Visions of Youth12/24/08

Religion is history

Dec. 24, 2008

By Kayla Purvis

Buddha, Gandhi, Abraham and Jesus. They may be controversial, but they’re still a part of world history. Buddha inspired Buddhism, Gandhi is associated with Hinduism, and Abraham plays significant roles in early Islam, Judaism and Christianity. Jesus’ role in Christianity is perhaps what makes Christianity the most controversial of the five major religions.

Jesus’ claims of being the long-awaited Messiah are what keep him out of public schools today. His religious teachings are extremely contentious and many people don’t want their children to learn about them. But not all of Jesus’ teachings were religious. The Golden Rule, for example, comes from the Bible and is encouraged in most schools. The idea of equality and not judging others also comes from the Bible and teachings of Jesus. The WORD program at Champlain Valley Union High School, which stands for Working on Respecting Differences, supports the latter value.

It has been proven that Jesus was in fact a real person. So were Buddha, Gandhi and Abraham. All of them led groups of people in our history and impacted today’s world. Religious beliefs aside, all of them offered deep values that we could all benefit from, regardless of our beliefs. Buddha encouraged reflecting on oneself and being conscious of one’s inner self. Jesus promoted kindness and forgiveness of others.

I don’t think that religious figures should be kept out of school simply because of their beliefs or teachings. Obviously, they did something important if their names are still remembered and used now, and students should be able to learn about them. I’m not, however, saying that any certain religion should be taught in schools. Major players in the five major religions should be recognized in school, and anyone opposed to the idea should remember that religious beliefs are set aside in school. No teacher is going to tell your child what he or she needs to believe in.

It’s not fair to exclude beliefs pertaining to some sort of deity just because they’re controversial. Evolution is heavily pushed in schools, and if we’re going to play it this way, then that belief should also be removed from our school systems. My point is that every form of belief is the same in one way: they’re a belief. Some will agree with it and some will disagree. But is it really fair to exclude the beliefs of some students and not others? Many parents don’t want religion pushed on their children, but what about those that don’t want evolution pushed on theirs?

History is important and oftentimes exciting and interesting. Buddha, Gandhi, Abraham and yes, Jesus, all played interesting roles in the history of our world. That can’t be ignored or denied. History is taught in school but how effective or beneficial is it to us students if major parts are left out or skipped over?

I don’t think that religion itself should be taught in schools because it is a personal choice as to what one believes. But I do think that religious figures’ personal beliefs should be set aside so that students can learn about their impact on the world.

Williston resident Kayla Purvis is a sophomore at Champlain Valley Union High School.