This week, Time’s senior religion writer David Van Biema looks at whether or not there is a case to be made for secular education of the Bible and whether or not there is a place for Biblical literacy, especially in our high schools.
Van Biema interviewed Boston University’s Stephen Prothero, who gives one of the more convincing reasons why it actually would be a good idea to have this secular edudcation:
In the late ’70s, [students] knew nothing about religion, and it didn’t matter. But then religion rushed into the public square. What purpose could it possibly serve for citizens to be ignorant of all that?
The ignorance — ignorance that Van Biema notes is as problematic with self-described evangelicals as it is with anyone else — leads us to a place where people are unable to critically examine public policy platforms for their hidden religious agenda. This has been on my mind lately, given that a lobbyist for a large and influential religious group freely admitted to me and the students we were talking to that part of her job is to remove the religion from the policy she lobbies for — that is, she (and many people with the same job across this country) is specifically trying to advance her religious group’s beliefs via secular language.
It’s a hidden agenda, one that favours secrecy to get what one wants, couched in language that tries to mask religious belief for social concern and looking out for the best interest in society. And we need to give people the critical skills to examine platforms for these hidden agendas — and without a familiarity in the religious texts that are driving the agenda, the goal seems lost.
Originally posted at the American Journal of Bioethics Editors Blog.