Theology and Religion Personal Statement
Submitted by Anna
Religion has the potential to both unite humanity but also deeply divide it. I am captivated by how a set of ideologies and beliefs could bring suffering and pain through conflict but also peace and harmony. Through studying Theology at University I wish to be able to systematically tackle existential questions using my enthusiasm and admiration for Christian patristic theology.
Existential questions about the purpose of our lives have always fascinated me, leading me to read Peter Vardy’s ‘The Puzzle of God'. The assumption that we know what believing in God means is not straightforward and upon closer examination, there is a multifaceted view about the meaning of God; why God is rejected or accepted and where our ideas about God and their origins originate. Grappling with the effects of ideas on religious belief and morality intrigues me and I enjoy debating moral and philosophical views as there are often many contradictory views contributing to a seemingly simple explanation.
Reading Peter Vardy's 'The Puzzle of God' has developed my interest in philosophy of religion, morality and ethics, as it prompts questions for consideration such as does it matter if a religious believer holds fast to a set of religious beliefs if these are true? I am particularly interested in the origin of truth and what constitutes 'truth'. Are statements true based upon a transcendental realm of value which makes moral statements either true or false? Is there a set of ultimate values independent of our existence and society in which they are expressed? Alternatively, is the anti-realist perception of morality an accurate translation of truth, where the contextual setting is considered; hence there are no absolutes? These questions and others about the nature of truth and reality intrigue me both in an academic and scholarly sense and when applied to our contemporary world. The moral arena is never without a hotly debated contemporary issue where the very foundations of morality are brought into question.
Plato's (427 BCE) allegory of an underground chamber depicting a group of bound men who only ever see dancing shadows like puppeteers on the wall of the cave, mistake these images as truth and reality. The philosopher is akin to the freed man who is unbound and freed from the supposed reality or the 'dance of shadows'. As Plato's allegory illustrates, I believe it is necessary and essential for the healthy development of human society to debate and question supposed truths and beliefs and grapple with the very nature of human existence and moral purpose. Plato does not depict this to be an easy or straightforward journey and he predicts many misunderstandings and sometimes painful realisations will be made; however, I firmly believe questions about the very existence and purpose of our being should be addressed to further our understanding of society.
Studying A Level Religious Studies has enabled me to further explore New Testament Theology. I have been interested in particularly interested in questions regarding the purpose and authorship of John’s Gospel. Frank Morison presents various possible ideas as to why the stone of Jesus’ grave was moved, through reading his novel ‘Who moved the stone?’, I have had an insight into the various theories about the disappearance of Christ’s body allowing me to critically assess the story from all four of the Gospel’s perspectives. My studies of the New Testament have allowed me to have a greater understanding of the Bible and given me the knowledge to be able to use when critiquing various ethical or philosophical dilemmas.
Last year I was fortunate enough to visit Auschwitz-Birkenau and I was profoundly moved by the whole experience; additionally, witnessing extreme poverty whilst on a cultural and charity trip to Bangalore, India. Both experiences offered me an opportunity to explore different understandings and interpretations of humanity, truth and our implicit values. These trips highlighted the importance of History to mankind, allowing us to have the opportunity to learn from our mistakes as others may not have previously done so.
I have completed my Bronze, Silver and Gold Duke of Edinburgh award, which has enabled me to develop my leadership skills in the field. I am a founding active member of my school Debating and Philosophy society and regularly volunteer as a LAMDA teaching assistant with students in Year two. I also run a book club for younger students in the school and am an editor of the school magazine. I believe the above demonstrates both my ability to work in a team and my commitment.
My love of Theology was rewarded when I gave the Sixth Form Theology Prize, having being selected as the top achiever of the subject in my year.