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Last Updated: Saturday, 30 October, 2004, 14:04 GMT 15:04 UK
Should pupils study all faiths in school?
Classroom scene
A government-backed body has recommended pupils in English schools study other faiths, alongside Christianity, to help foster understanding and respect.

The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA) plan leaves Christianity as the main religion featured but also urges the teaching of Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, Sikhism, plus other faiths and secular philosophies such as humanism.

The National Secular Society called the non-compulsory framework a "charter for indoctrination" and accused the plan of concentrating on religion "as a truth to be embraced and practised, rather than something to be rigorously questioned".

What do you think of the QCA framework? Should children study other faiths and philosophies in school? Should parents have a right to choose what religious education their children receive? Send us your views.

This debate is now closed. Thank you for your comments.

Your comments:

Knowing what others believe and why they believe it is very important throughout life. The lack of understanding in the past, has exacerbated problems. We have to accept that we ARE a multicultural society, and as such, need to value all and encompass all. It is for the greater good - and that, is the essence of all religion.
Verity Worthington, Cambridge

They didn't have Christianity rammed down their throats
Anon, UK
If you send your child to a Christian school, be it Catholic or CofE expect to be taught RE. My children have both gone to a CofE school and know the basics of other religions. They didn't have Christianity rammed down their throats though. If these kids today are taught about knowing right from wrong, that would be a start, maybe there wouldn't be quite so many ASBOS given.
Anon, UK

I am the only one who was taught about a variety of religions in RE lessons about 20 years ago? Surely religion must form a part of history lessons to give the context behind most historical events (particularly wars). RE should concentrate on how cultures have been formed and influenced by religion.
Neil Hume, NJ, USA (ex UK)

Absolutely not. How much further is the UK to sink instead of upholding real British society?

From nursery on, pupils should be brought to understand that everybody is equal. The easy one to start from is ¿boys and girls are equal', then colour of hair, skin and eyes. In senior school, add in ¿this faith and that faith and no faith.' Codes of morals should be shown to be universally based on ¿treat others as you would like them to treat you.' The RE class is the ideal place to inculcate the habit of challenging assumptions and questioning un-testable assertions, without getting angry. Emphasis should be given to the right of every individual to believe whatever they wish, but that should be accompanied by encouragement of tolerance of other people's beliefs and dis-beliefs. Successful education about religions and philosophies of life demands much of the teacher. Adequate resources for training and support will be vital.
Cameron Low, Glasgow, Scotland

We are being dragged backwards by the politically correct brigade and ethnic minorities
Ian, Bradford UK
After many centuries of religious turmoil, the UK became a relatively secular country. Religion was not on the political agenda and we, as a nation, were free of this particular form of social manipulation. Now, due to mass immigration, we are being dragged backwards by the politically correct brigade and ethnic minorities, who are demanding public acceptance of their particular religion. It is not often that I believe the French are right but their stance on secular education is correct and should be adopted by the UK.
Ian, Bradford UK

The appreciation of different cultures should be taught in schools. If children understand that there are differences in the world's cultures then maybe they will come to see that their own culture is just one of many. There is no need to teach religion unless it is an integral part of the culture under examination.
Roger Hart, Deal, UK

I find that there is a double standard when it comes to teaching religions. Anything that comes from a non-Christian background is accepted, but when it comes to teaching a Bible based Christianity in the public schools, the storms of criticism are to be expected. Indeed, many Muslim and Hindu cultures forbid the teaching of a religion not their own. Why should we be concerned about theirs?
Tony, Tampa Florida

Very well intentioned teachers indoctrinating children, rather than teaching genuine understanding
Tom, UK
I'm very uncomfortable with children being taught religion at all. Even in the most well-meaning RE lessons, as well as "Sunday Schools", I've seen very well intentioned teachers indoctrinating children, rather than teaching genuine understanding. No - religion should be kept out of formal education.
Tom, UK

Children should be educated about all religions to the point of understanding the key differences and similarities between them. Included in this teaching should be a clear message that religion should never be used as a reason for violence or terrorism, which historically, and at present is patently the case.
Roger Cope, Burton upon Trent

I think that world perspective and religion is important but shouldn't we concentrate on getting people through core subjects like maths and English?
Adam, Swansea

No, we should only teach Christianity in UK schools. We seem to do everything to help integrate other religions and then get kicked in the teeth, I strongly believe it's time to treat others as they treat us.

Studying a religion is different to endorsing one
Brendan Jackson, Nottingham, England
Studying a religion is different to endorsing one. The schools are not teaching one religion as 'true' and another as 'false', they are teaching 'what people believe'. And since when should we be afraid to teach our children different views and ideas about the world? Are we more interested in teaching our children what to think, or *how* to think? The latter will only come if they are exposed to different ways of thinking, to show them that there are more ways than one to address the same problem.
Brendan Jackson, Nottingham, England

Schools shouldn't teach religion, but should teach about religion, the difference being between saying "this is what religion X believes" and "religion X is true". Religion, love it or hate it, believe in it or not, is an important influence in the world, and always has been, so those who say it should be kept out of schools are asking for children to be ill-prepared to understand the world.
Simon, Manchester, UK

Mental abuse by religious indoctrination is encouraged
Dick, Scotland
It always astonished me that whilst physical abuse is illegal mental abuse by religious indoctrination is encouraged. No child should be taught anything about or be exposed to any religion until they are old enough to properly analyse what it is they being told.
Dick, Scotland

Despite being taught in C of E schools for all my life my knowledge of religions was thankfully not learnt in the classroom but by the experience of living in a multi faith society. The only important things which needs to be taught in RE is how the Christian faith of our forefathers underpins so much of our law and our secular morality and how organised state religions are usually a precursor to war, oppression and unjust laws. That and remembering that in a broadly Christian country the celebration in late December is called Christmas, not Winterval.
Tom, London

As our children grow up in a world torn apart by wars and strife based around religions and beliefs and when we recall the millions of people killed in wars, crusades and Jihads in the name of religion I think that all education should be secular and non-religious. Teach our children to respect one another and care for our world and they will become happier and more rounded individuals. Religion within the education system causes division not understanding. Religion should be left for the home and the churches
Elaine Mackenzie, Eaglesham Scotland

A lot of what kids learn is pretty useless, but this could actually be of use
Wendy, UK
Not only should our education should be broad and general, it should also prepare children for the outside world. I therefore think multi-religious education is fine - so long as it's about understanding your society and not indoctrination, which should left to the parents. A lot of what kids learn is pretty useless, but this could actually be of use.
Wendy, UK

We had a few RE lessons in school, which would have been interesting had the teacher not spent almost an entire lesson lecturing us about how we should not be intolerant of other people's views. Given that it hadn't actually occurred to any of us to be intolerant, we found it somewhat offensive as he went on and on about it. It irritates me to this day thinking back on it.
Stephanie Clarke, Cambridge, UK

Muslim or Hindu countries would not include Christianity in the syllabus so why should we include their religions
Gary Jones, Caerphilly, Wales

What I find (found) frustrating about RE is that no-one dares to pose the obvious question, "What is the evidence that religion X is actually true?" Christianity answers well in this respect, having four independent accounts of the most amazing event in history. Most other religions do not even offer such evidence. Why, then, should they all be treated equally?
Robert, Newport, UK

I have grown to respect and celebrate all religions that we grew up with.
Prabhat, UK
I can only speak from my experience of having studied in a multi-faith school. Right from kindergarten to my A-Levels (equivalent in India), we grew up in a multi-faith upbringing. I can certainly vouch for the benefits it had on me personally. I have grown to respect and celebrate all religions that we grew up with. I recognise values and diversity within each religion. Those who fear that your own faith will stand diluted, I can only say that this understanding does not stop at religious level only but it helps one to understand different cultures and participate in their society. I have been celebrating Christmas and Easter since I was 8 years old but that has not diluted my understanding of my Hindu religion.

In the end it is only when you understand the different values you understand and accommodate other's opinions. One of the results of this process is that one will end up putting humanity first before their religion and I think some individuals and faiths are not so inclusive yet.
Prabhat, UK

I can't believe some of the stuff I'm reading on here! 'Indoctrination', 'myth', 'gobbledygook', 'nonsense' - doesn't sound like respect to me! And, just to set the record straight, not all Christian religions believe in 'creation' as opposed to 'evolution', Fiona. In the same way that they don't actually believe that God is a big beardy man in the sky. Just because some people don't have a particular religion is no reason to keep kids in ignorance about what millions do believe in. Please, everybody, just grow up over this!
Francine, Coventry, UK

We should follow the French example, and disengage State from Church. Religion should be taught from a historical perspective, and all religious symbols, including Christian and Jewish ones, banned from schools. This way we might at last remove some of the ingrained religious prejudice from our society.
Andrew Taylor, Nottingham, UK

It is ok to study all religions as long as it is truly all religions
Kimberly, Centreville, Virginia USA
It is ok to study all religions as long as it is truly all religions. In the US, the problem we are seeing now is that all other religions are discussed and studied except Christianity. At Christmas for example, children study Chanukah and Kwanzaa but it is not permitted to discuss the real meaning of Christmas or have any symbol of Christianity displayed in the schools. In my opinion, it should be all religions or none at all. If the idea is to foster tolerance and understanding then all children should be taught about all religions. Personally I feel it is better to leave religious instruction to the parents or wait until children are teens.
Kimberly, Centreville, Virginia USA

Either teach all faiths equally or none at all the choice seems simple. If parents don't want their children being taught about religion then they can opt out as they do in respect of sex education classes.
Tony Moody, Plymouth UK

It is not up to schools to teach morality - this is my job as a parent
Gaynor Thomas, Solihull, West Midlands
Like some of the other comments, RE lessons in my Senior school covers all types of religions and included a trip to a Sikh temple etc, up to the age of 13. I must admit, I thought this still was the case. I have no problem with my daughter (5) learning the concepts other religions alongside of Christianity and can not see why anyone would object to this, certainly I have friends of other faiths who feel the same. This is not just about faith but the history and culture surrounding it, and children should be taught with a broad, unbiased view. It is not up to schools to teach morality - this is my job as a parent, and should include any religious beliefs that I may, or may not have.
Gaynor Thomas, Solihull, West Midlands

In this day and age I don't there should be any sort of religious education, or should I say indoctrination. The place for religion is in a church Not a school.
Jim, Dundee, UK

If all the dozens of religions in the world were taught in school there would be no room left on the timetable for anything else! It is important that pupils in this country are given positive experiences of Christianity by teachers that subscribe to its teachings and not sceptics who cast doubt on its authenticity. Christianity is not, however, a knowledge-based subject like maths or history, but an experiential one. Young people are turning to the occult and weird and wonderful alternatives partly because of the dreary way in which Christian truths are presented. As for the place of atheism, we are already awash with it in the media and government.
Denzil, UK

Religion is an important part of the modern world
James Rose, London, UK
Religion is an important part of the modern world. Perhaps it should be taught in its social context rather than simply going over religious texts.
James Rose, London, UK

Religion should not be taught in schools at all. I'd like schools to start teaching fact and not myth. Remember myths were our ancestors religions, now we find the very concept of them amusing. Just as I find the concept of worshipping a big beardy man in the clouds amusing. Religion creates many more problems than it solves.
Jim, Swindon, UK

Having been fed gobbledegook for most of my formative years I really think it unfair to carry on the tradition, It would appear that not a lot of people are actually that interested in controlling religion anymore, its just another case of justifying the churches existence once again, get rid of all of it ,it is of no use to anyone
Damian , Wirral UK

Why yes, of course, just as soon as the other religions accept Christianity. Anyone fancy walking through downtown Baghdad with the cross of Jesus held high in a religious procession? We could start off here by having Abu Hamza as our educational advisor perhaps?
Danny Streather, Romsey, UK

I always thought it was R.E. Religious Education. Surely it should do what it says on the tin!
Robin, Worthing

Understanding each other's beliefs should be a way to build bridges between communities
Fiona Devlin, Broxburn, West Lothian, Scotland
Parents should be responsible for educating their children about religion, to their own beliefs. As a Christian parent of children at school, I support the policy of educating children about other religions. Understanding each other's beliefs should be a way to build bridges between communities and help to teach respect for others. Does this also apply to the creation/evolution debate? Evolution is taught in schools without taking into account the fact that Christians believe in creation. If their is to be a balance between religions there should also be balance in other areas.
Fiona Devlin, Broxburn, West Lothian, Scotland

My son's school makes more fuss of Diwali than it does of Easter. Number of Hindu children in his class? Zero. Number of Hindu children in his school? Zero.
Edward, UK

We live in a secular country where Christianity is the major religion, but in various areas of our towns and cities other religious groups make up the majority. Our educational system should reflect the secular nation, and provide a broad introduction to all faiths. Further religious instruction should be left to the families and communities from which individual children come.
Phil, Aylesbury, UK

I just checked out the Key Stage 1 for religious teaching and it states that 36 - 40 hours a year should be squandered on this nonsense. Couldn't that time be better spent on maths or science lessons - that's a whole week out of a school year! I won't be making my kids do their RE homework if they'd rather do some real work instead!
Rick Hough, Knutsford, Cheshire

How else are we to eradicate prejudice?
Michael, Oxford
Of course in this modern world, all students should be taught the foundation elements of all faiths. This is not to say that an individual faith should be promoted above another, but in order to give a person a fully rounded view of their world you have to give them the information. That of course includes the pros as well as the cons of each religion. How else are we to eradicate prejudice?
Michael, Oxford

Only if the other faiths do the same for Christianity. It seems that we bend over backwards so as not to offend other religions etc, even to the point where we are 'afraid' to be Christian .. in a Christian country! When in Rome ... as the saying goes.
Joe, Canterbury, UK

I went to a C of E secondary school where RE was a large part of the curriculum. However, the lessons included all major religions as well as atheism and the occult. For my part I found it fascinating and cannot see how anyone could think that encouraging more education and understanding of other religions and world views could possibly be a bad thing.
Helen, Oxford, UK

Moral values can be taught without linking them to a religious belief system
Duncan Hothersall, Edinburgh, Scotland
It's very difficult to bridge the gulf between religious and non-religious people. From my point of view the idea of schools promoting irrational belief systems to children is offensive. But to a religious person it seems that the idea of not doing so is equally unpalatable. I think that school education should be utilised to ease this tension. Let children be taught about the concepts of different belief systems, including rational, non-theistic ones alongside the Christian, Muslim, Hindu and so on. Give them the information they need to reach their own beliefs. But we must not give them a hierarchy of systems; we must not say that any one view is better than another. That is what divides our world. Religious people often counter this argument with notions that we need to teach moral values to children. But moral values can be taught without linking them to a religious belief system. Murder was considered to be wrong long before the ten commandments were written.
Duncan Hothersall, Edinburgh, Scotland

It is a lack of religious and historical understanding that causes some severe problems these days. Just because some people do not understand the views of others who have different backgrounds and upbringings, they either choose to ignore their points of view or automatically consider them "wrong". To educate our children in a way that will help them understand others and teach them to be more diplomatic will greatly help breach the gap between the different cultures that exist today.
Claire, UK

I don't hear of Muslim schools teaching about Christianity
name here
Schools in the UK don't teach Christianity now. I am 25, finishing school 9 years ago, and RE was always about other religions and never about my own. Children spend too much time being taught about the "other" religions cultures that we never hear about what is ours. I don't hear of Muslim schools teaching about Christianity.
Stuart Evans, Wigan UK

Should religion be taught in school? Only if it doesn't get in the way of anything important
Tony B, Leeds UK

Schools should not teach religion and the UK should become a more secular society teaching tolerance.
Kevin Miller, Warrington, Cheshire

I think children should be taught a brief summary of all major religions, as with so much of the current news rooted in religion, it would give them an understanding of the role religion plays in world events.
Jon Perrin, UK

The secular principles of our society are being compromised when religion is taught in schools
John Stewart, Kilmarnock, Scotland
I think that religion should not be taught in school at all. I've heard it said that Christianity is the basis of our culture, but I strongly disagree. The renaissance and humanism which we in Europe are so proud of were a definite break with Christian thinking. The secular principles of our society are being compromised when religion is taught in schools.
John Stewart, Kilmarnock, Scotland

Religion, like all other hobbies and interests, should be left outside the school gates. Children should only be taught useful things - things that will benefit them when they leave school.
Alfie Noakes, North of England, UK

When I was at school, as an atheists I was even labelled a 'communist' as I did not believe in 'The Lord'. Quite frankly, religion is personal and should not form part of a national curriculum at all. I am also all in favour of a French style ban on religious symbols as this will bring more equality amongst the children.
Jake, Dorset, UK

Good idea if it will help to foster understanding and tolerance throughout the community. It should only be used for educational purposes though, and not for the conversion of pupils from one faith to another. Parents should be consulted at all times and their opinions should be taken into account.
Graham Rodhouse, Helmond, The Netherlands

We do live in a mainly Christian society
TB, Spain
Christianity should be the main religion studied because we do live in a mainly Christian society. However, I do not believe that schools should encourage children to practice Christianity, they should just be made aware of it. A child should have all the information available to be able to make informed decisions on whether to follow a or any religion.
TB, Spain

Studying Atheism as part of religious studies - shouldn't take long and will give them time to study couch-potatoism as part of the PE syllabus.
Dave Williams, Prudhoe, UK

Schools should not teach religion at all. Faith is a personal choice, not something to be dictated in a compulsory classroom.
Gareth Rippingale, UK

Children should be taught about a range of beliefs as long as it's emphasised they are just that - beliefs, without any evidence. Atheism should also be taught.
Jane , Guildford, UK

To have breadth of religious understanding, you must sacrifice depth
Martina, London
There are only so many hours in a child's day. To have breadth of religious understanding, you must sacrifice depth. Your can either learn a little of everything, or you learn a lot of one thing and really learn what it is about. I believe that 'depth' often has a lot more value than the more superficial 'breadth' - as it give a person the opportunities to immerse themselves in a single ideal thus making them aware of what it is like to be 'single-minded' in a faith.
Martina, London

All (including atheism) or none, and either way it needs to be emphasised that they are all beliefs and none is proven (except in the minds of the faithful).
Peter D, UK

This does indeed reek of attempted indoctrination...indeed in this day and age we should all be encouraged to question religion given that its books of inspiration are more than 2000 years old and is thus out of touch with contemporary society. We need children to be equipped with the knowledge to question what they are told about religion, to be able to understand the importance of the "self", and to understand that the divisions caused by religion are preventing the world from a truly integrating.
SB, Essex, UK

Religion should not be taught in schools at all. This is something that should be talked about at home.
Scott, Rochester, UK

Superstition and blind faith have no place within an educated society
Harry Webb, Thanet UK
The only place within the educational system where education about religions should still exist is as a subset of Anthropology. Sorry if that offends anyone, but superstition and blind faith have no place within an educated society. It certainly should not be taught to impressionable children as factual or real in any form.
Harry Webb, Thanet UK

All children should be educated in the basics of every religion or philosophy, so they can better understand other people's beliefs. Unfortunately, there will be people out there that believe it is blasphemous for their children to be taught this, never mind them being scared of their children questioning them. The only other option is for the teaching of religion to be illegal in all schools. Children should not be going to school to be indoctrinated into a faith, there are temples, churches, mosques etc for that.
Chris, UK

I agree with the teaching of all religions, and also atheism in schools. I believe education will create greater understanding and allow children to make up their own minds about what they believe.
Louise, Reading

In secondary school this does go on in RE and you have the chance to keep doing it after third year. I think it is too early to start teaching them about all sorts of religions at primary level. I think it should be up to parents if they want their child to follow a certain faith. If children do have Christian parents and are taught by their views in church etc, I think children may get confused at a young age.
Ian Mc, NW, England

Don't all routes lead to the one God?
Jen, Crawley
How can we possibly promote understanding in our multi-faith society if we do not educate our children from the outset regarding all faiths and that most definitely includes the right to practice no faith or to follow a secular view such as atheism or humanism (as in fact I do). At my school there was no other route discussed other than Christianity or one lesson on Hinduism at which the teacher laughed - as a humanist I was left disenchanted and even more confused, as well as unaware of any other world religions. Christianity should be taught alongside the other faiths, and certainly not as the foremost faith. After all, don't all routes lead to the one God?
Jen, Crawley

Schools should teach all faiths including Atheism, Satanism, Druidism etc or teach no faiths at all.
Barry, London UK

National RE guidelines published
28 Oct 04  |  Education
School 'daily worship' questioned
21 Apr 04  |  Education
RE studies 'should cover atheism'
15 Feb 04  |  Education


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