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Developing your interest in Religion, Philosophy of Religion and Ethics

How can you find out if studying Theology, Religion and Philosophy of Religion is for you?

Reading widely, and exploring different areas of theology, religion and philosophy of religion is a good place to start. It can also help your application stand out in terms of supercurriculars. We've put together a list of books (fiction and non-fiction), podcasts, free courses and videos to help you find out more about your own interests and work out whether studying Theology, Religion and Philosophy of Religion is for you.

This is not a 'required reading' list, nor is there any expectation prospective candidates explore these suggestions. If you are intending to apply to Cambridge, there is guidance regarding your personal statement towards the end of the page.

 

Cambridge Resources

50 Religious Treasures introduces you to a range of artefacts and images associated with religion, art and material culture. Discover the unusual treasures of the museums, colleges and the city of Cambridge. Each treasure was chosen by a member of the Faculty of Divinity, giving you an insight into the wide and varied interests of our teaching staff. Use the treasures as a starting point to further your own independent research.  

HE+, run by the University of Cambridge, has a section for sixth form students to further your interest in religious studies. The site gives you the opportunity to read about a topic that isn't linked to your A-level curriculum. You can discover resources such as extra reading material, links to external websites and exercises to try out.

Divinity Dispatches: Cambridge Divinity Online during a time of confinement

Created to encourage the Faculty of Divinity to keep in touch during the COVID shutdown, you'll find lectures, photos, recipes and more on this site.

The Woolf Institute

The Woolf Institute is a University Institute aimed at improving relations between religion and society through education. They have an extensive series of podcasts including the A-Z of Believing, Inside Fundamentalism, and Encounter.

The Faraday Institute for Science and Religion

If you are interested in science and religion, then this is a good place to start. The Faraday Institute has a vast collection of over 700 lectures, courses, discussions and research seminars to browse through.

The Cambridge Inter-faith Project

The Cambridge Inter-Faith Programme was founded in 2002 to explore questions about the relationship between Jews, Christians and Muslims. Their website has a number of articles and recorded lectures, and a section on how you can study inter-faith within the Cambridge Undergraduate degree.

The Faculty of Divinity YouTube channel

You can find out more about career options here, as well as what it is like to study at Cambridge. We have some academic lectures available, including those recorded as part of the Faculty of Divinity Lockdown Film Club. 

New Trinitarian Ontologies

The New Trinitarian Ontologies Conference was held at the University of Cambridge in September 2019, featuring theologians including Rowan Williams, David Bentley Hart, John Milbank, Thomas Joseph White, Catherine Pickstock, John Betz, Andrew Louth, Graham Ward, and many more. The New Trinitarian Ontologies Symposium followed on from this in March 2020, and includes excellent student discussions on Ressourcement, Tragic Poetics, Absoluteness & Nothingness, and the Politics of Participation.

 

Resources from Further Afield

We don't expect prospective candidates to spend a fortune on books. We have tried to list material that is readily available and fairly inexpensive. The links below are for Amazon, but we recommend searching other booksellers too, as bargains can often be found.

Books and articles (in no particular order)

Websites, podcasts and videos 

Free courses and competitions

  • There are a number of very accessible, introductory, short, free courses with excellent resources (lectures, videos, texts etc) on various aspects of the study of theology, religion and the philosophy of religion, provided by a range of leading universities on Coursera, FutureLearn and edX. They can be found by searching Class Central 
  • The free Open Learn courses in religion via the Open University are worth exploring
  • If having a deadline motivates you, then the Spirited Arts competition is a very popular Religious Studies competition in which you respond to one of five themes using either art (painting, drawing, sketching etc), poetry, photography, dance, music, drama or sculpture 

Your Personal Statement

As you prepare to apply to Cambridge, you may worry about what to include in your Personal Statement. You would be in good company! 

In a personal statement we are looking for applicants who:

  • explain their reasons for wanting to study the subject,
  • demonstrate their enthusiasm for and commitment to their chosen course,
  • express particular interests within the field, and
  • outline how they have pursued their interest in the subject in their own time.

We find that strong candidates for Cambridge tend to have explored their chosen subject through wider reading outside the classroom, as well as having done very well in their GCSEs and A levels, or equivalent. Exploring Theology, Religion and Philosophy of Religion through wider reading and research will help you to develop your super-curricular interests, that is, those that build on and enhance what you have been studying at school.

Enjoy the flexibility and freedom offered by super-curricular study to follow your own lines of enquiry in the areas that interest you most. Take the time to explore things you find genuinely interesting. and remember: with any resources, think critically about the arguments, assumptions and evidence presented by the author.

There is no minimum amount of super-curricular activity expected of our students. We find that outstanding applicants tend to explore their subject for the sake of interest.

Finding out more about the Faculty of Divinity

Our first ever online Open Day is now live and you can access taster lectures, film club commentary and information talks on our YouTube channel

In addition, in 2015 we filmed some of the talks from an Open Day. Please note that there may be some differences in the course since these films were made (notably that our course is now BA Theology, Religion, and Philosophy of Religion and we have introduced an at-interview admissions exercise), but you may still find it helpful to view some of the talks.

Sample lecture 

Student View: Why I applied to Cambridge to study Theology

Student View: Typical day of a Theology Student

Student View: What I enjoy studying

Careers