07 SES 12 B, Religion and Religious Education: Past, Present and Future in Europe (Part 1)
Symposium: to be continued in 07 SES 13 B
Since the late 1980s, religion has become more publicly visible in Europe (Davie, 2013; Esposito, Fasching & Lewis, 2009), which challenges the assumption that religion would disappear in an increasingly secularized and ‘modern’ Europe. The greater visibility of religion also challenges the idea that religion and politics should occupy completely different spheres in society. This topic has recently been discussed and debated by, among others, Jürgen Habermas and led to the beginnings of a dialogue between those occupying the religious sphere and those occupying the political sphere (Habermas, 2008). On the other hand, national and European-wide surveys indicate an upward trend in the number of people identifying themselves as having no religion or being atheist or agnostic. These figures may be interpreted as supporting secularization theory and the notion that the influence and importance of religion are retreating.
Further, Europe has become increasingly diverse, with processes of globalization, conflicts, socio-economic motives, and environmental issues making people migrate, as they try to find new or different ways to live. In addition, increased travel and changing conditions for communication and media use through the internet promote encounters with different world religions, with new forms of religion and spiritualities, and with non-religious stances. Religion and non-religion contribute to social and societal change, while social change and changing societies entail change in religious traditions and other worldviews, whether religious or not. With school often said to be a reflection of society and with pluralism being the hallmark of most societies in Europe, social and religious change affects what happens in the classroom in a number of respects. Students as well as teachers from different backgrounds and with different relationships to religion and non-religion come together in the classroom and will, at least at some point, negotiate different understandings of their respective positions and approaches.
As to the question of ‘learning about’ or ‘learning from’ religion in a European context, religious education forms part of the curriculum in the state-maintained schools of most countries, although regulations and educational practice differ. In some nations, the relation between state-maintained schools and private/independent schools influences the status of religious education, while in others religion and religious education have no place at all or are subsumed in subjects which have ostensibly no connection to religion. There are thus different ‘layers’ in the way religious education is organized in different national contexts, with each approach shaped by its specific composition (Kuyk et al., 2007).
The aim of the Symposium on “Religion and Religious Education” is to create a space in which the past, present, and future of research into (non-)religion and religious education are critically explored within a European-wide perspective. The kinds of questions the Symposium seeks to address include the following:
- What is known about teaching and learning in religious education today?
- What research is being done and what research may be needed?
- How have (non-)religion and religious education been negotiated and understood in different national contexts?
- What is the impact of an increasingly plural and diverse society on religious education?
- How are non-religious stances covered in religious education?
- Does the purpose of religious education change in a changing society?
- Are national concerns regarding religious education reflected at the European level?
- Do increasing pluralism and diversity have implications for training teachers in religious education?
- How is (religious) education policy shaped by the debate about the role of religion in the public sphere?
- How does religious education relate to other curriculum subjects or content?
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