I never thought I’d see God as a straw man but I can’t help think that’s what is happening as fears grow over the future of religious education in British schools.
Present it as a matter of maintaining Christianity in schools and you’re open to several attacks right away: ‘exclusive’, ‘indoctrinating’, ‘obsolete’.
I wouldn’t even talk about ‘Religious Education’ any more. Call it ‘Philosophy’ and simply make sure that children are taught about life’s moral maze and the ways by which Man negotiates it – all of the main religions and atheist/humanist philosophical alternatives.
Have it taken seriously and taught seriously by teachers who see educating youngsters in the ways of thinking and self-analysis as a genuine vocation and not merely the shortest straw in the staffroom.
Why so relaxed about my faith? Because one thing Christianity has never needed is protectionism. It has flourished in some of the most hostile environments in history: it can take its chances with the best of them in a modern comprehensive.
But until you teach young people to think reflectively, God, Allah and Shiva combined aren’t banging away so much at a locked door as an empty room. Sooner rather than later, young people need to know that there is nothing weird about the person who occasionally steps back from consumerism and the rat race to ask what it all means, or what any of us are doing here. On the contrary, they should learn to see that as an essential counterpoint to life’s frenetic tempo. Questioning, wonderment and the pursuit of truth should be instilled in all teenagers as an integral part of any fully functioning human being.
Then they can decide which, if any, god is their cup of tea.
As it is, I suspect there are many, many young people out there who think the social whirl, a live lottery ticket and a successful X Factor audition represent the pinnacle of human existence. A school can hand out its precious A-stars until the night sky glistens but until it shakes that perception to its core, it has failed.
- Losing Our Religion: A Response (kathleenbasi.com)
- Hitch And Sully: Is Religion Fossilized Philosophy? (dish.andrewsullivan.com)
- Can a Religious School Properly Teach Students About Atheism? (patheos.com)