America’s Most Stupid Person?
Shaneen Barron is the woman’s name. The news video is from the Denver, CO ABC affiliate and was picked up and broadcast by CNN. Don’t say the CNN news producers cannot judge a priceless film clip when they see one. The clip is probably up on YouTube or many more video servers by now and is sure to go viral, but you can watch the original here:
A search for Shaneen Barron turns up about 35,000 hits on Google. Here is a rant posted on Craigslist for Denver.
Keep your kids out of school and let them watch FOX all day like you do.
. Are you scared? You should be since George Bush made made enemies of this country faster than he could kill them. You are nothing more than a racist and a sore loser. You pass an opportunity for your childeren to listen to encouragement from the President of the United States of America to attempt to stimulate insill the desire within them to stay in school and make something of themselves. It then gives you the opportunity to talk to them about it and create an open channel of discussion between you and your childeren – God forbid!!
I am glad your dirtbag kisds won’t be in school. .
. I am a die hard card carrying member of the GOP and I am disgusted by you. .
. Your kids will have no more contact with mine – and you know who this is.
. If you are afraid, then move to Europe or better yet the Middle East where they do shove religion down kids throats – ever heard of separation of Church and State – maybe your mom took you out of school that day…
. Just remember how many African American childeren were 14 years of age on last election day – they will all be voting in 2012 – so get used to having a black president. .
Obviously the lack of oxygen affect some of us more than others.
Do you sense the author of this post was in a hurry to express his thoughts? And here is a blog post by a Republican who is distressed at losing his party to right wing Christians.
America’s Most Stupid Person?
I know we’re not supposed to call these people stupid, but Shaneen Barron of Highlands Ranch, CO may be the most stupid person in the country. She’s on film crying because the President of the United States is going to give an address to tell school kids to work hard and take responsibility for their educations. And hand-washing. He’s also going to tell kids to wash their hands.
And that’s reason to go on TV and cry? Because her kids will have to listen to “that?”
Being a conservative does not make someone stupid. Crying on TV because President Obama wants to give a fluffy speech to kids about working hard and taking responsibility for yourself makes you a complete moron.
I can’t get the video to embed, so click here to see the face of hysterical idiocy.
The link doesn’t function when pasted into Amazon’s software. Here is a link to Huffington Post article:
Here is a comment that I thought was germane:
This right wing politics is getting pretty crazy. But what do you expect when so many right wing religious believers have rejected a scientific worldview and believe in a Flintstones history. This sector has always been pretty adept at adopting technology to get their message out, however irrational it may be. They appropriated radio after the Scopes trial and built an alternative cultural infrastructure and continued to use TV in the same way, and finally decided to use the city machine model, (perfected and formerly used by the democrats) to build political power in the last 30 years. We are witnessing the results of years even decades of the acceptance of modern technology built on a Flintstones worldview (it wasn’t the Flintstones fault). It’s enough to make you crazy–well not you.
On Wednesday, September 16th and again yesterday, Friday, September 25th, on the Rachel Maddow Show, Rachel interviewed a self-described former Republican, former evangelical, former rightwingnut person, Frank Schaeffer, author of the book Crazy for God, who made the interesting and profound remark that those “crazy” people who are sitting by their television sets watching and believing Glen Beck and waiting for the Apocalypse and Armageddon, for whom bad news is good news of the coming debacle, for whom facts are unpleasant diversions created by the Anti-Christ and his minions to deceive us and make us unsure of the coming End Times, are in fact living their own morbid and insane prophecy—they are truly the “Left Behind.”
They are left behind by science, which they were taught was difficult (for their teachers) and that science, like in the middle ages, conflicts with gospel they have been force-fed since childhood. They are left behind by technology, which is basically indistinguishable from magic for them, yet they employ it on a daily basis. They are left behind by the evolving culture, which now includes persons from places on this planet about which they have no idea. They are left behind in every way important to the growth and good mental health of human beings and they are frightened and resigned to a fate they cannot escape. They hope that their bodies and souls will be taken up in a Rapture of the Righteous, even while they thieve and scheme against every tenet and principle of their so-called Christian faith. They are so left behind the logic of their situation they cannot see the ugly irony of their existence … and there is a feeling among most of the rest of us that these people are lost forever, better left to themselves to fester into seething hatreds and to consume their own kind in pitches of religiously tainted political fury.
There are those who are preying on these people, of course. There have been snake-oil salesmen and Elmer Gantrys since the beginning of the republic and on back into the recesses of time. Humans do prey on weaker, more frightened humans, and their methods have become quite refined over the years and centuries.
James Brett, OPED News
Related articles by Zemanta
- Frank Schaeffer: Max Blumenthal vs. The Far Right “God” Of Dumb Hate (huffingtonpost.com)
- ‘Right-Wing Turncoat’ Frank Schaeffer: Repub Healthcare Mobs Industry-Sponsored, ‘Full Blown American Version of the Nazi Brown Shirts’ (bradblog.com)
- Frank Schaeffer: The Trivialization of The Presidency: Obama Becomes Oprah (huffingtonpost.com)
- FDL Book Salon Welcomes Frank Schaeffer: Crazy For God (firedoglake.com)
- Vote With Your Feet: Olbermann Calls for Boycott of Businesses Displaying Fox News (crooksandliars.com)
An insightful personal narrative of an apostate
It is generally common for atheists to consider that the arguments against religion boil down to science, the facts, debate, etc. It puzzles many why someone when faced with all the evidence for evolution for example would still choose to ignore it. I think that many atheists are ignoring the REAL issue, the true reason why it is hard for someone to reject their religion.
I was raised Christian all my life, in a VERY fundamentalist home. I was taught the earth was 6,000 years old created out of nothing, heaven, hell – the whole thing. I was taught how important it was to witness and attempt to “convert” others. I was taught that even bad things, really bad things, had some sort of divine reason and plan attached to them. I believed this into my early twenties.
When I was finally faced with the irrefutable facts, and raw science behind them, I let go – very reluctantly – of my cherished beliefs. It was not easy, It was like wrestling a priceless gem from someone who would just not let go of it.
When you reject religion, its not like – rejecting the earth is not flat for example. With something like this you can say “Oh ok, now I know” – but religion has a much darker and deep rooted hold on a person, and a much more profound effect.
There were times I was actually in tears thinking about the fact that there was no “afterlife” – and that those I had loved who had died – were really dead. They weren’t watching me, or having some hand in guiding me. They didn’t still “love me”. That was pretty depressing.
It is strange how religion gives you a way to reject the reality of death – which I guess does help to ‘ease your suffering’, that you “know they went to a better place” – but it also prevents proper mourning. When someone you love dies, and they tell you on their death bed that they will see you one day in heaven, you are more prepared for them to “die” because you know they aren’t really “dead”.
To reject heaven and accept atheism – is not merely about science, facts, beliefs, etc – it is about accepting the reality of all those who have died – being really dead. It is accepting the same reality about everyone you love NOW one day being – really dead. It is accepting the same reality about YOU one day.
The older you are, the more dear loved ones have passed away, the harder it will be to reject the notions of religion. To reject religion requires the re-mourning of everyone who you love who has died.
Death is just one piece of a very complex puzzle. If you have spent your whole life “living by faith” – and you have made decisions “by faith” that have resulted in really bad situations in your life, you now have to own up to the fact that these situations came about because of YOUR choices. You do not have God to take the burden of this. You can no longer say “This happened because God has some plan for my life”
By rejecting religion, you must also reject the notion that you can avoid responsibility for poor life situations. That too is a hard pill to swallow.
Next, you must reject the idea that your path is somehow guided, that God is walking with you, that you are not truly alone as you walk through life. Imagine a man walking through a room on planks of wood suspended over spikes with large holes to fall in if you take a wrong step. He always manages to take the right next step, but he is never afraid because he “knows” that this is a solid wood floor he is walking on. Now turn on the lights.
To reject religion means to accept the idea that you CAN fall – and fall HARD. It means you have to recognize that up until now you have been fortunate – but now you have to force yourself to think about your next steps.
If you have been spending your life “following Christ”, or witnessing to people, to the extent of even studying this in college, or spending hundreds and hundreds of hours reading and studying the Bible, praying, etc – only to find out that ALL of it was utterly and totally useless, then you have another hard pill to swallow. Imagine swallowing that pill as an older person.
To accept this means to accept that you have lived a large part of your life in vain, while thinking it was purposeful. Talking to such a person about atheism is similar to telling them that their whole life is without purpose, misguided, and that they have missed out on the only opportunity they will ever have to live life.
Surely one can then see why the concept of atheism is offensive and infuriating to so many people.
Then there is the concept of a personal relationship with God. The idea that God and you are “friends”. That you are somehow “above the world”. That you are living in a bubble safe and protected by God himself.
To reject religion, means accepting that you are just like everyone else – and in fact, worse off than most and behind the race because of your past religious belief. To someone who has spent a lifetime believing they are special in this regard, a piece of them is gone, never to return.
Worse than this, such a person values their imaginary relationship with God more than any aspect of their REAL personality. Who you really are takes second stage to your supposed relationship with the almighty.
Rejecting this is surely very difficult, as it entails rejecting a large part of the perceived value someone has in themselves.
I know I have not covered it all, but I hope I have helped to show that there is more to the picture of “religion vs atheism” than merely science, and facts.
The emotional side of religion is by far a larger and darker obstacle than any other that would stand in the way between someone’s freedom from delusion and accepting reality.
There are professional people who specialize in “deprogramming” those who have been captured by a cult such as the Moonies. Society grudgingly approves, with reservations because cults are judged to be “dangerous” and harmful. But try to deprogram someone from a mainline “religion” and now you will encounter blatant open hostility from every quarter. This means there is a double standard. A person who succumbs to the mind control program of a cult deserves help to extract themselves. The theology practiced by Catholics, Mormons and other mainline religions is just as non-nonsensical and can harm the mental state of adherents just as much as the most superstitious cult. Why doesn’t the principal of harm apply here?
There are many self help groups on the web that offer advice and encouragement. But woe to the person who sets out to forcibly separate an individual from a religious faith. It has to be because there is wide spread denial that the fear mongering and guilt inducing methods used by mainline religions are not harmful. If only that were true.
The Root of All Evil
In The Virus of Faith, Dawkins opines that the moral framework of religions is warped, and argues against the religious indoctrination of children. The title of this episode comes from The Selfish Gene, in which Dawkins discussed the concept of memes. The Root of All Evil? is a television documentary, written and presented by Richard Dawkins, in which he argues that the world would be better off without religion. The documentary was first broadcast in January 2006, in the form of two 45-minute episodes (excluding advertisement breaks), on Channel 4 in the UK.«
Influence without indoctrination
Dale McGowan is a source of inspiration and guidance for thousands of secular parents raising children in a society heavily overlayed with religious thought and practice. In this video he clearly points out a strategy for making sure that parents guide their children in the direction of taking control of important questions that they should be in charge of not their parents.
Related articles by Zemanta
- Growing Emotionally Healthy Children (counselingonlinesite.com)
The people who promote the position that atheism is a belief system are no doubt confused between humanism and atheism or they lack fine control over their gun sights. Not all atheists are humanists, but probably the majority would majorly agree with the various humanist manifestos that are extant around the world. It is secular humanism that the theists are getting their wigs wound up over because that is a genuine world view that is anti-theist, organized, and humanists speak out. Humanists are thoughtful and kind and do leave room for freedom of consciousness, as all thinking people must. They just want religion to go back to being a private matter, like masturbation, gluttony, nudity and other self-gratifications that are best not paraded in public.
The very idea that mere lowly humans can somehow get along and thrive without god and have a systematic and enlightened way of presenting their views is perceived by theists as a threat, precisely because it is a threat. The only dogma atheists hold is “we hate cant, humbug, hypocricy, pretense, and dogma”. This again spins the believers up because all they know is dogma, humbug, pretense and hypocrisy. Unlike humanists, atheists do not have a manifesto or a creed or until very recently any popular way to be recognized as atheists. There is no baptism or confirmation or any of the other ways religion dreamed up to psychologically close the cage door.
That little scarlet letter “A” emblazoned on atheist shirts and boldly printed on their web sites is a defiant, provocative, in your face announcement that we are here among you. Be afraid. The scarlet letter “A” (who says atheists don’t appreciate irony?) serves to bring more and more atheists out of the closet. The symbol gives them an identity with their soul mates and creates a sense of solidarity of purpose in overcoming the unjust hatred directed towards atheists. Not to mention the fact that the red letter “A” is guaranteed to produce vapors, palpitations and vertigo in the likes of Pat Robertson and James “smack-them-again” Dobson.
It is a curious fact of human psychology that we humans attribute the way others think to our own way of thinking. Therefore, a person sitting in a church listening to the pastor spout dogma as “truth” will have an almost insurmountable task to believe that other humans have absolutely no need of, and in fact violently oppose dogma preached as truth.
The fact that Dawkins, Dennett, Harris and Hitchens identify as atheists has reignited the fire of opposition by religious people. Assuming the fire had ever really gone out. Now, in addition we must contend with the merging of religion and politics in the United States because the conservatives have brilliantly succeeded in a mashup of the worst qualities humans possess. And here I am talking about emotionalism, ignorance, fear, racism, bigotry, anachronism, and the worship of patriarchy.
Richard says: Eliminating forced faith will strengthen families
Forum participant says:
“It is impossible to live with people, be raised by people, love people, and not be influenced by them.”
I agree with that and I don’t think I have said anything to the contrary. Influencing is one thing, a raw exercise in parental power is something else. If the reforms I am groping towards come about, I assert it can only help strengthen familial bonds. I say this because the parent child relationship will be built on a stronger foundation when it does not start off on an unethical basis. Parents who understand their children as persons and not modeling clay will treat them much differently. Children will have less reason to view their parents as despots.
A gay child should be totally comfortable announcing how they feel to their parents. A child who does not believe in god, should likewise have the confidence to say this to their devout parents and others. Or tell them they have a mysterious outbreak on their genitals that is painful or tell them that they think their girlfriend is pregnant. You get the idea. Openness. Honesty. Bonds of confidence are built on a basis of equality and mutual respect, not inequality.
I think this change can only come about once superstition and magical thinking are disposed of finally as inappropriate guides to living our lives and we begin to see children in a new light. They are individuals we share genes with, and possibly even personality traits. The important fact is that children have their own thoughts, ambitions, and desires that must be honored. Like the book I referenced earlier says: “Whose Childhood is This?
The adults I most admired and listened to as a child were the ones that admired and listened to me. Moreover, they demonstrated in word and deed the qualities that any good friend has. They were a patient sounding board that always stood ready to help me achieve a goal or explore alternatives with me. Nothing I said or did could shock them or make them reject me. There were no blasphemous questions my little mind could dream up that my mouth could not utter. There was nothing heretical I could possibly say that might offend the gods. That is freedom. Blasphemy is a victimless crime.
No relationship that starts out based on an unethical exercise in parental power is ever going to be as good as a relationship that starts out on a basis of fairness and honesty.
Richard says: Biblical justifications will not fly
A forum member asks:
What happens if the child dies before knowing God?
This justification for forcing religion on children is commonly offered as a knock down — end of discussion, type reply when we assert that only adults should make decisions about whether to adhere to a faith. Forcing faith on small intellectually vulnerable children is unethical because it destroys any chance they have of making an unbiased choice when they mature. The weakness in parents argument is that it is dead easy to find historical examples of faith practices that had to give way. Slavery, miscegenation, and the assignment of women to second class status are just three of many examples the faithful justified with their bible. Not to mention that we are a secular country, so religious justifications should hold absolutely no weight. Here is how I responded. Can you strengthen this approach?
I don’t know what happens and neither do you. You obviously have been taught to fear there might be dire consequences. However, you have absolutely no basis for being fearful other than faith in ancient texts, dictatorial clergy and group pressure to believe what is in those texts. No person on our planet *knows* what happens when we die. Yet billions of people are walking around confidently telling us that they know such things. There is absolutely no obvious way of *knowing* the answer to this question — if there was, we would not still be asking it. Once we derive a satisfactory answer to a question we drop it in the “solved” box and move on. Obviously, the question is still very much alive so *no one* has an answer.
I can offer my conjecture, and the difference is I am willing to call it conjecture. Nothing happens. Medical science knows exactly what happens to our bodies. If given time, our brain systematically shuts down our individual organs, and finally that includes the one we think with. You lose awareness and never awaken. The grand adventure of life on earth is over for us. These profound thoughts are offered by Richard Dawkins:
“We are going to die, and that makes us the lucky ones. Most people are never going to die because they are never going to be born. The potential people who could have been here in my place but who will in fact never see the light of day outnumber the sand grains of Arabia. Certainly those unborn ghosts include greater poets than Keats, scientists greater than Newton. We know this because the set of possible people allowed by our DNA so massively exceeds the set of actual people. In the teeth of these stupefying odds it is you and I, in our ordinariness, that are here.”
The difference between you and I is that I don’t make crucial life decisions based on what cannot possibly be known. I reserve a special wariness towards people or institutions that have agendas and that implore me to believe what they claim is the truth. Psychological control mechanisms such as fear, guilt and wishful thinking are easily detected. I refuse to live my life driven by the fears, guilt and hopes of others. While we are at it, you don’t *know* god. I am always suspicious of this claim. Tell us please exactly what you mean by this.
Might this be the same indecisive god that centuries ago informed his Catholic followers that unbaptized babies don’t go to heaven? Then finally changed his mind and recently said: “hold up on this, I have new instructions”. Who can count the number of parents in years past who wailed and wept for their unfortunate sinful infants.
What Happens When We Die
24 of 24 people found the following review helpful:
5.0 out of 5 stars A Great Book , April 6, 2006
By Jennifer Riley “jennifer” (Boston, USA) – See all my reviews
I would thoroughly recommend this book to anyone who has ever thought about the ultimate question of what happens when we die… Especially those who want answers based upon the objectivity of science.
Ever since he was a medical student, Parnia MD, PhD was fascinated by what it is that makes us all unique as individuals, in other words what is the relation between the mind and the brain? Later he was touched by the experience of seeing his patients’ die and was left with the question of what happens to the human mind and consciousness at the end of life? Disappointed that science had not seriously tried to study this question, he developed a scientific model i.e. cardiac arrest and started research into this field. This was almost 10 years ago…
Why do outsiders think they have a right to impose their non-beliefs on believing parents?
This question comes up frequently on a forum I initiated with the following question:
Why do parents believe they have the right to force religion on their children?
I guess my standard answer has not sufficed, so I’ll try harder. First my standard answer:
Beliefs are not easily imposed on adults.
I’ll elaborate. A belief is a concept or idea that is held without evidence, without facts. Hense, religious people make a virtue of beliefs. A belief is synonymous with an opinion. As long as adults are just exchanging opinions, not much is going to change. Opinions have no force, no weight, they lack the ability to sway people’s minds. If a person thinks their belief will not withstand challenge, isn’t that an important clue that the belief actually needs to be challenged? Where is it written in the constitution that citizens cannot challenge each other. I’ve never seen this anywhere and in fact the foundation of our democracy was healthy debate. Our founders engaged in the most raucous rambunctious debate you can imagine.
I think the point you may be reaching for is why should atheists challenge parents over the way they raise their children. My rejoinder is why shouldn’t we if we think it is wrong? If your family lives on an isolated island and you are the only family, then what you do to your children only effects you and the children. You don’t live on an isolated island, do you? We may regret what is happening to such an isolated family’s children, but it doesn’t really effect us.
Whatever gives you the idea that others in your community are “outsiders”, as you put it. This “us – them” attitude is fostered by religious groups as a way to solidify support and loyalty. But, it divides us and sets one group against another. Yet another valid reason to challenge believers, so far as I can see.
We humans are social animals and we all depend upon each other unless we are hermits. Don’t we look askance at hermits? Are they not considered anti-social, strange, even threatening?
When I encounter parents here who are really defensive, and many take this to the point of belligerence, it tells me I am listening to someone who is not so confident in what they are doing or they would not overreact. People who are secure in their convictions do not react defensively when challenged because they have carefully thought about their world view and can usually present it calmly and clearly.
People know I am an atheist, I make no secret of this. However, the fact that I am an atheist is immaterial to the question. There are theists who understand and appreciate the ethical question involved. Accordingly, they also oppose indoctrination of vulnerable children. Which, opposition I think, is actually your concern. Am I understanding you? Likewise, many theists support the separation of church and state. It is really not a question of believer versus non-believer.
If parents are raising their children in their faith so that the faith can continue, then they are using their children as instruments and we in the West decided long ago that it is unethical for a person to use another person to satisfy their own desires. It would be like raising a child specifically to be a field hand on your farm or to be a soldier to protect your country’s borders. Hitler was reviled for developing an extensive government program that subsidized German women to be baby factories so he could have soldiers for his army.
A final thought. Can you appreciate the fact that everyone can be thought of as an “outsider” to someone else. We have to get past this kind of divisive thinking if we are going to build healthy happy communities.
Related articles by Zemanta
Solving the conundrum of religious upbring
There are probably many people in this discussion who have never read philosopher Daniel Dennett. In his best selling book, “Breaking the Spell” he advanced a novel approach to the conundrum of childhood religious upbringing. He is a non believer, but he advocates mandatory religious education for all children. And I would vote for demanding this of home schooled children in particular.
What we have been doing for a very long time is arguing that religion should be kept private. In this way, according to Daniel Dennett, “we should be willing to sacrifice the current and future well-being of some children-perhaps many children-in order to maintain a rather precarious restraint on the power of the state. Rather than have a (dangerous? rancorous? destabilizing?) political tug-of-war over which “Weltanschauung” will fix the constraints and principles of state intervention in cases of arguable child abuse, we should simply re-endorse the longstanding tradition that when it comes to religious upbringing parents have the right to treat their own children in ways that would send them packing off to jail in any other context. I think we must dismantle this tradition, not preserve it. I’m all for gritting our teeth and having that political tug-of-war. It can be open, not stealthy, and it has plenty of room for checks and balances to prevent the sort of creeping theocracy–or atheocracy–Nagel (a critic of Dennett) seems to be concerned about.”
“Let’s get more education about religion into our schools, not less. We should teach our children creeds and customs, prohibitions and rituals, the texts and music, and when we cover the history of religion, we should include both the positive-the role of the churches in the civil rights movement of the 1960′s, the flourishing of science and the arts in early Islam, and the role of the Black Muslims in bringing hope, honor and self-respect to the otherwise shattered lives of many inmates in our prisons, for instance-and the negative-the Inquisition, anti-Semitism over the ages, the role of the Catholic Church in spreading AIDS in Africa through its opposition to condoms.
“No religion should be favored, and none ignored. And as we discover more and more about the biological and psychological bases of religious practices and attitudes, these discoveries should be added to the curriculum, the same way we update our education about science, health, and current events. This should all be part of the mandated curriculum for both public schools and for home-schooling.
“Here’s a proposal, then: As long as parents don’t teach their children anything that is likely to close their minds — through fear or hatred or by disabling them from inquiry (by denying them an education, for instance, or keeping them entirely isolated from the world) then they may teach their children whatever religious doctrines they like.
“It’s just an idea, and perhaps there are better ones to consider, but it should appeal to freedom-lovers everywhere: the idea of insisting that the devout of all faiths should face the challenge of making sure their creed is worthy enough, attractive and plausible and meaningful enough, to withstand the temptations of its competitors. If you have to hoodwink-or blindfold-your children to insure that they confirm their faith when they are adults, your faith ought to go extinct.” (p327-8)
I expanded on this in the blog “On Faith” (Washington Post project to discuss religion)
But there are a number of objections that need to be answered.
First, people want to know how on earth the curriculum could be fixed. Who would `dictate’ which facts were required and which could be omitted? Surely, people think, this would ignite a political firestorm.
Not so, I reply. If we can devise a political process that is not only transparent and fair, but readily seen to be transparent and fair, we should be able to reach a stable consensus on what goes into the curriculum and what stays out-and this would be adjustable over time as we learn more and more about religions, since the political process would be self-maintaining and self-correcting.
All the major and minor religions would be invited to participate, as well as representatives from the non-religious minority, which outnumbers many of the major religions in the United States. There are at least 749 million atheists in the world today, twice as many atheists as Buddhists, 40 times more atheists than Jews, and more than 50 times more atheists than Mormons, according to a recent study by Phil Zuckerman (2006).
All major religious and non-religious groups would be invited to propose self-portraits, in effect, of their traditions, including all the material they would want others to know about them, within agreed-upon length limits. No religion has a majority in the world, and to a first approximation–subject to adjustment by the political process itself-time and space in the curriculum should be proportional to the number of adherents worldwide.
These self-portraits would be subject to challenge on grounds of factual inaccuracy, and other representatives (and scholars and other interested parties) would have an opportunity to propose important facts left out of the self-portraits. These disagreements about facts could then be resolved in something like a legal trial, and this process would go through several iterations, no doubt, before compromise drafts could be approved.
We know how to do this. There are plenty of checks and balances available to prevent religions from censoring shameful but undeniable truths on the one hand, and to prevent religions from ganging up to vilify minority religions on the other hand. It will take political will to make it happen, but who today does not see the importance of shining the light of rational inquiry on these issues?
(Notice that the truth or falsity of any religious doctrines would not be included in the curriculum, since not a single point of religious doctrine is agreed upon as straightforward fact by the world community.)
Another oft-expressed objection supposes that it is highly unrealistic to expect private school teachers and home-schoolers to do a good job teaching this curriculum, since many of them could be expected to find it deeply antithetical to their worldviews.
I agree, and no doubt a significant proportion of public school teachers would be unsympathetic purveyors of this curriculum as well, but I don’t think it matters. I am content to let teachers say to their students: “This compulsory curriculum is garbage, the work of Satan, a miserable political compromise rammed down our throats by an unsympathetic state.” But they had better add: “Still, you’re going to be tested on it, and if you don’t pass the test, your school credentials are in jeopardy.”
Mere exposure, however biased, to the assertion that most people in the world believe these to be the facts should succeed in inoculating many children against the toxic viruses of some religions. The credibility of the teachers will also be in jeopardy if they rail against the curriculum, and the better we make the curriculum, the harder it will be to sustain such an opinion. A few major television series on the new curriculum, and ample web sites, would also be there to balance the effects of those who would try to discredit it.
Perhaps the most serious challenge I have heard is that the curriculum in schools is already packed. What would I remove to make room for this? That is another tough, political question, but those of us who believe that the widespread ignorance about religion-especially given the emotional power of this ignorance-is a dangerous condition if it persists will just have to help educators decide how to prioritize the issues and shoehorn this material in. We already have the three Rs. Does anybody think this fourth R is less important in the 21st century?
Finally, I have been amused to see some opponents of this proposal call it “fascistic” or “totalitarian,” when in fact it is refreshingly libertarian: you may teach your children whatever you want about religion without any interference from the state, as long as you teach them these facts as well.
“How much more freedom could one want? The freedom to lie to your children? The freedom to keep them ignorant? You don’t own your children, like slaves, and you have no right to disable them with ignorance. You do have an obligation to let them have the mutual knowledge that is available to every other child, as a normal part of growing up in a free society.
Besides, this knowledge will enrich their minds in uncountable ways, since it will acquaint them with some of the greatest music, art and literature that the world has to offer, and give them the sort of perspective on their own lives that you can only get from comparing your life with the lives of others.
Let me add one further observation. Note that my proposal does nothing to dilute the principle of religious freedom: you may teach your children whatever you want, as long as you also teach them the 4th R. You may oblige them to engage in rituals and observe prohibitions ad lib, as long as you also keep them informed in the prescribed way.
This mandatory curriculum would surely not succeed in wiping out all the objectionable practices that religions are currently permitted to engage in under the good blanket protection of religious freedom, but it would surely make it harder for elders to maintain these traditions when the children knew about the lives of others. For a striking testimonial to the power of this knowledge of other lives, other mores, read Infidel, Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s heartbreaking tale of growing up in Muslim Somalia, and the liberating effect, on her, of reading the Nancy Drew stories of all things! If we insist on opening the floodgates of information to all children, toxic religions will have a hard time surviving, while religions that deserve our respect flourish–and it can all be done without abrogating the principle of religious freedom.
« Newer Posts — Older Posts »