Monday, 15 July 2019

Can't We Just Remove All Religion From School?

separation of church and state

There’s a battle brewing in our schools both here in Alberta and across our nations. There are those who want to keep choices in the types of education that are allowed (private schools, home education, charter schools, and religious schools). Standing in opposition to this is the notion that if could just do away with religion in school we could combat this argument and get on with reading, writing, and arithmetic. This poses the question to us as Christians: Can’t we just remove all religion from schools and keep it fair?

At first it seems a good idea, a safe idea even. With persecution at our doorsteps this seems a good step to allow us to fly under the radar and perhaps even keep our kids safe from other religions. But, to understand this better we need to shift our perspective a bit.

Instead of calling faith-based schools “religious” we need to see things in terms of worldviews. A worldview is the lens by which we view our world and all that surrounds us. Our worldview is responsible for how we answer the most challenging questions we face as individuals. Some examples of these questions would be:

  1. How did we get here? (and other questions pertaining to our existence)
  2. What do we believe about humans? How do we see our value?
  3. What happens when we die?
  4. What do we believe about the universe? (How did it come to be?) 
  5. How do we determine what is right or wrong?

In order for a worldview to hold merit it must not only be logical, but it must also hold its own without needing to borrow from another worldview. According to Abdu Murray in his book Grand Central Question, there are three major worldviews: secular humanism (secularism), pantheism, and theism. Christianity fits under the banner of theism, that is, the lens with which we view the world is through one which is based on a God who created all that is in it and beyond. We answer our worldview questions based on the word of God (the Bible).  There are other religions that fall under each of these banners, and there would be disagreement among those religions even if they share a broad spectrum worldview banner. But, for the purpose of answering our questions, we will keep this simple. If you wish to read more about worldviews, you can find Abdu Murray’s book here.

So what would happen if we removed all religions from schools? The simple answer is that we cannot. It’s likely when we say that we should do away with religion, what we mean is theistic religions that place a god at the forefront of their worldview, or perhaps even pantheistic worldviews that places many god-like figures as answers for our difficult questions. What that leaves us with a secular humanistic worldview, or what many of us call atheism, a word which broken down simply means “without and god” (“a” without, “theism” god). Atheism, like any other religion, must answer the challenging questions like we have listed above. 

We can teach our kids that two plus two is four and all be in agreement regardless of our worldview. We can teach them where to place commas, and how to understand grammar. But it does not take long until we begin to see the divide in worldviews. For example, how do you pick which literature to read that does not stand in contrast to our Christian faith? How do you teach history when our worldview teaches a different beginning to our universe than the secularist? What about science and our understanding of natural laws, or who controls them? Even away from the textbooks, how do we teach our kids the reasons for morality? "Be good" must eventually be followed with a "why", and depending on your worldview we will have differing explanations. 

Even down to the details of the Christian standpoint of an orderly God who is in control of all nations and rulers stands in sharp contrast to the secular world media who are in panic mode of what appears to them to be mass chaos. Certainly current events could not even enter the classroom without clashing worldviews.

Freedom for religion is essential if we want to protect our children in the education system. To eradicate religious schools would be to eradicate all schools since all we are doing is trading one worldview for another. Theism for atheism. Still just one religion for the other. What initially appeared to be protecting our children from other religions has placed them in direct fire of an opposing worldview making no room for alternate viewpoints to be discussed. Without allowing opposing viewpoints to exist in efforts to remove “religion” we find ourselves in a precarious position where what is being taught must accepted point blank without allowance to form thoughts beyond the framework of the workers of the educational system. In short, our children will lose the ability to chose God’s truth inside a secular religious setting.

Paul was familiar with a Greek culture thick with gods, yet missing the one and only “unknown God”. 

Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “People of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship—and this is what I am going to proclaim to you. (Acts: 17: 22-23)

Paul was quick to teach against the philosophies that stood in contrast to the worldview he built his foundation on. Some sneered at his response, but others listened (Acts 17: 16-34). Regardless of where you choose to send your children for their education, being an advocate for allowing choices in education to choose schools that fit your worldview is imperative. A system that only preaches secularism from the pulpit will surely erode the foundation we are working so diligently to lay with our kids. Instead of feeding our children to the Greeks and their gods we must speak up, like Paul did so long ago, to educate those around us about the God we serve. Our desire should be to keep our option to educate our children on the foundation of God’s word. Some will sneer, but take heart, others will listen.

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