Role of religion

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Steuart Campbell (Letters, 24 June) is calling on the Scottish Government to end compulsory worship in schools, despite the fact that all local authorities are bound by the Education (Scotland) Act 1980 to provide religious education and religious observance in Scottish schools.

Given the deeply cultural nature of religious identity and expression and the many ways in which society is shaped and coloured by religious practices, past and present, it is difficult to envisage schooling without religion.

The exclusion of religion would create a significant cultural vacuum. In reality, therefore, the extraction of religion from schools is neither desirable nor sustainable.

Just as non-religious pupils may be marginalised by religious practices in schools, so might pupils from faith backgrounds be marginalised by secular-normative schooling – that is, schooling which is premised on the non-existence of God.

What we need in schools is a new understanding of religious convictions as something more and something other than mere relics of the past.

We need something more courageous than “tolerance”; more open than respect.

We need genuine engagement with religions as ways of knowing and of being and as cultural expressions of humanity. Removing religious observance altogether is not the answer.

Martin Conroy

Oldhamstocks

East Lothian

Following my letter on the way virtues are promoted in schools, David A Robertson (Letters, 24 June) asks what I mean by “universal virtues”.

I mean the avoidance of behaviour that others should not have to suffer and the cultivation of behaviour that benefits others.

We do not want to be robbed, assaulted, slandered, intimidated or deprived by the vandalising of property and facilities, so schools should discourage these actions and encourage respect for the right of others to be spared them.

I do indeed consider this self-evident, as do other “reasonable human beings”, whether atheist, Humanist, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Sikh or Buddhist.

Schools, whose function is education, must promote behaviour that creates a safe, happy 
environment conducive to learning.

They do not need to take sides on divisive issues such as abortion or same-sex marriage, which have no bearing on how children are expected to behave at school. (If a child is bullied because the couple raising him are the same sex, or one of his parents is an abortionist, the issue to be addressed is bullying.)

Any more culturally specific values that parents want their children to accept can be promoted by the parents.

A secular education system would not inhibit their choice to do so.

Robert Canning

Vice chair, The Scottish Secular Society

Broughton Street

Edinburgh

I write in support of Robert Canning. Perhaps David A Robertson should acquaint himself with the principals of secularism.

To state that the Secularist Society has no rational or logical basis for their values is absurd.

I am not a member of the Secular Society but for any organisation that promotes religious freedom, democracy and fairness, separation of religion from state is hardly irrational or irrelevant.

Promoting the right to be theist or atheist is commendable in a balanced society.

Mr Robertson’s answer is that only Christian tradition can provide a proven basis for universal values. Secularism has a much broader outlook.

Anne Seenan

East Bankton Place

Murieston, West Lothian

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