Belief in Dialogue
AULRE Annual Conference
1 – 3 September 2015, St. Mary’s University Twickenham
Dr. Joyce Miller
RE Council Chair
University of Warwick
The ‘religious life’ and extremism in religious education
This paper explores the concept of ‘the religious life’ as outlined by Liam Gearon in a number of publications (e.g. 2014) in which he contrasts a religious education which has ‘a religious life’ at its core with what he sees as ‘instrumentalist’ religious education, that is, RE that has community cohesion or challenging extremism as its key purpose. This is a personal response, based on my own Buddhist ‘religious life’ and my educational philosophy that believes that RE should make a significant contribution to community relations and anti-racism. In a sense this paper is a dialogue with myself.
Five areas of ‘religious life’ are explored (after noting that the danger of the reification and homogenisation of the term ‘religious life’ and questioning the meaning of the term). Each of these areas is then placed in an educational framework and congruence and /or conflict between the two are sought. The areas are:
- Intentionality and motivation
- Vision of humanity.
|The religious life||Educational life|
|Transcendence||Metaphors of height and depth||Inspiration and aspiration, key to pupils’ spiritual development – a statutory duty|
|Intentionality||Karmic consequence; origin unimportant (c.f. Gearon); intentionality is central; pragmatism||Intentionality in philosophical and ethical basis of professional life; pragmatism|
|Authority||Buddha’s kalama suta; law abiding; reason and benefit for the common good, reached through reflection||‘Critical idealism’ – Lynn Davies; critiquing the state; reason; benefit for society as a whole|
|Morality||Ventral to religious life||Moral development central to education and a statutory duty|
|Vision of humanity||Citta – mind-heart as core of human existence||Holistic view of child = affective and cognitive united in education.|
The paper concludes that there is no conflict between the ‘religious life’ and the ‘professional life’. Thus, there is no conflict in exploring with young people what it means to follow a religious life whilst promoting wider educational aims in relation to the good of society.