Religion that impacts our lives


Published: Saturday, January 21, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 20, 2006 at 11:42 p.m.
Intelligent design should be taught in our public schools because it matters; but not as science, as the Supreme Court has recently ruled.
Who designed this "intelligent designer" anyway?
We definitely need to learn about religion and its impact on our lives, on our society, and the rest of the world. The study of religion, and its sister, philosophy, should be basic requirements in public high schools.
Of course, such subjects are never taught. Were religion a course in public schools, it would have to be presented as objectively as possible. That can be very tricky when parents have come to believe deeply in values about which there is little hard data.
Still, people have to believe in something, don't they? Even atheists believe there is no God. Everyone needs to think carefully about something that is so important to them.
One of our democracy's most serious problems is that Americans are naive believers. Certainly "reason" alone is insufficient to know God.
Martin Luther would have us take what we believe about Him on faith. The philosophers, on the other hand, incline to argue that what we value most deeply should be the product of careful and critical thinking - on reason.
Why then don't our schools explain the "reasonableness" of intelligent design in a religion or philosophy course? Well, because local public school boards don't dare meddle with religion or philosophy.
Local churches are an important force in community politics. However, the Court does not prohibit teaching about religion. For instance, every American should know that forgiveness of sins and virgin birth are Christian ideas. For an American, be he agnostic, Jew, Muslim, or whatever, not to know such facts is to be truly ignorant - even to the point of being a social misfit.
But a course about religion is not the same as a course in philosophy. In philosophy, students might examine critically, for example, questions such as: Is life fair? Should it be? Should there be limits to personal freedom? Are some humans inferior to others? Is lying ever justified? What does God have to do with all this? How can one know? What are some of the
strongest arguments in favor of the existence of God? Weakest?
Philosophy offers substantial analysis of answers to such questions. Shouldn't an educated citizen be aware of them?
The tragedy of American public education is that fails at almost all age levels to acquaint students with such matters. School boards fear that allowing such thoughts will stimulate awkward discussions and unorthodox conclusions and they are probably correct. But without such knowledge, citizens can remain confident as persons only so long as they remain
ignorant of life's most important questions.
Such a deficient education is hardly an intelligent design for any civilization that matters.
Richard Renner is a retired professsor of Educational Foundations and Social Sciences at the University of Florida.

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