How Important is Religious Literacy?

In college, I’d sometimes get stopped by Christian groups asking if I would want to take a short quiz. Being the trivia nut that I am, I would say yes. They were pretty simple questions from the Bible. Things like: Who gave the Sermon on the Mount? I’d get these questions correct, turn in my form, wait for them to say, “Wow, nice work! Would you like to come to our Bible study?” and then tell them I was an atheist. The look on their faces was always priceless. I also wondered why if I got all their questions right, why I would even need to attend a Bible study… but that’s besides the point.

Stephen Prothero, the author of Religious Literacy, thinks that everyone should know the basic beliefs of all the major religions. It’s not about believing them or accepting them. It’s about knowing them well enough to understand what some other people base their life off of. For example, can you name the Five Pillars of Islam? How about “single sacred text of Hinduism“?

Prothero writes in his book:

In today’s world it is irresponsible to use the word ‘educated’ to describe high school or college graduates who are ignorant of the ancient stories that continue to motivate the beliefs and behaviors of the overwhelming majority of the world’s population… In a world as robustly religious as ours, it is foolish to imagine that such graduates are equipped to participate fully in the politics of the nation or the affairs of the world.

What does Prothero suggest?

According to the New York Times:

He proposes that all public high schools require one course on the Bible and one on the world’s major religions. He proposes that colleges require all students to take one course in religious studies. He thinks that this can be done without proselytizing and fully in accord with the Constitution.

What about atheism? Does religious literacy require the study of nonbelief? Certainly, Dr. Prothero said. At least in the West, he explained, atheism is part of the religious conversation: You cannot understand religion in the modern West without taking atheism into account, and you cannot understand atheism without understanding its religious context.

I would be curious to know how atheists do on a test of religious literacy compared to Christians. My suspicion is that atheists know about other mythologies a lot better than people who believe in a specific one of them.

I still anticipate it’d be tough to teach a course on the Bible without finding some teachers who use it as an opportunity to proselytize. But, as frequent commenter Bjorn writes (via email):

… I think the attempt should be made. Religion is all around us, to be ignorant of others beliefs, whether you are an atheist or not, is lazy and irresponsible. Dr. Prothero does make it clear that atheism should be studied as well, which is good to see, as atheists have been invited more and more into theological debates.

(Thanks to Bjorn for the links.)


[tags]atheist, atheism, Christian, Sermon on the Mount, Bible, Stephen Prothero, Religious Literacy, Five Pillars of Islam, Hinduism, New York Times, Constitution[/tags]

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

    I’m with Prothero on this. I’d love to see religion (all religions – or at least the major ones) taught in our schools. I agree that regardless of your own belief, you ought to have a working knowledge of the beliefs of others if you want to function in a global and pluralistic society.

    As for having one whole specific class on the Bible, I guess it would depend on how it was taught. It’d be good to study the Bible’s impact on Western literature, art, history, socio-economics, etc. but I would be nervous about certain teachers prosyletizing or presenting only one sectarian interpretation of the Bible.

  • Richard Wade

    As for having one whole specific class on the Bible, I guess it would depend on how it was taught. It’d be good to study the Bible’s impact on Western literature, art, history, socio-economics, etc. but I would be nervous about certain teachers prosyletizing or presenting only one sectarian interpretation of the Bible.

    Maybe only atheists should teach the course. ;)

  • http://knizzlefoshizzle.blogspot.com Larjmarj

    I would agree with a comparative religion class, not necessarily a Bible based class, I think the temptation (if you will) would be to proselytize to students.
    I think as a non-Christian I probably know more about other religions than those who claim to “know God personally”. I wanted to learn as I was not satisfied with what I was raised with (Methodist). I tried to learn as much as I could about other faiths and have settled in as an Agnostic Buddhist.

  • http://nomorehornets.blogspot.com The Exterminator

    Hemant:

    You’re a bit behind the curve on this story, which has been floating around the blogsophere for about two months. But better late than never, and I’d like to respond. Like you, I find nothing inherently objectionable to teaching students about the wide variety of beliefs in the world. You said: It’s not about believing them or accepting them. It’s about knowing them well enough to understand what some other people base their life off of.

    This sounds like a commendable idea. But there are two problems. First of all, Prothero — despite his seemingly ecumenical book — has become a spokesperson for public schools offering a course in Biblical literacy, not comparative religion. And, as you astutely point out: I still anticipate it’d be tough to teach a course on the Bible without finding some teachers who use it as an opportunity to proselytize.

    Pardon me for linking to my own blog on this one, but I’ve come up with minimal rules to which public schools should adhere when approving such courses. I hope you’ll take the time to read Religious Literacy: And Behold It Ain’t So Good

  • http://www.findreligion.net Allison

    Your site is really refreshing from a Christian standpoint. Sometimes its not about blindly believing in something just because your parents to you to believe in it. God doesn’t have to be “proven” (that’s why it is faith, after all), but I strongly believe that everyone should take the time to learn about all major world religions to find what works for them. It’s a journey, and that journey starts with knowledge.

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

    Maybe only atheists should teach the course. ;)

    That might not be a bad idea, except that I’ve known too many teachers who used their position to prosyletize for atheism too.

    My wife, for instance, was nearly failed by her atheist high school philosophy teacher simply because she was a Christian. (Though I’m jealous that her high school even had a class in philosophy!)

  • http://hirokache.com Hiro

    As an atheist, I find religions very interesting.
    But am greatly turned off when they decide to use my interests to try and “rescue my soul.”
    I do not need to be rescued from evilness. Really.

    I find interest in religion, but I do not believe in what they preach. There are some good points that they make, like you have to forgive people, only do things to others you would be comfortable with having done to you.
    And I also believe that the believers of the religions do not take other religions, or atheism and actually take a look to see how different they are, and how much we share in our beliefs.

    Because looking from a really different viewpoint than those in religious cliques, I can see that hey, there’s only one god? There’s only one god, and when you trace Judiasm, Christianity and Islam back, it’s all traced to the same god!
    But unless you can see that from an unrelated perspective, you can’t understand that unless you give up your view for a second and take a look.

    So I do agree that, if we were to have a requirement for world religions, that a secular teacher teach it. I mean, you can’t be biased in a certain religion. (Though one could argue that atheism is very demeaning.)

    Conservative religious zealots scare me. I have attended CPR, Friday-night meetings for teens that a certain church sponsers in my area. And I was horrified. I was scared out of my mind and I ended up in tears because I was so overwhelmed by the atmosphere.
    I’ve had a phobia of extreme religious events since then.

    I think, as long as they do not press, it’s alright for us to learn in school about different religions so that we can learn to understand eachother and live together without having to press another into submission. Because we really need to do that.

    Sorry for making such an incomprehensible entry. Simply said: Yeah. A worlds religion course might do us some good.

  • http://www.kilgoreskitchen.com Alice

    This is what I have been trying to convince my husband of for quite a while. I’m an atheist, but am fascinated by studying the dark side (believers), while my husband doesn’t care for it all. I figure, at the bare minimum, he should know what those on the either side of the argument believe. If you’re going to do anthing to fight religion, you have to load your weapon. Our arsenals should be filled with as much info about what deists believe as possible.

  • http://loopisbillow.blogspot.com Lian

    Hiro, I have to go with Mike C. on this one. It is a very common mistake to assume that secularists or Atheists (or agnostics even) are somehow unbiased and, in this, case, would therefore be better equipped to teach about religion. Secularism is very close to being a kind of informal religion in itself and atheism – while not a religion – is certainly a faith.
    It seems what we’re really asking for here is that this world religions course be academic rather than personal. Beyond that, I can’t see that “proselytizing” would be anymore of a problem than it already is in every subject. I learned about Vietnam from a teacher who clearly felt that Vietnam was an evil war, no doubt others have been taught the opposite perspective. Education comes to us, like everything else through a subjective filter – through several, actually – and I think we have to accept that the same will necessarily be true of a religious literacy program.

  • sara

    Dear Friendly Atheist,

    I must admit that I found out about this website and read your story on a Yahoo news page. I’m not quite sure if this is where i should be leaving a general comment like this, but I will just proceed anyway (I hope that’s okay!). I’m so sorry if people who you have been around your whole life have given you a negative impression of Christianity, one of blood-thirsty evangelicals looking for the next “lost” soul to reach. Yes, there are people out there like that, but then after reading the bible, like you so firmly suggest, one would have to examine Jesus’ teachings, his actions, and those of his disciples and then ask himself, are these “Christians” really preaching to the world like God intended them to? Or are they merely doing his cause more harm than good? The honest truth is, Jesus taught quietly and gently, through everlasting love and compassion, never telling someone to automatically believe in him or become a Christian, but to merely follow and listen. His disciples, like Mathew and Mark, and Luke and James, never attacked people in the streets with their word or tried to shove it down non-believers’ throats. They knew that the true way, the only way, to reach others was through praise to God and talk about him openly, encouraging others to listen but never banging from door-to-door. It is true that God calls Christians to minister to others, and to try to spread the word of Jesus to as many of his children as we can, but the only way to do so, his only way, is through kindness and love. And if that person doesn’t want to get to know Jesus, it’s not the Christian’s responsibility to heckle them until they do. The best way to lead others to Christ is through example and that is what every Christian should try their hardest to do. After all, no person is perfect, not Christians, not anybody, and the worst thing a Christian can possibly do is to hypocritically preach God’s word, and then go live a life that is dishonorable to God.

    “Christians” have a bad reputation these days, as people nosily trying to push Jesus into everyone’s life and convert as many as possible without turning a second to glance at their own life, see how imperfect they are, and bother to fix their own personal problems. How many Christians do you know who say they are firm believers in Christ but gossip, cuss, are mean, disrespectful, haughty, selfish, etc.? Hardly Christ-like rolemodels. It’s impossible to be perfect, but a Christian should always be tryign to be a better person so as to truly live out their faith in actions/ deeds, not just words. Words truly mean nothing because a “faith without deeds is dead” (the book of James clearly states this). God doesn’t expect people to be perfect, he knows there’s no hope of that, :) . That’s why he sent his son Jesus to die for us and save us through the blood and love of his sacrifice. I don’t know about you, but how many other religions have you heard of where the God is willing to lay down his life for his followers (for most religions it’s the other way around)?

    And anyway, I also understand what you mean about Churches turning you off. That’s what happened where I used to attend church. Everyone just has to find a church that’s right for them; but, to honestly tell the truth, I think so many churches are losing members and dying off because they’ve lost sight of God’s goal for them. Instead of trying to reach out, they’re trying to keep and cater to their present congregation, with the mentality of “if they want to know Christ they’ll come to us.” How unappealing! Churches aren’t supposed to be there to keep a congregation, they’re supposed to be there to reach out to others. Churches that are so hyped up on tradition and ritual are dead to me, because they’re stuck in the religion of Christianity, not the relationship….that’s what it’s about afterall, a relationship, very informal, but very loving with a God who truly cares about us and wants us to be happy and thrive. My new church is AMAZING! It’s called Buckhead Church, in Atlanta and is a branch of NorthPoint Ministries with Andy Stanley as our pastor. Nothing is traditional about our church, that’s not its goal. its goal is to reach as many unchurched people as possible. The music is awesome (they have smoke screen, lazor lighting, electric guitars…you feel like you’re at a concert, for heaven’s sake!) and the sermons are always so powerful and soooo relevant, very meaningful. You actually feel like you leave having learned something. And the speaker/pastor is hilarious! There isn’t communion or incense, but I have ot tell you. The last building the church was in was able to fit 500 people and they were so packed that they had to go to five services and even then….so their new building has 3 services and 3,000 seats…it’s awesome and I have to also say that EVERY and I mean every seat was full today at my service.

    Wow, this is a very long comment, and I’m really sorry (I know the length is probably veyr annoying!) but I just wanted to conclude by saying that if you would like to experience a new kind of church, check out mine at buckheadchurch.org and try out one of the sermons they have posted there….I promise, you won’t be disappointed! Thank you and God bless you!

    P.S. Did I mention that a huge proportion of our congregation isn’t even Christian….? They’re just there to learn more about it.

  • Mriana

    I think it is very important. If it looks to them like you know nothing, they will continue to shove it down your throat. Of course, even when you do know something, they might still shove it down your throat, but it’s better than not knowing what they are talking about.

    However, I also think it’s good to have an idea what is in the Analects, Upanishads, Ko’ran, various myths, and alike too. I don’t exactly love everything that is in them, but I can honestly say that there is no true religion or one right religion. They all can become dangerous though when they become dogmatic. Although I have yet to hear of anyone starting a war over the Analects though.

    Now when you get into the various philosophers behind some of them like Aquinas, Kant, Sarte, Confusius, Shankara, Ramanuja, Hegel, Tillich, Berkeley, and alike, it can get a little rough. I don’t know if everyone should go to that extreme, but I think it helps in the understanding of where some ideas on the various philosophies come from.

  • Scott

    Congratulations Friendly Atheist, I find your honesty and much of your rationale very embracing, especially from a Catholic point of view.

    I can understand your bemusement in being invited to attend bible school, after all, what would you learn? You would be force-fed mostly incorrect interpretations of scriptures that are simply another human’s opinion.

    As a Catholic, we attract more criticism and contempt from the other so-called “christian” groups than we do from fair minded atheists. At latest count there are well over 30,000 “christian” denominations – each of all profess to be right. Come On! You have to be joking. All of these “christian” groups are the product of junk christianity and mostly all formed from one type or another of dissent or disagreement. While the simple souls that belong to these groups believe that they are doing the right thing, with their plastic exterior happiness, they really labour in vain. Whilst they engage in a great deal of “Catholic Bashing” they continue to worship and profess to live by the Holy Bible that was compiled by the Catholic Church in the 4th Century. If the Holy Bible is the only way to learn faith, then obviously the Christians [Catholics] of the first 300 plus years were very sadly misled, and will never attain their dream and objective of entering Heaven.

    Faith is a gift from God that needs to be nurtured and fed through the Sacraments of the Church – not by the opinionated and distorted teachings of any Pastor Tom, Dick or Harry.
    The view that the same God is the God of all faiths is completely incorrect. My God was the Creator and Father of us all who, through His Son Jesus and the early Church taught every man that there is only one way to salvation and that is through His One and only Church on Earth – The Catholic Church. Any person who professes to be a christian and can’t see this is simply ignoring the facts, normally by a family-fed bias or a belief of complete lies. A simple study of history will satisfy the most inquisitive mind.

    To be sure, I for one won’t be asking you to attend any bible school, asking you to “accept” Jesus or attempt to fill your head regarding rapture rubbish. As a Catholic, we should let our behaviour in all facets of life set the example, and pray that you keep an open mind to any gifts that God may bestow upon you.

    Thank You for providing an open and honest forum, together with very informative insights.

  • miller

    Perhaps I’m just biased, since I’m an ex-Catholic student who hates history courses, but I’d rather not have this class as a requirement.

    At my university, we are required to take a course in the “cultural analysis” category. I don’t think religion is so much more important than any other aspect of our culture, that it should be a separate requirement. Furthermore, religious texts are just one aspect of religions, so I don’t see why a course on religious texts should be any more of a requirement than any other religion courses. I can learn plenty about various religions without having to know exactly what their text says.

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  • Justin

    Hey man I won’t lie I just found out about your website on yahoo. I really like what you write here in this blog. I would love to talk to you about your beliefs sometime in an attempt to further understand what it is you believe. I am a Christian and I know as Christians we catch a lot of flack for being the people who are belligerent in our beliefs, yet I can’t have a conversation with an atheist without them screaming at me that I’m dead wrong. Thanks for your peaceful insights, as much as it may pain you to hear it, I’m sure Jesus would be proud.

  • Angelo

    Impartiality and knowledge are unequal to wisdom.

  • Faith

    Hey there. I, too, just read about your blog on Yahoo. While religious literacy is important, I don’t see why it can’t be incorporated into the existing curriculum. For example, when I was in high school, each student was required to take a year of “Eastern Cultures” and a year of “Western Cultures” to fulfill the social studies requirement. My Eastern Cultures class was where I first learned about Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism, all in the context of the cultures we were learning about at that time. Of course, we didn’t have time to discuss the religious aspects in detail, but we learned the basics; I remember learning about the 5 pillars of Islam in that class. I don’t see why people aren’t discussing comparative religion education in the scope of a social studies class; that’s how my school did it for years, and it seems an elegant and relevant solution.

  • Marc – Greetings

    Hi guys.
    Born on a christian family, i rebelled and turned to drugs, partying and sex. I pursued all the good things in life i could find. A year ago, i was sent to a retreat, and i felt a calling to submit to God. Though i always read the bible from school, sunday school and christian friends, i never reallyc ared about it. Until, the retreat……

    MIRACLES? EXPERIENCING THE REALITY OF A GOD? BELIEVING?

    Surrendering
    The bible teaches a lot of things. It tells us not to engage in premarital sex, take care of our body, don’t gamble, etc. It also teaches us to love even our enemies and more. So, on the night of the retreat i surrendered myself in putting GOD above all else. This means i will follow him. And i prayed to him that he should keep me busy because i get bored easily and i’d end up getting tempted.

    Miracle
    To shorten things, in only a years time, i’m always doing something productive. A lot of first times: first painting consinement, 1st jobs: website, brochure, construction manual, honour student in school. i quit drugs and smoking. I stopped sexual immorality. The result, everything in my family has become blessed. I now serve in the music ministry in church. I lead a small discipleship group and a bible study at school. And yes,it is a miracle. Inside, I know i love doing bad things. But i have overcome that through trusting in God. And now, all i do is continously submitting myself to him.

    Conclusion
    If you want to know if God is real. read the bible. It promises a lot of things that have happened to me. I submitted and God has revealed himself to me mightily. Why not try? :)

    The best part of this is through experiencing God will you know that he is real. And knowing that he is means that by submitting your life to him you will be in heaven.

    The bible tells us that Jesus Christ died for our sins , past, present and future, meaning no need to feel guilty because salvation is free. You just need to submit to God and follow Him. Try it and see if God is real:)

  • Darryl

    Getting to the subject at hand is difficult with all the tempting comments that have been made thus far.

    Lian, you said

    Secularism is very close to being a kind of informal religion in itself and atheism – while not a religion – is certainly a faith.

    Atheism is certainly NOT a faith. I’m sick of hearing this silliness, especially from those who want to somehow put atheism on a parity with religion so as to level the polemical playing field. You are definitively in need of non-religious literacy.

    Sara, I’m going to have to cut all the sugar out of my diet for at least a week.

    Scott, you can’t be serious. Don’t the infinite varieties of religion ever lead you to wonder whether they all have the same origin—all the products of human imagination?

    Angelo said,

    Impartiality and knowledge are unequal to wisdom.

    Says who?

    It seems the increasing notoriety of this blog is attracting a host of wide-eyed true-believers who want nothing more than to share their predictable and interchangeable conversion stories. I hate to see a good thing go bad.

    Now, to the point. I’m for literacy, period. Next to that, what we need most desperately is Constitutional literacy. We can survive without religious literacy, but not without the others. How about Science literacy? Case in point:
    I just saw an episode of “Hannity’s America” (a haunting idea) where his ‘guest’ was Chris Hitchens. Sean was making his pathetic case for God’s existence and Hitch said something to the effect of “you seem not to have studied the subjects that you are dismissing.” Needless to say, Hitch made him look utterly foolish without trying. After the segment was over, as he was going to a commercial break, Hannity’s final demolishing, evidential blow was this: “God does exist.”

    I am always in favor of humans learning more about their world, and I am inclined to think that the more people know about all religions, the less likely they will be to believe in any of them. You will hardly find a group more ignorant of Christianity than Christians themselves. Some of them seem to know more about other faiths than their own. I consider knowing the Bible a part of a sound education. A religion as central to the rise of Western culture as Christianity must be studied.

  • Mriana

    Atheism is certainly NOT a faith. I’m sick of hearing this silliness, especially from those who want to somehow put atheism on a parity with religion so as to level the polemical playing field. You are definitively in need of non-religious literacy.

    Now, to the point. I’m for literacy, period. Next to that, what we need most desperately is Constitutional literacy. We can survive without religious literacy, but not without the others. How about Science literacy?

    Darryl, I completely agree, esp Science literacy. A bat is not a bird as the Bible would lead those who believe in taking it literally and that it is inerrant. However, studying myths is rather enjoyable and we have to start somewhere when questioning what we believe and been taught. You can’t just pull the rug out from someone without educating them, then get them to ask themselves why they believe what they believe.

    On the surfice it may seem hostile, but to able to come back with a knowledgable response to someone who is pounding you with their religious beliefs can be quite helpful. Then of course you run into those who see it as an attack on their god when you show them their falicy, using the very same book that they are hitting you over the head with.

    At the same time, it is also better to come up with information as to why atheism is not a faith. Wouldn’t it be better to send them to some place like infidels.org or the Council for Secular Humanism (secularhumanism.org) or strongatheism.org, or a related site to help educate them about atheism rather than get upset about it? The Strong Atheism site is a good one to learn about atheism.

    Just a thought and better than getting upset because people don’t understand. Call it Atheism Literacy 101. lol

  • Alistaire

    The above message by Darryl is certainly an example of a “non-friendly” atheist posting on this blog, lol. Honestly his comment itself can be held as an example of how atheism itself is definately a faith, and how atheists can be just as “fanatic” about their denial of God’s existence as religious people are vehement about the existence of their gods. After all, isn’t he just as dismissive towards those who believe as those who he charges are dismissive towards those who do not believe?

    I am a Muslim from the East, and I also happened to find this log via Yahoo’s article about Atheists and Christians getting together to debate. In my view, Christianity is definately central to all what goes on in the West regarding religion. Those who believe are most likely to be Christians, while those who do not believe do so also because of Christianity, and there is very few study of other religions, not only fellow Abrahamic ones such as Judaism and Islam, but also and especially Dharmic ones such as Hinduism and Buddhism and the like. Atheists in the West still inherit the zeal to prosyletise from their believing forefathers. As such I would support the idea that everyone should know the basics of all religions. I also agree that Atheists themselves may be biased and might not be in a good position to teach the subject, so perhaps the closest one can come to neutrality would be to have the syllibus for such a subject determined by a council consisting of representatives from all faiths taught.

    To Friendly Atheist, I have read what it would take for you to embrace religion on Yahoo’s article, and as my own response would like to suggest you obtain and read this book titled “The Bible, the Quran and Science” by one Maurice Bucaille, a Frenchman. That book, in my opinion, would provide some scientific analysis and comparisions to start with. You may or may not agree with its observations and conclusions, that’s up to you, but that’s just my suggestion.

  • Scott

    Scott, you can’t be serious. Don’t the infinite varieties of religion ever lead you to wonder whether they all have the same origin—all the products of human imagination?

    Darryl – No, I see it simply as a sign of human rationalization. History is saturated with it!

  • Richard Wade

    Hi Lian, I agree with your remarks about the subjectivity of education in general, but perhaps some sort of ground rules or standardization of the material could minimize the biases and could also add some accountability for seeing to it the teachers don’t get too far into their own views. The details will be hard to agree on, I expect.

    I’m not actually convinced this whole idea is a good one; I’m just trying to find some ways to minimize the problems it might cause. Also there will be church/state separation issues. The one course for the Bible and the one course for all the rest of the faiths is an obvious bias, for instance. People in different communities will say that their non Christian faith got short shrift.

    Something you said puzzled me:

    Secularism is very close to being a kind of informal religion in itself and atheism – while not a religion – is certainly a faith.

    I don’t understand your rationale for the first half of your statement because it’s one I have never heard before. Perhaps you could help me see why you think “secularism is close to being a kind of informal religion in itself.”

    The second half of your statement is however very familiar, and I think is based on a very common misconception about most atheists. The most standard general definition of atheism is, “a lack of belief in gods.” Most people who make assumptions like yours are using a very narrow and generally incorrect definition of atheism. It’s a definition that is often used by people who really dislike atheists, and sadly they spread it around. That may be where you heard it. They say atheism is “a belief that there is no god.” There are very few atheists who actively hold a belief that there is no god. The majority of atheists simply do not hold a belief in any gods. These two kinds are sometimes referred to respectively, as “strong atheists” and “weak atheists.” I really dislike those terms because it confuses people into thinking it’s a distinction between their conviction or their commitment. No, it’s about the presence or absence of a belief. By those terms I’m technically a “weak” atheist, but I hold my views by very strong adherence to personal principles.

    Anyway this may seem a subtle distinction at first but it is actually very different and very important. Not believing in something does not require believing in the opposite. For most atheists the statement that atheism is a faith is absurd. For them that is like saying a vacuum is an atmosphere, or an empty wallet is full of non-money. Decaffeinated coffee is lacking caffeine. It doesn’t have “anti-caffeine” added. Given a proposal that cannot be empirically confirmed or refuted it may take a kind of faith to believe that something does not exist, (strong) but it does not take any faith to merely abstain from belief in that thing. (weak)

    I hope that clarifies things, and I apologize if you already understood this stuff. I simply try to help dispel misunderstandings between people.

  • http://dmarvin811.blogspot.com Dan

    It’s like a bunch of teenagers getting into mischief and getting into trouble and I (as an adult) say “Hay! your parents are going to be very upset at all of you when they find out what you’re doing.”

    The teenagers response is “F$#@ you dork, go tell someone who gives a crap” and “you liar, a$#hole”

    You are all shooting the messenger, according to the Bible there is no distinction between atheists and satanists. Please don’t believe what I am telling you, look it up yourself. Does that mean I have no compassion by stating that? Does that mean I don’t care enough for all your well being to tell you that our Father will be very upset at your wickedness (again according to the Bible)? Did I really hit a nerve? You all seem to be fine and tolerate buddhism, muslims or yes even satenism but when it comes to Jesus you get a deep hatred foaming at the mouth and slander whoever brings up the name Jesus Christ.

    Is it a toothache you all have? I am touching it saying “hay that one there (press) looks black” and you all scream “OWWWW” in pain. I did not make up the Bible but the atheist experience people (as well as you) are declaring WAR against God by being public activist against him. I am merely (as a concerned human brother) pointing out that if you don’t address that tooth then it will infect your whole body and turn gangrenous and you will perish. 2 Thessalonians 2:8-11

    I have told the atheist experience people many times as they were slandering me to never take my word for it that they could look it up themselves in the Bible, to do the research. I pointed out the verses that I was addressing and giving an adequate debate. What was the response? More ad hominem fallacies and they came back with the troll comment or calling me stupid or pathetic and such. To me it is just sad to waste good minds to pride and destruction for being like little brat teenagers.

    You must know by now that there is accountability in nature and the universe. If you jump out the window you will go splat because of the law of gravity. If you try to live with grizzlies or lions because they are so cute, you will get shredded because you are breaking the boundaries of nature. If you take your mask off underwater you will drown because of conditions that are not suitable for sustaining life for humans. If you take your helmet off in deep space you will implode because of the laws of pressure and physics and such. So if there are so many laws to follow why are you all ignoring God’s law?

    You will be held accountable for your actions and in my opinion it fits for the conditions that surround us. That is why we don’t rape children, because it is wrong to us in our hearts. The atheist experience people tried to explain it was because society said it was wrong and that was it. Isn’t that absurd to you? So I tried to reason with them but they ended up blocking me and giving out my IP address to the world. So be it, we move on, but we don’t have forever here on earth. My urgency and enthusiasm is not to harm but to warn as a friend. Would you let your friend get behind a wheel after it’s apparent that he is very drunk and will possibly hurt himself or worse, others? They are reckless and they know it, and so do you if you search your heart. I love you enough to take your keys, punch me if you must because of your drunken rage but, deep in your heart you know what is at stake here.

    For Him,
    Dan

  • Richard Wade

    Hi Alistaire,
    Please don’t mistake exasperation for unfriendliness, or conviction for fanaticism. We all have our personalities, and how we respond to things can change from day to day. I’m in a gentle mood tonight, but at times I can be a sarcastic jerk. Darryl is a very smart, articulate and insightful person who can be superb at explaining complex ideas. We all get our last straws some times.

    I expect that as a Muslim from the East you have encountered annoyingly common misconceptions from westerners about your faith. I also expect that as a human being some times you’re patient with them and at other times you just want to scream.

    Wanting to understand Islam I would go to an Islamic teacher or author. Wanting to understand Christianity I would go to a Christian teacher or author. I would not tell the teachers about their faith, I would ask them. They may be impatient with me on Tuesday but more patient with me on Wednesday; I just have to accept their humanity as they have to accept mine, and keep striving for understanding.

    If you want to understand atheism, don’t tell atheists about it, ask them about it. You’ll meet some real grouches and some real sweethearts, and mostly you’ll meet people who go up and down in their moods. I spend a lot of time talking with the more rabid, always-pissed-off atheists I encounter trying to appeal to their gentle, patient natures. As an atheist they may be more inclined to listen to me. I also ask my Christian friends to do the same with their more angry, atheist-loathing fellow Christians. With you, this kind of reciprocal understanding and peace making could be shared with the Muslim community.

    Please take it from an atheist, atheism really is not a faith. For most of those who would call themselves atheists they just do not busy themselves with belief. There are people who are very involved and people who are hardly involved. People who argue their points of view with fervor and those who don’t care about it enough to talk about it at all.

    There are fanatics about soccer but that does not make it a religion.

    Please stick around. We seldom have a chance to exchange understanding with Muslim people.

  • Richard Wade

    Hey Justin,
    Thank you for saying,

    Hey man I won’t lie I just found out about your website on yahoo. I really like what you write here in this blog. I would love to talk to you about your beliefs sometime in an attempt to further understand what it is you believe. I am a Christian and I know as Christians we catch a lot of flack for being the people who are belligerent in our beliefs, yet I can’t have a conversation with an atheist without them screaming at me that I’m dead wrong. Thanks for your peaceful insights, as much as it may pain you to hear it, I’m sure Jesus would be proud.

    I’ve been trying to respond to your very warm message for much of the evening but there have been some other things I also needed to say. I hope we can continue to talk and share ideas and viewpoints for the sake of mutual understanding. As I’ve said elsewhere I’m sad to hear that some atheists can be rude and belligerent, but I do more than just be sad. I get in their faces and do what I can to calm them down and convince them that some basic manners can help a lot. If you can do that on your end with your more belligerent Christian brethren, then we can all enjoy a more peaceful and productive community together.

    And no it doesn’t pain me to hear you say that Jesus would be proud. I’m honored to hear it. I’m sure he would be proud of you as well.

  • Mriana

    Those who believe are most likely to be Christians, while those who do not believe do so also because of Christianity, and there is very few study of other religions, not only fellow Abrahamic ones such as Judaism and Islam, but also and especially Dharmic ones such as Hinduism and Buddhism and the like.

    Alistaire, in my case this is not quite true. I have looked over Islam/Muslim, even talk with some Sunni (Sunnis? What’s the plural?) about it and came to the conclusion that it is no better than Christianity. It’s best that I not say why because I don’t want to start another religious battle. The thing is, no religion is better than any other IMO. They are all the same, esp with the believe in the supernatural. Not to mention the extremists of any religion are just as bad. The oppression, control, discrimination, prejudice, etc of others is no better or worse, but it is still there, regardless of the religion. There is no reason for it either. I’d say this about Hinduism too and a lot of “Untouchables”/”Outcastes” became Muslim to get out of the caste system.

    I am non-religious, not because of Christianity, but because of religion in general. I do have three questions though, and I hope this does not sound mocking or bad. I don’t mean it that way, but if men get 72 virgins in heaven, what do women get? Where do all these virgins come from? If from God, where does God them? Of course, your answers may lead to more questions and you may laugh at some of them.

    You are all shooting the messenger, according to the Bible there is no distinction between atheists and satanists.

    This is a little discriminating, don’t you think, Dan? Have you ever notice that some religions have various texts used to control people and keep them in the religion? Islam has similar ones, although Alistaire might beg to differ, but they are there. I don’t have a Qu’ran to point them out, but get a copy and you will see them. It’s all the same when you get right down to it. Just as you believe atheists are santanic, non-Muslims are supposedly going to hell. Humm… Sounds like everyone who is not Muslim is in the same boat. It’s all insanity, IMHO. I really do not believe any religion has a corner on being right.

    That is why we don’t rape children, because it is wrong to us in our hearts. The atheist experience people tried to explain it was because society said it was wrong and that was it. Isn’t that absurd to you?

    No it’s not, but it is more than that. It is years of knowledge as to what happens to a child psychologically when this happens. It is abuse and can bring on psychological symptoms much like Holocaust victims. Incest itself, brings about genetic traits that are not good for survival, esp when society was primitive. Of course, without the education or understanding, people blamed what they did not understand on a supernatural being. In some cases, superstition was so bad, people were killed for the results of such things. Not a good thing, thus why we need scientific literacy. Therefore, it is not just in our hearts, but due to scientific knowledge, it is in our heads too as to why it’s wrong.

    Now here’s where I sound bias on my part, but IF Jesus were alive today, he’d be a Humanist, esp after he observed all the behaviours of the various religious extremists groups. Hey, you all have your biases about religion and I have mine, except Humanism is not a religion. Still, I find it good.

  • txatheist

    Texas Freedom Network was finally able to get a list, mulitple requests, of some of the schools being taught the bible from bibleinschools.net. The critique was set up to determine if the bible was being taught as literature(which was the name of the course) or as sectarian prostelytizing. This set of details to make that distinction came from Marc Chancy, professor of religion at Southern Methodist U near Dallas. Of the 20 plus schools they analyzed 4 were not prostelytizing.
    ——————————————————–
    Mike C,
    I’d be interested in Julie’s story about nearly failing that class.

  • HappyNat

    I have told the atheist experience people many times as they were slandering me to never take my word for it that they could look it up themselves in the Bible, to do the research. I pointed out the verses that I was addressing and giving an adequate debate. What was the response?

    Dan,

    Most of us have read the bible and have dismissed it as a holy book. Telling us to us the bible as a research tool is the same to us as using the Da Vinci Code or The Lorax as a history resource. If you want to use it, feel free but citing it to non believers is a waste of time.

    We honestly don’t believe. We aren’t lying to ourselves, or to you. We aren’t rebelling against priests or pastors, we don’t feel something missing in our heart, we don’t love satan and/or hate god. We have taken time to think and study the issues and have not found any good reason to believe god exists. We honestly don’t believe. Once you accept this fact, we can begin a civil conversation, but when you come at us like you did in your post you are bound to get angry responses.

  • Vincent

    Here’s my position on this, and I’ve written about it elsewhere:

    Here’s a class on A.
    Here’s a class on all the other letters of the alphabet.
    From an outsider, that sure makes A seem a lot more important than the rest of the letters. Must be something really special about the letter A.

    Now, substitute the Bible for A and all other religions for the rest of the alphabet and stick it in public school and you have establishment of religion.

    I have no problem with a semester class overview of world religions in high school. I think Huston Smith’s “Religions of Man” should be required reading.

    I object to sneaking a bible class in and claiming to be fair by also including a class on the remainder of religious thought. It doesn’t fool me.

    Scott,
    I was in your position many years ago: Catholic, persecuted to some extent by the vast majority of Baptists et al. around me, and convinced that mine was the right religion because the others had all broken from it. Then I got a BA in Medieval History from an ivy league university (please don’t think I’m bragging, I just want to show my credentials). As one of my prof’s said “medieval culture is church culture.” I learned that most of what I believed about the Catholic church, including its traditions, was utterly wrong. If your basis for being Catholic is that it’s the more traditional religion, then you ignore the Great Schism. You should really become Orthodox. The Catholic Church is no more free from historical doctrinal changes than any other church. It’s certainly not anywhere close to the original church of Jesus and Paul.

  • Scott

    Nice to hear fom you Vincent.

    Please don’t “hit and run”.

    Can you provide details of what you and your Professor believe is/was “wrong”?

    Perhaps you should re-visit Ancient History and Apostolic Succession,
    after all, this is when The Church was founded.

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

    Maybe there should be a dedicated “Try to Convert Hemant” thread where all the internet evangelists can go and post their sermons without cluttering up all the other discussions…

  • Vincent

    I never said my professor said anything was wrong.
    I merely quoted him to emphasize how much of my education involved studying changes in the church.

    This is not really the place to discuss the changes that took place in the Catholic Church over the centuries. They are vast, and range from little things like the significance of the kneeling, standing and sitting during mass, the reasons for excluding “for thine is the kingdom, the power…” from the Lord’s Prayer for centuries, to big issues like papal infallibility and the immaculate conception of Mary.

  • Pingback: Friendly Atheist » Try to Convert Hemant

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

    Mike C,
    I’d be interested in Julie’s story about nearly failing that class.

    I don’t know all the details. It was in Austin (Anderson High School), which explains why the teacher could get away with it in the first place. The teacher was very militant about his atheism and would openly ridicule her and a few other Christian students in class for their beliefs and threaten to grade them down if they mentioned their faith at all in their papers (keeping in mind that this was as a philosophy class – one of the few subjects where one’s religious beliefs are usually very relevant).

    I don’t remember much more of the story beyond that. Maybe Julie can fill in the rest of the details for you if we get to hang out with you next time we’re in Austin.

  • Mriana

    We honestly don’t believe. We aren’t lying to ourselves, or to you. We aren’t rebelling against priests or pastors, we don’t feel something missing in our heart, we don’t love satan and/or hate god. We have taken time to think and study the issues and have not found any good reason to believe god exists. We honestly don’t believe. Once you accept this fact, we can begin a civil conversation, but when you come at us like you did in your post you are bound to get angry responses.

    Yeah. Precisely what he said, Dan. I have no concept of the deity you speak of, which is why non-theism is often mistaken for atheism sometimes. What is in the Bible I’ve researched throroughly, still researching it, and have come to the conclusion it is just more myth that evolved from Mithra, Horus, Krisha, and other forms of mythology. The god you speak of is no more real to me than the Easter Bunny or Zeus is. In that respect, I am an atheist, because I have no concept of what you speak of, probably no more than you do of what I speak of. In my case, it is natural concerning emotions and our feelings towards others, animals, the planet, and the universe, as well as our relationship in it and your is supernatural. It is completely and totally two different concepts. Of course one could say my concept is not a god, but how I feel about love, compassion, and reason is what makes the difference. It is probably just a strong as what you feel toward your anthropomorphic god (or however you view it), BUT it is the trigger that stimulates chemicals in the brain to give us such feelings. Since we are individuals, different things trigger that feeling and our definition of that feeling varies.

    It goes right back to God being a human concept. Theism and God are not the same thing. Theism is just one definition of God. So, what it boils down to, is what one’s concept of God is- be it… well… non-existant, or in us, in everything, and all around like love, reason, and compassion is, or some strange supernatural anthropomorphic being, it is all a human concept. If you have no clue as to what a Snuffleupagus is, would you believe it was real?

  • TXatheist

    Would love to see you guys again. I wouldn’t suggest July or August but you are already aware of the best time to come.

  • http://off-the-map.org/atheist/ Siamang

    I took a comparitive religions course in College.

    It was one of many choices that fulfilled a multiculturalism requirement. Most people I know who went to college took a similar course.

    Remind me again why this needs to be a high-school course.

    That said, I think we need to put religious learning and prayer right back into public school. I think it’d be the best thing ever for atheism, as it would immediately make Jesus the most uncool thing ever for kids.

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

    Remind me again why this needs to be a high-school course.

    Not everyone gets to go to college (especially considering exponentially rising tuition costs). In fact, the people who most need a broadening of their worldview are probably the same ones who don’t go to college.

  • http://bjornisageek.blogspot.com Bjorn Watland

    Ooo, I have an idea, how about a critical thinking course, or philosophy, be mandatory in high schools. I do like to see when people have reasoned for themselves, whether they are believers or not.

  • Vincent

    People usually say schools need to focus on science and math (and might actually have done so in the 1960s).
    However, the underlying requirement in a science course is the ability to think critically.
    That is why so many religious groups are attacking science education (even to go so far as to change the definition of science – KS).
    I agree a class on critical thinking would have been great, but if there’s a good science program, it will be in there.

    Here’s to the power of education. My wife’s parents are horrendous biggots. My wife is not; not at all. Why didn’t she absorb her parents’ belief system? Because they thought well enough of their daughter to get her the best education possible, and she learned at an early age in school that biggotry is not only wrong ethically, it is also incredibly self limiting.

    Education is the key to breaking from parental superstitions, whatever field they fall in.

  • http://off-the-map.org/atheist/ Siamang

    Not everyone gets to go to college

    So why don’t we just drop every college course down and teach it in high school?

    The upshot is, there’s a reason to cover it in college and it has to do with the atmosphere of a college education.

    High school still treats the students like children, whereas college treats students like adults. Teaching an adult class in high school… especially something like religious literacy is recipe for endless…. and I mean ENDLESS curriculum political pta, parent battles… during which time every parent with any faith-based belief tears up every other one.

    Folks predicting that eventually religions will devour each other might sit back and enjoy the show.

    But the fight would be pretty ugly.

    I wouldn’t want to be a Jewish parent in the South with kids in school there.

    Every kid not in the majority religion would be tempted to leave public school and go to a religious private school in that case. One more step toward the Madrassah-ization of American education.

  • miller

    Siamang is right. You could not possibly add such a controversial class to public high school curriculum. Have you ever seen a standard high school history text book? They are utterly devoid of anything remotely controversial or interesting. I hear that even many history teachers think their text books are completely lacking in that which originally interested them about the subject. This is part of why I hate history classes.

  • http://off-the-map.org/atheist/ Siamang

    Miller’s right on target. It wasn’t until college that I really learned what went on in History.

  • Richard Wade

    Maybe there should be a dedicated “Try to Convert Hemant” thread where all the internet evangelists can go and post their sermons without cluttering up all the other discussions…

    Excellent suggestion, Mike! (pinching the spot between my eyes) I wish there was a way to automatically shift all comments like those to that blog dumpster. We could go there if we ever feel the need to convert.

    Thank you to everyone who has suggested teaching critical thinking in school. We fill young people’s heads with facts, but don’t teach them any skills for using those facts. We teach what science knows but not how science knows. We don’t teach them the many ways to use their minds. We dont’ teach logic, critical analysis, mnemonics, free association, creative daydreaming, relaxation techniques, meditation or humor. Their minds come out of school fat with facts but have no muscle for thinking.

    Mriana and Happynat, remember that engaging with the deeply disturbed troll with whom we have all struggled before only results in his escalation and the further deterioration of the conversation. Just my painful experience-based opinion.

  • EnoNomi

    I agree Religious Literacy is important, it’s much harder to accept one religious text at face value when you see all the other guys say much the same thing (like if you don’t believe the holy words in this book you’re going to hell.)

    I am an angry atheist, because most of my life I was a unquestioning religious person. Much like Julia Sweeney’s tale, it wasn’t until I got “serious” about my religion that I found out what a sham it all is. That’s my de-conversion story. Like any victim of a con, I’m angry at myself for being conned and angry at those would perpetuate the con on others.

    I envy those more mature indivuduals, like Hement, who are able to calmly and rationally explain their views and engage those who disagree with him. Perhaps if I had had a better education earlier on (critical thinking, science, philosophy and religion, etc) I’d have had no need to be so angry now.

  • Mriana

    Mriana and Happynat, remember that engaging with the deeply disturbed troll with whom we have all struggled before only results in his escalation and the further deterioration of the conversation. Just my painful experience-based opinion.

    If you are talking about the one I’m currently dealing with else where here, how well I know, but I’m holding my own. I haven’t slapped them silly yet. :lol:

  • Richard Wade

    Mriana, between my posts to Lian and Alistaire above. You’re just feeding a troll, IMHO. Holding your own isn’t the point. Unless you’re into masochism it’s futile. He doesn’t actually hear you. Whatever. I’ll just scroll past both his nonsense and your responses to his nonsense.

  • Mriana

    Richard, I have made 5 or 6 posts on this thread and they are not all addressing the same people. 1 was general, another was to Darryl, Dan, Allistaire, you and possibly one I missed, but if I’m not addressing the troll, except maybe one or two, then he’s not getting as much attention he would like obviously. I would think he would end up getting anormous satisfaction if he thought you were telling me to sit down and shut up. That would not be a good thing, either.

    That said, I’m lost now as to what you are talking about, esp given that I have addressed more than one person in this thread. Is it really worth disputing who address even? Personally, I don’t think so as long as Hemant’s Blog doesn’t blow up or ends up offending him. If he’s offended by something, I would certianly hope he’d say something, even if it’s via email.

  • Alyce de Carteret

    Hemant,

    Strangely (maybe not so strangely), I also did a story about this very topic. There is a professor at Harvard (Harry Lewis) who advocates the study of religion in schools.

    I do agree with him: Religion is such an important part of our world and it is our ignorance that seems to cause a lot of trouble.

    Harry has some very persuasive points and some great ideas as to why many people, especially Christians, have shied away from this idea. Here’s a link if you are at all interested: http://www.fortjay.com/Alyce/Alyce_Mar_4_2007_Religion1.mp3

    I’ve been enjoying your blog!
    Alyce

  • Gerald

    I too, am tired of being conned. If god does exist, there will be no doubting or believing that will make god more or less than what god is. The day may come where it will not be enough for christians to “i believe in god”. A christian will be required to say “I know god”. The eternal conclusion of god is not what mainstream christainity believes today. Why is it good enough for a christain to say “I believe”. The very statement reflects doubt.

    There has to be a way to know.

  • Darryl

    From what I have seen in the media recently, religion has become a hot topic. If this reflects what is being discussed among average people here in the U.S. and elsewhere, there must be reasons for it. 9-11, the war in Iraq, and the whole matter of Islamic radicalism have all highlighted the general ignorance of Americans about the Muslim faith(s) and sent many running to the library or bookstore. The political successes of the Religious Right in this country and the upcoming Presidential election certainly puts religion on the front burner. Look at all the books that have been written lately on the topic of religion, pro and con. I think I see developing what may be called a ‘push-back’ to the Religious Right that I think accounts for some of the recent books by atheists and the interest in blogs like this one.

    Americans are great forgetters: Our optimism keeps us looking forward to a different and better future; unfortunately, we often ignore the lessons of the past. It seems that we deal with big problems only when they get so bad that they can no longer be ignored. This may be a natural result of our form of government and society as well as our ‘national character.’ Religion is a powerful force for good in the right circumstances, as our history shows; it is also a very destructive force in other circumstances. Perhaps not since the founding of our nation have we been forced by circumstances to have a national if not global conversation about religion. The time has come. We’ve got a problem that we’ve been sweeping under the rug. That luxury is no longer available to us. We must, I think, all come to some terms under which we can live together, or else we are in deep trouble.

    Religious literacy is lacking in our country because it has not been seen as vital to an education. We may have been a victim of our own successes. Relative peace and prosperity have permitted us to ignore certain festering sores on the body politic. In the nation’s classrooms we have overemphasized some subjects and downplayed others. So much emphasis upon subjects geared toward material pursuits to the slighting of the humanities has left a vacuum in our national life that religion has been more than happy to fill. So long as church and state have remained separate (as they have in large part in the last century), public education could afford to overlook religion and its education—this was left to the churches and seminaries. It’s obvious to all that this situation no longer holds. We are, in my opinion, threatened both from without and within by radical religion. Such religion has infected our politics and poisoned our civic discourse.

    I have recently noticed many comments on this blog that seem to indicate that the commentors do not even hear what others are saying—not to really interact—but seem to only try to proselytize. To have a national discourse, and perhaps a global discourse, do we not have to begin by identifying those things upon which we all agree? I can tell that there are many good and sincere people that comment on this blog who hold quite divergent opinions. It must be possible to come to some terms. We have a lot in common with each other.

    Having done this, do we not then have to agree upon our definitions, our language, and the rules of argument and evidence? Short of this, the result of our many conversations is that we have succeeded only in scoring points and talking past one another. We ought to ask ourselves what we have come to this blog to do. What is our purpose? Perhaps we ought to do a self-check:

    As we blog are we thinking more about listening, understanding, and learning, or about winning an argument? Some of our bloggers are exceptional at this (among whom I do not count myself).

    Is it our purpose to try to convert others to our opinions?

    Are we utterly honest with ourselves about whatever inner doubts and conflicts are raised when we listen to the opinions of others?

    Can we admit the possibility that we can err?

    Can we concede the possibility that there may be some vital knowledge that we do not possess, and that others with whom we converse might know?

    Are we angry, desperate, restless, vengeful, anxious, fearful?

    Do we hate, despise, mistrust, villify, denigrate?

    Do we think that if we do not insist upon our opinions we are in peril?

    Are we upset by this kind of discourse?

    Are we obsessed by what we think about?

    Do we believe that discourse is possible?

    Do we value each other as equals?

  • Richard Wade

    Mriana,
    I apologize. I shouldn’t tell you what to say or who to engage. I shouldn’t try to police this blog, it isn’t mine. I so enjoy your comments that I wouldn’t really scroll past any of them. I’m just tired of listening to the mechanical claptrap of psychotics. I used to do that for a living and I don’t want to do it for free. But that’s no excuse. Please forgive my arrogance. I’ll say no more.

  • http://davidernst.net/blog David

    Speaking to the original post (how on earth do you all read/write so quickly?), it’s worth noting that Daniel Dennett (author of the recent atheist’s-investigation-of-religionBreaking the Spell) advocates this same thing. Indeed, he speaks of standardized testing in an effort to ensure that anyone with a high school diploma (including those private- and home-schooled) be able to demonstrate basic knowledge of the fundamental beliefs, origins, histories, practices, rituals, and taboos, of the world’s major religions. When I heard him present this idea at a talk last year (my review of the talk) I thought it ironic that this was the main social change that this atheist was advocating. But, I love the idea, and I’ve become a fast advocate for it myself.

  • Mriana

    Richard Wade said,

    May 15, 2007 at 2:30 am

    Mriana,
    I apologize. I shouldn’t tell you what to say or who to engage. I shouldn’t try to police this blog, it isn’t mine. I so enjoy your comments that I wouldn’t really scroll past any of them. I’m just tired of listening to the mechanical claptrap of psychotics. I used to do that for a living and I don’t want to do it for free. But that’s no excuse. Please forgive my arrogance. I’ll say no more.

    No problem, no harm done. I forgive you. I understand your feelings about the psychotics too. Some are difficult to deal with sometimes.

  • stogoe

    Re: Darryl’s cute plea for tolerance and understanding in discussion with fascist theocrats:

    No, they don’t deserve kindness or the benefit of the doubt. That’s something you have to earn, and for the past thirty years, they’ve consistently shown that kindness and civility on our part will be rewarded only with bile, fabrications, and backstabbing, without exception.

    People won’t see you being calm and considerate in the face of crazy bugfuck rabidity; they just see you getting utterly demolished by ‘their team’.

    I understand the Kumbayah impulse. But we have decades of evidence that no, it doesn’t work.

  • Vincent

    David,
    Note my first post here.
    Dennet would promote teaching world religions, but I suspect he too would object to a class dedicated to one specific religion.

  • Darryl

    stogoe said,

    Re: Darryl’s cute plea for tolerance and understanding in discussion with fascist theocrats:

    No, they don’t deserve kindness or the benefit of the doubt. That’s something you have to earn, and for the past thirty years, they’ve consistently shown that kindness and civility on our part will be rewarded only with bile, fabrications, and backstabbing, without exception.

    People won’t see you being calm and considerate in the face of crazy bugfuck rabidity; they just see you getting utterly demolished by ‘their team’.

    I understand the Kumbayah impulse. But we have decades of evidence that no, it doesn’t work.

    I think we need to check our impulses towards cynicism about these matters. If attempting to converse with the willing rather than alienating them by indiscriminate pugnacity strikes you as “cute,” perhaps you are more pessimistic than I.

    I cut no slack whatsoever to the belligerent and dogmatic. Anyone who has read my previous comments on this blog can attest to that. I am keenly aware of the hypocritical hyper-nastiness of these folks. As the great Struther Martin said in the film “Cool Hand Luke:” “What we’ve got here is a failure to communicate. Some men you just can’t reach, . . .” I can’t improve upon that.

    As an aside: can we all agree that the “kumbayah” cliche is so tired and outdated that we should exert ourselves a wee bit more and come up with at least a more interesting way to be dismissive?

  • http://davidernst.net/blog David

    Vincent,
    Indeed. What Dennett advocates is that all high school students should be taught ALL of the worlds major religions (I believe he even listed them during the lecture, and iirc they were: Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Judaism). He went on to say that if some schools (such as private religious schools or home-schoolers) wanted to go on to say “and they are all sinners and will all burn in hell” or whatever, that was fine, as long as they taught the basic beliefs, origins, histories, practices, rituals, and taboos of the worlds religions well enough that the students all learned it (he really did talk about standardized testing). Passing the test for just one religion would definitely not count under his proposal. Although leaving highschool with a strong bias towards one certainly could.

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