Stewart Gault


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What was religious education like where you went to school?

It's merely to try and get an insight into how it is taught around the world.

As I live in Northern Ireland which has been the victim of religious and political prejudices over the past 100 years it struck me as how awful the level of religious education was. In NI at GCSE level it is compulsory to have an hour of RE each week which is fair enough but it's what's being taught that is pointless.

There are units which schools can pick to choose and they only have to teach one, these are the main units Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Roman Catholic church and it's history, religious philosophy and Christian ethics. These are just from one exam board but the others contain essentially the same. They're designed so as if you're a school with predominantly one religion you can teach a course on it, but why are their only courses for one religion? In a time of multiculturalism and huge ethnic diversities in cities surely a mixture of religions should be taught, not in some the sense of being able to see your religious choices you can pick but in a way that you can empathize with others from a different religion so we can build tolerance and a level of acceptance. Especially in Northern Ireland with the Troubles i thought teaching religious diversity would be a key goal.

Just wanted to hear some thoughts.

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    May 28 2012: "I forget what you call them but priests used to sell pieces of paper with their signature saying if you buy this your sins are forgiven, that was in the 1500s"

    "As soon as a coin in the coffer rings / the soul from purgatory springs"
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      May 28 2012: thanks for that :) always learn something new
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      May 28 2012: That were indulgences Mary like it is said on the link you gave.
      Because of the new invented printing press they could make a lot of them and the pope needed the money badly to keep all his courtisans happy.
      Let's be glad, for without this practice the reformation would never have succeeded and the enlightenment had still yet to come.
      We would still be in the dark ages.
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    May 27 2012: I was told that we should pray with our sincerity wholeheartedly within our tears (our heart strongly vibrated), and our prayer will mostly be heard fulfilled or replaced with something else that worth (for our current and future development).

    It worked for me when i drawn almost into "a complete denial on God existence". It helped me much to collect piece by piece of the truth and developed my assertion that God exist :)
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      May 28 2012: Adriaan, you're view on the situation at your youth and birthplace differs much from mine.

      For me it was made clear and without doubt that everyone was either catholic or protestant except some that were either communists or strange.
      On my catholic school everyone had the same faith and everyone different had to be avoided as potential dangerous or at least not normal. So we would never have met even if we lived in the same street.
      At the age of 9 I started to question Christianity all together but it wasn't untill 1964 that schools became more liberal and ecumenical up to the seventies as it all changed fast; at least in the larger cities.

      I think that change was the natural result of communication by the media at the time like television and radio. So this will probably happen the world over with time.
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        May 28 2012: Frans your description is very similar to NI today, minus the communist part lol, But one of the worst things in my mind is segregated education, such as a catholic school etc, they don't advertise community other than your own religious community and that's the problem with NI today,
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          May 28 2012: one thing I'd say their Adriaan is from my conversations with Christians we're all born sinners and so we are all born destined for hell, but it's your choice whether you go to heaven or not. One other thing I'd like to know though, how much of a role does religion play in your country's politics
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          May 28 2012: Adriaan, I lived my first 50 years in The Hague, so about Hilversum I don't know but as you know there still are places as Urk, Staphorst and many more that hasn't changed since.
          Amstelveen I think, was at that time the most modern Dutch place to be .

          I did understand though that animals had to be somehow evolved from simple forms to the present variety but didn't dare to tell someone afraid to be treated as mad. At 14 years I told an uncle that didn't attend church and he wasn't surprised to my amazement. Then I learned about Darwin and such and became ever more interested in all knowledge I was deprived from up till then.

          If hell was real it wasn't a bad choice for it's the best place to do some good.
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    May 28 2012: I went to a government school in New Zealand where they didn't teach any particular religion as being the truth. They taught science (evolution) not pseudo science (ID or creationism) but allowed some debate.
    Very good secular education.

    I was shocked in Australia to discover state run schools have religious instruction classes. You can opt out and sit in the library. Religion is a private matter and should not be taught at state schools in a nation ascribing to separate church and state. Send your kids to Sunday school if you like.

    I have no issue teaching about all religions in a comparative or historical sense. I have no issue with students having prayer groups etc. Just not sanctioning religion as part of the formal curriculum etc. There should be no religious chaplains at state schools either.

    In general sad to see children programmed into one particular religious view or another before they develop critical functions whether state or private or at home. Religion is often reinforcing or reflecting tribalism.
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    May 28 2012: I went to a religious church school through high school. In high school it was a boarding school. We were taught only one fundamentalist Christian religion and that religion was the one and only TRUE religion. Everybody else had it wrong. And because we were the one and only true religion, we were the only ones that would be saved. And all the other people in all the other religions were not. There was a real fear of other religions and we were not allowed to explore any of them. For they were from the devil and if we strayed from our one and only true religion, of course, we would not be saved.

    The isolationist method was essential. Questioning was not allowed. Reason was not allowed. Only blind following of the interpretations of the church would get you saved.

    Many, many, religious faiths have similar methods. In fact, it is a hallmark of the fundamentalists. I mean fundamentalist Islam, Judaism, Christianity etc. Tolerance and diversity are not a part of the teaching. There is only right (us) and wrong (them).
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      May 28 2012: " Everybody else had it wrong." Nearly right. Just one religion short of being correct.

      I note isolation and discouraging reason and questioning is an approach often attributed to cults.
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        May 28 2012: I agree that isolation and discouraging reason are used by cults but those methods are also used by many religions. I mean, just look at the Vatican for instance. The difference between religion and cult, to me, is that cults exploit the individual, financially, sexually, etc. I did not experience that in my religious education.
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          May 28 2012: The Christian church has exercised a lot of the things you said there, financially: I forget what you call them but priests used to sell pieces of paper with their signature saying if you buy this your sins are forgiven, that was in the 1500s but recently a priest tried to do that I think, and sure look at the televangelists trying to scrape whatever cash they can get from people, and across Europe recently there was the horrific scandal of child abuse within the clergy.
          I'm not trying to say or imply anything I'm just merely stating what I know
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      May 28 2012: Linda,
      Did we go to the same school? Your description sounds very familier!!!

      I had 12 years of catholic schooling...we were the ONE true religion...we would be the only ones "saved"...everybody else had it wrong, and were going to hell if they did not eventually see the light and convert. There was fear of other beliefs, and the fear was presented as a way to "protect" us from those "wrong" beliefs. We were not allowed to interact with anyone from another religion...even to the extent of going to weddings/funerals in other churches.

      Questioning and reason was not allowed verbally, but I found myself ALWAYS questioning in my mind and heart. There were so many things that were contradictory and hypocritical, and I realized this even as a small child. We were taught to love thy neighbor for example. Then taught that we should only love our neighbor who was catholic because everyone else was "bad" or "wrong" and would no doubt corrupt us, thereby keeping us from heavenly bliss.

      I agree Linda, that many religious beliefs and practices seperate people with intolerance and prejudice. There seems to be some core beliefs in religions that are of thy unto others...etc. However, those underlying core values seem to be overshadowed by hate, disrespect, discontent (fear) and dogma, which does NOT encourage unity, but rather continues to disconnect people.

      Isolation is a necessary part of controlling people, and it seems that some religions have done a very good job of isolation and control, to the point where many people have given up questioning and exploring their own heart regarding what beliefs to accept and practice.

      On a better note, I believe there is a change happening now. Humans are evolving to the point of wanting to think and feel on our own. Communication systems provide connections with people around the world, so it is more difficult to isolate, and corruption that has been happening for centuries in religions is being uncovered.
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        May 28 2012: I mentioned this to Frans as well about segregated schools, they're all about isolation and imposing a religious control over young people, they don't promote diversity.
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          May 28 2012: I agree Stewart,
          Segregated schools contribute to dividing and seperating people, and that is NOT what our world needs if we want to create peace and harmony.