Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Time and Religion in the Schools

I got an e-mail from DEFCON today, and i sent Time a response on their cover story about teaching religion in schools. I also read most of the first of 4 pages of the article from Time. After swallowing some vomit I dutifully sent Time a letter, the essence being that, well, read on please, I'll bold my favorite parts.

There is no reason to be teaching the Bible in public schools, carefully or otherwise.

The Bible is a compilation of moral and religious teachings. Public schools are for educating minor children in the fundamentals of reading, mathematics, scientific methodology, engineering, artistic expression, logic, and reason. You know, tools and building blocks for future growth.

You can't "teach" the Bible in the schools without including all of the moralizing, the values, the dogmatic belief systems, the faith, and the righteousness. Not to mention, whose Bible are you going to teach? The Jewish Bible (hey, it came first you know), the Catholic one, the Methodist one, what about the Koran or the Hindu sacred texts? What about something for the atheists or the deists, what kind of Bible are you going to bring for them? Somebody else’s?

For a magazine that has more time for writing articles then a newspaper, it's pretty shocking how shallow you have become. It's like you're trying to compress seven days of car chase stupidity into a weekly magazine, instead of doing in depth and truly thoughtful and well researched work.

Why didn't Time do the story on the conditions at Walter Reed, instead of a daily newspaper? Why hasn't Time researched the purge of the US Attorney's and the lies and dissembling from Gonzales and Crew that have followed the revelations of the Purge? How many people have resigned from the White House so far because of that story, and yet you want to write dreck about teaching that damnable book in Public Schools?

I guess because the religious fundamentalists of America have been screaming and shoving their precious Bible down our throats, it behooves the public schools to cave into that fundamentalist revisionism and start teaching their creed, since, to quote your lovely piece, "But then religion rushed into the public square."

All by itself it rushed into the public square, right? Dobson and Falwell and Robertson and Reagan and Bush evangelicalizing and fomenting their neo-fundamentalism on America, and we're expected to accept that frame and buy into the notion that Religion, IXOYE style, is an intrinsic part of the American psyche, so gosh, we better teach it in the public schools.

If Thomas Jefferson were alive today he'd probably spend all of his days fused to his toilet, vomiting in despair and revulsion at what America is becoming, the antithesis of what the American Revolution was all about, a revolution of mind and spirit that Jefferson expressed in our Declaration of Independence. Teaching religion in the schools because a bunch of hypocritical blowhards with access and influence want to propagate their insidious fundamentalism hardly seems like a reason for rejecting the very foundations of this country.

But hey, your religion writer had a deadline to meet, right?

[Was that too harsh for Time? Think they'll publish it?]


Anonymous said...

I want to preface this comment by stating that I disagree with you.

I will freely admit that I have some bias on that matter; but you know what? It is not a Christian bias, nor a Hindu one. I don’t have a Muslim background and I’m not a Jew. As a matter of fact there is not a single religion I want to push on anyone at all. I am very proud to call myself an Atheist. My bias comes in to the fact that I stumbled over this blog in an attempt to do research for a World Religions project arguing that Religion should be taught in all public schools, like it is in mine.

Now I want to gratefully acknowledge your attempt at maintaining the integrity of this country. That’s one of the best things about America really, is that we’re free to learn without having to get all caught up on some Religious principle that our leader commands us to accept. The principle of this is that we are free to learn everything from all points of view. American’s don’t need to filter everything through some dusty old text before it can be taught in our classrooms.

But that also gives us a very large responsibility. We need to make sure that things are taught from all different points of view. That we don’t try to just smudge out things we would rather not deal with. What it comes down to is that religion is a huge part of our world. Not teaching it isn’t going to make that any less true, it’s just going to make Americans less prepared for dealing with it.

I’m going to use a personal example. I used to think that Islam was a religion of hate, fire and heck. Muslims destroyed the twin towers, Muslims blew up buses in London. Muslims want Armageddon. Simple. That’s what I knew… because that’s all I had ever been exposed to. There aren’t any Mosques in my town as far as I’m aware of, and I didn’t ever want one there. But when you read the Qur’an, you quickly learn it’s not like that at all. Islam is built on love and acceptance. Its moral obligation is to be the best that you can be. As my Religion teacher likes to say “It’s a very practical religion.”

Imagine if I had never been taught? It would have caused an ugly scenario in the future most possibly. I might have supported wars to push the Muslims further away from what I would have thought was a country of knowledge, peace, and acceptance.

This brings us to a fundamental question: “What would you teach in a religions class?” Let me assure you, “all of the moralizing, the values, the dogmatic [a word I feel is very unfair to scriptures, but that is another argument altogether] belief systems, the faith, and the righteousness” Would be the first things in there. We don’t teach Math so that a kid knows numbers, we teach Math so that he can apply those numbers to real Mechanical problems. We teach Anatomy and Physiology so we know how we work and how to take care of ourselves and others. We teach History so we know how not to make the same mistakes our ancestors did. Basically we teach so that students can apply it. We don’t teach for knowledge alone. It would have to be the same for Religion. You don’t teach the Bible so that kids know what kind of giant sea creature swallowed Jonah, you teach it so that they can understand and relate to the people around them.

I want to throw in one more small word before I go off and finish my research. As far as building blocks for future growth goes there are very few stronger and more helpful than a good chunk of morals. From what I have read so far, each and every religion seems to have the same core message: be the best person you can be. And if that is a message that we don’t want taught in our public schools, then I’m glad Canada isn’t to far away.

iamcoyote said...

As far as building blocks for future growth goes there are very few stronger and more helpful than a good chunk of morals. From what I have read so far, each and every religion seems to have the same core message: be the best person you can be.

Here's where you gave yourself away. You make the assumption that morals come from religion. Sure, you making the explicit statement by tying it all into being the best you can be, but the implication is clear. Without teaching religion, there would be no morality. Wrong. A "proud Atheist" just wouldn't say that.

I call bullshit, this has to be astroturf.

Duckman, great letter, but no, Time won't publish it.

iamcoyote said...

Sure you avoid making...


Duckman GR said...

Yeah, sounds like a spammer who pretty much spent a lot of time writing about how he missed the point entirely.

iamcoyote said...

I've gotten copied on stuff exactly like this from my fundie Republican relatives. I get the feeling it's a form letter. I'm sure we could probably find its origin with a little digging, but what they hell. Sneaky little devils, aren't they?

Anonymous said...

You guys are awfully cute in your ridiculous assumptions.

As I stated before I am an atheist. Just because I find value in a religious text doesn’t make that any less true. I can agree with republican views without being a republican, and I can agree with democratic points without being a democrat.

Your mistake here is in not seeing that distinction. I never said that I thought morals came from religion, you made that part up and its utter crap. Morals do not come from religion. But religion does incorporate them, and it presents them in stories that have been important factors for millennia. So much of our history, and the history of the entire world, was built around religion. Even today religion has a huge influence on politics and social interactions. It is important for students to understand different religions so they can understand different points of view so they can accept each others opinions. Would you remove World Civilizations from the course list because you don’t like European culture? How would that twist our view of the world as a whole? What kinds of errors would be easily made in future negotiations if the only thing we knew about Germany was that they killed Jews in World War II?

I don’t want anyone preaching the Bible in public schools any more than you do. That’s ridiculous. What I want is discussion. I want people to be able to talk about religion so they can understand it. The teacher shouldn’t be shoving moral ideas down student’s throats. That’s not their job. Their job is to present information and let students work through it with discussion and debate.

As good ol’ Thomas Jefferson said in his Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom:
“…truth is great and will prevail if left to herself; that she is the proper and sufficient antagonist to error, and has nothing to fear from the conflict unless by human interposition disarmed of her natural weapons, free argument and debate; errors ceasing to be dangerous when it is permitted freely to contradict them.”

Anonymous said...

Who's "they"?

Are you guys really scared of the fundies?

TIME won't publish your letter because it is nothing but secular diatribe. At least "anonymous" came up with something of substance.

Begin the debate.

iamcoyote said...

Is that two of them, or one of the same arrogant asshole pretending to be atheist to "begin a debate," wasting hours of your time only to want to pray with you at the end? Look, I've been to the classes where they teach fundies how to argue exactly like this, you're not fooling anyone. This is a canned argument,

My bias comes in to the fact that I stumbled over this blog in an attempt to do research for a World Religions project arguing that Religion should be taught in all public schools, like it is in mine.

Here, you pretend that you're in a public school, which means you're supposedly a kid. Not one typo in your speech? You're no kid. And as I said, you skirted around the declaration that morals come from religion, but it's inferred with the statement I highlighted earlier. Give it up, "kid," you're not fooling anyone.

iamcoyote said...

Sorry, Duckman, didn't mean to take over...

Anonymous said...

Alright sir, you’ve got me pegged. I’m not a kid, I am eighteen years of age and, therefore, technically a legal adult. I am sorry to inform you, however, that I do still attend a public school, and a good one at that.

Now this ‘discussion’ seems to be heading down an ugly road leading to an all out attack on my personal character. Something I think is very unjust of you Mr. iamcoyote, as you have no idea who I am. I didn’t put my opinion here to be attacked. I did it to have a friendly debate on the article. If I’m wrong I want to be shown that I’m wrong with a good counter argument. I am not scared to improve myself and am therefore not in the least fearful of having an affable argument.

If that is too frightening a prospect for you, please let me know politely and I will gladly have an intellectual conversation with someone more receptive to other people’s views.

If you do wish to discuss the topic (and I hope you do, I am still quite eager to hear any evidence that contradicts the fact that it would be a good idea to teach religion in public schools) I would request that some misconceptions be straightened out.

1. Student is not synonymous with stupid. I typed out all of my comments so far in a word document so that I would be able to present you with a legible post devoid of any spelling errors or grammatical mistakes. I personally abhor people who can’t present themselves with respect to the opposition.

2. Just because I don’t blindly agree with everything you state does not mean I am a right wing religious nut-job. There is a whole world of people out there and I don’t feel they can be divided into two categories so easily.

3. Just because I argue that religion should be taught in schools does not mean I am religious. I also happen to believe that homosexuals should have the right to get married. But I am not gay.

4. If I state something, I mean it. So when I said “morals do not come from religion.” I didn’t secretly mean “morals are derived from religion.” Those are contradictions. I’m not here to play games. I’m here to have an intellectual conversation.

5. Finally even if who I am happens to all be a lie, I still presented you with an argument supported by reasoning. Attacks on my character do not make my points less true. Nor do they strengthen your argument in anyway. Don’t be right by default; be right because you actually have a point. Remember Jefferson.

Thank you both for reading all of my posts to date; sorry I’m so long winded.

iamcoyote said...

Yeah, well, you're on your own, kid. You want to improve yourself, look into that lying thing.

Also, the "what are ya, chicken?" garbage doesn't fly with me. You want to practice for your door to door ministry, maybe Duckman will accomodate you. I've got a 5 day weekend ahead of me and the last thing I'm going to think about is religion. Heh.

Anonymous said...

Hey guys, I just want to say thank you. I got an A+ on my project

My teacher thought you guys were hilarious.