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  #161  
Old 15.02.2012, 16:15
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Re: Should religion lessons in public schools be discontinued?

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..But this isn't what people want, they want "equal time" for their pet theories, to put it on a level standing, they want current science challenged, but not their own beliefs, how can this work?
I don't want equal time for my pet theories. I'm not sure I've got any... (it'd probably die from lack of food and attention if I did).

It's funny. Some people would characterise my family as "deeply religious", and I suppose in some ways we are. But we've no problem with science - love it in fact - I'm particularly interested in the intersection of geometry and string theory - and my kids seem to fit into school perfectly well, even biology lessons, with my son excelling in his physics degree. (My son's biology teacher at gym was deeply critical of evolution, interestingly enough).

I'm beginning to suspect that the religious people being talked about are a subset of American fundementalists, and not mainstream at all.
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  #162  
Old 15.02.2012, 16:18
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Re: Should religion lessons in public schools be discontinued?

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A true approach to this would cause more conflict. When faced with a kid from a deeply religious family, what do you think will happen when proper scientific enquiry is applied to their theories? It would be seen as nothing more than an attack.

But this isn't what people want, they want "equal time" for their pet theories, to put it on a level standing, they want current science challenged, but not their own beliefs, how can this work?
What's a "true approach?" If you simply preach theory and ignore all questions and statements to the contrary, it's not exactly a surprise if a "deeply religious" kid feels attacked. C'mon now.

Research is really picking up in this area (thankfully). There are many suggestions and examples of how we can successfully incorporate religion-based inquiries and discussions into the science classroom. Our youth want an equal voice and that's not the same as equal time. I don't think teachers or students (i.e. anyone) really *wants* their theories and beliefs challenged but that doesn't give us reason to avoid doing so. Nor does it mean that when such challenges arise (which they do!), we must fail to address them. =)
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  #163  
Old 15.02.2012, 16:20
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Re: Should religion lessons in public schools be discontinued?

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Fred Hoyle - very learned - didn't believe in evolution, but he was no creationist. He tried to show that the probability of evolution producing us via accidental mutation was not much above zero. (I don't know if the maths behind it withstands scrutiny or even has been properly studied).
Where does anyone say that it's accidental evolution. It's anything but.

The trouble with you lot is you twist everything around to fit your arguments to try and convince yourselves.
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  #164  
Old 15.02.2012, 16:30
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Re: Should religion lessons in public schools be discontinued?

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A true approach to this would cause more conflict. When faced with a kid from a deeply religious family, what do you think will happen when proper scientific enquiry is applied to their theories? It would be seen as nothing more than an attack.
What makes that different from anything else? In the home a child may pick up certain religious, philosophical, political and other points of view from his or her parents, even stretching to such trivial things as fashion concepts and which football team to support. In the outside world that same child will encounter conflicting points of view and see his or her own ideas challenged.

And most children don't grow up to be scientists. Most normal people's understanding of science is pretty much flawed and contains misunderstandings and half truths. So if a child doesn't do well in science class, in the bigger picture of things, does it matter? A child from a secterain religious background may be bad at scienmce. But so will a child from a monolingual background that never went to a foreign country be disadvanatged when it comes to learning languages. What are you going to do about it?

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But this isn't what people want, they want "equal time" for their pet theories, to put it on a level standing, they want current science challenged, but not their own beliefs, how can this work?
Who wants "equal time"? A couple of fringe freaks maybe. I don't think the majority of people associating with mainstream moderate religion want that.

Wouldn't that be just as absurd as Dawkins demanding evolution be given "equal time" in sunday school?
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  #165  
Old 15.02.2012, 16:35
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Re: Should religion lessons in public schools be discontinued?

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What's a "true approach?" If you simply preach theory and ignore all questions and statements to the contrary, it's not exactly a surprise if a "deeply religious" kid feels attacked. C'mon now.

Research is really picking up in this area (thankfully). There are many suggestions and examples of how we can successfully incorporate religion-based inquiries and discussions into the science classroom. Our youth want an equal voice and that's not the same as equal time. I don't think teachers or students (i.e. anyone) really *wants* their theories and beliefs challenged but that doesn't give us reason to avoid doing so. Nor does it mean that when such challenges arise (which they do!), we must fail to address them. =)
You suggested a dialogue, that the students should be properly engaged, and I agree, but there's a problem. Many beliefs held have been taken apart by science long ago, but people still hold onto them, it's a part of their faith, These theories cannot be discussed without a proper presentation of the overwhelming facts against them, not to mention a proper dissection of the childs beliefs.

All it results in a long and pointless, reppetive arguments that don't advance anyone any further at all and don't teach anyone anything, they only serve to pamper the religious.

Science does want it's premises challenged, it's the way it works. This approach fundamentally conflicts with that of faith.

WTF is a religious based enquiry?
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  #166  
Old 15.02.2012, 16:36
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Re: Should religion lessons in public schools be discontinued?

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Some theologians in history got things wrong.

Some scientists in history also got things wrong.

With the benefit of hindsight, both disciplines can draw a line and move on (and largely have).
I was largely on your side of the argument until this point, but do you really believe this? I don't see progressive modern theologians have much authority within their religions, much less hold any power to change things, or to have things "move on" as you suggest. Yes, the vast majority of religious people these days live pragmatic lives and don't take the original texts literally, but that doesn't change the fact the go-to documents for the major monotheistic religions (or disciplines as you describe) are the Bible, Koran, etc., grossly outdated and completely out of tune with today's morals and way of life, unless you whittle it down to a few simple life lessons (that can be explained in many other ways without the religious aspect) and ignore most of it. I'm ready to be proven wrong the day I see a priest at Sunday service ask people to read along with a book written by a modern theologian and not a bunch of men over a millennium ago.

Yet I don't see these people becoming Unitarian Universalists or forming Humanist clubs. People still stay as part of their religious groups, if only for communitarian reasons. Few dare speak up about how they truly live their lives or work to shake up the dogmas which are at the foundation of the groups of which they are still "officially" members, either for fear of disenfranchisement from their social circles or families, or simple apathy. I'm not criticizing, it's not always easy to do. But to me this doesn't suggest a healthy environment for intellectual growth, nor a particularly moral one. When we consider all this, religion's role as a still-relevant source of morals or ethics seems entirely unjustifiable.

I guess the missing piece in all this is faith, and good luck getting people to agree on that...
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  #167  
Old 15.02.2012, 16:40
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Re: Should religion lessons in public schools be discontinued?

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What makes that different from anything else? In the home a child may pick up certain religious, philosophical, political and other points of view from his or her parents, even stretching to such trivial things as fashion concepts and which football team to support. In the outside world that same child will encounter conflicting points of view and see his or her own ideas challenged.
But all these things are much more open to debate, many feel the hard and unforgiven nature of science to be a little too much.

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And most children don't grow up to be scientists. Most normal people's understanding of science is pretty much flawed and contains misunderstandings and half truths. So if a child doesn't do well in science class, in the bigger picture of things, does it matter? A child from a secterain religious background may be bad at scienmce. But so will a child from a monolingual background that never went to a foreign country be disadvanatged when it comes to learning languages. What are you going to do about it?
That's an argument to make science teaching better, I'm not sure what your point is. Some people are bad at things, so why bother?
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  #168  
Old 15.02.2012, 16:45
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Re: Should religion lessons in public schools be discontinued?

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That's an argument to make science teaching better, I'm not sure what your point is. Some people are bad at things, so why bother?
I'm all with you if you want to explore ways of improving the quality of science teaching.

My argument, however, is that for a large part of the population, science teaching is comparatively expendable in their later lives. If you can't spell or can't do basic maths you are going to hit a ceiling fairly quickly in terms of what you can achieve in life. But you can go a long way without touching science. I'm not saying that is a reason to teach it badly, but I'm just saying that in the bigger picture of things, if individual kids are weak at science I don't see that as being one of society's more pressing problems.
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  #169  
Old 15.02.2012, 16:53
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Re: Should religion lessons in public schools be discontinued?

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I was largely on your side of the argument until this point, but do you really believe this? I don't see progressive modern theologians have much authority within their religions, much less hold any power to change things, or to have things "move on" as you suggest. Yes, the vast majority of religious people these days live pragmatic lives and don't take the original texts literally, but that doesn't change the fact the go-to documents for the major monotheistic religions (or disciplines as you describe) are the Bible, Koran, etc., grossly outdated and completely out of tune with today's morals and way of life, unless you whittle it down to a few simple life lessons (that can be explained in many other ways without the religious aspect) and ignore most of it. I'm ready to be proven wrong the day I see a priest at Sunday service ask people to read along with a book written by a modern theologian and not a bunch of men over a millennium ago.
But do you need to discard the old stuff? We still study Plato and still think he was a pretty cool dude even though he said many things that today we might look on differently (and even these bits we are still reading). Would you kick Plato out of a philosophy course or whittle him down to a small subset of what he said?

The meaning of religious texts is as much in their wording as in their interpretation. What the evangelical free churches do wrong is to scorn on theology and think any dude who can open the bible can also explain and teach it.

And as to your question about a progressive religion that makes little use of ancient texts, take a look at the Quakers for example.
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  #170  
Old 15.02.2012, 16:55
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Re: Should religion lessons in public schools be discontinued?

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My argument, however, is that for a large part of the population, science teaching is comparatively expendable in their later lives. If you can't spell or can't do basic maths you are going to hit a ceiling fairly quickly in terms of what you can achieve in life. But you can go a long way without touching science. I'm not saying that is a reason to teach it badly, but I'm just saying that in the bigger picture of things, if individual kids are weak at science I don't see that as being one of soeciety's more pressing problems.
I would say the exact oppposite, a good foundation in science is extremely relevant to all aspects of our modern lives. I would say a good deal of our problems come from ignoring science, or trying to say it's irrelevant or unimportant, or not fully proved or any other of the weasely excuses we get to allow people to con us, poison us and generally rip us off.
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  #171  
Old 15.02.2012, 17:01
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Re: Should religion lessons in public schools be discontinued?

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Get your facts right. Otherwise we may suspect you are unlearned...
OK... you pwned me. Good show.

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You're really hell-bent (pun intended) on the Bible - maybe from all the publicity in the US? But in the UK, for instance, it's Muslims who are taking issue with evolution in schools. I think we need to broaden the scope here.
Considering that Genesis is Old Testiment... it's really the Torah that's to blame. Judaism, Christianity and Islam all share this root. But this doesn't really change what I wrote earlier; only broadens the attribution.
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  #172  
Old 15.02.2012, 17:37
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Re: Should religion lessons in public schools be discontinued?

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I was largely on your side of the argument until this point, but do you really believe this? I don't see progressive modern theologians have much authority within their religions, much less hold any power to change things, or to have things "move on" as you suggest. Yes, the vast majority of religious people these days live pragmatic lives and don't take the original texts literally, but that doesn't change the fact the go-to documents for the major monotheistic religions (or disciplines as you describe) are the Bible, Koran, etc., grossly outdated and completely out of tune with today's morals and way of life, unless you whittle it down to a few simple life lessons (that can be explained in many other ways without the religious aspect) and ignore most of it. I'm ready to be proven wrong the day I see a priest at Sunday service ask people to read along with a book written by a modern theologian and not a bunch of men over a millennium ago.

Yet I don't see these people becoming Unitarian Universalists or forming Humanist clubs. People still stay as part of their religious groups, if only for communitarian reasons. Few dare speak up about how they truly live their lives or work to shake up the dogmas which are at the foundation of the groups of which they are still "officially" members, either for fear of disenfranchisement from their social circles or families, or simple apathy. I'm not criticizing, it's not always easy to do. But to me this doesn't suggest a healthy environment for intellectual growth, nor a particularly moral one. When we consider all this, religion's role as a still-relevant source of morals or ethics seems entirely unjustifiable.

I guess the missing piece in all this is faith, and good luck getting people to agree on that...
what has always seemed unfortunate to me is that "religion" and "science" are, at their core, nothing more than ways of trying to explain that which would otherwise be unexplainable. regardless of whether everything is traced back to a "God" or to a single atom somewhere in the darkness, the fact remains that religion and science are both chasing the same truths. and the further fact remains that neither discipline has yet cracked whatever code it is that explains human existence, perhaps because both disciplines will always be subject to human subjectivity and will therefore always remain imperfect.

as Ken Kesey said, himself something of an amateur "scientist" () - "I've never seen anybody really find the answer, but they think they have. So they stop thinking."

seems a shame to me, anyway.
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  #173  
Old 15.02.2012, 17:43
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Re: Should religion lessons in public schools be discontinued?

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"religion" and "science" are, at their core, trying to explain that which would otherwise be unexplainable.the fact remains that religion and science are both chasing the same truths. and the further fact remains that neither discipline has yet cracked whatever code it is that explains human existence.
Science only seeks answers to the questions of what, where when and how. It cannot and does not seek to answer the questions of who or why.
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  #174  
Old 15.02.2012, 17:45
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Re: Should religion lessons in public schools be discontinued?

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as Ken Kesey said, himself something of an amateur "scientist" () - "I've never seen anybody really find the answer, but they think they have. So they stop thinking."
If science thought it had all the answers, it would stop.

But yeah, this is just the tired science is a religion myth. There's a major difference between the two, one actually tests and double checks to see if what it comes up with stands up in the real world, the other goes, "sounds believable, good enough"
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Old 15.02.2012, 17:54
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Re: Should religion lessons in public schools be discontinued?

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If science thought it had all the answers, it would stop.

But yeah, this is just the tired science is a religion myth. There's a major difference between the two, one actually tests and double checks to see if what it comes up with stands up in the real world, the other goes, "sounds believable, good enough"
"what stands up in the real world" changes, though, doesn't it? I never said science was a religion, btw, I merely said it was a discipline that was not entirely dissimilar from religion in its fundamental purpose.
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Old 15.02.2012, 17:55
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Re: Should religion lessons in public schools be discontinued?

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You suggested a dialogue, that the students should be properly engaged, and I agree, but there's a problem. Many beliefs held have been taken apart by science long ago, but people still hold onto them, it's a part of their faith, These theories cannot be discussed without a proper presentation of the overwhelming facts against them, not to mention a proper dissection of the childs beliefs.
I wouldn't be so arrogant as to take credit for the suggestion of dialogue. Countless scientists, policy-makers, religious leaders, educators and others have been doing this long before I became interested in the subject.

You're talking about how such beliefs have been treated historically. Traditionally, teachers haven't been sure just how to handle dissent to evolutionary theory in the classroom. Their concerns are part of what has prompted renewed interest in the subject.

Again, religious beliefs are not theories. Evolution is a scientific theory and still subject to scrutiny by many people - including atheists and others on merits that have nothing to do with God.

I'm not comfortable with the idea of "dissecting" a child's beliefs. It implies a certain analysis and imposition that treats the student as a subject rather than a participant.

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All it results in a long and pointless, reppetive arguments that don't advance anyone any further at all and don't teach anyone anything, they only serve to pamper the religious.
No disrespect when I say that the approach you're talking about probably would result in an argument of sorts that doesn't really advance understanding for both sides. But other approaches are indeed effective and this is the work of those who care about science education. You can't care about science education and not care about religion as to successfully do the former requires respect and dialogue with the latter.

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Science does want it's premises challenged, it's the way it works. This approach fundamentally conflicts with that of faith.
Based on this thread and your comments, it apparently doesn't. ;p

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WTF is a religious based enquiry?
It means questions that are based on religious beliefs.
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Old 15.02.2012, 18:06
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Re: Should religion lessons in public schools be discontinued?

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I'm not comfortable with the idea of "dissecting" a child's beliefs. It implies a certain analysis and imposition that treats the student as a subject rather than a participant.
But this is the point I'm making, science isn't supposed to be touchy feely, it's a ruthless look at the world taking the greatest care to remove self delusion and interference in the results. Dialogue in science is dissection of ideas, to pretend otherwise is not to teach science. The students beliefs do become the subject if you want to engage in a dialogue about science.

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Based on this thread and your comments, it apparently doesn't. ;p
How so?

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It means questions that are based on religious beliefs.
Like what? What are they going to ask that isn't going to come up with a answer that is going to be less than satisfactory. What can they ask, how was the world made in seven days? How did noah get all the animals on the ark? How does god physically interfer in the world?
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Old 15.02.2012, 18:06
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But do you need to discard the old stuff? We still study Plato and still think he was a pretty cool dude even though he said many things that today we might look on differently (and even these bits we are still reading). Would you kick Plato out of a philosophy course or whittle him down to a small subset of what he said?

The meaning of religious texts is as much in their wording as in their interpretation. What the evangelical free churches do wrong is to scorn on theology and think any dude who can open the bible can also explain and teach it.

And as to your question about a progressive religion that makes little use of ancient texts, take a look at the Quakers for example.
The Quakers and Unitarian Universalists are great, I'm down with what they do, but they're largely irrelevant in today's religious mainstream. If we're talking about the relevance of religious education and the role of religion in society, I don't think they're a good argument for the pro camp. In fact their continual inability to gain traction or popularity is telling. It's like talking about the virtues of America's foreign policy by bringing up Ron Paul.

I'm not talking about discarding the old stuff, I'm talking about building upon it, accepting new knowledge into its dogma (officially), and advancing as a group. I remember in another thread NotAllThere mentioned that Christianity has been "dynamic" in its changes throughout history. Has Christianity itself really? Its followers have, but did this come as a result of their religious beliefs or because their religion largely had to adapt and make due with other advances in society? In church (most religious people's only source of religious knowledge, let's be honest), the go-to texts are still over a thousand years old. Christianity hasn't "changed" as much as it wedged itself in between an evolving world and initiated a "don't ask, don't tell" policy in relation to how its followers operate in the real world. Plato is taught in philosophy classes as a reference and an example of how people used to think and as a foundation to build off of. Most laws and philosophies that govern our lives have been modified and revised throughout the centuries. You talk about interpretation, but can you really tell me that such critical thinking is actively encouraged by most religions in relation to their most sacred texts?

This reminds me of when I brought up moral concerns with the idea of Hell, which I find vile and a good argument why religion's "moral authority" is a joke. Then Swissoconnors (IIRC) informed me that modern theologians and linguists have found that people's interpretation and definition of the world "hell" didn't actually mean what we think it does, so our past understanding of it is likely irrelevant. I suppose it was to reassure me, but it just made me lose more hope in modern religion, because no one is talking about it. This should be HUGE. Why aren't priests shouting this in joy every Sunday in front of their congregations? "New knowledge, guys! The people you think will burn in hell for eternity likely won't, loving your fellow man has just become much easier!" Yet... they don't. The story of Abraham getting ready to sacrifice his son because God told him so is likely to be read in quite a few churches this Sunday, though. Where is the justification for any sort of intellectual, moral, or ethical authority in such an environment?

And I'm not wearing blinders here. I realize that we're all, whether we like it or not, part of institutions that we don't necessarily agree with the original doctrines of. But in most cases we are convinced that the institution in question has moved on and made changes. We have intellectual and moral deal-breakers that will lead us to turn our back and move on. Mainstream religion still defiantly wears its Holy Books on its sleeve. Most people I know who would consider themselves as part of a certain mainstream religion are waaay past that deal-breaker point and would have left under any other circumstances. Yet they soldier on for a variety of reasons, most having little to do with their actual spirituality, which would unquestionably be better satisfied in another environment, of which there are many (like the aft-mentioned Quakers). This suggest to me that the club they're in is an oppressive one to at least some extent, and certainly one that doesn't deserve any authority or moral relevance in today's world. If any of us came across, without any prior knowledge, a group that still operates like this, we would be justifiably puzzled and a little bit scared.

Last edited by Russkov; 15.02.2012 at 18:24.
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Old 15.02.2012, 18:31
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Re: Should religion lessons in public schools be discontinued?

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I'm not talking about discarding the old stuff, I'm talking about building upon it, accepting new knowledge into its dogma (officially), and advancing as a group.
Okay good. I think the problem is that the wheel that squeals the loudest gets the most grease, and that means that the lunatic fringe of Christianity is getting the most attention and thinks it can speak for the rest. Yes, Christianity has evolved institutionally. There have been countless theologians down the ages from Augustine and Thomas Aquinas to C.S. Lewis or Roger Schutz. I'm not saying everything these guys said was right either, but they went well beyond the original texts and did build on them and interpret them in new ways and shed new light on important moral and ethical questions that maybe weren't around back when the Bible was written. But then you get these Evangelical guys who say only the Bible counts and anybody anything else said doesn't count. Go to a Taize retreat for example, and talk to the guys there and listen to them and meditate with them and you'll hear talk about inner peace and strength and the purpose of life but you're hardly likely to hear them talk about stoning homsexuals or reading about Abraham sacrificing his son or about Intelligent Design or telling you how you'll burn in Hell if you chose not to follow their way.
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Old 15.02.2012, 18:50
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Re: Should religion lessons in public schools be discontinued?

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Okay good. I think the problem is that the wheel that squeals the loudest gets the most grease, and that means that the lunatic fringe of Christianity is getting the most attention and thinks it can speak for the rest. Yes, Christianity has evolved institutionally. There have been countless theologians down the ages from Augustine and Thomas Aquinas to C.S. Lewis or Roger Schutz. I'm not saying everything these guys said was right either, but they went well beyond the original texts and did build on them and interpret them in new ways and shed new light on important moral and ethical questions that maybe weren't around back when the Bible was written. But then you get these Evangelical guys who say only the Bible counts and anybody anything else said doesn't count. Go to a Taize retreat for example, and talk to the guys there and listen to them and meditate with them and you'll hear talk about inner peace and strength and the purpose of life but you're hardly likely to hear them talk about stoning homsexuals or reading about Abraham sacrificing his son or about Intelligent Design or telling you how you'll burn in Hell if you chose not to follow their way.
Very good point and I've acknowledged this when I said that pretty much all modern day Christians operate this way. Which bring us back to the original topic: when religion is taught in classrooms, what proportion of the curriculum is based on the writings of 1) Thomas Aquinas? 2) C.S. Lewis? 3) A guy from a Taizé retreat? 4) Christ's disciples from 2'000 years ago who heard a bunch of stuff second-hand?
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