Let’s hear it for comparative religion!

your say April 19, 2019 01:00

Re: “As education level rises, religion recedes” and “Religion should be taught in schools – as mythology”. Have Your Say, April 17 and yesterday.

As a student of religions, I accept the fact that religion is under heavy attack in our secular age, also known in Hinduism as the Kali Yuga. The Puranas assure us that in the Kali Yuga things start off badly and get progressively worse. If you don’t believe that, just look around. The Kali Yuga began with the death of Krishna in 3102BCE and will end in 428,898CE. That puts us in 5121KY, with only 426,879 increasingly horrible years to go. See the Vishnu Purana for the dreadful details.

Christian Knottone extols our “large, complex” brains, which are rendering religion obsolete. He may have noticed that our large, complex brains have given us the US presidency of Donald Trump, the Brexit mess, and political gridlock in Thailand, not to mention global warming and oceans choked with plastic. As a product of our large, complex brains, the decline of 

religion is in some fairly dodgy company. (Incidentally, considering his decidedly un-Christian views, I respectfully suggest that Christian might consider changing his name. I’ve always thought that Atheus and Agnosticus would make fine names for people espousing anti-religious views.)

A Bangkok Atheist suggests that religion should be taught in schools as the part of our history “that deals with strange and primitive beliefs from our past” – ie, as mythology. There is already an academic discipline called comparative religion. Ordinarily it is offered as an elective at the university level. But children are curious creatures who want to know what we are and how we got here long before they reach university. They will not be pleased at being fed myths (according to Athe) or put off with vague and unsatisfactory answers. But if they can be patient until they reach adolescence, that is a time when their brains should be mature enough to grapple with philosophical concepts. 

I suggest that a simplified course in comparative religions might be offered as an elective at the high-school level. Unfortunately this is a very big topic, encompassing not only the Western religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, but also Eastern religions like Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism and Taoism, and lesser known (in the West) religions like Animism, Jainism, Sikhism, Shinto, Mazdayasna and Bahai. (And if you don’t know what Mazdayasna is, that just goes to show the vastness of the subject.) Even condensed and simplified, a comprehensive course in comparative religion should last at least a year. Atheism and agnosticism should also be included, since they function as substitutes or alternatives for religion. The teaching (and the teacher) should be as objective and ideologically neutral as possible. Good luck in recruiting such a marvel. 

Ye Olde Theologian