Beyond the Big Six Religions: Expanding the Boundaries in the Teaching of Religion and Worldviews

Beyond the Big Six Religions: Expanding the Boundaries in the Teaching of Religion and Worldviews


Beyond the Big Six Religions: Expanding the Boundaries in the Teaching of Religion and Worldviews is a timely addition to the literature surrounding Religious Education teaching in schools. The book explores the desirability and possibility of expanding the breadth of religious and non-religious worldviews within the classroom. Written by an expert in Religious Education and minority religions, this book articulates the importance of the inclusion of minority voices within the classroom, and in wider society.

The case for expanding the boundaries of what we mean by the ‘big six’ is developed using the examples of Christianity and Islam and moving beyond the views and teachings that predominate in today’s world. The place of religions and worldviews outside the ‘big six’ is then explored with introductions to the central concepts, beliefs and practices of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Shi’a Islam, Ahmadiyya Islam, Bahá’í, Humanism, Jainism, Paganism and Rastafari, together with practical advice on how they can be taught in the classroom. This book provides the balance between developing the understanding of the reader, and its immediate applicability to the classroom.


“In this hugely valuable book, James Holt reminds us of the importance of ‘beyond’ to religious education. The environmental campaigner Julia Butterfly Hill used to say we should not throw things away because there is no place called ‘away’: we need to understand the places we throw things. In the same challenging way, this book asks what is ‘beyond’ Christianity and Islam (that might still say it is Christian or Muslim), and what is beyond the six major religions most studied in the UK. Here is a book that not only provides a lively and informative guide to various ‘beyonds’, it also challenges all of us involved in religious education: there will always be something important and fascinating beyond what we currently know.”

Julian Stern, Professor of Education and Religion, York St John University

“This book is a valuable addition to the RE teacher’s reference library. It does two things, both of them very well. Firstly it challenges readers to think about the assumed boundaries of religious education, which are frequently part of the RE teacher’s mindset – what does it mean to be a member of a religious group, and who decides the boundaries of the group? The author suggests a way of identifying and navigating these boundaries, particularly in Christianity and Islam, by allowing the child, the believer, to self-identify. Secondly, it provides short, but in-depth introductions to some of the more common religious expressions outside of the big six. These introductions will be particularly useful to a teacher who finds they have a child of that worldview in their class. These introductions will also help teachers who want to move away from simply studying (some or more of) the big six religions, to a more conceptual study of ‘religion’ as it is practised in Britain today. The introductions are well written and accessible, yet full of information. Each section has useful ideas to help a teacher start the planning process. I will be recommending it to both students and serving teachers.”

Paul Smalley, Senior Lecturer in Religious Education, Edge Hill University

“A useful resource for RE teachers who wish to include a wider range of religious and non-religious worldviews as recommended by reports such as the Commission on Religious Education’s A New Vision for Religious Education in Schools. James Holt selects eight groups, of both ancient and recent origin, the study of which prepares pupils for the diversity they will encounter, expands concepts such as ‘religion’ or ‘worldview’, questions the boundaries of traditions such as Christianity and Islam, and importantly, respects pupils from these backgrounds who will be present in our classrooms.”

Professor Denise Cush, Bath Spa University

Bibliographic information

James Holt, Beyond the Big Six Religions: Expanding the Boundaries in the Teaching of Religion and Worldviews, 2019, ISBN 978-1-908258-35-9, £19.99.

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