Religious Education? To be, or not to be


Although the modern world has chosen to neglect religion and take it out of the wider, social collective-psychology of the human race, religion has managed to keep its place at the top of social and political affairs of our global-village; just as God always holds the pivotal position in the arguments of an atheist trying to negate His very existence.

A number of steps have been taken to distance our younger generations from the concept of God and to imprint on their minds this concept as a non-issue, if anything at all. From philosophical movements to art and literature, and from table-talks in coffee houses to family chats over the dining table, pseudo-modernity has tried every way to achieve this goal.

What has not been tried so far, they have recently felt, is primary schools where our future generations are programmed with what they will be in their future lives. So the next target had to be these formative years of education; so this is happening now and that too at a very fast pace. 

The Westminster Faith Debates (WFD), in collaboration with the University of Lancaster, has this month published a report titled “A New Settlement Revised: Religion and Belief in Schools”. Linda Woodhead, one of the editors of the report, states in the opening paragraph of the introduction: 

“We are living through the single biggest change in the religious and cultural landscape of Britain for centuries, even millennia… It is of central importance that all schools are equipped to help children handle these changes, changes that can otherwise be confusing, opaque and even dangerous.”

While any modern, liberal and educated person would agree to this much of her statement, it is interesting to note, from the details of the report, how hard such pressure groups are trying to have religious education removed from the primary school curricula. Although the text has been very tactfully drafted to give an impression that the aim of the study, and its subsequent report, is to give the children the opportunity to understand their position in a diverse society; a society where those with no religious affiliation are outnumbering those with one. 

The report suggests that the name of the subject Religious Education (RE as it is commonly known) be changed to “Religious and Moral Studies” or “Religion, Belief and Values” to accommodate the “values” of those who claim to have no religion. 

It is not the scope of our newspaper to question the validity of the study and its recommendations, but it is our right to speculate on the implementation and to voice the concerns that some circles of the society may have, if these recommendations are to be accepted and executed.

In a society where religion was thrown out of the window in the name of liberalism, individualism and modernity, we have seen the trajectory of moral values decline at a very rapid pace. In the process of getting rid of religion, wedlock, parental responsibility, modesty, chastity, truthfulness, honesty and many other moral values have been bidden farewell. Liberation from religion has left society liberated of many restrictions that had, once upon a time, paved way for what we feel proud to associate ourselves with: civilisation. The codes and conducts, the dos and don’ts, the moral restrictions, the ethical checks and balances that came as a bundle with religion had once turned the ferocious species – mankind – into a civilised, social cultured race: the human race.

Religious Education lessons at school, here in the West, only aim at introducing major religions. If faith schools are more inclined towards their respective faiths, the public is free to choose to not send their children to such schools and opt for some other schools. Religious studies, we believe, needs to remain in place.

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