More than half of secondary school pupils think people have souls and life has a purpose

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New research has been published showing that more than half of secondary school pupils believe that people have souls, a survey has revealed.

The majority of those questioned (52 per cent) also said that they agreed with the statement “I believe that life has an ultimate purpose” and 45 per cent believe in God.  But a an equal number – 45 per cent agreed with the statement “the scientific view is that God does not exist”.

Prof Berry Billingsley, of Canterbury Christ Church University, surveyed 670 pupils aged 14 to 17 across eight English secondary schools, asking them 43 questions about science and religion.

The survey found that 54 per cent of pupils agreed with the statement “I believe humans have souls”, with a further 24 per cent neither agreeing or disagreeing. The remaining 23 per cent disagreed. The proportion of pupils believing in a “soul” is larger than the number who believed in God.

Prof Billingsley said it may reflect the fact that many people believe there is more to their identity than what they may be being presented with in science lessons. The figure for young people believing in god, 45 per cent, is lower than the proportion of adults who described themselves as religious in the last census – 67 per cent.

The findings are being presented at the British Educational Research Association’s annual conference today.

 

What is religious education for?

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Nigel Genders, Chief Education Officer for the Church of England has recently blogged on What is religious education for?.  He starts with:

It is tempting to see the primary reasons for good religious education as being combatting extremism and promoting community cohesion. This feeds nicely in to national political and news agendas but by doing this we confuse safeguarding with education, distort the need for a healthy pluralism in society and accept a simplistic narrative that says religion is the cause of most of the world’s problems. The primary purpose of religious education must in fact be to enable young people to make sense of themselves and the world in which they live and from these seeds will grow communities equipped to live well together.

It’s really worth taking a few minutes to read his take on the need for good quality religious education.