Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Religion in school

Michele: Public school here in Australia is very different than in Amherst in a lot of ways. One feature of school here is Religion class every Wednesday morning. The school in our town offers three flavors of religion, Catholic, Protestant and none of the above. After some discussion, we opted for protestant-flavored religion for our kids. Robin and Will were pretty skeptical of the whole religion class thing. Kids who don't opt for either Catholic or Protestant get to go to the undercover area and color during Religion class. Coloring is a pretty big draw for the 7 to 9 year old set.

Gavin and I both did time in Sunday school classes growing up and I clocked in 6 years of Catholic schooling so we gently encouraged the kids to try out Religion class. It is good for them! Robin was the first to forgo coloring and try Religion and reported that it wasn't so bad. They learned some old testament stories that all have the same '
believe or be damned' theme. A few weeks later Will followed suit and now the coloring group has two fewer followers than it used to have.

Religion in school is very normal here and people are surprised (to some degree) that religion is not taught in American schools. I've been told several times that American children grow up much faster than Australian children. Many Australians may believe that America would be a better place and that we could have avoided the whole global financial crisis if we did teach religion in schools. I don't know about that, but a little fire and brimstone can't hurt and makes for great drama.

1 comment:

  1. Been meaning to write a response to this for awhile.

    Although we don't teach religion in schools in the US, the US is very high compared to most countries in measures of religious belief. I wasn't able to find recent better data, but the following 1991 survey showed the US very high (if not highest) among the 18 developed countries survey in belief in God, afterlife, the Devil, Hell, Heaven, and miracles. (

    I would argue that the ability to have high levels of belief and faith are actually encouraged, rather than discouraged the global financial crisis. If there's one thing that most Americans believe more than God, it's in the absolute power of the markets and capitalism. Even after the crash, I know a lot of people who think the solution is LESS, rather than more, regulation, because "the government is bad; private industry is good."

    Without skepticism, almost no one was challenging the assumptions before Sept 2008. And many people still refuse to see the evidence, even after the events have occurred. Because the belief in the markets is virtually theology.