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Unbiased religious education should be mandatory at all public schools.

I feel like prejudice and racism comes from ignorance. If children are taught the basic principles of most religions, they'll be more understanding towards those who believe something different. Before I reached junior high, I was terrified of Muslims, Mormons, and Wiccans. However, after digging deeper into my history book, I realized that they were people just like me. If religious education starts earlier, I feel like children will have a more open mind and be more prepared to work in an ever-changing, diverse world.

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    Mar 19 2014: Even as a Christian, I'm aware that you can't use "unbiased" and "religious" in the same sentence.

    Perhaps what you mean is to have a Comparative Religion course in primary school?
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      Mar 19 2014: Agreed. Maybe the solution lies in teaching religion on an academic view point comparing and contrasting different doctrines and studying them in a scholarly non 'zealoty' manner. This has been the main point why pastafarianism came to be. To them, the flying spaghetti monster could be as real as the Judeo-Christian God, hence, they should have the same educational exposure and freedom of religious expression. It should be an all or not at all basis I think. However I don't think its applicable at primary school. Maybe we should use that period of impressionability to teach the practice critical thinking like its their second nature.
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    • Mar 29 2014: Of course. I was an atheist for the longest time, but I wouldn't consider myself immoral. (Right now, I'm not too sure where I stand.) However, not everyone would be happy with that. Some do want to continue to worship their god and be moral. There will always be a division between believers and non believers. I'm just hoping that the wall won't be so high.
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        Mar 29 2014: I think that some of us who are more independent from the ready-to-use conventions than the rest of us, have to find a unique personal concept and ethics based on personal experience.

        Since ancient forums are gone, there is no school that encourages us to think, find new ways of dealing with reality, and look for, or invent our own concepts on morals, psychology, sciences, spirituality or religion.
  • Mar 20 2014: If you need a history book to realize that Muslims, Mormons, and Wiccans are people just like you , then I pity you.

    How will you find teachers who can offer Unbiased religious education. If I am a hindu and a teacher, I surely will have favoritism towards Hinduism. I feel that its human nature.

    What Students should be taught:

    1. Helping tendency

    2. Compulsory Music Classes {That gives relief to the mind}

    3. Compulsory Tree Planting on every morning. Every student must be asked to plant a tree and water it. Their name can be named for that Tree. This grooms Environmental responsibility.

    4. Compulsory fine for food wastage inside school campus. If a student wastes food, then he should pay fine and also donate that wasted food to animals before a senior's or teacher's presence.

    5. Compulsory feeding animals. This creates a mentality to students that an animal is no different from him as all are living beings

    6. Compulsory adoption {Not in legal sense, but on a Moral sense} of elders in an elder home and orphan in orphanage. He / she should be made to visit the elders and take care of them compulsorily. This gives him the fear on how oldage is and will prevent him from doing sinister things as he will also grow old one day. Taking care of an orphan, will make him grateful to his parents and also he will become a good parent in future.

    The above will prevent future divorces. A divorce is a danger to the society. A husband or wife will learn to adjust to his better half and start loving the family.
    The above will groom a child to love others, love elders, love orphans. In short, he will love himself and thank god or whatever he believes as superior for all that he has.

    In short a student in his initial years MUST BE given Moral Education than a Dollar Education.
    • Mar 24 2014: I agree that students should be taught what you just mentioned. However, that won't help if children, like me, are taught that those that don't follow the same religious code should be killed and burn in hell. Hate crimes will continue to have justification if people are ignorant.
      • Mar 24 2014: I agree with you on that. But ignorance as a child is OK , but after reaching teenage, one should start exploring the world around us through learning, thinking etc. If not, I would say that, people are deliberately keeping themselves as Ignorant.

        Innocence and Ignorance is not an excuse after a child enters into teens.
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        Apr 9 2014: Perhaps this is where religious freedom needs to be curtailed, where it results in acts that harm others or incites people to perform these acts.

        Sad to hear kids being indoctrinate with hateful thinking.
  • Apr 13 2014: This is a wonderful idea as it will enable the children apprecaite the other religions besides their own. The syllabus should not be for detailed understanding of the religion but basic knowledge. It could even be incorporated in History subject as this is a common subject for all events in the past. They could learn about the history of christianity since BC to AD, the birth of prophet Mohammed (SAW) in 572 AD, Budhism, Jewish, Aethiests, Mormons amongst many others. Thereafter any detalied education on religion can be underatken at the discretion of the student but from high school or 18 years of age. Am of the opinion that we will have an informed society on religious matters and not an ignorant one which can be easily manipulated by fanatics.
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    Apr 9 2014: My personal view is religious indoctrination does not belong in schools.

    no issue teaching comparative religion, superstitions including the prevailing religions in a particular location in the mix equally with others.

    it's very difficult to generalise about religions as there are so many conflicting belief systems and expressions of these beliefs. Its such a complex, diverse and wide spread cultural invention

    some expressions of religion can reinforce our common humanity, others can reinforce divisions.

    Religion could also be in the mix when studying history, psychology, sociology etc if done in an objective manner.

    It's good to reinforce our common humanity and highlight our cultural diversity.

    I'm also for anything that highlights that the religious beliefs you are culturally indoctrinated in may not be any more justified than hundreds and thousands of contradictory religious belief systems.
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    Apr 1 2014: There is some merit to this suggestion in that studying religions just as we study specific industries, or species, or habitats, or any other institution could bring a lot better understanding of their place in a community or culture.

    But it would require a certain level of objectivity that would be problematic once specific religions are examined and their more righteous adherents - both in the education system and outside - seek to challenge that objectivity. For instance a comparative study of how both organized religion and the military use ritual and ceremony to unify disparate groups towards a single purpose, focus or cause would be invaluable information regarding how we can be manipulated towards specific ends.

    But that objectivity is far from assured. Just look at how the teaching of evolution is still being challenged and attacked, even in this day and age.
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    Mar 30 2014: Aeris, We attend church as a matter of community / culture / and to meet needs. Not a school responsibility.

    We "mostly" accept Maslow's Hiearchy of needs. Please look at the needs chart and relate religion to each of the five steps. A case could be made for each of the steps.

    Second. If you examine the cultures of the world there is a place for the mental and moral welfare of the community. We tend to gather by finding likenesses, wants, fears, desires, needs, etc .... again not a school function.

    Finally compare Maslow to Psalm 23:

    1 The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. - Not mentioned in Maslow's hierarchy needs
    2 He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, - Physiological
    3 he restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake. - Safety
    4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. - Esteem
    5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. - Self-actualization
    6 Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever. - Love/Belonging

    Church meets our most basic needs on many levels this is not the charter of the school.

    Even those who choose not to attend practice values common to the culture ... Not everyone who denies Christianity is pure Atheist. There are Agnostics ... Agnostic theism ... agnostic atheism .... and just plain not practicing.

    And finally religion is NOT unbiased ... EVER. If it were we would only have one religion.

    No keep the schools in the formal presentation of the culture. The government of the USA has forciably entered in to the education and taken away the rights of the states. If we allow the schools to present religion it would be the choice of the government .. currently socialism/Communisum which recognizes no God.

    Be well. Bob.
    • Mar 30 2014: Wow- such convoluted thinking in this day and age!

      You go on a diatribe trying to relate Maslow with Christianity and then claim socialism is somehow related to communism when any theologian or religious scholar will tell you that Christ promoted a socialist agenda before socialism was thought of as a political direction.

      Pretty obvious what your agenda is!
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        Mar 30 2014: I think, Argos, you may have missed what Bob was most trying to get across.

        The first point was that he sees his church attendance and religious practice as meeting many of the needs he recognizes in Maslow. I think parallels of this kind can be interesting, even if that is not how you personally think of the role of organized religion in people's lives.

        I am not sure why Bob included the reminder that the world isn't divided only into Christianity and Atheism, but I admit I have not read all the posts in the thread. We know there are other religions, for example- including Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, and others, that include a belief in one or several dieties but not in some other aspects of Christiantity.

        Bob is a longtime member of TED and respects thoughtful people, whether or not they share his faith.

        Religions do embody positions on various principles, so an individual religion might be considered biased. I think the questioner in asking about an unbiased presentation of religions meant only that a variety of religions might be presented without attempting to make a case for adopting or rejecting any one of them.

        Bob's post reflects an important founding principle of the US. Specifically, the laws of the land make central the separation of government from religion because of a fear based on the experience of the founding fathers that government might promote a particular set of religious beliefs if given the opportunity.

        Bob, like many people, has a strong distrust of government, which is kind of easy to understand right now in particular when many reasonable people would argue that our federal government is not functioning very well. .
        • Mar 30 2014: Defending this kind of politically motivated post only encourages the person and prevents them from addressing their issues honestly.
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    Mar 29 2014: Aeris, your topic sounds very important.

    You say: "I feel like prejudice and racism comes from ignorance.
    If children are taught the basic principles of most religions, they'll be more understanding towards those who believe something different."

    I'd like to replace, if I may, your word "TAUGHT" with my word "INTRODUCED".

    We do miss basic introduction to different concepts and ideas, more or less in all schools. Education as we practice it today is very conventional, shallow, boring and often misleading for having no real foundation to any sorts of knowledge and ethics. Education we receive in schools is more about taming our minds.

    I so agree with you that every student needs to be introduced to other cultures, mentality and psychology of masses, sometimes driven by their beliefs for millennia. So true, we cannot stop the everchanging world even for an instant. Change is vital and when our stiff ideas keep recycling for ages, like those of old Plato's, we pay dearly for our own ignorance.
  • Mar 29 2014: I completely disagree and religion can not be taught in an unbiased way because religions are biased against other religions which is why we do not have just one religious belief system.

    Public school has no business teaching religion and morals and values can be taught without religion.

    Children are easily manipulated to religious beliefs and should not be subjected to that by schools or parents. If they want to study religions they can do it outside of school or better yet wait until college when they can look at religions with the objectivity and maturity needed to discern fact from fiction.
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      Mar 30 2014: Argos,
      I agree with your point that religion(s) will add their own spin to a worldview precluding others as false, i agree that public schools should not be in the business of teaching religion ( even thou they do, at least in the southern US) and agree also with the fact that children should wait to form a more deep worldview via studying or life experience to gain an edge before taking a leap of faith.
      Is all good-
      I do not agree in your sequential ad hominem attacks towards me, -nothing to learn there-
      Thus I will not respond to your posts, you spike this thread with negative energy and saps the spirit of learning which is why we are all here.

      Bon Voyage,
      • Mar 30 2014: Carlos, ego is negative energy and your attempts to feel superior were an obvious ego trip so I am not surprised that you feel sapped when that was exposed.

        I confronted you with truth instead of the passive aggressive tactics you used in your posts and I am sure you are not used to that.

        Now you want to make yourself feel that others agree with and stand with you and they think the same as you but I think you will find very few follow your ego ideology in reality.

        Have a good day!
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    Mar 28 2014: As a sociological event world religions should be a chapter in a social studies book. Now to have more efficient use of school time what about an extra math or science Lab? Ok perhaps I'm a bit biased, but if you were to look at USA vs the rest of the world rankings in Science & math we dil to scratch the top 20 ouch!
    perhaps it would make some sense...just a thought.

    • Mar 29 2014: I am sure corporations would just love that idea but education is not just about turning out little robots to feed the corporations. It has to be well rounded in may subjects.

      I do not agree that religions should be taught at the public school level but I also do not agree that education should focus on math and science anymore than any other subject at the public school level.

      They can focus on those subjects in college or take advanced classes if that is what they are interested in.

      If you looked at the psychological profiles of children in countries that push math and science you would also see a high burnout rate and depression. You have to have balance especially with young children that have to find where they fit in.
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        Mar 29 2014: Argos,
        I'm not a clinical psychologist but i dare wager that we are nowhere near a collective psychosis in the USA at any age group based on overexposure to math & science. Currently the view is that numbers complicate things and should be avoided, mathematical illiteracy is worn as badge of honor in the USA-as if-folks seem more human if they can't balance their checkbook.
        Even in Ivy League colleges (Yale) 35% history students, many of them graduating seniors did not know the population of the USA within a factor of 10! Many thought the population was between
        1 and 10 million less than the population of New York City, For them concepts like 1 million or 100 million had no objective meaning, they never learned to associate something containing a million things like a midsize american city with the number 1 million. The students could not even tell the approximate distance across the USA in miles,even this is too big of a number to handle.But a bit of math could help if you think that you can comfortably in a day (interstate) about 500 miles, estimate about 5-6 days to drive across USA tells me that the distance is closer to 2,500-3,000 miles than to 10,000 miles.
        Our psychosis is heralding The Simpsons & Honey BooBoo and exposing children to religious "truths". A bit more math & science will do no harm and we may break away from bellow 20th in the world!
        • Mar 29 2014: "mathematical illiteracy is worn as badge of honor in the USA" that is a highly biased and unsubstantiated opinion.

          People that have math skills and science skills tend to look down on others and are just as egocentric as artists are that look down on the un-creative.

          I would suggest stepping out of your Schrödinger's box and see that the world needs many more talents besides math and science if we are to survive as a species.

          I have never seen Honey Boo Boo but apparently you have. I hear she made millions from that show- perhaps you are just jealous!
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        Mar 29 2014: Argos,
        Math illiteracy in USA is a reality just see my first post & link, or just ask a few HS math teachers.
        Not all folks that can do math are so silly as to feel "superior" that is a highly biased and unsubstantiated opinion.

        Indeed the world needs many talents it just looks as if Math & Science are being left behind. In just about any college the first year dropout rate culprit (well one of them) is lack of math skills. There is great potential in the USA, after all this is the country of Steve Jobs, Thomas Edison & other giants, we should pay attention to what the measurements are telling us.

        If you have not seen the above mentioned TV shows you have not missed much... I'm not jealous but rather saddened that such buffoonery so easily entertains the minds of millions, but what do i know?

        • Mar 29 2014: Carlos, this not a question of math literacy and claiming that we are behind other countries in those subjects as a justification to increase those subjects shows that you are simply promoting a corporate agenda.

          Your statements about a badge of honor and Honey Boo Boo are all the evidence I need to see you feel superior.

          I am not against incorporating math and science into other fields and that is probably why those fields have fallen off because in all honesty- they bore the hell out of people and few people want to crunch numbers and stare into test tubes all day.

          I challenge your notion that people do not want to learn those subjects and it is more likely that those subjects are not interesting and have low desirability as a career.

          Luckily we have people that do like those subjects or at least like to make the money that goes with a job that bores them to death.

          So who is the buffoon- the person that chooses a direction for their life that makes them happy or the person that chooses a field because it will make them money or gain them awards?
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        Mar 30 2014: Argos,
        Amazing that you know how I feel & think!! (what Am I saying , of course you do, right?)

        But ad hominem attacks at me will not change any of the realities I posted. I see the lack of math skills from McDonalds to Universities, "staring"at a test tube & "crunching" numbers is not what Science & math is ultimately about. But your are entitled to your opinion.

        You need to get out a bit more-I work in the scientific field , I'm surrounded with great beautiful folks, who love life & from diverse cultures(religious folks as well) and we find joy in our work -scientific pursuits -and we are all doing ok Heck we even bowl every Thursday! I feel fulfilled and in no need to feel better or worse than anyone.

        Be well,
        • Mar 30 2014: Your words are right there in your post and the meaning is clear in your words that you feel superior.

          "There is great potential in the USA, after all this is the country of Steve Jobs, Thomas Edison & other giants, we should pay attention to what the measurements are telling us."

          Obviously you think these people are superior and you aspire to be one of them.

          " I'm not jealous but rather saddened that such buffoonery so easily entertains the minds of millions, "

          Obviously you have a great disdain for people you feel are not your intellectual equals to the point of calling them buffoons.

          You are surrounded by people that have lives that are not entirely captured by math and science and you are pointing at that as evidence you are human and not boring but you can not see that you have just explained what makes peoples lives enjoyable and exciting and it is not the math or science it is how they live.

          I would say you have brainwashed yourself probably from a lack of self esteem into a false belief that you are superior and identify with "giants" because of their accomplishments without understanding that people like Steve Jobs and Thomas Edisons greatest accomplishments was in their caring about other people and the math and science was secondary and without that compassion and understanding they were nothing that anyone would care about.

          You seem to have only caught the bug to be a "giant" without the personality, values, humility and humanity that those giants exhibited.
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    Mar 26 2014: Hello Aeris,
    My first thought, is that it might be difficult to find a person well versed in a religion and unbiased.

    While I agree that some prejudice and racism comes from ignorance, there are a lot of intelligent people who are prejudice and racist, so it's not totally from ignorance. It may be from lack of understanding of other people's beliefs, as you seem to recognize.

    I wholeheartedly matter what our personal beliefs are, we are all humans, living together in this earth school, and there are some very basic concepts in most religions....the golden one another...etc. That being said, those qualities are not religious based. I think/feel that it is GREAT to teach children to have an open mind, and perhaps that is where we could begin?

    "Religious education" generally includes the particular dogmas of religions, which I think is impractical, and I suspect there might be a LOT of complaints from parents....understandably.
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    Mar 25 2014: Here is Dan Dennett on this subject:
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    Mar 25 2014: I see where you are going with this but fear that a mandate like this could easily be hijacked. What religions would be included and how would they be portrayed?

    You opened the discussion with religion. I would suggest we include race and sexual orientation to the list as well.
    • Mar 29 2014: I see. Learning about Satanism, Wicca, and, God forbid, the Flying Spaghetti Monster might make some people uncomfortable. And ritual sacrifice might not be the most appropriate of topics for children... My answer is: I don't know. What is taught would probably vary by community and what a school is comfortable with. The very basic course I think would include what's already glossed over in the textbook.
  • Mar 24 2014: Religions are groups of beliefs whose relationships to reality are established by faith. They should be judged by their ability to give their believers a meaningful satisfying life and ease the transition out of life. Unfortunately there is an inherent problem with them. They must aggressively search for converts if they are to grow and prosper. This creates the frictions between peoples that has caused or at least been used to justify many of the worlds wars. Are you asking that we teach that?
    • Mar 29 2014: I think that's a gross simplification of religion, and to many, faith means much more to them. So no, that's not what would be taught. However, that might be the conclusion a student reaches on their own.
  • Mar 24 2014: Perhaps people should stop focousing on evolution and start focousing on the truth. We did not evolve, we were created. I suppose your house evolved too huh? Of course not, evolutions is one of the stupidest theorys.
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      Apr 9 2014: The evidence shows we did evolve.

      there is no compelling evidence of supernatural creation or the various mutually exclusive creator concepts proposed.

      houses don't sexually reproduce. Were you supernaturally created or were you conceived by your parents, developed via natural processes and born.

      Comparing dna based life with human artifacts is an obvious categorisation fallacy.

      imo it is a sad day when any religious faith based beliefs take precedent over science in the classroom. Parents are free to brain wash their children outside the classroom. State schools should be free from religious indoctrination.
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    Mar 22 2014: I was sitting in a restaurant one day near a table with 3 adult males and one teenager. At one point the "adults" were regaling each other about how many traffic tickets laws they had broken and the lies and deceptions they used to do so. Everyone was laughing and grinning, including the teen who was being given a first land lesson regarding laws and civic responsibility.

    That is to say, we can proselytize all we want, but youth people are far more likely to go by what they experience in real life, not empty words and promises. School curriculums and laws do not have the authority or the power to curtail petty mean-spiritedness and/or prejudice. Only people can do that.

    But if you have ever been confronted by someone else's prejudice you know how hard it can be to challenge them on it, especially if they have any sort of authority or menacing attributes and it is a face to face situation.

    I know, having done it - challenged them - less times than I have not simply for the above stated reasons. It seems I am not alone in this attitude either as most folks appear to think first about themselves and prefer to forego the potential confrontation. It is just more convenient. In the short run anyways. .
  • Mar 22 2014: I believe if the evolution of an ideology into a religion is taught at schools rather the religion itself, students will get a grasp at the very existence and need of religion in first place.
    This can also encourage them to develop their own practice of faith.
  • Mar 22 2014: I don't think there is a need for any religion to be taught at school. Instead; philosophical, respect and moral education should be taught with debates on religion forming part of the learning outcomes. This way there can be no bias and each child is encouraged to form their own opinion on religion whether it be a critical one or not.

    The problem with teaching religion in schools is that the real themes of a religion are overlooked in order to be politically correct. I mean, an individual outside the teaching environment may say a particular religion is prejudicial because it suppresses women in a number of its chapters. And according to current western law and western opinion on womens liberation this may be a true statement. However, if a teacher where to say this or even ask the question of women's liberation within any particular religion, it is likely religious parents would complain and the teacher would be sacked.

    So inevitably religious education will be about the furniture in the church and the fashion garments associated to each religion.

    Religious education in my primary school was about the furniture, in secondary school religious education was more about moral education (independent from any religion), so I have no idea why they called it RE.
  • Mar 19 2014: Yes, I think students would benefit from a basic "world religions" class, it is an important part of history and should be treated as such. Also, an "ethics" class would be a great addition.
  • Mar 19 2014: Boy do you have trouble if you open that door. Most religions are not at all anxious to expose their members to other religions. Can you imagine the fight you would have getting approval for the textbook of the course from the religious of the world and the decidedly not religious. Let sleeping dogs lie.
    • Mar 24 2014: Yes, I realize most people are against change. That doesn't mean we should continue to let people harass others out of their ignorance.
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    Mar 19 2014: Many countries have religion as a subject in their schools. Others may not out of a fear of biased delivery or proselytizing.