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The Devil went down to Georgia
March 28, 2006 7:49 AM   Subscribe

In Georgia public schools, the Bible is the textbook. Georgia would become the first to require its Department of Education to put in place a curriculum to teach the history and literature of the Bible. Schools would use the book itself as the classroom textbook. Specifically the bill would establish electives on both the New and Old Testaments.
posted by The Jesse Helms (207 comments total)

 
Good, perhaps this will help clear up the rampant ignorance of the tenets of Christianity and the history of the Bible that seems to pervade Georgians understanding of religion.
posted by Pollomacho at 7:56 AM on March 28, 2006


And? Its an elective. I was required to read the Bible in high school and regret none of it.

So much of Western literature contains references too or allegories of biblical stories that its quite required reading if you want anything more than a literal understanding of what you're reading, along with Homer. IMO, that should be the English curriculum in every freshman English class in America: fall: Greek lit; spring: the bible and other late-classical foundational texts. You really can't understand Shakespeare or Dante without that stuff, and Shakespeare and Dante is where you'd eventually like to get by senior year.
posted by ChasFile at 7:59 AM on March 28, 2006


So?
posted by Pressed Rat at 8:01 AM on March 28, 2006


If it's an elective, who cares? I don't think Bibles should be banned from schools; I just think students shouldn't be required to study or read it. If they want to, more power to 'em.
posted by headspace at 8:04 AM on March 28, 2006


It wouldn't require any schools to teach the class nor any students to take it, so it really sounds benign. However, having observed the current Ga. government's propensity for mixing religion and politics, I do not for a second believe that the sponsors intend for the course to be a critical, historical look at the Bible but rather a way to get religion into public schools.
posted by TedW at 8:06 AM on March 28, 2006


The bill also requires that the courses should be taught "in an objective and non-devotional manner with no attempt made to indoctrinate students."

If so, great. I'm skeptical whether it will be taught in an objective and non-devotional way however. I hope I'm wrong.
posted by mania at 8:12 AM on March 28, 2006


It's hard to convince someone how fucked up the bible is until they read it for themselves. I support this.
posted by ColdChef at 8:13 AM on March 28, 2006


I think Bible classes are perfectly fine, as long as they teach it as literature, particularly if its mixed with some discussion of the time in which it was written, and the issues that it was written to solve-- for example: a discussion of the Problem of Evil in the Job, and how that compares to how other cultures dealt with the problem.

I have a feeling that isn't how this course will be taught, though.
posted by empath at 8:13 AM on March 28, 2006


"in the Book of Job", I meant to say.
posted by empath at 8:13 AM on March 28, 2006


Yeah. A good friend of mine had no idea what "Jericho" was.
posted by Alt F4 at 8:16 AM on March 28, 2006


I'm sure that Georgia high school teachers are well trained for a critical examination of the NT/OT wrt authoring, biblical variations, and the references to it in classical and modern literature.

They're doing such a bang up job of the three R's...
posted by unixrat at 8:17 AM on March 28, 2006


That was re: ignorance of contemporary young people.

This elective is a good thing, if taught appropriately. Ultimately, I know that's the issue at stake, but I still think Biblical literacy is a good thing.
posted by Alt F4 at 8:17 AM on March 28, 2006


Everyone should read the Bible at least once. It's an amazing collection of stories that would teach us a lot about our history.

Something I was thinking about the other night... why has God not spoken in over a thousand years?
posted by twistedonion at 8:19 AM on March 28, 2006


If they taught proper, modern, mainstream criticism of the Bible, none of the students would come out fundies, and some would be nontheists. Actually learning where the Bible came from is a good shield against ideas like "plenary verbal inspiration." But I have a feeling that isn't going to happen.
posted by graymouser at 8:22 AM on March 28, 2006


twistedonion: Who says he hasn't? </derail>
posted by blue_beetle at 8:23 AM on March 28, 2006


why has God not spoken in over a thousand years?

Easy answer: he has been speaking the whole while, but some folks would like you to think they have a monopoly on his words.

Easier answer: all those God-people shore are crazy, huh?

Easiest answer: How dare you question us, heretic?
posted by sonofsamiam at 8:24 AM on March 28, 2006


I'm an agnostic/atheist, but I don't think teaching the Bible in to children is necessarily harmful. I went to a Catholic elementary/middle school for eight years, and left it a very confused agnostic, but something which never, ever left me was the idea that one should be humble, forgiving, charitable and kind to others, and I'll always be grateful for that legacy, even if I don't always live up to it. Also, I was never, ever discouraged from asking questions and thinking for myself and finding my own truths (within the broad outlines of Church doctrine of course).

But I think that kind of well-rounded and decent Christian education is really only possible when you're taught by self-sacrificing true-believers like nuns and priests (or the equivilent in other denominations) who spend a life-time in dedication to their faith and aren't just doing a job.

I'd worry if Christian education were put in service of politics, power and profit, as they surely would in the public school system. It'll just be about dogma and obedience, and not any kind of spiritual searching and ethical teaching.
posted by empath at 8:25 AM on March 28, 2006


twisted onion: Ask the Muslims and Mormons.
posted by empath at 8:28 AM on March 28, 2006


twistedonion: Who says he hasn't?

well we do know he has been having a few words with the Presbyterians, Mormons, Jehovahs witnesses etc. but how do he established religions explain it?

Better suited to askmefi and not this thread, just wondering.

sonofsamiam, I like the easier answer
posted by twistedonion at 8:30 AM on March 28, 2006


I agree with Pollomacho. Actually reading the thing cover to cover can only help.
posted by rxrfrx at 8:31 AM on March 28, 2006


I think it's less inocuous that some might be tempted to believe. Consider what isn't being mandated as an elective: Chaucer, Homer, Dante, the Federalist Papers, de Tocqueville, the Koran, the Upanishads. Then consider how easy it almost certainly is in Georgia to find a church or synagogue willing to provide instruction in Biblical history and literature. What happened to the concept of Faith-based initiatives? I suppose the urge to make hay while the light of God shines is too tempting to pass up.

Maybe with this out of the way the Georgia legislature might consider addressing some of the less-pressing issues, like Georgia ranking 49th in high school graduation rates, for example.
posted by vraxoin at 8:34 AM on March 28, 2006


a.) Is there anyone here who didn't study the Bible at some point during American education? Anyone who never read Genesis in a classroom setting?

b.) Is there anyone here possessing anything above an elementary acquaintance with Western literature who honestly believes the Bible shouldn't be included in American education?
posted by cribcage at 8:34 AM on March 28, 2006


All of you who say this 'is fine if taught properly' or 'as allegory alongside Homer and Dante', you're all aggressively naive if you think that's what is going to happen. You simple can't teach the bible as literature to anyone when most of the kids in the class believe firmly that the bible is the absolute word of god. Refering to the bible as allegory, or comparing it to other creation mythology would be blasphemy. Imagine class discussions. World literature and cultural perspective are not what this is about.
posted by tula at 8:39 AM on March 28, 2006


Something I was thinking about the other night... why has God not spoken in over a thousand years?
posted by twistedonion at 11:19 AM EST on March 28 [!]


If you mean why no new prophets, etc, the Christian explanation is that there is no need for anyone after Jesus. He was the highest ranking guy God could send, and he said pretty much everything that God needed to be said. Therefore, there wasn't any reason to send anyone else.
posted by unreason at 8:43 AM on March 28, 2006


I'm sure that Georgia high school teachers are well trained for a critical examination of the NT/OT wrt authoring, biblical variations, and the references to it in classical and modern literature.

Dumping on teachers is the lowest of the low.

well we do know he has been having a few words with the Presbyterians, Mormons, Jehovahs witnesses etc. but how do he established religions explain it?

They each handle it in their own way. Catholics believe that God talks all the time, but only to the pope. Pentecostals and others believe that God speaks to/through people all the time, only in a language we can't understand - this is manifested physically through glossolalia. Baptists believe that God speaks to all believers, and all can speak back to them. So it depends. And there are lots of other variations on this.
posted by ChasFile at 8:44 AM on March 28, 2006


My pastor (Episcopal, and generally a liberal type of guy) was getting all riled up about the Bible not being taught in schools etc etc and I had to stop him and say huh? I went to public school and where bits of the Bible or other religious texts were appropriate to understanding the literature or history being studied, we were exposed to them. I remember doing a compare and contrast activity with the 10 Commandments and Hammurabi's Code in Ancient Civ. I read "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" in American Lit. When I explained this to him he was astounded. Apparently he had gone to religious private schools and just assumed (and been encouraged to believe by some religious media) that these things weren't taught in the public schools. They are, and they should be, as long as they aren't taught as "the truth."
posted by Biblio at 8:45 AM on March 28, 2006


twisted onion: Ask the Muslims and Mormons.

Neither Prophet was communicated to directly by God, were they? Wasn't there an Angel in both cases (Gabriel and Moroni)?
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 8:45 AM on March 28, 2006


the Problem of Evil in the Job

MyWorkHasStupidFilters.metafilter.com

Problem solved.
posted by If I Had An Anus at 8:47 AM on March 28, 2006


As for the question of whether the Bible should be taught, I kinda think it should, simply because so much of Western lit and culture depends on it. For example, why does it matter that the name of the captain in Moby Dick is named Ahab? Why is the guy in The Legend Of Sleepy Hollow named Ichabod? What parts of Christianity did the Catholics and Protestants interpret differently? Western culture is heavily influenced by the Bible, and I'd think that reading it, or at least exerpts, would be helpful.
posted by unreason at 8:48 AM on March 28, 2006


I remember doing a compare and contrast activity with the 10 Commandments and Hammurabi's Code in Ancient Civ. I read "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" in American Lit. When I explained this to him he was astounded.

It could vary, though. My American Lit class read "Sinners" as well, but in my British Lit class, the teacher made a big deal about how she couldn't teach Milton because of the religious content.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 8:49 AM on March 28, 2006


I'd say the naivete lies in believing that any discussion of the Bible must necessarily include mockery or proselytism. I studied the Bible in school. I also studied Greek mythology and The Communist Manifesto. None of our class discussions were ever derailed by a discussion of how stupid people must have been to believe that a bunch of gods lived atop Mount Olympus hurling thunderbolts at villagers, or how we should overthrow the government and force ExxonMobile to turn their offices into homeless shelters.

Lots of these discussions assume that kids are dumb and that teachers are manipulative. In both cases, you're assuming the exception against the rule.
posted by cribcage at 8:50 AM on March 28, 2006


This can only be a good thing when it comes to dispelling the stereotype of the south as an intellectual backwater.

Go Georgia.
posted by docpops at 8:51 AM on March 28, 2006


Dumping on teachers is the lowest of the low.

I'm dumping on their preparation for teaching a course like this, which is: none. Properly done, this sort of thing would require quite a bit of preparation beforehand, of which not an ounce has been given to the teachers before this. They won't do a good job because they've got no tools to do it with.

The preceding post was complete sarcasm, since we all know that there will be no true examination in 97% of the classrooms.

What's more, Georgia schools are already ranked as some of the lowest in the nation. They're not currently handling the three R's as it is. Now there's a fourth R - Religion - and it's just going to add to the mess.
posted by unixrat at 8:52 AM on March 28, 2006


As an atheist, I feel our schools could use much more comparative religion study. In a global society, how can we understand each other if we have zero grounding in the variety of religions which have fueled our laws, morals, history and culture? I believe studying Christianity, Judaism, Islam, and Buddhism as a youngster jump started many important paths to learning for me.

But somehow I doubt teaching the Bible in Georgia high schools has anything to do with that.
posted by y6y6y6 at 8:53 AM on March 28, 2006


why has God not spoken in over a thousand years?

Have you even heard Ed Kowalczyk sing?
posted by thanotopsis at 8:55 AM on March 28, 2006


This can only be a good thing when it comes to dispelling the stereotype of the south as an intellectual backwater.

Rephrased: "[Random example of a black student caught plagiarizing] can only be a good thing when it comes to dispelling the stereotype of blacks as intellectually inferior."

Oh...you say that's different? That only smart people believe the first stereotype? Oh, well then. By all means, carry on.
posted by cribcage at 8:56 AM on March 28, 2006


PinkStainlessTail: The "Angel" in (at least certain varieties of) Islam is a theophanic vision of the invisible, particular in its details to the individual, but it is none other than the One God Al-Lah.

The "Angel" is the "manifested face" of the unmanifest God. You find this in Judaism, too, in the visions of Moses and the other prophets.
posted by sonofsamiam at 8:58 AM on March 28, 2006


a.) Is there anyone here who didn't study the Bible at some point during American education? Anyone who never read Genesis in a classroom setting?

Yes, me.
posted by delmoi at 8:59 AM on March 28, 2006


IT IS AN ELECTIVE. WTF IS THERE TO DISCUSS? IT IS AN ELECTIVE. WTF IS THERE TO DISCUSS? IT IS AN ELECTIVE. WTF IS THERE TO DISCUSS? IT IS AN ELECTIVE. WTF IS THERE TO DISCUSS?

Wow, thanks a lot captan blink. Did you even read any of the other comments?
posted by delmoi at 8:59 AM on March 28, 2006


Dios. Do not use blink tags again. Ever. As to what there is to discuss, as long as public funds are paying for the class, the public has the right to discuss the worthyness of said class.
posted by unreason at 9:01 AM on March 28, 2006


PinkStainlessTail writes "Neither Prophet was communicated to directly by God, were they?"

Did God talk directly to Jesus?
posted by Mitheral at 9:03 AM on March 28, 2006


I see dios once again has an argument that is beyond reproach. /sarcasm.
posted by agregoli at 9:03 AM on March 28, 2006


It's an elective being imposed upon the curriculum by the Georgia legislature.
posted by cribcage at 9:05 AM on March 28, 2006


b.) Is there anyone here possessing anything above an elementary acquaintance with Western literature who honestly believes the Bible shouldn't be included in American education?

Well, maybe I don't have anything more then an 'elementary acquaintance with western literature' but IMO it is not necessary to get every allusion to enjoy a story.

I don't see a class that goes over the basic stories in the bible and how their used in literature as a problem, but it's not something that's necessary either. Most modern literature isn't going to depend on it. In school most of the works we read in lit classes were written in the past 50 years, some in the first part of the 20th century, and hardly anything before that that I can remember.

The problem I see with this class is that it's going to be up to the teacher how it's implemented. There's so much to pick and chose from that I imagine the class is going to be mostly about indoctrination.

I also don't think there's anything wrong with "dumping" on teachers. I've heard of lots of biology teachers teaching that evolution is false, or whatever, and that's in a science class. I can only imagine what would go on in a bible class.
posted by delmoi at 9:07 AM on March 28, 2006


It's an elective being imposed upon the curriculum by the Georgia legislature.
posted by cribcage at 11:05 AM CST on March 28


The state has the right to regulate the education of its public schools.

There is no legal or constitutional problem with this. The program is an elective, so no one is being forced to take it. Only students choose to do it. It is to be taught as an educational and historical document, not as a sermonizing tool.

So the only issue here is whether people argue that no child should ever be allowed to be taught about one of the most important texts in the history of the written word. Surely people aren't going to allege that.
posted by dios at 9:08 AM on March 28, 2006


> If you mean why no new prophets, etc, the Christian explanation is that there is no need for anyone after Jesus.

But he also said he'd come back, and that's a can of worms right there. This guy in Siberia says it's him. What if he's right? /twilight zone music

> I feel our schools could use much more comparative religion study.

Agreed, but I'd also like (I'm not in the US, so I'm talking generally) more comparative literature, comparative philosophy, comparative history of art... but what good is all that stuff if you can't find a good job? Less humanities, more money in your future! It's mathematical. Let's rid the world of the illusion there's any point in resisting the laws of the Free™ Market.
posted by funambulist at 9:08 AM on March 28, 2006


I don't think all discussions of the bible necessarily include proselytizing (or mockery), I just think many in the Georgia public schools now will. I simply maintain you can't expect people who take the bible as the literal truth and the infallible word of god to approach the bible, teach it, discuss it or learn it suddenly as just another piece of world literature or creation mythology.
posted by tula at 9:08 AM on March 28, 2006


Dios, to achieve a dialogue, wouldn't you agree that one must be willing to do two things: (1) Respect the right to a contrary opinion; and (2) treat the person with the respect you would like? In your opinion, there is nothing to discuss. In that of others, there is. And blink tags are distilled disrepsect.

Did God talk directly to Jesus?

The assertion made by most Christians is that Jesus was God made flesh and dwelling among us. So when Jesus spoke, it literally was God talking directly to us without an angelic or other intercessor.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 9:09 AM on March 28, 2006


Dios, if my college had a class called "What a Bunch of Idiots Christians Are, 101", I think many would be within their rights to reproach it, whether it was an elective or not. This is not to say that the cases are similar in other ways, but elective ≠ uncontroversial. And yes, please, no more blink tags.
posted by 235w103 at 9:09 AM on March 28, 2006


Posting all-caps blinking comments? You better believe that's a paddlin.
posted by papakwanz at 9:13 AM on March 28, 2006


a.) Is there anyone here who didn't study the Bible at some point during American education? Anyone who never read Genesis in a classroom setting?

**raises hand**
posted by LionIndex at 9:15 AM on March 28, 2006


Dios, to achieve a dialogue, wouldn't you agree that one must be willing to do two things: (1) Respect the right to a contrary opinion; and (2) treat the person with the respect you would like? In your opinion, there is nothing to discuss. In that of others, there is.

You are right. But we have discussed this topic before, any number of times. We have beaten this topic until there is nothing left to touch. My comment was directed at the post, as opposed to being directed at the discussion going on in the post. I wasn't trying to say that people shouldn't be discussing it. I was commenting on the post itself. We have discussed this direct issue at least one before, so why is it a post again?

And blink tags are distilled disrepsect.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 11:09 AM CST on March 28

Again, my apologies for that. I wasn't intending to be disrespectful. But I know that we have discussed this exact piece of legislation before. We have discussed this same topic any number of times. Once you get to the point this is an elective, most of the reasonable arguments about this being done are thrown out the window. And what you are left with is essentially the question of whether there is something inherently wrong with religious teaching. We have beaten this dead horse until there is nothing left to beat. So it was a showing of exacerbation. I didn't intend to be rude.
posted by dios at 9:16 AM on March 28, 2006


All of you who say this 'is fine if taught properly' or 'as allegory alongside Homer and Dante', you're all aggressively naive if you think that's what is going to happen.

No kidding. I can't believe so many people are solemnly discussing this as though it were going to be an Oxford seminar where people sip tea and discuss the finer points of literary technique. This is the camel's nose in the tent; the people behind this are not interested in comparative literature and Biblical references in Melville, they're interested in indoctrinating students in Christianity, and they'll get it in however they can. I can't believe I'm having to explain this; I'm usually the guy who jumps into religion-bashing threads to say "Hey, not all Christians are dummies and people have a right to believe," &c &c, but this is totally different. Public schools should not be teaching religion, and that's what this is going to be. Look, I'm all for people knowing something about the Bible, too, and Homer, and Dante, but do you think they're going to pass a bill to establish electives on Homer and Dante? If not, why not, and what does that say about this bill?

in my British Lit class, the teacher made a big deal about how she couldn't teach Milton because of the religious content.


Your teacher was a moron, a liar, or both. Or maybe she just didn't like Milton and figured this was an easy way out.
posted by languagehat at 9:16 AM on March 28, 2006


Georgia schools seem to be craving the spotlight this week.

I sure wish my high school had had a Bible _as Lit_ class. The one in my college was overrun by English majors, I couldn't get in. Some built-in monitoring to ensure that it stays a Bible _as Lit_ class wouldn't be amiss, though. That's just common sense lawsuit-avoidance.
posted by gurple at 9:16 AM on March 28, 2006


delmoi: it is not necessary to get every allusion to enjoy a story.

First, there's a big difference between understanding every obscure allusion and grasping the foundational linchpin of most Western literature. Second, I don't know where you got the idea that the primary function of studying literature in school is enjoyment.

dios: There is no legal or constitutional problem with this.

So says you and the Georgia legislature. I'm sure someone will challenge, and we'll see whether the courts agree. In the meantime, saying there's "no legal or constitutional problem" is a far cry from claiming there's nothing here to discuss. I answered your question by correcting your statement, which was misleading.
posted by cribcage at 9:17 AM on March 28, 2006


I don't have a problem with this as stated. I bet I would have a problem with this in practice. I don't expect people to be able to treat as fiction what they believe to be true. Sorry I don't trust high school teachers to do the class justice.
posted by I Foody at 9:19 AM on March 28, 2006


Note: for those who refer to the "old testament," Jews do not think of their holy book as "Old" and to be replaced by "New".

I 'have no objection to teachinb the bible...I have done so. And would also like to see evolution taught in schools. How many students know anything at all about this central subject?
posted by Postroad at 9:21 AM on March 28, 2006


Neither Prophet was communicated to directly by God, were they? Wasn't there an Angel in both cases (Gabriel and Moroni)?

Joseph Smith spent his time talking to all sorts and varieties of beings (heavenly and other), including including a personal visit from God the Father.
posted by flug at 9:22 AM on March 28, 2006


languagehat: do you think they're going to pass a bill to establish electives on Homer and Dante?

The town next to mine cut Christmas carols from their holiday concert, but they did perform "O Hanukkah." Point being, yeah, you're right, but the flip side is that the Georgia legislature probably isn't worried about Homer or Dante being removed from schools.
posted by cribcage at 9:23 AM on March 28, 2006


previous big discussion of a class in CA here
posted by amberglow at 9:24 AM on March 28, 2006


My comment was directed at the post, as opposed to being directed at the discussion going on in the post. I wasn't trying to say that people shouldn't be discussing it.


Why can't you exercise some self control and stay out of threads you think are extraneous, or a rehash, or simpleminded, or otherwise unworthy? Why do you think everyone needs to know your opinion about everything?
Grow up a little and let other people discuss things you don't feel are up to your standards of discussion.
posted by CunningLinguist at 9:24 AM on March 28, 2006


It think schools should teach religion and the bible. It might make some heads explode.

A large number of religious folks believe but they really don't know what it is they believe and they can't articulate it. They have faith but it is mainly faith in that they have faith and faith that their religious leaders can explain what the individual is supposed to have faith in.

Students who choose to take a religious elective are likely to be involved in Sunday school where similar things are taught. Just wait until students start complaining that the school teaching is different than the church teaching. They might learn that a sect which is nominaly based only on "the truth as found in the Bible" actually does interpretation.

The religious unite in belief in belief. If the beliefs of various sects are articulated then schools will likely become the battlefields of theological warfare.
posted by MonkeySaltedNuts at 9:29 AM on March 28, 2006


Mitheral writes "Did God talk directly to Jesus?"

Wha? According to nearly all Christian theology, Jesus is God.
posted by mr_roboto at 9:32 AM on March 28, 2006


Joseph Smith spent his time talking to all sorts and varieties of beings (heavenly and other), including including a personal visit from God the Father.

I had forgotten about that. Thanks!
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 9:34 AM on March 28, 2006


I see I am not the only one who thinks this is an attempt to sneek religion into public schools; if this really were an attempt to foster historical/literary studies, why did they single out the Bible and not include the Quran, for example? Once again, I live in GA and see these folks in action every day; most of the politicians in this state never met an opportunity to mix (Christian) religion and politics they didn't like.
posted by TedW at 9:36 AM on March 28, 2006


With all of the translations out there, Jews will at least hope that the sections of the Hebrew bible will be taught from reliable translations that provide the background for understanding the text. I wonder which translations they'll end up choosing.
posted by Adamchik at 9:37 AM on March 28, 2006


> But I know that we have discussed this exact piece of legislation before.

Who's that "we"? Royal "we"?

I for one appreciate this post and ensuing discussion for at least two reasons: 1) not being in the US, this is not the kind of stuff I'll find in the papers tomorrow; 2) other countries have had or are having discussions on how to approach the teaching of religion(s) in school and it's interesting to compare and contrast. So there. That's my own little "we".
posted by funambulist at 9:41 AM on March 28, 2006



The state has the right to regulate the education of its public schools.

There is no legal or constitutional problem with this. The program is an elective, so no one is being forced to take it. Only students choose to do it. It is to be taught as an educational and historical document, not as a sermonizing tool.


That' dosn't mean we can't talk about wether or not it's a good or bad idea.
posted by delmoi at 9:51 AM on March 28, 2006


Something I was thinking about the other night... why has God not spoken in over a thousand years?

I believe it has something to do with the "Age of Prophecy" being at an end. The Prophets are finished, we now live in... some other age I guess.
posted by illovich at 9:54 AM on March 28, 2006


First, there's a big difference between understanding every obscure allusion and grasping the foundational linchpin of most Western literature. Second, I don't know where you got the idea that the primary function of studying literature in school is enjoyment.

What is the primary function of studying literature in school, if not to enrich childrens lives by exposing them to enjoyable literature?

You can get the point of Moby Dick without recognizing the biblical allusions in Moby Dick.
posted by delmoi at 10:00 AM on March 28, 2006


Well, maybe I don't have anything more then an 'elementary acquaintance with western literature' but IMO it is not necessary to get every allusion to enjoy a story.

This may be beyond the point, but knowing the Bible makes the collected works of Nick Cave a lot more enjoyable.
posted by illovich at 10:04 AM on March 28, 2006


Just so y'all know -- this bill was introduced by a group of Democrats. The state Republicans initially denounced it as a political stunt (since it's well known that the Dems, like the Commies, are godless), but of course ended up embracing the legislation.

It's been sort of fun to hear them try to out-Holy each other as this bill made its way through the system.
posted by ewagoner at 10:11 AM on March 28, 2006


this bill was introduced by a group of Democrats.

Are you sure? The article distinguishes between this bill (which passed) and "a rival Democratic bill" that proposed studying the Bible without studying the Bible, by using a textbook titled The Bible and Its Influence.
posted by cribcage at 10:17 AM on March 28, 2006


metafilter really needs a comment summarizing thing, skipped a lot of these. This is still illegal and if it does pass then it will be contested in court (oh wait this somehow passed.. jesus what the fuck is going on in our government these days?). The only way this could possibly be taught in Georgia's schools would be if the supreme court toke back their 1947 ruling on religion in schools which strictly forbids the teaching of ANY religion or any subject matter that endorses even all religions at once etc. Even if an elective, even if optional, still not possible. Get yo kids to an after school jesus program if you need them to learn about religion that badly. Then again all of Bush's faith based iniatitves that clearly earmark federal funds for Christian charities are illegal too.
posted by aljones15 at 10:24 AM on March 28, 2006


In school most of the works we read in lit classes were written in the past 50 years, some in the first part of the 20th century, and hardly anything before that that I can remember

Is that true? You got a pretty terrible education if it is. My high school lit classes did maybe three novels written in the 20th century, and those were all early. We did a little more modern poetry and a few short stories, but not much. I went to what I think is a pretty standard public high school, too.

Honestly, did you not read Shakespeare, Dante, or Milton? None of the classical Greek dramatists? I have trouble actually believing that.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 10:24 AM on March 28, 2006


You're right in that the final legislation was the version crafted by the firmly-in-control Republicans, but the process was kicked off a few months ago by the Democrats.

It's changed since the beginning, thanks to the piety contest.
posted by ewagoner at 10:25 AM on March 28, 2006


"I for one appreciate this post and ensuing discussion for at least two reasons: 1) not being in the US, this is not the kind of stuff I'll find in the papers tomorrow; 2) other countries have had or are having discussions on how to approach the teaching of religion(s) in school and it's interesting to compare and contrast. So there. That's my own little "we".
posted by funambulist at 9:41 AM PST on March 28 [!]"

it is interesting that the U.S. takes so much heat for being so "religious" when most of Europe has less of a seperation of church and state. In England they're trying to get Islamic schools into the federal schools system and of course there still are Christian public high schools in Spain etc. If one is to beleive the number of aesthesists is higher in Europe than North America then it would seem religious schools actually drive down the number of Christians in a society. Then again when I think of it, do you know anyone that's survived the horror of a catholic school and goes to church?
posted by aljones15 at 10:28 AM on March 28, 2006


God talks to me all the time. You know what he's saying right now?

No blink tags.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:29 AM on March 28, 2006


Then again when I think of it, do you know anyone that's survived the horror of a catholic school and goes to church?

Funny, most people I know who went to Catholic school thought it was a joy. But no, none of them go to church.
posted by dame at 10:38 AM on March 28, 2006


No blink tags.

Astro Zombie is known apostate!
posted by If I Had An Anus at 10:48 AM on March 28, 2006


In principle, I've got no objection at all to a "Bible as Literature" class in public schools. But anyone who believes for an instant that's what you'll get in Georgia, well, I'll offer to sell you this bridge I've got....

Its fairly obvious that this is merely a ploy to a) sneek religious indoctornation into the taxpayer supported schools, and, failing that, b) try to stir up the Christian Fanatic vote when the courts inevitably strike it down when the class is revealed to be recruitment in disguise.

This isn't an honest effort to let the public schools undertake a valuable look into a major source of western literature, its just one more effort by the American Taliban to make the state an agent of their religion. Its also poisoning the well, I think a genuine comparitave religions class should be manditory (here in Texas I've run, frequently, into people who assume that anyone non-Christian is an athiest, and once I mentioned Hinduism in a conversation and the other person said "you mean those people who think you turn into a cow when you die?") Unfortunately the neverceasing efforts of the American Taliban to try to use tax dollars to recruit our children to their religion has made everyone justifiably nervous when the subject of relgion and school comes up.
posted by sotonohito at 10:55 AM on March 28, 2006


I dunno. I think we might need to get over the kneejerk "I am not the strawman liberal that they think I am" response. Do you really believe for a nanosecond that this isn't an attempt to usurp the school system? Have you been paying attention for the past six years?

Elective world religion studies in public school? Awesome. It's even been done before. Bible study in Georgia? Uh huh.

Let's cut the Chamberlain "Peace in Our Time" crap. They don't compromise with us, but we compromise all the time and they kick our asses.

In my city, leaders of the homophobic, anti-sex Mt. Olivet Baptist Church want to use tax dollars to start the Academy of Character and Ethics at the site of a public high school. Should we just roll over and say, "Hey! I support character and ethics, so I see no problem in this?"

The bible study class will probably tear itself apart, though. Evangelists have forgotten that the whole point of separation of church and state isn't just to protect the atheists, agnostics and pagans, it also protects the Christian church from the influence of the state. D'uh. Do they really, really, really want the government to tell them how to interpret their own holy book?

Getting past the reasonable sounding "it's an elective" and "but it says right here in the description that it's not indoctrination, so how could it possibly be indoctrination?" landmines are going to be the real problem with fighting stuff like this.

A couple quick things: Public schools have finite resources. Forcing all schools to carry this elective will hurt all other electives. Forcing any additional use of resources for pure political reasons helps to bankrupt the public school system, which is what a lot of the vouchers for private school people want anyway. This also opens the schools for lawsuits, which also helps to bankrupt the schools and bring about the voucher rapture.
Schools would use the book itself as the classroom textbook.
Y'all ever tried to understand the Bible without secondary texts? Do you know who really loves to interpret the Bible literally without context? Bible Churches (i.e. evangelicals). I mean, how about the question of which version of the Bible? Dictating that alone is equivalent to government support of a particular religion above others.

As a principle, I'm against legislative micromanagement of schools. It always ends poorly. Schools work best when they're allied and aligned with their local community. Legislators are not trained educators. What works in a school in one part of Georgia may not work for a school in another part of Georgia.
posted by Skwirl at 10:56 AM on March 28, 2006


dame: My little sister went to Catholic preschool even though none of my family is Christian, much less Catholic. She goes to the local Unitarian Universalist Church every Sunday, and is currently studying to become a Unitarian minister. So it does happen, though not too often ^_^
posted by sotonohito at 10:57 AM on March 28, 2006


"why did they single out the Bible and not include the Quran, for example?"

How's your arabic?
posted by klangklangston at 10:59 AM on March 28, 2006


Astro Zombie is saying what holy men and standards bearers have been saying for 10 years.

Netscape fell because of this sin. Do you want to suffer the same fate?
posted by weston at 11:00 AM on March 28, 2006


Uh, aljones15, do you actually know any people who actually went to Catholic schools? Most of the people I know who did - whether or not they still go to Church - voiced opinions like empath's. In my religion classes, we covered a lot besides Catholic doctrine - philosophy, tenets of other religions, current theories on when various parts of the Bible were written and who they were written by, etc. It certainly wasn't a "horror" - it's stuff that I'm glad that I know.

And whoever upthread claimed that Catholics believe that God only talks to the Pope - that's not really correct.
posted by ubersturm at 11:03 AM on March 28, 2006


sotonohito: That's the second time in this thread someone has accused the Georgia legislature of trying to sneak religion into the schools (both times, misspelling "sneek").

First of all, you don't "sneak" anything by staging press conferences. Second, as has been pointed out ad nauseam, most schools already use the Bible; you can't "sneak in" something that's already present. And third, you're ignoring the preemptive legislative intent: To protect the Bible's place in education against ignorant bigotry.
posted by cribcage at 11:04 AM on March 28, 2006


As a Catholic, I see how teaching the Bible in school could be a double edged sword. So much depends on the teacher, that there could be either great harm to the catechesis of the students, or perhaps this could be an inspirational opening of the mind. It's always most important, in my opinion, for this teaching to be done at home. If it is an elective where anyone can opt out for their own reasons, I am fine with it.

As for God speaking, I believe he does it all the time. It doesn't mean that His booming voice projects out for all to hear, or that even in His quiet personal messages we are ready to hear Him. And there are two instances I can recall of Him speaking while Jesus is present, if not directly conversing with Jesus. Once at the baptism of Jesus, and once at the Transfiguration.

And no, we Catholics do not believe that God only speaks to the Pope.
posted by genefinder at 11:11 AM on March 28, 2006


mrroboto:
Mitheral writes "Did God talk directly to Jesus?"

Wha? According to nearly all Christian theology, Jesus is God.


According to some people I know, Jesus' sacrifice was all the more significant because, while among humanity, he could not be certain of his Godliness. Hence, "Why have You forsaken me?", etc. etc. So Mitheral's question has some hidden depth to it.
posted by aws17576 at 11:12 AM on March 28, 2006


In relation to the Jesus/God connection, Catholics believe Jesus to be part of a Triune God; Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Explaining the Trinity is certainly beyond me, and I am still learning all the time. I wouldn't attempt to explain it in a short post here, assuming I could even explain it in a multi page document.
posted by genefinder at 11:18 AM on March 28, 2006


THANKS FOR RUINING THE BLINK TAG FOR THE REST OF US.
posted by keswick at 11:19 AM on March 28, 2006


I can't believe Matt gave dios a time-out for a minor infraction that he immediately apologized for. Whoever was talking about "gaming the referee" knew their stuff; it really is true that whining loud enough and consistently enough turns Matt into the repressive ruler he doesn't want to be. It's a shame. Note: Matt also closed the MeTa thread, another annoying habit of his, which is why I'm saying this here.
posted by languagehat at 11:24 AM on March 28, 2006


You can still start a new thread in MeTa if its that important to you. That's what it's there for.
posted by empath at 11:30 AM on March 28, 2006


If taught objectively, sure it could be a good thing. If the focus was on the moral values presented in the bible, great. But the problem with this is still the problem we see in any of these issues concerning religion in this society:

Our country was founded on a few fundamental beliefs that aim to provide freedom and justice for all. One of those most fundamental beliefs, freedom of religion, is all but being thrown out the window. ANY legislature, ANY authority imposing ONE religion is absolutely NOT freedom of religion.

If legislation were to deem that a religious studies course, concerning religions of many kinds, be taught in high school, then fine. But this is just a further perversion of one of America's most foundational principles.

"Oh you are free to practice any religion here, this is America. But, if your children want to attend public schools, they must be taught about OUR religion."

If I am correct, public schools are part of the state. The bible is part of a religion. These should, on the public level, never, ever cross paths.
posted by Raoul.Duke at 11:36 AM on March 28, 2006


There's nothing wrong with this, provided it's taught the way literature is taught. That is to say, it shouldn't be taught moralistically, but rather to be understood as a written work and as what is proably the most important artistic/social/historical document in western and european history.
posted by shmegegge at 11:39 AM on March 28, 2006


How's your arabic?
posted by klangklangston


How's your Biblical Hebrew?
posted by anomie at 11:39 AM on March 28, 2006


mr_roboto writes "Wha? According to nearly all Christian theology, Jesus is God."

I know the papists think Jesus=God, I'm not sure if other christian sects think the same way or they if think Jesus is God's son. I've got to admit the whole trinity thing has always been tough for me to get my head around. Either God/Jesus/Ghost is all one person (in which case in dealing with an omnipotent deity what gain by splitting them up) or they are seperate entities acting in concert.

Either way, my poorly framed question was supposed to be about Jesus when he was here on earth playing the role of carpenter. Did god talk to him either in words or by channeling or something. Is Jesus during his time on earth considered to be independently self aware or was he just God swearing a body to play skeetball?

aljones15 writes "The only way this could possibly be taught in Georgia's schools would be if the supreme court toke back their 1947 ruling on religion in schools which strictly forbids the teaching of ANY religion or any subject matter that endorses even all religions at once etc. Even if an elective, even if optional, still not possible."

How is this possible? How can you teach current events (or the pilgrims) with out mentioning religion?

"'why did they single out the Bible and not include the Quran, for example?'

klangklangston writes
"How's your arabic?"


How's your ancient greek and hebrew? The Bible wasn't written in english either, and the Quran is available in english just like the Bible.
posted by Mitheral at 11:43 AM on March 28, 2006


How's your arabic?
posted by klangklangston

How's your Biblical Hebrew?
posted by anomie at 2:39 PM EST on March 28 [!]


It's not the same. Most Christians have no problem with a translated Bible. However, as I understand it, it's widely felt by Moslems that the Koran is only really the Koran if it's still in Arabic.
posted by unreason at 11:44 AM on March 28, 2006


If I am correct, public schools are part of the state. The bible is part of a religion. These should, on the public level, never, ever cross paths.

That's an unreasonable expectation, and one that's not required by the First Amendment.

Here, we're stumbling across one of the reasons I advocate the adoption of American English as a natural language and fluency therein as a requirement for citizenship. "Freedom of speech" and "freedom of religion" are terms often used that are widely misunderstood based on language that is often misread. And if their meaning manages to elude native speakers, it's unreasonable to expect people who can't read English to understand the laws they're expected to obey.
posted by cribcage at 11:46 AM on March 28, 2006


How's your arabic?
posted by klangklangston

How's your Biblical Hebrew?
posted by anomie at 2:39 PM EST on March 28 [!]

It's not the same. Most Christians have no problem with a translated Bible. However, as I understand it, it's widely felt by Moslems that the Koran is only really the Koran if it's still in Arabic.

posted by unreason at 11:44 AM PST on March 28 [!]


I don't think the Islamic community would be offended by an introductory survey of ancient holy texts which included the Koran. Of course, if one wanted to delve deep into the text, a scholar with intimate knowledge of the original text should teach the class. The same goes for the Bible.
posted by anomie at 11:53 AM on March 28, 2006


"How's your ancient greek and hebrew? The Bible wasn't written in english either, and the Quran is available in english just like the Bible."

Where's it say in the Bible that it shouldn't be translated?
posted by klangklangston at 11:55 AM on March 28, 2006


Anomie— If you can find someone who knows the original text of the Bible (OT or NT) and can prove it, I'll worship at their altar.
posted by klangklangston at 11:56 AM on March 28, 2006


Lots of Muslims do not read the Koran in Arabic and read a translation. There's translations of it in many languages, and I've seen editions overtly approved by Islamic imams and scholars, so, in practice, I guess there isn't much of a difference with the Bible read in English?

(fwiw, I've also seen the classic q&a Islamic sites on the net that say no you don't have to read in Arabic and yes it's ok to read a translation. I have no idea if there is a disagreement on that within Islam though.)
posted by funambulist at 11:58 AM on March 28, 2006


It's not the same. Most Christians have no problem with a translated Bible. However, as I understand it, it's widely felt by Moslems that the Koran is only really the Koran if it's still in Arabic.

But that only matters from a religious standpoint; if you're reading the text simply as a literary text and not as a religious one, it doesn't matter what language its in. True, the Quran is only the Quran - that is the word of God - if its in Arabic. But outside of a church that doesn't matter.

Therefore, your argument fails.
posted by ChasFile at 12:00 PM on March 28, 2006


I have no idea if there is a disagreement on that within Islam though.

There is, the Arabic Quran occupies the same metaphysical position that Christ does in Christianity, i.e. the physical manifestation of the eternal Logos.
posted by sonofsamiam at 12:02 PM on March 28, 2006


"But that only matters from a religious standpoint; if you're reading the text simply as a literary text and not as a religious one, it doesn't matter what language its in."

Wrong. And that kinda shows that you haven't read much translated literature. Pablo Neruda's different in Spanish.
posted by klangklangston at 12:20 PM on March 28, 2006


But that only matters from a religious standpoint;

A good point. But remember that how a religion views its holy text affects how it references it in other works, so these religious questions are not entirely irrelevant. As to the studying of the Bible versus the Koran, I think an exerpts book is the answer. Have a text book made with important translated exerpts from the various religious texts, ie the Bible, the Koran, the Mahabharata, etc. Have lots of commentary on the ways that societies interpreted these texts. This would give all students a good overview of how the major religious texts influenced society.
posted by unreason at 12:21 PM on March 28, 2006


sonofsamiam, that's an interesting way of putting it... I did know the word of Allah is believed to be *in* the Quran in a very strict sense (so that desecration of the book is especially blasphemous... ouch), it was just never entirely clear to me how that relates to the translations.

I've heard the "should only be read in Arabic" take, but I also have one of those approved translations by a local religious leader and scholar, and I've seen the same in other languages, so I guess while the True word is the original Arabic, the translations are ok also for Muslims (and obviously non-Muslims)? After all, they help spread the word, so, I guess they were accepted if anything at least on those grounds?

This is just two quick references I found in relation to the question, don't know how authoritative they are:

instances: Is reading the Quran in Arabic an absolute necessity? The answer is no, the Quran can be read in any language; so far as Quran is concerned its translation is available in many, and commentary in quite few, languages of the world. Then what prevents us to receive benefits from them? ... However it is strange to see that a section of Muslims wishes to shut the door of understanding of Quran for Muslims. It says that the people would fall a prey to mischief if they read the translation of Quran, as if there is no danger of Muslims falling a prey to mischief if they read Quran without understanding it.
posted by funambulist at 12:21 PM on March 28, 2006


Where's it say in the Bible that it shouldn't be translated?
posted by klangklangston at 1:55 PM CST on March 28 [!]


Actually, the "Old Testament" bible, which is really the Hebrew Torah, isn't really allowed to be translated. Well, you can translate it into english, but the Hebrew version must ALWAYS be copied character for character. That's what has made the Torah stay exactly the same over thousands of years and not 'drift' like the bible and all of it's translations and interpretations.

Ok, that seems muddled. You're allowed to translate it but you aren't allowed to revise it.
posted by lockle at 12:25 PM on March 28, 2006


"But that only matters from a religious standpoint; if you're reading the text simply as a literary text and not as a religious one, it doesn't matter what language its in."

Wrong. And that kinda shows that you haven't read much translated literature. Pablo Neruda's different in Spanish.


Blah blah blah. Obviously the language changes. That's not the issue; the issue is that the very nature of the object called the Quran changes, not just its language. The original poster pointed out that the Quran cannot be properly considered the Quran in translation because it is no longer a direct transcription of the word God. But my point was that the argument that the Quran shouldn't be tought in English because it no longer is the "official" version of the word of god in translation is irrelevant if it is being studied simply for its content as text, in a secular education setting, rather than for its meaning as holy object, in a sacral setting.

And I have read plenty of text in translation, including Neruda in Spanish and in English.
posted by ChasFile at 12:28 PM on March 28, 2006


It does matter a lot what language a work of literature is in, and all translation is a form of betrayal, but I think the point here is -- from a religious perspective, not a literary one -- even for those Muslims who believe a Muslim should really read the Q'ran in Arabic rather than in translation, they still won't much care in which language a non-Muslim reads it, because that reading will be a cultural interest reading, not a religious duty reading.
posted by funambulist at 12:28 PM on March 28, 2006


Mitheral: I'm not a Catholic, but as far as I know the term "papist" is offensive.

cribcage: Sure you sneak [1] things in by holding press conferences, a press conference can be a fantastic way to disguise your true intent. This way the Georgia branch of the Christian Taliban can claim they're teaching the Bible as literature while using the classes to proselytize.

You simply cannot trust those folks when it comes to religion and government. They say one thing and mean another, they lie repeatedly and even when they are caught in their lies they continue to lie. From their mindset the only thing that matters is saving the souls of the American youth, and if they have to lie, cheat, and violate the Constitution to do it, they will. We cannot be reasonable with people who are not themselves reasonable.

Yes, a *real* Bible as literature class would be a good thing. No, I do not trust the would-be theocrats of America to institute a *real* Bible as literature class.

[1] See, all it takes is one spelling flame and I clean up my act. I no bettter thaan too spelll rong around u!
posted by sotonohito at 12:29 PM on March 28, 2006


Pablo Neruda's different in Spanish.

No doubt. But the Bible's literary influence has been primarily as written in English, so the point is kind of moot.

You simply cannot trust those folks when it comes to religion and government.

"Those folks," huh? Bigotry is always attractive.
posted by cribcage at 12:31 PM on March 28, 2006


"
Uh, aljones15, do you actually know any people who actually went to Catholic schools? Most of the people I know who did - whether or not they still go to Church - voiced opinions like empath's. In my religion classes, we covered a lot besides Catholic doctrine - philosophy, tenets of other religions, current theories on when various parts of the Bible were written and who they were written by, etc. It certainly wasn't a "horror" - it's stuff that I'm glad that I know."

Yup, it wasn't the "horrors" of learning about Christianity I was refering to. I went to a christian private school for 2 years and thought it was pretty nice and had a good community vibe, but catholic schoolers I've know always have to mention how conservative it is, i.e. they were beaten with rulers etc. but not all schools are the same.

"If legislation were to deem that a religious studies course, concerning religions of many kinds, be taught in high school, then fine. But this is just a further perversion of one of America's most foundational principles."

Duke, even that be illegal under u.s. law... but this along with the abortion ban in South Dakota and well most of what seems to be happening with religion with these days is illegal. you just have to wonder, are they trying to get this all to the supreme court to get a new ruling?

"
aljones15 writes "The only way this could possibly be taught in Georgia's schools would be if the supreme court toke back their 1947 ruling on religion in schools which strictly forbids the teaching of ANY religion or any subject matter that endorses even all religions at once etc. Even if an elective, even if optional, still not possible."

How is this possible? How can you teach current events (or the pilgrims) with out mentioning religion? "

you can mention religion, you can't endorse it i.e. you can't say it's ok for people of religion A to pray in schools or that this religion might be more correct than others or that ANY religion is more correct than any others. It's based mostly on context. This law obviously courts the outer-rims the ruling though, is teaching the bible as literature endorsing christianity? What's more worrying here is how often this rule is being ignored. If the president is just rolling over the first amendment (yes while the first amednment doesn't specifically state no religion in schools or on a state level the supreme court interprets the constitution to extend to state level outlawing favoritism towards religion) then is the seperation of church and state going to become ignored like so many of the state based weird news of the day laws that are still on federal and state books? ya know the stories of it's illegal to commit adultery in such and such a state etc. laws that are no longer enforced, but have never been appealed.

-
A
posted by aljones15 at 12:33 PM on March 28, 2006


You simple can't teach the bible as literature to anyone when most of the kids in the class believe firmly that the bible is the absolute word of god.

I disagree. I took a "bible as lit" elective my senior year in high school. It seemed to be a mixed bag of Christians and non-Christians. It was taught as literature without any problems.

Georgia might not have the best track record and keeping religion and education separate but I see nothing wrong with this. And believe it or not, there is value from a literature standpoint.

As an added bonus, I was really into Christianity and my high school "bible as lit" class was the first time I started to question religion. And it's never a bad thing to question/test your beliefs. In the end, I realized Christianity wasn't for me. Had I not taken that (elective!) class, I'm not sure how long it would've taken to figure that out.
posted by Bear at 12:43 PM on March 28, 2006


If I am correct, public schools are part of the state. The bible is part of a religion. These should, on the public level, never, ever cross paths.

That's an unreasonable expectation, and one that's not required by the First Amendment.

Cribcage, are you implying that the championing of one certain religion by not only public institutions, but by legislative authorities, is in no way violating the constitution?
posted by Raoul.Duke at 12:47 PM on March 28, 2006


I'm not implying anything. I'm flat-out saying that allowing the Bible to "cross paths" with public-school curricula does not constitute "championing."
posted by cribcage at 12:53 PM on March 28, 2006


I believe it has something to do with the "Age of Prophecy" being at an end. The Prophets are finished, we now live in... some other age I guess.

SCIENCE.
posted by 235w103 at 12:56 PM on March 28, 2006


I taught passages from the Hebrew and Christian Testaments at a somewhat progressive private high school for a few years. It was a world history class, and we also tackled Gilgamesh, parts of the Koran, the Iliad, and Beowulf. The Bible discussions that ensued were some of the most interesting, especially when we compared them with the Koran (a book which praises Abraham and Jesus as prophets, although not the prophet).

But color me cynical. I really doubt a decent education in world religious traditions is the point here. If it is, I'll happily eat crow. But school boards have less and less to do with education and more to do with politics.
posted by bardic at 1:03 PM on March 28, 2006


the most-read and most-misunderstood book is being taught in school? good for Georgia. now if only the rest of the country would stop acting like you'll get the cooties from reading it. or gasp teaching it to kids.
posted by tsarfan at 1:28 PM on March 28, 2006


Actually, the "Old Testament" bible, which is really the Hebrew Torah

Um, no. Partially correct, but not completely.

Mitheral: I'm not a Catholic, but as far as I know the term "papist" is offensive.

Not terribly, I mean they do keep the Pope as the head of their hierarchy. No more offensive than calling Episcopalians Anglicans.
posted by Pollomacho at 1:35 PM on March 28, 2006


cribcage: Dominationism is not genetic, people must chose to become dominationist. Dominationists actively seek to institute a theocracy and do so by devious and underhanded means. Therefore assuming that a group of dominationists are, yet again, planning on taking a baby step towards theocracy via devious and underhanded means is not bigotry.

Assuming that all Christians were dominationists would be bigotry. I do not make that assumption. Many, hopefully most, Christians are not dominationists. Hell, most of the people I know and consider to be my friends are Christian (inevitable in Amarillo Texas where non-Christians are virtually nonexistent), and I know for a fact that they aren't dominationists.

Also: "I'm flat-out saying that allowing the Bible to "cross paths" with public-school curricula does not constitute "championing."" Well, I'm flat out saying that the dominationists will use this to champion. I'm flat out saying you cannot trust them.

If you can't make a real argument, don't just toss out false accusations of bigotry.
posted by sotonohito at 1:39 PM on March 28, 2006


"No doubt. But the Bible's literary influence has been primarily as written in English, so the point is kind of moot."

But the literature that the Koran has influenced is primarily in Arabic.

I'm still going to hold that there would be a fundamental difference in trying to teach a Koran as Literature class than there would be in trying to teach a Bible as Literature class, and that the calls for the former are knee-jerk inclusionism by misguided liberals.
posted by klangklangston at 1:39 PM on March 28, 2006


Shoulda previewed....

Pollomacho: I just googled, and every dictionary I found designated "papist" as a derogitory or offensive term. I'll check with one of my Catholic friends, but I'm pretty sure I know what her answer will be.
posted by sotonohito at 1:41 PM on March 28, 2006


but as far as I know the term "papist" is offensive.

ah, the infamous "papist smear"
posted by sonofsamiam at 1:44 PM on March 28, 2006


calls for the former are knee-jerk inclusionism by misguided liberals.

Kinda like calls for the latter are.

OTOH, I'm somewhat conflicted, since the average Christian could use a gut course or two. At a certain point, we atheists need to stop thinking of it like religious domination and start thinking of it like just another branch of Special Ed.
posted by boaz at 1:52 PM on March 28, 2006


Papist is a weak offensive... "Mackerel snapper" is what we call our Catholic relatives.
posted by klangklangston at 1:53 PM on March 28, 2006


Just in case anyone would like to read the text of the bill, here it is.
posted by dilettante at 1:54 PM on March 28, 2006


No doubt. But the Bible's literary influence has been primarily as written in English, so the point is kind of moot.

Uh, what? The King James version of the Bible didn't even come out until the 17th century. There was plenty of literature written in plenty of languages in the previous 1700 years or so that could not have been influenced by an English translation of the bible.
posted by empath at 1:56 PM on March 28, 2006


"Papist" is offensive, full stop. It's a nasty smear based on the idea that Catholics are more loyal to the Pope than their country.
posted by empath at 1:59 PM on March 28, 2006


If you can't make a real argument...

...Says the guy who couches his anti-Christian bigotry behind made-up words and the ever-popular, "Some of my best friends are..."

You believe the Constitution prohibits the Bible from being taught in public schools. I'm not saying your opinion is unique, just that it's wrong. I'm saying that if you want to understand Constitutional Law, you're going to have to do some reading and not rely solely on what you hear on Air America. And I'm saying that if you want to hide your bigotry, you're going to have to be more subtle than, "You can't trust those American Taliban."
posted by cribcage at 2:02 PM on March 28, 2006


What about "filthy Jesuit"?
posted by bardic at 2:06 PM on March 28, 2006


When I was in Catholic school, that's what the nuns all called Father Thomas behind his back. So I think it's fine.
posted by cribcage at 2:12 PM on March 28, 2006


I started using the term Papist for Catholics back in college after a protracted, heated, flamewar with a Catholic who was of the opinion that Mormons were cultists. In my experience the only people who are offended are those who take their pet religion much to seriously. In hindsight MF is probably not the place for this little crusade though, I'll try to stop using it unprovoked.

empath writes "It's a nasty smear based on the idea that Catholics are more loyal to the Pope than their country."

Are you saying they aren't? In a conflict between the Pope and the President who wields more power over Catholics? The worst any government can do to you is life in prison or death. The Pope can excommunicate you.
posted by Mitheral at 2:20 PM on March 28, 2006


aljones15: "This is still illegal and if it does pass then it will be contested in court (oh wait this somehow passed.. jesus what the fuck is going on in our government these days?). The only way this could possibly be taught in Georgia's schools would be if the supreme court toke back their 1947 ruling on religion in schools which strictly forbids the teaching of ANY religion or any subject matter that endorses even all religions at once etc."

Really? You're going to make the claim that this program is categorically barred by the Constitution based on the Supreme Court's decision in Everson? You might want to actually read Everson and, I don't know, the 60 subsequent years of jurisprudence.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 2:31 PM on March 28, 2006


In a conflict between the Pope and the President who wields more power over Catholics?

You're making a pretty sweeping generalization here, that all Catholics have a blind, lemming-esque loyalty to the Pope, and it's relatively unfounded. We've seen massive demonstrations in this country protesting the Vatican's and various archdiocese's handling of the sex abuse scandal. There are also major divisions within the church about the issues of abortion, divorce, premarital sex, and gay marriage. This has been the subject of much debate in the church, to what extent Catholicism will continue to be defined by Rome versus rank and file Catholics, and you're kinda glossing over the issue like it's nonexistent. For most Catholics, it's not.
posted by cribcage at 2:38 PM on March 28, 2006


Georgia isnt the first state to do this. Virginia requires that schools offer a comparative religons class, which I think they meant to allow conservative schools to use as a why christianity is better class. At my school it's a real comparative religons course that I wish I had room to take, but Falls Church is an exception when it comes to Virginia schools
posted by martinX's bellbottoms at 2:40 PM on March 28, 2006


> As to the studying of the Bible versus the Koran, I think an exerpts book is the answer.

Hmm, so the teachers get to cherry pick their favourite fluffy messages of peace love and goodwill and leave out all the violent, gory, genocidal, hateful bits?

Give them the power to be selective and they'll always pull that trick. If they're religious, because they're religious; if they're not, because they don't want to cause offense and diplomatic incidents with the parents.

No, thanks. It's got to be the whole thing or nothing. Sadistic, maybe, but doable. If the little buggers can go through three tomes of Tolkien and eighty four of Harry Potter, or how many there is, they can make the effort for the Holy Books too.
posted by funambulist at 2:44 PM on March 28, 2006


In addition, it might well be said that one's education is not complete without a study of comparative religion or the history of religion and its relationship to the advancement of civilization. It certainly may be said that the Bible is worthy of study for its literary and historic qualities. Nothing we have said here indicates that such study of the Bible or of religion, when presented objectively as part of a secular program of education, may not be effected consistently with the First Amendment.
Abington v. Schempp, 374 U.S. 203, 225 (1963).
posted by monju_bosatsu at 2:53 PM on March 28, 2006


Also: "I'm flat-out saying that allowing the Bible to "cross paths" with public-school curricula does not constitute "championing.""

Well, I'm flat out saying that the dominationists will use this to champion. I'm flat out saying you cannot trust them.

This is more what I am concerned about. Separation of church and state, or at least my interpretation of it, is meant to prevent specific religious interests from influencing the governmental process. Hence, freedom of religion. Allowing the bible to be taught in public schools is not a major violation in itself, but it is a small exception; the kind of exception that one day will become significant.
posted by Raoul.Duke at 3:02 PM on March 28, 2006


Are you saying they aren't? In a conflict between the Pope and the President who wields more power over Catholics? The worst any government can do to you is life in prison or death. The Pope can excommunicate you.

You have no idea what you're talking about. I don't have time to get into right now, but you should stop while you're ahead.
posted by empath at 3:10 PM on March 28, 2006


martinX's bellbottoms: Virginia requires that schools offer a comparative religons class, which I think they meant to allow conservative schools to use as a why christianity is better class.

If that assertion is backed up by something in the legislative record, fine. Otherwise, it just sounds like more bigotry. You're assuming evil intent simply because it's "those people" — like looking at a black family on welfare and saying, "They're just lazy."

Raoul.Duke: Allowing the bible to be taught in public schools...will become significant.

Not nearly so significant as trying to desperately shield our children from a major component of Western literature because of rampant paranoia.
posted by cribcage at 3:11 PM on March 28, 2006


Wikipedia says "The word is still used by some politicians in the UK (particularly Northern Ireland), such as Ian Paisley."

Uh oh...

I am not too familiar with the usage of "papists" in English. I'll only note, should it interest anyone, that in Italian "papisti" is very much used in current political debate to denote the local "theocon" brand of right wing politicians who advocate Catholic doctrine in matters such as, of course, gay marriage (we don't hate the gays no no no but gay unions are going to destroy traditional family structure and think of the children and they didn't let us put the judeochristianrootsofeurope thingy in the eu constitution and then zapatero took over spain and then the terrorists have won!). It's not really a slur though. Very polite by Italian standards. "Catholic talebans" would be the more offensive choice. Others I can't tell you.
posted by funambulist at 3:12 PM on March 28, 2006


"There was plenty of literature written in plenty of languages in the previous 1700 years or so that could not have been influenced by an English translation of the bible."

Yes, and? I'm going to take the bold step and say that there's more literature that's been influened by English translations of the Bible post-1600 than there is literature influenced by any translation of the Bible pre-1600. Know why? There's SO MUCH MORE LITERATURE.

Further, this is all a bit of a canard, since the point of a Bible Lit class taught in America would be to deal with a comparison of the Bible in English to other English language literature influenced by the Bible. In France, you'd probably want to use a Catholic Bible. But in Georgia, you're going to get more out of the allusions from the King James when you read Wise Blood than you are from any other translation.
posted by klangklangston at 3:15 PM on March 28, 2006


some things i don't understand:

why do they need to study the bible both at church and at school?

if it's so important to study the bible's influence on western literature, why can't they study that in their literature classes? why does the christian bible need its own class?
posted by lord_wolf at 3:25 PM on March 28, 2006


cribcage is trying to make it about us instead of about the Bible being taught in public schools.

Don't feed the troll, you bigots. :)
posted by Malor at 3:48 PM on March 28, 2006


Mitheral: I'm not a Catholic, but as far as I know the term "papist" is offensive.

Not terribly, I mean they do keep the Pope as the head of their hierarchy. No more offensive than calling Episcopalians Anglicans.


"Papist" is something like "negro"--an outmoded term that, while perhaps technically correct, has become loaded with connotation over the years. The negative associations people have for the word outweigh its usefulness, particularly since we have a perfectly good word to describe Catholics: "Catholics."

As far as the course goes, as long as it's elective and focused on the Bible as an important work of world literature rather than the Word of God, I think it's fine. I think a comparative class on various religions probably wouldn't be a bad idea for high school students, either.
posted by EarBucket at 4:06 PM on March 28, 2006


Not nearly so significant as trying to desperately shield our children from a major component of Western literature because of rampant paranoia.

Exposing the work (bible) to one's children is a choice to be made by the parents, not by any public entity, and certainly not by legislation.

I wouldn't consider such attempts at keeping religous materials and public education separate as "desperate", and I wouldnt consider such attempts to preserve the consitutional law "rampant paranoia".
posted by Raoul.Duke at 4:08 PM on March 28, 2006


Exposing the work (bible) to one's children is a choice to be made by the parents, not by any public entity, and certainly not by legislation.

I suppose you might say the same about Mark Twain and Romeo and Juliet. It'd be kinda dumb, but you could say it.

The Bible has been a significant part of Western literature and civilization. If you think that's untrue, then you're ignorant; if you think it's irrelevant, then you have a disturbing view of education; and if you think the Bible cannot be subjected to classroom discussion without proselytism, then you have remarkably little faith in both teachers and students and you're probably better off home-schooling your child.

You do realize that it's just a book, right? It's not, like, a magic book that hypnotizes you if you open it. You seem kinda paranoid about its effects.
posted by cribcage at 4:19 PM on March 28, 2006


The Bible has been a significant part of Western literature and civilization.

I remember learning about that. That was called The Dark Ages, right?

I think the point you're missing, cribcage, is that the function of school is to decrease the ignorance of its students. Books, even non-magical ones, that don't fulfill this mission are best excluded.
posted by boaz at 4:26 PM on March 28, 2006


I suppose you might say the same about Mark Twain and Romeo and Juliet. It'd be kinda dumb, but you could say it.

No, I wouldn't say the same about Mark Twain and Romeo and Juliet. The bible is a book that makes claims about life, creation, and such ultimate questions. If I want to raise my children without them being exposed to such a book as the bible, there is reason and justification in that. The reasons for not letting my children read Mark Twain would have to be completely different; your comparison of the bible and Mark Twain is rediculous in this context.

I concede that the bible is a very significant part of human history. However, I cannot think that the motivations behind such legislation (deeming that the bible must be taught) are motivations for the pure, and objective, study of human history. It is these very same motivations that I am concerned about, and it is these motivations that are chipping away at the constitution.
posted by Raoul.Duke at 4:28 PM on March 28, 2006


What's funny to me is that so many of you misread this act by the legislature. You're all so eager to dismiss Georgians as a bunch of Bible-thumping hicks, so let me ask you: Do you honestly believe the Bible wasn't taught in public schools last year?

This bill wasn't about putting the Bible into public schools. This bill was about keeping it there. I said up-thread that where I live, Christmas carols were removed from a school concert but "O Hanukkah" was allowed to stay. If that's not anti-Christian bigotry, I'd like to hear your explanation. That's the dominant tone in this country, and that's what the Georgian legislature was acting out against. This was a preemptive strike.
posted by cribcage at 4:34 PM on March 28, 2006


cribcage wrote: "The Bible has been a significant part of Western literature and civilization."

boaz replied: "I remember learning about that. That was called The Dark Ages, right? I think the point you're missing, cribcage, is that the function of school is to decrease the ignorance of its students. Books, even non-magical ones, that don't fulfill this mission are best excluded."

That may be the most ignorant comment I've ever read on this site. The dark ages, of course, predated all of the modern translations of the Bible and the vast majority of western literature. The notion that studying literature influenced by the Bible is studying the dark ages is patently false and ridiculous. How does reading the Bible and studying it's history and influence on literature and culture not "decrease ignorance?"
posted by monju_bosatsu at 4:35 PM on March 28, 2006


I know this is a derail from what the thread has become, but I am interested in the actual language of the bill in question.

Here is perhaps the most interesting section of the bill:
(4)(A) The courses provided for in this Code section shall:
(i) Be taught in an objective and nondevotional manner with no attempt made to indoctrinate the students as to either the truth or falsity of the biblical materials or as to the correct interpretation thereof;
(ii) Not include teaching of religious doctrine or sectarian interpretation of the Bible; and
(iii) Not disparage or encourage a commitment to a set of religious beliefs.

(B) At the discretion of the local board of education, the courses may familiarize the students with the various theories and methods of analyzing, interpreting, and understanding the Old and New Testaments. However, the courses shall not attempt to coerce students to accept or reject any of these methods.

(C) The course shall include an emphasis on the relationship between the Bible and each of the following: federal and state law; the structure of federal, state, and local governments; and the United Stateś founding documents.
Subsection C is a little disquieting. It seems to me that this course is designed to promote the idea that the US is meant to be a Christian nation. Everything else I have no problem with, provided the law is applied as it is written.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 4:37 PM on March 28, 2006


lord_wolf: if it's so important to study the bible's influence on western literature, why can't they study that in their literature classes? why does the christian bible need its own class?

I'm wondering that myself. My public school education included the books of Genesis and Job (with exceptions for those who objected) along with religious-themed works such as "The Jilting of Granny Weatherall" and Cry the Beloved Country. Of course, we also had Siddartha.

Raoul.Duke: This is more what I am concerned about. Separation of church and state, or at least my interpretation of it, is meant to prevent specific religious interests from influencing the governmental process. Hence, freedom of religion. Allowing the bible to be taught in public schools is not a major violation in itself, but it is a small exception; the kind of exception that one day will become significant.

I must disagree with this interpretation in that teaching the Bible does not inherently rise to the level of "an establishment," nor does teaching it as an elective violate the free exercise clause.

For one thing, there is a pretty nasty slippery slope in that if you can't teach the Bible, then why can you teach other Christian-themed texts such as The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, A Wrinkle in Time, or the Divine Comedy? Meanwhile, you have the pretty explicit Taoism of A Wizard of Earthsea and Lathe of Heaven. The influence of Buddhism on Herman Hesse's Siddhartha and Kerouac's On the Road. And what do you do with Heinlein, Vonnegut and Asimov? For that matter, where does that leave Beowulf or The Odyssey (both Homer and Joyce)?

It is pretty difficult to construct any kind of a literary curriculum while avoiding any and all authors who express (either implicitly or explicitly) religious or philosophical sentiments. And of course, you probably can't do much in teaching world cultures without getting into discussions of religion.

The bible is a book that makes claims about life, creation, and such ultimate questions. If I want to raise my children without them being exposed to such a book as the bible, there is reason and justification in that.

Is anyone arguing that you should not be permitted to do so?

cribage: This bill wasn't about putting the Bible into public schools. This bill was about keeping it there. I said up-thread that where I live, Christmas carols were removed from a school concert but "O Hanukkah" was allowed to stay. If that's not anti-Christian bigotry, I'd like to hear your explanation. That's the dominant tone in this country, and that's what the Georgian legislature was acting out against.

Well, on the other hand. I don't buy the mythological propaganda of the poor embattled Christian that is threatened because participation in his liturgy is no longer a part of public school education. I attended a graduation ceremony last year in which the superintendent of schools lead a Christian invocation, (which is fairly clearly establishment.) During court proceedings last year, the default oath included "under god."

Of course, this is forgetting that my good protestant ancestors got the heck out of England over this sort of thing. It amuses me how many Methodists and Baptists are so gung-ho about public and governmental expressions of faith in ignorance of their own history of resistance to the same.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 4:51 PM on March 28, 2006


In school most of the works we read in lit classes were written in the past 50 years, some in the first part of the 20th century, and hardly anything before that that I can remember.

With the possible exception of that Shakespeare guy.
posted by desuetude at 4:58 PM on March 28, 2006


cribcage writes: That's the dominant tone in this country

We must live in different countries. Hell, there was a recent FPP about how most Americans think atheists like me are worse than criminals.

And what others have said re: this being a purely educational issue. Bullshit. This is pushing a religious agenda, pure and simple. Unfortunately, everything has been politicized--even science. And that's why China and India will surpass America in terms of technology development sooner rather than later.
posted by bardic at 4:59 PM on March 28, 2006


What about "filthy Jesuit"?

Or my particular favorite: The Whore of Babylon (you may substitute "harlot" for "whore" if you prefer.

I have been an atheist for 30 years and I am looking forward to reading Misquoting Jesus:
In a little over 200 pages, Ehrman gets to the point of how the New Testament came to be what it is today. No, it didn't just appear leather-bound, shiny, and new after Jesus' resurrection; rather, it was painstakingly cobbled together decades after Jesus' crucifixion from copies of copies of copies of (you get the point) the original writings of the New Testament authors, which were slowly altered over time by scribes that handed them down (sometimes by accident or othertimes intentionally by those meaning to "correct" things in the scriptures that didn't make sense).
I will have to wait a while, I am number 107 on the waiting list at the library here in Raleigh.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 5:00 PM on March 28, 2006


You know, monju, modern English isn't even as old as the Dark Ages, so your chronology isn't really saying anything. The Vulgate is from before the Dark Ages and is still considered as the major translation among Latin scholars. Same with the Greek translation. The original source materials, older still. But yeah, I guess because the oldest translation in modern English isn't older than, um, modern English, that just proves my ignorance. Puh-lease.

As for the rest, well, somebody should commission a study which tests whether level of Bible reading is correlated with ignorance. We already have educational and religious participation figures for the 50 states; someone should cross-tab those already.
posted by boaz at 5:03 PM on March 28, 2006


cribcage: You know what? I had a whole reply typed out. I spent time on it, I did some research, dug up some links, etc. Then I said to myself "wake up, he's a troll who attacked you for things you didn't even write, and you think he's going to listen? What a sucker!"

So I'm not going to be a sucker, and I'm done wasting time writing to a person who won't even read what I've written. Bye bye toll, I'm done feeding you.
posted by sotonohito at 5:20 PM on March 28, 2006


'Note: for those who refer to the "old testament," Jews do not think of their holy book as "Old" and to be replaced by "New".'

According to a correction a correction I received here a few months ago, which I can find if needed, (presumably Orthodox or at any rate "real") Jews don't take the Torah literally, and only a "heretical" sect called Karaites regards it as definitive; the true Word of G_d is the Oral Law, which to follow correctly you need to have an educated rabbi or rebbe who refers to a properly acclaimed Torah scholar. (To derail further, I'm with those who don't think it's that Jews are any smarter than anybody else, but that Jewish culture tends to emphasize using one's brain as opposed to mindlessly "praising the Lord.")
posted by davy at 5:54 PM on March 28, 2006


Since klangklangston and others took my example of the Quran as the only other holy text that could be discussed in an actual objective course, Wikipedia has a nice list of other texts that don't get special protection under the bill.
posted by TedW at 5:58 PM on March 28, 2006


I'd intended, in my comment of a few minutes ago, to include '...so apparently a lot of Orthodox Jews have been reading what I too was taught to call The Old Testament "as literature" for many years already.'

And having clicked on the link in TedW's latest comment, one could spend a few class sessions comparing the Samaritan Pentateuch and/or the Septuagint to the "regular" version now in use. To quote the Wikipedia article on the former scripture, "In about two thousand instances in which the Samaritan and the Jewish texts (Masoretic text) differ, the Septuagint (LXX) agrees with the former."
posted by davy at 6:13 PM on March 28, 2006


"Hebrew" and "Christian" Testaments (for "Old" and "New") is standard academic practice, at least in the US.
posted by bardic at 6:39 PM on March 28, 2006


boaz, reading the Bible equals religious participation?
posted by Stauf at 6:45 PM on March 28, 2006


"reading the Bible equals religious participation?"

I'd say 'Only if you believe in it (or are expected to).'

I still prefer the Bhagavad Gita as literature, especially the "Hare Krishna" version studded throughout with Prabhupadada's "purports" -- the first of which tells us how he wants us to read the text (and indicates how he'd like us to see him). One could even read this version as a Postmodernist text and/or a Lit Crit textbook!
posted by davy at 7:19 PM on March 28, 2006


Correlated is the word you're looking, stauf. After all, you'd probably realized that educational levels and ignorance aren't precisely inverse either, just correlated inversely.
posted by boaz at 7:23 PM on March 28, 2006


Secret Life of Gravy: I will have to wait a while, I am number 107 on the waiting list at the library here in Raleigh.

I'm in Raleigh, and just finished reading it. You can borrow my copy, if you want.

It's a pretty good read, if a bit layman-ish, and it's worth keeping in mind that Ehrman certainly has an axe to grind.
posted by EarBucket at 7:28 PM on March 28, 2006


Concerning reading "The Holy Bible" as literature, if I hadn't picked up my parents' King James and Revised Standard versions I'd never have realized what morally horrid tales and beliefs they contain. Reading the Bible as one reads a secular book is a good way to produce atheists or at least non-"Judeo-Christians". See for example The Book of Job, previously discussed on Usenet.
posted by davy at 7:45 PM on March 28, 2006


Section C is really fucking bothersome, what the fuck does the structure of the federal government have to do with the bible. It's clearly lies to advance an agenda.

I bet you that they don't include in the history of the bible curiculum questions of whether Jesus, Moses, or Noah actually even existed. I bet you they don't include striking paralells to other stories of gods children born to men. Will it treat the flood as the bible describes it as a possibility? They don't treat Grendel as described in Beowulf as a literal possibibility. I don't trust the schools of Georgia to teach the bible with the same dispassion as they teach Greek mythology. I don't think it's possible to teach mythology as mythology without anyone actually believing it to be mythology.

Also two different electives? I'm not saying that it's damnable but devoting two classes too one particularly popular book of myths seems a bit much to me. I agree that the bible is very important but all resources, teacher and student which go into teaching it are resources that could go to somthing else. The fact that it's a valid subject for inquery does not mean that I think that the resources allocated to its teaching should be limitless. I think in light of all the wonderfull things highschools also fail to teach one class should be enough.
posted by I Foody at 7:47 PM on March 28, 2006


cribcage writes "We've seen massive demonstrations in this country protesting the Vatican's and various archdiocese's handling of the sex abuse scandal. There are also major divisions within the church about the issues of abortion, divorce, premarital sex, and gay marriage. This has been the subject of much debate in the church, to what extent Catholicism will continue to be defined by Rome versus rank and file Catholics, and you're kinda glossing over the issue like it's nonexistent. For most Catholics, it's not."

I'm not glossing over it. To my way of thinking either you believe the Pope is god's representive on earth and you are bound by his decrees or you aren't a Roman Catholic. People who self identify as a Roman Catholic except they believe in birth control or they beleive homosexuality isn't a sin or believe in remarriage after divorce or whatever aren't Catholics to my way of thinking.

People who don't think the Pope is doing as God commands should have the gumption to either join a different sect or start their own.

empath writes "You have no idea what you're talking about. I don't have time to get into right now, but you should stop while you're ahead."

Please enlighten us I hate being ignorant. Are you saying the Pope can't excommunicate a Catholic?
posted by Mitheral at 7:56 PM on March 28, 2006


Mithrael, because one Catholic pissed you off, you go around pre-emptively insulting the rest? "Papist" has a lot of cultural baggage - William of Orange and like-minded men destroying abbeys and cathedrals, rich Anglo-Saxon Protestants looking down on poor Irish or Italian Catholic immigrants, people claiming that JFK would be more loyal to the Pope than the nation he was leading, etc. That's a nasty little test you have there - "you're only a worthwhile Catholic if you don't react when I slur your religion and the culture you probably grew up in." I know plenty of people who aren't hidebound Catholics [or who long ago stopped being any sort of Catholic at all] who'd still be offended. It's a word that's meant as a slur and an insult, and I don't really think that it's unreasonable for people to take umbrage at a word that's meant as such. [I somehow suspect you wouldn't do the same with racial slurs; religious slurs are no more acceptable.]

Furthermore, you might want to learn a little more about the nature of the Church [particularly its laypeople] before you go claiming that obviously Catholics'll do whatever the Pope says. I thought we went over this in the '60s with JFK's candidacy. Sure, some people will do whatever the Pope says, but there are also Protestants who'd do whatever their pastor told them to do [or believe.] The vast majority of Catholics would make their decision on the basis of their personal values, what they thought was best for their country, etc. The Pope's opinion might play into it, but I strongly doubt that that would be a major factor for most people. Most Catholics - very particularly those in the US & Europe - are more than willing to make decisions on political and even theological matters [see 'birth control' or 'liberation theology'] without help from Rome. And - incredibly - vanishingly few people get excommunicated for doing what they believe is right.
posted by ubersturm at 8:23 PM on March 28, 2006


"I think the point you're missing, cribcage, is that the function of school is to decrease the ignorance of its students. Books, even non-magical ones, that don't fulfill this mission are best excluded."

How does the Bible not fulfill the function you're setting out, even granting your simplistic view of schooling?

Man, every time this comes up, I have to wade in as one of the few folks who has actually had a Bible Lit class in high school. That's an absolutely good thing, and I don't believe in any sort of divine influence in the text. To dismiss Cribcage as a "troll" is retarded, and to continue to try to fight a losing battle is a perniciously stupid liberal trait. Instead of arguing against this, more peopel should step forward and endorse it and by endorsing it shape the methods of instruction.

I have a high school buddy who's a lit and history teacher in Atlanta right now, and I'm sure as shit that if he's tapped to teach the class, his kids'll get a better education than many of you seem to have.
posted by klangklangston at 8:53 PM on March 28, 2006


However, I cannot think that the motivations behind such legislation...

And we're back to this. That's the bottom line behind these objections: Y'all don't like the people. You concede the Bible has been important to society and literature, but you can't conceive that it could ever be taught without ulterior motive because you don't trust "those people." My faith was referred to twice as "American Taliban," and yet I'm the one who's been called a troll — proving yet again that, when you exhaust his slim capacity for reasoned discussion, every bigot retreats under the same hood.
posted by cribcage at 9:00 PM on March 28, 2006


I love the bill!

It's sound educational policy -- the paramount influence of the Bible on Western literature and the key influence of Biblical religion on Western history can't be seriously disputed.

It's also sound politics -- a trap laid for leftists for them to stroll into, eloquently reinforcing why no self-respecting Christian would ever vote for them.
posted by MattD at 9:14 PM on March 28, 2006


"Instead of arguing against this, more peopel should step forward and endorse it and by endorsing it shape the methods of instruction."

Right. One way or another, by one group or another, for one reason or another, in one place or another, The Bible will be taught in Georgia. The key is to find a way to teach it not as The Word of God but as just another book (or anthology), subject to the same rules of Lit Crit -- and the same risk of "Hey! What evil bullshit!" -- as, say, "A Rose For Emily." Again, e.g., see the Book of Job. For extra credit a class might examine how the Synoptic Gospel's Jesus of Nazareth differs from Paul's Risen Christ: "Are they even talking about the same figure?"

There must have been a reason why for hundreds of years the Catholic Church did not allow the laity to read the Bible for themselves. Can anybody tell me what that reason might have been?

(See MattD? You should oppose the bill: it's a trap the Super-Xians have set for themselves. Hooey! I've been aching for such a chance to reach the minds of Youth!)
posted by davy at 9:28 PM on March 28, 2006


As for why the Bible versus any other Holy book, I must only say this: when concerning English Literature, the King James Bible has had quite an effect, if just in allusion to the language itself. So it almost doesn't matter if it's a good translation or not of the original Hebrew and Greek; the work itself has formed its own little foundation within English Lit, which is worth studying. So that's why we might read the King James Bible more versus the Koran, as the Koran hasn't had as much effect on English Literature.

As for this, I don't think it's necessary to mandate a school to teach the Bible. Not at all. Though I would applaude any school that does do so. Do you realize that most people that study the Bible do so safe within groups that interpret it rather the same? Bring them into the fold, bring the ardent believers into a greater society that might think differently. You'd be surprised what might happen.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 9:42 PM on March 28, 2006


Cribcage, did you read the bill?
(C) The course shall include an emphasis on the relationship between the Bible and each of the following: federal and state law; the structure of federal, state, and local governments; and the United Stateś founding documents.
Is it just me, or is this advancing the agenda of one nation under a very specific god?
posted by [expletive deleted] at 10:08 PM on March 28, 2006


Section C should be stricken, but it can be gotten around -- such as by teaching that a great many of the Founding Fathers were Deists who viewed the Bible as literature not scripture.

Point is, it looks pretty much like a done deal, Georgia being Georgia, and until it's eventually struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court (which finally reversed itself on Dred Scott V. Sandford and Plessy V. Ferguson) we've got to make the most of it. It's possible for "progressives", atheists, Hindus et al. to make them regret they ever brought it up. If not, well, it's still only an elective: how hard would it be to get high school kids to regard taking one elective as unkewl? Like, how many college students actually join ROTC and how many kids whose parents send them to Catholic school wind up as practicing Papists?

And like I said, because it's not supposed to prevent teaching of other religions' texts, I'd like to see an elective on the Bhagavad Gita. Perhaps ISKCON and/or some folks from India can suggest a curriculum.
posted by davy at 11:13 PM on March 28, 2006


proving yet again that, when you exhaust his slim capacity for reasoned discussion, every bigot retreats under the same hood

you canNOT be SErious!

but if you are, get a grip. no one buys the persecution shit when it comes from the 80% majority.

a trap laid for leftists for them to stroll into, eloquently reinforcing why no self-respecting Christian would ever vote for them

MattD, can we also agree that if christ himself were to run for election, no "self-respecting christian" as i suspect you envision one would vote for him either. damn dirty hippie!

also, you might want to dial back the pomposity a bit, or you might do damage to the law profession's hard-won reputation for humility.
posted by Hat Maui at 12:07 AM on March 29, 2006


People who self identify as a Roman Catholic except they believe in birth control or they beleive homosexuality isn't a sin or believe in remarriage after divorce or whatever aren't Catholics to my way of thinking.

People who don't think the Pope is doing as God commands should have the gumption to either join a different sect or start their own.


Right. So let's say, anyone who still self identifies as a Muslim without believing the sharia should be the basis of the law and include death for apostasy isn't really a Muslim, they should get out and declare apostasy (hint hint) or start a different sect.

The reactionaries sure would approve your way of thinking! Let's leave no room to the slighest chance of internal disagreements and dissent and pressures for reforms, let's leave the whole thing to the dictatorial minded. If everyone had always thought like that, then the Catholic Church would have never made a single step forward from its Inquisition days.

(not positing any equivalence between Catholicism or Islam, just saying, you know, the "True X" test is a usually used by the most reactionaries within that given religion to maintain their power)

Btw, excommunications today, not in the Middle Ages, are not used for anyone who disagrees with the Pope on birth control or gays or divorce or abortion, obviously, otherwise they might as well close shop; they're mostly used for Catholic priests or bishops or any other appointed authority who deviates from the theological dogmas or the authority of the Church on its own matters of ordaining priests and so on. See here (they forgot this infamous archbishop). The most famous and influential Catholic dissenter, Hans Kung, for instance, while stripped of his license to teach as a Catholic theologian in Catholic university, was never excommunicated. You go telling him now he's not a Catholic and shouldn't be a priest and shouldn't really bother with all that dissenting stuff. Basically, by your reasoning, you'd want him excommunicated! Man, the irony...

(Apologies for contributing to derail.)
posted by funambulist at 12:30 AM on March 29, 2006


It could be interesting to see how Section C's required emphasis is applied separately in the Old and New Testament courses, if the bill does become law as written. I wonder if the Jefferson Bible will fit in anywhere.

Cribcage's style of belittling other people in order to prove the superiority of his intellect is, at best, undignified, but it's certainly not unique on Metafilter. That's really a discussion for somewhere else, though. He is a bright guy, and I think he raises a valid (but egregiously misdirected) point about how the aggressive ignorance of some of the people in the "Bible study is baad!" crowd is intolerable. Those folks are just as obnoxious as the nutjobs who seek to use American government and school systems to impose their specific religious beliefs on everybody.

This article (NYTimes link, sorry.) provides some background on the posturing of Democrats and Republicans alike, when the Dems proposed similar legislation in January. If the people in Georgia really want to mandate Bible study in their public schools, the current bill seems like a reasonable compromise between those who would prefer a watered-down Biblical course in political correctness and those with an unabashedly theocratic agenda.
posted by Buzz at 3:12 AM on March 29, 2006


expletive deleted's point is key in this discussion:

point C shows this bill's true colors, as languagehat and others said above, it's a Trojan horse.

let's read this again:
(C) The course shall include an emphasis on the relationship between the Bible and each of the following: federal and state law; the structure of federal, state, and local governments; and the United Stateś founding documents.
this clause renders null and void most of what the rest of the bill seems to give as insurance against evangelical propaganda. again, only the dumb (or those in bad faith -- who, funnily enough, are often dumb, too) cannot recognize a Trojan horse when they see it.

***

I love the bill!


hi dios! look, I know you're trolling, but you should really point out that whenever you say "Christian" you mean "Fundamentalist Protestant", because, really, there's a lot of interesting diversity in Christianity (I mean, for example, think about Pope John Paul II's constant bashing of Bush's wars and of America's death penalty -- that's not exactly Pat Robertson territory).

so, really, Christianity is a religion big enough to have 1.4 billion faithful. your fundamentalist Protestant buddies are, thankfully, a very small minority (and one who, tenaciously, keeps trying to steal the brand name, to the amusement of the rest of the world)
posted by matteo at 6:02 AM on March 29, 2006


funambulist writes "Right. So let's say, anyone who still self identifies as a Muslim without believing the sharia should be the basis of the law and include death for apostasy isn't really a Muslim, they should get out and declare apostasy (hint hint) or start a different sect."

Note that the Muslims do not claim to have a direct channel to God in the form of his designated spokesperson on Earth. Among your major 500+ year old religions it's only the Catholics who have a representative on earth who claims that God has instructed him and his followers:"Whatever you hold true on earth I'll hold true in heaven." And that claim is key. Going against the Pope is going against God. Against God! If you can't fight city hall you sure can't fight God. And the RC God (unlike say the Norse Gods) claims infallibility, you can't tell him he's wrong because by definition he is right.

funambulist writes "The reactionaries sure would approve your way of thinking! Let's leave no room to the slightest chance of internal disagreements and dissent and pressures for reforms, let's leave the whole thing to the dictatorial minded. If everyone had always thought like that, then the Catholic Church would have never made a single step forward from its Inquisition days."

See above. Feel free to discuss things with the Pope, even disagree with him in principle. But a Roman Catholic is sinning if they don't follow his laws.

ubersturm writes "Furthermore, you might want to learn a little more about the nature of the Church [particularly its laypeople] before you go claiming that obviously Catholics'll do whatever the Pope says. I thought we went over this in the '60s with JFK's candidacy."

Well I didn't, being neither born nor American.

All I was saying is that the Pope has the power to prevent you from getting to heaven if you are a Roman Catholic and the worst a government can do is kill you (therefor sending you to heaven). For someone who claims to be a RC and therefor believes the Pope is God's representative on Earth it seems obvious who holds more power over you. If Kennedy was a Catholic I can see why people who believe strongly in the separation of (the Roman Catholic) church and state might have had a problem voting for him
posted by Mitheral at 7:21 AM on March 29, 2006


Mitheral: "Going against the Pope is going against God."

Only when he's speaking ex cathedra, which was settled at Vatican I, in 1699. Gawd, did you get your theology from a Klan broadsheet or what? I know you want to tar the faithful, but can't you see that a lot of people who consider themselves Catholic share your goals of separation of Church and State? In fact, that they were some of the folks that pressed for it hardest, as they were oppressed? And that Catholics have been a large part of many social justice movements, even when their actions were opposed by the Pope?
posted by klangklangston at 7:34 AM on March 29, 2006



cribcage
a.) Is there anyone here who didn't study the Bible at some point during American education? Anyone who never read Genesis in a classroom setting?

nope never read it. maybe this is generational?
I do remember saying the pledge when I was younger
and then not when I was older.

b.) Is there anyone here possessing anything above an elementary acquaintance with Western literature who honestly believes the Bible shouldn't be included in American education?

I'm afraid I don't see what's so compelling about teaching it. If you're refering to biblical alusions in the text any teacher could enlighten the students about where the allusion comes from, but I don't think it's neccessary and I also don't think it will matter. If we spent all of our time trying to resurrect the mind of the author, when would we read and what you're suggesting is that somehow biblical allusion is more important than time peroid or the author's history, even in a constructionist model of meaning the author's views is the aim of interpretation not reinforcing his or her religion. I'm a lot more interested in knowing what someone who doesn't read the bible thinks of a story with bibical allusions than just trying to coax a lot of students to see a piece of literature the way I do. I have a b.a. in english literature BTW.

cribcage
"
Lots of these discussions assume that kids are dumb and that teachers are manipulative. In both cases, you're assuming the exception against the rule."

I do agree with this. I don't think teaching the bible would matter much in the scheme of things. Regardless of if religion is in education, peope have a tendency to go either way.

unreason
"As for the question of whether the Bible should be taught, I kinda think it should, simply because so much of Western lit and culture depends on it. "

But then why don't we teach greek and roman philosophy? Those are after all the bases of Western thought, pyschology, science, and culture. They're arguably more important than it's moral base in Christianity.

"The state has the right to regulate the education of its public schools.

There is no legal or constitutional problem with this."

no there is a lot of problems with this. State's don't have the right to regulate their education programs with religion. They lost this right after the civil war.
But as you also note, no one is being forced to take it and it's not necessarily sermonizing, hence it might be legal under those grounds. Another poster noted that Virginia has comparitive religion classes in it's schools which due seem to be legal... somehow...

"
You believe the Constitution prohibits the Bible from being taught in public schools. I'm not saying your opinion is unique, just that it's wrong. I'm saying that if you want to understand Constitutional Law, you're going to have to do some reading and not rely solely on what you hear on Air America. And I'm saying that if you want to hide your bigotry, you're going to have to be more subtle than, "You can't trust those American Taliban."

What consistutional law? The first amendment originally only encompassed congress, but it was extended to the state level in the 1800s and which point supreme court rulings on the constitution effect state level governments. I hear this arguement a lot of prayer in schools, if you object to it then take your case to the supreme court.

Monju
You are correct I have not read the actual text of Everson, only summaries. to qoute a summary found here:
http://www.answers.com/topic/everson-v-board-of-education
""The 'establishment of religion' clause of the First Amendment means at least this: Neither a state nor the Federal Government can set up a church. Neither can pass laws which aid one religion, aid all religions or prefer one religion over another. Neither can force nor influence a person to go to or to remain away from church against his will or force him to profess a belief or disbelief in any religion. No person can be punished for entertaining or professing religious beliefs or disbeliefs, for church attendance or non-attendance. No tax in any amount, large or small, can be levied to support any religious activities or institutions, whatever they may be called, or whatever form they may adopt to teach or practice religion. Neither a state nor the Federal Government can, openly or secretly, participate in the affairs of any religious organizations or groups and vice versa. In the words of Jefferson, the clause against establishment of religion by law was intended to erect 'a wall of separation between Church and State.'" 330 U.S. 1, 15-16."
The questions becomes is teaching the bible as literature aiding a religion?

"The Bible has been a significant part of Western literature and civilization. If you think that's untrue, then you're ignorant; if you think it's irrelevant, then you have a disturbing view of education"

Yeah this is true, I do have a disturbing view of education. I don't think anyone here, or at least me, thinks that teaching the bible is going to hyponitize people, but how
is the bible part of education? We spend like 20 pages on Asia in our history text books. There are literaly thousands of subjects that are probably more important in the grand scheme of things to someone's education than knowing the religious book that one's ancenstors might have ya know picked up a couple times before they maybe went to church that sunday. Historicaly I don't think the bible has actualy been that important, I think the church has and the theologians behind it. After all if puritian theology is the base of American culture, than maybe what we should focus on if we're trying to teach the foundations of American culture is the actual people behind it and their takes on religious beleifs, but frankly I'd rather have a more fleshed out history of the Japan, Korea, China conflict pre-1500s. Ya know they had ninjas right? And they killed people... it was awesome.

"I said up-thread that where I live, Christmas carols were removed from a school concert but "O Hanukkah" was allowed to stay. If that's not anti-Christian bigotry, I'd like to hear your explanation."

that is anti-christian, and the Hanukkah song shoud be removed too.

"(i) Be taught in an objective and nondevotional manner with no attempt made to indoctrinate the students as to either the truth or falsity of the biblical materials or as to the correct interpretation thereof;"

I knew I should have read this thing, ya so right here is where they're saying this is why it's legal. As for it's history with u.s. legislation that is an interesting side note and does bring a little politics into it. Is there a text book going along with this?
posted by aljones15 at 7:46 AM on March 29, 2006


MattD wrote: I love the bill!

matteo responded: hi dios! look, I know you're trolling, but you should really point out that whenever you say "Christian" you mean "Fundamentalist Protestant", because, really, there's a lot of interesting diversity in Christianity (I mean, for example, think about Pope John Paul II's constant bashing of Bush's wars and of America's death penalty -- that's not exactly Pat Robertson territory). so, really, Christianity is a religion big enough to have 1.4 billion faithful. your fundamentalist Protestant buddies are, thankfully, a very small minority (and one who, tenaciously, keeps trying to steal the brand name, to the amusement of the rest of the world)"

Um, you might want to check user names a little more closely when you respond to other members' comments. I know you like to pick on dios, but you might want to respond to something he actually wrote.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 8:19 AM on March 29, 2006


Mitheral, you're clearly being willfully ignorant, besides being completely ignorant. Your use of "papist," besides being really annoying in its childish arrogance, demonstrates that you're arguing in bad faith.

That said, a lot of people really do misunderstand the role of the Pope and think that if he says "it's going to rain tomorrow," and it doesn't, you have to pretend, or believe that it is raining. This is not the case, and papal infallibility is confined to a very small number of cases, typically in which the pope is just confirming a belief (not a moral command or anything like that, but a doctrine) that has been long held by the Church.

Excommunication is very rarely used and does not amount to "I say you're not going to heaven and what I say goes." It's saying that the person excommunicated is in such grave sin that they have excluded themselves from the body of Christ, the Church. Please note that the millions of Catholics who disagree with the Pope on birth control, abortion, the role of celibacy etc. have not been excommunicated. So, your idea that the Pope would be able to dictate American policy with this threat is pretty nuts.

Also, you are ignoring the very complicated role that the individual conscience has played in Catholic moral theology since Vatican II.
posted by lackutrol at 9:00 AM on March 29, 2006


"But then why don't we teach greek and roman philosophy? Those are after all the bases of Western thought, pyschology, science, and culture. They're arguably more important than it's moral base in Christianity."

Um... We do. I took a class called 'Humanities' my senior year in high school that was a pseudo-elective (it fulfilled a Civ requirement that could be gotten elsewhere, but nearly all seniors took it), and we read the Funeral Oration, the Republic, Aristotle's Politics, Marcus Aurelius (I forget what we read of his), City of God, the Book of Job, the Prince, the Leviathan, 2nd Treatice, Origins of Inequality, Social Contract, Federalist papers, the US Constitution (with emphasis on the Bill of Rights), the Communist Manifesto, Wealth of Nations, some assorted Neizsche, Hegel and Kant. All this along with art history, music history and a huge dollop of literature. It was a great class, and one of the most celebrated in the country. All at public school. Not only that, but all at a regular public school (not the magnet school that I duel enrolled at).

And I ended up more informed about those texts than the vast, vast majority of students that I sat next to in college PoliSci or history classes. As for the question of why that's not mandatory across the state, or in other states (like, say, Georgia), I can only guess that it's because my school district prided itself on having excellent curricula and had a fairly substantial budget. But aside from the teachers, the actual cost of the class was pretty minimal (one of the delightful things about teaching philosophy, polisci or history is that there's really a low economic barrier when you're just doing things from books and mimeographs). It was team taught, and lasted about three and a half hours. Every day we got history and lit, and music and art swapped back and forth.

Further, in my state-required Civics class, which should be an emphasized part of any curriculum, I had to read a lot of those Greek and Roman works again, along with the Enlightenment works. Adding to that class was that occurred in the fall of '96, with the Presidential election as a backdrop (something that can't really be mandated, but made the class a lot more fun). I also had to read them in my state-required Law class in high school, and the elective Creative Problem Solving.

So public school can and does, at least in my experience, teach the Greeks and Romans pretty well. There were a couple more classes that had I taken them, would have led to reading those same works again in high school (Classical Lit, and the Government and Western Civ both went through them again). By the time I was done with my PoliSci minor, I think I'd read and discussed the Funeral Oration about six times (excluding rereading it for papers). If I had to level charges against my public schooling, it's that while I have a pretty solid grounding in a lot of 'the canon' in terms of history and philosophy, we tended toward the very modern in literature, so I have less solid footing there— the Bible Lit class excepted. But I'd have liked, looking back now, a little more Melville and a little less Amy Tan.

As for the Bible and America, try to read the Federalist Papers or Jefferson or Franklin without a grounding in biblical parable, then try it with an understanding of their references. They can be damnably dense, and the Bible was the literature of the educated class in those days. While their ideas contradicted the explicit theological message of the Bible (especially Jefferson), the language is so rich with analogy and reference to biblical themes that to not share a common understanding is to miss the rhetorical point of many of their arguments. And that's something that both people on the right and the left would gain immesurably from.
posted by klangklangston at 9:32 AM on March 29, 2006


> Going against the Pope is going against God. Against God!

OMPG!!!

'Representative of' - not 'God'. Just like saints - not 'God', and saints are considered one heavenly ladder up the Pope anyway.

Not under Catholic dogma itself, not under the belief of even the most ignorant peasant in the most backwards rural village in Catholicland, not since the middle ages, when Popes also had actual power over lands and their inhabitants.

The infallibility principle is what klangklangston said. See also. And that's only the theory (and then there's the idea of individual conscience too). The practice is even more remote from your idea. It's the church leadership itself that is behaving like a dictatorial stronghold in the face of even the most open disregard for the most debated pronouncements on moral doctrine, but even so they won't go round telling people "sorry buddy you're out of the club", not least because the numbers count and they don't want to lose any more. Many left wing Catholics in Spain were among those who voted for gay marriage, they didn't get excommunicated and threatened with hellfire or prevented from ever entering a church again, nor did the ones who voted for divorce or legal abortion before, or voted for all sorts of political parties who were not in line with the church doctrine. There's right wing Catholics, there's left wing Catholics, there's centre Catholics pretty much everywhere there are Catholics, go figure. But hey if some people are so keen to classify all the different Christians of the world as fundamentalists, then I guess considering all Catholics as medieval peasants also fits. That's where the parallel with Muslims came in, but nevermind.

I'm not 'defending' any religion here, I just dislike ignorant generalisations about groups made of billions of people.
posted by funambulist at 9:48 AM on March 29, 2006


klangklangston writes "I know you want to tar the faithful, but can't you see that a lot of people who consider themselves Catholic share your goals of separation of Church and State?"

I don't want to tar the faithful until they start impacting how I do things. My way of thinking is that the less rational people around the more spoils for me. I know many Catholics are hard church/state separatists, if only because they know that accepting state money means accepting state control.

lackutrol writes "Please note that the millions of Catholics who disagree with the Pope on birth control, abortion, the role of celibacy etc. have not been excommunicated. "

But does the Pope believe people who are unrepentant partakers of birth control are going to get into heaven? My understanding of the Christian religions in general is that acceptance into heaven after your time on earth is a knife edge test and there are no grey areas. Follow the rules or go to hell. Especially in the Roman Catholic sect either you have followed the rules set out in the bible as interpreted by the Pope (including confession, last rites and other sacraments) or you go to the bad place.

If the Pope believes mechanical/chemical birth control users aren't going to heaven and a group of Catholics believe that that they are it sounds like you have a shizm even if it hasn't been declared. Even if it is in committee or something at the highest levels of the church birth control users dying today must be going to one place or the other. With the exception of those retroactive absolutions in the middle ages I don't remember any take backs or redos.
posted by Mitheral at 10:28 AM on March 29, 2006


But Mitheral, your understanding of Christian religion in general and the Catholic denomination in particular is at best incomplete. For post-Vatican II Catholics, it isn't "follow the rules or go to hell," it's "behave as God wishes, which is best for you anyway, or fall away from God, which may eventually mean something that we could call hell." You seem to be saying that the Church believes it is setting rules that must then be followed. In many moral matters, it's more that the Church is setting forth what it believes God's intent to be. The Church has regarded the role of the individual conscience as central to moral decisions, explicitly since Vatican II.

Further, there are many Christians of various flavors that have a much more nuanced vision of sin and the afterlife than you are attributing to them. Your "follow the rules or go to hell" thing is probably closest to people who would describe themselves as fundamentalists or literalists, and even these literalists disagree among themselves about the meaning of the words they are taking literally.

In any case, such people are certainly not a majority of self-described Christians.

So while you are certainly free to define "Catholic" or "Christian" however you choose, I certainly don't know why anyone should care, given that you've demonstrated both ignorance of and hostility towards those who do believe in one of these creeds.
posted by lackutrol at 10:44 AM on March 29, 2006


*ahem*

Now what were we talking about again?
posted by lackutrol at 10:45 AM on March 29, 2006


You didn't answer my question: "does the Pope believe people who are unrepentant partakers of birth control are going to get into heaven?" And do those who self identify as Catholics yet still use chemical or mechanical birth control believe they will get into heaven?

I'm genuinely curious about the yes/no answer to these questions and the reasoning that reconciles the two view points if the answers are No and Yes respectfully.

Many actions are about doing the right thing (though why someone would need religion to do so is puzzling) but in the case of birth control it appears that church law is at odds with what is best for people both individually and collectively. Or is John Paul's Humanæ Vitæ not binding on modern Catholics?

lackutrol writes "You seem to be saying that the Church believes it is setting rules that must then be followed. In many moral matters, it's more that the Church is setting forth what it believes God's intent to be. The Church has regarded the role of the individual conscience as central to moral decisions, explicitly since Vatican II."

Wikipedia says: The Catechism of the Catholic Church, 85 states that authentic interpretation of the Word of God is entrusted to the living Magisterium of the Church, namely the bishops in communion with the successor of Peter. Catholic theology places the authoritative interpretation of scripture in the hands of the consistent judgment of the Church down the ages (what has always and everywhere been taught) rather than the private judgment of the individual. The Magisterium does, however, encourage its flock to read Sacred Scripture. Is this statement incorrect or are they talking about two different things?
posted by Mitheral at 11:42 AM on March 29, 2006


FYI, Humanæ Vitæ was Paul VI, though the man who would become John Paul II had a hand in its formulation. The commission that Paul created to deal with the issue recommended that the Church change its position with regard to artificial birth control, which is part of the reason the encyclical was so controversial. It remains controversial to this day. But just because encyclicals are issued with a particular position doesn't mean that that position is set in stone forever.

To answer your questions,

Does the Pope believe people who are unrepentant partakers of birth control are going to get into heaven?

I don't know. Presumably he thinks they are committing sinful acts. But Catholics don't believe the Pope has some sort of Hell/Not Hell switch for each Catholic that he can pull as he pleases.

And do those who self identify as Catholics yet still use chemical or mechanical birth control believe they will get into heaven?

Presumably so, and presumably they also don't believe they are committing a sinful act.

Your Wikipedia quote is really about doctrine, not morals. For example, the Trinity and the Resurrection are doctrine. Whether and what kind of birth control you can use isn't a doctrinal question.

The Church's view of sin and salvation (at least these days) is a lot less legalistic than you seem to think it is.
posted by lackutrol at 12:25 PM on March 29, 2006


This is seriously fucked up. I cannot believe that the consensus on MeFi is: it's an elective and therefore I have no problem with the law in theory, but might do in application.

This is a seriously discriminatory law. It signals to non-Jews and non-Christians that the Judeo-Christian tradition is what the state of Georgia stands for, when this country was founded in opposition to religion ... In God We Trust and other religious invocations of God in this country are 20th century additions. If I lived in Georgia, I would try and move because I would not want my non-Judeo-Christian feeling that their religion or religious texts were not worthy of a mandated elective state-wide.

If the law is to be fair, Georgia should have electives in all the main religions (including the non-monotheistic ones), or offer one class covering all the main religions.

And also, the argument about the Bible as being useful for an understanding of English literature, is a complete red herring, because we know this class is not meant as a precursor for a literature class, but is designed to Christianize the Georgia student body.
posted by Azaadistani at 12:49 PM on March 29, 2006


I think I get what you are saying, The Pope thinks it is immoral for people to use birth control but it is not against church law. Just like hiring a sex worker is legal but considered immoral by many.
posted by Mitheral at 1:03 PM on March 29, 2006


Actually Azaadistani, I'm against this bill in theory, but as I said since Georgia is Georgia we might as well concentrate on trying to mitigate what is essentially a done deal. Could anyone who knows a damn thing about Georgia imagine its politicians or voters coming out against Jesus, which is how the churches and "pundits" would play it? You'd have a better chance at compelling gay marriage. I'm sorry if this wrecks your image of an apathist conspiracy on Mefi; it's just that facts is facts.

This "issue" illustrates why the Left in America is so unsuccessful: we bicker so stupidly but energetically over essentially trivial shit ("I think it's unfair that water runs downhill and anybody who disagrees is an Imperialist pawn!") that we don't have anything for our main mission, bringing about Liberty, Equality and Humanity.
posted by davy at 1:56 PM on March 29, 2006


Mitheral, you're getting there. There are many issues of morality that aren't really settled in the Church, and the Church's view of sin and the afterlife is nuanced and really depends on the individual situation. And though the pope's opinion is taken very seriously by most Catholics, you are allowed to disagree with him on just about anything. Of course, the amount you can disagree is another thing that people disagree about.

I don't think I'm really a Catholic anymore, but I respect the faith and the amount of thought and passion that goes into these debates.
posted by lackutrol at 3:41 PM on March 29, 2006


If the law is to be fair, Georgia should have electives in all the main religions (including the non-monotheistic ones), or offer one class covering all the main religions.

And also, the argument about the Bible as being useful for an understanding of English literature, is a complete red herring, because we know this class is not meant as a precursor for a literature class, but is designed to Christianize the Georgia student body.


Exactly. It's meant to put Christianity and Christianity alone into the public schools--to priviledge it as the one religion worthy of special classes for all students in public schools meant for all. The syllabus for the California courses included stuff that belonged in Bible classes in churches, not public schools--Reflections on Proverbs, and mock trials of Biblical Kings were just 2 of the things listed, and they sold it as "bible as literature" too. It's all a crock, but until it's challenged in the Supreme Court and proven to be violate the Constitution (and now, even then, with the current makeup of the court), we're stuck.

All of these things, when taken all together, are proving to the millions of us who aren't Christian that it's their country alone and our concerns and differing traditions don't count--only Christian ones do. 100 years ago, recent immigrants to NYC had to fight and walk out to get assignments like essays on Jesus taken out of the Public Schools--now they're all being put back in.
posted by amberglow at 10:43 PM on March 29, 2006


Whatever, Amberglow. In the California thread, you made wild assumptions unchecked by fact and were pretty well routed. Using those assumptions as evidence here does not make your case.
And sorry, the Bible has had more influence on Western Civ than the Koran or Bhagavad-Gita.
posted by klangklangston at 5:53 AM on March 30, 2006


the Bible has had more influence on Western Civ than the Koran or Bhagavad-Gita

I keep hearing similar remarks, but it that true or is it just that the Bible is taught and talked about more, so people assume it was more influential. It can certainly be argued that the Bible itself was influenced by earlier religious texts and that these should be taught as well.
posted by TedW at 6:50 AM on March 30, 2006


Let's cut the Chamberlain "Peace in Our Time" crap. They don't compromise with us, but we compromise all the time and they kick our asses.

Skwirl, I think I love you.
posted by illovich at 2:23 PM on March 30, 2006


actually they weren't routed at all--people actually changed their view once i posted the links to the syllabus. Try reading the whole thread next time--and take your bible out of our public schools. That class in CA wasn't Bible as Literature, and i bet neither is this. The syllabus will show that, and the very fact that when all of these classes are proposed and legislated for, there is never ever ever one Jewish organization who supports them, even though it's our heritage too--we know better, and we know that our religion does not belong in public schools, and neither does yours.
posted by amberglow at 2:38 PM on March 30, 2006


and just look at the difference between the two bills--one actually was "bible as literature and its influences"-- Senate Democrats -- led by Tim Golden of Valdosta, Doug Stoner of Smyrna and Kasim Reed of Atlanta -- introduced a bill early in the session that would have allowed the state Board of Education to add an elective academic course on the Bible's influence on literature, art, music, culture and politics.--the other clearly is not. Guess which one won?
posted by amberglow at 2:44 PM on March 30, 2006


"Try reading the whole thread next time--and take your bible out of our public schools."

Take your head out of your ass.
posted by klangklangston at 3:53 PM on March 30, 2006


Klangy, the fact is Amber's right. The problem is we're talking about Georgia -- another planet as far as Michigan's concerned. I'll bet you can't imagine the mindset. Put it this way: how many mentions of Jesus do you see on bumperstickers in a day? Here in Louisville, Pagan Babylon as far as the true hillbillies are concerned, "Jesus fish", "I Love Jesus!" and "Got Jesus?" stickers are far more common than even Confederate flags -- they're right up there with "Support Our Troops" and "W -- Still The President". And most of Kentucky isn't even really Southern -- nor all that Christian -- and Louisville isn't really Kentucky.
posted by davy at 10:28 PM on March 30, 2006


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