unit 1: Religion in society
Unit 2: Ethics and morality
Unit 3: The search for meaning
Unit 4: Challenge and response

Each unit deals with specific content and is designed to enable students to achieve a set of outcomes. Each outcome is described in terms of key knowledge and skills.

Outcomes

Outcomes define what students will know and be able to do as a result of undertaking the study.

Outcomes include a summary statement and the key knowledge and skills that underpin them. Only the summary statements have been reproduced below and must be read in conjunction with the key knowledge and skills published in the study design.

Unit 1 - Religion in society

In this unit students explore the origins of religion, identifying the nature and purpose of religion past and present. They investigate the contribution of religion to the development of human society and then focus on the role of religious traditions in shaping personal and group identity. Students examine how religious traditions are affected and changed by individuals and groups. The unit provides the opportunity for students to understand the often complex relationships that exist between individuals, groups, religious traditions and the society in which they live.

Throughout this unit at least two religious traditions should be studied. Different religious traditions may be selected for each area of study. Religious traditions to be studied are to be chosen from more than one of the following groups:
• Religions of ancient civilisations (for example, Mesopotamian, Babylonian, Egyptian, Canaanite, Roman, Greek)
• Primal religions (for example, Australian Aboriginal religions, religions of the Pacific islands)
• Asian religions (for example, Buddhism, Hinduism, Chinese religions)
• Abrahamic religions (for example, Judaism, Christianity and Islam).

Outcome 1
On completion of this unit the student should be able to explain the role of religion in society.
Outcome 2
On completion of this unit the student should be able to explain the expression of collective identity of particular religious traditions in Australia, and the interaction of these traditions with other religious traditions and wider society.
Outcome 3
On completion of this unit the student should be able to recognise and discuss the interplay between the identity of members, as individuals or as specific communities, and their religious tradition.

Unit 2 - Ethics and morality

Choosing which values to live by in principle and in practice is fundamental to being human. Ethics is a discipline that investigates the various methods for making ethical decisions; it involves reflection on what ‘right’ and ‘wrong’, and ‘good’ and ‘bad’ mean when applied to human decisions and actions. Ethics is concerned with discovering principles that guide practical moral judgment. Ethics is particularly concerned with the justification for moral choices – identifying the arguments and analysing the reasoning behind them. Ethical questions are raised at the personal, family, local, wider community, national and global level.

Unlike morality, ethics is not just a matter of individual awareness and personal decision-making. Family, community and traditional connections tie people together and provide an ethical background to guide what individuals do, supporting some choices and disapproving of others. This background is enmeshed with the dominant religious and philosophical traditions of the times. Today, religious and philosophical traditions compete with powerful alternative sources of moral values represented in the media and popular culture. Nevertheless, society still relies on cultural heritages that contain a variety of ethical perspectives as well as numerous values centred on human dignity and basic justice. These various values remain fundamental to legal and social systems, and constitute the everyday categories of ethical discourse in the modern world. They are taken by the individuals and groups that hold them to be the starting point and common ground for ethical discussion in pluralist society.

In this unit students survey various approaches to ethical decision-making and then explore at least two religious traditions in detail. They explore contemporary ethical issues in the light of their investigations into ethical decision-making and ethical perspectives, and moral viewpoints in religious traditions.

Outcome 1
On completion of this unit the student should be able to explain ethical decision-making in pluralist society.
Outcome 2
On completion of this unit the student should be able to explain the ethical perspectives and moral viewpoints upheld by at least two religious traditions in pluralist society.
Outcome 3
On completion of this unit the student should be able to analyse and evaluate two or more debates on contemporary ethical issues in pluralist society.

Unit 3 - The search for meaning

Across time and cultures, humanity has sought to understand the why and how of existence. In this quest humans have consistently posed big questions of life such as: Where did we come from? Is there someone or something greater than us – an ultimate reality? What is the purpose of our existence? How should we live? Why do we die? Is there anything beyond death? In response to this quest for meaning, religions have developed systems of belief that have offered ways of establishing meaning and purpose – not only for human existence but also for all that exists. Such religious beliefs have also attempted to explain the nature of relationships between humans, between humans and the rest of the natural world, and between humans and ultimate reality.

In this unit students begin by studying the religious beliefs developed by one or more than one religious tradition in response to the big questions of life. They explore the ways in which these religious beliefs create meaning for religious traditions and their members. The religious beliefs of any religion arise from the beliefs held about ultimate reality, and these in turn inform particular beliefs about human existence; about its meaning, purpose and destiny. Religious beliefs may be expressed through the other aspects of religion, such as myths and other stories, sacred texts and other religious writings (such as formal creeds), rituals, symbols, social structures, ethical principles and oral or written codes of behaviour, religious experience and spirituality.
Students undertake a general investigation of religious traditions in Unit 3. Within this investigation, they focus on a particular example from one or more than one religious tradition for each area of study. The particular examples for investigation should demonstrate many of the characteristics discovered in the general investigation of religious traditions for each area of study.

Outcome 1
On completion of this unit the student should be able to explain the nature, purpose and expression of religious beliefs generally and for one or more than one religious tradition.
Outcome 2

On completion of this unit the student should be able to analyse the maintenance of religious beliefs for continuity in religious traditions.

Outcome 3
On completion of this unit the student should be able to explain and draw conclusions about the interplay between religious beliefs and significant life experiences.

Unit 4 - Challenge and response

The focus of Unit 4 is the interaction of religious traditions and the societies of which they are a part. Religious traditions are dynamic, living institutions that contribute in many ways, both positively and negatively, to wider societies – stimulating, supporting, as levers for change or resisting changes in those societies. Religious traditions also change over time; this change may be in the form of growth or decline or both. The eight aspects of religion provide a framework for understanding these changes that happen as religious traditions respond to the internal challenges arising from the needs and insights of their membership, and to the external challenges provoked by changes in the wider society. The impetus for these changes in society may come from religious traditions themselves or from other groups, individuals, events or movements within the wider society.

In this unit students explore challenge and response in historical and contemporary contexts. Students investigate historical challenges to religious traditions arising internally and externally. They explore the challenge to religious traditions in contemporary pluralistic society for action on behalf of social justice and for assessment of new problems arising from social and technological change.

Outcome 1
On completion of this unit the student should be able to analyse how one or more than one religious tradition/s responded to a significant historical internal or external challenge, and evaluate the outcome for the religious tradition/s.
Outcome 2
On completion of this unit the student should be able to analyse the interplay between religious beliefs and their developed vision of religious tradition/s for society in response to contemporary challenge.

Assessment

Satisfactory Completion

Demonstrated achievement of the set of outcomes specified for the unit.

Levels of Achievement

Units 1 and 2

Individual school decision on levels of achievement.

Units 3 and 4

The Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority will supervise the assessment of all students undertaking Units 3 and 4.

Percentage contributions to the study score in VCE Religion and Society are as follows:

• Unit 3 School-assessed Coursework: 25 per cent
• Unit 4 School-assessed Coursework: 25 per cent
• End-of-year examination: 50 per cent.

Version: V 6.5.0.0 CMS 6.1.379.0  23/05/2014