Monday, October 12, 2009

Does religion have a place in education?

We always want to add a nice coating of political correctness to religious topics. In fact most bloggers, writers and speakers keep religion out of their domain. For individuals, I'd like to believe that they have a personal freedom to stay out of it. Some dont like to wear religion on their sleeves. Fair enough.

But what about universities and schools?Dumbledore says ' Fear of a name increases fear of a thing itself'. So why have universities kept the shadow of religion away? Why do people stay away from people who ask religious questions? Is the very identity that kills and enlightens people not worth questioning? And why doesnt it have a place in academic institutions? Why do schools have a pseudo-secular approach to religion? There may be prayers or meditation in the morning, but no questions.

When we were in school, a certain History teacher made a controversial statement against some religious figure in her class. Clearly the statement was said with much prejudice. However the uproar that followed and the brouhaha that ensued, put all of us in a corner. Which meant that students could not speak about religion and teachers could not talk about the subject. Obviously if something generates so much negativity its much better to leave it aside and not bother right? My personal take would have been a debate. One that got both sides to explain their views,so that there is no misconception. Post that both parties could have their personal reservations on the issue. You see, even though the uproar got the teacher to apologize and the students to 'celebrate' Pyrrhic victory it sowed the seeds of political correctness.
And if religion has been the greatest seat of learning then why arent we allowed the freedom of enquiry in religion and out of it? If we arent allowed to ask questions, how dare we call ourselves citizens of a democracy.


Ketan said...


Nice post, I'd say. I think religion is kept out of education because it is not simply religion v/s 'irrelegion', but is rather one religion v/s the other. Countries where one religion greatly dominates, or the most practiced religions share some similarities (Abrahamic religions, for instance), the debate turns into theist v/s atheist one. But in India atheists/skeptics are so few, and despite the fact that though the preamble of our Constitution declares India a 'secular' state, fact remains that even the most learned judges of judiciary take atheistic stands as insult to religions rather than merely rational enquiry into certain propositions. The attitude has become like "you respect my religion and I'll respect yours, and which we'll do by not questioning each other PUBLICLY".

Plus, people attach self-esteem to their religion, so to question the very bases of their beliefs is deemed offensive. Basically, debates, which require largely dispassionate approach if something is to be tangibly gained from them, are not possible when it comes to religion as all the parties involved are deeply impassioned.

One of the fellow bloggers has done a related post here, where I have also commented carrying these ideas forward:

Incidentally, I've identified myself as atheist on my blog!

Also, my comment would've been much shorter had I restricted it to 'nice post'. ;)


Rehab Chougle said...

Maybe thats what we do as individuals. But as a collective society we may have debates on academic levels, but the content is largely irreligious. Sometimes respecting somebody's sentiments feels like keep your mouth shut!

Bhaskar said...

In the Indian context religion is also a way of life and a lot of things, from food to architecture revolve around it. So, when you start a healthy debate about religion in the form of, say, questioning particular tenets that is apt to be construed as criticism by scores of people. And of course, throw in politicians and you might soon have something like the Ram janmabhoomi issue on your hands