Religion conversation questions
This is a potentially controversial subject in some societies, and consequently some teachers may want to carefully consider if they wish to use all of these questions.
- How would you define a "religion"? What properties must a belief system have in order for it to be a "religion"?
- If a belief system did not include "faith", a god, and worship would it still be a religion?
- Is atheism a religion? If you believe that there is no God, is that a faith-based belief?
- Do most people work out a religion for themselves or simply follow their ancestors' religion?
- Do you think that religion in general has had a positive or negative effect on the world? Can you think of any examples?
- What characteristics are common in fundamentalist religious groups?
- Should religion be taught in state schools? Why/why not? If so, should the religion taught be the most common one or the most historical for the country?
- Should prayer be obligatory in schools? Why/why not?
- Are there any truly non-violent religions?
- What positive things do religions do today?
- What negative things do religions do today?
- Historically, what positive and negative things have religions been responsible for?
- Historically, what positive and negative things has atheism been responsible for?
- Do you think that religious people are happier? Why/why not?
- In the United States in 2005, around 40% of the population believed that evolution did not take place. Why do you think they had this idea?
- Do you believe in an afterlife?
- What do you think of the idea of hell?
- What do you think of the idea of heaven?
- In what areas does religion have an impact in your country?
- What are the differences and similarities of cults and religions?
- Do you think that cults are dangerous? Why or why not?
- Should the government try to eliminate cults and other fringe religious groups? Why or why not? If so, how?
- Categorize the five major world religions according to their worldviews? How are they similar? How are they different?
- What factors differentiate theistic and atheistic worldviews? What factors differentiate perspectives within these worldviews?
- The Church of the Spaghetti Monster (Pastafarianism) is a religious group started in 2005. The members of this religious group believe that a religion does not need to require its members to have literal belief in order to attain spiritual enlightenment. While many people view this religion as a "joke" or making fun of "serious" religious groups, the members claim that it is completely legitimate.
- What elements are required to create a new religion? Can anyone create a new religion? Why or why not?
Burkas, headscarves and other religious symbols
- There is debate in some European countries - especially France - about the appropriateness of certain forms of traditional Islamic dress, especially in schools and other state institutions. The debate centres around the wearing of the "hijab" /hɪˈdʒɑːb/. This can refer to a large number of things ranging from the "Islamic headscarf" to the "burqa" or "burka" /ˈbɜrkə, ˈbʊərkə/, which covers the whole body including the head and the face. What do you think about legal attempts in some European countries to control the use of these forms of dress?
- What do you imagine it would be like to wear a burka on a hot day?
- What is the difference between banning such dress in government institutions and schools - and in banning it completely in the country?
- Would it be equally reasonable to prohibit Sikh men from wearing a turban? What is the difference - if any?
- If it were banned, it would presumably become a criminal offence. What punishment might be applied? How would Amnesty International react to jail terms?
- Is it reasonable to prevent men from wearing these things if they want to, or should any restriction only be applied to women?
- Would it be possible to wear them as fancy dress?
- If Western countries forbid the wearing of the burka or other forms of Islamic dress, would it be reasonable for Islamic countries to insist that Western women wear burkas when visiting? Why or why not?
- If a person's religion obliged them to always have their face covered, and if a state accepted this was a religious right which could not be taken away - how would it deal with passport photographs and photographs for driving licences?
- Most European countries have their own clothing taboos. For instance you can get arrested or cause major disturbance if you walk around naked. What do you think about this apparent double standard?
- Women - for whatever reason - seem to have more restrictions in some Islamic countries. In Saudi Arabia, for example, they are not allowed to drive. Would it be logical for them to follow all the restrictions which would have applied to them in their home countries if they move to the West?
- Priests, monks and nuns wear clothing which is, in some ways, similar to the burka. What would be the implications for these forms of dress, if the burka was banned?
Religious freedom and the government
- The freedom of religion is a right included in the U.S. Constitution. It allows people to practice any religion in public or private without being persecuted. How does this policy of religious freedom compare with how people are allowed to practice (or not practice) religion in your country?
- Should everyone in a country have the right to practice any religion they wish? Why or why not?
- Do you think the government should have the ability to "manage" religious expression? Why or why not?
- Do you think the government should be guided by religious principles? Why or why not?
Religion and conflict
- What are some modern examples of religion being used to justify violence and oppression?
- Do you think religion is the cause of most conflict in the world? Why or why not?
- Is Islam a religion of peace?
- If religion isn't the primary justification used to wage wars, what is?
- Do you think a religion needs a God?
- Do atheists have any special problems in your country?
- In 2009 a campaign started which promoted the slogan: "God probably doesn't exist, now stop worrying and get on with your life". What is your opinion of this?
- The well-known atheist Richard Dawkins once said: "We are all atheists about 99% of the Gods which have ever existed - some of us just go one God further." What is your opinion of this statement?
- Many atheists maintain they do not believe in God because there is no evidence God exists. What is your opinion?
- Can atheism - the lack of belief in something - be considered a religion?
- Can "not collecting stamps" be considered a hobby?
- What factors differentiate atheistic perspectives? How many different atheistic perspectives are there?
- What do different atheistic perspectives have in common? How do they differ?
- Do you think people who don't believe in God or gods can live good lives? Why or why not?
- Where do you think people who don't believe in God or gods get their moral compass?
- Can freethinkers go to church regularly for service but still remain as freethinkers?
- Can freethinkers believe in God?
- New Scientist, Why doesn't America believe in evolution?, 20 August 2006.