Religious Education isn’t what you think it is

bible classes are indoctrination
If it's being taught in school, it must be true, right?
bible classes are indoctrination
If it’s being taught in school, it must be true, right?

“Religious Education” in New Zealand primary schools is a misleading term. What parents remember as “RE Classes”, are for the most part, Christian Religious Instruction classes designed to indoctrinate children in Christian beliefs. You think that using the word “indoctrination” is exaggerating?

Like all words, there are different definitions for “indoctrination” but here are a few definitions that I think make it pretty clear…

  1. To teach (a person or group) to accept a set of beliefs uncritically.
  2. To often repeat an idea or belief to someone in order to persuade them to accept it.
  3. Teaching someone to accept a set of beliefs without questioning them.
  4. Teaching a set of beliefs from a position of authority without the ability to question or criticise.

After you’ve read those definitions, imagine a young child in their classroom being told to believe in God and the Bible as fact. There is no discussion about whether or not there is a God, or if the Bible is factual. Their teacher, who they trust is probably sat there observing the lesson but not intervening or offering any opposing viewpoint. The kids are simply not in any position to question what they are being told. It is obviously indoctrination.

While there are some “special character” religious schools that are integrated into the state school system, there are still hundreds of supposedly secular (non-religious) state schools that still promote religious beliefs to primary school children through a loophole in the law.

These classes are approved by the school’s board of trustees and are not part of the school curriculum.

The Bible in Schools classes are;

  • Not approved or even reviewed by the Ministry of Education.
  • Generally led by unqualified volunteers, not trained teachers.
  • Instructing in Christian faith, not teaching about religion.
  • Taught while the school is technically “closed”.
  • Only taught from one view with no opposing ideas.

Did your school tell you this? Comment below!

Religious Education or Religious Instruction?

These are the remains of middle-age Saxon crosses that used to stand in the churchyard at Ilkley, in West Yorkshire, where I lived. Some remains are still there to see.
These are the remains of middle-age Saxon crosses that used to stand in the churchyard at Ilkley, in West Yorkshire, where I lived. Some remains are still there to see.

If the school my Daughter was at taught real religious education, this website wouldn’t exist. I think that knowledge of religion in our society, history, literature and it’s impact on science and humanity in general is really important. I find it bloody fascinating! I lived in the UK for several years and spent a lot of time visiting religious sites such as 1000 year old cathedrals, dark age shrines, the ruins of Roman temples and stone circles such as Stonehenge. There’s lots more I would like to see!

THAT is Religious Education. Finding out what people think, how they worshipped, what they believe and what it means for society. Whether you’re doing it in a classroom or in an iron age barrow, you’re learning, not being force-fed beliefs.

Teaching five year olds to believe in any religious faith, and follow it, is Religious Instruction. Let’s be clear, it is brain-washing, it is indoctrination. It has no place in our state schools.

Now, if you’re a Christian (or any religion) and you want to “indoctrinate” your kids in your religion, that is entirely up to you! I indoctrinate my kids all the time about how I think they should act and what I think is a good belief and a bad belief. Make your bed every morning! Be nice to your Sister! What’s the magic word? Stop eating snails! Say thank you!

It’s our job as parents to impart beliefs that we think will assist them in life and try to screw them up as little as possible before adulthood.

At some stage, we will have a chat about the bigger questions of how the universe came to exist and what happens after you die. This is for myself and my Wife to decide, not for anyone else to instruct.

What do you think? Let me know in the comments below and check out My Story if you haven’t read it yet.



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