The recent drop in church attendance and increase in those who say they are “spiritual” but not “religious” is an indication that the “Olde Time Religion” is no longer working to fulfill the spiritual and intellectual needs of people. But, it also highlights a major failure in our education system. What is needed is a way of combining the spiritual insights of religion with the ever-changing scientific and historical insights of the present. In the West, this has been done by some of our greatest thinkers – Kierkegaard, Spinoza, and Wittgenstein to name a few – but our educational system, in it’s quest to cater to the lowest common denominator of our society, has refused or neglected to tell people about these thinkers and their ideas. One of three suppositions is at work here: (1) it is assumed that ‘regular folks’ are uninterested in learning about fundamental theological issues, or (2) that they are too stupid to understand them, or (3) that religious ideas are best left unchallenged and therefore undiscussed (often with a fallacious reference to the “separation of church and state” given as justification).

I disagree vehemently with all of these assumptions – the average person has much more interest in and ability to understand deeper religious concepts than for which s/he is usually given credit. Wisdom is found in the combination of faith, intelligence and knowledge: Without knowledge, the most intelligent person in the world would still be ignorant; without faith, the most knowledgeable person in the world is still lost. Thus, many people, having found their inherited religion unsatisfying, grope around for something else – anything else – and end up latching on to almost anything that is different, no matter how ill conceived, far-fetched, or soul-crushing.

To those who claim that educating people in alternative ways of viewing the universe is an attack on their religious principles (or lack thereof), I respond that only those who question the power of their beliefs will worry about the power of alternative ideas. And, if one can be swayed away from one’s faith by hearing an alternative viewpoint, it means that they only held the belief from habit to begin with.

TAKE AWAY: We must bring back broad-based (ecumenical) religious education into schools to open up people’s attitudes toward God.

 Library of Congress [Public domain]