I’ve come to the conclusion that education is not going to do it.
By “it”, I mean the wholesale revamping of American thinking on the subject of religion. The national worldview is distorted, delusional and just plain sick on the god question. With pedophile priests and other so-called religious leaders running rampant through the underpants of our children; with the Pope doing his level best to continue stonewalling investigations until statutes of limitation have run, while at the same time sending his minions out to rationalize church hypocrisy; with our elected leaders of all stripes tripping over each other to convince their constituents that they are the holiest of holies, while steering our country into an economic mess through religiously tainted wars and greedy financial oversight; when the most pressing problems of our nation are deemed to be what goes on in the uteri of our women and the bedrooms of everyone else; when our schools are being inundated with the pressures of teaching our children that the world came into existence 6000 years ago, while certain aspects of history are deemed so liberal and un-Christian as to be banned from schoolbooks; while all of this predominates our thinking, I fear that education will be like a tear in a salted sea – totally ineffective – until this generation has passed on.
Our future hope is in our children. It’s nice to hear critical thinking coming from the mouths of our youth. When I was young, I was relatively apathetic on religious issues, but that seems to be changing. PZ Myers recently published a letter from a 14 year old student in Florida, where she said:
Creating gay rights and abolishing religious discrimination does no harm to anyone. It is only beneficial. By giving gays the rights they need, they can finally be a true part of society. And everyone’s rights are protected by the Constitution, so gays can finally be included in the category of “everyone.”
And this column from a teenager in California is the kind of thinking that will have to prevail, become dominant in our country, before we can truly become a country of rationalists. Reason was the language of our Founding Fathers, but most of this generation seems to believe that it was scripture that was primarily spoken by Jefferson, Madison and Franklin.
The American Religious Identification Survey in 2008 indicated that of those with no religious affiliation (the “Nones”) are on the rise:
Whereas Nones are presently 15% of the total adult U.S. population, 22% of Americans aged 18-29 years self-identify as Nones.
This means that as the population dies off, and the younger people age, the percentage of Nones will increase. Since the study indicates that None does not mean atheist, but more properly “skeptic”, hopefully (and this post IS about hope) that will translate into the exercise of critical thinking and reason in national affairs, with less emphasis on god and religion, as the next generation takes over.
Unfortunately, you and I will have to die first.
[EDIT] After I posted this, I stumbled on this. Literally, the next web page I read. Honest!
Man, you must have taken your Pollyanna pill today.
I’m not sure whether I agree with your thesis. If our future hope is in our children, then they have to be educated, don’t they? Otherwise, those poor Nones, without any critical thinking ability, will eventually fall prey to indoctrination by Tea Baggers and religious fundamentalists of all kinds.
You’re right that education — as it is thought of today, as merely the imparting of facts useful for potential jobs — won’t do it. But if schools taught real critical thinking skills, that would be great. Bryan’s son, in the story you linked to, is a real critical thinker. However, the unstated but obvious truth is: He’s been encouraged, maybe even “taught,” to think for himself.
The nation’s schools ought to do that. They should begin by firing all teachers who can’t — or won’t — think for themselves.
Sure. I didn’t say terminate education. Maybe I wasn’t specific enough, but my point was educating this generation of adults, people our age, the ones in charge, isn’t going to do it. We’re not going to write a bunch of “God Delusions” and eradicate religion. We need more.
Educating our kids, however, must continue. So my hope is placed on the next generation, and those that follow.
In all honesty, I’m not sure schools are really the place for that, either. It would be nice, but we live in a complex world, and people have to eat while competing with everyone else for the resources, etc. Schools today are charged with simply getting a minimal education into the herd, so that they can compete and succeed, on a base level, with everyone else.
Those that go beyond that seem to have an innate ability for more than rote learning, and those are the ones who develop the critical thinking skills we’re talking about.
So if there are kids out there being taught these skills, most likely they’re getting it at home. The nice thing is that the numbers, the percentages of people that we now call skeptics, is going up, so there will be more and more at home teaching their kids how to think.
Honestly, I don’t find it that hard. You structure assignments in such a way that they have to think and apply knowledge rather than simply regurgitate and when they don’t, they earn poor scores. Poor scores either motivate them to start thinking or at the very least, cracks that bubble of delusion they have about how great and special they are.
And how are they going to get this from their parents if their parents don’t have such skills, or don’t have the time to impart them?
You’re teaching college level, post secondary and elementary. I’m really talking about the latter. Ideally, you want to lay the foundations for what college will get you. But grade school and high school just are not set up that way, and given the state of education in America today, the priorities we have, it’s not going to change. Teachers in those levels have to teach to the test, not to the individual brains of the student. Until we change our attitudes about education, it’s the parents that need to create the willingness to learn.
But how many of the students you see have the attitude that they’re just going through the motions to get a degree so they can get a job that pays them enough money to buy a Porsche and a good stereo, or whatever? It’s a rare student that learns for the sake of learning, and they get that former attitude from the lower levels.
Really, I didn’t get that until I was well into adulthood, and regret it every day. I missed opportunities to learn stuff that I really would now have loved to have learned then.
“I wish. that. I knew what I know now, when I was younger.”
Many expect to get a job and be rich because they’ve been raised to expect the Moon and the Stars since they’re special. Like I said, when they don’t get the grades they expect, they adapt or fail, which is better than waiting until the real world where it’s more like adapt or die.
Of course I still get the ones who argue about why they got a failing “graid”.
What are you, some kind of Spellist? You understood what the kid meant, didn’t you? I don’t see why you can’t accommodate that student. After all, he’s alive, isn’t he? That ought to be worth at least a C.
Wtf kind of name is Brance, and why do people feel compelled to get so damn creative with baby naming? Oh no, MY child is so unique and special he can’t possibly have a common name that others might have. Ugh. Well at least the kid appears to be turning out ok.
Anyway, one positive that seems to be coming out of the nonsense of cultural relativism is younger generations seem reluctant to participate in us vs them games, so they have no problem with gays having equal rights. The problem is they’re arriving at the right answers by the wrong roads. I don’t think they truly understand why they should have equal rights. They only understand that you shouldn’t judge others, which is not good. We most certainly should judge others, but understand the difference between personal prejudice and justified objection, which is what’s not getting understood in today’s definition of tolerance.
I don’t feel kids today understand the reasons behind the values they espouse. They’re simply repeating the collective mantra, and in that sense, nothing has been gained other than to partially replace the mantra with better lines. Without learning the whys and of course, learning critical thinking skills, they’re vulnerable to future demagogues.
As for the Nones, the younger generation is all about customization. remember when Toyota released the Scion line? The hook was the cars all had a bazillion options for customization, and this grew out of realizing the HUGE market for customization of Civics and other cars. Look at the customization options for iPods, notebooks, and so forth. Everyone has a Facebook page that they’ve customized. This is the Pimped generation; pimp my ride, pimp my ipod, pimp my page, etc. They also pimp their religion, customizing it to suit their tastes, so I think that’s why they’re Nones. It’s not that they realize religion is crap, it’s just that they don’t conform to standards. Again, this is them arriving at what seems like a right answer but for the wrong reasons. They’re still wooey, and if anything, the idea of a personal god is more appealing to them than any other generation because it lends itself to customization. Pimp my Jesus!
Did you know the local card shop used to have a whole section of cards that said, in one way or the other, “Happy Birthday, Dave”? Pre-printed. Must be a lot of Dave’s out there.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing, more of a step in the right direction. Maybe they haven’t thought it all through, but they are open to the critical thinking necessary to understand it. They don’t automatically accept dogma thrust down their throat. I did for the longest time, and I consider my self a child of the sixties. Sure, I became suspicious of government, and big corporations, but churches were still untouchable. Now they aren’t.
The RC Church isn’t helping religion in general. Like Watergate, which jaded our generation regarding our government, this pedophilia scandal will cause the next to look at religion with a bit more skepticism.
It takes a generation shift to effectuate this kind of attitude change.
I don’t see that at all. They don’t join organizations because they don’t want to sacrifice their individuality, but they most definitely do accept dogma. All this crap about every opinion is equally valid is simply accepted without thought. Even an ounce of thought would expose it for the crap that it is. So following better dogma is not really a step in the right direction, because the underlying problem is still there.
This is why that Christian Green movement isn’t really a good thing. Sure, they’re being a Green and all that and objecting to it because the motivation is religious makes us out to look like cranks, but we’re not because as we know, interpretation of scripture varies from person to person and from day to day. Hell, the same book which justified slavery was also used to denounce it, so tomorrow these Green Christians could hear that their god really doesn’t want them to recycle. Without understanding why you’re doing something, there’s always potential for trouble. This is also why religious morality is bankrupt, but that’s another issue.
I don’t even know what “open” to critical thinking means. Critical thinking isn’t a choice. Either you think critically or you don’t.
On another note: Why is it that all you ex-Catholics, no matter how antagonistic you are toward your old religion, still continue to believe that the Christian world revolves around the Pope? I’d bet that most American Protestants, particularly the fundamentalist crazies, are nodding their heads in approval and glee as Benny becomes more and more caught up in the scandal.
Of course, if the media continues to focus only on the evils perpetrated by that one man, rather than the entire belief system, Ratzo will eventually be offered up as the sin that must be exorcised from the RC. A new Pope will be named and the Vatican will return to its lying ways.
You continue to labor under the delusion that the American public gets up in arms over hypocrisy. It doesn’t. To feel anger over hypocrisy takes critical thinking — which, as Philly and I have both continued to point out, is in short supply in this country.
If you continue to be so optimistic, you probably ought to retitle this blog: Rebecca of Inquisitionbrook Farm.
Open minded. No knee-jerk acceptance of dogma. Willing to train a skeptical eye on everything. That sort of thing. We’re probably talking about the same thing.
Old habits die hard. The RC teaching is that the RC church is the “one true church” and the Pope is one visible fucking church leader, isn’t he? How often does the press cover, say, the Archbishop of Canterbury? The head of the Lutheran Synod? The leader of the Southern Baptists? (Whoever he is).
Yes. I’m sure the fundies do, but they are still a minor portion of Protestantism, albeit visible and vocal. I think the mainstream, silent majority of Protestants still look to the Pope for some far off distant leadership. They at least accept him as a peer of their particular leader. On many questions all the religious higher muckety-mucks are in agreement.
No I don’t. I’m the one who gets up in arms about it, the rest of the world shrugs its collective shoulders and that is what gets me so frustrated. It seems so obvious to me, what’s the matter with those dunderheads? Are they blind?
Better than “The Kantankerous Kentuckian”. 😉
The Kantankerous Kentuckian
Where the hell were you when I was trying to come up with a name for my blog?
My inner Pollyanna has been telling me that kids require at least some indoctrination to become religious. I never say anything regarding religion to my 7-year-old, except to explain certain beliefs espoused by his friends (he has some Muslim and Christian friends).
Nevertheless, he makes weird statements:
Watching some Jesus-themed movie: “I think I like Zeus more.”
Getting ready for bed: “I don’t think there’s any god.”
Getting ready for bed: “Why doesn’t god do anything? He just sits there. That’s dumb.”
Before dinner: “I don’t think god made everything. There’s too much stuff.”
I’m adding your kid to my list. What list you say?
My “Hope for the Future” Club membership list. It’s even better than the Mickey Mouse Club.
These kids won’t be sitting around singing “When You Wish Upon A Star”.
Does your club have a catchy theme song? It won’t get off the ground without one. Funny hats are good too.