What do I really know about religion?

I’m a little embarrassed to admit… not as much as I should!

Following an RME input, we were set the task of writing down our previous knowledge about the main world religions with an aim to identifying any gaps in our understanding.

Image from morguefile.com

There are 6 major religions around the world. These are:

  • Christianity (2.1 billion)
  • Judaism (14 million)
  • Islam (1.3 billion)
  • Hinduism (900 million)
  • Buddhism (376 million)
  • Sikhism (23 million)

(numbers taken from google.com, accessed 07/02/16)

My partner on this task and I were both brought up in Christian households, therefore the ‘Christianity’ column was fairly easy to fill. We did recognise, however, that a lot of our knowledge may not have come from school, but rather through Sunday school, Church, or family.

Image from morguefile.com

We then began to jot down anything we knew about the other 5 religions, quickly realising that there were plenty of gaps. While we knew of certain names, events or practices, we often struggled to place them under the correct heading. One of the main examples of this is ‘Ramadan’ which we ended up writing in between some of the headings.


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As we wrote our notes, we both found that snippets of information that we had learned at school (or elsewhere) came back to us, for example, I can remember being taught the story of Rama and Sita at Divali time.


Here is our first attempt:


As you can see, we had some knowledge of many world religions. However if asked to elaborate on the names or stories; we would struggle!

We then conducted some reading and research into the main figures and ideas of the religions. Particularly the ones that we were less confident about.



I found this to be a really useful exercise as, not only did it highlight the areas which I will need to do some extra work, but it also made me think about some of my preconceptions.

Image from morguefile.com

It is essential that teachers has a deep understanding of religion and can address any prejudices or misconceptions. I touched on this in my previous post following the Paris attacks in November of last year (read the post here.)

Following this activity, I will continue to build on my own understanding of the major world religions. I know that my placement class will be focusing on Sikhism at the time that I will be working with them and therefore I plan to concentrate on my understanding of this religion.

2 thoughts on “What do I really know about religion?”

  1. Hi michelle, another great post. I was extremely concerned when it came to teaching religion on placement. I was tasked with Christianity and whilst I was brought up with no particular religion I did attend Baptist Church and Christian endeavour as a pre teen and teenager. Obviously now I am Muslim. I planned meticulously my lesson with a strong focus on values and beliefs. I started with a class discussion about what we already knew and naming festivals etc….however I opened the floor to questions and this is what I got “why do we have trees at christmas?” “was Mary really a virgin” “what’s a virgin” and my personal favourite ” so what’s with santa then is he Christian?” teaching children is hilarious because children are hilarious. The rest of the lesson was great with a wee song from savage garden affirmation thrown in… Goes to show you can’t plan everything! And children are Soooo unpredictable.

    1. Hi Sharon, thanks for your comments – the children’s questions gave me a good chuckle! You’re completely right in that it’s impossible to plan for every eventuality. That’s why teachers need to be able to think on their feet! Sounds like the lesson was a success none the less and I hope that I can lead some thoughtful and fun discussions when I’m out in schools.

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