Religion lessons must be open

PLANS for religious education in schools drew a strong response from Connexion readers.

14 April 2011

PLANS to introduce religious education into school drew a strong response from Connexion readers with many applauding the chance to show aspects of different religions.

Former Anglican priest Richard Hughes spoke of the two mutually exclusive roles that he held as both priest and, later, as a teacher of religious education.

He said: "The role of the church is to convince. The role of the school is to educate. From a non-religious perspective, anybody seeing a painting of the madonna and child or a photograph of the Dome of the Rock should know something of its provenance.

"I ended up writing series of schools' textbooks for Oxford University Press, used and accepted widely but controversial among the people who wished to promote a particular religious perspective.

"But the lessons were not designed to tell people what to believe. Their purpose was to promote lively classroom discussion."

Terry Westroby feared children could become confused with discussion of the wide range of religions and felt that French children would know of their Christian heritage and that would lead their studies.

He added: "The Christian understanding is of a relationship with God. Religion can get in the way! But overall I think that to have some facts to start with is a good thing. The Bible stands up to honest study."

Not for Christopher Thompson who said: "Religious education with its blatant disregard for, and denial of, scientific knowledge and its perpetuation of outdated mythology has no place in the state education of children, either in France nor anywhere else.

"It is quite unbelievable that in the 21st century children should be taught these unscientific fairytales, but if this nonsense must be perpetuated let it be outside the state system."

Kathleen Fourches in the Corrèze highlighted that we mentioned only Bible stories in our newsletter article and added that if there was to be any teaching, it would have to "englobe not only the Jewish religion and Christianity but also Islam, Buddhism, Shintoism and why not animism, not to mention all the other religions ancient or modern. Nothing stops parents giving their offspring the religious education they choose; that is why there is free time on Wednesdays."

Cathy Shore in Maine-et-Loire remembered with pleasure the old parables (the Good Samaritan etc) and saw them as interesting tales or stories with a moral "which I don't think is a bad thing at all". She went to a Church of England school which had chapel every day and said: "It didn't make me more religious but I did take pleasure from the communal aspect of 'chapel'."

Roger Cope, a 68 year old agnostic in Saone et Loire, thinks France does not know how lucky it is to have an education system where religion is not taught and compared religions to computer viruses for the way they can mess up people's lives.

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