The Role of Religion in Public Education


Question

What role should religion play in public education?

Answer

H.D. Goswami Profile Picture

Undoubtedly, religion has played a fundamental role in human history, and schools should not hide or censor this fact. Also, America is a diverse country with many religions, and students must know basic facts about important religions in order to function as informed citizens. This is about information, not preaching or favoring one religion over another. At times, the court system is irrationally paranoid about curriculum. For example, some form or other of intelligent design theory is an ancient philosophical position, not necessarily religious. Of course many religions espouse intelligent design, but the theory itself, stripped of any specific religious doctrine, clearly is a philosophical, not a religious, theory and, therefore, cannot be banned or censored in schools.

Finally, we know that children must learn ‘values’ in school or many of them eventually harm society and themselves. Yet values are metaphysical, they are not physical facts. For example, democracy is based on a religious idea, namely equality. All of empirical science tells us that equality is nonsense, we are all unequal — artistically, athletically, intellectually, financially, etc. Yet, our entire political and social system is based
upon a metaphysical belief for which there is no ‘scientific’ evidence — equality of all people. Thus, certain moral and ethical principles are necessary to have a civilized society at all. Again, the fact that this or that religion also teaches it does not make it automatically ‘religious’ in nature.