Educating Students About Religion


Religion is a cultural system of beliefs, practices, and ethics that may or may not have supernatural aspects. It encompasses a variety of worldviews, sacred texts, rituals, symbols and holy places. Having a basic understanding of different faiths can make conversations with people from diverse backgrounds more interesting and fulfilling. Educators should be aware of the diversity of religious belief systems and seek to include them in the classroom as well as in their personal lives.

While the concept of religion is rooted in human history, modern academic approaches to it have varied widely. Some scholars use a functional definition of religion, which views it as whatever dominant concern organizes values, even if that doesn’t involve belief in unusual realities. Others take a more classical approach to the term, believing that all religions share one or more defining properties that distinguish them from other phenomena.

The study of religion has been a vital part of the social sciences since antiquity, but its scholarly recognition and institutional embodiment are relatively recent. As more teachers and students recognize the relevance of this subject, it has become increasingly important to provide resources that can help them navigate the complexities of this field.

Religious teachings and practices, often based on scriptures or holy books, often attempt to explain the origin of life and the universe. They also create moral codes and impose restrictions on behavior, which serve to unite communities and establish hierarchy. They also offer hope for future salvation and an explanation of suffering.

The world’s major religions are Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and Hinduism. However, there are many more faiths in the world—many of them small and obscure—as well as many individuals who do not consider themselves members of any organized religion.

Although religions are not universally accepted, they have had a profound impact on the development of societies and cultures, especially those in the western world. Their influence is still felt in politics and law. Many countries have a legal system that is based on religion, including the Islamic Shari’a law, which governs 23% of the world’s population.

NCSS calls upon state education leaders, textbook publishers and online content creators to strengthen the study of religion in schools, and to develop materials that are both scholarly and respectful of religious pluralism. This study is essential to preparing students for participation in a democratic society by helping them understand the deepest values, social identities and aspirations that shape their fellow citizens around the world and in their own classrooms. This position statement also reinforces NCSS’ long-standing call to include the study of religion in the curriculum, in ways that are consistent with high academic standards and First Amendment principles.