Ethics Without Religion? April 28, 2009

Ethics Without Religion?

I just found this out. In Germany, ethics classes are mandatory, but religion classes are optional. (And that’s controversial for some.)

It’s almost like the two are distinct areas… like you can have ethics without religion…

Hm. Who knew.

(Thanks to Hoverfrog for the link!)


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  • David D.G.

    Mandatory ethics classes wouldn’t be a bad idea to have here, too — along with mandatory classes in logic and critical thinking.

    ~David D.G.

  • Karma Jingpa

    I went to school for a year in Switzerland and religion class and ethics class were actually in the same time slot. You had to choose one or the other!
    I chose ethics. But I have to admit, I did fall asleep a few times.

  • Erp

    To be exact ethics courses are mandatory in Berlin not in all of Germany. The referendum on Saturday to allow a student to opt for a religious course instead of the ethics course (as the rest of Germany allows) failed.

    http://features.csmonitor.com/globalnews/2009/04/27/berliners-choose-ethics-over-religion-in-classrooms/

  • Thilina

    During my engineering degree (New Zealand) we had several ethics courses which included almost no mention of religion (other than to mention some peoples use of religion to define their own ethics).

  • It makes me proud to see that my capital city (I’m an expat German) is considered the Atheist Capital of Europe!
    I think ethics classes would be good for all schools to have. Here in NZ we don’t seem to have anything along those lines at state schools. Private (or half-private) religious schools tend to have compulsory religious ed, but I haven’t heard of ethics classes anywhere!

  • Koschka

    As Erp already said, this is only in Berlin. I grew up in Hesse, Germany, and we had to chose between catholic or protestant religion classes or ethics from 7th grade on. In 5th and 6th grade, my parents signed me out of religion classes, and I just had free time during these lessons.
    Most non-religious parents just send their kids to attend protestant religion classes (it used to be “catholics take catholic religion classes, all others take protestant”). As far as I remember it was only me and a friend of mine whose parents took them out, and I remember the principal mentioning that this was actually the first time parents did that in his school. I don’t know if this would have been possible in primary school already, I just went to protestant religion lesson as mentioned before.

  • Rebecca

    As someone above already said, that’s only in Berlin, not for the other 15 states. In those you have mandatory Religious Education courses by teachers elected by the church (that is protected by the German constitution) until you are 14 and can choose to take Ethics instead. Before that, no chance of getting away from RE classes except for in a few cases when the parents really don’t want their children to be in a RE class.

    And let’s not even get started on the subject of having crosses hang in classrooms of state schools.

  • Jason Peper

    Ethics is only mandatory in Berlin, in almost every other State, Religion classes are (almost) mandatory (you can except yourself from that, but you have to do replacement classes and/or be excluded from class for that time)

  • Sam Sandqvist

    In Finland’s elementary schools you have to choose either religion (protestant, of course), or ethics (“how to look at life”, classes on life, the universe, and everything – but totally non-religious).

    You do not have to justify your choice, and classes may or may not run simultaneously.

  • Vic

    It should be obvious that ethics and religion are exclusive since there are unethical religious people. Unfortunately, it gets covered up with the “they weren’t real Christians” denial.

    I tend to think that ethics should be taught in school here, too. Perhaps the reason religion and morals get confused so often is that people only hear about morals in a church context. We need to cement the fact that they are not even related.

  • beijingrrl

    My mom works for a private girls high school in Washington State. Every year, there’s a book they encourage all of the staff to read. A couple of years ago it was “Little Big Minds – Sharing Philosophy with Kids” by Marietta McCarty, which she passed on to me.

    I found the intro a tad trite and I hate the moniker “little big mind”, but the actual meat of the book, which “guides parents and educators in introducing philosophy to K-8 children in order to develop their critical thinking, deepen their appreciation for others, and brace them for philosophical quandaries that lurk in all of lives, whether we are young or old” is pretty good.

    Just don’t tell that crazy View lady about it – she might plan a book burning so all the poor kids won’t be confused.