The animals went in two by two. Genesis 6-9. Everyone knows that, surely? Apparently not. I was gently bemused to discover a group of bright and well educated young folk of my acquaintance didn’t know the story of Noah and the Ark.

In fact, they didn’t know any of the bible tales considered compulsory general knowledge in my day. No wise men with houses on rocks, no David and Goliath, no Jonah and the whale. No Moses in his basket of reeds.

Did they know about Ramadan or spinning a dreidel? Did they know to remove their shoes before entering a mandir?

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These primary aged young chaps are growing up in an increasingly secular environment but I was surprised they hadn’t learned any Bible stories at school.

So, there are schools where religious education is slim to none and where religious observance is bi-annual - Easter and Christmas. Then of what importance is the Humanist Society Scotland’s (HSS) demand that a child should have the power to opt out of religious observance on their own behalf and not rely on their parents to opt out for them?

The HHS’s judicial review at the Court of Session in Edinburgh was last week halted as the charity is not legally able to take action by proxy on behalf of young people. It must now find a teenager willing to be the figurehead of the campaign.

It’s baffling, frankly, that this is the status quo at all, that all young people require parental permission to opt out of religious observance in school.

The United Nations Children’s Rights Committee raised concerns that children in Scotland do not have the right to withdraw from “collective worship without parental permission”. It recommended the existing parental right to opt out of religious observance should be extended to young people.

It is also the case in England and Wales that sixth form pupils, aged 16 to 18, have the right to opt out by their own volition.

But few things are more divisive than religion and fewer things still than religion in schools. Just this week there has been a back and forth about whether denominational schools gain better results for pupils than non-denominational, for example.

When first challenged about religious observance, the Scottish Government responded by saying religious and moral education is one of the eight core areas of the Curriculum for Excellence.

That rather misses the mark. Religious observance and religious education are quite distinct things.

It seems obvious that the most principled action by the government would be to give school pupils a choice in religious observance. Faith can’t be forced, so compelling young people to partake in religious observance is a pointless empty gesture. Parents have the right to bring up their child in a chosen faith but children similarly have the right to freedom of religion.

Religious education, however, should be protected. Around half the UK’s population - more than 30 million people - identify with a religious group. Some 80 per cent of the world’s population does similarly and religion has a huge impact on humanity.

Religious education teaches how to live alongside others and understand them, vital in an increasingly fracturing world. It also, when done well, teaches about ethics and moral codes, tolerance and diversity. These are values that should begin in the classroom and then permeate the whole school.

Religious instruction must be optional in schools but religious education is vital - and it is important to separate the two.