> From: owner-lbo-talk at lists.panix.com
>> Max B. Sawicky wrote:
> >The exclusion of religion from public education, by which
> >I do NOT mean from science courses, has gone
> >way overboard, leading to profound ignorance of it. I don't
> >think this is a good thing.
> On the one hand you (rightly) say the U.S. is one of the most
> professedly religious countries in the world. On the other, you say
> we're profoundly ignorant of religion. Either ignorance breeds faith,
> or the religions themselves are doing a very bad job of educating
> their congregants. Which is it?
Most people are profoundly ignorant of OTHER religions, which breeds ignorance and suspicion. Having travelled in Jerusalem this summer where religious belief and ignorance mix in all sorts of fascinating ways (especially among American or other English-speaking tourists I met), it just reinforced that sense.
I've had so many discussions where Protestants tell me that Catholics don't have to worry about their acts, since confession automatically eliminates responsibility or that Judaism is inherently racist since the only way you can become a Jew is by having Jewish parents, since Judaism does not allow conversion (both wrong in case anyone needs to be told.)
What is remarkable is that this ignorance is not just among the great unwashed but among supposedly educated people who know evolution in detail, but don't end up knowing basic facts about the beliefs and life options of many of their best friends. Just last night a friend was bemoaning the fact that former Jewish girlfriends had broken off relationships partly because their families wanted them to marry Jewish men. And he thought this was racist since he could not become Jewish, since he was Italian Catholic by background. He was shocked to learn that conversion (however much a pain in the ass) is possible under Judaism.
Religion can be probably not be taught in a comparative perspective in the US without massive fighting and controversy, but that is unfortunate for exactly the ignorance and narrowmindedness bred by its abscence from formal education.