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The challenges that face Religious Educators in the Modern day secular culture

The challenges that face Religious Educators in the Modern day secular culture

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An essay for the 2012 Undergraduate Awards Competition by Enda O'Reilly. Originally submitted for Religious education and music at Mater Dei Institute of Technology, with lecturer Sandra Cullen in the category of Teacher Education
An essay for the 2012 Undergraduate Awards Competition by Enda O'Reilly. Originally submitted for Religious education and music at Mater Dei Institute of Technology, with lecturer Sandra Cullen in the category of Teacher Education

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Published by: Undergraduate Awards on Aug 31, 2012
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Challenges facing modern day Religious Education
For my essay I shall focus on the important challenges that arise for religiouseducators in our secularized culture. The three aspects that I shall focus on are theeffect that the materialistic evidence based culture of the 21
century has on the roleof religion in Irelands schools, the negative depiction of clergy men portrayed inmodern times by the media due to paedophiliac sex, money scandals and inclusivelanguage. Finally I shall focus on how a communities social status effects their attitudes towards religion and in turn creates challenges Religious Educators.Taking into account the secular world in which religion is thought today there is muchevidence to suggest that there are great difficulties facing religious educators.
Themain aim of religious education is to preserve and maintain an ideology of righteousness with relation to the will of God. In doing this a pupils imagination must be nurtured and they must have confidence in the power of what they are beingthought. Challenges to pupils ability to believe religious teachings have accordedthrough scientifically based evidence which contradicts various parts of the bible.According to Richard Dawkins in his book 
The God Delusion 
“history teaches thatthe more science progresses, the more the power of religion diminishes”. An exampleof this is Charles Darwins theory of evolution, Darwin’s theory of evolution comesfrom the idea that mankind as we know it has evolved from single cell organisms. Hestates that there is random genetic mutation and natural selection. He points out thatspecies alive today survived because they adopted to there surroundings and describesthis evolution as
“the survival of the fittest”. This image of genetic mutation greatlycontrasts to the religious based teachings of creation from the book of Genesis.Through the internet, television and other forms of media Darwin’s theory along withmany other hypothesis with scientific evidence that contrast religious teachings aremade available to students. With pupils being exposed to contrasting theories it becomes increasing harder for teachers to hold the complete confidence of a studentespecially when the teachings that are contradicting their points are based uponscientific evidence. Although Etienne Gilson states in his discourse on the matter in
1 G. Emmett Carter,
The Modern Challenge to Religious Education; Gods Message and Our  Response,
William H. Sadlier, INC, New York, 1961, p.97-1002 Richard Dawkins,
The God delusion,
London : Bantam, 2006, p77-783 Charles Darwin, Origins if the Species Edinburgh Press 1902, p.78
his book “God and Philosophy
“[Religion] is a matter of faith, not of intellectualknowledge or of rational demonstration” it must also be acknowledged that a majorityof the teachings in school are based upon factual conclusions. With this in mind onemust consider how the change in thinking that occurs while progressing from onesubject to another maybe for some students difficult to adapt to.
 If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believein me, it would better for you if a great milestone were fastened around your neck and  you were drowned in the depth of the sea. -
Mt.18:6Through the wide publication of the media various sex scandals relating theIrish Catholic priests and other members of the clergy has with out doubt blackenedthe reputation of religion and in turn made it more difficult to teach. Constituting thereasons why men associated with God abused their position of power and diminishthe caring relationship related with a religious community is difficult to comprehendas it is an example of evil taking place in the most unlikely off places. In Dermot A.Lane’s discourse on the matter in his book 
Challenges Facing Religious Education inContemporary Ireland 
he hints at how obstinate the Church leaders were with regardsto the topic,
“existing on a different level, was the inability of Church leaders to comeout with their hands up and give an account of what actually happened”. Thisreluctance to expose the truth echoes the old maxim
not practicing what they preach.
It is the very notion that someone that stands for good can inflict pain sexually, physically and psychologically in an irreparable way which also violates therelationships and trust of entire communities and the nation and as a result itdiminishes the good things that have been done because of religion. With regards tothe links of religion and mistrust in the community the inclusive language of Religioncan stir up negative personal experiences. When words such as
are used toevoke an image of God or to address the position of a priest. Placing these wordstogether in juxtaposition can be upsetting and arise strong feelings in some one who isa victim of some form of indignation and can contribute to them resenting the religionthey associate their personal negative experiences with. It is the fact many these casesthat happened decades ago are only coming to the surface now and at the heart of the
4 Etienne Gilson,
God and Philosophy,
Yale University Press, 1941, p.755 William. J. Bausch,
 Breaking Trust; A Priest Looks at the Scandal of Sexual Abuse,
Twenty-ThirdPublications, 2002, p.36 Dermot A. Lane, Challenges Facing
 Religious Education in Contemporary Ireland,
VeritasPublications, 2008, p.13
silence was the religious belief that there are no irredeemable sinners, William J.Bausch in his book 
 Breaking Trust 
documents the Bishops beliefs that sexual abuserscould be cured
“therapy, a good retreat, confession, a prayer life, should do the trick.If one had good moral resolve, he would be able to return to work”. This is aninjustice and further insult to the families and communities that have come acrosssuch abuse. To believe that ones rank and occupation can be grounds for dismissingterrible crimes against societies most vulnerable is a matter of opinion that turns many parents against religion and in turn effecting the connection of home, parish andschool. In
 Nurturing Children’s Religious Imagination
Cora O’Farrell states that
“the primary catalyst in faith formation of the young child is family” if there is a break down between the families attitudes towards religion this will be reflected in the pupils inability to full heartedly foster a religious belief. This is a major obstacle for any Religious Education teacher in Ireland as family and school become twoconflicting forces and as a result this can only confuse and frustrate the pupils. Indeedthese failures in the Church are a tragic chapter in its history and one that still bares aninfluence of unwillingness for pupils to fully commit and participate to the experienceof Religious education. The scandals in the Church in the 1990s continue to questionthe significance and importance of the Churches role in Irelands primary andsecondary schools.According to John Lonergan, Governor of Mount Joy prison in Co. Dublin thevast majority of the prisons inhabitants come from three specific Dublin postaladdresses. As a result of this there is great evidence that suggests that culture contextcan have a profound effect upon pupils comprehension of Religious education. Onone hand we see how in an oppressed and financially poor areas there are problemswith pupils preserving and maintaining an ideology of righteousness with relation tothe will of God and how disciplining them can have more negative consequences than positive. In P
draig Mac Gearailt discussion in
 Nurturing Children’s Religious Imagination
he states that
“The most serious concerns arising from the act of suspending pupils related to the family background of those pupils and the inability of their parents to positively influence their children” in contrast to this we see in
7 William. J. Bausch,
 Breaking Trust; A Priest Looks at the Scandal of Sexual Abuse,
Twenty-ThirdPublications, 2002, p.38 Cora O’Farrell,
 Nurturing Children’s Religious Imagination,
edited by Raymond Topley and GarthByrne,
Veritas Publications, 20049 P
draig Mac Gearailt,
 Nurturing Children’s Religious Imagination,
edited by Raymond Topley andGarth Byrne,
Veritas Publications, 2004, p.51-55

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