1 89% of Britons identify as non-religious or notionally Christian,1 yet by law schools must join in Collective Worship.2 About half of all primary schools do so.3 Up to 1.2 million infants in faith schools are ritually taught to confess misdeeds and repent, often by a cleric.4,5 Teachers do not set out to sexualise pupils, but the NSPCC cites guilt and shame, used by a figure of authority as a method of child sexual grooming.6
2 Thanks to St Augustine’s hair-shirt teaching on penance, the Church of England service admits sin and begs forgiveness or mercy twenty-four times. Grace and love are said twice. Any suffering that has been caused by wrongdoing is disregarded.7 Faith schools often recite a shorter prayer, but pupils are still taught to say sorry and expect forgiveness without facing justice or their victim.
3 Most adults born in Britain have had a Christian education. 75% of us reject religion later in life,8 but the billions of neural connections made in our infant brains are not set free.9 Guilt leaves its sting on sensitive children, while moral confusion and bad casuistry can mark others. Christianity is embedded in our culture so that unhealthy thinking patterns are normalised.
In the pages of his new book, Michael Moloney reviews research papers endorsing religious belief and finds critical weaknesses. Here, psychologists explain why this field of study is neglected by academia.