More religion, please!

On. Giovanna Melandri, a deputy with Italy’s Democratic Party, has recently proposed a law to introduce even more religion into public schools. She has courageously published it on her blog. I’ve commented on it, but my comment has not yet been approved, perhaps due to strong words like “superstition”. I figure the next best thing is to take up the matter on my own blog.

The thrust of her proposal is this: God is alive and well in the world; belief in Him heavily influences the lives of millions and “entire communities;” a sense of the sacred is central to the lives of human beings; we must find a way to live in a multicultural, pluralistic society (presumably without fighting over whose version of God represents the truth); we must engage the “other,” etc…it sounds like she’s been reading Karen Armstrong.

This brings her to the realization that it’s time “to rethink education.” My first thought would be, “Let’s get Catholic religious education out of the schools and increase secular studies like science and foreign languages.”

Melandri’s proposal is – brace yourselves – to introduce comparative religion. She even suggests a “scientific, not a dogmatic approach.” Which sounds nice and fuzzy at first, as if to imply that all religions are part of the fabric of humanity, and none of them have any exclusive claim to truth. But then she adds that “particular attention must be paid to monotheism,” and that “adequate space should be reserved for Eastern religions.” So, Jainism and Islam will share space on the blackboard with Catholicism?

But Melandri admits there might be some difficulty in finding impartial teachers to teach the vast smorgasbord of human belief. Not to worry, though, for “incompatibility between teachers will only be temporary.” How does she know this? It seems to me that in her mind she would like disagreement to simply dissolve before the comforting flames of multiculturalism.

This isn’t realistic. More likely teachers will be at each other’s throats. Supposing there are more than a handful of teachers who aren’t nominally Catholic – already improbable in Italy – and as Catholic religious education is already part of the State curriculum, she will have to convince those lovable, infinitely pliable gentlemen over at the Vatican to loosen their stranglehold on the young. Since no Italian politician is likely to ever go against them, this rings hollow. There is not greater obstacle to comparative religious education in Italy than the Catholic Church.

Further on, Melandri assures us such a multicultural approach won’t infringe upon the Vatican’s right – according to the 1929 Lateran Treaty – to impose its own religious teachings in Italian public schools. She continues: “We believe that the discovery of the transcendental dimension, and how humanity in all its stages has dealt with this experience, is a fundamental component of personal development.” Here the text reads much more like a homily by Benedict XVI than a proposal to teach religion in a “scientific” sense (whatever that means).

In my comment I asked On. Melandri why students receiving a public education should have to study religion – the “catalogue of the world’s superstitions,” as I phrased it. Of what use is it, really? The impracticability of such an endeavor, the fragility of people’s sensibilities about religion, the mutual exclusivity that religion fosters and the utter nonsense of religious belief all point in one direction: less, not more, religion in public schools.

If Melandri wishes to do something radical, she should work on abolishing the Lateran Treaty and minimizing the influence of the Catholic Church, pulling crucifixes of the walls of classrooms and making Italian public schools more secular in nature. That is the only fair way to deal with students of multiple cultural backgrounds: by leveling the playing field once and for all.

The Choice: Islam or No Islam?

Sergio Romano concludes – in his advice column – that Italians have essentially two choices regarding the teaching of Islam in public schools:

1. Get used to it. Muslims are second only to Catholics in number, and growing.  In Italy we must teach religion in school. It’s in the Constitution – duh! So it’s only fair that majority religions get a bigger slice of pie. Screw the Jews, Buddhists, atheists and Lutherans. They’re ballbreakers anyway.

2. Abolish religious teaching in public schools. Be fair to everyone by giving priviledges to no one. The only obstacle to this benign and wise solution is the Constitution, which recognizes the Lateran Pacts signed with Mussolini’s government, giving the Catholic church the priviledge of teaching its dogma in Italian schools.

So the answer to this conundrum is the same as it was before we tuned in: the Lateran Pacts must be abolished.

Let the church teach its Catechism in Catholic schools. Let the Qur’an be taught in Muslim schools. Let public schools be a place where children are taught to think for themselves, reason, and learn universal knowledge like scienc and mathematics, history and languages. We will have a better society for it in the end.

Religion Should Be Abolished from the Public Sphere

A frightening new law was recently proposed in Italy: in addition to the already fatuous “religion hour” in Italian public schools (and you thought “one nation under God” was bad) – which is really an hour in which students are obliged to listen to a handpicked Vatican mouthpiece mouth off (paid for by the State, naturally) –  there has been a recent proposal to add Islam to the “choice” (I am quotating here – see sidebar) of religions that are taught. The reason is worth quoting: to avoid abandoning little Muslims “to the ghettos of the madrassas and integralist Islamic schools” (Corriere della Sera). Brilliant! So let’s bring integralist Koranic teachings into the public schools, where they can wage their eternal battle for children’s minds with the Catholic Church itself. Let’s let our children be the little soldiers in State-funded religious warfare. Otherwise – and here, I feel, is the real reason behind the proposal – they might become kamikazes.

For an alternative to the teaching of the Catholic religion (IRC), the UAAR (Italian Union of Rationalist Atheists and Agnostics) has proposed a program to abolish this propagandistic aberration from Italian public education.

Think about it: shouldn’t every single child have the right to personalized religious teaching in the classroom? The son of Wiccans, the daughter of Hidus, the twins born to Red-Letter Christians should all have the same right that is granted to the children of Catholics in this country. It would be chaos, as you can imagine. Muslims may yet get that taste of equality, but only because integration is so poor and Islamic schooling has the unfortunate tendency to churn out suicidal religious fanatics (and they have growing numbers). This really has nothing to do with integration or equality.

Religion should simply be abolished from the public sphere. You have a home. You have a church, mosque, synagogue. Use them to teach religion, and leave the public schools to teach science, math, history and perhaps even the history of religions. That would be a fair and necessary innovation. Anything else is bigotry.