Why Study Religious Education?

Why Study Religious Education?

From Kindergarten to Grade 12  students in Ontario Catholic Schools take Religious Education classes. There are spiritual, moral and practical benefits for taking these courses. 

Religious Education helps us to understand our Catholic faith. We know Jesus and the Bible more deeply. We learn from the wisdom of the saints and other good people. We understand how to celebrate our faith. We grow in our understanding of Church teachings.

Religious Education explores and celebrates God’s truth, goodness and beauty.

Religious education helps us to pray and worship with more understanding, depth and love.

Religious Education improves our quality of life. Catholic beliefs help us find meaning and purpose. Moral principles give direction. Prayer and liturgy bring us closer to God.

Religious Education helps us to make good choices. It helps us to develop our consciences and how to answer important questions. How can I help to heal the earth? What does it mean to be sexually healthy? How can I help those who have little?

Religious Education helps us to explore life’s deep questions. Why do good people suffer? What is love? Why be just? What happens after we die? How do know God exists? What is my purpose in life? Why should I care about other people?

Religious Education gives us ways of understanding our world. It gives us tools to figure out what harms us and what helps us. We can explore the problems of the world through the lens of Catholic Social Teachings.

Religious Education helps us to understand other religions. In Ontario, many of our family and friends belong to other faiths. Learning about other faiths helps us to avoid misunderstandings that can lead to hatred.

Religious Education gives us practical skills for living. Reflection helps us to learn from our actions. Discernment helps us to choose between difficult choices. Critical thinking helps us to understand our own thinking patterns. Conscience formation helps us to find God’s will for our lives.

Religious Education gives us tools to follow a path of life that leads to happiness and intimacy with God.

Religious Education teaches us moral and spiritual paths to move us toward the ecological conversion needed to save us from environmental catastrophe.

Other Resources

See also the podcast:  What is the Public Benefit of the Study of Religion?  Bettina Schmidt, Nicholas Campion, J. Gordon Melton, Tim Jensen, Kim Knott, Marion Bowman, Wouter Hanegraaff, Naomi Goldenberg and Suzanne Owen

The Top Five Reasons to Study Religion by Gary Laderman Religion Chair of the Department of Religion, Emory University and Editor of Sacred Matters Magazine

How Religious Education Classes Benefit Young Children Office of Evangelization and Catechesis for the Diocese of Hartford

Losing My Religion? The Impact of Spiritual Cues on Noncognitive Skills.  Journal of Catholic Education October 20 Daniel H. Bowen, Rice University and Albert Cheng, University of Arkansas

Abstract: Studies consistently show that Catholic schools produce positive impacts on educational outcomes. Many charter school networks in the United States now provide, what are essentially, secularized versions of the Catholic education model. However, charter schools cannot legally replicate the overt religious curriculum and mission of Catholic schools. Although difficult to disentangle its impacts from confounding variables, research suggests that religiosity is a positive predictor of educational outcomes. This relationship might suggest that religious-based education produces effects on outcomes of public value that could be difficult to replicate in secularized contexts. To examine this question we conducted an experiment where 180 secondary school students were randomly assigned to a priming task with religious, secularized, or neutral cues. We find that religious cues increase students’ self-regulatory capacities, a predictor of educational attainment, and boost political tolerance. These findings provide preliminary evidence to suggest that religious-based education provides benefits that secularized equivalents cannot fully emulate.

What is the purpose of Religious Education in Catholic schools? (Catholic Education Service – England & Wales)

Catholic schools, with RE at their core, exist in order to “help parents, priests and teachers to hand on the Deposit of Faith in its fullness to a new generation of young people so that they may come to understand the richness of the Catholic faith, and thereby be drawn into a deeper communion with Christ in his Church.” (Religious Education Curriculum Directory pvii). With this as their primary aim, Catholic schools serve diverse populations of pupils and within this context the Religious Education Curriculum Directory (RECD) makes the aims of Religious Education explicit:

  1. To present engagingly a comprehensive content which is the basis of knowledge and understanding of the Catholic faith;
  2. To enable pupils continually to deepen their religious and theological understanding and be able to communicate this effectively;
  3. To present an authentic vision of the Church’s moral and social teaching so that pupils can make a critique of the underlying trends in contemporary culture and society;
  4. To raise pupils’ awareness of the faith and traditions of other religious communities in order to respect and understand them;
  5. To develop the critical faculties of pupils so that they can relate their Catholic faith to daily life;
  6. To stimulate pupils’ imagination and provoke a desire for personal meaning as revealed in the truth of the Catholic faith;
  7. To enable pupils to relate the knowledge gained through Religious Education to their understanding of other subjects in the curriculum;
  8. To bring clarity to the relationship between faith and life, and between faith and culture.

The outcome of excellent Religious Education is religiously literate and engaged young people who have the knowledge, understanding and skills – appropriate to their age and capacity – to reflect spiritually, and think ethically and theologically, and who are aware of the demands of religious commitment in everyday life (Religious Education Curriculum Directory p6).

Why Religious Education Matters- A British perspective

Religious Education has never been more relevant, engaging or challenging as religion & religious issues are in the news every day. The recent events in France are just a reminder of the dangers of religious extremism and how religious education can play a vital role in addressing these matters. For pupils to be able to understand our constantly changing world they need to be able to interpret religious issues & evaluate their significance. From
the pupils first day at school RE gives students valuable insights into the diverse beliefs & opinions held by people today. It helps with their own personal development & supports an understanding of the spiritual, moral, social & cultural questions that surface again & again in their lives. In tackling difficult questions it provides pupils with insight that can work to challenge stereotypes, promote cohesion, and tackle extremism. RE does important work
encouraging young people to value themselves & the communities within which they live.

Religious education in Roman Catholic schools: Principles and practice – Scotland. What will learning in religious education in Roman Catholic schools enable children and young people to do?

Learning through religious education enables children and young people to:
• develop their knowledge and deepen their understanding of the Catholic faith
• investigate and understand the relevance of the Catholic faith to questions about truth and the meaning of life
• highlight, develop and foster the values, attitudes and practices which are compatible with a positive response to the invitation to faith
• develop the skills of reflection, discernment, critical thinking, and deciding how to act in accordance with an informed conscience when making moral decisions
• nurture the prayer life of the individual and of the school community
• understand and appreciate significant aspects of other Christian traditions and major world religions
• make a positive difference to themselves and the world by putting their beliefs and values into action.

Teachers will remain faithful to the mission of promoting an understanding of the Catholic faith and they will
also teach respect for persons of different religious convictions. Religious education in the Catholic school
considers the significance of faith from the perspective of the life of the person and of the faith community. It
does not study religion as a phenomenon from an external perspective.
In addition to developing their understanding of the Catholic faith, children and young people will also learn
respect for, and understanding of, other Christian traditions. They will also come to an appreciation of
significant aspects of major world religions, recognising and respecting the sincere search for truth which
takes place in other faiths. Where appropriate they will learn similarly about stances for living which are
independent of religious belief.

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