Religion in public schools: America is religious, but also illiterate of religion

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  • emeyer Westerville, OH
    Oct. 10, 2013 7:31 p.m.

    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!

  • The Scientist Provo, UT
    Dec. 12, 2012 10:09 a.m.

    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...

  • Rural sport fan DUCHESNE, UT
    Dec. 10, 2012 10:48 p.m.

    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.

  • A Scientist Provo, UT
    Dec. 10, 2012 7:12 p.m.

    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.

  • The Deuce Livermore, CA
    Dec. 10, 2012 10:14 a.m.

    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.

  • Hunam Layton, UT
    Dec. 10, 2012 6:20 a.m.

    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.

  • cavetroll SANDY, UT
    Dec. 8, 2012 7:40 p.m.

    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.

  • Owl Salt Lake City, UT
    Dec. 8, 2012 11:57 a.m.

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

  • casual observer Salt Lake City, UT
    Dec. 8, 2012 11:53 a.m.

    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.

  • xert Santa Monica, CA
    Dec. 8, 2012 10:39 a.m.

    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.

  • pragmatistferlife salt lake city, utah
    Dec. 8, 2012 8:34 a.m.

    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.

  • Tekakaromatagi Dammam, Saudi Arabia
    Dec. 8, 2012 7:46 a.m.

    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.

  • Schwa South Jordan, UT
    Dec. 8, 2012 12:15 a.m.

    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.

  • TimBehrend Auckland NZ, 00
    Dec. 7, 2012 6:04 p.m.

    "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.

  • John C. C. Payson, UT
    Dec. 5, 2012 2:06 a.m.

    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.

  • Howard Beal Provo, UT
    Dec. 3, 2012 9:49 p.m.

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

  • Res Novae Ashburn, VA
    Dec. 3, 2012 6:11 p.m.

    @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.

  • NedGrimley Brigham City, UT
    Dec. 3, 2012 4:23 p.m.

    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.

  • RanchHand Huntsville, UT
    Dec. 3, 2012 11:01 a.m.


    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".

  • raybies Layton, UT
    Dec. 3, 2012 10:52 a.m.

    The bigotry of some is pretty clear by their comments here. So this comment's addressed to those folks who are attacking Utah, the Mormons or religion in general.

    First. You clearly didn't read the article. The article does not mention that Utah is worse than any other state, despite comments claiming that this is so. In fact, it appears to be the opposite, in that one of the schools that implemented a world religions course was based in Utah.

    Like with most topics, the commenters don't actually read the articles, want to complain about Utah, its people, the Mormons, and join the discussion with their preconceptions blazing. Why even read the Deseret News if you're going to disagree with things that you haven't even read?

    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.

  • Open Minded Mormon Everett, 00
    Dec. 3, 2012 10:16 a.m.

    The more I've studies religions around the world,
    the more I've realized we are ALL Children of the same God.

    Burying one's head in the sand is a closed mind, hard-heart and stiff-neck.

  • woodrob12 Charleston, SC
    Dec. 3, 2012 8:40 a.m.

    @TimpClimber, You should have asked for the books to be shelved where they belong: Fiction.

  • RanchHand Huntsville, UT
    Dec. 3, 2012 8:23 a.m.

    I don't see any problem teaching a course on world religions in public schools. The problem is that Christian Americans only want their religion taught.

  • timpClimber Provo, UT
    Dec. 3, 2012 8:07 a.m.

    15 years ago I tried to establish a section for religious books in our high school library when I learned that such a section would not be against the law. I had approached the leaders of 10 major religions in Salt Lake City to donate five of their best books about their faith. They were all willing to donate. Then the anti-God folks got wind of the project and threatened to sue. I suggested they choose five books and add them to the section. But the project got scuttled by the district administrators who didn't want to be the first in the State to try such a project. I still think it would be valuable and give students the opportunity to explore more than the latest vampire novel.

  • mightymite DRAPER, UT
    Dec. 2, 2012 5:48 p.m.

    Sounds alot like Utah. Alot is know about religion but very little is known of Christianity.

  • The Deuce Livermore, CA
    Dec. 2, 2012 3:55 p.m.

    To: Ultra Bob Cottonwood Heights, UT - you do make a good point regarding the economic motivation for war. I also agree that there are times when religion is used as an excuse and rally point for such action. I would also agree that a class discussing all religions should also provide the point of view of those who do not believe in any religion. Again, by understanding the belief systems of others, helps us to work better together. The class mentioned in the article does not try to prove one belief system over another, buy simply to understand what the belief system is. Relgious values do and will continue to drive the actions of people in this world. You can either bury you head in the sand and pretend religion doesn't mean anything, or you can try and understand how relgion works in the lives of others around the world.

  • Baccus0902 Leesburg, VA
    Dec. 2, 2012 9:39 a.m.

    Ultra Bob,
    As in any wave of ideas, there certain aspects that you can verify. Most religions attempt to give answer regarding meaning, can you verify that empirically? I would say, No! However, it is interesting and relevant to know how people arrived to those answers.

    Personally, I am fascinated by the subject of religion (even though I follow none)and is illuminating to see the similarities and differences. Through out history religion has given hope to many, also religion has been used as excused for conquest and the erasing of cultures.

    Obviously religion fills a void in human beings, and people do many beautiful and horrible things motivated by religion. Such a force should be studied and hopefully understood. With Earth becoming smaller, intercultural exchanges become more prevalent. It would be intresting to know how other people answer the same questions we have.

  • Ultra Bob Cottonwood Heights, UT
    Dec. 2, 2012 6:20 a.m.

    The Deuce.

    My problem with the point of view of this article and many of the posts is that I don’t believe that religion had any thing to do with "the classic events in American history — the Revolution, the Civil War, the New Deal, the Reagan Revolution or the Middle east, or the Wisconsin teachers Union or the Occupy Wall street. I believe all wars are economic wars. They may be fought under religious banners but the true purpose is always the struggle to be successful winners in the commercial competition of people.

    The revolutionary war was about who would get to make the rules and collect the taxes of commercial business rather than being about religious freedom. The colonies were more concerned about keeping their religious monopolies that about individual freedom. Because he who controls government controls wealth. When I read the Declaration of Independence, I see a recruiting poster written more to Americans than the King.

    Does the class in religion include the religion of non-belief? Or is it just another part of the campaign to keep religion in general in it’s unjustified position of importance.

  • The Deuce Livermore, CA
    Dec. 1, 2012 9:43 p.m.

    To: Ultra Bob - Cottonwood Heights, UT: I believe you have missed the point of the article. Understanding beliefs and faith that influences human behavior is one of the best ways to understand how we can work together. Ignorance of a person's belief system (religion) leads to much misunderstanding. Take a look at the Middle East if you need an example. This type of class should be mandatory for all high schools and colleges. We just may find ourselves better understanding the world around us.

  • Ultra Bob Cottonwood Heights, UT
    Dec. 1, 2012 7:10 p.m.

    Baccus0902, Leesburg, VA, says: “Being religious without knowledge is just being superstitious.”

    How does one acquire knowledge about religion. Is there any thing in this world that would actually be a verifiable truth about religion?

  • Ultra Bob Cottonwood Heights, UT
    Dec. 1, 2012 7:08 p.m.

    The purpose of religion is to enslave the minds of men. It’ much cheaper than military conquest, all you have to have is a good story about life after death. The reason to enslave the minds of men is to garner and control the wealth of the world.

    Death being the ultimate fear in all of life is a natural part of living. In humans it makes them vulnerable to the tales and imaginations of unscrupulous charlatans with ulterior motives. The beneficial peace and comfort is gained simply by believing, it matters not whether the story is true or not.

    Logic should tell us that all religions cannot be true because they are all different. Being different should tell us that some are lies. While the stories cannot all be true, they could all be false.

  • Beowulf Portland, OR
    Dec. 1, 2012 6:16 p.m.

    BYU has always had good classes on world religions. As an Asian Studies major in the 1970s, I had good grounding in Buddhism, Confucianism, and Hinduism, as well as the folk religions of China, Korea, and Japan. Islam is also well-covered. Hamblin and Peterson guesting today for the DN are both scholars of Islam at BYU.

    Come to think of it, more to the point of this article, I had world religions at Provo HS in my senior year.

  • Roland Kayser Cottonwood Heights, UT
    Dec. 1, 2012 5:03 p.m.

    I remember seeing a study fairly recently that found that atheists and agnostics know far more about religion than religious people. Interesting.

  • Howard Beal Provo, UT
    Dec. 1, 2012 4:57 p.m.

    I took a World Religions course at BYU of all places. Not one mention of LDS theology the entire time. We talked about all the major world religions. It was taught by a guest professor from China I believe. I wonder if BYU still offers this course or whether it has relented under "pressure". The climate of BYU was actually more liberal a generation ago in regards to its educational approach. Let me know on this one because I'm curious...

  • Henry Drummond San Jose, CA
    Dec. 1, 2012 4:36 p.m.

    As a college professor I can tell you that secular religion course are only opposed by a handful of people. You can talk to any number of instructors who teach these courses and they all have stories about phone calls and threats from ministers or atheists. As the article points out, its usually the "risk adverse" administration who buckles under.

    There are some things worth fighting for and this is one them. I don't think we should let a radical set of bullies keep students from learning about and appreciating the religious traditions of other people. I grew up in an environment where I lived and went to school with people from many different ethnic and religious backgrounds. It greatly enriched my life. I hope the rising generation can have the same opportunity.

  • sharrona layton, UT
    Dec. 1, 2012 2:27 p.m.

    RE: The Quran is the holy book of Islam or that the Dalai Lama is Buddhist.

    Christians, and Jews believe that God created all that exists ex nihilo (out of nothing). Mormonism is quite different in its cosmology, claiming that God fashioned the universe out of preexisting material. God is eternal in some forms of LDS theology, but so is preexisting matter, including the material used by God to create human beings.

    Ecc 12:7)… the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.

    In (2Tim 1:9 & Titus 1:2)God existed before time, implying he created time.
    … God who gives life to the dead and Calls into Being things that were not.(Romans 4:17 NIV

  • Claudio Springville, Ut
    Dec. 1, 2012 11:43 a.m.

    Why is America illiterate in religion? Because we fear indoctrination by our evil government and their pawn teachers who will surely doom our children.

    Why is Utah the leader in this illiteracy? Because too many LDS parents make up visions in their heads that their kids will be corrupted to believe their religion is wrong. In other words, these parents feel that the only way to have good values and be a good person is to be a member of the same religion. You're raising great missionaries, folks!

  • Hutterite American Fork, UT
    Dec. 1, 2012 11:26 a.m.

    Religion can be fully embraced without knowing anything about it. That's how it divides us, because we can use it, and do use it, to our own ends.

  • Baccus0902 Leesburg, VA
    Dec. 1, 2012 10:59 a.m.

    Totally in agreement with the article.
    Being religious without knowledge is just being superstitious.

    This apply to any movement of ideas i.e. politics, philosophy.

    It is interesting to see when people accuse others of being "islamist" or "socialist" or something else, as if following those ideas were somehow negative, instead of "just" a different perspective of the world.

    I find particularly clever the last line of the article.