Religion is often named by teachers – at primary, secondary or post secondary levels – as a sensitive topic. And for good reason! Religion has all the characteristics of a sensitive theme:
- Religion does evoke values, but not only because it proposes ways of living together. The values and social representations also arise from beliefs and practices and proposes various ways of living together. It is not surprising then that it gives rise to conflicts of values, especially in a democratic and plural society like Canada.
- Religion is constantly coming back as a hot topic in local, provincial, national and international politics and raises social debate all over the world.
- Those who study religion do not agree on the definition of religion, what religion looks like, or its role in public life. Such lack of agreement, not to mention the diversity among and within religious traditions, places an added responsibility on teachers who address religion in the classroom. They are responsible to have a clear idea of their approach before discussing it with students.
- Religion is a very complex topic. In order to fully understand it, and its management in the public space, it is necessary to understand the geopolitical, economic and historical contexts from which each religion originated and in which they are lived today.
Thus, approaching religion in the classroom requires a nuanced pedagogical approach that demonstrates a great deal of delicacy and tact. One must take the time to examine the various points of view, in a world that often prefers certainties. Students, too, should be encouraged to question their preconceptions about the issue and to avoid shortcuts.
It is with this in mind that the Centre for Religious Civic Literacy plays such an important role in providing a better understanding of the issues at hand. Religious literacy offers a framework to recognize each of these four characteristics (and more!) and analyze religious, spiritual, and non-religious belief in individual lives and society.