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Religious Education

John Simkin

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The Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) has just published a controversial report on the teaching of Religious Education. It has upset some traditionalists by suggesting that atheism should be introduced into the RE syllabus. The IPPR report also proposes the introduction of teaching about humanism. Critics of the report have claimed that RE should be about teaching faith. However, others have argued that schools should be mainly concerned about providing knowledge and understanding of different religions. Humanist have replied that schools should be helping pupils to explore ways in which people can find meaning and purpose without religion.

What do members think about this proposal? What happens in other countries?


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  • 3 weeks later...

When I was a school I hated studying RE becasue as an atheist I felt like I was being asked to study the works of Hans Christian Anderson and believe that they were all true!

Thankfully RE teaching has improved a great deal right now to include all major faiths and in the interest of inclusion I would love to see atheism, humanism, animism, adventism, bahaiísm, also included in there.

RE as a subject may have been devised as a way of getting the church to keep its nose out of state schools affairs but these days it should be used as a tool for inclusion and also for discussing ethics and morality. Ignorance of other faiths creates tensions and that includes atheism. A typical converstation with an East African begins 'So where do you pray?', to which my standard reply was that ' I do not believe in God but that does not make me a bad person'. They were still highly suspicious!

RE should not be about indoctrination into any one faith, or indeed into any faith at all. As an atheist I have beliefs and a faith of sorts, some of them very similar to those held by Christians but I do not have to believe in a Christian God to uphold them. Students should be given the option of learing about all beliefs not just those with a figurehead and funding.


Edited by rownb
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I tremble at the idea of an ethics curriculum introduced by Tony Blair. I imagine the ethical content will be as elusive as those weapons of mass destruction :lol:

There is a case for "ethics across the curriculum" but surely the problem with confining a discussion of ethics to one compartment of the curriculum is obvious. If the word means anything at all...then "ethics" is part of the content of virtually every subject area. It is there whether we want it or not.

I studied the bible in school. I think all atheists need to know what they are up against. However the Christian belief is a minority one. The overwhelming majority of parents and pupils are not churchgoers or members of the anglican sect. The beliefs of the majority are treated as an "error" which needs to be corrected.

Incidentally my son was told when his grandmother (my mother) died that she would go to hell because she was not a Christian. His response? "Well I don't want to go to heaven and be separated from my family!"

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