When I was in secondary school, religious studies was mandatory, until I got to about 14 years old and then you were able to select a number of subjects that you wished to pursue, and you were able to drop some of the mandatory classes. I’m unsure if it still works this way, but this is what happened in the 80’s.
Not only was I forced to attend religious studies every week, but a mini bus used to pick up around my local area to herd all of the kids to Sunday school which I got involved with. I used to collect my little red Gideon Bible and make my way to Sunday school quite enthusiastic as even at a young age, religion interested me. The Sunday school used to set aside some time for Bible studies, then they’d sit us all in a circle and ask us questions. Upon every right answer you were given a raffle ticket that could be redeemed at the end for sweets (candy). So it was in the child’s interest to get as many answers right so they had enough sweets for the journey home. A sneaky ploy, I’m sure you’ll agree.
At the time I had no idea that the words of the Bible were to be taken literal and seriously, I thought it was just a fantasy book, that strange people enjoyed. Roughly about the same time the three Omen movies were being shown on TV (one a week). This was an excuse for all of the kids to study the book of Revelations, as it was quoted numerous times in the movie. The Omen movies weren’t good for Christianity as it convinced a generation that the Bible was fantasy and to be used in movies. I guess that was the beginning of my atheism as I found the whole Satan thing to be too far fetched to be believable.
What inspired me to share this with you is because of a recent case where atheist parents, Lee and Lizanne Harris have taken legal action against ‘Oxford Diocesan Schools Trust (ODST) after arguing that Burford Primary School is acting “unlawfully‘ in that bible re-enactments and praying is a breach of human rights. I’m a firm believer in secularism, which involves keeping the church out of state business, so everyone gets a fair deal, and no one gets priority treatment, but I can’t decide if this is going too far. I became an atheists because I gained knowledge of religion, especially Christianity as England is classed as a Christian nation.
Perhaps the praying is going too far, but should a school not spend time teaching about all of the main religions and humanism/atheism, so a child is informed so they can make a choice that suits them?