I don’t think that teaching a course in historical religion is a bad thing. It is true that many of our social customs and traditions have their roots in religious beliefs. “The Crucible” is a good example. It was a religious hysteria that led to the brutal killing of millions of people. Joan of Arc would be another example. She certainly had an impact on the history of France.
I recently had the opportunity to go to visit the classes of a teacher friend of mine. She teaches High School, and the topic of the classes was “The Crucible.”
Paganism and Unitarian Universalist
Knowing that I am a practicing Pagan and Unitarian Universalist, (she is a Unitarian Universalist also), she sought permission from the school principal to allow me to come in as a guest speaker.
I was briefed by the Principal, who told me that I was not allowed to try and sway the kids toward my beliefs. I agreed with that. It is never my intent to try and force anyone to believe as I do. Furthermore, I was to keep on the topic of history and not get into, as he put it, “The Harry Potter” stuff. I laughed at that one.
So, I stayed in the class for seven periods that day, explaining the difference between modern-day Paganism and the beliefs of the characters in “The Crucible.”
We talked about the Wheel of the Year, the values and ideals of most Pagan beliefs, and the history of Paganism. It was a remarkable experience. The kids loved it and so did I.
My friend also called upon a Muslim, a Jew, and a Christian Priest as guest speakers, when the studies turned toward subjects that could be addressed concerning history and religion.
The only disagreement I have is when it is only ONE religion that is being promoted.
I went to school during the time when the Lord’s Prayer was a morning ritual. I hated it. And, I refused to mouth words that I did not believe were true. To me, that was forcing a God down my throat that I simply did not believe in.
Religion as a Study Tool
Using religion as a study tool that validates history is one thing, expecting an entire nation of school children to pray to the same God is quite another. I for one, think that the rites and rituals of religion should be kept in church or within the family boundaries where they belong.