Introduction

The discussion of religious studies in schools is a subject that has elicited contention in the academic circles. Scholars are divided on whether or not religious studies should be taught in schools. The subject matter has also brought out controversy among curriculum developers. The main issue of contention revolves around establishing the boundary between religion and state.

Religious studies are very important in raising morally upright citizens in a nation. Although it is possible to reject the move to offer religious studies in schools based on the claim that parents should instill morals in their children at home, it is crucial to realize that many contemporary parents are usually busy to the extent that getting time to share moral stories with their kids is almost impossible. Hence, with this foundation, the paper argues that there is a place for religious studies in schools today and that the benefits of studying religion outweigh the demerits.

Pros of Religious Studies in Schools

Religious Studies help to Raise Morally Decent Citizens

According to Cochran (2014), the study of religion should be encouraged from the entry level since it assists in character molding. It is important to note that religious studies instill good morals in people. Examples of these morals include honesty, faithfulness, hard work, respect, and dignity.

All religious studies, including Christianity, Islam, and Hinduism others promote these virtues. Religion also helps to prevent vices among young people in the society today. The witnessed issues of violence among young people may be attributed to lack of religious teachings. Video games are contributing to aggressive behavior in kids of age between 9 and 12 years (Ellithorpe, Cruz, Velez, Ewoldsen, & Bogert, 2015).

Religion discourages vices such as early pregnancies among the young people, majority of who are in schools. As part of their work, tutors of religious studies discourage drug and substance abuse among learners, thus encouraging them to be productive citizens in a country. Since religion prohibits sexual relationships before marriage, it plays an important role in eradicating sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV and AIDS among others.

Furthermore, teachers of religious studies address the issue of the sanctity of family and the need to promote faithfulness in marriage. Hence, as future parents, students who lack such understanding from school may end up failing to know the aspects that need to be imparted to their kids.

According to Cochran (2014), religious studies help to develop learners’ character, values, and beliefs. Hence, failing to offer lessons that instill these concepts in school may result in a violent and undisciplined generation that lacks meaning focus in life.

According to Cheadle and Schwadel (2012), religion helps to promote ethics among learners. Such ethical elements help to nurture students to become all-rounded citizens. Such religious principles in a school setting form the basis of professional work ethics in many organizations today. It also promotes good interpersonal relationship by making people appreciate diversity and/or create the need for peaceful co-existence.

These attributes can only be acquired through the study of religion in schools where they are instilled from the formative stages of growth and development (Cheadle & Schwadel, 2012). It is also important to note that many careers in the world today have their foundation on religion. Religion comes in handy in the career development of disciplines such as law, medicine, philosophy, psychology, and counseling among others.

These disciplines have their foundation established on the morals and ethics of religion as presented in the various schooling levels. Moreover, people who major in religious studies can grow to become professionals in various areas such as teachers, counselors, and religious leaders among others.

They can also run religious organizations and ministries, facilitate proper international relations, and/or work in the media and non-governmental organizations. Governmental organizations such as public schools, police force, and the military normally have a chaplain.

Such role can only be developed after studying religion and hence developing an interest in the career. According to Jeynes (2012), schools that teach religion achieve the highest level of performance compared to those that discourage religious studies. The implication here is that religious studies create a big impact on career advancement.

Religion also helps in acquiring important life skills. Such skills are acquired after learning about religious personalities who demonstrated great faith, perseverance, and commitment. Students with such skills will also try to emulate such persons and hence grow to become responsible citizens.

It is also important to note that moral uprightness is acquired by instilling the fear of God in the lives of students. Such fear helps learners to acquire knowledge and wisdom. However, it is apparent that schools are the best placed to impart this understanding through religious studies.

Religious Studies Promote Religious Freedom

As Russo (2016) reveals, the freedom of religion is a guaranteed basic human right in most of the progressive constitutions. Therefore, religious studies give students a better understanding of their religions. It is important to note that religious studies teach the basic pillars of every belief.

For example, through religion, students learn important aspects of religion such as the believers’ creed and the five pillars of Islam among others. Therefore, the teaching of religion gives one the freedom of choice in relation to worship.

It is also important to note that the best democracies in the world have their countries founded on the belief in a Supreme Being or deity. From these establishments, it becomes crucial to instill morals among learners by teaching them religious studies in schools.

Furthermore, Duemmler and Nagel (2013) reveal how religion helps learners to understand cultural diversity of the world populations since different regions practice diverse religious beliefs. Such understanding of the varied beliefs will promote peaceful co-existence while allowing room for better diplomatic negotiations among nations.

It is important to note that religion has a lot of influence on the way people live their lives, do their businesses, and/or relate with one another. Therefore, this situation makes religious studies a very important aspect in schools since it helps in preparing students to work in any part of the world.

In other words, religion plays an important role in helping students to understand the history of the world. It may also help a student in explaining the patterns of politics, trade, and law. Religion forms the foundation of these major areas, which eventually have a direct impact on people’s way of life. Equipping students with religious knowledge helps them to understand and appreciate the role of faith in shaping the world.

According to Kunzman (2012), the worsening levels of education can easily be attributed to strict regulations on religious studies in schools. This restriction has led to deteriorating standards of education, as well as moral decay in the society.

Religious Studies help in Explaining the Mysteries of Life

Religion helps in explaining the complicated issues of life that are not addressed in other disciplines. Some of the mysteries include life after death, miraculous occurrences, eternal living, hell, and heaven. Science and other disciplines do not explain these things, yet they are important items in religion.

Therefore, addressing these aspects makes learners have a wider view of the matters of life. Furthermore, in line with Vermeer (2012) views, religious studies help to enhance learners’ critical thinking. It expands the scope of students since it goes beyond issues that happen in the present world.

Religion also reveals future events in the form of prophecy, hence helping learners to have an insight about events to come. Hence, it is crucial to include religious studies in the school curriculum to boost students’ level and scope of thinking.

Religion answers many of learners’ curiosity questions. For this reason, elements from religious studies dominate discussions on social and mainstream media. Therefore, such studies cannot be wished away. Religion has a lot of influence on people’s cultural activities and beliefs, hence making it an important subject of study in schools.

According to Banton (2013), religious studies form part of the social structure of a society. Hence, omitting the study of religion in school translates into denying learners a crucial element that they need in their life.

Cons of Religious Studies

Although religious studies form part of a student’s learning areas, it is crucial to note that it comes with some drawback when presented in a school setting. One disadvantage that comes with religious studies in schools is that the subject excludes the interests of the non-religious groups.

According to Kurtzleben (2017), non-religious groups such as atheists have their interest and freedom that should be respected in schools. Religious studies are based on the belief of supernatural beings that are not recognized in atheism. Therefore, the teaching and practice of religion in schools may make atheists and other non-religious groups feel socially excluded and discriminated.

Furthermore, religion may not consider the cultural diversity and beliefs of every individual (Kurtzleben, 2017). Non-religious groups that form a minority may also feel harassed and discriminated by the teaching of religion is schools. Furthermore, the study of religion contradicts some teachings of science.

For instance, while science teaching in schools will make learners believe and uphold the evolution theory, religious studies teach the opposite to the same learners. Hence, opponents of teaching religion in schools assert that it brings confusion to the learner.

For instance, according to Gaylor (2014), it is advisable to teach atheism also in schools for all learners to be well represented. The evolution theory believes that people transformed over time through several stages and advancements.

Opinion

I support religious studies in schools since the learner has more to gain than lose from religious subjects. Religious studies help in molding and shaping the world’s culture. However, it is important to allow students the freedom to choose whether they want to study religion or not since it has a bearing in their careers as previously highlighted.

In my opinion, religious studies should not be made compulsory but optional. In so doing, it will ensure that the interests of religious, as well as non-religious students are respected and that nobody will feel discriminated.

Conclusion

From the discussions above, it comes out clearly that religious studies should form part of the school curriculum. However, it is important to underscore that the studies should aim at providing the understanding of various cultures in the world to facilitate the integration of communities.

The peaceful integration and co-existence of the world’s population guarantees proper political relations. The study of religion in schools should not be aimed and converting individuals. Instead, it should help people to appreciate diversity. Carrying out religious studies appropriately in schools may help to stop many religious wars and persecutions that the world is witnessing today.

References

Banton, M. (2013). Anthropological approaches to the study of religion. London, England: Routledge.

Cheadle, J. E., & Schwadel, P. (2012). The ‘friendship dynamics of religion,’ or the ‘religious dynamics of friendship’? A social network analysis of adolescents who attend small schools. Social Science Research, 41(5), 1198-1212.

Cochran, C. E. (2014). Religion in public and private life. London, England: Routledge.

Duemmler, K & Nagel, A. (2013). Duemmler, Kerstin; Nagel, Alexander-Kenneth: Governing religious diversity: Top-down and bottom-up initiatives in Germany and Switzerland. Integrative Psychological & Behavioral Science, 47(2), 265-83

Ellithorpe, M., Cruz, C., Velez, J., Ewoldsen, D., & Bogert, A. (2015). Moral license in video games: When being right can mean doing wrong. CyberPsychology, Behavior & Social Networking, 18(4), 203-207.

Gaylor, A. (2014). The Dangers of Religious Instruction in Public Schools.

Jeynes, W. H. (2012). A meta-analysis on the effects and contributions of public, public charter, and religious schools on student outcomes. Peabody Journal of Education, 87(3), 305-335.

Kunzman, R. (2012). Grappling with the good: Talking about religion and morality in public schools. Albany, NY: SUNY Press.

Kurtzleben, D. (2017). Nonreligious Americans Remain Far Underrepresented In Congress.

Russo, C. (2016). Religious freedom in faith-based educational institutions in the wake of Obergefell v. Hodges: Believers beware. Brigham Young University Education & Law Journal, 1(2), 263-308.

Vermeer, P. (2012). Meta-concepts, thinking skills and religious education. British Journal of Religious Education, 34(3), 333-347.

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