Bishop spells out threat from magic

Clare Dean

Britain's pupils are unable to discriminate between superstition and religion, the Bishop of Leicester has warned.

He claimed liberal attitudes to religion had produced a generation of children who believed in blue pyramids, crystals and the power of astrology.

"Kids today will believe anything, in any superstitious nonsense," the Rt Rev Tom Butler told a conference in London last week.

"My daughter and her friends are likely to consult crystals, sit under blue pyramids, read their horoscope and put Pounds 2 on the lottery in the belief they will win."

He said that Britain was quite rightly liberal about religion, but he added: "What we have done is produce a generation that believes in blue pyramids and astrology."

Dr Butler, a regular speaker on Thought for the Day on BBC Radio 4, said: "Unless you take religion seriously so that people can wrestle with it as a serious discipline, you will have people who won't believe nothing, they will believe anything." He said schools should tease out from children what they believed in, and told the Association of Grant-Maintained and Aided Schools: "Children going through schools should come out with some objective knowledge of world faiths.

"Spirituality is a matter for the whole curriculum, it is in RE and in the ethos and spirit of the school. The argument that church schools are better than others because of their ethos is not so. Any good school has a caring ethos."

Dr Butler said he was warned off saying the Lord's Prayer at a suburban Church of England voluntary- aided comprehensive by its headteacher.

"I was told 'I wouldn't risk that if I were you.' Children have their own way of showing hostility."

There was now a real question-mark over how Britain's education system produced children who were unable to discriminate between magic and religion, he said.

And Dr Butler told the conference: "Spirituality means understanding the beliefs, values and traditions of individuals, communities, society and cultures.

"When you handle English, geography, or history, handle it in a way that is sensitive to peoples' beliefs and traditions."

School assemblies were not the way of enforcing religion, nor should they merely consist of giving out notices.

"Collective worship is collecting people together and trying to make something happen - trying to evoke community spirit, and to give some kind of experience of awe and wonder." But he said it was right that Christianity had a major place in the RE curriculum and in acts of collective worship.

"Christianity is by far the largest faith in this country - five million people gather for worship on a Sunday."

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