Former Bishop of Durham Tom Wright, currently New Testament professor at St Andrews University in Scotland, told Herald Scotland that the life of Jesus should be part of the mainstream history syllabus.

“The story of Jesus and Christianity should be taught as history and not just in religious studies” he said.

The Gospels were critically important to western civilisaton but were being “sidelined” he warned.

He said: “If a pupil wanted to study Jesus in his historical context this would not be seen as part of the general history syllabus, but would be seen as something that was the preserve of religious studies.

“Religious studies staff would then say to that pupil that they had Judaism, Buddhism and Confucius, as well as Christianity, and maybe there would be some stuff on the Gospels in the corner.

“It seems to me, in terms of the history of the western world, the narrative of how Christianity got going and who Jesus was are huge questions which ought to be in a more general syllabus.”

The Humanist Society Scotland (HSS) agreed pupils should understand the role Christianity had played in history but said religion was already too prominent in Scottish education.

Gordon MacRae, chief executive of HSS, said: “I’m sure most people in Scotland can agree Christianity had a profound effect on shaping modern Scottish culture, but we are now at a tipping-point where a majority of people in Scotland for the first time are not religious.”

He said the children of Scotland are not lacking religion in their education.

“Quite the oppose in fact.”

Larry Flanagan of the Educational Institute of Scotland told the Herald that schools were already struggling with the competing demands for inclusion in the syllabus and teachers must be allowed professional autonomy.

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