Do we understand religion, and does it matter?


York Big Ideas Festival report 3 (RELIGION, EDUCATION AND CIVIL SOCIETY (in partnership with the Religion Media Centre)).

View the other York Big Ideas Festival reports HERE.

  • Chair: Rosie Dawson, former BBC producer, now at the Religion Media Centre.
  • Speakers: Colin Lewisohn, York Humanist Network,
  • Prof. Pauline Kollantai, St John’s Centre for Religion in Society,
  • Rachael Maskell, MP for York Central,
  • The Very Revd. Dominic Barrington, Dean of York.

Rosie Dawson began by introducing the panel and asking if understanding religion matters and why.

Colin Lewisohn said that the understanding of religion matters and noted that understanding everything matters and that is not exclusive to religion. He also said that – due to the gargantuan role of religion in the formation of societies and the operation of society now – understanding religion matters hugely.

Rachael Maskell said that, through life, it’s important that we learn to listen, and faith is integral to everyone. It is the basis of learning about each other and understanding each other, she said.

The topic of the Lords Spiritual came up. Should there be bishops in the House of Lords? This quiz produced a split result.

Rachael said that she was an advocate for an elected second chamber, but she also values the contribution of religious representatives in the House of Lords. She also noted, that in an elected second chamber, religious leaders will have to stand for election.

The Dean noted that it is always a good thing to have a faith lens in the Lords. But he said  he would like there to be other religions represented officially, not just the Anglican faith.

Prof. Pauline noted that  primary schools were forbidden from having specialist teachers in 2010, which means that schools don’t have RE/RS courses these days.

Rosie queried if religious education should be integrated in all lessons instead of individual set lessons. Pauline said that kind of system would create individual biases in which other religions not well known by the teacher may not be taught properly.

Colin suggested that RE needs to be replaced by two subjects: World View and Critical Thinking. Pauline commented that, in our religious schools, children are being totally isolated from a world view and other religions.

Rachael said that there hasn’t been enough debate or discussion on faith and religious schools. Religious people are a key part of the community as their faith leads them to do something incredibly kind. But Pauline said religious communities should put more pressure on the government.

She fears that there are no longer real ‘prophetic’ leaders who stand up to ministers and to governments.

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Radix is the radical centre think tank. We welcome all contributions which promote system change, challenge established notions and re-imagine our societies. The views expressed here are those of the individual contributor and not necessarily shared by Radix.

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