Religious studies is taught in schools throughout the UK, however the subject does not approach the personal opinions of young people and their views on whether religion is a positive or negative influence on their lives. I interviewed some students from across the years at Wycombe High School to hear their thoughts on this subject.

With regards to the students belonging to specific religions, there was quite a range of different religions, such as Christianity, Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism. Many of the students argued that they are non-practising worshippers, and some have turned away from religion entirely due to being forced to attend a place of worship by parents from an early age. One student said: “I am a Hindu, but this was not my own decision, but the decision of my parents.” Most of the students do belong to a faith, but are not practicing their religion, one student replied: “I am mildly Christian, however I don’t go to church regularly.” A surprising result was that only 20% of the students interviewed did not belong to a religion: “I used to be a Catholic, however I think that religion is pointless from a personal perspective.” Another student answered: “No, I’m not religious. I consider myself an atheist.” The views of some students about their own religion was mixed: one student said of Islam: “ I believe that overall, I have to say sadly my religion does not have much of a good reputation as people rely on misconceptions spread by the media to define Islam. People are very unwilling to realise that Islam is a religion of peace.” Another Buddhist pupil replied: “{Buddhism} is good as it focuses on being a good person in day to day life.” However, a Christian student responded: “I don’t like my religion. But I like God. I don’t like that it focuses too much on rules and rituals.”

On religion as a concept, views were again mixed. One pupil answered, “I think religion is a useful concept as it assists with morals and happiness, however religion is often used as an excuse for conflict between beliefs and misunderstood.” Similarly a different pupil said, “I believe religion is a good way of defining a person as it is a way of life.” On the other hand, another student said: “I think it’s OK, as long as it doesn’t mean you have beliefs that offend people. Generally I don’t like the idea of religion.” Personally, I believe that religion is an important part of human culture and history and although it has been a source of conflict, it can help a young person identify themselves and with others, of the same religion or not.

When asked about the diversity of religion in Bucks, the opinions were overall very positive: “I think that there is enough diversity of religion in Bucks, as well as race and ethnic backgrounds.” The opinion of a different pupil was “Definitely, because the religions are brought together in lots of different ways and in Bucks school children are taught about respecting and embracing the views of other religions.” Another student replied, “Yes, but there should be fewer divided areas.”

Upon asking their views about whether religion was a good or bad influence in a young person’s life, one student said: “I think in some cases it’s good because it gives them hope that if they worship and belong to a religion then everything will be OK…However in other cases youths can be controlled by religion and this can be [a] limiting [factor] to them.” In other views, a student answered, “I think religion is a good influence as it strengthens morals in a young person and helps them have an identity which is constant.” Nonetheless, some students disagreed, “I don’t know. It needs to be introduced when you are able to make your own decisions.”

When asked if religion is losing touch with young people, the results were generally negative. Most agreed with the question stating, “Yes. The Catholic Church is out of touch. Many religious leaders are opposed to progress and young people are more open to change.” And “I think fewer young people are religious.” Also, one pupil said, “Because of the war between science and religion…a lot of young people pick science over religion because it has been proven, whereas religion is often speculation.” I agree with the fact that  religion has lost touch with many young people today. Partly I believe it is due to rebellion against parents and the wish to be your own person and not to be controlled by others. Some religions are not as progressive as many young people would like.

Finally, when asked whether belonging to a religion means that you have higher morals or not, the answers were somewhat diverse. One student said: “I think it strongly depends on the individual, but overall yes, religion does give someone higher morals than someone without that religious sense of right and wrong.” However another student answered, “No. I think it means I have back up for my morals, however the morals of others without a religion are not inferior.” To a certain degree, I agree with the fact that religion strengthens morals, however truly it depends on the person.

An interesting aspect of the interview was when asked whether or not religion impacted their daily lives, the answers generally indicated a great impact. One Christian student said “No. I see religion as a mind-set…I go to Church on religious occasions…but I don’t go regularly throughout the year.” Another Christian pupil said, “I prefer to study my religion through prayer.” There was a similar view from a Buddhist student, “Occaisionally I go to the temple to feel part of a community…Meditation is part of everyday life for me.” An Islamic student said, “ I pray every day and visit my Mosque fairly regularly. I also read the Qur’aan whenever I can.”

Another fascinating view was, when asked about any other views on religion in general, one Muslim student said “ I think that in today’s society, religion is becoming less and less practiced as it is almost ridiculed in the media, and as a result it is not something [with]which many young people can identify with.” Following these interviews, the true diverse nature of the opinions on religion of young people can be seen. Many young people are genuinely interested in religion, but have been turned away due to certain circumstances. It appears to be an important part of everyone’s lives: and impacts people’s opinions of you, whatever religion you belong to or even if you believe in one at all. It all matters.