Teach knowledge, not beliefs
How do you “know” something is true as opposed to merely believing it to be so?
Simple: knowledge is based upon facts, while beliefs are based upon desires.
We know life has existed on our planet for at least 3 billion years because of facts based upon verifiable data that is both observable, testable and conclude with the exact same results each time.
However, some “believe” this data to be false based upon their desire for it not to be true, thus rationalizing their perceived existence of magic and the supernatural.
A recent commentary on this page suggested religion (a.k.a. the supernatural and its associated magical beings) should be taught in public schools in order to allow the next generation to understand why some still harbor these ancient beliefs, and of course comprehend why many are more than willing to kill other human beings in its defense.
I agree to a point, but for entirely different reasons.
Religion is part of our history ” mankind’s history ” and as such should be included in our teachings of history, right alongside politics, economics, language and science. Also keep in mind that astrology and Santa Claus are a part of recorded history, and belong on the list as well.
Future generations should not be kept in the dark about anything, no matter how embarrassing or seemingly irrelevant, concerning our past. It is an integral part of how we learn.
Yesterday we grimaced at human sacrifices made to sun gods like Ra. Today we laugh at the absurdity of Greeks constructing temples to appease their outlandish beliefs in Zeus, Apollo, Poseidon and the rest of the gang.
Tomorrow’s children will chuckle when their history books reveal how segments of 21st century man still clung to beliefs of angels and demons.
But thanks to the historical teachings of these concepts that we used to “believe” but now “know” to be false, mankind can continue his never-ending quest for further knowledge better informed, and keep moving forward as a species.
The thousands of religions, along with the thousands of deities created by man over thousands of years, should always be included as a part of our history, but none should ever be singled out except to show its particular relevance upon the cultural and societal impacts of its day.
To imply that just a few of today’s more popular religions should be studied in depth publicly, however, opens the proverbial Pandora’s Box in a tax-funded educational environment.
This is not only morally and ethically wrong, but would guarantee tens of thousands of lawsuits by those not endorsing the Top Five (or whatever number you choose).
Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism and Judaism would indeed cover a large spectrum, but nowhere near the complete picture. Sikhism, Shinto, Mithraism, Paganism, Zoroastrianism, Rastafarianism and even the comically-endowed Scientology are but a few of the literally hundreds of fully recognized religions around the globe today.
Public dollars could not be spent teaching one unless they taught all others as well.
That alone is one of the biggest reasons why “religious teachings” should continue to be held far, far away from the “teaching of religion as it relates to history.”
There is a tremendous difference between the two.
Children deserve to learn in a public school what we know about man’s history, but what their parents want them to believe is an entirely separate subject; one that should remain at home, or at least outside public school walls.
Attempting to teach what some wish to believe has only served to breed ignorance, mistrust and hate in the past, but teaching what we know as fact is what we can count on to combat those irrational fears for the future.
Richard Carnes of Edwards writes a biweekly column for the Daily. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.