Fundamentalists’ Worst Nightmare? Religious Education

There is an interesting post at The Secular Outpost responding to objections issuing from the Discovery Institute about (wait for it) introducing discussion of religion into the biology classroom. Why? Because it isn’t the right kind of religion.

Talking about religion in public education has never been unconstitutional. Information about the Bible as literature can be and is taught, although many avoid it because of fear of controversy. But there is nothing that can combat fundamentalist extremism than knowledge, including knowledge about the Bible. If more people understood that there is no one thing that can easily be called “the Bible” – in whatever form most of them encounter it, it is a translation trying to make sense of some of the many readings found in different manuscripts, and in places represents the translators offering an educated surmise about the meaning of unintelligible Hebrew – they might not be as prone to make vast sweeping overconfident assertions that turn out to be inaccurate.

I hope to say more about the Midwest SBL meeting this past weekend in the near future. But these thoughts are not unconnected with that experience, since there I encountered this quote attributed to governor of Texas Ma Ferguson in the 1920s: “If the King’s English was good enough for Jesus, it’s good enough for me!” While this quote might seem to illustrate the depths of ignorance to which people can sink, it actually illustrates it in a rather unexpected way. This is yet another “quote” that circulates even though it cannot with confidence be attributed to its source. Not only the religious fundamentalists, but also their critics, need to learn to do a better job at critical thinking, seeking evidence and documenting claims.

Nevertheless, it remains the case that without religious education, ignorant dogmatism cannot be combatted. Even with its help, it is an uphill struggle, because so many prefer ignorant and mistaken confidence and the illusion of certainty, to the uncertainty they would have to face if they really studied the Bible and sought to understand it in more than a superficial way.

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  • As Goethe said, He who knows one, knows none.If you cannot look at your tradition from the vantage of another, you are suffering from the most profound narcissism that one can attribute to ignorance. The command is to go baptizing and teaching which means to form and shape with the faculties of reason and not to indoctrinate.