Religious Education

The elephant in the room is exposed in a New York Times op-ed piece last week. “Indoctrinating Religious Warriors,” by Charles M. Blow, puts a finger squarely on the pulse of the ailing science stance of American religious believers. Noting that the Republican party has made no secret of its attempt to capture conservative votes by touting the religious intolerance of the theological right, Blow points out that more Republicans now believe that humans were created separately from animals than accept the scientific fact of evolution. And not just human origins suffer—our future will as well. The same mentality attends denial of global warming and advocating against fair treatment of committed, loving couples (depending solely on the visible sexual equipment). It is all of a piece. Blow points out that white, evangelical Protestants make up only 18 percent of the US population, but 43 percent of the Republicans who are classified as staunchly conservative. This imbalance leads to one of the world’s wealthiest nations being sidetracked from serious global issues while we continue to debate whether the Bible in inerrant or not.

I would add a further note of concern to what Blow says: higher education refuses to take religion seriously. As a life-long sideliner who has never been permitted fully into the halls of academe, I have watched as business schools have grown from the rubble of religion departments that have at best stagnated—when they have not been actively dismantled. In the worst case scenarios, universities have closed such departments down. With the exception of evangelical institutions. Very large departments of confessionally indoctrinated religionists thrive across the country. I am not the only religion scholar to have been kicked out of the academy for an intellectually honest approach. The wider society, with eyes wide shut, has decided that religion is a passing fancy while statistics indicate the exact opposite. We as a society will continue to be manipulated by religions as long as we continue to pretend they don’t pose a real concern.

Religion serves a purpose.

Religion serves a purpose.

Nor does castigating all religion, as Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and the late Christopher Hitchens do/did, solve any problems. Science itself appears to indicate that religion is part of the human condition, as surely a product of evolution as our opposable thumbs. Basic psychology would dictate that such direct challenges to religion will only result in retaliation. In fact, this is something that I recall learning from kindergarten. Until our society learns to go back to school and study the four R’s—yes, religion has to be there among the basics—we will continue to suffer from those who have vested interest in using religion for their own ends while those who could educate us on the subject continue to suffer the cut jobs of those who might be part of the solution. Charles Blow wonders if he is being too cynical. I suggest that he’s not nearly cynical enough.

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