Religious freedom

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Hugh Reilly (Perspective, 10 June) argued that society would be best served by banishing religion from schools rather than allowing teachers to “evangelise on behalf of the God industry”.

Through his use of such phrases and his description of religious beliefs being “force-fed” to young people, he gives an impression of religious education that is unrecognisable from my experience of teaching religious and moral education (RME) for 35 years in state non-denominational secondary schools.

The idea of evangelising or force-feeding beliefs to their pupils would be a complete anathema to the teachers of RME of my acquaintance. Indeed, many of them do not have any strong religious beliefs of their own that they would wish to force on their pupils.

Regardless of their own personal beliefs, RME teachers recognise that the ideas and beliefs of religions (and non-religious belief systems) are a fact of life and a powerful influence both for good and evil in today’s world.

The aim of RME teachers – far from trying to indoctrinate or evangelise, is to educate young people in the beliefs, values and practices of different belief 
systems and to encourage young people to evaluate them.

In other words, to do exactly what Mr Reilly seems to think teaching religion in schools encourages pupils not to do, ie think for themselves.

To remove religious education from schools would be to leave pupils ignorant of the beliefs of millions of the world’s population.

It is ignorance of this sort that allows prejudice, discrimination, extremism and lack of respect to thrive (a lack of respect of which Mr Reilly is himself guilty by referring to religious teaching as “superstitious input”).

It is not ignorance of the world’s religions that is needed but education about them. That is what religious education aims to provide.

Isdale Anderson

Whinny Brae

Broughty Ferry

David Robertson (Letters, 9 June) is correct that I am indeed a member of the Scottish Secular Society.

My previous letter, however, contained my own opinions and made no mention of that organisation.

Scots Law did indeed adopt Roman Law to fill gaps in civil and common law, as did other European nations. The one thing Scots Law is not based on is Christian Law, contrary to what Mr Robertson may claim.

And Scotland was indeed a theocracy for almost a thousand years.

Pre-Reformation the bishops were the real power behind the throne, and the Reformation Parliament of 1560 established the Presbyterian faith as the state religion, with all other faiths banned, and laws instituted to punish 
anyone who dared to even question the Bible.

I am surprised that a Scottish Presbyterian minister should even try to deny that.

The result of these theocracies was the suffering of a great many through being tried and executed for witchcraft or blasphemy, whether that be in armed conflict, victims of sectarian strife, or merely being told the Bible was literal truth which must never be questioned.

Finally, I am no fundamentalist secularist and atheist but rather someone who supports freedom of religion, and from religion, which is infinitely preferable to those who would seek to enforce Protestant Christianity upon people of all faiths and none.

Leslie John Thomson

Moredunvale Green

Edinburgh

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