Students often have difficulty choosing from the wide variety of courses available at the high school level. One could not possibly take all the courses one desires while meeting provincial requirements for one’s secondary school diploma. Some of these courses cater to students with specific interests, while others provide students with information that can be applied to everyday life. However, a course that should be mandatory for all students to take is the World Religions course.
Throughout history, religion has always been one of the fundamental building blocks of society, influencing everything from law to philosophical thought. In order to understand societies of the past and present, one must first study their influences, especially religion. For example, the Mosaic Law of Exodus originated with the Israelites, but continues to influence Islam, Christianity and Western law. Without some understanding of the Torah and its influence on notions of will and freedom, one might never fully understand historical occurrences such as the Crusades. Students who study World Religions learn about various topics, such as the origins of the Shiite-Sunni split in Islam and the influence of animism on Native Americans before European colonization, as well as various sacred texts such as the Qur’an, the Mahabharata, the Vedas, and the Guru Granth Sahib that shape their own unique cultures and traditions.
In my Catholic high school, annual religion credits are mandatory to obtain a secondary school diploma. While courses in the other years focus on Christianity, religion at the Grade 11 level studies the largest religions in the world, including Aboriginal spirituality, Hinduism, Judaism, Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, and Sikhism. Of course, the scope is far too vast and complicated to allow for an in-depth study of each religion, and there are many other religions that cannot be studied simply due to time constraints. However, the course does an excellent job of informing students about the main faith groups of the world.
In a society that is becoming increasingly multicultural, it is of immeasurable importance that the public be informed about different religions of the world. Christianity has dominated the Western religious scene for centuries, but this has only recently begun to change. While Christianity has played a key role in shaping thought and culture of the West, other religions have received little attention. This is no longer the case, due to the emergence of a non-Christian agenda through globalization.
World Religions must be taught to inform people that not everyone has the same religious beliefs and traditions, and to prevent culture shock from the ever-increasing exposure to different ways of life. The course offers the necessary insight into the religions of the world and their respective cultures. In short, it helps all people to learn more about themselves. Cultural diversity should be embraced, not ignored, so making World Religions a compulsory credit in high school is only natural.