Does a religious universalism haunt secular religious education?

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Contemporary theories of non-confessional religious education (RE) imagine the subject as inclusive and non-indoctrinatory. Any latent confessional tendencies towards universalism – encouraging or promoting a singular religious vision – have been exorcised within secular, liberal education systems. But can universalism be so easily avoided? In this paper I argue that some forms of universalism are unjustified, while others are educationally inevitable. The argument acknowledges that failures to distinguish between different forms of universalism leads to a confusion about the purposes and justification of RE and contributes to the poor status of the subject in schools within England and Wales. Knowing when, how, and why universalism operates educationally can help to improve all kinds of education, particularly religious education. This paper is part of a suite of papers titled ‘Universal Individuals’ which explore the relations and tensions between forms of universalism (political, civic, philosophical) and individualism.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of Philosophy of Education
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2 Dec 2022


  • religious education
  • universalism
  • science of religion
  • self-consciousness
  • confessional
  • interpretive
  • phenomenological


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