24 October 2006

Bad Religion

In this country, we seem to have a number of folks who fail to understand the difference between a person being free to choose his or her own religion and being free to impose personal convictions onto others in the form of law. In Europe, they seem to have the opposite problem, failing to understand the difference between social norms and freedom for the individual to dress as she pleases.

First the French and now the English are making an issue of Muslim women wearing veils. Just as absurd and indefensible as the religious right's attempts in this country to turn scripture into legislation.

Speaking of legislation, it is time to mandate education on religion. It should have at least three components - how so many have consolation in it, how it has been used to wreck havoc on society, and the necessity of religious tolerance. If taught why and how so many have found peace and joy in faith - beliefs that are based in nothing scientific - students will come to appreciate the potential of faith. If taught how religions have resulted in negatives like chronic guilt, religious wars, and the rejection of scientific thinking and reason, students can come to appreciate how dangerous it is to let religion dictate to societies. If taught how much persecution has followed from forcing religion on the individual (as happened in medieval Europe) to forcing the individual to abstain from religion (as happened in so many communist regimes during the Cold War), students will learn the importance of religious tolerance. How communities believe that they can sustain healthy policies and respect for the individual without ensuring that students understand these issues is puzzling. When communities "do religion badly," it is hard for them to get much else right. Such an important issue should not be left to chance.

No comments: