Teaching the Bible in Public School

SchoolBible

Just a heads-up. The cover story in tomorrow’s issue of Time magazine is: Why We Should Teach the Bible in Public School.

Oh boy.

Some excerpts:

The class has its share of conservative Christians. Front-row center sat Rachel Williams, 18, whose mother does teach Sunday school at Oakwood. But not 20 ft. away sat a blond atheist who asked that her name not be used because she hasn’t outed herself to her parents. Why take a Bible class? I asked her. “Some of my friends are Christian,” she said, shrugging, “and they would argue about, like, whether you can be a Christian and believe in evolution, and I’m like, Okaaaay … clueless.”

I don’t know if clueless regards to her not knowing anything about the debate, or clueless meaning Christianity and evolution are incompatible…

They do quote an atheist who will use her name, though, and a smart one at that:

First Amendment sentinels like Wendy Kaminer, a lawyer and the author of Sleeping with Extra-Terrestrials: The Rise of Irrationalism and the Perils of Piety, fear that given America’s overwhelmingly Christian cast, even neutral Bible instruction would amount to preferencing. “If you teach the Bible outside of close conjunction with other religions,” she says, “then it becomes a kind of promotion of the majority faith. It becomes too hard for most folks to draw the line between teaching and preaching.”

Americans United for Separation of Church and State also gets some space in the article:

Some secularists are worried about who will teach the literacy classes. Joe Conn and Rob Boston of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State have expressed a concern about how teachers willing to give the Bible secular treatment would be found, particularly in states where vast majorities are evangelical. They note that [Chuck] Stetson’s history sections are almost exclusively positive. “A textbook should offer objective study about both the positive and negative uses of the Bible,” Conn writes. “Where is the analysis of the role of the Bible in the Inquisition or the Salem witch trials?” They specifically question the tone of a final section, “Freedom and Faith in America,” which omits the high court’s school-secularization rulings and ends on a truly odd note: a Chinese social scientist attributing the “pre-eminence of the West” to the fact that the “heart of your culture is … your Christianity.” Unlike most of the book, this seems written by Stetson the true believer who took Colson’s Centurion program.

Honestly, if the class is taught the way it’s supposed to be– from a secular point of view– I hope atheists enroll in it. It’s an opportunity to learn about the Bible, and no atheist should lack that knowledge. And it’s nice to have someone keeping an eye out on the teacher to make sure Christianity isn’t promoted.


[tags]atheist, atheism, Time, Bible, Public School, Christian, Rachel Williams, evolution, Wendy Kaminer, Sleeping with Extra-Terrestrials, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, Joe Conn, Rob Boston, Chuck Stetson, Inquisition, Salem witch trial, Freedom and Faith in America, Centurion[/tags]

  • http://blog.chrisbradleywriter.com Chris Bradley

    [A] Chinese social scientist attributing the “pre-eminence of the West” to the fact that the “heart of your culture is … your Christianity.”

    Oh, dear, am I the only one who found this deeply racist?

    And, to be honest, completely outside the facts? For most of China’s history contemporatenous with the rise of Christianity, China has been far in advance of Christian nations in almost every fashion that can be measured. So, racist and wrong.

    Additionally, a “Chinese social scientist”? Do they name this person? Give the context of the work? So, racist, wrong and craptacular journalism.

  • Richard Wade

    In the last ten years my property taxes have almost quadrupled. Most of that goes to fund public schools. During that time the local schools have dropped classes on art, music, dance, drama, wood shop, metal shop, auto shop, journalism, home economics, and many more. We fail to teach the kids things that make life interesting and worthwhile, but I’m supposed to pay for this crap?

  • http://emergingpensees.blogspot.com/ Mike C

    I’m all for teaching the Bible as part of history, literature, sociology, comparative religions. It’s a part of our culture and a part of human history, and kids need to be informed. But to teach it as a separate class disturbs me. Just because Christianity is the majority religion in the US doesn’t mean it should be given extra air time in the classroom or any special treatment.

    And as a Christian I would worry about the approach taken in such a class. I wouldn’t want some public school teacher to be teaching my kid about my own religion. How am I to know they’re not going to present some totally skewed version that I don’t agree with? How am I to know they’re not giving a completely literalist/fundamentalist interpretation of the Bible? And how are the fundamentalist parents to know whether their kids might be given some (in their eyes) heretical interpretation from a “liberal” like me? Some of these conservative Christians that push for this kind of thing ought to be careful, they might get what they wish for.

  • http://atheistself.blogspot.com David W.

    I wouldn’t mind seeing the Bible taught in a comparative religion class — along with other religious texts and beliefs. But all by itself? Where is the Church/State line drawn. As an elective, the school is no coercing the students to learn the bible. But they’re also not providing any alternative views, essentially giving Judeo-Christian beliefs the upper hand. The only way around that is to ensure that it is taught from a secular viewpoint.

  • http://patrickimo.blogspot.com Patrick Craig

    “Honestly, if the class is taught the way it’s supposed to be– from a secular point of view– I hope atheists enroll in it. It’s an opportunity to learn about the Bible, and no atheist should lack that knowledge.”

    I am SO there with you, my friend. This is how the bible should be utilized, as information. Isaac Asimov wasn’t just playing around with words when he said, “Properly read, the Bible is the most potent force for atheism ever conceived.” (Interestingly enough, David Mills included this very quote in Atheist Universe and STILL smeared his bible in dog crap.)

    As for the bible being given its own separate class, that’s fine with me too. Fewer distractions pop up as we “hone” our weapon against irrationality…

  • Richard Wade

    The class has its share of conservative Christians. Front-row center sat Rachel Williams, 18, whose mother does teach Sunday school at Oakwood. But not 20 ft. away sat a blond atheist who asked that her name not be used because she hasn’t outed herself to her parents. Why take a Bible class? I asked her. “Some of my friends are Christian,” she said, shrugging, “and they would argue about, like, whether you can be a Christian and believe in evolution, and I’m like, Okaaaay … clueless.”

    Well duh-uh. I mean like that be-otch Rachel is gonna be like “Guess who’s an atheist?” to her mom, and then ’cause she’s like the Sunday school teacher she’s gonna like “Do you know that your daughter is an atheist?” To my stupid parents, and then they’re gonna like “How can you do that to us?” and ground me or some gay thing until I accept Jesus or whatever. I wish I hadn’t taken this stupid class just ’cause I thought it would be easier than algebra…

  • http://emergingpensees.blogspot.com/ Mike C

    ROTFLMAO! :D

  • http://patrickimo.blogspot.com Patrick Craig

    “…and then they’re gonna like “How can you do that to us?” and ground me or some gay thing until I accept Jesus or whatever.”

    It’s like, Lord God King Bufu! Totallllly!

    The Zappa family are ALL rolling over in their graves right now. And they ARE in their graves, they’ve got nowhere else to go according to the godless inhuman Atheistic “faith.” :)

    SLACK be with you all.

  • Mriana

    I’m not sure I like the idea. If it is taken by choice, that is one thing, but if students have to take it, I don’t like it. Besides, who’s teaching it? If it is an Assembly of God person, you know you are going to have it shoved down your throat. Sorry A Of G’ers if you’re here, but I live in the city of where your HQ is and well… Let’s just say I don’t appreciate what all is done. I really wouldn’t want a Baptist or Catholic teaching it either.

    If the teacher can keep it secular, then fine, but if dogma is involved or literalism, then no, it should not be in the schools. Hey, can Robert Price, the Bible Geek, teach it? :D

  • MTran

    Rachel is gonna be like “Guess who’s an atheist?” to her mom, and then ’cause she’s like the Sunday school teacher she’s gonna like “Do you know that your daughter is an atheist?” To my stupid parents, and then they’re gonna like “How can you do that to us?” and ground me or some gay thing until I accept Jesus or whatever.

    Priceless!

  • Loren Petrich

    And let’s not forget about Protestantism vs. Catholicism. Both sides claim to believe in the same book, but Catholics not only add the Apocrypha, they have different interpretations.

    Catholics take Matthew 16:18, “I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.” (NASB), and interpret that to mean that Jesus Christ had appointed Peter as his successor, and therefore that the popes are all JC’s successors.

    Protestants disagree.

    Catholics also have arguments to the effect that they are not saint-worshipping idolators. Protestants disagree, especially fundies. And they also disagree on the composition of Communion wafers. Etc. etc. etc.

  • Siamang

    I’m starting to come to the conclusion that manditory bible study in school SHOULD be required.

    And school prayer.

    It’ll make Jesus the uncoolest thing in the world to kids. EXCELLENT! My evil plan is working!

    But seriously, I thought about this a bit. My wife and I had a reverend perform our wedding ceremony, and she offered a blessing and referenced God within the ceremony. This was OUR decision, Reverend Cheryl was very accomodating on that point.

    We made the decision that there was a time and a place for a little cermonial deism, and that others in attendance would appreciate the time with their own thoughts and their own religious perspectives and traditions that prayer would allow.

    And so I think about it, really, was I promoting religion in that moment? Was I pushing it on someone? Not much.

    And really, people get exposed to religious ideas quite a lot in society, and learn to deal with it, from a very young age. I think that people learn young to disregard beliefs from other people in favor of their own.

    This is not to say that I interpret the first amendment as allowing religious prosthletizing in public schools. As a matter of constitutional scholarship I’m against it.

    But as a matter of POLICY, I rather think it would have a disasterous effect on religion itself. After all, the politicians would be fighting over WHICH religions to teach and which ones to leave out, and how to interpret what and who. There would be so many fierce, ugly battles that the mask of civility would be torn off this stuff, and I think the public would get sick of it.

    Anyway, that’s what I’ll say to any right wingers who champion school prayer: This Atheist says, “Please don’t throw me in that briar patch!”

  • http://emergingpensees.blogspot.com/ Mike C

    I’m starting to come to the conclusion that manditory bible study in school SHOULD be required.

    And school prayer.

    It’ll make Jesus the uncoolest thing in the world to kids. EXCELLENT! My evil plan is working!

    That’s actually a good point. That’s part of why I would never send my kids to a Christian school. I think combining religion with the authoritarianism and general unpleasantness of the American educational experience can often be fatal to a young person’s faith. When I was a youth pastor I saw it over and over again with the kids who came to us from the local Christian high school. Their experience of having belief forced on them by the school, of being tested and graded on it, of having the typical school rules and added legalisms of a conservative Christian environment treated as if they were on the level of biblical commands often combined to make these kids completely cynical and disgusted with what they’d seen of Christianity. And it has nothing to do with the freedom, joy, grace, and mystery that I want my kids to experience from their faith.

  • http://patrickimo.blogspot.com Patrick Craig

    And it has nothing to do with the freedom, joy, grace, and mystery that I want my kids to experience from their faith.

    That’s also a good point, Mike C. Faith is always best when it’s freely experienced, not forced. I’m something of an exception in that I was never indoctrinated into christianity during my youth, but I ended up leaving it behind anyway. Those who hold onto belief because it is their own choice and not someone else’s are, IMHO, much more likely to be the reasonable, rational people society needs to continue functioning well. I could be wrong.

    The “Atheist upbringing” of my own children (when I have them) will be as follows: along with the standard stuff (evolution, critical thinking, puppy kicking), they WILL get to know the bible. They will be introduced to christianity, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, etc. and the concept of religion in general, and I will do my best to make that introduction as unbiased as possible. Any “pro-faith” choices they might end up making in their lives will be based solely upon available information and not upon any sort of indoctrination, and I will be okay with that.

  • http://emergingpensees.blogspot.com/ Mike C

    The “Atheist upbringing” of my own children (when I have them) will be as follows: along with the standard stuff (evolution, critical thinking, puppy kicking), they WILL get to know the bible. They will be introduced to christianity, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, etc. and the concept of religion in general, and I will do my best to make that introduction as unbiased as possible. Any “pro-faith” choices they might end up making in their lives will be based solely upon available information and not upon any sort of indoctrination, and I will be okay with that.

    That’s a great approach. We’re planning to expose our kids to multiple religions as well.

  • Richard Wade

    puppy kicking?

  • http://patrickimo.blogspot.com Patrick Craig

    puppy kicking?

    Ah, somebody got that! :)

    http://video.xanga.com/Beloved_Spear/ef26d256201/video.html

    It’s a really cute video. I just don’t agree with the flawed reasoning. :)

  • Richard Wade

    Patrick, thanks for that video. It’s hilarious. Satire often requires “flawed reasoning” or at least being over the top to make an important point.

    I think the strength of Blasphemy Challenge is that it’s usually tongue-in-cheek. As things like this go along they sometimes start taking themselves too seriously. To stay strong, movements need not just the challenge of satire and ridicule from opponents outside, but from proponents inside as well. Otherwise self-importance, arrogance and intellectual sloth settles in.

    (Sigh) So much to mock, so little time.

  • http://patrickimo.blogspot.com Patrick Craig

    True, satire can be a wonderful thing. It’s unfortunate that my 23-minute long attempt at it on Google Video apparently failed gloriously. :( My initial reaction to the David Mills “dog poop & bible” video was extreme anger, but once I got myself calmed down I thought that humor would be a good response. I really, really tried. At least I had some fun with it! :)

    On my blog I embedded the one Blasphemy Challenge video that I really, truly appreciated. It uses humor too. It is OFF THE SCALE to watch a picture of Christ himself denying himself! I couldn’t stop laughing.

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  • http://oxymoronredundancyparadoxtrap.blogspot.com Benjamin ady

    Apparently the Australians have kind of figured this thing out. the public schools there have optional religion classes which are taught by people who are hired by the church. So really any church (or, I suppose, atheists … or what have you) can hire people and offer an optional class during this time period, and it is left up to the parents and students to decide whether to attend, and lots of them do attend. From what I understand, nobody considers it a huge deal. but then the Aussies seem a lot more matter-of-fact and sensible in lots of areas!

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