Academics said last night that the syllabus, to be taught from September, had turned a serious subject into a 'pat qualification for political correctness'.
One of the topics covered is 'religion and relationships', which will teach pupils about homosexuality, religious attitudes to contraception and the role of parenting.
Another topic is 'religion, sport and leisure'. Pupils will study 'religious attitudes towards the purpose, use and importance of leisure; types and purposes of relaxation, e.g stress relief, and the misuse of leisure time, e.g binge drinking.'
In a sample exam paper pupils are asked, under the heading religion and planet earth, 'what is conservation?' and 'is recycling good stewardship?'. Teenagers must also give two reasons why many religious believers oppose deforestation.
A second paper asks candidates to name two illegal drugs, give three reasons why people take illegal drugs and explain the attitudes of religious believers to smoking tobacco.
The syllabus, one of a number offered by the exam hoard the Assessment and Qualifications Alliance (AQA), is expected to be popular with schools. But Prof Alan Smithers. the director of the centre for education and employment training at Buckingham University. Said it was a blatant example of the 'politicisation of education'.
'This does not seem to be about religion and spirituality at all. There are just a lot of tenuous connections which teach the preferred attitudes and beliefs of the moment,' he said.
'I think it comes from the desire of politicians to stamp their influence on everything. It looks as if they are turning RE into a pat qualification for political correctness. How is it to benefit the students?
'It is not going to be a basis for the further study of RE or spirituality to a higher level. All it can do is clock up league table points for the school and keep young people occupied. One has to ask, where is the religion?'
Prof Smithers said the changes reflected those already made in the core subject of science, where scientific knowledge was replaced with the discussion of topical science-related questions.
Students can choose four of six units to study for the qualification, which means they can avoid more traditional material covered in the 'worship and key beliefs' and 'religious philosophy' modules.
AQA said only one of the units was designed to enable religious studies to link with citizenship and personal, social and health education.
'It will contribute actively to pupils' spiritual, moral, social and cultural development and the Every Child Matters agenda,' it said. [Sunday Telegraph]