Can children and young people learn from atheism for spiritual development? A response to the national framework for religious education

Jacqueline Watson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


The new National Framework for Religious Education (RE) suggests, for the first time in national advice on agreed syllabuses, that atheism can be included in the curriculum alongside world religions. This article counters objections to the inclusion of atheism in RE and argues that children and young people can learn from atheistic beliefs and values for their spiritual and moral development. It explores the idea of atheism as ‘faith’ and illustrates atheism’s spiritual and moral potential through examples of writing from Bertrand Russell and Jean Paul Sartre. The article concludes that RE (preferably under a new name) can continue to be a valuable curriculum subject, provided it responds to the non‐statutory guidance of the new framework by offering a broader, more inclusive spiritual education which includes positive accounts of atheistic beliefs. Indeed, it is contended that without this change schools can not fulfil their legal obligation to provide opportunities for spiritual and moral development to all pupils.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)49-58
Number of pages10
JournalBritish Journal of Religious Education
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2008

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