“the teaching of RE is compulsory within the English educational system.” (http://tinyurl.com/ka3kjyr)
But according to a recent Ofsted Report, less than halve the schools in England are doing a good job of it – with “Christianity is being “squeezed out” as schools have a “confused sense of purpose” when it comes to religious education” (http://tinyurl.com/mebq93f)
Now, The Religious Education Council for England and Wales, which represents around 60 faith groups, has called for children as young a four to learn about religious beliefs, while older children should be taught to discuss some of the more esoteric philosophical teasers such as ‘does God exist?’ (http://tinyurl.com/ka3kjyr)
Now, here I must declare an interest – I am an atheist.
My parents did their best to turn me in to a good Christian; they sent me off to Sunday School each week, but at an early age I decided it was all a load of shite and used to skip the class, buy some sweets with my 3 pence ‘collection money’, then play in the park until I reckoned enough time had passed that I could safely return home. Of course, I was soon found out . . .
After a few weeks, the minister came round to the house, and on the pretext of enquiring about my health, which must have been poor to have prevented me from attending class for so many weeks, the b*stard shopped me to my parents. I was called upon to explain myself. In an oscar winning performance, I denied the charge, insisting I had been sat at the back of the class all the time and the doddery old fool needed his eyesight tested. As proof that I had been there all along, I recounted the songs we had sung and the parts of the bible he had talked about (I was not so stupid as not to have asked my friends who had attended the class what had happened)
We had hit an impasse. One of us – the minister or me – was wrong. I suspect my parents knew very well that it was me who was lying but I do not know what transpired next. I was sent back to the living room so did not hear the remaining conversation between my parents and the minister. After what seemed hours, but was only minutes, my parents came back into the room. I was expecting a belting. Instead, I got a lecture on lying, how it was a bad thing to do, how it dragged other people into things and got them into trouble too.
Did I understand what they were trying to tell me?
I nodded (still waiting for my dad to unbuckle his belt).
One should always tell the truth.
I nodded again (still watching that belt). Then he surprised me.
Did I want to continue going to Sunday School, he asked.
I considered for a moment (thinking this was a trick question), then said ‘No’.
“Right“, he said. “From now on, every Sunday, instead of going to Sunday School, you’ll help your mum in the house. You’ll dust and polish the living room and hoover all the carpets”
I hastily agreed, and never was was Sunday School mentioned again
I don’t remember too much about RE at school. At primary school we started each day with a recitation of the Lords Prayer but I don’t remember anything other than that. At secondary school, the RE classes were regarded as a joke – a chance to have some fun by embarrassing the teacher. As teenagers, with raging hormones and obsessed with sex, we scoured the Bible for ‘rude’ bits and enjoyed asking the teacher awkward question like –
when the bible says person A ‘lay’ with person B, or person A ‘knew’ person B, did that mean person A f*cked person B ?
or, did Ham really give his dad, Noah, one up the bum ? (http://tinyurl.com/nmvhl7b)
That’s all an aside, though. I take issue with this proposal to teach kids as young as 4yr old about religion in school because children as young as 4yrs have not yet developed logical, critical thought.
Exposing them to religious beliefs at that age is not education, it is indoctrination.
Religion is a personal matter that should be introduced to a child by their parents
It should not be the role of a state education system to foster religious belief
The role, if any, of schools, should not be to foster believe in one religion or another but to expose pupils to the range of religious and non-religious views of the world
Want to teach children that Xmas day is not about a fat guy in a red suit giving everyone presents but is instead a celebration of the birth of Jesus, the son of God?
Fine – I have no problem with that
But – if you’re going to do that, shouldn’t you (in the interests of historical accuracy) also teach children the idea that Jesus was born on Dec 25th is a load of bollocks (http://tinyurl.com/7me4yqs)
If you’re going to teach religion in schools, shouldn’t you also teach about the evil man has done unto man in the name of religion, both historically and currently – e.g., christians against muslims, christians against jews, protestants against catholics, shia against sunni muslims, hindus against muslims
To me, religion is something that has given comfort to many, and inspired many acts of kindness. It has brought out the best in people but has also brought out the worst – hatred, intolerance, cruelty, violence. I’m not sure, but I think the latter has often outweighed the former
As far as I am concerned, the state has no business promoting religion in schools – education should be about teaching children ‘facts’ not superstitions or beliefs’, but if the state must teach religion in schools, it should not promote one religion over another and should teach children about the evil, as well as the good, done in the name of religion !
But not at the age of 4 Yrs !