News 2016 – Learning about world-views and religions

16 Mar 2016

News – 16 March 2016

Learning about world-views and religions

The incoming Victorian government announced (on 21 August 2015) the adoption of a new school curriculum aimed at understanding ‘global cultures, ethics and traditions, … including other world views’. The Humanist Society was pleased to be consulted on framing a description of humanism.

The first step in formulating the curriculum was to agree on an outline or guide. The educational authority issued a prospectus, from which the following quotes are taken.

Learning about the key premises of world views and major religions is an important part of a contemporary school curriculum. It enables students to be more informed and engaged at both a local and global level, supporting an understanding of the perspectives of diverse local communities and the beliefs and practices of diverse traditions. It assists students to recognise and appreciate both areas of commonality and difference between diverse faith groups and secular perspectives. …

The following … provides an outline of the key premises concerning belief in the nature of ultimate reality, the meaning and purpose of life and the relationship between people and ultimate reality posited by a world view broadly described as Secular humanism and rationalism, and the world’s (and Australia’s) five major religions. …

Secular humanism and rationalism

There is a natural universe independent of human experience, thought and language and this natural universe is the ultimate reality. The universe and everything in it, including people, were not created by a god or gods. Every person has only one life, which ends in death. Purpose and meaning are generated by people, not received from god or any religious text. People are therefore responsible for how they live and treat others, including non-human species, and the environment. Rationalists and Humanists draw on collective experience, empirical evidence and reason to establish ethical principles, based on a sense of common humanity and aimed at enhancing human wellbeing. These principles include affirming human dignity and individual freedom, compatible with the rights of others, and form the basis of practical moral decision-making. Humanism and Rationalism have arisen out of philosophical inquiry dating back to the ancient Greeks and Romans. They gained modern form after the 18th century Age of Enlightenment which focused on the powers of human reason and science.

Report by Stephen Stuart