Would you take your child out of RE lessons at school?

Would you take your child out of RE lessons at school? And would you speak to the school before making your decision?

Posted: March 2nd 2011

flagellant www

I think it depends on the nature of the school – whether or not there is an implicit requirement that the children believe rather than study a religion – the age of the child, and the child’s personality, views, and attitudes.

I was fortunate enough to go to a school that took the academic approach and, although I was notionally a believer at the time, I appreciated the way in which 'Divinity’ – for that was what the subject was called – was taught. I never found myself under any pressure. Indeed, I remember the sessions more as 'Comparative Religion’, than anything more devotional.

When bringing up my son, I took care never to try to influence his views on 'Goddish’ matters. Had he shown an interest in swallowing a religion hook, line, and sinker, I might have tried to disabuse him, but he turned out to have a natural, remarkably free-thinking attitude, and I did nothing to polarise his thinking. However, had he expressed strong anti-religious feelings, I might have discussed with him that he should be excused the class.

Children, more than adults, need to have a sense of belonging and, unless they are very strange, being a one person out-group is likely to make them very unhappy, especially if this situation is foisted on them by a parent. So, I think you must be careful: do not seek to have your child excluded from a class, unless the child clearly wants it; consider the sensitivity of the child. The child’s education is for them, not for you.

This reminds me that I excluded myself from the notionally religious act of worship when I reached my mid-teens. I had no-one influencing me. I never told my parents who, at this stage, did not know that I was well on the way to being an atheist. Perhaps you should adopt a less prescriptive approach than those you are contemplating and rely on giving your child a naturalistic world view. You can then look forward to her/his avoiding religious brainwashing without your intervention.

Posted: March 3rd 2011

See all questions answered by flagellant

Reed Braden www

I’m not familiar with what an RE Lesson is, by name, so I’m going to assume the broadest possible definition that this means any grade-school class where children are taught about religion. That way, I may accidentally happen across something relevant in my answer.

My answer depends on if the class will be teaching religion from an unbiased, historical and literary perspective, or if the class will be teaching one single religion as absolute truth.

In the case of the former, I would encourage my children to excel in this class and I would study with them at home so that they could garner the best possible education about all of the major (and many of the minor) religions and mythologies of human history up to modern day. If the class was not mandatory, but offered as an elective that is unbiased, objective, and covers many different religions equally, I would encourage my child to take this class in lieu of other, less informative electives. (My old high school offered a class in weight-lifting… not an extra-curricular sport for weight-lifting, but an elective class. A World Religions elective would have been more productive.)

In the case of the latter—where the instructor “teaches” the kids that one specific religion, or any religion is true—I would immediately withdraw my child from the class, and in the case of this being held in a public school, I would begin the necessary legal procedures to force the school to stop wasting taxpayer money on this nonsense. In the case of this happening at a private school, I would express my concern to the president of the school and insist that my child not be subjected to this class or penalized for refusing to participate, as such a class would go against my better judgement for what is right for my child as a parent.

Posted: March 2nd 2011

See all questions answered by Reed Braden

Steve Zara www

No. I would encourage them to find out all they can about the strange beliefs of religion. That should make them even more informed about the world they live in, and the way the minds of others work.

Posted: March 2nd 2011

See all questions answered by Steve Zara


Is your atheism a problem in your religious family or school?
Talk about it at the atheist nexus forum