9. What does it mean to be religious today?


This session explores whether you have to belong to one of the major six world religions or other ancient and historical belief systems such as Taoism or Shinto in order to be considered ‘religious’. In an era of growing new religious movements and many people describing themselves as ‘spiritual’ rather than religious, this session also asks students to consider their opinions on whether following the game of football could be considered as being religious.


Ask the students to respond to such questions as:

  • does being religious necessarily mean belonging to a well-known, historical religion such as Christianity or Islam?
  • can you be considered religious if you belong to a more recent religious movement?

Explain to the students that some people think that the game of football is fast emerging as a new religion. Furthermore, the recent religion that has been set up by a fan based around the rapper Kanye West, has once again raised the question of what is a religion and what it means to be religious today.

Play the students the following BBC clip (or something similar):

Stimulus: Show students these two short videos:

‘Old Trafford – a place of pilgrimage’: http://www.bbc.co.uk/education/clips/z7xcd2p and

‘Why are we obsessed with Celebrities?’: www.youtube.com/watch?v=6oIQPKaN04A   and ask them to respond to such questions as:

  • What are the similarities and differences between following a religion such as Christianity and a football team?
  • Can football be considered a religion?
  • Could people that devote their whole life to following a football team be considered religious?
  • Do you have a favourite ‘celebrity? Would you go as far as saying you ‘worship’ them?
  • Could it in any way be offensive to consider celebrity worship a religion?
  • In what ways is being fanatic about a celebrity similar or different to following a religion?
  • Should we view celebrity worship as a joke or something to take seriously?
  • Is everybody ‘religious’ in their own way?
  • Is there anything else you think could be considered a new religion?

After listening to students’ views on these questions introduce a couple of new questions:

  • What does it mean to be spiritual and is this the same as being religious?
  • Is it easier these days to say you are ‘spiritual’ rather than ‘religious’? Why / why not?

Stimulus: Ask students to try and come up with a definition of what spiritual or spirituality is.

Type into Google Images ‘spirituality’, which brings up a myriad of different images related to spirituality. Ask students to think about what each image says about what it may mean to be spiritual and whether this could also be termed as religious. Do they think there is any difference between being spiritual and being religious?


Ask students to think of their own definition of what a religion is and what it means to be religious. Ask them whether their views have changed in any way after this session. Encourage them to compare their views to see if there is any consensus or agreement.

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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