Should schools be non-religious?


​It has become a divisive issue but is school is the right place for religion to be taught to children. The Humanist Society says allow headteachers to make the choice; others say faith should be a mainstay of children's formative education. What do you think - should schools be non-religious? 

21st August 2018 by Robert Armour 38 Comments

Should schools be non-religious?

Poll results (total votes: 496)

Should schools be non-religious?

23rd August 2018 by Ruchir Shah

Is there a distinction to clarify here between teaching about religion and religous instruction?

23rd August 2018 by G

Religion should be taught by the religious denominations. Why would they not leap at the chance to do this? I believe it is because attendances at these religious education centres would be low to non-existent. Religion doesn't have the control over people it had in the past, so keeping it 'mainstream' allows religious interest groups to wield power for now.

23rd August 2018 by Rose Burn

State schools or private schools? Should the state be able to say that parents cannot form a school where the Jewish religion is taught to their children? Is that anti-Semitic?

24th August 2018 by Tiiu-Imbi Miller

When I was at school we were divided into our denominations every Friday morning and the respective clergy came in to teach us. In principle, a good system, though in practice the clergy who taught me weren't up to the job. You cannot omit religion. If you don't teach it you are still giving the message that it doesn't matter, and, whatever one's religion. be it Christianity, Islam, Atheism (yes, that is undoubtedly a religion too), it matters.

24th August 2018 by John McCrank

As Scotland is still presently seen as a Christian country and the Government requires religious education to be taught. The schools wishing to exercise Christian services should be allowed to. Most of the reasons to stop religious sessions in schools appear to be aimed at Judo Christion celebrations, while allowing and placing emphasis the understanding and celebration of the newer religions to the country

24th August 2018 by Kathryn Campbell

I think it is important for different religions to be taught about in school- it’s vital for young people to learn 1) theirs in not the only world view 2) how to interact respectfully with those who think and believe differently to them. 3) to have the opportunity to explore why people have the beliefs they do. I am firmly convinced that if we hope to have a tolerant, multicultural society we need to value people’s identities, and for religious people their faith can be a significant part of that. Religion has had a hugely shaping influence on history and culture all over the world. I cannot comprehend how cutting all religion out of school could gain anything other than breeding ignorance, and therefore mistrust of what is “other.” If we believe in free speech, in education as exposure to different ideas (and how to critique and evaluate them) and if we believe in the Geneva convention of the rights of the child (people are free to hold to a religion if they wish) they I really don’t see how attempting to de-legisemise religion by banning it from schools can be anything but a hugely retrograde step within society.

24th August 2018 by Colin Sim

Faith is a large part of life for many people in the UK and has played a huge part in shaping our society. It is just as important as geography and the other core subjects taught in school. Society is already poorer because it is not taught enough!

25th August 2018 by KG

Religion is as much an essential part of education as any other subject. Pupils should have the right to an overall education

25th August 2018 by john best

I participated in hymn singing and prayers at primary school since aged 5 tears old. Teachings from the Holy Bible were also part of my early school life and I have to say the Christian ethic and ethos has been part of my life ever since. My life style and Christian beliefs are non negotiable so far as I am concerned as they have served to make me a responsible and caring human being. there was no greater humanitarian than The Lord Jesus Christ.Now as a Grandfather of eleven and looking at society as I see modern changes and the falling away of standards of life, there is no doubt in my mind that now, more than ever, our society needs Christian teaching and the ten commandments more, much more than ever before in human history.

25th August 2018 by David Ross

No. I believe religion is an essential part of an holistic education in a child's upbringing and although there will come a time when he/she can decide for themselves, at least they will have the basic knowledge to make that decision.

25th August 2018 by Richard Coton

Whether God exists, whether he is knowable, what happens to us after death, whether love is real (or merely part of our need to procreate), is "human" different from "animal" - these are among the most important questions facing any human being. It would be appallingly bad education to prevent these from being investigated in schools. The suggestion that schools would somehow be more "neutral" by avoiding religious issues hides the fact that humanism is in itself a world-view/system of belief. Schools which are in effect solely humanist would simply be promoting a single world-view in quite an autocratic (or even manipulative) manner - exactly the sort of approach that humanists undestandably decry when it is linked to a religious world-view

26th August 2018 by Margaret Miller

There should be freedom of religion practised on the UK

27th August 2018 by Stuart Otley

I'm not entirely sure what is meant by the question - in what sense does Robert Armour mean "non-religious"?Are we considering whether schools should or should not teach pupils about religion? Well, apart from that not being a good idea (for the reasons given by other respondents here), it would be almost impossible for it to be implemented! Even if "Religious Education" or "RME" (in Scotland) were to be withdrawn, what of the religious elements in all of human history, art, architecture, heritage...? Could they not be mentioned? And if not, how could so many events in history, for example, or many artefacts, and much of literature, be properly taught and understood?(I taught English Literature some 30 years ago and struggled even then to explain many aspects of set texts to pupils who no longer had the knowledge of the Bible and Christian heritage assumed by the original authors)Schools do not exist in some kind of objective vacuum, separate from the society in which they exist. Not teaching about religion, and not giving pupils an opportunity to encounter and explore religious ideas, as they have opportunities to encounter and explore all other ideas in ways appropriate to their age and understanding, would be a nonsense, and a gross disservice to pupils.

31st August 2018 by Katie

If we hope to create a tolerant and peaceable society, we cannot take religious education out of schools. All we do is tell children that people with any belief system don't matter, that their views are unimportant and that the very foundations that built our society are worthless. This only incites hate, disrepect and intolerance. We must understand oneanother and respect each other if we are to overcome hate. We are all entitled to our beliefs.

5th September 2018 by Lesley Davidson

I think that schools should address all areas of life including the spiritual. That way pupils can make informed choices about what they believe.

5th September 2018 by CBD

Spirituality and belief (whether belief in a particular religion or humanist belief) are an integral part of human existence and schools should provide pupils with opportunities to explore what this means for them, so that they can make an informed choice and understand the viewpoint of others. To leave this aside is detrimental to children's development and to society as a whole, as they may not have other ways of discovering these aspects of life, which help many individuals globally through their joys and struggles.

5th September 2018 by Alison Wright

Vital to understanding our and other cultures, history and values and well as to address key questions of meaning and value

5th September 2018 by C Hutcheon

Quite apart from the "spiritual" aspect of teaching religion in school, there is the literary aspect. It has to be realised that it is almost impossible to understand the mindset of characters in any "European" literature from the past 1,500 years without some understanding of Bible content and the Christian faith.

5th September 2018 by J Gratwick

A "non-religious" school? How exactly is such a thing even possible? It could in practice only mean a school that was humanist in belief and ethos, ie not NON religious at all. With the Judeo-Christian foundation of our society written out, a huge proportion of history and culture would become totally opaque and impossible to understand or teach - as is already happening. That is not progress, and it certainly isn't education.

5th September 2018 by KJVT

A knowledge of religion(s) is as much a preparation for life as a knowledge of civics or modern studies, and it is as unbalanced to ban religious education (and assume a humanist default position) as it is to force religious indoctrination on all pupils. Surely the answer is to give teaching about all religions and humanism and permit pupils whose parents object to opt out.

5th September 2018 by Rory MacLeod

To prepare children for a pluralistic society which aspires to be tolerant and aware, careful religious instruction is as relevant as any academic subject. In addition to instruction, it is important to expose children to religious practice so that, as their own convictions about life and the world mature, they can make choices which are informed by experience as well as theory. No assumptions should be made about religious affiliation but opportunity should be afforded to faith-based organisations to nurture disciples alongside churches, mosques and temples &c.

5th September 2018 by John Michie

Let's keep religious instruction in the curriculum. What is wrong with Honesty, Morality and Respect for human life - in a day when such values are treated so lightly. Our country would be a much better place if young minds were taught such things in school and to see it practiced in life outside. It may well be too late but not too late to try. It would good to have the truth of the Christianity taught as well but if that is too much to ask for then still keep the 10 Commandments to the fore. I can also remember having to learn the Beatitudes at school and have come to no harm!

5th September 2018 by Ann McCool

Children need to be educated about religion so that they can make an educated choice.

5th September 2018 by D Wilson

The question is actually a bit odd. Education should include more than just learning the "3Rs". So of course religious education should be a part of it. Scotland owes its educational heritage to the church and when the state took over the running of schools it was a condition that there would be religious education. Modern society is dysfunctional, disordered and mechanistic. Hence the high incidence of anxiety and depression in teenagers. There is a need to introduce children to the spiritual dimension and since our laws and culture are based on judeo-christian principles religion is a good place to start.

5th September 2018 by william macdonald

If children do not want religious tuition they should not be forced to. But it should be available for all who wish to attend the teaching.

5th September 2018 by Jane Young

Apart from all the cultural aspects mentioned below, it is important that children learn about other world religions from a historical point of view and how to learn not just to tolerate other religions but to accept that these are just as valid in their cultural context. They must learn how peace is the natural outcome of such well-informed attitudes, and that the exchange of ideas is the civilised format to develop positive, moral behaviours.

6th September 2018 by Wilma Aitchison

I think that pupils should have access to information about the main world religions, in the same way as they have access to other subjects such as history and geography and science. Religion does play a major part in our lives,whatever our belief system is, Religion is woven into many subjects - science and creation/evolution, history and wars fought over religious beliefs, geography and areas predominantly christian/jewish/hindu/islamic/buddhist; culture and religion. Religion cannot be just ignored.

6th September 2018 by Ruth Foster

I think it is important that all major religions are taught in school as without this our children can grow up very bigoted and ignorant. It is important to learn what all the major faiths of the world believe so we can develop a tolerant society.

6th September 2018 by Ivy Barclay

Surely Scottish heritage requires that pupils have exposure to Bible

6th September 2018 by Jeannette

Children should have the opportunity to choose themselves to get more involved in faith. I agree no 1 faith should be enforced on all exclusively, but if we are to remain a democratic society, choices should remain. Different religious organisations should be allowed to share their message to pupils - with pupils given the right to choose to attend or not. Removing choice as dictated by the humanist society, where one person, the head teacher dictates what is allowed, is not part of freedom of speech or choice and in no way encouraging independent thinking in children to seek the truth and meaning in life. It is also completely contrary if one seeks to raise a generation that is tolerant, understanding and open minded.

6th September 2018 by Annula Murray

In our world today I think it is even more important than ever that young people have some background and understanding to what people believe and the role of ALL different religions in our society. Schools should be resourced to do this with impartiality to the best of their ability.

7th September 2018 by Simon Baxter

To have freedom to explore faith matters is important for every child, whatever their own conclusion as they grow up.

8th September 2018 by Stuart Davidson

I'm a church of Scotland Minister so has an interest - however my comment is that there is no such thing as a vacum in my view it is best to be informed so you can decide for yourself.

10th September 2018 by Maureen latto

Young people should be allowed to make their own decision about religion. I came from a non practising Christian home and yet when at school I enjoyed hearing about Christianity. In fact so much so I asked my head teacher where I could go to a church and found out more. I went for about a year then when I was a teenager I stopped. In my 40's I decided a wanted to learn more about Christianity and went on an ALPHA course after which I am now a believer. Everyone should be given the opportunity to explore Christianity. Why wouldn't anyone not want to hear about peace, loving your neighbour, forgiveness, sharing.

10th September 2018 by Catherine Chiang

It was the Christian faith that lead to the establishment of an education system and schools in every parish in Scotland. It has contributed so much to our values as a society that to ignore it is to deny who we are as a nation. Our children deserve the right to be taught the history of our people.

12th September 2018 by Rebecca Macfarlane

It is increasingly important for children and young people to understand about different belief systems in order to encourage tolerance of diversity and understanding of the world and the history of their own country and also give them opportunities to explore and question their own value and belief system.

15th September 2018 by Tony

It’s a landslide for religious schools!

17th September 2018 by Reuben

The experience of my children in a explicitly secular high school was that they were embarrassed and mocked for their christian faith. Staff set the tone by also being uncomfortable with children knowing any religious affiliation too. Part of having a multi-cultural school is that the religious part of our children (and staff) is not ignored but celebrated. Otherwise religion becomes something we study and that "other" (less educated) people do. We need to help our children to be confident participants in a multi-cultural society, and that includes celebrations that are significant to our school community (which is likely to include, Eid, Diwali, Christmas, Darwin Day and Gay Pride).