Secular Religious Education

Letter in the Telegraph with an interesting list of signatories from the clergy and atheists of many colours. Hat tip to BHA for sharing.

As usual the letter is considered and eminently sensible, if necessarily thin on detail given the broad agreement, but the comment thread is mostly the knee-jerk critics conflating every religious issue they can think of, with a few hopeful people trying to point out the error of their views. Voted a few comments up and down, but didn’t dive into this one, so a few thoughts here:

This is basically a question of secularism.

I don’t believe any “faith-based” schools should be government supported at all. They should simply meet standards for national curricula. Faith-based schools, and indeed all forms of private schooling, raise many issues but this is not what the letter is about.

Faith-based or not-faith-based curricula should include RE “about” religion generally. This is what the letter is about – what that “RE” standard should be – according to national and global standards. The main point – it seems long overdue to recognise that the curriculum should not be tied to the official Anglican religion – “established” religion practically in symbolic name only and important primarily from a national (and international) cultural heritage standpoint. Even the Anglican church itself sees the error in being formally “established”.

The encouraging thing in the letter apart from it’s breadth of support is the implication that theology – understanding what belief means or “the place of religion & belief” – is the core of the agenda, not just some PC value-free cultural history of a balanced selection of specific religions, valuable though these also are.

I hope those signatories that are the formal voices of atheism and humanism ( eg @andrewcopson ) will be open to dialogue about what makes a good belief system, whilst no-doubt rejecting “religious” and “faith-based” labels themselves. Even belief systems wedded to their own definitions of rationality find they need some declared “credo” or basis of values, wherever these come from. They’d need to shed all such declared values if they wanted to reject even the tag “belief system”.

[Post Note : And as I said the key issue is secularism – disestablishment. The above is one aspect of getting our own UK house in order, but this is main issue in so many religious problems around the world. Hat tip to Secularism UK for reminding us of the Boko Haram example – I’m sure you can think of many more.]

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