What is Religion?: A Learning Resource

Our Resource of the Month is a unit of work designed by Ruth Marx exploring how religion can be classified, to allow pupils to answer the question, ‘what is religion?’. In this blog Ruth explains the thinking and inspiration behind her work, which was originally created with Isobel Boyson at the Bridge Academy, Hackney, London.

The main aim of this teaching resource is to help teachers explore the phenomenon of religion and some key thinkers exploring the classifications and origins of religion. The resource takes a disciplinary approach and introduces some key thinkers whose ideas have been used to challenge religious belief, offering opportunities for evaluation throughout. The resource includes explainer YouTube clips around the key thinkers which can either be used for staff subject knowledge or shown directly to the class, as well as knowledge organisers for teachers.

I was teaching much of this content to my A Level classes and wanted to explore these ideas with a younger age group, many of whom may not take RS A Level, so I designed a unit of work for Key stage 3. It was first taught to Year 9, and has subsequently been taught to a non-examined Humanities Pathway cohort of year 9/10/11 students.

Since then I’ve offered the resource widely to the Religion and Worldviews community as there seems to be an appetite for this approach. So far it has been sent out to 50 teachers across the country. My aim in writing this blog is to share the resource with many more.

In creating these lessons I am hoping to support teachers who want to develop a multidisciplinary  approach in their classrooms. I was first inspired by a note in the 2018 CoRE Report that the idea of ‘what is religion itself’ is missing from most syllabuses. The resource supports teachers who are interested to explore topics around atheism and non-religious worldviews. The resource also shows teachers how they can introduce scholarship to a younger age range. A lesson on Jedism as a religion was added to allow discussion of this subject in light of the England and Wales census.

There are many ways to improve our subject knowledge as teachers, even if we are short of time.

Reading of course, but podcasts are a great way to gain knowledge if you can’t find time for reading, such as Panpsycast and the RE Podcast. There are online sources of support, such as RE:ONLINE, on Facebook, @Team RE- UK on Twitter, NATRE resources, and much more- if you want to explore there will be a community for you. Getting together with other teachers through local Hubs and networks is also incredibly valuable. It is such a vibrant and exciting time to be an RE teacher and the best thing is that I feel the community are supporting one another through the transition to Religion and Worldviews.

If anyone tries these resources I would love to hear from them; how did students respond, what kind of discussions took place in the classroom? Do please let me know, as we move into this new era of RE together.

Contact: ruth.h.marx@gmail.com

Find Ruth’s resources below:

‘What is Religion?’ Unit of Work

Booklet to support the learning

Explainer videos for teachers and students


Ruth was an RE teacher in London for 20 years and now works as a consultant and author in Religion and Worldviews and PSHE support. She now lives in South West France and can be contacted via X (formerly twitter) @MzMarxRE

See all posts by Ruth Marx