Comments about ‘Religion in public schools: America is religious, but also illiterate of religion’

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Published: Saturday, Dec. 1 2012 5:00 a.m. MST

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Huntsville, UT


Having been a Mormon most of my life (not one now), I do happen to know a bit about Mormons.

"Stop picking fights with the Mormons and find a life that doesn't rely on tearing down others in order to have a life. Then maybe religious tolerance will mean something to you."

When Mormons stop "picking fights" with others then they'll actually deserve a bit of "religious tolerance".

Brigham City, UT

I wish there had been a world religions (and lack thereof) class available when I was in school. Of course, when I was in school I was a stupid teenager so would probably have blown it off. But the idea is good.

Res Novae
Ashburn, VA

@Howard Beal

Yes, BYU still offers the World Religions course, as well as more specific ones on Islam and Judaism. Having taken the World Religions class as well as a class on American religious history while I was a student at the Y, I wish there was more Mormon interest in studying comparative religion. I think we'd gain healthier understanding of our non-LDS associates, deeper respect for different religious traditions, and better perspective on the possibilities that I find beautiful in my own faith.

We're so interested in converting others that we don't make much room for dialogue. I think the former would be better off if we gave the latter a little more emphasis.

Howard Beal
Provo, UT

I just took that class because the other religion classes were killing my GPA. :) But lo and behold, I found it real interesting...

John C. C.
Payson, UT

I loved teaching about religions in my public elementary school classes. It was especially fun when members of lesser known (at least in Utah) religions were available to explain his/her beliefs. I was disappointed when I couldn't invite the children to begin our school days with prayer any more. It was a chance for many children to learn how different faiths expressed themselves.

I wonder if I ever had an atheist student. Would I have invited him/her to begin the day with some good bromide, saying or aphorism that reflected his/her family's aspirations?

I think I knew enough about other major world religions, and also about competing views from science and various form of non-belief, that I could give them a fair hearing. I just wanted them to learn that civil dialogue about deeply held beliefs is possible.

I had no interest in pushing my views on them. That would be against my religion.

Auckland NZ, 00

"Being religious without knowledge is just being superstitious."

One of the first things that a course in comparative religion would teach is that "superstition" is a word used to mean what other people believe that "we" think are silly or idiotic. It is a value-laden word that you won't find in an academic perspective that seeks to be value neutral and descriptively accurate.

"Knowledge" about religion is also of two different qualities: one, "religion as Truth", consists of internal understandings of the metaphysical, epistemological and anthropological beliefs/practices of believers (textual as well as practical); the other, "religion as natural human phenomenon", is an external understanding of the teachings/practices of a particular complex of religious ideas in comparison with similar complexes that exist and have existed in all human communities known to history. It is this second type of knowledge about religion that belongs in academic classrooms. Unfortunately, people who are personally committed to one form of religious belief and authority often consider this critical form of knowledge to be anti-religious because it relativises what they consider to be absolute and truly True.

South Jordan, UT

As an atheist I have no problem with comparative religion classes. As long as religion is being taught academically, and not taught in a way which implies or states that a certain religion is correct, then it is a good thing. I like learning about religion, despite being non-religious.

Dammam, Saudi Arabia

Knowing about religions is about learning about diversity. Lots of people in Utah are quite backwards about diversity. Learning more about religions, including Mormons would help them become more inclusive of different viewpoints. It would broaded their viewpoints.

Knowledge about different religions would help people interact with others in this modern diverse world without their prejudices always poking out.

salt lake city, utah

I agree Schwa, I too as an atheist have no problem, in fact would encourage an overview course of world religions. The problem today is how easily the religious slip into the teaching of values. They can't seperate facts from the perceived vaules of those facts. You see it on this thread.

Santa Monica, CA

A good discussion and I respect the tone of this thread. I'm sort of in the Ultra Bob camp here--but trending toward the Baccus notion that the study of these different religions, is better than remaining ignorant of something that has been such a powerful force in shaping the history of mankind for good and bad. If we are aggressively diligent in exploring both the positive and negative effects of a particular religion, and of course give equal time to the study of atheism and spirituality devoid of religion--if the attempt is to truly understand where others are coming from, being tolerant of the fact that each and every religion has it's share of good and bad people---I see no problem.

Let's say this---if the class seems just as likely to make a person leave religion as it is to make them embrace religion, go ahead and use my tax dollars.

casual observer
Salt Lake City, UT

Teaching religion is a matter best left to the home and church. Religion should not be discouraged or prevented by school policy, but it is not pubic education's province.

Salt Lake City, UT

Well said raybies. The nay sayers are more bigoted and have less room for tolerance than those they criticize.


I took a world religions class in high school. I took another in college. Some of the best classes I ever took. I believe these classes have made me a better person. Even a more spiritual one. Some people, even here in Utah need to learn there is not always one correct answer to questions. No one religion is totally correct in its teachings and doctrine. There are positive aspects and negative aspects to religious views, even atheism.

Layton, UT

I find that most people who have a problem with religions really don't know about what those religions teach--instead they have experienced a religion through its followers. A religion could be 100% true, and yet its followers are still only human.

Most people who have issues with religion don't understand how to separate what is human failing with a shortcoming in religious teachings.

Interestingly, the LDS faith claims to embrace all light and truth, and claim that spiritual truth that is available through what limited revelations they have been able to receive. That its followers fall short of that is a symptom of their humanity. I suspect that many religions and even atheists approach their own quest for understanding in much the same way.

It's also a sad fact of human failing to see the success of another a failure of our own--but attacking another belief set does not make my own more viable.

Religious tolerance allows us to explore truth and light from our own perspective without harming others in the process. It is sorely needed in this age.

The Deuce
Livermore, CA

I want to change the phrase "religious tolerance" to "religious respect". I find this requires a higher order of knowledge and action for each of us. This requires that we do seek to understand the religious basis for others thoughts, actions and motivations. This will allow us to grow closer together as a community and nation. There is room for all, including those who do not have a religious preference, background or want one. We still need to understand each other.

A Scientist
Provo, UT

Hunam wrote: "I find that most people who have a problem with religions really don't know about what those religions teach-"

Your personal "findings" are wrong.

Pew research reports that atheists know more about religion than anyone.

Try again.

Rural sport fan

A Scientist: knowing more about something isn't the same as having a problem with something. You may need to take your own advice, and try again.

Casual observer: no one is saying the school should "teach religion", the idea is that schools should teach "about" religion, so that we have a basic idea of the world view of those from other cultures.

Having lived in various parts of this world, I can tell you, most Americans could use some education on religions and cultures. Too bad the state cut back the Cultural Geography class that used to actually be the place where world religions could be discussed in high school.

The Scientist
Provo, UT

Rural sport fan

My comment did not state nor imply that it did. Hunam drew the connection between knowing and having a problem with. I simply pointed out that research shows atheists to be overall significantly more knowledgable about religion than believers.

Try again...

Westerville, OH

I am a senior in high school and attend a school where there is a special program where students can create a curriculum and then teach it to other students. I took advantage of this opportunity to teach a world religions class, not only on modern religions that we encounter, but ancient ones as well which we still see in our society. My students love it, everyone has something to contribute and we all manage to have great discussions without saying one religion is better or worse than another. Religions in public schooling is definitely a great idea!

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