Hinduism and Worldviews

10 July 2024

Religion is not a worldview: it has concrete philosophies and should not be left open to the interpretation of teachers and schools. It is well and good to debate/challenge/discuss these philosophies, but the philosophies themselves should not be left open to interpretation. The philosophies can inform world views, but are not worldviews in and of themselves.

Religion is not an idea or an opinion: the fountainhead of all world religions are the spiritual experiences of prophets/saints/sages. Seeing religions as ‘a point of view’ is watering down what religions are all about. Putting religions on a par with Human and Social science, ethical veganism and scientism is an injustice to world religions. Their foundations are spiritual experience, and are not based on opinions or dietary choices. The new Handbook makes only 4 references to Hinduism – numbering over a million followers in the UK – and 36 references to Humanism, numbering a mere 10,000.   This is caused by framing the whole Handbook syllabus around a concept, ‘Worldview’, rather than letting the religions speak for themselves.

By no means are all non-religious people Humanists: many individuals may describe themselves as not belonging to any particular religion but still consider themselves to have spiritual beliefs, as has been shown in Social Attitude surveys. It seems that this point of view is not taken into account in the syllabus. The syllabus implies several times that all ‘non-religious’ people can be classified as (potential) Humanists; most people recognise they have a spiritual nature, which is more than a ‘sociological category’.

A clearer differentiation needs to be made between Hindu philosophy and Hindu stories: Hindu scriptures are divided into 2 groups: the principal scriptures called the ‘Shrutis and the subsidiary scriptures called the ‘Smritis’. Shruti scriptures focus on the spiritual experiences of ‘seers’ called rishis, whereas Smriti scriptures present the narrative aspects of religious teachings. For example:

The Ramayana contains the epic of Rama and Sita, which is one of the main scriptures for Hindus. It is currently classed as a ‘story’ in the syllabus.

Greater emphasis is paid to non-religious world views over all other minority religions: Every Key Stage includes a study of ‘non-religious’ world views, yet each minority religion is given far less attention, despite this being an RE guide book!