Thursday, August 16, 2007

Awesome Post Over At Rule Of Reason

I can't believe I waited a whole day to read this amazing post about "Bible Studies" classes being offered in government schools. Oh sure I had lots of packing to do (almost done!) and "quality time" to spend with my "family" but really that's no excuse.

Biblical allusions and references doubtless occur in much Western literature; they even appear in Ayn Rand’s novels. Some day, if the world does not descend into another Dark Age, the Bible and its companion texts from other faiths will exert as little influence on men’s minds and on the culture as Hitler’s Mein Kampf and Nostradamus’s Centuries do today. For the time being, however, children and adolescents should not be made to study the Bible. They are already assaulted in their education by criminally irrational pedagogical policies; Bible studies simply underscore the arbitrary eclecticism. No individual should attempt to study the Bible unless he is a full-grown, mature, rational adult. Then he will have a chance to grasp its utter irrationality.

Oh, I'm proud to be an American atheist! Correction: A homeschooling American atheist!


MamaJen said...

Actually, I found this article to be offensive on many levels. The overweening disdain for us religious folks is much more than annoying - but hey, he knows his audience, and it ain't me, so that's fine. What I found disturbing, though, is the implication that no one other than grad students of literature need to know the Bible because, after all, it's not like we're teaching young people Shakespeare anymore, right? Especially as someone who is such an advocate of Reason above all else, why is he so dismissive of the fact that so many of our youth have no instruction in our culture's treasures? Now, I'm no advocate of mandatory bible studies in our compulsory governmental schools (I'm an Irish Catholic, after all), and you know I'm how I feel about government schools, in general, but the real issue is bigger. I *do* think that you absolutely have to know the Bible, at *least* on a literary level, to understand anything about the history and underpinnings of Western culture. In addition, I think a basic knowledge of the major religions is essential to understanding the world (how can you grasp a potentially dangerous situation like Iran without a fundamental understanding of Islam, for example?) Personally, I think an elective course at the high school level on "Bible literacy and world religions" in government funded schools would be just fine, perhaps even a Good Thing. And yes, let's teach our kids Shakespeare again!!

Indeed, as I homeschool, I will teach my own kids the Bible, Shakespeare, (and, Catholic that I am, they'll even be taught Reason and Logic...) and again, you know that I find government funded and controlled compulsory education abhorrent - but let's face it, the vast majority of people in this nation go to public schools. I personally would rather they be MORE educated, rather than less, because the "unwashed masses" aren't going anywhere, and will interact with my kids and influence our world for a long time to come. The author of this article seems only to wish they would all go away.

I have to admit I find it fascinating that the author is so terrified of a book...if the Bible is truly filled with such "utter irrationality", why is he so afraid of our young people seeing it?

Rational Jenn said...

I can't possibly imagine Ed Cline being "terrified" of the Bible, nor do I think that is an emotion that comes across in the article. I sincerely doubt he's afraid of young people learning about it. He seems to think that our education dollars could be better spent and that this new trend of Bible classes is indicative of a larger cultural trend, a trend that he, as am I, is in complete disagreement with.

I think that Cline, as a considered atheist, made it very clear that he would much prefer that impressionable young children are not exposed to the Bible as such until they are older and choose to study it. I would also imagine that if there were some kind of "Atheist's Unbible" out there in the culture at large that you would not want your kids exposed to that since it is so diametrically different from what yours. You would find it utterly irrational and therefore confusing to growing minds.

I think that Cline does acknowledge the literary and cultural value of the Bible. I'm not afraid of the Bible and neither is he. As you say, it's impossible to avoid biblical references in our culture and literature. There is much value I think in learning about various cultural myths as a part of a serious study of the history of man. I've run across Objectivists who think that studying the Greek myths is a big waste of time, but I think that knowing at least some of them might make it easier to understand some of the references in books such as, say, Atlas Shrugged, since not having a clue who Atlas was or what he was known for would make the title of that book incomprehensible.

Certainly, I shouldn't be made to pay for other people's kids to study anything, much less the Bible or other religions, but that is neither here nor there since I can't stop paying or they will arrest me and the state of Georgia already offers Bible-as-Lit classes. But I really can't get all that worked up about it because I figure they're probably preaching to the choir anyway. Again, I'm happy to be a homeschooling atheist!

Rational Jenn said...

Second paragraph, next to last sentence should end..."what your beliefs are"....sorry, lost track in my editing process!

MamaJen said...

I'm sorry - I did not at all mean to upset you! If I did, please blame the heat in my un-airconditioned house for my insensitivity! :-) I actually think, from what you said, we agree on about 75- 80% of what we're talking about. Coming at it from drastically opposing viewpoints, but agreeing to a large extent, none-the-less.

No, I don't want my impressionable young children exposed to things that are diametrically opposed to our beliefs - that's one of the reasons why we're homeschoolers, after all. What I actually said in my comments, though, was that I thought that a high school level, elective course on the bible and world religions, would be a good thing, and contribute to the general literacy of our nation. I am sure that, at a high school level, my kids will read "The Communist Manifesto", "The Fountainhead", and "Mein Kampf", among other works that are not supportive of our beliefs. It is a natural progression to expose growing minds to the various thoughts and ideas of the world - but you're right, it shouldn't happen to the very young, and I did not imply that it should in any of my comments.

I felt that the author of the article seemed to not care that our nation's young people were woefully uneducated. In his opposition to exposing young people to the bible, the author seems willing to throw away the hope of educating our children in 'the classics' (ie, Shakespeare) in order to ensure there is no reason to expose kids to the bible. That, to me, indicates a certain fear. That's my interpretation - I'm certain you have a different one, and that's OK. We can agree to disagree, I think!

You know how I feel about government funded schools - I think you and I are absolutely in agreement on that point, at least! I'm very glad that we live in a place where we are each able to homeschool our children and pass along our respective values, regardless of how different they may be!

Have a good vacation, and again, no offense was intended!