Religious Studies at St. Paul’s is about giving girls the chance to look outside themselves. To look beyond Brook Green to the cremation pyres on the banks of the River Ganges, the prayer flags fluttering across the hills of Tibet and the black Kabbah in the heart of Mecca: to look at the women standing at the foot of the cross or facing martyrdom in the arena. To look beyond questions such as ‘How long should my essay be?’ to ‘Is there such a thing as “right”‘ and ‘Does God exist?’ And to look beyond the hymns we sing in assembly to the story of Christianity in the West and the doctrine that lies behind those hymns.
We draw on the girls’ natural enthusiasm for meeting new ideas. We don’t give them answers; we give them information, raise questions and encourage them to draw their own conclusions. We introduce them to great works of religious art, music and literature and take them to see different examples of religious architecture. They meet sacred texts and people of faith: history, myths and stories that have inspired peoples through history. We look at the impact of religion on history and culture; yes, in Europe but also beyond.
We ask them to reflect, to recognise their own fundamental outlooks and be challenged by the ideas of their peers. We give them the conceptual tools to think about ethical issues such as abortion and euthanasia and the philosophical tools to be able to analyse arguments, whether these are concerned with arguments for the existence of God or the relationship between science and religion. They will encounter philosophical problems from Plato’s Cave to Philippa Foot’s trolley problem and John Searle’s Chinese Room experiment. They will meet the ideas of Augustine and Aquinas as well as those of Wittgenstein and Kant. In a world where the understanding of religion seems increasingly important, not less, we respect faith but are not afraid of questions.