The Challenge of Religious Education to deal with past and present Catholicism

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Religious education (RE) in secondary schools in the Netherlands is challenged to redefine the educational aims. Concerning this debate, the preference for a cognitive approach is remarkably dominant, not only among scholars but among RE teachers as well. This appeal for a cognitive turn is based upon two hypotheses: first on the presumption of religious blankness among religiously unaffiliated pupils and second on a specific view on the way religious affiliation, religious reflectivity and religious tolerance are intertwined. The current article elaborates on a empirical research that questions both hypotheses. It first discovered the ongoing connection religiously unaffiliated pupils have with a former and conventional type of Catholicism, which impedes the development of their reflective personal religiosity as well as that of their interreligious openness. Second, this investigation revealed that personal connectedness with contemporary Catholic faith encourages these two developments. As such, this research contributes to a nuanced perspective on the chances and bottlenecks within religious learning by religiously unaffiliated and affiliated pupils. Concerning the redefinition of religious educational aims, it provides empirical arguments for a balanced combination of cognitive, attitudinal and experiential aims and advocates a preference for experiential and attitudinal aspects as a didactical starting point.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)261-271
Number of pages11
JournalBritish Journal of Religious Education
Issue number3
Early online date17 Jun 2018
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • Religious education
  • interreligious tolerance
  • religious (non-)affiliation
  • religious blankness
  • religious reflectivity


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