Why We Should Teach Religion to Children

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We should teach religion to children because, by learning about the origins of myths and the histories of various religious institutions, they can see all religions as part of the same phenomenon — and not see one as inherently superior to all others. 


I think it is important to give children a healthy dose of religious education early on, teaching them a broad range of comparative mythology and religion from a phenomenological approach. Children are naturally curious, and what is more interesting than the ancient belief systems that so many of our peers and ancestors have dedicated their lives to? By teaching them about the world’s religions, we are giving them the information they seek and filling a gap in their knowledge in the same way we do when we teach about history or politics.

Given the opportunity to study it, I think many would agree that mythology is an interesting subject — and modern mythologies are no different. Through an education in Religious Studies, I learned about the creation myths from various cultures and those myths’ earlier influences, about the similarities and inconsistencies within each belief system, and how each religion has grown from a localized cult to its modern global equivalent.

To clarify, I majored in Religious Studies, the study of religions from a phenomenological approach, which is not to be confused with Christian Theology — the study of Christianity as a fundamental truth. I found that, if you study comparative religion, it’s more difficult to be religious because the great faiths are all very similar at the most fundamental level. Each organization has similar cult beginnings and “prophets,” they each began as local and cultural myths before being applied to a global context, and they are almost always spread through a combination of violence and proselytization.

In the United States, public schools don’t generally teach comparative religion courses, although they legally can — and should. The Supreme Court has upheld the teaching of religious studies in American public schools time and time again[1], but the vast majority of students in the U.S. continue to learn very little about the phenomenon of religion from traditional educational outlets, and instead adhere to whatever faith they were born into out of enculturation and ignorance.

The American approach is in stark contrast to most countries in Europe, which often have compulsory religious education courses taught from an academic (i.e. secular) perspective. What are the results? In the United Kingdom, a 2008 European Social Survey asked the question, “Which religion or denomination do you belong to at present?" with 52.68 percent selecting 'No Religion' in 2008.

In America, the most recent survey by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life found that 78.4 percent of the 35,000 or more respondents identified specifically as Christians — with only 6.3 percent declaring they were secular and unaffiliated with a religion.[2]

The fact remains that people, more often than not, inherit their religious beliefs from parents or childhood mentors. There is a crucial period in which a child begins to ask questions about life and wonder about the origin of existence and, in a religious family, these questions are typically answered in a religious context. The process begins with childhood baptisms, forced participation in religious rituals from a young age, and teaching children who are too young to understand that their religion is the only correct one, and sometimes that all others will burn in Hell.

Once the child is old enough to think logically about the possible veracity of various religions, it is often too late — the religious instruction has been so successful that the child no longer accepts the possibility that they could be wrong. After all, these ideas were introduced by a loving and trusted family member — why would they lie?

But there is hope. By educating children about the world’s many religions, historical and modern alike, we can show them that each faith is simply one culture’s attempt to explain the unknown. They can learn about religion from the perspective of an anthropologist, with a proper balance of intrigue and detachment, and gain true insight into the origin of the world’s many belief systems.

David G. McAfee is a journalist and author of Mom, Dad, I’m an Atheist: The Guide to Coming Out as a Non-believer and Disproving Christianity and other Secular Writings. He is also a frequent contributor to American Atheist Magazine. McAfee attended University of California, Santa Barbara, and graduated with dual-degrees in English and Religious Studies, with an emphasis on Christianity and Mediterranean religions.

 


[1] McCollum v. Board of Education (1948), Abington School District v. Schempp (1963).

[2] U.S. Religious Landscape Survey. Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life. 2007.

Written By: David G. McAfee
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57 COMMENTS

  1. an open article, if a little constraint …what an awful word ‘Atheist’. Of course, everybody would now acknowledge, that choosing Atheist is now just another ‘religion’ with committee, groups, social outings etc and of course the proud gang affiliation; YES! I am one of them!). I always like to remark to myself while studying [a 44 year-old mature student hoping to journey himself towards theoretical physics] that there is more of a case for God in science than in any volumes of rehashed campfire stories and pinched! tribal and cultural habits on which modern religions are based.

    It is difficult for anybody not science minded to understand the fundamental convergences within society (chaos theory) which draw us to group while ironically voicing a statement of the opposite. I know this might seem a bit lame! but there is an important story called ‘Animal Farm’, that if everybody in existence present and future understood at such a fundamental level, that a comment on such a thing would not be possible; todays society would not be recognisable to you and me. It is seldom the religion that kills, but, the hierarchy power grabbing opportunists who use the convergence to serve their own needs.

    To get away from power side of religions etc; Fewer people will listen to you when you are a ‘them’. I always say…don’t let organized religions rob you of a belief in something greater, call it God or whatever.

    Anyway, back to the article! I have a little sister and was not the other day laughing at the lovely innocent story books (including catholic religion books) in her bag. There is no harm in such things for the young; the stories themselves existing in some form or other before the religions inception and the lessons important…

  2. If I was a kid in a religious studies class in school the problem I’d have with it is that I’d probably be required to treat the subject with a level of respect it simply does not deserve and has not earned.

    I’d hate to be in the position where I’d be required to be respectful instead of being allowed to be honest.

    Imagine having Karen Armstrong grade your reports and mark you wrong for not lying enough.

    • In reply to #2 by Steven Mading:

      If I was a kid in a religious studies class in school the problem I’d have with it is that I’d probably be required to treat the subject with a level of respect it simply does not deserve and has not earned.

      Believe me, it’s really not like that. As a confirmed atheist, and science teacher, I thoroughly approve of the teaching of RE at secondary school, as it allows students to assess all different religions under certain criteria. It teaches tolerance of other religions, and most students come out of the experience realising the part that religion plays in society. The fact that more and more of them are rejecting a personal faith is testimony to the effectiveness of the teaching. Incidentally, at the school I work at, religious studies is known as Religion and Philosophy, and there are certainly no marks lost for giving religion short shrift in your exam papers. In fact the students may well cite pages such as this in their studies.
      The debates that we have on this site are more akin to the academic discipline of religious studies in UK schools.

      I’d hate to be in the position where I’d be required to be respectful instead of being allo…

      • In reply to #5 by TenderHooligan:

        In reply to #2 by Steven Mading:

        If I was a kid in a religious studies class in school the problem I’d have with it is that I’d probably be required to treat the subject with a level of respect it simply does not deserve and has not earned.

        Believe me, it’s really not like that. As a confirmed ath…

        It’s not like that IN THE UK.
        I have zero confidence that what you say would be true if it happened in my country, the USA.

    • In reply to #4 by stuart.coleman:

      Totally agree children should be taught RS but at the same time they must be taught about the alternative to religion i.e. not believing. Is atheism part of the curriculum anywhere?

      It’s integral to the curriculum in the UK. The syllabus must encourage children to look at all possible alternatives and philosophies, and how the ethical issues such as abortion, scientific research involving animals, dealing with poverty, may be addressed by different world views, including humanistic or atheistic ones. The teachers of Religion and Philosophy at my school either have no personal religion, or keep it extremely well hidden.

      • In reply to #6 by TenderHooligan:

        It’s integral to the curriculum in the UK. The syllabus must encourage children to look at all possible alternatives and philosophies…

        Hmm, as nice as this sounds the “possible alternative” to reality is not a health choice.

        Again I think it’s a mater of respectability or inferred respectability. Fairies at the bottom of the garden and sea monsters deserve more respect but I suspect do not get it.

        • In reply to #7 by alaskansee:

          In reply to #6 by TenderHooligan:

          It’s integral to the curriculum in the UK. The syllabus must encourage children to look at all possible alternatives and philosophies…

          Hmm, as nice as this sounds the “possible alternative” to reality is not a health choice.

          I’ve seen the GCSE Exam papers, and the questions will be something like: What is the Christian point of view on….? Or Compare the way that different religions view the idea of an afterlife.
          The ability to analyse different viewpoints without making a judgement on them is a valuable skill I feel. Most secondary schools in the UK will have Religious studies as a compulsory subject up to about Year 9. The fact that the most recent census showed that now the majority of UK citizens in the economic sector, ie those earning a wage, are now declaring themselves as having no religion, may indicate that the education process they have gone through allows them to choose for themselves. It’s about understanding other viewpoints, not saying one view is better than another. That’s for the individual to decide, having been given the intellectual tools to do so.

          Again I think it’s a mater of respec…

          • In reply to #8 by TenderHooligan:

            In reply to #7 by alaskansee:

            In reply to #6 by TenderHooligan:

            It’s integral to the curriculum in the UK. The syllabus must encourage children to look at all possible alternatives and philosophies…

            Hmm, as nice as this sounds the “possible alternative” to reality is not a health choice.

            I’ve…

            Again while I am happy children are being given the chance to choose I think South Park said it well, Douce Bag or Shit Sandwich?

            The only real educational value would be to tell the kids that these are antiquated horrific texts from a time of mystery and fear we have long ago left.

        • In reply to #7 by alaskansee:

          In reply to #6 by TenderHooligan:

          It’s integral to the curriculum in the UK. The syllabus must encourage children to look at all possible alternatives and philosophies…

          Hmm, as nice as this sounds the “possible alternative” to reality is not a health choice

          Except you seem to be forgetting that religion is a reality! There may be no God, but there is a bible and a koran and churches, temples, gurdwaras and mosques. And toxic tho religion may be, it is an important topic in understanding the world. Ask the people in the Westgate shopping centre or the Nigerian agricultural students or the women not being allowed to drive cars. Or perhaps the people relying on religiously run food banks. Or perhaps the recent debates in UK newspapers about the veil.

          We have seen a painless decline in religious belief in the UK over the last twenty years. That is due in no small part to RE. Just think about the child from the fundamentalist background. Who are they going to listen to most. A ranting atheist or a teacher telling them what lots of other people believe and to respect it. The logical conclusion of RE is they can’t all be right. And to be honest if you want to engage in any sort of rational debate it is usually better to do some from an informed rather than ignorant position.

      • In reply to #6 by TenderHooligan:

        It’s integral to the curriculum in the UK. The syllabus must encourage children to look at all possible alternatives and philosophies…

        No it’s not. No-one who has given this topic a vaguely serious consideration could make such a fundamental error.

        The curriculum is decided upon by a local committee, a SACRE for each individual Local Education Authority (152 in England alone). There is no alternative ‘philosophy’ (sic) to view from an atheist standpoint.

        There is legal requirement for SACREs to appoint local religious representatives but no corresponding requirement for non-religious representatives.

        • In reply to #13 by HomerJay:

          In reply to #6 by TenderHooligan:

          It’s integral to the curriculum in the UK. The syllabus must encourage children to look at all possible alternatives and philosophies…

          No it’s not. No-one who has given this topic a vaguely serious consideration could make such a fundamental error.

          The curricul…

          I don’t see how they could put atheism into such a course anyway. There’s not really any unique atheistic “viewpoint” or tradition to speak of…all atheists have in common is that they don’t believe in the existence of gods or the supernatural. It probably would make for an extermely short course. Or you might as well say that teaching physics or biology properly is more than enough. As long as the course makes clear that the material is to educate students about what beliefs people held or continue to hold when it comes to god(s), and are all tought equally without hinting that one of them “may be” closer to the “truth”, it’s a pretty essential course IMO. Unless you think the question “how did societies and civilization evolved and reached the current state” should be answered by “some stupid people who crawled in mud did stupid things we have long left behind and don’t really need to know about them”.

          • In reply to #14 by JoxerTheMighty:

            I don’t see how they cut put atheism into such a course anyway. There’s not really any unique atheistic “viewpoint” or tradition to speak of…all atheists have in common is that they don’t believe in the existence of gods or the supernatural.

            I don’t understand why people regularly say things like “there are no atheist viewpoints” or “atheism is just negation, you can’t build ideas around it” when that is so clearly false. Richard Dawkins is brilliant but he didn’t think up all the things he wrote in The God Delusion all by himself. He was building on a proud tradition of atheist thinkers that goes back at least to David Hume.

            I could list a lot more but here are some important milestones in atheist literature:

            David Hume’s writings where he goes into why miracles described in history are never credible, as well as his refutation of the various “proofs” of God’s existence that were popular at the time. Hume’s refutation of the divine watchmaker argument by Paley (essentially refuting creationism or Intelligent Design) is especially impressive given Hume was years before Darwin.

            Friedrich Nietzsche’s analysis of cultures and ideas and proclamation in Thus Spoke Zarathustra that God is Dead. Also, his critique of Christianity in particular as a slave religion and his ideas of the herd mentality.

            Bertrand Russel’s “Why I am Not a Christian” also his essay where he talks about how you can’t prove a negative (the orbiting tea kettle) and how that fact can’t be used as evidence for God.

            John Stuart Mill’s work that shows you can come up with rational justifications for ethics that don’t rely on the concept of God and Sam Harris’s writings on the same topic.

            And finally of course the God Delusion.

            The fact that none of these authors completely agree with each other (as you said there isn’t one unique atheist viewpoint) doesn’t mean that they don’t count as atheist literature.

          • How about slipping in Robert Ingersoll. He was known as The Great Agnostic but I think he may well have called himself an atheist today.

            http://lectures-by-ingersoll.blogspot.co.uk/2012/04/personal-deism-denied.html

            In reply to #16 by Red Dog:

            In reply to #14 by JoxerTheMighty:

            I don’t see how they cut put atheism into such a course anyway. There’s not really any unique atheistic “viewpoint” or tradition to speak of…all atheists have in common is that they don’t believe in the existence of gods or the supernatural.

            I don’t understand…

          • In reply to #14 by JoxerTheMighty:

            In reply to #13 by HomerJay:

            If you are interested, just check the AQA exam board specification for Religious Studies where it clearly states that students studying citizenship and ethics through religion (Topic1) should also be studying secular and legal viewpoints, and should be encouraged to form their own views.

            In reply to #6 by TenderHooligan:

            It’s integral to the curriculum in the UK. The syllabus must encourage children to look at all possible alternatives and philosophies…

            No it’s not. No-one who has given this topic a vaguely serious consideration could make such a fu…

          • I think atheism could definitely be put into a religious studies course: Existentialism. Here’s a great summary: “Atheistic existentialism confronts death anxiety without appealing to a hope of somehow being saved by a God (and often without any appeal to supernatural salvations like reincarnation).” So although there were theistic existentialists, there were those who felt we were alone in the universe and responsible for our own fate. That’s a major 20th century turning point, I think. It’s also a good opportunity to discuss how existentialism, and atheism are not necessarily synonymous with nihilism or amorality, which is what many religious people assume. They always say “even if god doesn’t exist, we need religion for morality”. I think this is a valuable part of the cultural evolution to examine later philosophical responses to the same questions that were usually addressed by theologians. Just because one doesn’t believe in God, doesn’t mean one doesn’t contemplate matters of morality, of the nature of existence and so forth. People assume that the absence of religion is just a big philosophical vacuum or something.

        • In reply to #13 by HomerJay:

          In reply to #6 by TenderHooligan:

          It’s integral to the curriculum in the UK. The syllabus must encourage children to look at all possible alternatives and philosophies…

          No it’s not. No-one who has given this topic a vaguely serious consideration could make such a fundamental error.

          Oh dear, looks like everyone I know who teaches it, including my father before he retired, has been doing it wrong then. I don’t know how the students managed to get such good marks, or why we have such a high uptake of Philosophy A level at our school on the back of it. On a straw poll of our pupils they are about 90% atheist. All of them study Religion and Philosophy to the end of Year 9.

          The curricul…

          • In reply to #15 by TenderHooligan:

            Oh dear, looks like everyone I know who teaches it, including my father before he retired, has been doing it wrong then.

            I think it’s much more likely that you’ve misunderstood what they’ve said because anyone engaged with the debate knows there is no UK curriculum. Google the BHA or the NSS education campaigns or google SACRE to find out.

            You need to look at each exam board and each exam to know what a Philosophy GCSE or A level actually is, several schools and exam boards have labelled RE as ‘Philosophy’ in order to make it more attractive to students. Al they do is look at New Testament ‘Philosophy’.

            Again, you’d need to be engaged in the debate to know this.

          • In reply to #20 by HomerJay:

            I think it’s much more likely that you’ve misunderstood what they’ve said because anyone engaged with the debate knows there is no UK curricul…

            With respect Homer Jay, a quick check of the SACRE guidelines for my area (Bristol) shows under attainments and targets, that each area of study should cover both religious and non-religious views. That phrase is repeated at least six times, and includes areas such as morals and ethics, afterlife, ways of expressing yourself etc.
            Admittedly I was talking about GCSE level, as my first point shows, where the exam board syllabus takes preference, but the SACRE guidelines seem very clear on all levels that religious and non-religious points of view are studied.
            I don’t imagine the West Country is particularly forward thinking compared to your local area.

          • In reply to #20 by HomerJay:

            In reply to #15 by TenderHooligan:

            Oh dear, looks like everyone I know who teaches it, including my father before he retired, has been doing it wrong then.

            I think it’s much more likely that you’ve misunderstood what they’ve said because anyone engaged with the debate knows there is no UK curricul.um

            There are UK exam boards and they dictate what is taught and they do not proselytise – in fact more than one religion is usually a requirement. Plus most SACRES have a humanist or atheist member on their panels. Plus there are curriculum guidelines..

            My children have visited churches, mosques, temples and gurdwaras. At nursery they covered different fesitivals. At primary and early secondary what different groups believed including people who didn’t believe anything, and by gcse discussions that led them to conclude there were so many different beliefs that it had to be made up. Very difficult to proselytise when you have to teach what other groups believe or don’t believe!!

          • In reply to #28 by PG:

            Thanks PG. Nice to have some calm and rational views. I can understand why some of our American contributors here may be sceptical, or even afraid by the idea of this, but I do think that by understanding how the curriculum works in practice, it would give such benefits in the States, and hasten the decline of religion as we have seen here. A small anecdote: We had a parent at our secondary school who wanted to withdraw her daughter from any RS lesson that wasn’t exclusively Christian. When asked to explain, she said she didn’t want her hearing about the possibility of other religions. As the child’s Head of Year, I challenged the mother and asked her why she felt that her child’s faith was so frail that it couldn’t stand the test of comparison, and maybe she would benefit from coming to the lessons herself to see what was taught. Nothing more was said and the child attended. (And rebelled against her mother at the earliest opportunity)

    • In reply to #4 by stuart.coleman:

      Totally agree children should be taught RS but at the same time they must be taught about the alternative to religion i.e. not believing. Is atheism part of the curriculum anywhere?

      Yes of course it is! The UK curriculum is RE as what certain people believe or don’t believe and how that effects their approaches to society. There is no “this is right or true” element to what people believe, merely “this is what the RCC believes, this is what Muslims believe etc”. And towards the gcse our RE teachers also discuss things in the context and culture in which they were first written. Hence our RE teachers when discussing the garden of eden, talking snake and childbirth put it into the context of a nomadic people who want to believe in some sort of good deity but see crops failing, childbirth killing and snakes biting. So make something up to explain it.

      To be honest large parts of it deal with things like global warming, poverty, war etc. Do not mistake teaching children about a feature of all cultures with proselytising.

  3. Comparative religion is a significant branch of anthropology, because religion is one of the major constituents of culture. It is also very important for historians to be aware of the variety of religious belief-systems and their effects on human thinking and behavior. Hopefully, as the ideas and values of the Enlightenment and the Scientific Revolution work their way through societies, religion will become less and less a constituent of cultures in future. For now, however, religion is still an important societal phenomenon that one needs to be educated about.

  4. re comment 8,it changed a bit since my days at school.the old “O level” was based on the synoptic gospels and there relationship with each other.similar to the english literature obsession with shakespear but with less choice

  5. I just love how some atheists get so carried away by their dislike of religion that they completely lose any rational approach to it.

    By the same token, we shouldn’t teach the history of War to children because war is just terrible. Or scrap Illiad and Odyssey because they present Zeus and Athena like they actually exist(what?bleh!!).

    Religion is how a large portion of humanity viewed the world, including some of the greatest minds in history like Plato or Confusius or Newton, and no, those weren’t criminal psychopaths that were poisoning everything in their path.

    That doesn’t mean they were right of course, but how people think and used to think is what shapes the societies we live in today.

    Children can be tought exactly that; how various groups of people viewed or continue to view the world, in an objective manner, taking into acount the temporal and spatial context in each instance.

    And they don’t need for the course to explicitly point out “these people are stoopid of course and this is all bullshit; all you need to read is the God Delusion”. They’ll hopefully reach that conclusion themselves. Whatever happened to “teach them how to think, not what to think?”.

    • In reply to #12 by JoxerTheMighty:

      Religion is how a large portion of humanity viewed the world, including some of the greatest minds in history like Plato or Confusius or Newton, and no, those weren’t criminal psychopaths that were poisoning everything in their path.

      I don’t buy this argument. Newton, and many others, believed in astrology and alchemy. Do we teach special courses on these topics or do we just mention this as a passing oddity in a history course ?

      My argument for teaching religion to children would be because it still plays such an important role in the world. Unfortunately.

      Michael

  6. Well, there you go then…I was thinking more along the lines that it would be kind of hard for the course to study questions of the type “what is the atheistic viewpoint on XYZ matter”, at least harder than it would be for doing the same with the more crystallized religious dogmas, but yes, teaching atheistic literature about the various reasons people have rejected religion and the supernatural would make sense. I stand corrected. :)

  7. I will try to understan it:

    • The SCIENCE is based on the idea that all natural process are “natural” (by natural-laws) and we can know them using “models and theory”, and the more important, WE MUST do experiments and try to “proof” that the models are correct (or proof that are wrong). The building of theories are complex, and the relation with reality are indirect, but they have a strong relation (the radio works, the phone and much more). An scientific article can’t include “supernatural” arguments

    • The RELIGION is the opposite and is based on the idea tha are “supernatural” things.

    • You (and me) can be a scientist and a religious man, but that do not mean nothing: you can be a police and an assassin at same time, but this only mean that we are human with an emotional brain, and not that “police and crime are compatible”. Because that, if you include a supernatural argument to explain some part of reality in an article, no review or scientific publication in this world will accept your article (and will think that you are crazy).

    THEN:

    FIRST teach children this true, the absolute intellectual contradiction between the basic ideas of religion and science, and after that, teach them the history of religions as part of History (is very interesting this dark part of History) and after that say them: “in the future, you can decide for yourself”.

    BUT I fear that NO-RELIGION want that: The free-education of free-men in developped countries is the WORST enemy of religion (This is NOT an opinion, is a simply fact).

  8. When I read the title of this piece, I thought “what on earth for?”
    I mistook it to mean teaching religion to children, as opposed to teaching children about religion. The latter is a good exercise in promoting critical thinking and the ability to detect BS, whereas the former is a form of child abuse.
    In these parts, “teaching religion” always means indoctrination, especially in reference to children. So, you startled me a bit! Too early for April Fool’s, so….

  9. I don’t think there should be a class specifically on religion.
    The course should also cover a wide range of superstitions and irrational beliefs.
    Numerology, astrology, phrenology, ghoasts, witches, psychics, luck.

  10. Every child in my school year did at least 3 years of religious education (apart from one Jehovah’s Witness who we all thought was weird anyway). This was 20 years ago. My school had/has at least 1600 pupils.
    That’s a lot of RE.

    How is this news?

  11. I have to confess that I was scared when I saw the title, especially coming from a fellow M(a)cAfee, but having read the full document I wholeheartedly approve. In high school I studied Latin, and so Greek and Roman mythology, but somehow I found Norse mythology to be the most interesting. I grew up in a somewhat Christian household (we went to church on a regular basis), and went to private Christian schools about half the time. Having found how to use my mind properly, I will never consider exposing my son to the same dogma, but I was always concerned about whether to approach the issue at all, knowing that it would eventually come up. This article provides the obvious solution–treat them all as equally mythological.
    It also makes a great deal of sense to me to combine Religious Studies with Philosophy — if they are properly contrasted. Thanks so much for helping me address this issue.

  12. I completely agree that children should be taught about religion in a completely secular manner. It should be taught within or as one would teach any other history or social studies course – that is to say, completely objectively. Regardless of the existence or non-existence of a god or gods, religion has always been and continues to be a significant influence on culture, politics, etc., etc., such that ignorance of the subject is foolish, to say the least.

    That said, I count myself as one of the ignorant. I don’t want this ignorance to continue, and I certainly don’t want my children to grow up that way. Does anyone recommend any books or other resources that would be good to help me educate my children (and myself, by extension) on this specific subject? (I already teach them about science and the physical world fairly well, I think. Of course I’m not above improvement.) My preference would be to not have religion put in a bad light any more than spelling out the facts already would.

  13. Because pseudo science & pseudo reason justifications of non-existence of God are baseless.

    Newton & Einstein had rejected aether before introducing their laws & theories. Whereas aether has been shown to be existing and containing the secrets of light & time. Once aether is accepted space is again finite & absolute and filled up with aether, the electric dipoles, and it is aether through which forces of nature are transmitted as against the irrational action at a distance through fields without knowing the physicality of the fields, time is emergent & relative depending upon motion of the observer, and as humans perceive it, time is emergent and matter is not absolute but emergent. (This alternative paradigm reveals that there is very powerful God who has power on matter & time and everything existing in the finite space and existence of God is the prerequisite for the creation & existence of universe ).
    In brief the scenario is as under
    Aristotle:- Space- absolute & finite; time- absolute, matter-absolute, light/radiation- not properly known

    Newton:- Space, time & matter same as Aristotle; light a wave-motion with corpuscular theory

    Einstein:- Space- interconnected with time & emergent, Time-emergen & interconnected with space & relative, matter & Energy (light/radiation) is absolute & transmutable and light/radiation as wave-motion with no clue as to what is light/radiation physically.

    Final state of existence:- Space-absolute & finite, time- emergent & relative depending on the motion of the observer/body with respect to aether at rest frame of reference, matter-emergent & finite, light/radiation- a electromagnetic disturbance of electric dipoles of aether creating a wave motion and all forces of nature being
    electromagnetic forces which is being transmitted through aether, the electric dipoles.

    Following is the list of my published scientific articles in peer-reviewed journals & sites where these articles are available
    1. Experimental & Theoretical Evidences of Fallacy of Space-time Concept and Actual State of Existence of the Physical Universe
    2. Foundation of Theory of Everything: Non-living Things & Living Things (Revised version on World Science Database, General Science Journal, Vixra and Academia.edu in my profile)
    3.Michelson-Morley Experiment: A Misconceived & Misinterpreted Experiment
    4. Energy Theory of Matter & Cosmology (Revised version on World Science Database, General Science Journal, Vixra and Academia.edu in
    my profile)
    5. ‘On the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies’ by Albert Einstein is Based on Trickeries (www.elixirjournal.org Feb.2012)
    6.Ultimate Proof of Energy Theory of Matter & Cosmology
    7. Theory of Origin & Phenomenon of Life
    These publications are available at the journal site of Indian Journal
    of Science & Technology (a peer-reviewed journal) http://www.indjst.org
    (March 2012,oct 2010, oct 2011,Aug 2010) and also on
    http://www.gsjournal.net, http://www.worldsci.org, viXra, Intellectual Archives,
    ResearchGate & Academia.edu in my profile.
    On the basis of above-mentioned articles an open challenge has been put forward to the adopted paradigm of physics. The standing (till date) open challenge could seen at
    http://www.worldsci.org/php/index.php
    and
    http://www.gsjournal.net/Science-Journals/Essays/View/4018.

  14. There should be no class devoted to an education in religions and myths. They should be treated as any other literature. A broader approach to History would be in order. Today most children learn mainly about the history of their own country. If they were to learn about the history of the world and the cultures that existed over time, they might be able to put myths in their historical and cultural context.

  15. There is a good deal of misinformation about religious education in English schools in this thread. In the first place, there are thousands of state schools affiliated to particular religions. Catholic, (some) Anglican, Jewish and Muslim state schools indoctrinate children in their faith. RE is not part of the national curriculum and in non-religious schools its content will depend on the make-up of local authority committees. Abolishing the legal requirement for religious worship and RE would free time to use for educational purposes.

  16. The problem isn’t the teaching of religion, but the people who teach it. They already have an agenda going in the lectures. And if you disagree, then you’re automatically an asshole that should be ridiculed by the entire class.

  17. As a survivor of Catholic education (indoctrination), I have taken the time to fully analyze how the church channels inquiry into acceptance of the absurd as not only credible but wonderfully miraculous. This blind faith is driven by, figuratively speaking, cognitive implants leading to automaton responses rather than thoughtful reflection. Church father Tertullian’s quote “I believe because it is absurd” was somewhat off the mark. It should have been “I believe because limits have been placed on my imagination and curiosity”. Aside from the mind control, the systematic abuse of human rights, torture, genocide, and discrimation, there is hypocrisy dressed in finery and surrounded by wealth. I find all religions to be vestigual and parasitic. While I know good religious people, I recognize their fear reflex and cognitive “governor” limiting free inquiry. It is the fortress of their belief and thinking becomes tediously painful to contemplate. Perhaps with time and sustained effort, these mythological superstitions will fade away.

  18. I was one of those children who went through the water baptisms, watched the crazy movies about hell, learned early on that atheists were evil and demonic, and so on. How I made it out of the weeds so to speak, is difficult to even explain. Tenacity and open-mindedness overcame forceful family members and friends from the community I grew up in (W. Texas area). My young brain was so oppressed by the dichotomy between budding logic and the force-fed illogical explanations for everything, that I left real quick at 18. Finally in college I could choose to learn about evolution, logic, mythology, biology, etc and I was happy again, connected to life. It still took further years to abandon and overturn the belligerent and nonsensical methods of the majority. It’s pure evil in the sense that you either conform or die for all practical purposes. I have gone through so much anguish at the hands of my ultra-religious parent and extended family but at this point, all that matters is I’m clear and free and most important, still open-minded. The future might be Europe given the statistics you mentioned; however, things are changing in America and that is good, very good. I think this type of broad education, including religions is so key to the future of this country. I can remember as a youth being so incensed by new stories of someone in NY who’d sued to have ‘under God’ removed from the Pledge of Allegiance. It sounded perfectly reasonable that this person was evil to my young mind with no other perspective available. It was presented to us in church and there was no resulting discussion anywhere else. The American majority’s similarity to Saudi Arabia is chilling, indeed.

  19. A wonderful example of rationality. My child has been taught about the 3 abrahamic religions operating around the globe right now. My child was also taught about some “frindge religions”, which i find quite interesting and very different from the patriarchal lineage. I agree with the authors view. To fully educate a child in all ranges of religious affiliation. It gives them an awarness of questioning (which, i love!). I cannot abide indoctrination of children. I totally agree with Dawkins, Hitchens and Harris……its tatamount to pscyhological abuse.

    • In reply to #42 by Chico2004:

      A wonderful example of rationality. My child has been taught about the 3 abrahamic religions operating around the globe right now. My child was also taught about some “frindge religions”, which i find quite interesting and very different from the patriarchal lineage. I agree with the authors view. T…

      I think that in making your point you have, maybe deliberately, maybe inadvertently, hit on the most important point. The use of the word about is what makes all the difference.
      Think about the implications of these two phrases:
      Children should be taught religion, and,
      Children should be taught about religion.
      The first is the path to indoctrination, and the second is the path to intellectual freedom.

      Like it or not, and I don’t, religion exists still and to ignore it by leaving it out of social curricula means handing our children over to the theists of all stamps who will not hesitate to fill their minds with crap, against which they will have little defence.

  20. In reply to #6 by TenderHooligan:

    In reply to #4 by stuart.coleman:

    It’s integral to the curriculum in the UK. The syllabus must encourage children to look at all possible alternatives and philosophies, and how the ethical issues such as abortion, scientific research involving animals, dealing with poverty, may be addressed by different world views, including humanistic or atheistic ones.

    Oh really? I attend a state grammar school with no particular religious ethos (one prayer a year.) But humanist/secularist views have never been mentioned during my RS lessons; unless I bring them up, in which case they are quickly dismissed.

  21. I think we need to teach logic in high school before religious studies; logic is something people in an informed democracy desperately need. Then all good reasoning follows that. Where I live, logic wasn’t taught till college, and not everybody makes it to college. I think educators assume kids are unable to comprehend it- but the whole point of education should be teaching them how to think and evaluate ideas, then they will use that skill toward all issues (ideally) from there.

    Religious studies can simply fall under “humanities” or cultural studies. It only need be a survey; I mean just one of the “big 3″ alone can take a whole course as there’s a lot of history there.

  22. Hi,

    This topic is really interesting as it focuses on how we can help our children to become what they would really want to become, even if free will is an illusion. If our children are aware of the mechanism behind religions and human brain and psychology, the they can decide by themselves. Even if this approach is partial as a non believer one!

    It’s in this way the fact we decide to teach about religion is a way to open their mind to become a bright in the future or why not a believer if that what they decide. And it will be easier if we help them to understand that many religions exist and many other ones have disapeared also. That’s I think one of the biggest chance we can offer to new generation to have a new experience about religions by making them understand with reason why religion has been so successfull.

    To be honest, that’s what I want to offer to my son that’s less than one month old…;-)…

    Best,

    JHA

  23. We should certainly teach our children ethics, and if the good examples are from religious works (any type), that’s fine with me. For the last few thousand years all the good material has been presented in a religious format, and we don’t have good secular alternatives at the moment.

  24. “Once the child is old enough to think logically about the possible veracity of various religions, it is often too late…”

    This statement implies that logical thinking is inevitably a product of age, which is not true. In fact, if this is the author’s thesis, his whole argument is invalid.

    Formal logic can be taught to children. If anything, that should be a prerequisite to teaching any nonsense like religion. Otherwise, you will probably lose any and all the children who don’t have the skills to understand the logical precepts of the arguments against religion.

    For example, the author states, “Children are naturally curious…” Maybe, but the salient fact here is that children tend to be CREDULOUS. Without training in logic to parse propositions the net effect of pouring religious garbage into their heads is going to end up vis a vis the old maxim “Garbage in, Garbage out”.

    Teaching religion to defenseless children is only going to screw them up. The author should consider the role of counselor and the responsibility of forming young minds to a higher standard of critical thinking. Comparative religion is a subject for adults aware of the stupidity of their fellow man and understand the intellectual tragedy of it, not a subject for children without training.

    For example, “By educating children about the world’s many religions, historical and modern alike, we can show them that each faith is simply one culture’s attempt to explain the unknown. They can learn about religion from the perspective of an anthropologist, with a proper balance of intrigue and detachment, and gain true insight into the origin of the world’s many belief systems.” This begs the question- why is it important for a child, without skills in critical rational analysis, to “gain true insight into the world’s many belief systems”? Again, the cart is put before the horse. All that is accomplished here is teacher, as accomplice, to religion, not reason, in its probable effects. For what do we gain from inculcating children by making such nonsense stories seductive with “intrigue and detachment”? And why does the author believe it is likely an untrained, credulous child is served by handing him answers and leaving him without skills?

    What society needs is adults who have calibrated BS detectors. Give them the skills of logic and reason, and they’ll think for the rest of their lives, teach them comparative religion and they’ll eat for a day (to demolish a metaphor).

  25. As the atheist champion of global Humanism, Richard Dawkins is now on a world crusade to eliminate the “child abuse” caused by religion, particularly Christianity. However, if Richard is really concerned about the “well-being” of children he should start with Humanism itself. Humanist activists has done more to decimate the well-being of children than any other ideology. Thanks to the agenda advocated, promoted and implemented by Humanism’s pro-abortion activism “millions of children” are now being torn apart by abortionists. With the heads of late term children being crushed as they struggle to exit the womb. Their tiny hearts still beating as they lay dying on abortion clinic benches.

    Then we have Richards alternative education agenda, Where all children are taught that they live in an “indifferent” universe that is devoid of ultimate meaning and purpose. A place where humans are nothing special, being merely the product “selfish genes”. Simply the result of “undirected” chance cosmic events. Along with uncaring evolutionary processes that operates on the “survival of the fittest” and “nature red in tooth and claw”. Of course, Richard wants teachers to encourages children to live otherwise. In the hope that children will not practice what Dawkins and all other like minded teachers preach. However, the headlines of newspapers would daily herald the impact and consequences of this emerging anti-religious godless mindset.

    To this we add the global Humanist movements grand contribution to the legalization and widespread availability of pornography.
    And the fostering of related lifestyles. Such that porn is being widely viewed by children and young adults alike. Who now largely perceive this “anything goes” environment as the new cultural norm. Everything was now “relative”, they insist, particularly morality. The “absolute principle” of the Humanist utopia is that there are “no moral absolutes”. Thus, there was no ultimate basis for good and evil, right and wrong, or even justice and injustice.. As an indifferent uncaring godless universe had no ultimate place for such invented human notions. It was all about the “well-being” of humanity, they said. And what constituted the “well-being” of individuals and society would be decided by the godless ruling governing elite. As Caesar, the French Revolution, Napoleon, Stalin, Hitler, Mao, Pol Pot, and countless others have well demonstrated.

    Of course, in such a godless utopia, all children would be warned to stay away from Christian views and values. No mention was to be made of the Ten Commands, the sanctity of marriage, sacrificial service and giving, turning the other cheek, returning good for evil, looking after the unborn, or caring for the poor and the needy. As the teaching such values and ideals was “child abuse”, said Richard and co.

  26. I, personally, love mythology. And I couldn’t agree with this article more. If you added hard-hitting history, propositional logic, civics, and evolutionary biology, you’d have a non-religious country with no right wing extremists in a single generation.

  27. How does one become a “confirmed” atheist? I too am a non believer, but I wasn’t aware of any confirmation process; or for that matter a need for one. Religious studies should be taught with ancient mythology. Then, Yahweh, Jehovah, Allah, Buddha, Vishnu etc… can join the mass grave of gods in antiquity that no longer have any power and can cease to plague humanity. In reply to #5 by TenderHooligan:

    In reply to #2 by Steven Mading:

    If I was a kid in a religious studies class in school the problem I’d have with it is that I’d probably be required to treat the subject with a level of respect it simply does not deserve and has not earned.

    Believe me, it’s really not like that. As a confirmed ath…

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