Monday, May 16, 2005

Religion in Australian Schools


The Catholic Church in Australia is calling for the government to re-introduce religion as a subject in Australian government schools. They say that children have a right to learn about religion, and that furthermore a comparative study of religion will teach greater tolerance in our multi-faceted society.

I'm an atheist and I agree. While some people only support the teaching of what they see as "the truth", I don't take such a narrow-minded approach. Nor do I require than schools approximate "the truth", because I don't see that we all live according to one truth. My own position is one of subjectivism - that people are different, and that they can be different without being wrong-for-them. Certain standards of living are set (and should be set) by society in order for us all to get along, and to respect basic universal rights, but we all need to both understand and live in a society which supports a variety of personal truths.

So, how does this lead to supporting the teaching of religion? I believe it supports the needs of society to have a peaceful and educated populace.

Intolerance is taught, it is not inherent.

People's attitudes towards people not of their tribe are notoriously bad. Really really, it's a well-known phenomenon. Films such as "The Wave", studies on power relationships, racism etc show us how people can short-circuit their morality when they believe that other people aren't really a part of their tribe.

Practically, the closest level of ones tribe - ones "family" if you will - levels out around 250. I forget where I got that statistic from, but I believe that number is loosely the number of people one can remember and distinguish between at any one time. I'm ready to stand corrected on that one.

This doesn't mean that everyone else is "the enemy". Teaching that people who are different from us are in many crucial ways the same as us is an important ideal. However, it will be opposed by those who already believe that the differences are very important. Those who don't respect people of other faiths (including atheism) are doomed to be bigoted. An inability to see the humanity in others, or even to dehumanise them by seeing them as somehow deficient, is always bigotry.

The more other faiths that we can learn about, the more we will be able to see through the differences to the humanity, instead of through the humanity to the differences.



Blogger Illusive Mind said...

I agree,

I think the first week on the syllabus should be entitled:

"Islam: Not every Muslim is a raving lunatic"

Week 2

"Christianity:Fundamentalists to progressives"

5/26/2005 04:13:00 PM  

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