The first Steiner School allowed space during school time for religion lessons to take place. These lessons were given by different priests from different denominations in the church. Subsequently, at the request of some non-denominational but religiously-inclined parents, the so called ‘free’ Religion lessons were introduced. What we have today in Steiner schools is the legacy of this ‘free’ Religion lesson.

One could argue that, especially in the Lower School, the entire curriculum is religious. So why have Religion lessons?  At a time when fewer and fewer people go to church, the Religion lessons provide a regular time and space when deeper questions about the spiritual nature of the human being can be addressed, reflected on and discussed. In the Lower School, these questions remain largely unconscious of course, but the mood that is created in these lessons will help to engender the right mood in the Religion lessons later on.

In the Middle and Upper School, when a child’s natural feeling for reverence has been lost, Religion lessons help to foster a respect for religions and cultures, and an understanding for others which can act as a positive counterbalance to the adolescent’s natural self-centredness. This is perhaps its foremost objective in our time.

The great question for Religion teachers in our school today is: how do we teach this subject in such a way that we do not preach or try to indoctrinate, and yet allow ourselves to speak freely, honestly and openly about how we teachers perceive the world?

Method and content

Always bearing in mind our understanding of child development, we bring the younger children stories where reverence and love for the created world, both visible and invisible, are at the heart of the lesson. A little later on, as children lose their innate confidence in the spiritual world, they are told stories where great courage and faith play their part.

In Class 6, when children begin to develop a more objective and critical view of the world, the New Testament is brought and shared. This is a time when discussions begin. The five pillars of Islam are looked at and some of the Koran is read, in greater detail than is possible during Main Lesson. The positive aspects of both Christianity and Islam are discussed. The mood in these lessons is, above all, one of respect, a respect for the history and cultures that were formed as a result of that religion. There is an attempt to understand what others believe, even if one chooses not to believe it oneself.

In Classes 7 and 8, biographies are often brought, of individuals who have overcome huge obstacles in their lives, through determination, courage and faith.

In the Upper School, social and moral questions continue to be raised and discussed. These can come out of stories in the news, from magazine articles or books.  The question may also be asked whether religion as practised in the past still has relevance today. At the heart of these discussions is the spoken or unspoken question about the spiritual nature of the human being. Religion teaching is about kindling and keeping alive a spiritual flame in each pupil, which may or may not grow, in freedom, later in life.