Oct 22 2008
I would be all for injecting religion into education with two caveats:
1. It would have to be done critically. In other words, as a scholarly undertaking and not in a post-modernist fashion, blindly accepting truth claims simply because they represent someone’s truth and are thus just as true as any other claim to truth.
2. The relationship go both ways: The door be open to injecting education into religion. (My guess is that once churches began having question-and-answer periods, open to the public, in which anyone was free to raise their hand and introduce questions they have about what they just heard or read, the churches would quickly want to terminate the relationship.) Why not? Why not truly open up the dialogue.
One of the most questionable approaches to the so-called culture war (science vs. religion, if you will) is the non-overlapping magisteria (a la S.J. Gould) compromise. Religion is over there and its domain is values and morals, yada, yada, and science is over here and it covers everything else.
Well let’s take a look at that approach when it comes to a piece of mail I received the other day. It’s a sample ballot for the upcoming election, with items not just for president and u.s. congress, but also proposed amendment to the Florida State Constitution. No 2. reads,
Constitutional Amendment Article I, New Section
Florida Marriage Protection Amendment
This amendment protects marriage as the legal union of only one man and one woman . . . .
Okay, for a long time religion has been injecting its values into politics. It overlaps substantially with politics. Why not intentionally overlap science and education onto the same area (oops, so much for non-overlapping magisteria) in terms of informing and guiding the push for marriage protection. And, perhaps as importantly, as a means to understand the push.
Those blindly accepting of religious doctrine and texts might claim that the value of marriage comes from their god. And it is true that the Bible god, for one, loved marriage so much that he blessed many of his early prophets and favorite sons (David, Solomon, Jacob . . . ) with many wives. And, according to Christians, he had his only son set a good example by becoming married here on earth to Mary Magdalen. Actually, he didn’t. Jesus remained a devout bachelor. Nevertheless . . . .
It seem to me that what religions frequently do is to codify the standards and values of a given people at a given time. To understand these standards and values you have to do a little digging, you have to expend some energy. You have to educate yourself in the effort to see beyond the two-dimensional sheets of printed paper that comprise a sacred text. Read some history, study some anthropology, etc.
It is true that marriage is a very common social contract — we find it in the vast majority of social groups worldwide. And in most of those groups today the contract specifies one man, one woman. At least in contemporary, developed areas.
As to why we tend to hold marriage so dear to us, I would baldly venture this educated guess: to ensure paternity for him and ongoing protection/resources for her. At least that’s the deep motive behind knee-jerk emotions. I don’t have time to go into it in depth at this point, but I invite you to do some research into the matter. For one, check out my own post on the topic here.
Thanks to marriage, males of past times could be relatively certain that the children they provided for were their own, while females could be relatively sure that the children they conceived would receive protection and resources from a father.
Are there admirable things about the social construct of marriage? Of course. Does it have a role in today’s society? Probably. But today’s reasons why people get married have changed. At least the conscious ones have. While access to health care has recently become a significant reason, assured financial support of children has lost some pull. Also less significant today is the issue of family lineage and honor.
Perhaps the better question is, In what form is marriage typically good, to what degree, and how do we enforce/encourage it? Those are complex questons that are best explored and resolved not by injecting religion into the discussion, but by educating ourselves about the likely causes and probable consequences involved.