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13. Are all religions equal?

INTRODUCTION

This session explores the assumption that all religions are just different paths or ways of believing the same thing or worshipping the same god.  It also asks students to think about the ways in which religions view each other and what may be the advantages and disadvantages of some of these outlooks. Are all religions equally true and can all coexist peacefully if this is the case?

Stimulus: Show the students a street interview in Australia of people being asked whether all religions are equal: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bvgpYtaNgrw

ACTIVITY

After watching the film, ask the students the following questions:

  • Are all religions are equal?
  • What is meant by ‘equal’? Are there different sorts of ‘equalness’?
  • Are some more truthful than others?

Explain to the students that accepting all religions as equal or some as more truthful than others may cause conflict. The six main world religions that are well represented in the UK (Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism and Sikhism), as well as other religions and philosophies of life, have co-existed for a long time but there has sometimes been conflict between them.

Stimulus: Show students the web page for the Coexist Foundation, which was set up to break down misunderstandings between people of different cultures and religions. Then show students the video of how religions have coexisted through the years:

Website: http://coexistfoundation.org/

Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Snc1MNbHDc

Ask the students to reflect on this statement and question:

  • Imagine a world in which all religions were proclaimed to be equal. Would this allow the main religions to coexist in peace?

Get some feedback from the students on this, then introduce another question:

  • How do different religions view each other?

Explain the following theories to students (whilst acknowledging the complexity of meaning that may underpin these basic definitions):

Exclusivism: the belief that one religion in particular holds the truth.  Some Christians, for example, believe that only Christianity holds truth and only Christians will gain salvation and a place in Heaven.

Inclusivism: the belief that, while one’s own beliefs are absolutely true, other sets of beliefs may be at least partly true, if not another way of saying the same thing.

Pluralism: the belief that at least some truth and value lies in religions and beliefs other than one’s own, along with the acknowledgement that one’s own beliefs are not the only or full source of truth.

ACTIVITY

If you have a VERY ABLE group, split them into three teams and allocate each team as exclusivist, inclusivist and pluralist. Then ask them to complete the following task:

  • Imagine that your allocated view is going to become enforced by the state. On a piece of paper list the possible positive and negative consequences of the approach you have been allocated.
  • What might be good about the UK having a Christian Exclusivist view or having a Christian Inclusivist outlook? What conditions might be placed on the Pluralist view that might make it good for the UK?

Encourage the students to present their ideas to the rest of the group.

An ALTERNATIVE activity would be to replay the street interview in Australia of people being asked whether all religions are equal: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bvgpYtaNgrw and ask pupils to say what they think of the different answers given. Can they identify the answers as being exclusivist, inclusivist or pluralist?

CONCLUSION

Prompt students to reflect on the overall answer to the question, are all religions equal? In what sense might they be equal? Ask students which outlook from the previous task they think is the best – exclusivist, inclusivist or pluralist?

SECONDARY SESSIONS: LIST OF TOPICS
1.  Happiness Part 1: status anxiety
2.  Happiness Part 2: religion and happiness
3.  Happiness Part 3: what is happiness?
4.  Morality Part 1: what is morality?
5.  Morality Part 2: should we live by ‘moral laws’?
6.  Morality Part 3: where does our sense of morality come from?
7.  Are You Religious?
8.  What Is a Religion and what is a Cult?
9.  What does it Mean to be Religious Today?
10. Religion in Numbers Part 1: how many people on Earth?
11. Religion in Numbers Part 2: how many people are ‘religious’?
12. Religion in Numbers Part 3: how did believers got to where they are?
13. Are All Religions Equal?
14. Transactional Analysis: learning how to feel equal
15. Bloom’s Taxonomy
16. Harry Potter and God
17. Without Fear or Favour Part 1
18. Without Fear or Favour Part 2
19. It’s Not Fair
20. Mind, Memory and Justice
21. Karma, Memory, Freedom and Justice
22. The Religion of Ordinary Life Part 1: Religion Without God
23. The Religion of Ordinary Life Part 2: God and Morality
24. The Religion of Ordinary Life Part 3: Is Life Beautiful?
25. Can Atheists learn anything from Religion?
26. What do Buddhists Believe about God?
27. Is Seeing Believing?
28. Are We Being Hypnotised?
29. Sex and Relationships
30. Truth, Proof and Evidence
31. How should we deal with the range of different opinions in today’s world?
32. Is Religion a Force for Evil or Good?
33. Do Religious Experiences Prove God?
34. What Is Evil?
35. God and Evil
36. Can we verify Religious Experiences?
37. How Spiritual are You?
38. What is Philosphy?
39. The Power of Words
40. Art and Beauty

A printable (pdf) version of this session can be found here

© Sea of Faith 2018

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