42% Britons think religious education should focus on Christianity; 31% say major faiths equally
Almost half of Britons believe that religious education in schools should feature Christianity as its primary focus, but still include teachings on all major kinds of faith – making this the most popular option in our poll. Just under one third feels that all major religions should be taught equally, with a notable minority saying that religious education should not be taught at all.
- 42% say religious education (RE) in schools should teach primarily about Christianity but also cover other faiths
- 31% say RE in schools should teach about all the major faiths equally
- 14% say RE should not be taught in schools at all
- 6% say RE in schools should only teach about Christianity
- 3% said none of those options reflected their views on the subject
Younger people appear more in favour of teaching all faiths equally, while the older generations are more likely to say that Christianity should be the main focus of religious education.
- 48% of people aged 18 to 24 say that RE should teach all the major faiths equally, compared to 19% of those over 60
- 53% of people over 60 say that RE in schools should primarily cover Christianity but also other faiths, versus 29% of 18-24s who say the same
- And while just 1% of the younger age group says that RE in schools should only cover Christianity, ten times this amount (10%) have this view among the over 60s
Religious and non-religious views
Respondents who identify as Christian (of all denominations) are predictably more likely than others to say that RE lessons should primarily focus on Christianity as well as teaching other major faiths alongside – while those who feel that RE should focus solely on Christianity are still very much in the minority.
- 65% of those who say they are Christian feel that Christianity should be the main focus
- One in five (20%) of these say that all major faiths should be taught equally
- Just 8% of Christians say that schools should only teach Christianity
Among those who say they are not at all religious, just over a quarter (28%) think that RE should not be taught in schools at all, but a sizeable 37% think that all major faiths should be taught equally. A smaller 21% (less than half of those who say they are religious) say that RE in schools should teach primarily about Christianity.
An on-going debate
The influence of a school on a child’s religious inclination is often debated in the media.
Prominent atheist, Richard Dawkins, has been vocal in his suggestions of a secular schooling system, and encourages the entry of religious education into the national curriculum as a means of comparing different religions, thus putting an end to faith based education focusing on one sole religion, which he calls 'socially divisive and educationally damaging'.
Archbishop Vincent Nichols, the new head of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, has led the Catholic Church's battle to maintain the freedom of faith schools, claiming that Catholic schools have a crucial role to play in creating a society founded on values such as honesty, justice, compassion and courage, while neutral schools have no values.
Northern Ireland Educator Marie Cowan has encouraged an integrated schooling system of multiple faiths that encourages acceptance and community, but which is founded upon Christian values.
In her open letter to the Belfast Telegraph, Cowan writes: 'We are committed to revealing and discussing the diversity of faiths in the world, but also recognise a need to inform young people about the crucial events and symbols celebrated in Christianity, in order to unlock so much of Western culture and history'.