Why is religion still taught in school?

Reasons for religious instruction in school

Why religious education is essential in public schools

Which religious education is meant?
Religious instruction in schools is the systematic religious instruction organized for each year within the framework of school timetables and / or rooms. Depending on the canton and municipality, this can take different forms, be more or less integrated into school life or into the parish. As a rule, the religious instruction in schools offered by churches or religious communities is denominational or ecumenical.
In religious education it must be ensured that all students, regardless of their beliefs, can learn something. It must meet the didactic and pedagogical requirements of other school subjects (comprehensible, systematically structured content, experience, appropriate methods, contemporary learning concept).
Religious instruction must be justified from an educational point of view:
Since religious education takes place within the framework of the school, it must be justified from an educational point of view, i.e. from the child and not from the church.
"Religious instruction in schools, which is different from religious instruction in the communities, must show how it participates in the task of the public school, how it co-justifies and promotes its goals, concretises, supplements and, if necessary, criticizes them." (From the synodal resolution "Religious instruction in schools" 1974)
If one justifies pedagogically, one has to ask what role religion plays in the life of every child and what can be contributed to it in a school context, that is to say in an educational context. It must therefore be shown that religious education makes an indispensable and individual contribution to the educational goals of the school.
The three lines of reasoning that have become classic come from the synod paper "Religious Lessons at School" from 1974, p. 25. [1]
  • Cultural-historical justification
"There must therefore be religious instruction in school because the school is supposed to familiarize young people with the spiritual traditions that have shaped our cultural situation, and because Christianity in its denominations is one of our formative spiritual traditions."
Religious knowledge is not only necessary today in order to understand the Christian culture, but also the religion of others in the globalized world.
  • Anthropological justification
"... because the school is supposed to help young people to become themselves and because religious instruction, by asking about the reason for meaning, helps to see and perceive their own role and task in the community and in life appropriately."
Identity is not just about "Who am I?" but "Who can I be?"
It may be that the question of identity without religion can be solved subjectively by individuals; Religious instruction is there to raise and work on such questions. The processing also includes the knowledge of answers, also religious ones. It is part of the job of religious education to insist that this question be asked at all.
Children, too, are confronted with the limits of human life and ask (meaning) questions: questions about death, illness or the sustainability of human relationships. Religious Education insists on dealing with 'big' issues with children. [2]
  • Societal and ethical justification
"... because the school cannot be satisfied with adapting the student to the administered world and because religious education is designed to relativize unjustified claims to absoluteness, to protests against discrepancies and to deeds that change."
The social justification of religious education has changed due to the increasing plurality of religions and needs to be expanded. In order to maintain social peace and to be able to cope with conflicts of a religious nature, it is necessary to understand one's own religious background and that of others. The religion of others is often a first reason for children to ask more about religion. This includes getting to know and becoming familiar with religious forms of expression (myths, rituals, etc.) and a basic set of religious knowledge about important religions. This is in the service of a holistic education, as is also the case with art / literature. It is about making the child aware of the religious dimension of reality.
Religious education enables you to deal better with the social religious offers, i.e. to recognize positive possibilities, but also dumbing down and religious charlatanism.
Religious instruction must serve to promote religious competence.
This includes the necessary basic information as well as the knowledge of how you, your own family and society have become religiously the way you are, and an attitude of respect, tolerance of frustration and communication skills when dealing with people who think differently.
Religious instruction in schools cannot be justified with the self-interest of the church. Rather, it is a service of the Church in education, which has a long historical tradition!
Religious instruction in schools cannot be justified with a "natural religiosity" of all, because this is not capable of consensus, but rather with the presence and importance of religion in culture and society.

Selected references

Religious instruction in school. A resolution of the Joint Synod of the Dioceses in the Federal Republic of Germany [Synod Resolutions; 4], Bonn 1974.
Volker Ladenthin, Religion as a School Subject? Answers from the perspective of general pedagogy, in: Religious Lessons Today (Information from the Schools and Universities Department in the Mainz Episcopal Ordinariate) 3–4 / 2000, 1–17.
Friedrich Schweitzer, The Right of the Child to Religion, Gütersloh 2000, esp. 23–27.