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February 4, 2007

Prayer in the schools: a modest proposal
Posted by Teresa at 01:53 AM *

I think the Department of Education plus the NEA should commission, or claim to have commissioned, a major study demonstrating that parents, grandparents, television, the internet, and the miscellaneous religious influences with which they come in contact, are failing in their task of teaching our children to pray. Therefore, the Dept. of Education and NEA are developing a comprehensive K-12 program to address this failing. They will not, they caution, be considering alternate program proposals.

Some months after this initial announcement, they should come out with samples of a prototype curriculum designed to teach students (in ways appropriate to their grade level) the different theories, uses, practices, techniques, and purposes of prayer. There will necessarily be a certain amount of discussion of different theories of God(s), the divine, the supernatural, deism, atheism, theurgy, thaumaturgy, intercession, redemption, ordination, fate, luck, free will, and election. Lessons will also address the role of the person praying, with attention to faith, works, location, position, physical action, offerings, meditation, devotions, recited vs. newly composed prayers, third-party prayers, the acquisition of merit, the achievement of enlightened states, and general efficacy. (Note: the latter will not be regarded as a lab section.) All schools, public and private, will be required to include this material in their core curriculum. There will be a section on it added to standard achievement tests.

Kits containing this sample curriculum, plus study guides, should be mailed to tens of thousands of denominations, dioceses, synagogues, religious foundations, independent congregations, evangelical networks, seminaries, religious studies departments, legislators, think tanks, school boards, educational consultants, testing firms, and news outlets. The kits should contain a cover letter which formally solicits the recipients’ comments and opinions.

The purpose of this discussion phase, the letter will say, is not to take suggestions; but rather, to arrive at a working consensus. Participants may submit written responses, but they are strongly encouraged to post their comments at an online discussion forum set up for that purpose, where they can discuss them with others who have posted their own contributions. The board will be staffed with moderators whose prime directives are to repress free-for-all general discussions in favor of engagement with the specific details of the proposed curriculum, and to make sure that every point of view gets heard on every subject.

I figure that within eighteen months, two years at most, they’ll all have turned into hardliners on the separation of church and state.

Comments on Prayer in the schools: a modest proposal:
#1 ::: Peter ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2007, 02:03 AM:

Never. They'll just all whine and demand that all those other religions be kept out of classrooms. They don't want separation of church and state; they want separation of other churches and their state, and are quite willing to argue illogical positions to further that goal.

#2 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2007, 02:07 AM:

Hey, if they can't get with the program, they aren't part of the process.

#3 ::: cherish ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2007, 02:27 AM:

Now this is what I call high snark. :)

#4 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2007, 02:27 AM:

That makes sense, Ms. Teresa, maybe. Unless the local religionists are really bullies. Most school systems are structured locally or state wide. Imagine the Mormons being given this mandate. What would they make of it?

Interesting. Also, look for an email from me regarding a convention. Thanks.

#5 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2007, 02:59 AM:

Another of those posts that lead to hilariously misguided AdSense links...

#6 ::: Ann ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2007, 03:06 AM:

Theresa, this may be my "salvation". My beloved daughter, who shocked her atheist parents (one Canadian, one lapsed Yank) by becoming an Anglican-by-choice at about age 7, is about to marry into a Virginia family of, well, what do you say? Creationist belief? Oh, Their God! Following your proposal, by the time their potential children enter the school system, separation of church and state will have been achieved. Saints, or whomever, be praised! On the one hand - she gets the Green Card. On the other hand ......we listen to The Wedding March, written by an anti-Semite, as our daughter marries into a family that believes....oh, some higher power, save me. Please.

#7 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2007, 03:28 AM:

Teresa, it's a lovely idea, and one with many merits. I suppose you've arranged for the Supreme Court to look the other way, while sniggering up the sleeves of their robes...?

#8 ::: Ann ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2007, 03:31 AM:

Excuse me. Teresa.

#9 ::: A. J. Luxton ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2007, 03:49 AM:

(Taking here some religious assumptions, not necessarily endorsing those assumptions full bore, but giving them credence for at least the duration of the verbal gag --)

Take a man to church, and he's got access to God for a day.

Teach a man to pray in the broad sense described above, and he's got all the God he likes, for a lifetime, free of tithe, figurehead, and extraneous interpretation.

Now, that's what I call a bargain.

#10 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2007, 04:49 AM:

I'd be wildly enthusiastic about this proposal but for the overseas precedent, which I grew up with, of an education system that mandated prayer in schools, in law, and prosecuted schools that didn't do the religion thing.

Little things like the US constitution aside, prayer in schools is entirely workable, so encouraging the idiots is probably not terribly sensible. All it takes is for the various religionists to shut the hell up and say "we'll take the package, thanks" then teach it by heavily emphasizing their beliefs and deprecating everyone else's, and ... well, these people have no sense of humour about their big magic fetish. So the joke would be lost on them, but not the opportunity.

(Compulsory prayer plus religious education helped make an atheist out of me, and out of another 60% of my fellow Brits, so it's not necessarily universally effective. But I suspect the general religiosity of US culture might result in some divergence from this model.)

#11 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2007, 06:57 AM:

See, now, there's the beauty part: it's a standardized nationwide curriculum, with students' mastery of the material built into standard achievement tests. You can't just emphasize your local favorite theologies.

Charlie, I would never propose something that did damage to the church/state separation. This proposal doesn't produce a working curriculum. It's designed to keep school prayer enthusiasts joylessly gnawing on each other like Dante's icebound sinners in Hell. There's no principle or practice in my list that some religionists don't think is essential, whilst others think it's an abomination.

#12 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2007, 07:31 AM:

As someone that worked for an educational publisher once, it's a far simpler process than that.

Just do what the Texas State Board of Education mandates.

#13 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2007, 07:32 AM:

It's designed to keep school prayer enthusiasts joylessly gnawing on each other like Dante's icebound sinners in Hell.

There is a certain charm to the idea ...

(I'm just absolutely certain that, were it to be proposed, they'd find some way to make it work. Murphy's law, y'know.)

#14 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2007, 08:14 AM:

Jon (12), not unless all the school prayer enthusiasts in the rest of the country agree with the TSBE.

#15 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2007, 08:34 AM:

Ann @ 6... we listen to The Wedding March, written by an anti-Semite

But you could then play White Christmas, which was written by a Jew. Okay, that might seem like a strange choice for a wedding. I remember a friend in Toronto who wanted to play the piece of music that most people associate with weddings, but his bride objected because it really is not religious music and comes from Midsummer Night's Dream. Too bad she objected because he wanted to play the piece as rendered by Queen in Flash Gordon.

#16 ::: Sean Bosker ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2007, 08:46 AM:

I can't wait to get started on the curriculum! I'm imagining all sorts of controversial multiple choice questions with "All of the above" being the worst and right answer every time.

#17 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2007, 09:22 AM:

Serge 15: I'm preety sure you just forgot to mention that the wedding music from A Midsummer Night's Dream was written by a Jew.

#18 ::: JC ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2007, 09:39 AM:

#16: That reminds me of the NYS Regents exam in Earth Science. One of the questions which showed up year to year was "Which of these statements best described nature?" Each statement in the multiple choice question was a list. The answer was always the list with the most elements after accounting for synonyms. So, aside from being a stupid question, in order to answer it correctly, you had to know that it was actually a question on synonym recognition, not Earth Science.

Much later, I had an analog circuits mid-term where I couldn't analyze the circuit well enough to answer the three multiple choice questions asked about it. However, I understood the circuit well enough to derive the relationships among the three answers. There was only one set of three answers among the choices which met the relationships. So I got those three questions right despite not being able to do what the questions actually tested for.

I don't like multiple choice tests.

#19 ::: Tim Walker ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2007, 09:46 AM:

Teresa - Welcome high snark indeed, and thank you for it.

Living in Texas (and with kids in public school here), I put *nothing* past the Texas State Board of Education. My big hope would be that, on the textbook front, the combined weight of the California, New York, New Jersey, and Florida standards would counterbalance.

I do fear the Pandora's Box scenario that would emerge. On the national level, it seems to me that one or two strains of Christian belief are represented far, far better in the lobbies. But the many smaller fights (school board v. national standards body, local parents v. school board, parents v. standards body, members of Congress v. standards body, Secy. of Education getting grilled in subcommittee hearings . . .) would make for fun viewing!

#20 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2007, 10:11 AM:

Conferences, yeah verily, we shall have many conferences in which people speak of these weighty matters in the jargon known as High Educational, and there shall be much discussion of diversity -- and much wailing and gnashing of teeth, and also major infighting. Will there be grant money available? Oh, say yes.

#21 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2007, 10:17 AM:

I miss Nothing Sacred's Father Ray.

#22 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2007, 10:20 AM:

And I miss Aidan Quin's The Book of Daniel.

#23 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2007, 10:29 AM:

We also need to ensure that the resulting syllabus has a hefty section on the eschatology of the late St. Robert of Discordia.

All hail Eris!

#24 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2007, 10:39 AM:

Xopher @ 17... Eek!!!

#25 ::: Karen Sideman ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2007, 10:49 AM:

Tim Walker-

Textbook acceptances are like presidential primaries: a state's influence is weighted by where they appear on the "calendar." All of the counterbalance states you mention are counter-counterbalanced by Kentucky.

Last year my company created enrichment materials for a middle school science textbook publisher. One part of the package was a set of booklets on the planets of the solar system (Pluto made it in by about 4 months - not sure if it will be shipped with the rest.) The nearly completed proofs were reviewed by a very high-level editor from the publisher, who made one change: in the "Earth' booklet, the world "evolved" (in the context of incipient life) needed to be to replaced with "appeared." She was very apologetic about it, but there was Kentucky to consider...

Looking at the possibility of all of our work never reaching any students over one word, we got her to compromise on "emerged" which at least implies a process...(sigh)

#26 ::: grndexter ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2007, 11:26 AM:

Hummm.... how would this read and what would the outcome be if you changed the "Department of Education and NEA" to "The Office of the President & the Executive branch" - and "pray" to "participate in politics."

#27 ::: grndexter ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2007, 11:37 AM:

# 18 JC:

Have you ever taken a military multiple choice test?
Some people I know have trouble with them because they REALLY know the subject matter - usually better than the person who wrote the test. So unbeknownst to the test writer, the answer that was intended to be the correct one is absolutely WRONG while a "wrong" answer, again due to factors of which the test writer is unaware, is RIGHT!

One young and highly intelligent sailor I know doesn't look for the correct answer, but reads the slant of the question to dope out the mindset of the questioner and answers accordingly, even if that answer should be WRONG! This young man scored 100% on all of his boot camp tests, and consistently scores in the high 90's on all other military tests this way. :-D

#28 ::: Steve Buchheit ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2007, 12:02 PM:

I would submit only a slight change, once the commission issues its report, and we duly catalog all religions, instead of forcing children in each school to learn about all religions, which as we all know could be confusing to the little darlings' heads, we instead take a page from the BIA (Bureau of Indian Affairs) and assign each school a religion by random selection and elimination (so that all denominations and religions receive equal representation through out the US). After all, if it was good enough to "settle" the Indian Tribes, it should be good enough for our little darling children.

#29 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2007, 12:16 PM:

But would it really help to counteract the more pessimistic environmentalists' feelings that, in terms of survival as the dominant species, we haven't got a prayer?

Mass beseeching of assorted deities does seem like a last-ditch effort to improve the state of things!

#30 ::: Mike Jones ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2007, 12:53 PM:

Somewhere, Jonathan Swift is smiling.

#31 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2007, 01:08 PM:

If I recall my Discordian unorthodoxy, the recommended practice is to assign sainthood only to fictional characters and "second class" sainthood to characters who really would have been fictional if they had any sense. Therefore, our late and dearly missed friend would probably best be categorized as an Avatar.

If'n you were aneristic enough to be into categorizin and such. But, you go ahead and rock on. I'm good here thanks.

#33 ::: Steve Buchheit ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2007, 01:33 PM:

Also, let us not forget to include the Flying Spaghetti Monster, blessed be his noodly appendage.

#34 ::: Rebecca ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2007, 01:37 PM:

j h woodyat @31: Yes, but since we're all Popes here, we can rewrite our own Unorthodoxies.

#35 ::: JC ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2007, 01:43 PM:

#27 grndexter: No, I've never taken a military multiple choice test. However, you've explained quite well why I don't like MC tests. They don't test for what they ostensibly ought to test for.

#36 ::: clew ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2007, 01:53 PM:

The GRE seems to believe that "euphemism" is synonymous with "insult", which is sloppy at best. I don't like MCTs either.

About the proposal ... if only Dorothy Sayers were still here as a participant!

#37 ::: Scorpio ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2007, 01:53 PM:

I grew up in a school district that had school prayer. It didn't make a believer out of me, that's for sure.

The fun of setting sects against one another has some amusement value, of course. The state where I grew up had a sort of religious truce, however, and people pretty much left each other's religions alone.

#38 ::: Jenny Islander ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2007, 02:08 PM:

So where does that leave the large pool of religious people who understand that "The government doesn't want your children to pray in school!" is a fallacy? I had a classmate who prayed over his lunch throughout his 12 years in our irreligious public school system. Besides somebody asking him once, "So why aren't you at Saint Mary's [the Catholic school] if you say grace at lunchtime?" there was no notice taken whatsoever. And the kid who asked the question was honestly curious. (His answer was, "Well, people can pray whenever and wherever they want, because it's America.")

#39 ::: Kevin Andrew Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2007, 02:30 PM:

I've always thought that, if we're going to unseparate church and state, the sword needs to cut both ways. So if we require prayer in school, we should by the same token require all churches and other houses of worship to have standardized testing and the occasional spelling bee. "Spell 'JEHOSHAPHAT.' Use it in a sentence? Sure, 'Jehoshaphat begat Mehitabel.' I'm sorry, that's incorrect. You're going to hell."

#40 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2007, 02:31 PM:

Jenny @ 38: (His answer was, "Well, people can pray whenever and wherever they want, because it's America.")

If only that were true. I know Jews who were aggressively proselytized by Christians in the NYC public schools (admittedly in the 1930s and 40s). And just ask those guys who prayed before boarding a US Airways flight in Minneapolis a few months ago. I guess some prayer is more protected than others.

All snark aside, I think a broad curriculum discussing issues of faith might not be a bad thing. Even when communities of faith live side by side, they can have remarkable ignorance of the beliefs and traditions of their neighbors. Better understanding usually leads to better relations.

#41 ::: Madeleine Robins ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2007, 04:42 PM:

This was the perfect antidote to reading this. As always, Teresa, my love and admiration for you are boundless.

#42 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2007, 05:11 PM:

But, Teresa, I never taught my children to pray....

Charlie Stross: Compulsory prayer certainly helped make me an atheist. Not to mention blatant hypocrisy.

#43 ::: Martyn Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2007, 05:51 PM:

Like Charlie, I went to schools were a religious observance was compulsory (not prayer, because while you might compel anyone so say the words at the point of a sword, you can never compel them to mean them) Unlike Charlie, I'm not an aetheist (not now, anyway)

It seems so simple to me. Disestablishment now. There is no place in school for anyone's religious convictions - yours, mine, Charlie's, anyone's. School is wrong arena.

#44 ::: Mac H. ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2007, 06:19 PM:

The same point (but with much more humour) is presented here:

http://www.jumbojoke.com/the_pastors_pen_120.html

Have a great day everyone,

Mac (No, not MacAllister. Another one)

#45 ::: ksgreer ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2007, 07:04 PM:

I figure that within eighteen months, two years at most, they’ll all have turned into hardliners on the separation of church and state.

Not to mention if it gets far enough to actually be used on any kids, I'd expect within two years the schools would be churning out the start of an areligionist, apatheist* generation.

Frex: I went off to liberal arts school with intention of going to Anglican seminary (for which a bachelor's is required, among other things); after three years of studying theology and philosophy, I found myself considering it all rather... how to put it, hrm, 'beside-the-point', I suppose.

Now my SO is in school, finally getting fulltime, formal, study of philosophy & theology (yes, I handed over all my notes and books with gleeful abandon). Just this afternoon he mentioned that the more he studies, is tested on, discusses, all these religions... the less religious he's inclined to be. Most of my theology/philosophy classmates reported the same; years later, those I still correspond with remain as neutral/disinterested as I.

The greater the breadth/depth of study, it seems, the greater the potential distance. (He posited this might be why so many churches insist their followers avoid intensive, comparative, balanced study, instead encouraging they 'go along' with the head honcho's interpretations.)

*apatheist: someone who, in issues of god-belief, just doesn't care.

#46 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2007, 07:17 PM:

Having watched the creationists go to unbelievably patient lengths over the course of decades to push creationism back into school (and only recently getting the boot), while I appreciate Teresa's suggestion, I must withhold my endorsement of said plan because if there's one thing the ultra-religious of this country have demonstrated its that they are experts at gaming the system. Whatever constraints you give them, they will find a way around it. The fact that "separation of church and state" is clear to everyone in the country, but them, should be an indicator that whatever restrictions you put on them in this experiement, they will interpret those rules as it benefits them.

#47 ::: Stuart ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2007, 09:44 PM:

I'm too lazy to Google it up but not long ago a group of religious scholars got together and created an acceptable curiculum for a class on religion to be taught in public shcools. The Georgia legislature (or some other southern state) proposed to add it to the state curiculum. The Fundies went ballistic. The last thing they want their kids to do is actually study the Bible.

Teresa has gotten at the root of what I have been saying for years about the school prayer issue. The very people who don't want the government telling them how to raise their kids never-the-less want the government to impose prayer on public school children.

Whenever I get into a discussion with a prayer in schools advocate I ask them if they pray with their child/children every morning. I've yet to have one say yes.

Even more interesting are the conversations I have with believers when I mention that my son-in-law has a PhD in systematic theology and my daughter has one in Hebrew Bible. Most Christians have no idea what systematic theology is. Hebrew Bible they can sort of grasp though not the level of intellectual discipline involved in the study.

#48 ::: janeyolen ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2007, 09:46 PM:

T--you ARE a wicked woman. And I wish Molly Ivins were still alive because it would have been a ploy she would have applauded and run with.

Jane

#49 ::: Matt McIrvin ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2007, 11:39 PM:

However, you've explained quite well why I don't like MC tests. They don't test for what they ostensibly ought to test for.

On the other hand, it sounds as if you know very well how to beat them. As do I, having survived an educational system rife with them. Mostly, they test practice in taking multiple-choice tests.

The worst ones, actually, were written by people who didn't have much experience with the form, such as gym teachers who found themselves teaching the "health" segment of PE class in a classroom. They'd do such things as try to incorporate misspelled terms as wrong answers, but accidentally misspell others on the same quiz.

#50 ::: Ron Sullivan ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2007, 11:40 PM:

Why, upon reading this, am I seeing John Cleese giving the Sex Ed lesson to the classroom of bored schoolboys? I'm also idly wondering -- assuming incense, chickens, and human sacrifice would be considered under the Offerings course section -- exactly where litanies and call-and-response would go. What about speaking in tongues? Is that prayer?

What the hades, just so the whole thing requires consensus to get started. It'd keep them busy for a while, and the final decision could be on Pay-per-View. Sudden Death Overtime: lightning bolt. Streamline the process by having it face-to-face in a marathon session, no pee breaks or Texas catheters allowed.

... doesn't look for the correct answer, but reads the slant of the question to dope out the mindset of the questioner and answers accordingly, even if that answer should be WRONG!

Wull, yeayah. Doesn't everybody do that? SATs and all?

#51 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2007, 12:10 AM:

Clew, Kevin (36, 39): I like those. I would have had a happier childhood if we'd been taught formal Scholastic debate in school, and had spelling bees during church services.

Mad, I saw that story about the kid taping his nutbar teacher. Never underestimate the idiocy of school administrators. Many of them are fine people, but the stupidity of the bad ones is abyssal.

Jane (48): Thank you. Wouldn't it be fun to watch them reeling and writhing and fainting in coils? Real get-out-the-lawn-chair, pop-a-cold-one entertainment.

#52 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2007, 12:12 AM:

#14: Teresa, I wish it worked that way in real textbook adoption. And I'm sure you know all of the following, but, for those here not in the business:

Unfortunately Texas has such a control over the textbook market (large population, state-wide curriculum, powerful standards board) that textbook companies have to pay special attention to them. Protests from other states count less because those states don't have that kind of clout. When I worked in textbook publishing the Texas contract was the Big Deal of the Year.

The fundies know this, and know that if they can lean on Texas, it affects everyone. So, they do.

For more: "Confessions of a Textbook Editor".

#53 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2007, 12:42 AM:

Jon Meltzer may have cited the best argument for voucher systems I've ever seen.

#54 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2007, 12:43 AM:

#52, Jon, from your link, "what Texas wants and what the entire nation will therefore get". Sounds like some more progressive thinking, scientific-minded states need to adjust the way their state adopts textbooks so that Texas doesn't weild such a monopoly.

What would happen if, say, California adopted identical rules for textbooks as Texas, but kept a more progressive mindset for content?

Course, the governator probalby wouldn't approve it. But still, the mind does wonder of the possibilities.

#55 ::: Alan Bostick ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2007, 12:57 AM:

Xopher #17: I'm preety sure you just forgot to mention that the wedding music from A Midsummer Night's Dream was written by a Jew.

Felix Mendelssohn, the composer of the wedding march from A Midsummer Night's Dream, was ethnically Jewish, but was baptized a Lutheran at birth.

#56 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2007, 01:10 AM:

Greg @ 54 -- Good idea in general, but I'm not sure if California would be any better than Texas. Maybe things have changed, but I still remember well being told by one of my teachers, here in California, that most textbooks had a "California edition" with more pictures and less text.

I wouldn't mind finding out I'm wrong about that.

#57 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2007, 01:33 AM:

Alan Bostick #55: Felix Mendelssohn, the composer of the wedding march from A Midsummer Night's Dream, was ethnically Jewish, but was baptized a Lutheran at birth.

To quote David Cross (Warning! Dirty Alert!), "Was (his) mother's vagina Jewish?" We Jews claim anyone and everyone we can.

#58 ::: MacAllister ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2007, 02:25 AM:

My god. Those poor discussion moderators will need flak-jackets and flamethrowers.

#59 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2007, 04:51 AM:

janeyolen @ 48... T--you ARE a wicked woman. And I wish Molly Ivins were still alive because it would have been a ploy she would have applauded and run with.

Do you think it could be arranged for Teresa to get a Pullet Surprise, as San Francisco's columnist Herb Caen used to call those?

#60 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2007, 07:13 AM:

Of course, you realize that the religion which controls the most nuclear weapons will be the one that wins in the end. Important safety tip: never give unfettered access to the Nuclear Football to a member of the Berachah Church, because their first and only duty will be to trigger Armageddon and force the enactment of "end times" prophecy as quickly as possible.

#61 ::: Pete Darby ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2007, 10:10 AM:

Religious indoctrination corner: I may have told this one here already, but here goes...

Couple of weeks back, I was looking through the DK Earth book with my 8 year old son. When we get to the section on the Grand Canyon, i mention the whole "creationist / flood" thing. He sighs and says "you see, that's why I don't believe in god or anything, it makes you think crazy things".

It's like living with mini-Dawkins sometimes. Then again, his first sentence to me at 18 months was "Dad, you're talking rubbish".

#62 ::: Henry Troup ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2007, 11:21 AM:

I'm reminded of the ignorance reflected by my eighth-grade teacher, who told us that Islam is the worship of Muhammad Ali. (no joke!)

#63 ::: Michael ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2007, 12:21 PM:

Ooh, this has possibilities. We should pay special attention to the snake charmer churches, and encourage all teachers to provide field trips for live demonstrations.

#64 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2007, 01:44 PM:

Michael #63:

I suspect reaction would be split. The guys would be saying "ooh, kewl!" while the girls would be turned off religion for life.

(Massive stereotyping on my part, and I know it: I was the one who, during snake dissection in 8th-grade biology, noticed that the other snake was about to escape and put the lid back on the terrarium.)

It occurs to me to wonder whether field trips would really be a good idea--getting the kids to behave with proper reverence might be difficult, particularly for things such as snake-handling. The churches might get awfully stroppy about the whole business.

#65 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2007, 02:15 PM:

#32, there is a reason why I try to resist reading this at work. My coworkers think I'm choking or having a heart attack or something while I'm trying not to rotfl.

#62 and 63 likewise.

thanks for brightening my day!

#66 ::: NBieswachs ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2007, 04:25 PM:

What people keep forgetting is that according to the Founding Fathers we were to have freedom OF religion not freedom FROM religion. This means that it is expected that others will have beliefs - even those different from yours - and you might be exposed to them, but that you aren't meant to be forced to practice them, by anyone, especially the government.

The problem is that instead of trying to educate children at home and school about religion - and giving everyone the chance to practice their own and learn about others (within the guidelines of the law - no animal sacrifices) - they've tried to sterilize the environment. And we know how well attempting to remove all thoughts, mentions, and words relating to an idea works.

#67 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2007, 04:38 PM:

they've tried to sterilize the environment

who are "they" in this sentence?

And is "sterilize" a scare word to indicate "separating church and state"?

#68 ::: JC ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2007, 04:54 PM:

#66:according to the Founding Fathers we were to have freedom OF religion not freedom FROM religion.

This strikes me as a very glib phrase. So I will ask my standard "glib phrase" questions:

1. What are you actually trying to say here? i.e., you're making some sort of distinction, but you haven't explained that the distinction is.

2. Can you please cite the founding fathers so that I can go back to the source (to figure out what you're trying to say)?

Thanks.

(BTW, nice conflation of "school and home." I didn't want you to think anyone missed that.)

#69 ::: Jacob Davies ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2007, 05:14 PM:

Not that I don't think that as a modest proposal this is hilarious, but the thing is, there's a lowest-common-denominator that I think they could agree on. After all, politicians talk about God all the time without alienating too many Christians of different sects. So silent prayer or bland Christian pap is something they could all agree is better than the godless wasteland we have at present.

Now if you made them argue it out, the experience would be different in the US to Britain. I mean, in England you got your Anglicans and you got your Catholics (and a lot of atheists, but that's an intersecting set (and a lot of infidel Hindus and Buddhists and Muslims)). In the US, at least if this is fairly accurate, you have 10 denominations with more than 1% of the population each, and only the Catholics even approach 25%.

Anyway, as with Charlie Stross, extensive experience of compulsory prayer in school did nothing to upset my atheism. I have mixed feelings about it. The sermons we were given in high school (usually by the school chaplain, an Anglican minister who I suspect was an atheist) were usually not especially God-heavy, and I don't object to the use of parables. Though I was often bored by the pace, sermons were sometimes food for thought. I think spoken prayer is a waste of time, but enforced silent contemplation among hundreds of others is an interesting & unusual experience.

And though I mostly didn't actually sing (can't carry a tune at all), I often enjoyed listening to hymns being sung. Hearing "Jerusalem" sung by 600 boys in an enormous cathedral accompanied by an organ is spectacular. And the choir was often amazing as well.

Unfortunately in the US I think there'd be much more of a shove-it-down-their-throat attitude, judging from the results of some existing religious schools, and I think that's pretty poisonous. Religious interference with science education or sex education or comparative religion would have cause an uproar. In any case, whether certain variations in the current situation would also be acceptable isn't really the point; the question is where the momentum in change is pointed. I would never support more religious involvement in school because it is, as the politicians say, the "wrong direction".

#70 ::: Jacob Davies ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2007, 05:19 PM:

"Religious interference with science education or sex education or comparative religion would have caused an uproar in my school in England."

Edit twice, post once.

#71 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2007, 05:24 PM:

NBieswachs (I assume that's pronounced n'Beeswax) is a first time poster here.

I'd just like to point out to you, NBieswachs, that animal sacrifice is NOT against the law. In fact, the Supreme Court of the United states has held that it cannot be specifically outlawed without a compelling state interest (Church of Lukumi Babalu Aye v. City of Hialeah, 1993).

And freedom of and freedom from come to the same thing when there's a majority who equates religion with THEIR religion. I can't tell you the number of evangelical Christians who've tried to tell me that being Pagan "really" means having no religion at all, since if I had religion I would know better than to worship all those gods, because the Bible says...they kept talking, but I always stopped listening at that point. Heinlein's line about teaching a pig to sing comes to mind.

And what's perfectly appropriate at home (family gathering naked to worship Baphomet by playing ring-toss on a goat's horns (after all, when you have toddlers you have to start with easy stuff), for example) is completely INappropriate at work.

Oh, why am I even going there. This person's most likely a driveby anyway.

#72 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2007, 05:29 PM:

'at work' should be 'at school' in my previous post. Though naked goathorn ringtoss would certainly be inappropriate in an office environment (and most places of legitimate employment outside Nevada), I was discussing schools, not workplaces.

#73 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2007, 05:52 PM:

I always think the "freedom OF religion not freedom FROM religion" evangelical types should be given what they want: Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormon missionaries*, and Scientologists should be encouraged to come by their doors and save them from the sterility of a life with no discussion of faith. Perhaps the Hare Krishnas could be persuaded to drop by for variety.

-----
* Of the above-mentioned groups, I have the least dislike of the Mormon missionaries. Having worked beside a group of them (diverted from Brazil) in a Red Cross shelter after the Loma Prieta quake, I retain a favourable impression of their dedication to service and their compassion.

#74 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2007, 06:04 PM:

Abi #73: Mormon missionaries do tend to be a little less annoying that JWs. I did reduce one to tears once by demanding an explanation of why I wasn't considered human before 1978.

#75 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2007, 06:04 PM:

I've always had the impression that "no established religion" IS freedom from religion. Especially when you think* about the history** of the Anglican*** church.

*oh, wait.
**um.
***never mind. forgot who I was dealing with for a second there.

#76 ::: Kevin Andrew Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2007, 06:57 PM:

NBieswachs--

I think the nub of your argument is "within guidance of the law" which you then say somehow removes animal sacrifice from the list of possible religious rituals. How so? Animal slaughter is not only legal but common, and so long as done within Human Society guidelines, why can't it be done as part of a prayer?

Likewise, I'm supposing you'd be all in favor of ritual vestments, so would there be a problem with ritual nakedness? For example, skyclad Wiccan rites or tantric meditation? And before you cite that public nudity is not allowed on school grounds I would counter that there is a very large exception to that rule in the form of the showers at every high school and junior high I've ever seen.

Of course those are usually sex segregated, which might cause some problems for you classic neo-Satannic black mass with the robed male priest using a naked female as an altar, but being that the Church of Satan is from San Francisco, I'm certain the rites have gotten out of the early 70s and you can now have male priests with male altars and female priests with female altars. And so long as you do it in the gym showers, I can't think of any law it would be breaking except for of course that law about the separation of church and state, which we were talking about getting rid of anyway.

#77 ::: DILBERT DOGBERT ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2007, 07:14 PM:

This made me wonder how my mom, a grammer school teacher, would handle this. Her usual policy was to take a leap over the ofending chapter with a comment like: "We will get back to this topic when necessary." and of course the year ran out before it became necessary. Most likely teachers can't use that dodge now. Too Bad.

#78 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2007, 07:19 PM:

Fragano 74: I knew people of color weren't considered fit for the clergy of the CJCLDS; were you actually considered non-human?

#79 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2007, 07:22 PM:

#77: What kind of information was she skipping?

#80 ::: mds ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2007, 09:05 PM:

I'm reminded of the ignorance reflected by my eighth-grade teacher, who told us that Islam is the worship of Muhammad Ali.

No probalo! Throw that one into the mix, too. Let us follow the path of the one who was once Cassius, but became Muhammad Ali. After all, we too have feet of Clay.

Ooh, ooh! And obligatory singing of that Simon and Garfunkel hymn.

Okay, I'll stop now.

"Beloved, I say unto you, float through the cares of this world like a butterfly; sting those who sting you, in the manner of a bee."
--Book of Ali

#81 ::: NBieswachs ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2007, 09:36 PM:

Hmm - I think I should not post when under the influence of painkillers. I have re-read it, and (a) some of the humor of my "animal sacrifice" comment did not come to light, probably because there were many other words missing from the post that had been in my head at the time and (b) I have been seen to be some kind of religious-wacko...which is so far from the truth, it actually made me laugh.

So - let me try this again ... my head is clearer now. What drives me crazy about the whole "religion in school" discussion is that there are people who see it as a black-and-white issue. As though even mentioning the fact that some believe that a supreme being created the Earth is somehow teaching religion OR that by mentioning the theory of evolution you are somehow violating someone's rights.

An outside extension of this sterilization is the whole airport episode where the Rabbi brought up the fact that there were Christmas trees, but no menorahs (spelling?). The solution was to remove all the Christmas trees Story here.

A teacher was forced to stop wearing her gold cross necklace because someone claimed this violated the "separation of church and state" rule. Sorry, couldn't locate the link to the story. How does the woman wearing a necklace violate anyone else's rights? She didn't tell anyone else they had to wear it.

So - while I don't agree with any public school bringing in a religious curriculum, I also worry about the ramifications of trying to completely remove ANY references to religion (i.e. it cannot be discussed in relation to history, faculty and students cannot wear religious symbols, decorations of the insides of a student's locker, a child praying at lunch).

#82 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2007, 09:43 PM:

"And verily I say to you, learning to love yourself is the greatest love of all."

#83 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2007, 10:04 PM:

Well, NBieswachs, you did come off a little wacky. Interesting that a doped-up reasonable person sounds like a religious-wacko!

It's actually illegal for a state actor to make someone remove their religious medals. That's a violation of the free exercise clause of the First Amendment. There's a dynamic if the person wears a cross bigger than her head, of course. Then she could be construed as imposing her beliefs on the class.

But note: if the Christian children can wear crosses, the Pagan children have to be able to wear pentacles or scarabs or Thor hammers or whatever, and the Satanist children have to be able to wear...whatever Satanists wear.

#84 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2007, 10:15 PM:

Xopher #78: As I understand it, until 1978 I would not have been fit for the Mormon priesthood, and both my marriages and my parents' marriage would have been condemned by the LDS church. That's enough for me to operate on the assumption that they did not believe that I shared a common humanity with them.

#85 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2007, 10:42 PM:

NBieswachs -- from what I have read, you're still following the fundies' line of claiming marginal cases as representative. The cases I've heard about mostly involve requests not to mandate Christian prayers in locker rooms, at graduations, etc., not the kind of "sterilization" you describe. These public pressure situations are unnecessarily exclusionary of anyone whose beliefs/practices do not match those of the adult leading the prayer.

#86 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2007, 11:04 PM:

A teacher was forced to stop wearing her gold cross necklace because someone claimed this violated the "separation of church and state" rule.

This sounds like a garbled, transposed-to-the-USA version of something that did indeed happen -- in France, which has a whole 'nother, very bloody history of Church-State relations, and because of that is a whole lot less tolerant of public expression of religious faith than we are, to the point of passing a law forbidding the wearing of headscarves, crosses, yamulkes, etc. Said law got a lot of opposition and may by now have been repealed, I don't remember.

#87 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2007, 11:04 PM:

Fragano 84: By that standard they don't believe I'm fully human even today, in that the marriage I intend to have someday will be condemned by the CJCLDS. And the RCC. And the Southern Baptist Convention. And...

#88 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2007, 11:23 PM:

Oh, and the one that annoys me the most: when you say "thy will be done," you don't get to define, explain, or lay what you intend to be binding conditions for what exactly that's going to turn out to be.

Also: as a graceful gesture of self-abnegation (such as was taught to and enforced on many generations of traditional wives and daughters, so we know it's possible), let's all just assume that a God who can create a universe and keep track of all those falling sparrows can really, truly make shift to smite anyone he or she feels a pressing need to see the back of all by his or her omnipotent self and back off.

#89 ::: Jenny Islander ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2007, 12:31 AM:

Oh, and the one that annoys me the most: when you say "thy will be done," you don't get to define, explain, or lay what you intend to be binding conditions for what exactly that's going to turn out to be.

Then it wouldn't be God's will. Living by the faith expressed in the prayer means listening for God's voice, even when it doesn't say the expected or the welcome thing and even when we can't see the point.

An example: I was walking downtown when I got a powerful urge to cut through the bank's drive-through. I didn't want to. That bank doesn't mind shortcutters, but the drive-through was in the shade, which at that time of year is very cold, and I had planned the sunniest way home. (When you live in Alaska, you become a connoisseur of southern exposures.) I stopped and thought. "What's happening here? Is this--? Are you--? You are. Oh."*

So I sighed and took the shortcut. And that's how I found somebody's debit card in a spot that a driver wouldn't even have seen as he headed to the drive-through window. I had to take another detour to turn in the card at the bank that had issued it, but when that was finished, I could go home.

I didn't get bonus sunbeams for doing that. As far as I know, the cardholder (whose name I don't even recall) has never had a chance to do a good turn for me, and anyway she has no idea who I am. I have no idea whether she relied on her debit card for all purchases or just for a bit of cash back, whether she had dropped it or had it stolen, whether she already had a new one--any of that. There's no payoff to this story. It's just an example of "Thy will be done."


*Discernment: learning to recognize the voice of God when we hear it and not mistake anything else for it. My church attempts to sharpen discernment through Bible study, theology, debate, and private meditation. I think that I don't miss or wish up the voice of God as often as I used to.

#90 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2007, 01:14 AM:

Jenny, bless your heart, what your story is saying is that you chose to do what was presented to you as God's will, despite the fact that you (if you'd felt free to do otherwise) would have done something else.

I'm not being snarky - you did what I'm asking that people of faith do - but it's truly not an argument for doing otherwise.

#91 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2007, 02:10 AM:

NBieswachs @81:
A teacher was forced to stop wearing her gold cross necklace because someone claimed this violated the "separation of church and state" rule.

You're conflating two international stories: one about the French ban on all religious symbols in schools (as Lizzy L said, in a different cultural context, with a different history than the US), and the case where British Airwayss, a private company, banned an employee from wearing a cross at the check-in desk. (They have subsequently changed their policy.)

These are urban myths, designed to muddy the waters and confuse the discussion. Please be a little more skeptical, and don't pass on what you can't verify.

#92 ::: Bill Humphries ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2007, 03:15 AM:

The Washington Defense of Marriage Alliance (http://www.wa-doma.org/) decided to implement absurdity as a strategy. They proposed an initiative that would annul any marriage that has not produced a child after three years.

WA-DOMA says it would be fun "to see the social conservatives who have long screamed that marriage exists for the sole purpose of procreation be forced to choke on their own rhetoric."

But that assumes that all social conservatives are hypocrites who secretly carry on while presenting a public face of piety.

#93 ::: Rebecca ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2007, 03:48 AM:

NBieswachs @81:
Oh, gods, the Christmas trees at the airport. Your link isn't working for me, so I assume you're talking about here in Seattle.
First of all, they were taken down because the airport couldn't be bothered with the mess. It wasn't, "oh, crap, he's gonna sue us, we have to taken them down," it was, "this isn't worth the time and trouble." Second, they went right back up again within a couple of days, after there was great public outcry and the Rabbi in question withdrew the objection. (A friend of mine knows that Rabbi, as it happens. She says he's known as "the young curmudgeon," with the emphasis on young as much as on curmudgeon -- he's not necessarily considered the wisest or most mature rabbi around.)
Personally, I'm a huge separation of church and state advocate. But I have no objection to purely secular decorations for the winter holidays. And so-called Christmas trees are secular. There's nothing Christian about them, unless they have specifically religios decorations on them (which I would object to, on government owned property).

I'm not in favor of ignoring religion when discussing history; that would be ludicrous. But I am damn sure against teacher or faculty led prayer in schools, because it IS discriminatory. The line isn't whether or not we're exposed to the religions of others, but whether or not we're subjected to them, compelled to participate in some fashion, and whether or not a representative of the government is actively promoting one religion while acting in his or her capacity as a representative of the government.

#94 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2007, 04:35 AM:

I rather thought the "Christmas tree" - always an evergreen - was a symbol of returning life after the long, cold northern winter, hence a hangover from the ancient festival of the Winter solstice, the day the sun begins its return journey south again, promising that the spring will return. Hence, it is, if anything, a pagan symbol, and thus religious. Therefore, it should be banned. (What's the emoticon meaning that I've got my tongue so far in my cheek it's sticking out of my ear?)

#95 ::: A. J. Luxton ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2007, 04:43 AM:

Jenny Islander @ 89: a wonderful description of the process. It is definitely a trick of listening, like the process of learning to feel a perfect fold in paper or recognize a note in tune. (Sometimes I suspect that my pantheism and that certain wise stripe of mystic monotheism look exactly the same from a certain angle.)

Xopher @ 83: There's a Satanist in my neighborhood who wears horns. Under his skin. (The implants have been expanded over time to the point where they extend the length of his forehead.) He is recognized as having a sort of representative status -- and I highly respect that kind of sheer physical honesty.

#96 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2007, 05:47 AM:

82: if the Christian children can wear crosses, the Pagan children have to be able to wear pentacles or scarabs or Thor hammers or whatever, and the Satanist children have to be able to wear...whatever Satanists wear.

The FLAYED SKINS OF OUR ENEMIES! Or that may be just Glaswegian Satanists. Or just Glaswegians generally. (Alan Rickman: "The Scots? They drink the blood of their dead.")

#92: they should have gone one step further. If marriage is for the purpose of procreation, annul every marriage that doesn't produce a child at least every three years.

#97 ::: Kevin Andrew Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2007, 05:52 AM:

Personally, I've always found religious garb worn in a secular space to be rather tacky. Of course, this opinion was formed young, since the kids publically wearing the crosses in gradeschool were generally rude, obnoxious, and in one notable case, physically violent. It was only on making friends with a non-obnoxious sane Catholic in high school that I got a more nuanced view of the practice.

The whole "religion in school" business is basically nuanced, but occasionally you get people like the obnoxious rabbi in Seattle, or, to give a more unpleasant example, the Evangelical Christian mother who sent her kindergartener to public school to read his "favorite book" (a weekly assignment) and had him bring the bible. But rather than it being a kid's bible win illustrated pictures of Noah or some other kid-friendly story, she had him reading some doom and brimstone passage about converting the heathen.

Nuanced? I think my senior year English teacher did it properly: She had a list of a couple hundred classic literature books, including several books of the bible, which students could choose for book reports. Yes, religious books, but also important books in the history of English literature. (I believe it was the King James edition.)

#98 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2007, 07:07 AM:

Didn't the Christmas Tree originate with Germany's pagan History, with the ornaments representing Odin hanging himself to attain knowledge? Anyway, after that Christmas episode of "Doctor Who", I have never been able to look at my Tree the same way ever again.

#99 ::: Todd Larason ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2007, 07:12 AM:

Ajay @ #96: "they should have gone one step further. If marriage is for the purpose of procreation, annul every marriage that doesn't produce a child at least every three years."

That would conflict with the second initiative they're working on, the one to outlaw divorces or separations of couples who have minor children.

Their third proposal is an initiative to end out-of-wedlock births, by making giving birth the legal equivalent of a marriage ceremony. I haven't seen that one yet so I'm not sure how they'll deal with births where one of the parents is single and the other is already married.


Various folks & numbers: when thinking & talking about the Seattle airport situation, it's important to remember that the Rabbi didn't want to remove the Christmas trees -- he wanted to include electric menorahs as well (the electric bit evidently makes them non-suitable for the religious purposes a menorah normally serves, and thus secular rather than religious). Nobody was trying to remove all traces of the winter holidays, they were just trying to include more of them.


I grew up in a Unitarian household, and our Sunday School included a _lot_ of study of other religions, from Adventism to Zoroastrianism. It appears 12-year-old me understood the differences between Sunni and Shia Muslims better than many of the people running our national security apparatus. We visited the local Orthodox synagogue and Reform temple. At Thanksgiving, we'd attend services at the Congregationalist church. We'd go to midnight Mass on Christmas Eve. I went to a Presbyterian-affiliated elementary school, a Catholic highschool and a Methodist college.

It took me a while to realize that all those other religions weren't studying us back, or each other.

I don't remember ever having believed in any god at all.

#100 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2007, 07:46 AM:

Xopher #87: I certainly think you're human. My only hesitation is when it comes to Michael Jackson...

#101 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2007, 09:09 AM:

#94: According to our minister, who is fairly reliable, the Christmas tree is a throwback to the days of mystery plays. Each was performed on a set day, and the play for Christmas Eve was the story of Adam and Eve - hence, a tree with round things hanging on it. It's an evergreen because they're the only ones with leaves in winter. So a Christmas tree is originally Christian but not Christmassy.

#99: fair point. Maybe just fine couples under a certain age who don't continue to reproduce? Or shame them publicly?

'Birth = marriage' could be tricky if the mother either doesn't know the father's name or refuses to give it. She could end up being unilaterally married. That might be quite popular for tax reasons...

#102 ::: Jo Walton ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2007, 10:26 AM:

My theory about prayer in schools in Britain is that it's like injecting a killed virus of religion, it innoculates everyone against the more virulent strains they might otherwise encounter.

And did you see the Jewish school where half the pupils are Muslim?

#103 ::: crazysoph ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2007, 10:27 AM:

Todd Larason @ #99

I've emailed a comment re one of those proposals offlist.

Crazy(and afraid her anecdote was just too long and too off-topic)Soph

#104 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2007, 10:50 AM:

Todd @ #99:
I grew up in a Unitarian household, and our Sunday School included a _lot_ of study of other religions, from Adventism to Zoroastrianism.

I was also raised UU after a brief and negative experience with Roman Catholicism, and my Sunday School experience was similar. Ours also incorporated sex ed at age 10 or 11.

It took me a while to realize that all those other religions weren't studying us back, or each other.

I'm having a lot of trouble putting what I want to say into words here, so I'll settle for saying that that last sentence feels very important to me. Maybe words will come later.

#105 ::: Thena ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2007, 11:27 AM:

Fragano @100:

I'm fairly sure Michael Jackson is human but precisely what combination of gender and ethnic identity is not so clear anymore. Still, I suppose that someone that rich can afford to be uncertain about such things and it's none of my business anyway :-)

#106 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2007, 11:32 AM:

Bill 92: But that assumes that all social conservatives are hypocrites who secretly carry on while presenting a public face of piety.

And you don't think so? I do. Every single one of them. I think people who are not tormented by their own guilt are not harsh and punitive with others. Social conservatives (at least the ones who are against marriage rights for same-sex couples) are cruel, vicious people who need to go read Micah 6:8. Or die and go to hell, I'd be happy with that too.

A. J. 95: (Sometimes I suspect that my pantheism and that certain wise stripe of mystic monotheism look exactly the same from a certain angle.)

Indeed, mystics of all types have very similar experiences. This is because, as the Japanese say, "there are many paths to the top of Mount Fuji, but from the summit we all see the same moon." Or as Wiccans put it (less poetically but more succinctly), "all rivers flow to the ocean."

Kevin 97: Wow, if I had a kid in that school, I'd have him go and recite the Gospel of Aradia ("...nor shall you ever rest until the last of your oppressors shall be dead"). Or the story of why Isis couldn't resurrect Osiris the second time Setesh killed him (his phallus was eaten by a crocodile, so he didn't have a complete body), with an exegesis explaining that the meaning of that story is that a life without sexual pleasure is not a life at all.

Fragano 100: "He's more machine now than man."

ajay 101: That's a cooptation story, not the real history. The evergreen as symbol of the persistence of life in the midst of death predates Christianity by thousands of years. Holly, ivy, mistletoe, all evergreen, also have religious significance from before the cross came to Europe. For example, in Irish Druidism the oak mistletoe symbolizes the supremacy of Lugh, because it's the smallest of all trees, but grows atop the tallest; just as Lugh was the smallest of the Tuatha dé Dannan, but rose to be chief of them.

This is the same sort of cooptation as the Purim story, hastily made up after the Babylonian exile to explain to the young ones why they were offering cakes to the Queen of Heaven (Ishtar, Hebraicized to Esther) and celebrating the consummation of her marriage to the Bablylonian god Marduk (whose name, with 'chai' (life) becomes Mordechai) by baking vulva-(or womb-)shaped pastries filled with seed—Haman's Hat, my foot!

#107 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2007, 11:33 AM:

Thena #105: I'll give him the benefit of the doubt then.

#108 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2007, 11:46 AM:

No, ajay -- I'm afraid the Christians stole the tree from Norse paganism.

You see, the Norse (and according to some sources the ancient Minoans) used to hang their sacrifices on trees. Eventually, as human sacrifice became less acceptable, they hung human shaped pastries/cookies (similar to gingerbread men) instead...

The Church instructed those they sent out to convert the heathen to borrow customs and turn the local god/desses into Saints which then would induce the Pagans to convert.

#109 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2007, 12:06 PM:

#108: Fair enough. I thought it sounded a little too smooth to be true.

Eventually, as human sacrifice became less acceptable, they hung human shaped pastries/cookies (similar to gingerbread men) instead...

It must have been great fun to be around at the time of the transition from "human sacrifices" to "cookies".

"Modthryth! What on earth are you doing?"
"Oh, hello, Ecgtheow, dear. I'm just sorting out the Yule tree."
"With cake? By Thor's Hammer, woman, I've just brought home half a dozen captive Scyfings to hang on it! What do you mean, cake? We're Norse! 'Death, not cake', remember?"
"Well... I just thought that disembowelled corpses are always so messy, and I had these little corpse-shaped cakes left over from the Feast of Tyr the War God..."
"Hmmph."

#110 ::: Lexica ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2007, 12:06 PM:

Oh, and the one that annoys me the most: when you say "thy will be done," you don't get to define, explain, or lay what you intend to be binding conditions for what exactly that's going to turn out to be.

As I understand it, there's an ellipsis in that phrase, and the full version is "thy will, not mine, be done." Trying to place limits on what that will is, or can be, or can be applied to, is fundamentally incompatible with the attitude the phrase is expressing.

You can't define the indefinable. You can't limit the illimitable. And you can't eff the ineffable. It's inherent to being only a part of the immense and divine whole.

#111 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2007, 12:30 PM:

Lexica 110: Yes, it's a translation of 'verumtamen non mea voluntas, sed Tua fiat' ("yet not my will, but Thine be done"—and yeah, I know that was originally written in Greek and probably said in Aramaic, if it was ever said at all) from when Christ went out to pray on the Mount of Olives just before his arrest.

That was the time he prayed until the sweat ran down like gouts of blood. He was asking the Father to "transfer calicem istum a me" ("take this cup from me"), meaning "I don't really want to die." But he left it up to the Father to decide.

As Starhawk says (quoted here recently, I can't remember by whom) one nice thing about being a polytheist is that you can always get a second opinion. I'd add that you can say no, if you want, and our gods won't get all vindictive about it.

#112 ::: Therese Norén ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2007, 02:01 PM:

The Christmas tree came to Scandinavia really, really late. I discuss the issue here. Can you please stop propagating that myth?

Sacrifices were hung on oaks, not evergreens.

#113 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2007, 02:18 PM:

Let's celebrate Christmas with Stellan Skarsgaard. Or maybe not.

#114 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2007, 04:51 PM:

'Birth = marriage' could be tricky if the mother either doesn't know the father's name or refuses to give it. She could end up being unilaterally married. That might be quite popular for tax reasons...

More seriously, I can think of one word that would stop a "birth = marriage" law cold: Rape. Forcing a rape victim both to have the child (something not even most anti-abortion activists are in favor of) and marry the perp (thus encouraging rape as a sort of courtship-by-violence) might appeal to some, but I suspect not in sufficient numbers to pass this sort of legislation at the state level.

...Or so I hope.

#115 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2007, 05:04 PM:

Nicole 114, I don't think you understand the purpose of these proposals. They are to show how absurd the positions taken by the religious right are.

And in fact...the Bible does prescribe marriage as a legal remedy for rape in some circumstances. This shows how stupid it is to try to base modern law on Biblical prescriptions, in my opinion. So the case of rape strengthens the point of these proposals, rather than weakening it.

May the gods stand between us and ANY of them actually PASSING.

#116 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2007, 05:27 PM:

Meanwhile, I am concerned at the absence of any reference on how to integrate prayers to Huitzilopochtli into the school day.

#117 ::: miriam beetle ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2007, 05:33 PM:

xopher,

And in fact...the Bible does prescribe marriage as a legal remedy for rape in some circumstances.

yup. i remember it was reeeal real hard to explain the amnon & tamar (uck, now my elapsed education is going to get me, & it's actually absalom & tamar, or two completely other people) story to us in middle school, with the "and he wouldn't even marry her after!" part.

#118 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2007, 05:45 PM:

abi:

IIRC, Amnon did the deed, Absalom killed him for it.

#119 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2007, 05:51 PM:

Meanwhile, I am concerned at the absence of any reference on how to integrate prayers to Huitzilopochtli into the school day.

Clearly, this should be handled by selecting the captains of the sports teams your school's teams defeat as the sacrifical candidates, which could surely be supported by reference to traditional practices.

All of a sudden, there's a really good reason to hope your team does well, assuming that the concerned parents allow any child to go out for sports ever again.

#120 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2007, 06:01 PM:

fidelio, IIRC it was the winners of the ball games who got the privilege of being sacrificed.

#121 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2007, 06:03 PM:

fidelio @ 119

That would certainly solve the problem of parents who live for their children's sports activities (also the question of 'sports or church?' in the areas where both are popular activities).

#122 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2007, 06:34 PM:

fidelio #119 Xopher #120: That would produce some interesting games.

#123 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2007, 07:50 PM:

In Maryland, a Montgomery County high school was set to have graduation at a large Baptist church. When non-Christians complained, they were told there wasn't enough money to hire one of the big auditoriums in DC. The superintendent gave them the money and is going to make that money available to all the high schools next year.

#124 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2007, 01:48 AM:

PJ Evans @118
Thanks for the info. I'm sure Miriam appreciates it too. ;-)

#125 ::: miriam beetle ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2007, 01:59 AM:

well, all the letters of abi are contained in miriam beetle....

a helpful mnemonic

abi: lives in scotland, two children, binds books.
miriam: lives in canada, no chidren, draws comic books.

#126 ::: crazysoph ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2007, 02:28 AM:

Okay, I've been encouraged off-list to share the anecdote I'd originally just e-mailed to Todd Larason @ #99. I still feel like apologizing for its tangental quality, though.

Todd wrote (among other things) - Their third proposal is an initiative to end out-of-wedlock births, by making giving birth the legal equivalent of a marriage ceremony. I haven't seen that one yet so I'm not sure how they'll deal with births where one of the parents is single and the other is already married.

I know of a story from the Netherlands that could supply a (partial) answer to that - someone I know, whose father had been married previously, during the Second World War.

That first marriage had broken down at a time when divorces were not being granted (there's a story involved of the Dutch resistance blowing up the central population registers, in order to keep the info out of the hands of the occupying Nazis, but I can't source that story properly). The wife embarked on an extramarital relationship, got pregnant, and delivered a baby girl. But because the marriage was still in place, the girl was legally considered as the legitimate issue of that first marriage.

Which got very sticky for that little girl, when the school authorities learned of this situation a few years later: up until then, she'd been called by her mother's maiden name, but then the school authorities took her out of class, and told her they were changing all the records so that she would henceforth be using the name of her legal father. (You can imagine what the schoolyard interactions were like, after that. Even though she was born "legally" into a documented marriage, contemporary usage meant if she had a different name from her mother's, she was a bastard.)

A couple decades down the road, it also got a wee bit sticky for my informant, when his dad died. They'd done a relative search (just to be sure; there was no inheritance but who wants to have to prove such a thing several decades later?), which turned up this woman - legitimate half-sister in name, but not a drop of commonly shared blood.

In a nutshell, great mess-potential abounds.

Crazy(the woman herself? Turned out to be extremely reasonable, as reaction to her chaotic childhood...)Soph


#127 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2007, 05:37 AM:

Xopher@111: You have inspired me to look up the original on greekbible.com. (I've been studying it for two years now, and the idea that I can just find some Ancient Greek and read it still leaves me feeling quite smug.) The Greek is "plen me to thelema mou alla to son ginestho." You may perhaps recognize that word "thelema"....

#128 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2007, 07:38 AM:

miriam @ 125... miriam: lives in canada, no chidren, draws comic books.

Care to elaborate?

#129 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2007, 09:20 AM:

#120 Xopher--I was thinking about the people who lost wars to the Aztecs, and entirely forgetting the Mesoamerican ball game traditions. My excuse is all the coaches and others who use militaristic figures of speech when talking about sports.
Nothing to do with a poor memory on my part, no siree.

Although I supppose you could combine the two by using the sacrifice-designation system I proposed for most of the school year, and then using the winners of the championship games for the Big Festival.
At the college level, this would certainly quiet down the kvetching when they end up with three teams with good enough records to play for the national football championship, and there are only two sides available.

#130 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2007, 10:37 AM:

abi @ 124

oops? (sometimes my short-term memory is measured in nanoseconds)

#131 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2007, 10:39 AM:

With all the recent talk of marriage, divorce and (tangentially) madness here, I'm surprised that no one has started discussing the "soap opera" of the astronauts yet. Or is that on some other thread I haven't caught up with yet?

#132 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2007, 10:53 AM:

Nope, Faren, that hasn't come out yet on any thread yet. I'm looking forward to the movie, possibly starring Charlize Theron and Johnny Depp. Or maybe Billy Bob Thornton.

#133 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2007, 11:02 AM:

fidelio #129: This might be particularly important in those places where college sports are practically a state religion.

#134 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2007, 12:00 PM:

Faren: I've seen it described as "Bridget Jones meets 'The Graduate' as written by Robert Heinlein". The diapers make that story truly unforgettable, in my opinion.

#135 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2007, 12:40 PM:

David 127: My Greek isn't equal to the task of even figuring out which part of the text you gave the Greek for. I'm guessing, based on your reference to 'thelema' that it's the 'voluntas' part, not the 'transfer calicem' part, and that 'thelema' means 'will'.

So that's the Greek...does it mean "not my will, but Thine be done"? Or is that another KJV distortion?

About the astronauts, all I have to say is, that guy must be a charmer (or...something), because he is one UGLY man.

#136 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2007, 12:54 PM:

Xopher... Maybe the astronaut's amour has a beautiful mind.

#137 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2007, 01:18 PM:

Jo Walton @ 102 - That article is both encouraging and utterly confusing. I like the idea of Jews and Muslims cohabiting successfully in a school, but it brings up a bunch of questions about the English state (or as we Americans would say, public) school system.

Does the government run schools with religious curricula for non-Anglicans?

If so, how do they determine which religions to serve?

Are the schools and supported faiths mapped on a 1-1 basis (e.g. not putting Catholic and, say, Presbyterian education in the same facility).

Why wouldn't there be a separate state-supported Islamic school in that town?

Couldn't both religions be fully supported in the same school?

And finally (and perhaps very secular-American of me) why does the state bother at all? By way of context, in NYC public school students are allowed to leave early on Wednesdays to go elsewhere for religious instruction. The students who don't go get optional enrichment stuff.

I know that you may not be an authority on this, but the whole English approach (as I'm hypothesizing on the basis of this article) seems pretty odd.

#138 ::: Neil Willcox ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2007, 05:35 PM:

Larry, there's a 5 year old but useful introduction to state faith schools in the UK in this article from the Guardian:

http://education.guardian.co.uk/schools/story/0,,593365,00.html

Why does the state bother at all isn't answered, as that was the question at the time.

#139 ::: Jacob Davies ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2007, 06:05 PM:

That seems to be only about "faith schools", which I think are semi-independent but mostly state-funded schools that are overtly religious. But my state schools (first & middle) are listed as "non-denominational" and I think they were just bog-standard state schools; nonetheless, at least the middle school had hymns, prayers, and the usual Christian stuff. I'm pretty sure the first school did too, but I wouldn't swear to it. This was during the 80s, maybe things have changed since then.

My high school was a private school long affiliated with the cathedral, so it was overtly Anglican. Muslims (I think we had 2) got to skip prayers & hymns; atheists, on the other hand, did not.

#140 ::: Vicki ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2007, 06:22 PM:

Saints Robert of Discordia, please. Robert Shea gets less credit than he ought for Illuminatus! Both went by Bob socially, if that matters for the purposes of sainthood second class.

#141 ::: miriam beetle ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2007, 07:23 PM:

serge,

Care to elaborate?

sure. i just don't want to seem to be doing self-promotion in this space....

i write a semi-autobiographical series about an american girl serving in the israeli army, called jobnik! it runs five issues so far, & is so far still self-published. though i keep trying.

my first published piece, actually, if magazine illustrations don't count, is a drawn essay i did for an academic collection on jews & graphic novels, coming out later this year.

i sell mostly at comic-cons, & last year at mocca was the first time i met someone from making light in person (hello, dan layman-kennedy!)

&, er, my website's linked from my name. so i can stop now.

#142 ::: Neil Willcox ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2007, 07:30 PM:

Jacob, I realise now that to do this properly I need to explain to non-UK (and possibly some UK) residents that some state schools are faith schools, explictly linked to a faith, and some are non-denominational, but still have prayers, hymns and religious education of varying types and degrees*.

I'm pretty sure King David's is a faith school.

I need to get some sleep and probably track down one of my friends who teaches before jumping into this again, as I keep stumbling over the difference between American public schools and British Public Schools.

* Officially my secondary school was non-demoninational, but had links with the Anglican church, including several church services each year. Attendance to these was mandatory, so getting out of them was a traditional end-of-term sport.

#143 ::: Owlmirror ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2007, 07:46 PM:

@#135:

Yes, "thelema" means "will, wish".

Perseus:

Λουκαν (Luke) 22:42 "πλὴν μὴ τὸ θέλημά μου ἀλλὰ τὸ σὸν γινέσθω."

I think "thelema" is perhaps more recognizable because it is also a Crowley reference

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abbey_of_Thelema

&c.

(@127: I prefer the more scholarly Perseus, with a Greek NT with plenty of word links, and a broader corpus of Greek works, including Homer, the various hymns, &c:

http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/cache/perscoll_Greco-Roman.html

)

#144 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2007, 09:28 PM:

miriam @ 141... Thanks for the elaboration.

#145 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: February 08, 2007, 05:47 AM:

Xopher@135: You are right on all counts.

"Plen me to thelema mou alla to son ginestho." -- word for word, that would be something like:
"Except not the will of-me but the yours come to pass."

#146 ::: Dan Layman-Kennedy ::: (view all by) ::: February 08, 2007, 09:03 AM:

miriam, I'm flattered you remember me from MOCCA; I always assume I'm entirely unmemorable in the vast sea of fen.

(miriam may be reluctant to promote her stuff, but I'm not: Jobnik's a fine read, and I say this as a Gentile chubby nerd whose native tongue is Pulp.)

#147 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2007, 12:17 PM:

"while I don't agree with any public school bringing in a religious curriculum, I also worry about the ramifications of trying to completely remove ANY references to religion (i.e. it cannot be discussed in relation to history, faculty and students cannot wear religious symbols, decorations of the insides of a student's locker, a child praying at lunch)."

I think everyone here agrees that "trying to completely remove ANY references to religion" is dumb. But who's advocating this? Generally speaking, the ACLU-type civil libertarians who argue for a strong church/state divide are also the first to speak up for the rights of kids to, for instance, wear a crucifix in school. On those rare occasions when that right is in any way threatened.

#148 ::: Kathi ::: (view all by) ::: February 20, 2007, 03:07 AM:

It's a wonderful idea, Teresa. Which is why it won't happen, and has started to happen in other ways. Here's something I posted in my LJ back in May of 2006:

"The Republicans were filibustering the Bible bill. On a Tuesday afternoon in early February, Republican legislators in Alabama took to the crimson-carpeted floor of the state house to oppose legislation that would authorize an elective course on the Bible in public high schools. The recommended curriculum for the course had been vouched for by Christian Right all-stars like Chuck Colson and Ted Haggard, but so far as Republicans were concerned, there was only one pertinent piece of information about the bill: It was sponsored by two Democrats. And now Republicans were prepared to do everything in their procedural power to stop it, even if that meant lining up to explain why they could not(could not!) stand for this attempt to bring a class about the Bible into public schools."


http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/features/2006/0604.sullivan.html

Of course, Haggard is now persona non grata, but the article was interesting.

#149 ::: Benjamin Wolfe ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2011, 08:09 PM:

Given the wide range of religious beliefs and practices out there, the only sensible course of action is to maintain strict separation of church and state. That said, I quite like TNH's proposal.

I just see the whole issue as an extension of the basic principal that "I don't have to agree with what someone believes to believe they have a right to believe it"

#150 ::: Phil Stracchino ::: (view all by) ::: April 03, 2013, 03:37 PM:

I've been advocating very much this for a long time. The religious right wants prayer in schools? They want equal time for creationism and science? OK, sure they can have equal time. In prayer, as well. They can have it in a comparative religions class, where their narrow-minded version of Christianity can have equal time with Shinto, Buddhism, Hinduism, Asatru, Wicca, Crowleyist satanism, Baha'i, Islam (all three major branches - Sunni, Shiite, and Sufi),
Confucianism, seventh-day adventism, Mormonism (horrors!), Catholicism, Greek Orthodoxy, Russian Orthodoxy, Jainism, Judaism, Sikhism, Babism, Druze, Gnosticism, Rastafarianism (with all proper sacraments!), Mithraism, Taoism, Zoroastrianiam, .....

Wait. What do you mean, you didn't want *THAT* much equality and fairness?

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