Junior Cert Revision – Section B

Hello third years

Keep up the good studying! Keep revising Section D, but now we’ll also add Section B – Foundations of Religion – Christianity – to the study load.

Read the brief summary of each chapter given here below, then study the chapter in detail. Study the blue notes connected with each chapter.

The Foundations of Religion – Christianity – deals with:

Chapter 5: The Context of Jesus’ Birth – the Holy Land (know map) – The Roman Empire (reasons why Jews and Romans did not get along) – Messianic Expectation – Political and Religious Structures at the time – the Sanhedrin – Tax Collectors – The Temple – The Synagogue

The Holy Land

The country where Jesus lived is known as the Holy Land. This is because the origins of Judaism, Christianity and Islam are found there. At the time of Jesus, the Holy Land was called Palestine. (Today, this country is known as Israel.) Palestine was small, about the size of Northern Ireland. It consisted of three main provinces (regions): Galilee, Samaria and Judaea. It had two lakes: the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea. The River Jordan connected these two lakes. The capital city of Palestine was Jerusalem, in the province of Judaea. There were several small villages and towns, for example, Nazareth and Capernaum in Galilee, and Bethlehem and Jericho in Judaea.

Palestine at the Time of Jesus

Life under Roman Rule

In 63 BC, Palestine was conquered by the Romans and became part of the Roman Empire. The decision to take control of Palestine was a very profitable one for the Romans, as Palestine produced food and other goods for export, including fruit, oil, wine, fish, perfumes and skins. The Romans also imposed heavy taxes on the people to pay for the upkeep of the empire and its armies. The Romans did bring some advantages to Palestine, for example, they built new roads, they improved the water supply in Jerusalem and they constructed many buildings. Under Roman rule, there was also a certain amount of political stability.

Ancient Judaism

Jesus was born into the Jewish faith. The Jewish faith has its origins in God’s special relationship with Abraham and later with Moses. God called Abraham to lead the people from the city of Ur in Mesopotamia (modern-day Iraq) to the land of Canaan. God made a covenant with Abraham whereby Abraham and his followers would be God’s chosen people. In return for this, the people would be asked to obey God’s law.

Abraham’s descendants settled in Canaan, but eventually they moved down to Egypt, where as time went by, they were persecuted and treated as slaves. Hundreds of years later, God sent them a leader, Moses, to free them from slavery. In the book of Exodus, we read of how Moses led the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt and on towards the Promised Land (modern-day Israel). The story of ancient Judaism, of Abraham and Moses, would have been very familiar to Jesus.

Political Structures in the Time of Jesus

Over the centuries, the Israelites had many rulers; first they were ruled by prophets called judges, then by kings, beginning with Saul, then David, then David’s son Solomon. After Solomon’s death, the land was divided into two kingdoms; the Kingdom of Israel and the Kingdom of Judaea. In 63 BC, the Romans conquered the land and called it Palestine. In 40 BC, they appointed Herod as king. Because Herod was not a Jew, the Jewish people never accepted him. At the time of Jesus, Palestine (the Holy Land) was still part of the Roman Empire, and Roman laws and customs were being imposed on the Jewish people. The Jews didn’t like the Romans and there was always a great deal of tension between them. The Roman emperor was called Caesar. He allowed Herod to continue as a token leader (i.e. without any real power), but he sent governors to Palestine to take care of his interests and, therefore, the real power was firmly held by Rome. Pontius Pilate was the Roman governor (procurator) from AD 26 to 36. His job was to keep law and order in Palestine and make sure the Jewish people paid their taxes.

Religious Structures in the Time of Jesus

The Romans found the Jewish faith baffling. They were polytheists and the Jews were monotheists. The Jews called their God Yahweh. (The name ‘Yahweh’ is considered so sacred that it is never said out loud.) The Romans allowed the Jewish people to continue to practise their religion. They saw this as a way of keeping the people happy and so making it easier for them to govern Palestine.

The Sanhedrin

The Sanhedrin was the religious governing body located in Jerusalem. It also served as the highest court of Jewish law in Palestine. The High Priest was president of the Sanhedrin and its members were made up of the Sadducees and Pharisees, two religious groups who disagreed on many issues.

The Romans allowed the Sanhedrin to

            act as a court of law

            punish Jewish people who broke the Jewish law

            keep its own guards who maintained order

This was quite a cunning plan on behalf of the Romans because now they had a situation where the two main Jewish groups were fighting and disagreeing amongst each other and inflicting punishment on their own people for not upholding the strict Jewish laws.

The Temple

All Jewish people wanted to visit the Temple in Jerusalem at least once a year because it was considered the dwelling place of God and Judaism’s most sacred building. The chief authority of the Temple was the High Priest.

The Synagogue

By the time Jesus was born, all towns and cities in Palestine had synagogues. The synagogue was a meeting place for prayer and the study of the Law, and it was run by the elders in the Jewish community. Services were held on the Sabbath and on feast days. Jesus attended the synagogue regularly.

The Sabbath

The Jewish Sabbath begins on Friday evening and ends on Saturday evening. It is considered a holy day and a day of rest. Traditionally, it is traced back to the Ten Commandments given to Moses: ‘Remember to keep holy the Sabbath Day’ (Exodus 20).

The Religious Groups of Ancient Judaism

The Sadducees

Who?                                       Wealthy aristocracy (many of whom where priests)

Do?                                          Controlled the office of the High Priest

Accept?                                   The Torah – the written Law of Judaism

Reject?                                     The ancient traditions of the Pharisees

Why unpopular with poor?        Too powerful and co-operated with the Romans

Believe what about Messiah?    Not waiting for a Messiah; did not believe in resurrection or afterlife of any kind; did not expect to be freed from Romans

The Pharisees

Who?                                       Group of learned laymen who rejected Roman rule

Do?                                          Religious leaders/teachers in local synagogues

Accept?                                   The Torah – the written Law of Judaism

Reject?                                     Those who did not follow the strict law of Torah

Why unpopular with poor?        Too pious and laws too strict

Believe what about Messiah?    Believed in an afterlife, a final judgement day and freedom from Roman rule; expected the Messiah that was promised in Hebrew Scriptures

The Zealots

Who?                                       A revolutionary group

Do?                                          Fought to rid Palestine of Roman authorities

Accept?                                   A violent and military route to freedom

Reject?                                     Romans, peaceful protest, paying taxes

Why unpopular with poor?        Used violence to achieve their goals

Believe what about Messiah?    The Zealots believed that a militant Messiah (one who favoured violence) would come to their rescue and free them from Roman rule; today Zealots would be called terrorists

The Essenes

Who?                                       A community of monks – quiet and prayerful life

Do?                                          Left society to live and pray in the desert

Accept?                                   A peaceful and prayerful religious life

Reject?                                     Corruption and religious carelessness amongst Jews

Why unpopular with poor?        Removed themselves from the rest of society

Believe what about Messiah?    Believed that a Messiah of David would come and bring with him a new kingdom

Messianic Expectation – Waiting for the Messiah

The Jewish people had great hope and expectation. Their hope for the future centred on the arrival of the Messiah. ‘Messiah’ means ‘someone who has been anointed’. In their sacred scriptures, especially in the writings of the prophets, the Jewish people read of the ‘anointed one’ who would be sent by God to bring everlasting peace. It is easy to understand their excitement at the thought of the coming of the Messiah.

Opinions were mixed as to who the Messiah would be. Many believed that he would be a descendant of the great King David, a mighty leader born into luxury and wealth, who would bring them prosperity and liberate them from the Romans. Others looked forward to a savior who would use force if necessary in order to drive the Romans out of Palestine.

Jesus, the Christ

In the beginning, the apostles did not recognise Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of God. Because of the different Jewish interpretations of what the messiah would be like, Jesus did not like to use the term. As they got to know Jesus better, the apostles began to think he might be the Messiah, so they called him ‘Jesus, the Christ’. (‘Christ’ also means ‘the anointed one’.)

It was only after Jesus’ death and resurrection, and with the help of the Holy Spirit, that they fully recognised him as the Son of God.

Chapter 6: Evidence about Jesus – Bible as a source of evidence – The Old Testament and The New Testament – The three stages of writing the Gospels (Life of Jesus, Oral Tradition & Preaching of Disciples, Written Tradition) – Documents of Faith (not a history book) – Historical Documents: Josephus and Tacitus – The Four Evangelists (Details of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) – the three Synoptics – How John is different

The Bible

The word ‘Bible’ comes from the Greek word biblia, meaning ‘books’. The Bible is like a library of books. It is divided into two parts: the Old Testament and the New Testament. Each of these parts contains many different books. The Old Testament and the New Testament are closely linked because, when put together, they tell a single story. 

Old Testament                       46 Books                                New Testament          27 Books

Torah (5)                                                                                  Gospels (4)

Historical Books (16)                                                               Acts (1)

Wisdom Books (7)                                                                   Letters (21)

Prophetic Books (18)                                                               Revelation (1)

The Old Testament tells the story of God’s relationship with the Jewish people before the coming of Jesus. Jewish people call the Old Testament the Hebrew Scriptures.

The New Testament tells the story of the founder of Christianity, Jesus Christ, and of the earliest followers of Christianity. The Gospels belong to the New Testament.

The Bible was written over hundreds of years by different people from different backgrounds. They all had one thing in common: they were inspired by God to put words on what God wanted people to know. For Christians the Bible is a sacred text because they believe that it truly is the Word of God.

Chapter 7: The Person and Preaching of Jesus – The Kingdom of God – Parables – Why Jesus used them – Example and message of at least two – Miracles – four types – Reason Jesus used them – example and meaning of at least two – Table Fellowship: then and now – Discipleship, Beatitudes – Vocation – Mission

The Kingdom of God

Jesus knew that he was called by God to proclaim the idea of God’s rule of the people in a new and radical way. He understood that the Kingdom of God was not a particular place or country; rather, it was a way of life that would create the kind of world that God wants for everybody. The whole world would become one kingdom – the Kingdom of God. The KOG is characterised by TRUTH, JUSTICE, PEACE and LOVE.


Like all great teachers, Jesus knew the value of stories in helping people to understand something new or different. So he told short stories – parables, using examples from the daily lives of the listeners – farmers, fishermen, housewives.

On the surface parables were straight forward, but they had a deeper meaning and were intended to make the people stop and think. They all had a common thread – life in the Kingdom of God.

The Parable of the Good Samaritan:

  • ·        Being a good neighbour has nothing to do with the colour of your skin, the clothes you wear or your religion.
  • ·        It is often the most unlikely person that will come to our aid at the end of the day.

The Parable of the Talents

  • ·        We should use our talents wisely.
  • ·        God loves everyone, even with few or many talents.
  • ·        Using talents wisely leads to happiness with God.

The Parable of the Mustard Seed

  • ·        The Kingdom of God has small beginnings, but will grow into something wonderful.
  • ·        The seed is God’s gift in our hearts – doing something good shows God’s love in our hearts.
  • ·        God is at work all around us.


The Miracles of Jesus

The miracles that Jesus performed are called ‘signs’ in the Gospel of John and this gives a very good indication of their real meaning. The mighty deeds of Jesus are signs of God’s presence in the world bringing an end to suffering and injustice. The miracles are not magic and they are not done for approval – they are signs of the Kingdom.

 Types of Miracles

Miracles of Healing


Miracles of Nature

Restoration to Life


Miracles of Healing – Compassion for the suffering of others

Exorcisms – Directly confronting the power of evil and the suffering it causes

Miracles of Nature – There is no power greater than God in the world

Restored to Life – The love of God

Why was it necessary for Jesus to perform miracles?

Evidence of Jesus’ power over sin, suffering and death was needed, or else his Jewish audience would have ignored his teachings about the Kingdom of God.

  • ·        At that time, most Jews regarded physical suffering as punishment from God for sins
  • ·        They would only believe a person was forgiven if s/he was cured
  • ·        By healing a person, Jesus showed he had authority to forgive sins and that his power to heal came from God and that what he preached to them was true

 Three reasons Jesus worked miracles:

  • ·        To strengthen the faith of those people who already believed in him
  • ·        To reveal God’s power in order to show people that the Kingdom of God had begun in him
  • ·        To demonstrate God’s unlimited love for each and every human being, regardless of their race or religion

The Beatitudes

In the eight Beatitudes, Jesus outlines 2 dimensions of the Kingdom of God:

1.        In the first four, he mentions certain situations that are to be found in this world but will be reversed in the Kingdom of God. Those who are poor, sad and downtrodden will not be forgotten by God.

2.        In the second four, Jesus outlines the attitudes and behaviour that will help bring about the Kingdom. Followers of Jesus are encouraged to be compassionate, dedicated to God, and to work for justice and peace.


Chapter 8: The Death and Resurrection of Jesus – Conflict with Authority – Jesus and the Sadducees – Jesus and the Pharisees – the first Holy Week – the first Palm Sunday – Jesus in the Temple – Sadducees felt worried and threatened – Judas’ deal – The Last Supper – similarities with Passover meal: memorial and sacrifice – The arrest of Jesus – the Religious Trial (Sanhedrin) – The Political Trial (Pontius Pilate) – The Whipping and Humiliation of Jesus – His journey to death – How the disciples felt – The Resurrection: what the Gospels tell us – The Road to Emmaus – Presence – Transformation

Jesus enters Jerusalem

After a number of years of preaching and miracles, mainly in Galilee (Nazareth, Sea of Galilee, Cana etc), Jesus made a very conscious and deliberate decision to go to Jerusalem (in Judaea) and proclaim the kingdom in word and deed there. He was aware of growing opposition to his teaching.

For Jews, Jerusalem was not only their capital city but also the site of the Temple which they considered to be the holiest place on earth – a meeting point between God and the people. It was also a place of hope, for the Jewish people believed that the Messiah would reveal himself in Jerusalem.

It was in the spring of 33AD that Jesus travelled to Jerusalem, to be one of the estimated 200,000 people who celebrated the annual feast of Passover in the city. At Passover, the Jewish people celebrated their ancestor’s escape from Egypt to become God’s chosen people.

What occurred in Jerusalem over the next eight days is dealt with in detail in each of the four Gospels, and is celebrated each year by Christians as the cornerstone of their faith. It is known as HOLY WEEK.

Chapter 9: Faith in Christ – Events after the Resurrection – Ascension – Pentecost – Missionary Work (Acts of the Apostles) – Characteristics of the First Christian Communities – Dangers they faced – St Stephen: one of the first Christian Martyrs – Saul to Paul – Paul’s Missionary Journeys and Letters – The People of God

This ‘prezi’ (online presentation) may be useful for some aspects of Chapter 9: http://prezi.com/prjbfwctahc9/the-formation-of-the-early-church/

Chapter 9: Titles for Jesus (Higher Level) – Son of Man – Son of God – New Creation – Christ/Messiah

This prezi is a brief (lacks essential details) summary of the titles of Jesus: http://prezi.com/fiaixkg6b-fj/different-titles-for-jesus/

Good luck everybody with all the revision. Make sure you know every detail of Section B. (Don’t forget to keep revising Section D.)

I will post some past exam questions dealing with Section B before 5pm on Tuesday 10th April. Keep studying hard!!

Best wishes everyone and Happy Easter!

Junior Cert Revision – Section D

Hello third years,

The following revision guide is aimed at Higher Level students, but Ordinary Level will also benefit. The guide is colour coded. Black represents general explanatory notes. Blue represents detailed notes on different aspects of a section. Plum represents questions from past papers. Finally, green represents sample answers to past exam questions.

We’re starting with Section D – The Question of Faith. Read the brief summary of each chapter, then study the chapter. Study the blue notes connected with the higher level section.

The Question of Faith deals with:

Chapter 14: The Situation of Faith Today – the difference between religious belief and religious practice – the political and historical events in the 20th century that have had an impact on religious belief and practice: The Holocaust, fall of communism, Second Vatican Council – changes in practice in Ireland eg mass attendance and vocations – the bigger picture ie World Youth Day and national/global prayers in times of need – influences on the faith of an adolescent.

Chapter 15: The Beginnings of Faith – asking questions – simple vs ‘big’ questions (What time is it? vs Why do people suffer? What happens when we die? – a sign of maturity – the search for meaning – sources of meaning eg family, friends, sport, friendship with God, being popular, money, helping others, work etc – religion: awe and wonder – non-religious repsonse: humanism.

Chapter 16: The Growth of Faith – images of God – images of God from scripture eg forgiving and compassionate, a caring comforting mother, a protecting shepherd, a rock – personal faith: childhood, adolescent and mature faith

Chapter 17: The Expression of Faith – prayer – prayer and music: Liam Lawton/Mary J.Blige – Worship – People of Religious Faith: Mother Teresa, Frances Margaret Taylor, Edmund Rice – monotheism and polytheism.

Mother Teresa

Mother Teresa of Calcutta was a Roman Catholic nun and founder of the Missionaries of Charity order. She was born on 27th August 1910 in Skopje (in what is now Macedonia) and she died on September 5th 1997. She dedicated her life to helping the poor people who lived in the slums of Calcutta.

When she was 18, she joined the Loreto Sisters and spent some time in Dublin. She then moved to Calcutta and from 1929 to 1948 Mother Teresa taught at St. Mary’s High School in Calcutta. But the suffering and poverty she glimpsed outside the convent walls made such a deep impression on her that in 1946 she received permission from her superiors to leave the convent school and devote herself to working among the poor in the slums of the city. Although she had no funds, she started an open-air school for homeless children. Soon she was joined by voluntary helpers, and financial support was received from various church organisations. She then gained the cooperation of the municipal authorities. This made it possible for her to extend the scope of her work, and on October 7th 1950 she received permission to start her own order ‘The Missionaries of Charity’, whose primary task was to love and care for those persons nobody was prepared to look after. The habit she chose for her order was a white sari with a blue border – similar to traditional Indian dress.

Her inspiring vision gave others the encouragement to follow in her footsteps. Today over 5000 sisters, brothers and volunteers run approximately 500 centres worldwide and continue her ministry, each of them in different roles.

In recognition of her efforts, Mother Teresa was bestowed many awards, including the Pope John XXIII Peace Prize in 1971 and the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979. Mother Teresa accepted all awards on behalf of the poor, using any money that accompanied them to fund her centres.

On 19th October 2003 she took the first step towards sainthood and was beatified by Pope John Paul II. This means that she is now referred to as Blessed. In order for this to happen, a miracle had to take place in her name. Monica Besra, a woman from West Bengal provided such a miracle. She had a tumour in her abdomen and prayed regularly to Mother Teresa. The tumour vanished and the Vatican declared it to be a true miracle. Monica Besra attended the beatification ceremony.

In order for Mother Teresa to become a saint, one more miracle must occur in her name.

However, to the people of Calcutta, Mother Teresa is already a saint. She dedicated her life to living the gospel message of ‘love thy neighbour’. She gave dignity and showed respect to those who others would ignore. She showed commitment in her service of the weakest and most vulnerable of society. People of all religions appreciate the work she did while she was alive and even though most people in India follow the Hindu religion, Indians still visit Mother Teresa’s grave and support the work of her order.

Chapter 18: Challenges to Faith – Higher Level Only: World View – Theism – Atheism – Agnosticism – Secularism – Materialism

World Views

 Religious World Views

Theism is belief in God. Christians, Jews and Muslims are monotheists. They believe in one God who created the world and who guides and sustains the world out of love.

  •  Christians believe God revealed himself through Jesus Christ the Son of God.


  • Jews believe God revealed himself through Abraham and Moses.


  • Muslims believe God revealed himself through the messages given to the prophet Muhammad.


  • Polytheism is belief in many gods. Hindus believe in many gods, and in their gods’ benign influence on the earth.


  • Buddhists do not believe in God or gods, but they do believe in something that is ‘timeless and formless’.


The Christian World View


Christians believe in God and see the world from a religious point of view. Christians believe:


  • God is the creator of the world.


  • Human beings are created in the image of God.


  • God speaks through the Bible.


  • Jesus the Son of God entered human history as saviour of the world.


  • Jesus taught his followers ‘to love and respect God and their neighbour’ as the guiding principle in life.


  • The Holy Spirit helps people to follow the teaching of Jesus.


  • God is near and cares for each person.

Non-religious World Views

While some ways of understanding the world are based on religious belief, other ways of understanding the world are unrelated to religion. A growing number of people in our society make sense of the world from a non-religious viewpoint.

To the question ‘Does God exist?’ there are different responses.


Atheism is a view that denies the existence of God. Atheists do not believe that God or gods exist. From an atheist’s point of view there is no God. God is not real.


Agnosticism is the view that human beings cannot know for certain whether or not God exists. There is simply not enough evidence to prove it one way or the other. Agnostics claim that no one can say for definite that there is a God or that there is no God.


Materialism is the view that only material things are real. Something is real if it can be physically seen, touched, weighed and measured. The physical world is the only reality, nothing else exists. God does not exist.

Materialism also has another related meaning. A materialistic way of life is about having lots of money, lots of possessions and enjoying oneself as much as possible. Accumulating material things becomes important when it is accepted that only material things matter in life.


Secularism is the view that organised religion should have no direct influence on society. Secularists are opposed to the influence of religion in public life. Secularism claims that God and religion are simply not relevant any more.

From a secularist point of view, if someone has religious beliefs then it should be a private matter. Religious activity should not enter the public domain. Religion should not in any way be supported by the State. In fact, Church and State should be completely separate. This means that religions or religious groups should not receive any kind of special treatment from the State.

Challenges to Religious Experience

The Example of Materialism

Materialists claim that the only real things are material things. Something is real if we can see it, touch it, hear it, taste it or smell it. If something can be examined by the senses then it is real. If it cannot, then it is not real and does not exist.

Everything around us, in a classroom, for example, is real in the materialist sense. The chair, the desk, the book, the wall, the window, can all be examined by the senses. The people around us are material too. We can see and hear ourselves and others: we are real.

However, there are things about us that we cannot see, touch or hear. We cannot see, hear or touch our ideas, our beliefs or our feelings, yet most people would agree that they are real and are a very important part of our lives. Humans therefore are not simply material beings, we are both material and spiritual beings.

God, on the other hand, is quite different. We cannot see, hear or touch God. God is not material; God is totally spiritual. Human beings communicate with God through the spiritual aspect of their own nature. Religion is the way that people connect with the spiritual side of life.

A Challenge to Religious Faith

Materialism poses a challenge to religion and religious experience. It claims that only material things are real. On that basis the spiritual nature of human beings is not real. God is not real. Religion does not matter.

The materialist outlook is very persuasive and has been the basis of scientific thought for over 300 years. Materialists claim that the scientific way of looking at things is the only way. Scientific truth is the only truth. The materialist outlook can undermine people’s confidence in religious truth as a valid form of human knowledge. There are vast areas of human experience that are not suited to testing by the scientific method. From the point of view of religion, the spiritual dimension of life and the search for God is no less real than other aspects of life.



  1. Find out more about secularism.
  2. In the secularist’s desire to separate the sacred and the secular, what is their position on one of the following issues?
  3. What is the position of some Church authorities on the same issue?
  • Religious schools
  • Religious education
  • Religion and Public Broadcasting

Chapter 18: Challenges to Faith – Higher Level Only: Religion and Science – religious view of creation – fundamentalism – scientific views: Galileo, Darwin, Big Bang, Working Together

Science and Religion

World View

Both science and religion help us to know and understand the world.

A world view is a set of ideas about what the world is like. Religion and science have a different outlook and different views on life and the universe.


  • Science is about examining things that can be seen, weighed and measured.
  • Religion is about belief in things that cannot be seen but can be experienced.


Science and religion have been regarded as rival forms of knowledge since the time of the Enlightenment in the 17th century. Up to that time people saw the world in religious terms. God was behind everything and only God could understand it all. From the time of the Enlightenment people began to see the world in scientific terms. Natural laws governed everything and these laws could be understood by human reason alone.

The idea that religion and science are opposed took hold when the Catholic Church banned the work of two scientists whose discoveries affect the way we understand the world.

  • Galileo Galilei in the 17th century
  • Charles Darwin in the 19th century

Scientific World View


Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) was an Italian astronomer, a scientist who studied the planets and the stars. He built a powerful telescope and discovered mountains and craters on the moon. Then he discovered four moons circling, or orbiting, the planet Jupiter. On the basis of this observation he was soon able to prove, as Copernicus had noted before him, that the Earth orbited the sun.

This was exciting news. Up to that point, everyone believed the Earth was the centre of the universe. Galileo’s information turned that idea upside down. He later wrote a book outlining his discoveries.

Important people in the Catholic Church at the time became worried by these new developments. The Church has always taught that God has a special relationship with humanity. The Bible therefore seemed to say that the Earth was the centre of the universe. Galileo’s new ideas contradicted that view. Church leaders reacted quickly and Galileo was put on trial in Rome. As a result his writings were banned and he was kept under house arrest for the remainder of his life.

Years later the Church apologised and went on to accept Galileo’s findings, but the damage was done. People now had the idea that science and religion were opposed to each other, that somehow there was a major conflict between the world of science and the world of religion.


Charles Darwin (1809-1882), a British scientist, wrote a book entitled ‘On the Origin of Species’. In this book he put forward a theory of evolution. It stated that all life on the planet, including human life, had developed from much simpler forms of live over millions of years. Some life forms were able to adapt to the environment in which they lived, they were flexible and able to change to suit their surroundings.

If a species was able to adapt then it survived, otherwise it died out and became extinct. Darwin called this process ‘natural selection’.

Darwin’s ideas caused a sensation. Up to that point people understood that life according to the Bible was created in six days. Darwin’s new theory stated that life developed slowly, over millions of years. This scientific theory of evolution seemed to contradict the religious view of God as creator. As such, Darwin’s work was seen as a challenge to the wisdom and authority of the Bible and the Church. His writings were quickly condemned.

One of the main concerns at the time was what Darwin’s theory seemed to imply about the place of human beings in the world. The Church had always taught that human beings were created in a special way and were different from all other creatures. In Darwin’s theory all life had evolved from simpler forms. Human beings appeared, therefore, to have no special status, but were on the same level as everything else.

In the clash between religion and science it seemed that faith and reason were once again opposed to each other.

Religious World View

The Book of Genesis in the Bible

Christian views on the origin of the world and life on Earth are contained in the Bible, in the Book of Genesis.

Genesis is not a scientific account of how the world began. The purpose of the creation stories in Genesis is not to give a factual account of the origin of the world, or how animal and plant life came to be. That is the role of science. The creation story in Genesis is a religious account explaining why the world came to be. The world was created out of the goodness and love of God. From the point of view of religion, it does not matter whether the world was created in six days or over millions of years. The important religious truth is that the world is a gift from God. The writers of Genesis were not scientists but religious Jews who used poetic language to convey important religious truths such as:

  • God created the world.
  • God’s world is created by design.
  • God’s world is good.
  • God created human beings as the high point of creation.


Fundamentalism is an outlook among some religious groups that their sacred text is a factual account to be taken literally word for word. Fundamentalists reject scientific discoveries that do not match a literal interpretation of their sacred text.

Christian fundamentalists believe that everything in the Bible is literally true. They believe, for example, that the Genesis account of creation is factual: the world was created in six days and each ‘day’ was a twenty-four hour period. While a minority of Christians take the Bible literally today, most people took the Bible literally at the time of Galileo and Darwin in the 17th and 19th centuries.

Today new advances in Bible research show that the creation accounts in Genesis are not factual accounts of how the world was made. The writers of Genesis were not scientists. They were not trying to answer the question of how the world was made. That is a scientific question. The writers of Genesis had another purpose in mind altogether. Genesis was written to help people understand why the world was made, and that is a religious question.

Science and Religion

Science explains how the world was made. Religion explains why the world was made. Science and religion are two separate disciplines, asking different kinds of questions and providing different types of answers. We cannot judge one by the standard of the other.

Science and religion are two distinct and equally valuable forms of knowledge. One is not better than the other, they are simply different. There is room for both. We now know that the Bible is a religious book, and the creation account in Genesis teaches an important religious truth – that God created the world out of goodness and love.

There has been a big effort in recent years to heal the conflict and misunderstanding that has arisen between science and religion. In 1979 Pope John Paul II admitted the wrong done to Galileo long ago. In his statement the Pope quoted Galileo’s own words. ‘The Bible teaches us how to go to heaven and not how the heavens move.’


Many Church leaders today see little conflict between religion and science. Darwin’s theory of evolution explains how life began; the book of Genesis explains why it began. Most Christians can accept some form of Darwin’s theory of evolution.

Religion and science see the world from different points of view. The two forms of knowledge can work together, and need not contradict each other. Both add something valuable to our understanding of the world.

Points of Contact

The main point of contact between science and religion is that both accept that there is order and design in the universe. The world is just too complicated and too beautiful to have happened merely by accident.

Take for example the human eye. The eye is a wonder of creation. A scientist can examine it and explain its internal workings in minute detail. The interdependency of all its parts are a matter of awe and amazement.

A person of religious faith will have the benefit of all this information. He or she can then reflect of the perfection of the human eye and see the hand of God in its creation. The response of the religious person is to marvel and give thanks to God.

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881-155) was a French Roman Catholic priest and a renowned scientist. He was highly respected for his work in physics, geology, palaeontology (the study of ancient things), and theology (the study of God). Teilhard de Chardin spent a great deal of his life in scientific research. He was part of a team that excavated ancient sites in China, resulting in the discovery of ‘Peking Man’, thought to be nearly 500,000 years old.

Teilhard de Chardin believed scientific work enriched his religious understanding of God as creator. The more he discovered about the world of nature, the more he saw the creative hand of God at work. For him, science and scientific research were ways of getting closer to God. He wrote about his insights in two famous books: ‘The Phenomenon of Man’ and ‘The Hymn of the Universe’.


  1. Science and religion share the belief that the universe is ordered; it is not chaotic. Can you show where order is obvious in the world of nature?
  2. Identify things in the natural world that are wonderful and awe inspiring in their order, design and complexity.

(Many thanks to Mrs Meighan for the notes in blue.)


Reference to exam questions and sample answers will be posted before 11am on Sunday 1st April (and that’s no joke!)

Best wishes everyone – enjoy, be safe and do some work!