Call for atheism to be included in religious education

By Harriet Sherwood

Religious education in schools needs a major overhaul to reflect an increasingly diverse world and should include the study of atheism, agnosticism and secularism, a two-year investigation has concluded.

The subject should be renamed Religion and Worldviews to equip young people with respect and empathy for different faiths and viewpoints, says the Commission on Religious Education in a report published on Sunday.

Content “must reflect the complex, diverse and plural nature of worldviews”, drawing from “a range of religious, philosophical, spiritual and other approaches to life, including different traditions within Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism and Sikhism, non-religious worldviews and concepts including humanism, secularism, atheism and agnosticism”.

All pupils in publicly funded schools should study the subject up to year 11, the report says, but it falls short of recommending the abolition of the right of parents to withdraw children from religious education. It comes three weeks after figures showed the number of pupils taking religious studies at A-level this year had fallen by 22% compared with 2017, and two days after new data suggested more than half the population has no religion.

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