Religious Education in Schools could be dangerous for our Children – 21 Jul 11


As I wrote yesterday, religion should be a matter of choice and we need to give our children the freedom of decision, even if this seems difficult to maintain for parents who have a strong belief. What I don’t understand, from this point of view, is why religious education is a school subject in many countries.

In many countries of Europe you have Christian religion classes in government schools, in the USA parents send their children to Sunday school of the preferred religion of their parents and in many Muslim countries the teachings of Islam are present in all subjects. In India government schools do not actually have a subject that is called ‘religion’ but religious Hindu stories often find their way into books and classrooms. In most countries there are of course also private schools of a certain religion where parents send their children when they explicitly want the religious values to be emphasized.

My question to those subjects is: what will children get from this education? In which way will it help them in their lives? And why do children get marks on those subjects that are then important in their exams? Is it merely a practice of learning and reciting scriptures? Are you testing their memory? Or do you give marks on how religious they are?

In those school lessons, children learn more about the belief that is now theirs. Apart from the fact that I think it is too early for a child to be fixed to one belief, the education that they receive there depends very much on the teacher. If you are lucky, the teacher is tolerant, they learn more about other religions, too, and also see the positive aspects of other religions. If the teachers are more conservative though, our next generation will believe that only their God, only their scripture and only their religion is the only true one. That generation will become more narrow-minded than the current one and people of different faith will be viewed with suspicion.

I don’t see at all why you would teach scriptures and declare them as the only right texts. The scriptures of any religion, culture or country can be written by very intelligent people of old times and we can see them as great literature. They should not be taught to children as ideals of how to behave though. They are fiction and many of them are full of blood and violence, creating an illusion for children that this behavior could be religious and good.

In many countries in which Islam is the main religion, these teachings can be very extreme, as there are many different ways of interpreting their scriptures and laws. The big problem with this education is that teachers can then install hate towards other religions in children’s minds and prepare them for a war against all people of other religion. The result is that there are young people who decide to perform terrorist attacks in the name of religion. Schools become terrorist training centers. That, too, is the work of religions. I am not against any particular religion but against the concept of religion and its teaching in schools.

This may be the extreme result but even if you don’t go that far, you can realize that those classes separate our children. They cannot sit altogether in one class, as they do for learning languages or Mathematics. There is the first point where religion separates and categorizes the world. It divides us all into different categories. This is what our children learn. But we are first of all humans! We should not let religion divide us in this way.

What has religion given us? What did we get? It has done its job in history by dividing people into different groups. Everybody thinks his religion is the best. Everybody has ego, is in competition with each other and often even hates people of any other belief. Religion has brought us war, too.

If your argument for religious education is that children also learn moral values, I have to ask why we need to pack those moral values in religious stories? I think it would be a great idea to take the positive message of every religion, every good moral value that they teach and have a subject called ‘moral education’. Every religion teaches things such as not to lie, to speak the truth, to respect life and to live with love and equally to the people surrounding you. Why not take all those positive aspects and teach them to our children without separating them into different groups? They could learn together to respect each other, even if they privately have another faith and different religious practices in their family. School is not a place for religion.


  1. Deniz

    I think the subject is best approached as “comparative religion,” meaning you teach them about equal about all the major religions, exploring the similarities and differences. Since religion is an important part of our world, I think schools should not pretend it doesn’t exist and ignore it, but should teach comparative religions along with history and other subjects. Of course, only some basics may be appropriate for elementary school, saving more detail for later.
    I had to change my login password here again today. I think if I’m having this issue, others must also, and I think this continual demand for password change makes your site less “user friendly,” and may discourage some commenters, and discourages me from commenting sometimes too. I think it would help your site if you correct this frequent demand for password re set.

  2. Ramona

    Dear Deniz,Thank you for your comment. I will check about your password issue again and will let our developers know. I never heard this problem from others before. So please don’t hesitate to write otherwise how would I hear about it? 🙂
    Much love

  3. Andreas Lang

    I generally agree with the commentator above that our school education needs to mention religion. But I understood your point that you don’t want children to be influenced and manipulated by the message that the religions give. In Germany we have religious education in state schools with an option for general ‘ethic education’ for those of non-Christian faith. Children learn about different religions in those lessons but of course mainly about Christianity and the Bible stories. I could have done without it in my school time. It was mostly just boring and a waste of time for me. Some people see it as an important part of schooling though.

  4. Dita

    Dear Swami Ji,I fully agree with your concern about bringing up children free from religious dogmas. I myself grew up in USSR where there was no religious traditions at all. Howewer at the age of 14 I myself went to the church to get religious education.

    I know that your father is a religious teacher and apart from the school which you are organising there are a group of young boys/men who live in Ashram and learn from him. As I understand this is an old indian tradition that students live with their Guru and help about the house. The lectures of Sanskrit in the mornings are also a part of religious education which your Ashram offers optionally.
    Can you shortly comment how these two scooling traditions are linked as they are going on parralell in your Ashram?
    The students of your father also benefit from the donations for the school where you do not introduce religion, they serve food for children and help the school. I find there is nothing wrong about how nicely everything is interconnected, however if you are writing a number of articles about a religious free education, this could also be a subject worth mentioning and explaining.
    With best wishes,

  5. Ramona

    Dear Dita,Thank you for your comment. The Sanskrit classes in the morning that you experienced there were actually not religious classes but language classes. Sanskrit is a normal subject in schools, just as English, and we were giving support for free to people who wanted to learn the language.
    We have however stopped this class now, too. All the children who live at the Ashram also go to our school which does not educate in any religion. These boys are children whose parents cannot afford their upbringing at all and they live in family, helping as every child does in the house. It really is a beautiful way of living together.
    Sending you much love!

  6. Dita

    Dear Ramona,thank you for your reply. I guess I understand my confusion – I somehow thought that a reason for someone to learn sanscrit would be to study the old religious texts, but of course that is wrong.
    Love, Dita

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