BHA: Oxford project to tackle ‘nervousness’ about teaching Christianity in RE

The British Humanist Association has commented on a YouGov poll commissioned by Oxford University’s Department of Education to accompany its announcement of a new national intervention project by Oxford researchers to ‘support teachers tackling the subject of Christianity in schools’.

Commenting on the announcement, British Humanist Association Chief Executive Andrew Copson said:

‘It’s true that recent national inspections of RE have shown that Christianity is often poorly taught about. However they have also shown the same thing about non-religious beliefs such as Humanism, the teaching of which stands in more urgent need of well-funded academic research by virtue of their more recent arrival on the curriculum.’

Commenting specifically on the opinion poll commissioned to accompany the University’s announcement, Mr Copson continued, ‘Today’s survey shows that people in Britain mainly think of Christianity as a matter of history and cultural heritage, rather than as a matter of religion, and it is in that sense they are interested to have it taught. It is true that Christianity has had a significant influence on our country but it is not as significant to our modern life and culture as its more fervent advocates claim and that is no reason to think that it should have the lion’s share of curriculum time in a subject – like RE – that should be of personal relevance to all young people.

‘Christianity should be taught about and taught about well but not, as at present, to the exclusion of other approaches to life and not in any pretence that it is relevant to the developing beliefs, values and lifestances of most young people, over two-thirds of whom have non-religious worldviews.’


For further comment or information, please contact Richy Thompson on 020 7462 4993.

University of Oxford Press Office: 01865 280534 or

Surveys consistently show a high level of irreligiousness amongst young people. For example:

Young People in Britain: The Attitudes and Experiences of 12-19 Year Olds, a 2004 research report for the Department for Education found that 65% of 12-19 year olds are not religious.
2003 Citizenship Survey: Top-level findings from the Children’s and Young People’s Survey, a Department of Communities and Local Government report, found 46% of 11-15 year olds don't have a religion, 44% are Christian.
The 2010 British Social Attitudes Survey (the most recent one) records 65% of 18-24 year olds as not belonging to any religion.

Read more about the BHA’s campaigns work on religious education:

The British Humanist Association (BHA) is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people who seek to live ethical and fulfilling lives on the basis of reason and humanity. It promotes a secular state and equal treatment in law and policy of everyone, regardless of religion or belief.