Encouraging Comparative Religion in Education
by Mark Liberator [Updated January 23rd, 2005]
To those who ponder if religion should be taught in schools, I must admit that I demand it be taught in schools! This shocking stand will not make me popular with atheists...well, maybe.
After becoming involved in a discussion over the differences/benefits between Greek Mythology and Judeo-Christian Mythology, I began to think about the timing of religious fundamentals in a child's life. When do students in the U.S. learn the fundamentals of religion? Most students encounter Greek Mythology well after they are totally indoctrinated by Judeo-Christian Mythology and almost never formally learn anything meaningful about other myths that fill our world.
Due to the chokehold Judeo-Christian tradition has on politics and therefore American education, it is doubtful that Greek Mythology could be introduced to any great depth in grammar school. Even if it was introduced in great depth, students may not have the ability to digest it well enough to have it fight on an equal ground with current religious tradition. That leaves us with the high schools.
“Too many Western students still leave high school clutching their Bibles believing that Judeo-Christian Mythology is the one true faith and all others are a religious mockery.”
High school students are mature enough to benefit from Greek Mythology, which is the exact reason it is included within the curriculum at that time. However, stepping up the curriculum in this direction is in order. Schools must teach more than just the basics of one ancient religion; they must teach comparative religions. Personally, I think the course should be called comparative mythologies -- but that's another view of mine to be fully addressed at some later time.
Too many Western students still leave high school clutching their Bibles believing that Judeo-Christian Mythology is the one true faith and all others are a religious mockery. This ignorant view contributes to geo-political conflicts on a large scale and a growing religious problem on a small scale. The latter is becoming a great problem as the United States continues to celebrate diversity and encourages multiculturalism.
Many people interpret multiculturalism to mean taking turns throwing parties using different ethnic themes. You know what I mean: throwing a party with a piñata hanging from the ceiling or making people use chopsticks when serving rice. Of course, it misses the boat entirely and skips a necessary ingredient: tolerance. Without tolerance, multiculturalism may actually be divisive and hold no more benefit than giving saltwater to a dehydrated man.
My view is a simple one: encourage high schools to offer comparative religion courses. Allow teachers to communicate with one another to build a challenging and rich curriculum that will maintain interest and invite deep, substantial questions about religion, the human condition, and life in general.
There may be some traditionalists who think that such a course would invite attack upon Judeo-Christian values and consequently undermine this movement. I believe the course would have an opposite effect. Such a course would serve to strengthen understanding of Western faith, much as learning a foreign language strengthens knowledge of one's first language. It would allow students to appreciate Judeo-Christian allegories by learning about the older myths that inspired them.
Bridging the chasm of understanding that exists between world religions will inspire hyper-multiculturalism. Geographical distances are less relevant due to technological advancements and the affordable cost of modern transportation. It means that political differences can no longer be contained by changes in terrain or lines on a map. As we are already dealing with a global economy, it will bestow a competitive edge upon our future generations by enabling communication through heightened awareness. It will lower the probability of friction between nations, which equates to a savings from a shrunken military.
“With an ever-expanding number of disconnected, confused teens in the U.S., it would seem obvious hyper-multiculturalism through comparative religion is a need that is long overdue. ”
As isolationism is impossible in a global society -- it's at least economic suicide -- hyper-multiculturalism will also have a trickle down effect, domestically speaking. Learning about the differences between people and how to deal with these variances is fundamental. It prevents violence and encourages dialogue. It preaches acceptance instead of hatred. With an ever-expanding number of disconnected, confused teens in the U.S., it would seem obvious hyper-multiculturalism through comparative religion is a need that is long overdue [see Pursuing Virtue].
What do we have to lose? ...a righteous mindset that attacks us both externally and internally, both abroad and at home? Forgive me if I am wrong, but righteousness spawned from a system that promotes our Judeo-Christian dominated mindset -- a single religion that is intollerant of others -- is baggage worth losing.
Boston Review: Is Multiculturalism Bad for Women? Ayn Rand Institute: Diversity and Multiculturalism: The New Racism Management Of Social Transformations: Multiculturalism: Its Significance, Operation and Future CareerMagazine: Multiculturalism In Corporate America: Who Benefits, And Why Should I Care? The Secular Web by Internet Infidels: Religion In The Public Schools Joint Statement American Atheists: Compromise Guide On Religion In Schools May Fuel Efforts To Proselytize In Classrooms
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