Just Above Sunset
January 16, 2005 - Understanding Joan of Arc

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The argument here is that the religious right doesn’t know much about religion.  Money quote – "… according to a 1997 poll, only one out of three U.S. citizens is able to name the most basic of Christian texts, the four Gospels, and 12% think Noah's wife was Joan of Arc." 


Ha!  Well, close enough.


Actually, the fellow below argues one should teach, in public schools, what each religion is basically about.  Not a bad idea.  He says that in Europe, "religious education is the rule from the elementary grades on. So Austrians, Norwegians and the Irish can tell you about the Seven Deadly Sins or the Five Pillars of Islam." 


But we cannot be like the wimpy Europeans, can we?  Knowing just what are the Five Pillars of Islam too could be dangerous – that might corrupt our pure youth and all that.


I used to teach, each year when I was an English teacher in the seventies, a course required in that private school, The Bible as Literature.  It wasn’t religious instruction.  I had no problem with it.  But I suspect I did more harm than good.


But for your amusement note this


A Nation of Faith and Religious Illiterates

Stephen Prothero, Los Angeles Times, Wednesday, January 12, 2005


The Times tells us Prothero teaches at Boston University and is author of "American Jesus: How the Son of God Became a National Icon" (Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 2003).

Here’s the basic argument -


The sociologist Peter Berger once remarked that if India is the most religious country in the world and Sweden the least, then the United States is a nation of Indians ruled by Swedes. Not anymore. With a Jesus lover in the Oval Office and a faith-based party in control of both houses of Congress, the United States is undeniably a nation of believers ruled by the same.

Things are different in Europe, and not just in Sweden. The Dutch are four times less likely than Americans to believe in miracles, hell and biblical inerrancy. The euro does not trust in God. But here is the paradox: Although Americans are far more religious than Europeans, they know far less about religion.


And Prothero goes on to show how little folks actually know about the Bible, much less other religions.


The public policy problem?


Since 9/11, President Bush has been telling us that "Islam is a religion of peace," while evangelist Franklin Graham (Billy's son) has insisted otherwise. Who is right? Americans have no way to tell because they know virtually nothing about Islam. Such ignorance imperils our public life, putting citizens in the thrall of talking heads.


Yeah, what else is new?  If Rush Limbaugh says it, or Robert Novak, it must be so.

And the emphasis on religion has its problems - 


Now that the religious right has triumphed over the secular left, every politician seems determined to get religion. They're all asking "What Would Jesus Do?" — about the war in Iraq, gay marriage, poverty and Social Security. And though the ACLU may rage, it is not un-American to bring religious reasoning into our public debates. In fact, that has been happening ever since George Washington put his hand on a Bible and swore to uphold the Constitution. What is un-American is to give those debates over to televangelists of either the secular or the religious variety, to absent ourselves from the discussion by ignorance.


But my friend Dick in Rochester gets to the heart of the problem -


First - I am something with smatterings of pantheism and agnosticism, with mostly "don't care."  But I have long thought that a few years in school with comparative religion and how it impacted and was impacted by the world would be a great idea; however, where would be the agreed upon objectivity? 


Hell, I know that my religion is better than yours, even I don't have one. 


Were the good guys the exporters of Islam a few hundred years ago or the Richard and the other Crusaders?  Ain't none of them untainted by politics.  And with God speaking to so many people in conflicting ways can you tell the students that everyone is wacko?  Might have some repercussions.  Unfortunately not teaching anything has not been real successful either.


I see no way out.  Someone is going to be offended.


Copyright 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
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