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Reflections on the position paper at the conference of the DVRW (German Ass. for Science of Religion), Bayreuth 2023, calling for integrated teaching of ‘religion’ for all students in Germany

Sociology International Journal
<font face="Arial, Verdana"><span style="font-size: 13.3333px;">Ullrich R Kleinhempel&nbsp;</span></font>

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In Germany, Austria, and to some extent in Switzerland, denominational instruction in religion or secular ethics at schools is the legally enshrined norm. Considering that these countries comprise about 100 million inhabitants, with Germany being the by far most populous nation in the EU, this is of cultural significance outside of the German-speaking realm too. A philosophy of inclusion of the Churches and recognised religious communities into the social life and education is pursued, that is legally entrenched in constitutions (notwithstanding the religious-philosophical neutrality of the state). This provides for their active inclusion into education on all levels, in forms of cooperation between state(s) and Church. The present (prevalent) structure of compulsory denominational religious instruction, or secular ethics, at choice, and of the academic training of teachers at denominational faculties of theology, or of other recognised religions, reflect his system. It is in force for over one century, now. This system has come under pressure by the ongoing secularisation that prevents the formation of sufficiently large classes for such separate instruction. As to knowledge about religion, there is also a trend in society for become aware or the role of religion in shaping culture. The presence of large Islamic immigrant communities, has sharpened awareness for differing value systems and mores, between religions and cultures. Sociology International Journal Mini Review Open Access These factors of sociology of religion, and of societal change, led to developments towards integrated religious instruction, to the inclusion of perspectives and themes of science of religion in denominational curricula, and to the increased inclusion of themes of religion in secular ethics instruction. In this context, the German Association for Science of Religion (DVRW) endorsed a position paper, calling for an integrated instruction of religion (and ethics) for all students. It also calls for science of religion as regular study requirement to qualify for teaching such an integrated subject. This model is in force in only on state of Germany (and in some Swiss cantons). The position paper thus has aspects of promoting the position of the discipline. This review gives a critical analysis of arguments proposed in this position paper that was debated and endorsed at the recent conference of the DVRW in Bayreuth in September of 2023. My critique of this position paper is based on decades of teaching Protestant Religion at upper secondary schools, with the experience of applying instruction on other religions, on the basis of science of religion – as prescribed by the curriculum, about which I published, as with a teacher’s manual for the instruction on Hinduism (including Yoga), and Buddhism,1 as required by the curriculum. (This manual combines perspectives of science of religion, theological approaches, from the perspectives of Hinduism, Buddhism, and Protestant Christianity, and of history of culture.), by 1Kleinhempel, Ullrich R. Far Eastern religions in religious education at high school: introduction and worksheets. FID Religionswissenschaft. (Univ. Library of Tübingen), 2018. contributing to debate in the field,2 and lectures, on didactical consequences of secularisation for religious instruction,3 and professional publications,4 also in sociological perspective.5


science of religion, sociology of religion, denominational teaching of religion at schools, curricula for religious instruction, theological perspectives and science of religion, religion and culture, religion and ethics, concepts of religion, constructivism, religious literacy, cooperation between churches and state in education