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Mon Oct 8, 2012, 11:29 AM

Paying the price for religious illiteracy

In Judge Joseph Sheeran’s courtroom, religious literacy is seen as an antidote to intolerance and hate.

Last week, the Michigan judge gave Delane Bell two years’ probation for attacking two men Bell thought were Muslims. But the judge conditioned the sentence on Bell’s completing a 10-page paper on Hinduism, the actual faith of the assault victims. This was Judge Sheeran’s second attempt to educate Bell about religions. At his plea hearing, Bell was ordered to write a paper on the cultural contributions of Islam, presumably to help him stop viewing all Muslims as terrorists.

As much as I admire the judge’s optimism about the power of learning, it’s probably naïve to hope that writing a paper will inspire remorse in people who beat up Muslims, spray paint synagogues with swastikas, burn down black churches or — as we saw this past summer — gun down Sikhs.

But on the larger question of what Americans need to know in order to be good citizens, Sheeran may be onto something. Study about religions in school, it turns out, can indeed increase understanding among people of different faiths and beliefs.

After taking a course in world religions, high school students increase their support for the rights of others, according to a study by Emile Lester and Patrick Roberts published by the First Amendment Center in 2006. The study also found that students leave the course with a greater understanding of the major world religions and a fuller appreciation of the moral values shared across differences.


Religious EDUCATION? Yes! Religious INDOCTRINATION? No! There is a difference, and education is the KEY to tolerance.

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Reply Paying the price for religious illiteracy (Original post)
cleanhippie Oct 2012 OP
dimbear Oct 2012 #1

Response to cleanhippie (Original post)

Mon Oct 8, 2012, 08:29 PM

1. The other valuable thing you are likely to learn is how widespread incredible beliefs are.

Once you notice that most of the world swallows some outrageous whoppers, you may be a little more likely to examine your own beliefs with some skepticism.

It's happened often enough. In fact, often enough that you can understand why many religions encourage you not to learn about other ones. (Mostly applies in the third world.)

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