Recently, while driving home from West, I tuned in to Waco station KBBW 1010AM. I listened to the remainder of an interview with someone from Break Point, speaking about “inroads that have been made for getting the Bible taught in public schools”. I was reminded of a class I took a few decades ago that involved studying all major religions. I learned about the belief system, the history of each religion and how it formed its influences, and so on. It was truly fascinating and amazing to see the extremely close similarities of each, especially since many of the scriptures were almost identical in wording, and many originally came from the same source. Much of the Bible, the Torah, and the Quran derive from the same writings.
We teach local, state, country, and world history in every school system but downplay our spiritual beliefs’ vital role in shaping the world as it is today. Without mankind’s religious beliefs, the world and its history would be dramatically changed. Even today, we have various religions shaping history. Much of our news is concerned with a radical sect of Islam. Many scholars assert that Islam believers will surpass Christianity in numbers within a few decades – not the radical sect, but the devout followers whose beliefs are much the same as other religions.
It would be a valuable addition to any school curriculum to add a class that explores and explains the world’s great religions. There is no better way to world peace than by understanding the youth of our fellow man and his culture, religions, and social structure. Understanding each is one step in that direction, possibly the most important one.
There is a lot of opposition in the United States against the slightest so-called “mixing of church and state.” There is a misunderstanding of the intention of the First Amendment, which was ratified in 1791, states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” This amendment came about because England had one religion, the Church of England, and outlawed any other practice. There were extremely severe consequences for non-compliance.
Many emigrants to the New World came here to escape religious persecution. The whole history of Europe is steeped in the religious control of monarchs, kings, and feudal lords, many of whom were considered in power by “divine right”. Anyone worshiping God had to do so in the official church, determined by the powers in control at the time. Our First Amendment was enacted to prevent anyone from establishing a state religion. The amendment ensured people could worship as they pleased.
To have a class for studying the Bible and other religious texts, to gain insight into the belief system of religions, is not a violation of the First Amendment. The class should not require you to participate in the practice of each religion. That would be a violation, but I don’t think anyone would consider it appropriate to do so, even the most devout of any practice.
Such a class could help anyone gain an understanding and insight into the beliefs of others who live among us. Like it or not, various religions have played an essential role in shaping our history, perhaps the greatest influence.
I suggest you take a Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, or Zoroaster to lunch or out for coffee and have an exchange of views. You might be surprised how much you have in common.