Dr. Joyce Miller, AULRE keynote abstract “The ‘religious life’ and extremism in religious education”

By | 6th July 2015


Belief in Dialogue

AULRE Annual Conference

1 – 3 September 2015, St. Mary’s University Twickenham

Keynote Abstract


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:

  • Transcendence
  • Intentionality and motivation
  • Authority
  • Morality
  • 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.