Monday, September 14, 2009

Education: The Enemy of Religion?

Why do so many conservative Christians, Jews and Muslims insist on home schooling or private schools for their children?

They often mask their educational choices under the guise of "better schools," but most are up front about the real reason: Public schools teach science, evolution, and secular morality, which they view as directly opposed to their religions. A widely-believed rumor says that 80% of children who attend public schools will abandon the faith of their parents.

I don't get this. Truth should not be fragile.

If you believe something, if you are utterly convinced of its truth, then you shouldn't be afraid of knowledge. You should be willing to open your mind to all ideas, to learn about all viewpoints, to expand your knowledge. You should embrace the wonders of the world, and learn how your religion fits into the amazing, complex world that God created.

And, of course, you should want the same for your children!

Shunning education is an admission that your religion can't withstand scrutiny. If learning simple, well-established facts about science and nature is a threat to your beliefs, then you don't really believe, do you? How strong is your faith if you have to protect it from exposure to facts?

Children are very malleable, their minds can absorb vast quantities of information when they're young, and evolution has equipped them with a strong desire to do so. That's what makes us humans different from the rest of the animals: That we pass most of our knowledge from generation to generation via memes (cultural knowledge) rather than genes (instinct).

Deeply religious people have incorporated this very knowledge into their own culture. They know that their beliefs are fragile and vulnerable, that science has made fantastic progress while their religions have retained their ancient, mythical explanations of the world's origins. They know, in their hearts, that evolution science makes much more sense than creationism.

That's why, when someone tells me that their child is being home schooled because of their religion, what I really hear is their fear of the truth.


  1. Brilliant observations.
    That indeed puts faith in its knees. If religious people are so confident on the truth of their faith, they should not fear anything.
    Great blog, keep up the good work.

  2. Thanks, Fernando, I appreciate your support!

  3. Stephen R. McBrideApril 8, 2011 at 11:47 AM

    Quite brilliant. I'm a teacher in the UK, and am the Head of the Humanities faculty, which encompasses History, Geography, Sociology and Resligious studies (a legal requirement in the UK). However, I and my staff are rigorous in ensuring that religious uideas are taught as just that; ideas, interpretations, ways of looking at the world. never as facts.

    I shall be sharing your post with my faculty because of its insights.

  4. Professor McBride – thanks for your kind words. At the risk of sounding self serving, I hope you can find time to check out my book, The Religion Virus. I've always thought it might be an interesting bit of reading in a World Religions or History of Religion class.


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