Religious education's main problem is not a shortage of money or staff: it is cultural relativism and historical ignorance, says the Government's chief curriculum adviser, Dr Nicholas Tate. The subject has been systematically marginalised, he believes, by teachers with "deeply inconsistent and peculiarly ethnocentric" views.
They dismiss religious ideas as "relics from the infancy of mankind, unworthy of serious study", he told this week's conference of the National Association of Standing Advisory Councils on Religious Education.
"They are quick to criticise the emphasis in the national curriculum on English and western cultural traditions, and the place of Christianity within religious education," said Dr Tate, chief executive of the School Curriculum and Assessment Authority, "but happy that children grow up without any exposure to views of the world other than the rationalism, secularism and materialism currently dominant within our own society.
"There is something deeply inconsistent and peculiarly ethnocentric about failing to give adequate attention in the curriculum to the religious beliefs and practices that are at the centre of the lives of millions, even billions of people throughout the world, above all in Africa, Asia and Latin America. "
Dr Tate said that there was a sense that the past did not matter, that each generation was able to create itself anew.