You Are Here Three Atheists Explain Why the Bible Should Be Taught in Schools Annie Holmquist | October 5, 2017
Ask most Americans if the Bible should be read in schools and a majority will likely say no. After all, the Supreme Court ruled in 1963 that states and school boards may not require the Bible to be read in schools… so doesn’t that mean that its presence should be completely abolished?Even though the Supreme Court insisted that this was not the case, many schools have taken this stance, not only in the U.S., but in European nations as well. But according to British broadcaster Melvyn Bragg, such a move is very detrimental to society. As a liberal atheist, Bragg’s opinion does not appear to be the result of religious proselytizing; instead, Bragg argues that failure to have children read the Bible will result in a dearth of cultural literacy:“'[The Bible] should be read so that people have depth to language and depth of reference, which they are without.‘I think it is a great deprivation. What have we thrown away? One of the greatest pieces of art, work, whatever way you want to put it. It’s awful.”Bragg specifically advocates for the King James Version of the Bible, comparing it to works of Shakespeare in beauty and relevance.
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7 thoughts on “Three Atheists Explain Why the Bible Should Be Taught in Schools | Intellectual Takeout”
Interesting read. Melvyn Bragg is not an atheist. Reading his bio, it sounds like he was religious when he was young, when he went to college, he really didn’t involve himself with religion but later in life got closer to the fold.
Dawkins has “… an ulterior motive for wishing to contribute to Gove’s scheme. People who do not know the Bible well have been gulled into thinking it is a good guide to morality. This mistaken view may have motivated the “millionaire Conservative party donors”. I have even heard the cynically misanthropic opinion that, without the Bible as a moral compass, people would have no restraint against murder, theft and mayhem. The surest way to disabuse yourself of this pernicious falsehood is to read the Bible itself.
Hitchens compares the old English to Shakespeare in a literary sense. (As he points out various translation issues with other bibles) He is also quoted as saying: “Why don’t they call for prayer in the trains, or prayer in the stock exchange? They want it in schools. Why do you think they want it in the schools? Because they want a captive audience. They want an audience they can mold and can form. Well, they’re not going to be allowed to have it.”,
I wouldn’t mind if *all* religion, worldviews and philosophies were taught in school. Give the children a chance to compare and choose on their own but most parents likely do not want their children to learn religions that differ from their own, sadly.
I even as a Christian that has been labeled a fanatic from time to time have a minority view on religion in public school. I know that some cults are dangerous, and I simply don’t trust the government to teach religion in school. I think we would be much better off giving parents vouchers, and letting the parents choose what schools their children go to, and if the parents choose a religious school, it is the parents endorsing the religion , not the state. The schools that had the best reputation for teaching their students, would get the most students, like our colleges today.
But as someone who lives in this culture, I have seen a terrible drop in our level of education. College aged kids often don;t even know in which century Columbus came to America, I know that many non-Christians don’t realize this anymore but all but two of our Founding Fathers held some sort of Church office, and were inspired by the principles in the Bible when they wrote our Constitution. Because our Founding Fathers were so inspired, believe it or not, it is part of our history, and thus part of our culture. When we removed the Bible from our public square, we removed the foundation of our culture, and without a culture to hold us together our society will soon crumble, as evidenced by the rioting in the streets. If nothing else we need at least the Jeffersonian Bible taught, which had the miracles removed, and was originally printed to give to Native Americans to teach them the European culture.
The “Jefferson” bible was never printed to give to Native Americans. It was not printed until well after his death. It is said he placed that blurb in there just in case someone found it, which would have been used as political fodder.
Do you have a source you can point me to the founding fathers and the church office they held, that would be an interesting read and it’s something I’d like to research further… On the other hand, If our Fore Fathers wanted separation of Church and State, what they did on their personal time really doesn’t mean they didn’t want a government free of religious intrusion (or a government that intruded on religion).
I’m on the fence about “vouchers”. Maybe no one should pay school tax, that way parents can choose to put their money towards the school of their choice. Unfortunately, I’m afraid that people will claim poverty and not send their children to school or send their children to schools that are inferior.
I don’t agree that if teaching children about religion, it needs to be the Christian religion especially since that is endorsing a single religion… we know there are people of many faiths in the states. Why not Buddhism?… That’s why I think it’s better that if you are going to push religion on the kids, you might as well make it every religion… and non–religion, teach it as an ethics course.
I am going to have to break up my answer to you over several posts, and it may take me a couple of days to totally respond as my physical therapy is keeping me exhausted.
My response about the Jeffersonian Bible being for Native Americans may have been misinformed.
I once visited Monticello, and the tour guide told me that it was for Native Americans, and it apparently was a theory that some believe, but it wasn’t it’s original purpose, so I scrap the Native American story until more evidence comes in.
It may take time to find a resource you can trust to prove my statements about the Founding Fathers, I may have to prove my statement one Founding Father at a time, but I will start working on that in the morning.
Separation of Church and state is not a constitutional phrase, it was actually said in a letter that Thomas Jefferson wrote to the Danbury Baptist to reassure them that he as President would not get in the way of their religion. The actual phrase in the Constitution was “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” Since religion is lumped in with several other rights, they all have to be interpreted in the same way. If our right to be religious is only a right in the privacy of our own houses, then freedom of speech would have to be interpreted that way as well. I hope that we can both agree that we need to be careful about limiting the rights of the press, and speech, and if the Founding Fathers intended that too, then we also have to be careful about limiting religion. And in fact is says right in the Constitution that the government can’t limit the free exercise of it.
If my understanding of vouchers is correct, not only would the use of vouchers be limited to education only. Just like no matter how broke you are, you can’t buy soap with food stamps. All children have to be educated by law. Even homeschoolers are regularly tested to make sure they are in fact being educated. While everything that has ever been invented can be misused in some way, I am sure they would do as good of a job making sure vouchers are not abused, as they do in making sure that kids actually go to school. As for purposely sending your kid to an inferior school, We are already sending our kids to inferior schools, public school kids get an average of 75 points less on their SATs than private school kids, it isn’t because parents want to send kids to crappy schools, it is because they pay so much in taxes, that they can’t afford private school.
I am not saying that schools should teach the Bible as a religion, I have already said I don’t trust them to pick one that would do it right. The Bible isn’t just a religious book, it is philosophical, historical, and the basis of most laws in America. You can teach children about Babaloynian people sacrificing their kids on a red hot statue of Baal, without teaching them to worship Baal and kill their own kids. There is still much you can learn from the Bible, in fact, many non-Christians use the Bible to research where they should look for future digs. It isn’t about being Christian, it’s about learning history, and philosophy, maybe even learn to debate moral issues in a scholarly way, and not like a cat fight that often takes place on the internet. If you could show me how other non-Judeo-Christian religions informed our culture in significant ways I may agree with you teaching significant parts of those other religions, but remember this is history, and literature we are talking about, I am not wanting the government to have any part in telling our kids who to pray to. I just don’t trust them enough to do that job.
It is getting late. I will write more later.
This isn’t the research that I promised you, just something that was in my feed that I found appropriate.
Here is a link that discusses Washington’s First Thanksgiving Day proclamation.
Please take note of the phrases like “the many signal favors of Almighty God”,
“Citing biblical precedents and resolutions of the Continental Congress”, “The Virginia assembly, for example, resolved on 19 November that the chaplain “to this House, be accordingly requested to perform divine service, and to preach a sermon”
More will come later.
Don’t go to the trouble, that is an undertaking I can take. If you are healing, I’d rather you take time to mend rather than do my leg work.
I did start with Washington and found he had several functions within the church. It is interesting to note that at a time, he did not participate in Holy communion. He was also a Freemason… not that it makes him any less of a Christian.
The one thing we need to understand about early America, there was plenty of infighting and persecution among the Pilgrims, Puritans, Protestants (even among varying Protestant sects) and Catholics. They considered it heretical that there be an outsider in a specific colony. Laws (State) were created to prevent people of certain sects (and Jews) from holding public office. There were laws concerning the attendance of a church! (and laws along those lines)
The Founding Fathers (as well as future politicians) has to appeal to the people, a religious people at that. And had to find a balance between the parishioners of those various sects. So I’m not surprised that the Founders got involved in varying churches in one respect or another. While Jefferson was trying to create laws to state all citizens had the right to worship as they choose (or not to), he was called an Atheist!
If you read the Federalist papers, James Madison’s “Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments”, Jefferson’s “Virginia Act for Establishing Religious Freedom”, you will find many references to keeping the Federal Government separate from Religion and visa versa. In effect, they wanted to be Secular so they pushed matters of religion onto the state (and that’s why states had (and still have) religious laws on the books). As you pointed out, the word “Separation” do not exist in the Constitution but if you research a little bit more, the founders were very specific about the form of Federal Government they wanted.
What laws of ours come from the Christian Bible? Not Killing? Not Stealing? Those precepts have long existed before Christianity. Maybe we should teach them Hebrew and give credit where credit is due? Teach them Common law, Saxon law..etc. Some Psychology comes from Buddhism. (Just a mish mash of a few things here) but I guess my biggest point, we have children of all backgrounds and beliefs, why should the Bible trump all other beliefs? Why not teach children about the other cultures and religions and non-religions so they can accept that there are other people in the world and we should accept them all.
Some schools are struggling, it is true. There are many factors for this. You point out SAT Scores in private schools and let me give you an example. The parent who sends their child to private school is likely a middle to upper class household. They are advantaged. I would bet if we took children of like social class and compared the numbers, they would likely be the same. But in public schools, you also have many minorities and those who are poor. These kids are the ones that suffer from their parents lack of education or social status. That will push public school numbers down. Giving a voucher is not going to solve the issue. The public schools will suffer even more due to lack of financing and we may even see inferior private schools pop up.
I think the true solution is to re-evaluate our school curriculum and figure out the course work that will be appropriate for children today (not 40 years ago). My son’s High School offers many great electives for students who know the direction they want to go in. Robotics, Programming, Media, Construction..etc. For a public schools, they are one of the top in the state.
Sorry for being so long winded. Hope your PT is going well. Enjoy your Monday!
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