NI report shines religion in a poor educational light

I’ve come to regard religion as something that individuals should choose to either follow or not. It’s not something to be handed down from one generation to another just as it should not be the norm to follow the same politics as your parents. Individuals can grow into much more rounded citizens if they make such choices themselves.

The report, linked below, on the effect of religious governance of schools therefore interested me:-

www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-54063908

I was brought up in my Dad’s religion, baptised and confirmed into his religion and I went along with it not thinking or knowing of any alternatives until I was about 15. Around that time I recall looking at my religious world which, whilst not being a big part of my life, did mean I was in a church choir and I wondered why I was doing it. I talked to a friend who was to a lesser degree following his parents religion and we both wondered why we were following a similar path.

Me sat in my old choir stall at Sefton Church. I recall sitting in this very seat – if memory serves me well of course – it was 47 years ago!

This thinking led us both to walk away from religion as being something which was not for us, although we removed religion from our lives politely and certainly not in away to offend others who held strong religious beliefs.*

I can’t say I’ve ever looked back and regretted that move indeed the older I get the more I feel I did the right thing for me.

I got married in a church, of my (former) and my wife’s religion, because that was what my wife wanted and we had our daughter baptised for a similar reason. However, that’s where any religious direction for our youngster ceased. The religious, political and pretty much everything else direction she then took in her life has been her decision and hers alone. As far as I’m concerned such is her business and not mine.

Having read this far you won’t be surprised to hear that I’m not at all keen on religious schools** being used by parents to reinforce their own religious beliefs upon their children. Education is all about bringing well rounded citizens to adulthood with the skills to be able to be a part of society and the knowledge to be able to gain and hold onto jobs, it’s not about religion. Having said that I’ve no problem whatsoever with youngsters being taught about world religions, what they each believe in and why some people choose to follow them, indeed to understand how society works such knowledge is vital.

All these thoughts came to me having read the article linked above about how schools are governed in Northern Ireland. Whilst the situation there is unique in the UK due to historic religious/political intolerance it’s nice to see that calm and sober assessment of how the mainly religious NI schools are run will probably lead to change for the better, although such change will sadly take far too long to come about.

* Ludovic Kennedy’s book published in 1999 ‘All in the mind – A Farewell to God’ is an excellent read about losing your religion.

** I think my first primary school may have been a religious one although it may well have been chosen because it was within easy walking distance of our family home. I was only there about 18 months though and the 2 subsequent primary schools I attended were not religious based, neither was the high school I went to.

Should I carry the burden of being a racist because previous generations of my family were racists?

I’ve posted before about my Dad and Grandmother, on his side of the family, being openly antisemitic and how I put a stop to racism in my generation. I’m also proud of the fact that our daughter Jen will have nothing what so ever to do with racism either.

But the other day my mate Phil said to me, in relation to the BLM campaign and a debate we were having about it, that he feared that some folks could end up being blamed for the ‘sins of their fathers’. Not surprisingly having had racism present in my own family it made me wonder whether I carried their racism with me. The thought horrified me.

Of course some things do get passed down from generation to generation in many families such as – support for a football team, support for a political party, belief in a religion. Indeed, there’s often an expectation that such family habits are carried on and older generations will take their youngsters to see the football team they want their children to support. They’ll take their children to partake in ‘their’ particular religion and even send them to a school which which promotes the parental religious beliefs. And yes politics too. I once heard an elderly lady say to me that she was going to vote Lib Dem for the first time in her life but she could not afford for her family to know that! I did not ask if the family was Tory or Labour but it certainly made me think.

So if we can pass on sporting team support, religion and politics what else is being passed on? Sadly, I suspect that racism can often be such a hand me down and that’s why our education system should be set up in such a way to challenge generational racism.

Surely we want young people to be free thinking individuals who are happy to challenge long held family views on many things. That’s why I oppose religious schools as my view is that having a religion, or indeed not having one, is a decision for the individual not one to be directed by family expectations.

I rejected my Dad’s religion (CofE), politics (Conservative) and racism but I bought into his love of cricket and support for the same 2 football teams. You’ll notice I only made reference to my Dad there as Mum and I shared what I think are similar political views. I rarely had any political discussions with her but I’m pretty sure she was a Chapel Liberal at heart whereas I’m a Social Liberal without any religion.

The football slogan ‘No room for Racism’ is very apt but for it to really mean anything young people need to have the confidence to reject it when it’s present in their own families.

Religion – Young folk are turning their back on it

Click on the chart to enlarge it

Evan I, as an atheist, was surprised by these stats. Our world is changing very fast indeed but of course it also begs the question as to what religion and its more acceptable values are being replaced with. You see whilst being an atheist I do appreciate that many religious folk do a lot of good particularly in terms charitable works.

Our society needs values to aspire to yet I fear it is becoming more selfish and insular whilst losing its religion. This is both a challenge and an opportunity.