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Educate Together Blog

Educate Together Blog

Conference on Religious Education in UCC

Fionnuala Ward

These conferences can often be made up of the usual suspects - ourselves included! But this really had an international feel, with delegates from Russia, the UK, Japan and Denmark amongst other countries. A speaker from Canada presented on the West's perception of Hinduism and other Asian belief systems. Basically, he argued that we in the West tend to have a very Judaeo-Christian view of religion which in no way lends itself to Asian beliefs. He compared it to forcing a square into a circle. And not only do we impose our own framework on these beliefs but we tend to give them much less time on modules and courses, compared to that set aside for Christianity, Islam or Judaism. It was fantastic stuff, which made us all sit up and take note! The Learn Together falls into this trap. It views all religions in very specific ways; celebrations, rites and ceremonies, key figures, beliefs and values. Should we just start from scratch?  

And if that wasn't challenging enough, the following day a Danish presenter unapologetically announced that on his courses he expected students to leave their own beliefs at the door. As far as he was concerned, Religious Education should be all about a study of beliefs from a human sciences point of view. The how and why of religion rather than the ins and outs of ritual and beliefs. Those hands shot up once he'd finished! No, he declared, there was nothing cold and detached about this. Students really engaged with the subject and loved the course. I gotta say, I wanted to sign up there and then! 

All in all, two days when I felt I'd been summarily dumped out of my comfort zone. Great conference!  

For anyone interested in the Academic Study of Religions, there is now an Irish Society for the discipline - see the orgainsation's website for more information.  

The two Learn Together related presentations from the conference are attached below:

Why R.E.?

Contribution by Áine Hyland to RE Slam at RE21 Conference UCC Aug 29th 2013

Learn Together Presentation

Presentation by Carmel Mulcahy with Fionnuala Ward to the RE21 conference in UCC 29th August 2013. 

Address: Educate Together, Equity House, 16/17 Upper Ormond Quay, Dublin 7, Ireland - Charity Number: CHY 11816