Religion In Schools

During my school years, I took several biology courses but was never taught evolution.  It was a real pity, a tragedy really.  When I learned about evolution and Darwin on my own, I was angry.  I should have been taught the origin of species, the age of the Earth, the origin of the solar system, and the basics of Big Bang cosmology during my high school years, but was I?  No.  Instead, I left school believing there was nothing wrong with the creation myths I’d learned as a young boy in Sunday school.

In Texas, creationists have succeeded in getting the Bible into schools.

WHITEHOUSE, TX (KLTV) – The school year is almost here, and if literature of the Bible is not already offered in your child’s school, it will be this fall.

“By the end of the year, what they begin to realize is that it is pervasive. You can’t get away from it. The kids came back and were like ‘It’s everywhere,'” said John Keeling, the social studies chair at Whitehouse High School. Whitehouse already offers a Bible elective. “The purpose of a course like this isn’t even really to get kids to believe it, per se, it is just to appreciate the profound impact that it has had on our history and on our government.”

The law actually passed in 2007, but this will be the first school year it is enforced because the bill says, “The provisions of this act pertaining to a school district do not take effect until the 2009-2010 school year.”

“I think it is a good thing because a lot of kids don’t have that experience, and they already want to take prayer out of school as it is, and you see where our kids are ending up!” said Tyler resident Laura Tucker.

Tyler resident, Havis Tatum, disagrees with Tucker.

“I don’t want anybody teaching their religious beliefs to my child unless they want to send their child to my house and let me teach them my religious views,” said Tatum. “There is no difference.”

I’m worried where this is headed.  School is supposed to teach us established science and facts.  It’s not about people’s arbitrary beliefs which aren’t empirically verifiable.  School is supposed to filter out everything but provable scientific truths.  It’s not about presenting “all sides”.  This is ludicrous.  Why not offer a course telling kids that we were created by little green aliens?  We have to present every belief system after all.

The main problem is there are no “sides”.  We’re just as sure of evolution as we are that the Earth goes around the Sun.  It’s a fact, not a theory, and needs to be taught as such.  If you were to line up all biologists, anthropologists, and experts in genetics in the same room and ask them, “If you believe in evolution by natural selection come to this side of the room.  If you have another belief system, stay where you are”, all but maybe a handful would join you at the other side of the room.  Nobody who has seriously considered the evidence can believe otherwise.

I don’t want children to end up wasting years of their lives believing in nonsense.  I believed a lot of that junk for a large portion of my life, and that’s sad. I’ve experienced far too much tension from my own family regarding religion.  These things are dividing us and they shouldn’t be.

I hope our schools don’t end up like they’re becoming in Australia.  Just listen to how ridiculous things get when religion finds its way into our classrooms:

PRIMARY school students are being taught that man and dinosaurs walked the Earth together and that there is fossil evidence to prove it.

Fundamentalist Christians are hijacking Religious Instruction (RI) classes in Queensland despite education experts saying Creationism and attempts to convert children to Christianity have no place in state schools.

Students have been told Noah collected dinosaur eggs to bring on the Ark, and Adam and Eve were not eaten by dinosaurs because they were under a protective spell. [ …. ]

Set Free Christian Church’s Tim McKenzie said when students questioned him why dinosaur fossils carbon dated as earlier than man, he replied that the great flood must have skewed the data.

Queensland Teachers Union president Steve Ryan said teachers were sometimes compelled to supervise the instructors “because of all the fire and brimstone stuff”.  [….]

Buddhist Council of Queensland president Jim Ferguson said he was so disturbed that Creationism was being aired in state school classrooms that he would bring it up at the next meeting of the Religious Education Advisory Committee, part of Education Queensland.

He said RI was supposed to be a forum for multi-faith discussion.  [….]

A parent of a Year 5 student on the Sunshine Coast said his daughter was ostracised to the library after arguing with her scripture teacher about DNA.

“The scripture teacher told the class that all people were descended from Adam and Eve,” he said.

“My daughter rightly pointed out, as I had been teaching her about DNA and science, that ‘wouldn’t they all be inbred’?

“But the teacher replied that DNA wasn’t invented then.”

After the parent complained, the girl spent the rest of the year’s classes in the library.

This is terrible.  Here we have a bright girl who has studied DNA and the fossil record and she’s being kicked out of the classroom.  She doesn’t believe in protective spells and questions how mankind could exist without DNA.  How did Adam and Eve have a child without DNA?  That’s impossible.  And how could you possibly teach kids all the cellular processes which go on in our bodies, and then tell them that Adam and Eve didn’t have DNA?

This poor girl is forced to spend each day in the library alone, alienated from all her peers.  As for the rest of them, they’re all being told they’ll burn in hell if they don’t acknowledge Jesus as the creator of the world.

We have to fight against this.  The world has way too much superstition as it is.

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12 Responses to Religion In Schools

  1. Timothy Fairman says:

    Well, all I can say is that you can’t let a few idiots change your view of a whole people. It really shouldn’t be a secret by now that I am a Christian. I believe we should teach free thought however. You can’t make a believer by telling them these lies. I love to study apologetics. “The flood messed up the dating,” really? The correct response would be that dating is in no way exact or reliable, but I digress. This bothers me because it fuels beliefs that all christians are just close minded idiots. Look at the site answers in genesis. There are really some great minds there. On your last post you warned about accepting science as absolute truth but in this one you claim evolution to be undeniable fact. I doubt I know enough to change your beliefs, however. Just curious, what do you think of Pascal’s wager?

  2. I have a lot I need to do today, so I’ll be a bit brief on these issues. If I get some time, I’ll write up a more dedicated post with a lot more details.

    > I believe we should teach free thought

    I too believe in free thought, but when dealing with religion this can easily be misconstrued to think that we should allow anybody to believe anything and have no respect or regard for the evidence. Intelligent human beings, which is what I believe school should produce with time, should cross their arms and always ask, “Why should I believe this?” They shouldn’t believe things in blind faith. They should demand reasons and logical explanations for things.

    It’s exactly like a court of law. If I’m asked to serve the jury in a murder trial, at the beginning of the case I’ll be under the mindset, “I don’t know if this man is guilty or not guilty. I will wait until the evidence presents itself and then decide.” It’s wrong to believe someone guilty or not guilty just by looking at him. You’re innocent until proven guilty.

    In the same way, I think it’s wrong to believe things in blind faith, which is what religion tells us to do. I’m the exact opposite of a religious person. I do not believe in something until someone proves to me why I should believe. Of course, a religious person will tell me, “Just look around you. How could all this have come about by accident? The birds, the bees, the flowers… How could the human eye just pop out of nowhere? There’s proof all around you.” There’s really so much to discuss. I suppose the first major bone of contention is what constitutes sufficient “proof” to justify a belief. That’s a very difficult and long discussion. Next we’d have to lay out all the laws of science, talk about the nature of human knowledge and certainty, and then ask ourselves how certain we can be about anything. That task is beyond the scope of this comment.

    I will very briefly lay out what I believe and why I believe it. For every belief I demand evidence. Now what is evidence? Evidence is something I can perceive with my senses, or something I can infer from the laws of this universe which have been proven through reproducible experiment and observation.

    Now this sounds like common sense, but it really isn’t. Hardly anyone lives by this simple principle. Let’s say someone asks us, “How many teeth does a horse have?” We don’t know, so we go around asking people for answers. First we find a religious priest. He thinks about it for a second and then says, “I’m not sure. Let me pray about it.” So he locks himself up in a room someplace and prays for a few days. He then has a revelation and comes to tells us, “It was revealed to me by revelation from God that a horse has 10 teeth.” Then a bishop says, “No no good sir, God revealed to me that the horse has 12 teeth, just as the tribes of Israel were 12 in number.” Then a robed foreigner joins us in the room, lights a candle, says a prayer in Latin, lights some candles in a geometric figure, dances around in loin cloths, and then says, “No no no. It’s been known since ancient times that a horse has 26 teeth. See! It’s written in the ancient scrolls which I dug up.”

    I don’t know about you, but I could care less what some old book says, or what these priests feel was revealed to them by revelation. You know what I’d do? I’d say, “Ok guys. Let’s go find some horses and look for ourselves. Let’s do some observations.” Then I’d open up their mouths and count them. You know what I’d find? All the religious people were full of it. I’d find that young horses have 24 temporary teeth, whereas adult female and male horses differ in teeth count. Adult females have 40, whereas males have 42 teeth.

    The observation process would go something like this. I’d open up the first young horse’s mouth and say, “Hmm. 10 teeth. Tim, write that down. Horse 1, age: young, 24 teeth.”

    Now at this point, if this is all the observations we could make we would simply say, “We have opened the mouth of one young horse and counted its teeth. We found it to be 24.” Then a sceptic asks us, “How can you be sure that every horse has that number of teeth?” We’d have to say, “We don’t know. We’ve only observed one young horse. We found it to have 24.” That’d be the end of the discussion.

    But then we observe 10 different young horses. We find them all to have 24 teeth. Then the same sceptic asks us again, “How can you be sure that every horse has 24 teeth?” We would say, “Well, we’ve observed 10 different young horses and they all have this same number of teeth.” In the strictest sense we could say no more, but as a general rule, we’d feel more certain than we did before that young horses have 24 teeth. But the sceptic argues further, “Where do you get these young horses? Are they all from the same location? How do you know that the number of teeth don’t differ one location to the next?” So we do more experiments, taking horses not just from one location, but from all over the world. They continue to have 24 teeth.

    Say we observe 100,000 different horses from all over the world. At this point are we certain that young horses have 24 teeth? In the strictest sense, no we’re not. Who knows, maybe with the next horse we’d find its young offspring to have 26 teeth. Who are we to say? But with more and more observations and experiments, we seem to get closer and closer to the “truth” of this question.

    If people would follow this method, all the irreconcilable arguments would end. Christians who say, “Jesus created the world. Read the Holy Bible and whats found in Genesis. And by the way, God demands that you live this way, go to church, and say these prayers or you will burn in hell forever.” Then Hindus say, “No. Shiva is God.” They also feel convicted to tell you how to live. Before long the Christian priests and the Hindu sages start to fight. Christians are convinced that if you believe in Hinduism you’re going to hell, so you better make sure to stop those evil Hindus from promoting their beliefs. If you’re like Christians in the past, you’d feel you have to kill people with different beliefs because they’d spread ideas which send people to eternal hellfire. It’s the greater good to kill off these folks.

    Then as the Christians are waging war on the Hindus for the souls of men, we have the Muslims with their own conceptions of Allah. Their prophet had a different revelation about the origin of the world and God, and so they raise an army and go to war.

    Now it sounds like this is silly. It’s tragic really but just look at the Middle East. This is exactly how they live. One group has their holy book, another group another, and they blow each other up for religious beliefs. Just look at the Time magazine cover of that poor woman whose nose was chopped off. Or read our history of Western civilization. There’s been countless wars fought over religion and beliefs.

    And you know what Tim? These arguments between these groups can never be settled. Never. It’s impossible. Why? Because they don’t care about evidence. Truth to them is not observed evidence through experiments and observation. They’re told to believe in their holy books with unwavering blind faith. They’re told that if they don’t believe in the contents of the book they’re going to hell (or something else terrible will happen to them).

    It’s like when Richard Dawkins interviewed Pastor Ted Haggard. Haggard said (paraphrased), “We as evangelicals embrace the scientific method. We believe that with time, and as more and more facts come in, we’ll learn more and more about how God created the heavens and the Earth.” Do you see the problem? He doesn’t begin by crossing his arms saying, “Prove it. I don’t believe things until they’re proven to me.” He instead says, “This book is true and it’s your job as scientists to prove this book untrue before I’ll disbelieve it.” It’s the opposite of how you’re supposed to be. Then when Dawkins said, “Do you acknowledge that the Earth is 4.7 billion years old? Modern scientific method proves this to be the case.” Haggard replied, “You see what you’re doing don’t you. You take evidence from a small section of the scientific community and assert that as fact.” He’s not interested in scientific evidence. Whatever observations scientists make, he doesn’t acknowledge them as valid. When the vast majority of scientists, and I mean VAST majority of scientists, show data and observations disproving the Bible and what it says, there’s always some special “scientist” who says otherwise. Let’s get into specifics.

    > The correct response would be that dating is in no way exact or reliable

    This is simply false. Different dating methods have different degrees of accuracy depending on the method. They date things within relative time windows. Some are more accurate than others. All of that involves complex science, which is beyond this simple comment’s scope. So instead of discussing all the different dating methods, I’ll make a convincing argument for evolution without all that. I don’t need fossil records to show you how evolution works. In fact, I feel the best arguments Darwin presents in Origin of Species aren’t rooted in the fossil record at all.

    Let’s discuss dog breeding. Say we have a group of German sheperds. We breed them and we get a bunch of little puppies. Within those puppies we find two runts. We separate those from the main group and breed them. They in turn have runt puppies. Not all, but at least some of their puppies are runts as well. I’m not going to go into a deep discussion of genetics. So you take the runt puppies and find the runt of the runt litter. You breed that with another runt. You keep doing this and doing this. Over many many generations you end up with dogs which seem like a different species. In fact, the dogs you see today which are people’s pets were selectively bred using this method. My high school mascot was the bulldog. This particular species of dog doesn’t exist in the wild. It’s almost completely “artificial”. Its head is so large it can rarely even be born without human intervention.

    Read this simple article:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dog_breeding

    Quoting from the article: “Dog breeding is the practice of mating selected specimens with the intent to maintain or produce specific qualities and characteristics.

    Dogs reproduce without human interference, so their offsprings’ characteristics are determined by natural selection. Domestic dogs may be intentionally bred by their owners. A person who intentionally mates dogs to produce puppies is referred to as dog breeder. Breeding relies on the science of genetics, so the breeder with a knowledge of canine genetics, health, and the intended use for the dogs attempts to breed suitable dogs.”

    Is this just speculation? No. There are detailed logs going way way back hundreds of years showing different dog breeding. Dogs have been bred for all kinds of different characteristics. Over many many different generations, you can end up with dogs way bigger than the original parents, or dogs much much smaller than the original parents. You can also selectively breed them for all kinds of different appearances and with time, they pretty much change so much that you’d consider them a different species.

    What Darwin theorized, not even knowing about DNA, is that in nature animals breed with one another producing offspring, just like our dogs did. But unlike our artificial dog breeding where we as humans decide who can have children and who can’t, and which dog types live on, and which ones die off, in nature those offspring most well adapted to their environments live on. Those who can escape predators, catch prey, and are best suited to their particular environment live on. That’s what evolution by natural selection means. Darwin’s Origin of Species doesn’t even talk about DNA. He didn’t know the mechanism for how it worked. He was really interested in how artificial breeding took place and was always gathering huge records on this sort of thing, pillaging through it.

    So is evolution a fact? Of course it is. To deny it is to deny scientific evidence. I’m just as certain of it as to the number of teeth in a horse’s mouth. Did God create a bulldog? No. There are no ancient fossil remains of bulldogs. You can also look through dog breeding logs and see how they created the bulldog. Read this post on the bulldog, and look under ‘History’:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bulldog

    Am I supposed to sit back in denial and say, “I don’t believe these breeding logs. I don’t believe these historical accounts.” Well, I suppose people wouldn’t have to believe our logs of horse teeth count either. That’s their choice. But it’s silly that children are being taught in school to believe in an ancient holy book, written by primitive tribesmen with little science knowledge. Half of what’s in the Bible is proven to be wrong. It’s completely wrong. Bulldogs were not created back in Genesis male and female. Half of these artificially bred dog species would never survive in the wild. It’s wrong. Flat out wrong. That’s what infuriates me about this entire situation. The evidence is overwhelming. There’s mountains of it.

    I get angry that you haven’t been taught about dog breeding in school, and asked to think about it. These truths should be just as obvious to you as 2 + 2 = 4, but they’re not being taught to you. They weren’t taught to me either. When I was young, I searched for truth in the Bible, just like you are. It’s not there.

    When I was just getting out of high school I began to search for the truth. You know what? The first time I picked up Darwin’s Origin of Species I was almost scared to read it. I thought the devil was going to try to convince me of all the “lies of this world”. There are no lies in that book. It’s a science book of logs and observational accounts combined with a very plausible account for the origin of species. Darwin just slowly walks you through scientific observations talking about things like dog breeding and asking you, “How could this possibly work?” He talks about different species and how they’re spread about different islands. He talks about the environments he found during his world travels and how the animals were adapted to the unique situations there. He talks about limited food supplies, how the different animals would have to fight for the food, and so on.

    And as for evolution by natural selection, it’s pretty much beyond doubt that that’s how it works. In nature there’s a limited food supply, different species compete for the food, those strongest and best adapted to the environment win and have offspring. Those offspring in turn compete further, and so it all goes. And when you study the Earth and its processes you see how weather changes over long geological time periods, and how continents drift, and so forth. That means environments would be changing over time, making some species more well adapted to the changes than others. Animals would have to migrate and such, competing in new environments for food. Some species would die off, while others would have what it took to survive.

    And the fossil record, which I’m not sure why you’re denying, shows this clearly. You study Earth science and see how the sedimentary layers form over time. I can’t understand why you won’t acknowledge the physics of radioactivity even though it’s completely proven in laboratories. We can even create subatomic particles in the Hadron collider. This stuff is very well understood. It’s not theory. It’s proven over and over and over and over. There’s been countless experiments done. What you’re doing is denying the number of horse teeth even though there’s been a million different horses observed. But if you want to deny all that, ok. You can’t deny that those fossils are VERY VERY old. You also can’t deny that, in general, those found in deeper layers are older than those found in closer layers to the surface. After all, it takes time for each layer to form, and layers stack onto one another with time. The Earth surely much older than a few thousand years old.

    There’s all kinds of questions I’ll pose to you. If Adam and Eve were both white, for example, and if evolution is impossible, how did we end up with different races? And why, historically, have those races been confined to different areas of the Earth? Why aren’t Asian characteristics of yellow skin and slanted eyes evenly distributed among the Americas, Western Europe, and Africa? Why are native Africans dark black with oily black hair while Caucasians have light skin and say brown hair? How can you explain that?

    If you believe in evolution its not so mysterious. By the very fact that these groups were confined to certain geographic areas, they created isolated breeding populations. Over a long time, just like the dogs, their appearances began to slowly change. They began to evolve independently. But unlike the dog breeding, one particular characteristic wasn’t isolated and all the others forced to be sterile. The changes weren’t as dramatic. Over time though, changes were taking place and adaptations to their particular environment were coming into being. Originally we came out of Africa, so we have a common root, but then we migrated into Europe and Asia, and eventually the Americas.

    The Bible tells me to believe in all these things without evidence. Scientists show me how it all works and everything makes sense. I don’t need the Holy Bible. These things weren’t just snapped into existence by God. That’s not how it works.

    > On your last post you warned about accepting science as absolute truth, but in this one you claim evolution to be an undeniable fact.

    Well, as mentioned, I’m as confident of evolution as I am anything else. As for the post on quantum physics, you’re misunderstanding the purpose of that post. That’s probably my fault for not writing it well enough. What I’m talking about is people who believe in supernatural hocus-pocus, and try to justify it using quantum physics, which has nothing to do with all their new-age nonsense.

    I was talking about how men have always believed that if their faith is strong enough they can lift mountains and throw them into the sea. They can cure diseases just by faith in a deity or even themselves. I was saying quantum physics doesn’t prove this to be possible. In fact, I think it says the opposite.

    If all the men in the world prayed and prayed and prayed that the sun wouldn’t come up tomorrow, I wouldn’t be the least bit worried about it. In fact, I’d love to make a bet with them. Get all the religious folks together and tell them to intercede in prayer for the economy, or to wish the sun away. Tell them to wish mosquitoes into oblivion. None of it will change anything. The sun’s not going anywhere. Pray all you want to, it doesn’t give a damn. The atoms of the sun operate off the laws of physics, not beliefs in people’s heads. The same applies to the viruses floating through your body. In most every case, you can’t cure sickness and disease through thoughts in your head (unless it’s something like emotional sickness, depression, etc. all of which can pose physical health problems).

    There are complex observer effects in quantum mechanics, but I feel they’re being misinterpreted by these people. They try to exploit the window of uncertainty and claim now that “all things are possible to him that believes”, which I don’t believe in. I’d say, “all things are possible to him that understands”, but understanding requires a worldwide effort among scientists all over the world. Faith and wishful thinking won’t solve our problems.

    > What do you think of Pascal’s wager?

    I don’t agree with it. It’s found within his book Pensees. He argues that we have nothing to lose by believing in God. He also argues that if the Bible is correct, you’ll get to live in heaven for all eternity and live in bliss. What do you have to lose? Why not just believe in God?

    I would argue the exact opposite. I think you have a lot to lose and little to gain. Since time immemorial, Gods and deities have always been gods of the gaps. When something can’t be explained, or something is unknown, God or various deities are ascribed to be the cause of the phenomenon. This keeps you in ignorance and keeps the human race from progressing. Since that’s the case, we have everything to lose.

    Take the origin of species. At first this was attributed to a miraculous act of God. Then scientists discovered evolution and God is pushed a little back. A lot of Catholics nowadays believe in evolution. They just say God invented the laws of physics in such a way that evolution is possible, and would create mankind eventually. The origins of the Earth were ascribed to God, until we learned about astronomy and astrophysics, and the formation of solar systems, and then we learned that the Earth didn’t form like that. It formed the same time our sun did around 4.7 billion years ago. Rocks and debris stuck together and eventually formed the planets.

    If you believe the planets magically formed one day by an act of God, then you don’t search for answers. But if you start to ask questions, such as why the plants rotate the way they do, why Jupiter and Saturn are so huge and gassy, why planets closer to the sun rocky and small, etc., you start to see how it all works. When you ask why the atmospheres are composed of the gases they are, and so on, you learn. If you just say, “We can’t know the mind of God, or why he created things the way he did”, you learn nothing. Religion will keep your mind in ignorance. It stops you from asking questions when what you need to be doing is question everything.

    Let’s go further. The laws of physics must be arbitrarily created by God for the purpose of giving life to mankind? Right? Is that true? Well, if you believe that, you’ll never be able to understand string theory and the multi-verse, which shows how through the process of compactification the laws of physics are different in each universe.

    Do you see the pattern? God gets pushed back, but in every single instance He was nothing but a stumbling block keeping people in ignorance, thinking there’s no possible way to explain why things are the way they are. Science seems to be indicating that everything can be explained. It just takes time. That’s not to say there’s simple explanations. String theory is a beast. What I am saying is if we keep working at it, we’ll be able to expand to higher and higher heights and levels of knowledge.

    You have a lot of faith in God. Put that faith in yourself and believe that you can understand this world. Keep digging. As Einstein said, “The most incomprehensible thing about the world is that it is at all comprehensible.”

  3. Yamin says:

    hmmm.
    I’ve pondered on this one a fair bit as well.
    What I can say is that a school cannot be valueless. There are those who say things like: ‘teach your values at home, and let the schools be valueless’

    Firstly, I think this is impossible. Culture/values are not subjects. They are ways of being And we as humans like to pass down our values to our children. Children will probably spend more of their waking hours at school than at home, so the school needs to match the culture of the parents should they wish this to occur.

    When everyone is ‘the same’ then the issues don’t come up as the values of the community are those of the school. But with more diversity comes problems.

    It is why you see Texas trying to change its curriculum to instill more conservative values.
    Everyone knows that if you control the schools, you control the next generation of children.

    It’s why liberals fight so hard against school choice knowing they will lose control of forming the culture of the next generation.

    Our attempt at multi-culturalism has actually become a non-culturalisim. That is to say, by having the school not teach culture, we have actually non-cultural schools… kids deprived of culture… So we end up with very shallow cultures or kids latching onto anything.

    I don’t think any of us can know what the right culture is for everyone. So we must allow people to educate their kids according to their values. Christians should be able to raise their kids in a christian environment,muslims the same, jews the same, atheists the same…

    As they grow up in a free society, they can make whatever choices they want… as we do today.

    So I have no problem with religion in schools. I’d actually say it is essential to let religion/culture be taught in schools, but it cannot be mandated by the government. No group deserves the power to control the education of all. Let the diversity of religion/culture prevail.

    We can and should set standards for learning in terms of civics, respect for other view points, math, reading…

    The quest for the state to have ‘one people’ has been there since the get go and has only resulted in mass genocides. And oddly, once a group becomes so large… it tends to splinter into factions.

    Diversity of ideas/cultures/religions is our strength… not something to be against.

    I’m personally not very religious, but the desire to force god out of schools… and thus out of peoples children is not something I want the state to have power over.

  4. Yamin says:

    and yes… that means letting schools teach something as crazy as creationism.

    As the child grows, they will be exposed to other ideas, peoples, and truths…

  5. Everett says:

    I really agree with Jason on this issue. Honestly I grew up with my own beliefs and I didn’t have my parents pressuring me to believe in god. This was the greatest thing they could have ever done for me. I was able to study Christianity and evolution my own way without pressure. For a few years, I considered myself Christian…but now I do not.

    One of my friends goes to a Christian high school and has been in a religious school since she was in kindergarten. We began a polite argument over religion and our views and she didn’t really know anything about evolution. Her high school had been teaching her that Hawaii was formed from “the Great Flood” and she really had know idea what evolution was, just that it was “bad” to believe it.

    I am so glad that I wasn’t influenced this way and grown up into a biased environment where I was too brainwashed to even know I was in a biased environment.

    Religion in schools is simply wrong. I do not think that all views of religion should be taught either because the only thing that matters is the truth and evolution is not a theory, it is a fact. Religion is a personal issue and if you want to learn about it, go to Sunday school or a private school, not public school. Do not force other peoples’ children to be taught something just because you think they should. Teach your own children things, do not force religion on other people. And as Yamin said,

    “As the child grows, they will be exposed to other ideas, peoples, and truths…”

    Well you are right, so you do not need to be teaching creationism, because it is a belief. If it is right for them, the individual person can decide that OUTSIDE of school because that is where those things should be learned, not in an environment where everybody is different and has different views.

  6. Yamin says:

    “Teach your own children things, do not force religion on other people.”

    of course… non of that would be problem if people had school choice 😛

    Unfortunately, I’ll never understand people who are against it. Forcing parents into the public school which has its own beliefs, culture…

    The idea of completely objective education is a myth.

  7. Everett says:

    Yamin,

    I do think that parents should have a say in which school they send their children to. The particular school you send your kids to does have a huge difference in how the kid behaves and their success in the school systems. Each school has their own culture, and these different cultures do have a huge influence on kids.

  8. Timothy Fairman says:

    Everett, I agree and I see your argument clearly now. I go to public school and I was born into the church but in now way am I in a biased environment. My father is not religious and my mother is but does not push beliefs on me at all. I have a fairly objective approach to it all. I study evolution and creationism and apologetics. I just have reached the conclusion through my experiences that there is a god that is truly good. I can’t force you to believe anything but take a moment and be truly objective, can you see the work of a higher power in your life? That’s what I did.

  9. Everett says:

    Thanks Timothy,

    I have always believed that everyone has their right to believe whatever they wish. And when I grew up, I was very curious about religion. I asked what God was and why such a huge number of people believed a certain way. I studied it myself, went to Sunday School for a few years. But I honestly and confidently can say now, that I do not see the work of a higher power in life.

    Those few years I went to Sunday School, it was as though I was trying to force these beliefs to stick in my mind…but I kept having thoughts about how it really didn’t make any sense. I would ask questions and they wouldn’t be able to explain them to me. When I finally asked myself, why am I trying to force myself to believe in this? First, it doesn’t make any sense, there are too many gray areas that are explained as “because that is the way of God”. Second, this religion was founded by men. If everyone is equal, like the Bible says we are, than why is God higher than us? And why were men treated higher than woman?

    You may argue this and say that woman are a mans equal now, but they weren’t before. To believe values blindly from a book that was written by men who didn’t even believe that woman are truly equal to them, a core value in my mind, really is not any belief system that I want to adopt. Especially if I am adopting these beliefs “because that is the way of God”.

    It reminds me of Galileo and how everyone insisted that the Earth was the center of the universe because it was written down in a book that said so. They were afraid of a new idea. No one likes to be told that what they have been believing their whole life is wrong. With fear, comes ignorance.

    I really do not like to put other beliefs down, but I have given the God theory a chance, and it does not make sense to me. I do not believe in a higher power. Nor do I believe that humanity occupies a central role in the scheme of life. I think all things are equal just how all energy is. Yes there are positive end negative energies, but energy is just energy. Humans are composed of carbon, so are plants, animals, rocks, the universe. I believe in truth that is backed up with evidence, not a blind faith.

    I do hope I didn’t put any of you down. Do not take my arguments personally please. 🙂

  10. Timothy Fairman says:

    Well, I see that belief a lot. Your path is quite common. These questions you ask are my chosen area of study, you can ask for my opinion anytime. The worst I can tell you is I don’t know. However much I would like to I can’t make you believe anything, so there isn’t much more I can say. Nice talking to you!

  11. @Tim – It’s nice to see you standing your ground even when others here are disagreeing with you. That’s a very nice trait to have. You mentioned being objective. Keep it up. Whatever conclusions you come to, let them be your conclusions. Keep searching and sifting through the evidence.

    When you search for answers in this world, everything has a little thread attached to it. It doesn’t matter where you begin. If you follow the evidence, and follow the threads and clues left behind, you’ll find the truth.

    I’ll give you a heads up, though I don’t want you to take my word for it – the threads won’t be there if you search through holy books. The books will lead to dead ends. I’ve already been there and done that. I’m not trying to discourage you from reading and studying them. In fact, to understand history and humanity in general, you have to be aware of what’s in those books. I’ve read the Bible cover to cover many times. I own a Quran, the Bhagavad Gita, the Tao Te Ching, and many other books of the same sort. I have an entire bookshelf of theology books. But you know, the thing is, I would spend hours and hours pouring over those texts in the past, but they just don’t go anywhere.

    Compare them to science books. When you understand science at a deep level, you find that everything is open-ended. I noticed in your comment you talked about how science isn’t absolutely certain about things yet I was claiming evolution as an undeniable fact. I don’t think you’re quite grasping the subtlety of science yet. Scientists don’t claim absolute certainty and never have. All scientific knowledge, at heart, is probabilistic. I’ll give you an example of what scientific truth is like – how you can know things, yet not know everything, both at the same time.

    Take undergraduate level physics. After studying Newton’s laws you’ll move into electro-magnetism. You’ll begin learning about charged particles and the basics of electricity. You begin to study things like Ohm’s law and you find that though it works, it’s really only an approximation for certain metals under certain temperatures. The ‘real’ dynamic is more complicated.

    Now you can do all kinds of physics and science using Ohm’s law. It’s not “wrong”. Experimentally it predicts the behavior of electrical currents, voltages and resistance under various conditions. As long as you stay within certain temperatures and use those metals, it works well enough. You can build all kinds of equipment, even computers, using that law. You can use it as a foundation and in conjunction with Kirchhoff’s laws build some intricate circuits.

    In order to explain to you what’s going on, your textbook will give you a sort of kinetic theory of electric currents. You’ll be asked to imagine these little electrons whirling around the atoms. They’ll chaotically jump from atom to atom in the copper wire under the electro-motive force and flow from higher to lower potential. The random motions will induce movements in the atoms causing them to jiggle randomly, which is why they say electronic equipment heats up as you use it.

    Is that theory “correct”? Is it “true”? Kind of. It works. It’s sort of what’s going on. It allows us to build things. It’s easy for beginners to understand. It predicts things properly under certain conditions. But it’s not the whole picture.

    There’s always a tantalizing little morsel calling out to you. In the textbook you’ll see a small disclaimer saying, “Under extremely low temperatures Ohm’s law doesn’t apply. The metal becomes a ‘super-conductor’ and resistance drops to zero.” Then you sit back like… what? Why in the world would that happen?

    You think to yourself, “Hmm. What is temperature?” Temperature is the random movements of atoms. Ok, you learned that in the chapters on thermodynamics. You picture the electrons whirling and bouncing around in the metal. Then you think, “Why in the world would the resistance drop to zero just because the atoms aren’t moving any longer?” At that point you realize that the theory isn’t quite right. You’re missing something. It doesn’t quite make sense to you.

    That’s because there’s a better theory which explains things even more accurately – quantum mechanics. There’s a much more complicated dynamic going on in the atoms, and that “kinetic theory” you’re taught early on is only there to give you a sort of stepping stone as you move on to more and more difficult ideas.

    That’s what I’m talking about when I mentioned “threads” and following them. Quantum mechanics isn’t the entire picture either. It will predict things even more accurately under more conditions, but we’re quite certain it isn’t the entire picture either. Why? When you study Einstein’s relativity, and try to think about it in the context of quantum mechanics, it doesn’t completely make sense. The two theories don’t really go well together. But is either of them “wrong”? No. Mathematically, they predict what happens under the conditions they were designed to be used under.

    Einstein’s theory of general relativity explains everything we observe in space. When we see the light from galaxies behind other galaxies bent under gravitational lensing, it’s obvious that it’s at least somewhat true. When we accelerate small particles up to near light speed in those huge particle accelerators, we see Einstein’s equations working. The particle’s mass increases and the distance shortens. Also we do all kinds of other experiments and we see that this concept of “space-time” embodies something that is true about the world.

    I’ll give you another example. This might be a better example because it’s easier. Take Newton’s laws of gravity. You drop an apple from the desk. It falls from the desk, every single time without exception. You conclude that gravity does exist. You learn Calculus and you use it to calculate when the apple will hit the ground. You experiment over and over, dropping the apple from different heights. You accurately predict when it will hit the ground each and every time. Now is Newton’s law of gravity “true”? Kind of. It depends. It works under normal conditions.

    Space and time do weird things under extreme gravitational influence but in the world we live in, under the conditions we’re used to, Newton’s laws work. But if you really want to be technical, they’re not completely correct. Newton’s conception of space is wrong. He thought it was indivisible and smooth. When he invented Calculus he assumed this to be true. In reality, space isn’t smooth and continuous. It’s choppy and very strange. The space around us is actually expanding.

    Now I can’t explain quantum field theory to you, that’s complicated. But when you study cosmology, you find that most all the galaxies around us are flying away from us. You learn that the very space between our galaxies is expanding. Yes, space itself! (I know, it’s weird).

    You tend to think of space as this box that extends in three directions. It’s not. It’s more complicated than that. But is Newton’s law of gravity “wrong”? You’d be stupid to deny it. Of course gravity exists. It’s just that Newton didn’t have the entire picture. Scientists in general never have the entire picture. We don’t know everything. There will probably always be a deeper picture.

    If you get enough matter concentrated in some area it can bend space back on itself. I used to play old Nintendo games growing up. In some of the old side-scrollers they’d loop back around and repeat. You’d get to the end of the map and end up where you started. You go to the right and keep going and going and going, and eventually it repeats itself. Believe it or not, under certain conditions, our own universe can do that. Near black holes space and time start to do things like this. You can look out in front of you and see the back of your head. Near the black hole, if you threw the apple it wouldn’t continue in a “straight” line like Newton tells you. It will fly around and hit you in the back of the head, even though you threw the apple forward. And that’s not because it made a circular orbit like the Earth around the Sun. It’s something more complicated. The four dimensional fabric of space-time is warped around the black hole.

    But I want to stress again, Newton’s laws are not “wrong”. They’re just not the entire picture. You may think, “Well, why aren’t kids taught the correct theory then, if Newton’s laws aren’t everything?” Most kids have a hard enough time learning Calculus and working in normal three dimensional space. Einstein’s equations make everything 100 times harder and considering that in our everyday lives Newton’s laws predict everything most engineers and scientists work with, only astronomers and astrophysicists bother dealing with the complexities Einstein’s equations offer.

    Einstein’s equations have Newton’s laws as one particular solution under one particular set of circumstances. In a sense, Newton’s laws were gobbled up by Einstein’s equations which tie it all into a bigger picture.

    If you search in the world, following the threads, observing the evidence and how things are out in the universe, everything ties together. The universe is a vast interconnected web where everything depends on everything else.

    Recently I was watching some lectures on Cosmology, and the professor was telling how the atoms in his cup of water have left-over signatures from the big bang. Even something as simple as a cup of water has clues as to the origin of our entire universe.

    I’d only make a few suggestions to you. Make sure to read books written by people who have very different beliefs than your own. I’d recommend reading Richard Dawkins book, “The Greatest Show On Earth”, which is his most recent book. Its entire focus is the evidence for evolution. It’s all about the fossil record, dating techniques, genetics, experiments that have been done, and more. I just recently got a copy of it, and have been reading it. I’m about half way through it.

  12. @Everett & @Tim – You guys are lucky your parents weren’t forceful with religion. My parents wouldn’t allow any free thought of any kind. They’d tell me and my brothers, “As for me and my house we will serve the Lord.” There were no ifs, ands, or buts. You went to church, paid your tithes, and did everything the Bible told you to do, or you’re going to face all out hell at home. My parents are almost religious Nazis. They still have no idea about my own beliefs about anything. It’s impossible to talk with them. My Dad will go off in a rage even if you talk about evolution. Every Sunday I go eat dinner with my family, and they say a prayer over the food, talk about the church sermon, how good God is, doctrinal issues, and so forth. I sit quietly and don’t cause trouble. People may say, “You should confront your father about these things.” No way. If you met my family, you’d know that that’s not something you want to do. That’s like being in a hot dry wooded forest during a drought, dry leaves all over the ground, wind blowing, and you decide to light a match and throw it on the ground. Why do that?

    It sounds like paradise to have a family which tolerates other beliefs. When I stopped going to church, I pretty much became an outcast. I’m a “heathen”, as my Dad tells me. Grandpa, almost every Sunday, tells me and my brother how we’re going to go to hell if we don’t repent. I find myself torn between the tender affections I have for my family, and the very disagreeable experiences I have when they start confronting me about religion, which is quite often.

    I kept going to church for many many years, not believing in any of it. I was terrified of my parents. When I did stop going, it was a big deal and they confronted me, and hassled me, and it was just terrible. Dad confronted me, stern angry look on his face, “Why weren’t you at church! You backsliding? You a heathen now?” Then he walked out of the room, disgusted with me. I didn’t say anything. I just stood there. Then Mom confronted me, though she wasn’t near as mean. I didn’t answer her questions. I just said, “I don’t want to talk about it.”

    I don’t feel I owe them an explanation. I don’t feel like I deserve to be yelled at, and chewed out just because I believe differently, especially when my beliefs are rooted in solid science, backed by mountains of evidence, and all they have is an old book full of blood sacrifices, magical spells, and talking snakes. I agree with Everett, half of what’s in the Bible doesn’t make sense. Christians say the Bible doesn’t contradict itself. Well, here’s what I think of it:

    None of it makes sense to me. I think the story told in Genesis is nonsense. Creationists are forced to deny scientific evidence which is continually accumulating proving beyond reasonable doubt that evolution is true. When I think of Noah and his ark, there’s just no way people should believe that. Then you have the devil as a big talking snake, tricking Eve into eating the fruit from the tree. There’s the story of Moses parting the sea, the Earth swallowing up the Israelites when they started complaining about the mana. How could God be pure love, and then send snakes to kill off huge numbers of them just because they complained to Moses about having to eat the same food for years and years and years. Could you imagine having to eat mana every single day, for every single meal. From what I remember, it’s honey bread. I would be complaining too. If he’s all powerful, why didn’t he provide them with something else? When they request a change in the menu, he sends them bird meat, but he also inflicts them with plagues and sickness. If a normal human being did that, we’d say he was a terrible tyrant. But to Christians, he’s the embodiment of pure love.

    Then what about the time he ordered Saul to wipe out an entire group of people, the Amalekites. God tells His people to slay them all. Just read this. 1st Samuel chapter 15.

    15:2 Thus saith the LORD of hosts, I remember that which Amalek did to Israel, how he laid wait for him in the way, when he came up from Egypt.
    15:3 Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass.

    So here’s the God of love, telling His people to go slay innocent women and children based on what their great great great grandfathers did hundreds of years ago. That’s insanity. It’s pure evil.

    But Saul disobeys and spares some of them, as well as their best oxen. Then God curses them! For sparing people’s lives, and not slaying innocent people He curses them. He curses them for not killing innocent pregnant women and children. How could such a God ever be considered loving? That’s not love.

    Hitler murdered millions of Jews in the gas chambers. Imagine if you created a gas chamber with eternal flames, and sent the vast majority of all humans who have ever lived to it, just because they didn’t say a prayer begging for forgiveness. How is that love?

    In the Old Testament God commands them to sacrifice animals on the altar. So all these cows are being butchered and cooked on the flames. Incense is being put over them. Why? What in the world would an all powerful deity get out of that?

    Then Jesus comes along, the ultimate sacrifice. His blood being spilled at Calvary is the perfect sacrifice. It represents perfect obedience to God. It’s gruesome and terrifying. Jesus creates for himself a body, just so he can kill himself, to forgive people of sins in an arbitrary system He himself created. Why not just forgive people and not send them to hell to begin with?

    One day my parents were discussing how God dealt with the people who lived before Jesus. Could they be saved? Jewish people today have no concept of an afterlife. That didn’t come until the Christians. Isn’t that kind of strange? I heard one theologian say that after death, people before Christ, who were good people, were taken to some temporary location where they were then offered to receive Jesus, after he had died on the cross. Of course, all of them accepted, and were then beamed up to heaven.

    You know why there was no talk of the eternal soul back in the time of the early Jews? That’s because Plato hadn’t come along yet. Plato was the first to envision the “eternal ideas”, when he was analyzing abstractions in logic. He didn’t know how the mind could comprehend abstractions, such as a table. What did it mean for something to be a “table”, yet that same concept not apply to any particular table? The perfect table must exist in heaven, or at least in some alternate dimension which our minds could access.

    So the Greeks pondered this mystery. Then they got to wondering about identity. They thought about what would happen if you chopped off your finger. Would I still be “Jason”, after losing my finger? Apparently so, but my finger would rot and turn back into dirt. Say I lost both arms and legs. Am I still “Jason”? How many body parts could I lose before I stop being myself?

    Then the ancient philosophers concluded that what a man is is more than his body. He also has a soul. An eternal essence. A spirit. Though the body may be destroyed, this eternal “Jason” lives on. Their misconceptions in abstractions and logic, and not understanding how the brain worked, led them to a faulty idea of a distinction between mind and body, which continues on to this day. It’s even embodied in the modern view of quantum mechanics and the “observer”.

    Let’s talk a little about animal sacrifice. Why was the ancient world filled with human sacrifice, blood drinking, and animal sacrifice? It’s because as mankind hunted animals they saw that when they plunged the spear into the animal, the blood leaked out and then the animal died. So people associated life with blood. They saw that when the blood leaked out of the animal, it died, so they figured it must be the cause of life. So they tried to drink it, wondering if it would make them live longer. But it didn’t. Even so, they noticed that when they ate the flesh of an animal, it sustained their life for a bit longer and they were given energy. So they thought that if they could only eat the flesh of a God, and drink the blood of a god, they would become immortal. That’s where the whole idea of “come to me and you’ll never thirst again” originates.

    That’s what religion in the ancient world is filled with. It’s that primitive idea before we knew anything about what blood is, and how it works. Jesus is just another deity from the ancient world based on the same ideas. That’s what communion is all about. When you drink the wine, and break the bread, you’re symbolically going through an ancient ritual hoping to achieve immortality through eating the flesh of a god.

    I think the Bible is full of contradictions. In the Old Testament, God is angry all the time, killing people, always threatening with his wrath, and inflicting plagues and curses on the people. Later Jesus comes along, who is a pacifist, teaches forgiveness, and tells us to love our enemies. If I were to meet the Christian God in person, I’d diagnose Him as bipolar.

    There are, in the ancient world, many many religions which are near identical to Christianity. In fact, all of Jesus’ miracles were performed by other equivalent deities of that same time period. Turning water into wine, raising the dead man to life, saving the tax collector, and on and on. These were common stories being shared by traveling merchants. The names may change, but the ancient world was filled with these same stories. Many deities were called the lamb of God, died on a cross for the sins of the world, had a fish for their symbol, healed the sick, and on and on. Study the religions of that period and you’ll see what I’m talking about.

    And speaking of the Bible, back when it was first compiled, there were many other books circulating around. The early churches used all kinds of different texts which aren’t in the Holy Bible of today. Take all the books found with the Nag Hammadi library. In there you have all kinds of accounts of Jesus saying things that go against the teachings found in the Bible Christians use today. In there Jesus tells his followers not to look for a deity up in the clouds for God is already within you. Read it and research it for yourself. You find a completely different Jesus, and these texts were circulating back during that time period. They were only later filtered out.

    Many say that forcing religion onto your children is child abuse. I agree with that. I’ve went through it. It’s scary when you don’t have the means to support yourself and your parents are Nazis forcing you to do all kinds of things you don’t believe in, threatening you with hellfire, and worrying whether they’ll throw you out of the house.

    I don’t want this stuff in schools. It’s scary when your parents force you into a school like that, yet you don’t believe in any of it. At that point you’re subject to the authority of your teachers, just as I was with my parents, and you’re forced to stand there and take the abuse. You’re helpless in that situation. If your religious teachers tell you to write a paper on the origin of the world, you write what’s in Genesis. If they ask you why the fossil record is there, you write a paper on the great flood and how the animals died as they all drowned and were buried there.

    I’ve seen Christians who I really respect. Take Bill Moyers. He has a wonderful series of interviews with Joseph Campbell. Campbell is an atheist and refers to Christianity, like other belief systems, as a form of mythology. Moyers doesn’t get violently defensive, start yelling at Campbell, and telling him he’s stupid and going to hell. I could spend time around Bill Moyers and talk to him about all kinds of things. We’d get along just fine. But that environment doesn’t exist with many religious folks.

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