Education and religion

graduation-1177256_640Does having more education mean being less religious?  That has been the conventional wisdom in academic circles.  But a new Pew Research study has found that the relationship between education and religion is much more complicated than that.

In general, according to the report, highly educated people are less religious.  But this effect does not hold true for Christians.

Highly educated Christians are actually more likely to go to church regularly than less educated Christians.

Read the findings after the jump.  How do you account for them?

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Plantinga wins Templeton Prize

512px-AlvinPlantingaChristian philosopher Alvin Plantinga has won the Templeton Prize for contributions to religion.

Plantinga has shown, in a sophisticated way that is convincing even to most non-believing philosophers, that it is not irrational to believe in God, that the “problem of evil” does not disprove God’s existence, and that Christianity can make important contributions to philosophical questions.

Plantinga, a Calvinist who has been a professor at Notre Dame, has sparked a renaissance in Christian philosophy and has shown Christian academics how they can contribute to secular academia without compromising their faith.

Photo of Alvin Plantinga by Jonathunder (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

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Gorsuch’s first week will feature LCMS school

Rubber_mulch_playgroundJustice Neil Gorsuch is now on the Supreme Court, and one of the first cases he will hear in his first week involves a Lutheran preschool:  Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Inc. v. Pauley.

At issue is whether Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Missouri, can take part in a state program that gives shredded tires to schools in order to cushion their school’s playgrounds.

The Missouri Constitution says that no state money whatsoever can go to a religious entity.  And those shredded tires represent money.

At issue, though, is the heritage of the anti-Catholic Blaine Amendment in the 19th century, which is an obstacle to school choice programs.

I am sympathetic to the church and school.  But do  they have a leg to stand on?  Doesn’t the Missouri constitution say what it says?  If Justice Gorsuch rules against the church, that wouldn’t necessarily mean that he is weak on religious freedom, just that this case is pretty straightforward against the church’s position.  What line of argument would you make in support of the church’s case?

See George Will’s take on the case. [Read more…]

Student suspended for disagreeing with Muslim professor

male-213729_640Muslims believe that Jesus was not really crucified.  According to the Qur’an, 

That they said (in boast), “We killed Christ Jesus the son of Mary, the Messenger of Allah“;- but they killed him not, nor crucified him, but so it was made to appear to them, and those who differ therein are full of doubts, with no (certain) knowledge, but only conjecture to follow, for of a surety they killed him not:-
Nay, Allah raised him up unto Himself; and Allah is Exalted in Power.  (Qur’an, sura 4 (An-Nisa) ayat 157-158)

This is taken to mean either that Allah substituted someone else for Jesus, making the other person look like the “prophet,” or that he created an illusion so that a spirit-shape only appeared to be Jesus, which was the teaching of some Gnostics.  In any event, Muslims believe that Jesus, while He existed and was a great prophet, did not really die on the Cross, but that He was rather taken up into Heaven.

At Rollins College, a Muslim professor, in light of his religious commitment, claimed outright that Jesus’s crucifixion was a hoax.  A Christian student took issue with that and argued otherwise.  Whereupon he failed the class and got suspended from school.

Let me offer some perspective based on my four decades as a professor:  In a secular school, professors may talk about religion, including their own, as long as it is relevant to the course and as long as they do so objectively, without imposing their religious views on their students.  In discussing Milton, even when I was teaching in a secular college, I could talk about the Christian concepts of creation, fall, and redemption.  “This is what Milton believed.  You need to know this to understand Paradise Lost.”

The professor here could say, “We Muslims don’t believe that Jesus died on the cross.”  That would be interesting and could prompt some illuminating discussion.  But in claiming outright that Jesus’s death was a “hoax” and then punishing a student for disagreeing, in accord with his own Christian religion, the professor was clearly “imposing” his religious beliefs on the class.  Professors aren’t supposed to do that.

But what about issues of diversity?  Wasn’t the student being insensitive to the professor’s religious beliefs?  Cultural diversity, sensitivity, tolerance, etc., are supposed to manifest themselves in the way faculty members treat students!  Not the way students treat faculty!

Faculty members have the power here.  It’s their job to treat their students appropriately, including showing respect for their religious sensibilities.

I don’t know the whole story.  Maybe the student was disruptive, disrespectful, and breaking other campus rules.  But treating Muslims equally means holding Muslim professors to the same standards as Christian professors in the way they handle their religious beliefs in their classes. [Read more…]

The myth of learning styles

Right_brainYou know how some people are “right brained” and other people are “left brained”?

And how children are either auditory, visual, or kinesthetic learners?  And how they learn best if they are taught according to their particular learning style?

Well, none of that is true!  That educational fad of a few years ago has been thoroughly discredited by scientific research.  And yet teachers, curriculum, and teacher education courses are still teaching it.

A group of neuroscientists, psychologists, and educators in England has issued a public letter pointing this out and begging teachers to drop this stuff and to instead use approaches that are evidence-based. [Read more…]

Group morality vs. individual morality

In the context of a discussion of the conflict between education secretary Betsy DeVos and the teachers’ unions, S. M. Hutchens cites an interesting point made by the late theologian Reinhold Niebuhr.

In his book Moral Man and Immoral Society, Niebuhr contrasts group morality to individual morality.  Groups form a “collective egoism” that resists self-criticism.  Whereas individuals are capable of repentance and change.

What are some applications of this observation?

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