March 11, 2007

Comparative Religion was one of the best classes I had in high school

I'm gonna sound a bit egotistical. But, I'm smart.

Throughout primary school, and most of high school I was one of those kids who was "smarter than the system". This wasn't a good thing. It made me lazy and loathe to actually think. Before I started Study of Religion, grudgingly so (Catholic school), I'd rarely done any classes that made me think. I took easy subjects that I could easily understand and were based mostly on BIOS (basic in and out), science, maths, languages and basic English, as well as Religious Education. Nothing with a real social or philosophical ramifications of thought built in. The closest may have been a unit of Africa, where we spent a lot of time being taught by a young female idealist about apartheid era South Africa.

In R.E. it was still BIOS. You memorised gospel stories, you learnt prayers, you learnt Christian theological systems of hierachy etc. SOR was a big change. Being asked to compare philosphical ramifications, historical takes and a "purpose" for religion (what religion is a tool?) was a big change in learning how to think and look at the world. The two years of study started with learning about Creation myths, went through how ethics are derived from religion and how religion can be drived by society, and ended with us "creating" our own religion for assessment.

I didn't notice any of the students fearing the blasphemy involved. I don't think any nasty letters were written home. It exposed us to a lot of culture we wouldn't otherwise have directly pursued information on. And yes, I do think it probably directly affected a few (if not a lot) of students belief systems, whether strengthing, shattering, or just lightly altering.

Now let's see what happens when a similar course is given in an American public school.

The teacher gets sued. And is accused of putting religion down and catering to atheism... wtf? Discussing religions in an equal light is putting religion down and catering to atheims. I agree with PZ, this sort of course affirms and supports the powerful role of religion in society.
Conservatives in America deplore that morality and religion is being shut out of school, and then get upset when they make moves to put it back. They should be applauding the presence of such classes.

This student is insulting Iroquois mythology by suggesting comparing Christianity with it is dismissive and insulting to Chrsitian doctrine. These sorts of comparitive classes play an important role in combatting such indoctrinated dismissiveness that people who have never had to face questions to their faith seem to possess. Even Jesus was tempted three times.


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