The merit of religious education as a subject in schools.

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The merit of religious education as a subject in schools.

Here in England schoolkids are given set religious education lessons on the national curriculum.

Even when I was at school many years ago we had about 2 hours per week of lessons dedicated  to world religions (including 'religion' such as zen buddhism etc.) and morality (discussing issues such as charity and euthenasia- sometimes in a religious context but never mentioning evolotional psychology or morality's scientific origins)

my teacher only ever mentioned agnosticism once- to briefly define it as "sitting on the fence"!

I recall several class polls on religious belief, all of which resulted in the theists (who were in the minority) being laughed at by the atheist pupils. Does anyone have any intersting thoughts on whether this kind of peer pressure is a good thing?

I think it is very good that many incompatible religions are being shown side by side with an equal claim of validity. I feel however that religion should not be taught as a subject but instead integrated as modules within the subjects of history and psychology. Any thoughts on that approach?

    - Chris

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We studied Greek and Roman

We studied Greek and Roman mythology in school, and even touched on Viking mythology.

Note that in the past, those "mythologies" were religions.

As far as I'm concerned, I think any education would be incomplete without a survey of mythologies, including all the major extant religions. However, any discussion of morality in this context would be out of place. It'd be like discussing pre-marital sex from a Greek pantheon standpoint. (Not that you can discuss sex much in school, especially in relationship to morality.)

Any discussion of mythology as religion should be saved for religious services, such as church, or taught at home.

Of course, that's just my opinion. I could be wrong.

"Yes, I seriously believe that consciousness is a product of a natural process. I find that the neuroscientists, psychologists, and philosophers who proceed from that premise are the ones who are actually making useful contributions to our understanding of the mind." - PZ Myers

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I go to a presbytarian

I go to a presbytarian school in New Zealand (virtually no opression of atheism here, over 1/3rd of the population are), and even so, there are very few people at school who are religious. Most have an attitude of apathy, and couldn't care less about religion. I personally enjoy 'religious education', as it is done from a Christian perspective, and I find great joy in absolutely ripping apart the teacher's arguments. Memorable moments include her completely opting out and watching the Lion King for half the lesson after I categorically listed exactly 9 issues I had with Pascal's wager. Most people in my class enjoy the 'constructive to thinking, destructive to learning' approach ( that really says something about the class, doesn't it?). Others find my enthusiasm foreign, and often ask me why I actually care. My standard response to this is that RE is cumpulsorary, and that I might as well form an antithesis to the curriculum while I'm there. Fortunately we have no stuffy old preachers teaching it, one teacher 'jokingly' pulled out a sword and told us to abandon satan and get baptised.

So, religious education is good, even from a theistic bias, if the students, or even one, is motivated enough to actually be able to refute the claims. If not, it becomes religious indoctrination, not education. I think that a secular religious education would be good as you have suggested, in modles in other subjects, or even as its own subject, albeit more akin to history and philosophy than theology.

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I have never had a problem

I have never had a problem with teaching religion in the public schools as part of a comparative religion course as long as it was presented from a secular standpoint.  The problem with that here in the US is the evangelical movement and all the nutcases attracted to it.  There would be rioting in the streets at the thought of teaching christianity as a myth.  In the state of Ohio a small town has evengelicals (a strong presence throughout the state) protesting the firing of a science teacher who was teaching creastionism as science instead of the science curriculum he was supposed to.  In news articles there is hardly any mention of the fact this fundy bastard was burning crosses on the arms of the children.  So, until we bring some education and sanity to theists (that includes moderate and liberal theists who don't take a stand against such absurdity) I would fight even that.

Ignorance reigns in religion, after all that's the only way they can garner the number of followers they have.  With ignorance comes bigotry, arrogance, discrimination, persecution and all sorts of horrors. If they came to power they'd likely start imprisoning atheists and agnostics.  Once they had those heretics taken care of they'd go after non-christians and then they'd go after the christians who didn't think exactly like them.  Gays they'd simply execute as one religious leader has already suggested. Sounds a little paranoid but it is a very likely scenario.

"Erecting the 'wall of separation between church and state,' therefore, is absolutely essential in a free society." Thomas Jefferson