Religion is an essential aspect of life for many, serving several functions—of which include providing meaning and purpose and fostering a sense of community. When it comes to fusing religion with public education, the topic is hotly debated. The American public education system maintains a secular position, and for good reason. This separation of church and state ensures that one’s religious views are not imposed onto others. With an estimated 10,000 religions around the world, it would be difficult to remain unbiased when choosing which religions to cover—especially if the teachings of one religion contradicts or denies another.
However, this does call to question the value of religious education. By adopting a more pluralistic approach to religion, students can accept the existence of all these different religions and how they are able to coexist. It is important to remember that each family and individual is different, harboring various feelings and beliefs; thus, it should be up to both parties whether partaking in a religious practice fits their lifestyle.
Even so, there have been a handful of studies demonstrating the benefits of religious education. Here are 4 reasons why religious education can bring value to children.
Building a Moral Foundation
While religions vary in their beliefs and teachings, many of them follow similar moral foundations—of which can include care, fairness, loyalty, authority, and purity. These values can offer direction on how to live a good life, make wise decisions, and treat others with kindness and respect. People choose to live by these beliefs, which then steers them through various situations. Research has even shown that people who stop participating in religion can still hold those same morals and values, which they call the “religious residue effect”. What this shows is that one does not have to be part of a religious congregation for their entire life to reap the moral benefits. As children grow up, these moral foundations shape the way they approach the world and other people.
Improving Mental Health and Promoting Healthier Behaviors
The Institute for Family Studies discovered that children who were brought up in a religious household were on average more likely to have psychological and behavioral health benefits. The 8-year study, which consisted of over 5,000 children, found that children who attended service were 18% more likely to have higher levels of happiness, 12% less likely to show symptoms of depression, and 33% more likely to use illicit drugs. A Pew Research Center survey measured the relationship between religious affiliation and health-related behaviors. People who were actively religious were less likely than non-religious people to partake in activities like drinking or smoking. While smoking and drinking are commonly viewed as unhealthy habits, there are other health behaviors—like exercising regularly—that are not as positively associated with religious participation. Once again, these are not matters of causation, but rather correlation.
Increased Sense of Community and Civic Engagement
A survey conducted by the Pew Research Center found that Americans that were part of a religious congregation and considered “highly religious” (respondents who reported that they prayed daily and attended service at least once a week) were more likely to gather with their families and volunteer. A little less than 50% of these respondents said they met with their extended family at least 1-2 times a week, compared to 30% of Americans not considered to be highly religious. When it came to volunteering, 45% of highly religious people surveyed volunteered in the past week compared to 28% of less religious respondents. With this data, it is also not to say that people who are not religious don’t connect or give back to their communities—simply that there is an evident connection between religion and community.
Understanding Different Cultures and Beliefs
Religious education exposes children to different cultures and beliefs and can help introduce the concept of diversity. Our world, now home to more than 8 billion people, is becoming increasingly globalized. Many stereotypes and prejudices stem from misconceptions; so constantly introducing your child to people with different backgrounds will help instill tolerance and respect in them. The more children are able to interact with all kinds of people, the more accepting they will be, which can help prevent conflicts in the future.
Student Hires Respects Students of All Religions
We here at Student Hires are dedicated to each student’s academic and personal development. We understand that each student can have their own religious beliefs, and keep that in mind when working with our students. Each individual is on their own path and has different needs, so we offer a variety of opportunities when it comes to academic and professional success. In addition to our student programs, we also have online resources to help students and their families succeed. Our blog offers news stories, academic guidance, as well as lifestyle tips.
The larger takeaway is not that you must subject your child to religious education, but rather that there are lessons we can draw from religious practices. Values like respect and tolerance are necessary to create a more welcoming environment for people of all backgrounds. With that being said, the decision should be one that your child agrees with as well to avoid imposing your beliefs onto them.