From Mr Don Manley
Sir, - As a former textbook-editor who had to deal with issues
in religious education for many years, I read Andrew Brown (Press, 26 September)
with particular interest.
It was the Revd Professor John Bowker who highlighted the
importance of religious education in one of my authors' books when
he wrote in 1983: "Religions are extremely dangerous. . . If we
want to live in a more peaceful world, it is important that we
understand what there is about religion which makes believers so
passionate in their beliefs and in their divisions from each
Thirty years on, though, we find that it is mildly surprising
when a bishop points out the dangers of religion, and it appears
controversial to one government minister that pupils should learn
about more than one religion.
Yes, indeed, religions (or what is done in the name of them) can
certainly be dangerous; but my experience with the local RE
committee (SACRE) suggested that the "nasty bits" of religion were
to be skirted around, largely because our membership consisted of
people of different faiths who all (quite reasonably) wanted to be
nice to each other.
Since I left the Oxfordshire SACRE a year or so ago, the
situation has dramatically changed. RE is under continuing threat,
and schools (many no longer controlled by education authorities)
now go their own separate ways.
My view is that it is time to replace RE with a new subject,
"Beliefs and Values". This new subject would require the study of
humanistic beliefs as well as the great world religions and go much
deeper into exploring what makes people tick.
Education changes, and our five-year-olds are to be taught basic
computer coding. The next generation also needs a better
understanding of the variety of visions by which people live, and a
means for the young to find their own visions in a spirit of
goodwill. This would be to the benefit of us all. We've a long way
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