Now that we’ve put Biden in his place, let’s get on with criticizing Russia. It appears the quote by John Stuart Mill on my banner was well chosen for this topic. Bruce Chapman at Russia Blog linked to this article in the St. Petersburg Times about the introduction of religious education in Russia’s schools. According to the article:
Medvedev said preteen students at about 12,000 schools in 18 Russian regions would take the classes. They will be offered the choice of studying the dominant Russian Orthodox religion, Islam, Buddhism or Judaism, or of taking an overview of all four faiths, or a course in secular ethics.
Students and their parents must be allowed to choose freely, Medvedev said in addressing top clerics and officials at his residence outside Moscow. “Any coercion, pressure will be absolutely unacceptable and counterproductive,” he said.
In fact, the state is, by its nature, an instrument of coercion and pressure. Our founding fathers knew this and realized that, even in a democracy, the rights and liberties of minorities must be protected. Separation of church and state was one of the wise steps they took to preserve those rights and liberties. Once the state gets involved in the religion business, some belief systems are bound to be favored over others. The article admits as much, noting that,
Medvedev emphasized that the classes will include only “the largest of Russia’s traditional religions” — Orthodox Christianity, Islam, Judaism and Buddhism. He omitted other faiths, such as Roman Catholicism or Protestantism, which the Orthodox Church accuses of proselytizing.
Orthodox Patriarch Kirill seems to have no illusions about where this “free choice” system is heading. As noted in the article,
Church and state are officially separate under the post-Soviet constitution, but Orthodox leaders seek a more muscular role for the church, which has served the state for much of its 1,000-year history.
“School prayer” often seems like a great idea to those who assume they will be able to dictate exactly what form the prayers will take, and to what God. Considering all the grief and mayhem that established religions have caused throughout history, one wonders why we are still even having this debate. As late as the 19th century, in a land that prided itself on the “rights and liberties of Englishmen,” the Church of England arrogated to itself the right to dictate what citizens should and should not believe, and condemned freedom of thought in matters of religion. I will document this in a later post. In France, the struggle against Catholic obscurantism in education went on well into the 20th century.
According to Chapman,
On the other hand, there is something to be said for students learning more about the religious heritage of their country. If the Russians are erring on one side of that objective, Americans may be erring on the other. If nothing else, comparisons of results should be interesting.
I assume he’s speaking of the United States here. In spite of the fact that several of the best thinkers among our founding fathers, including the authors of our Declaration of Independence and “Common Sense” were deists, and that many others denied the Trinity or were otherwise skeptical in matters of religion, there is no doubt in my mind that any serious attempt to teach our “religious heritage” in the public schools would amount to giving official sanction to the gross historical impostures of the “Christian nation” zealots. No thanks.
On the other hand, I also consider it unwise to completely avoid all mention of religion in the schools. In fact, our history is inexplicable without some knowledge of comparative religion and ethics. However, if they are to be studied, emphasis should be placed on understanding the differences between the different systems, as well as the arguments on both sides, rather than the clumsy attempts at syncretism and glossing over of disparities so characteristic of modern “progressive” political correctness.