Religious education emphasizes respect for others, regardless of their beliefs, race or social status. In our diverse society, children need an understanding of other principal religions and other world views. In teaching about the beliefs and traditions of other people, the subject promotes discernment and enables pupils to combat prejudice.
Comparing and contrasting religions offers enormous opportunities to not only see fundamental differences but also similarities, which students can analyze and draw conclusions about. We unpack what it all might mean for us in understanding other groups, our own culture, and our own values.
With religious education, our students acquire a knowledge of Christianity, the religion that has played such a central part in this country’s cultural heritage. Any study of literature, history, or art is impoverished without an understanding of this context. Children also need the opportunity to discuss challenging questions about the ultimate meaning and purpose of life, and what it is to be human, about death, about why people believe in God, and the difference between right and wrong. Religious education is perhaps one curricular subject which asks more questions than it answers.
It is only when young people have grappled with these enormous questions that they can begin to make sense of what they themselves believe and think. Religious education can encourage pupils to think, and to develop their own sense of identity. And if young people are encouraged to recognize their own uniqueness and value, they will flourish both as individuals and as citizens in a pluralistic society and global community.