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Argument for Tolerance from Harmless, Incorrect Belief
Posted: 23 March 2009 09:05 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 16 ]  
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NickC - 22 March 2009 12:19 AM

Is it justified to criticize incorrect religious belief when tenets of the faith are harmless? Should our criticisms of religion simply be criticisms of certain propositions?

Any means, within reason, are justified in the elimination of a virus or bacterium if they’re thought to cause deadly disease. Within reason gets defined by the age. In our current world, “within reason” translates to by conversation.

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Posted: 27 March 2009 06:10 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 17 ]  
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One problem with religion, whether it is the benign or the malignant version is that the youngest among us, the most innocent and the most naive are taught the mistruths and grossness of it.  Religion is no more “harmless” to children as is teaching them that 2 plus 2 is 5. It is a distortion that even the most intelligent, the most liberal, and the most cosmopolitan throw at their young.

I am dumbfounded when 5 year old children tell me that god is taking care of them. I am sickened when I hear their parents tell them if they are not good, they will not go to heaven.  Why isn’t institutional lying to children a form of child neglect or abuse?  Don’t children deserve to know truth based on evidence?  If I lied to children in my classroom and told them the sun moved around the earth, I would be tarred and feathered in my profession. Yet it is OK for us to encourage belief in children as a form of masking the brutal realities from them.  If a child asks his parent why babies starve in Africa and the child is told it is God’s will what does that teach the child?  That babies starving in Africa is OK? 

I don’t understand why anyone wants to teach children such stupidity based on religion.  It closes the doors of opportunities to children to think about how they might be able to change the world in positive ways.  It forces children to accept the ugly parts of humanity as god-ordained.

Yes, the most benign religions can appear to be exactly that.  But why prop yourself up on religion at all?  Why not teach your children that the ethics of Jainism or black liberation theology or unitarian values are really simply human and humanistic values.  That they come from humans and they are practiced and followed by humans. Why put god in the framework in order to achieve moral and ethical works? Why muddy the waters when you can swim in the clear, blue stuff and you can do it without lying to your children and without giving your children false hope and false gods?

The pertinent question here is not should we tolerate harmless, incorrect beliefs?  The question is why would you want to teach your children at all to accept anything based on such misaligned and incorrect beliefs?

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Posted: 27 March 2009 06:33 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 18 ]  
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LJ

How dare you take leave from here for so long.

We miss your commentary.  wink

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Posted: 27 March 2009 07:32 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 19 ]  
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McCreason - 27 March 2009 10:33 AM

LJ

How dare you take leave from here for so long.

We miss your commentary.  wink

It’s nice to be missed….
(but I’ve had a lot of “stuff” on my plate recently having to do with a mom who is getting to be very elderly and trying to work with my siblings to help her make choices about her future. I got to spend a week in a nursing home with her in Indiana… but that is a long, humbling experience and story…an experience that makes me realize (once again) the limits of our own personal power and the frailty of our lives from one day to the next….and in the meantime another birthday rolled around for me and I found myself looking in the mirror and thinking this is what I have to look forward too—just a fleeting moment of self-pity that needed to be released—-and then back to reality and thinking about old people in nursing homes….)

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Posted: 27 March 2009 08:05 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 20 ]  
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lindajean - 27 March 2009 10:10 AM

The pertinent question here is not should we tolerate harmless, incorrect beliefs?  The question is why would you want to teach your children at all to accept anything based on such misaligned and incorrect beliefs?

Your question is only relevant if you believe that theists believe that what they teach their children is a lie. Hint, they believe it’s the truth.

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Posted: 27 March 2009 08:11 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 21 ]  
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‘the limits of our own personal power and the frailty of our lives from one day to the next’

Indeed LJ.

Life is indeed fragile. We should savor every moment that we can.

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Posted: 27 March 2009 09:01 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 22 ]  
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lindajean - 27 March 2009 10:10 AM

One problem with religion, whether it is the benign or the malignant version is that the youngest among us, the most innocent and the most naive are taught the mistruths and grossness of it.  Religion is no more “harmless” to children as is teaching them that 2 plus 2 is 5. It is a distortion that even the most intelligent, the most liberal, and the most cosmopolitan throw at their young.

But there are things we teach children that are not true, but necessary given a child’s stage of development.  What we don’t do in other cases is try to restrict that development to the childish level for the rest of their life.  The spiritual education of children is a sensitive subject that isn’t dealt with in churches or schools and most parents don’t have a clue on doing it well.  Instead, they feed them religious stories without giving them the proper attitude for understanding because they never got it themselves. 

lindajean - 27 March 2009 10:10 AM

I am dumbfounded when 5 year old children tell me that god is taking care of them. I am sickened when I hear their parents tell them if they are not good, they will not go to heaven.  Why isn’t institutional lying to children a form of child neglect or abuse?

Back when I was around 19 or 20 I had an image of the child abuse passing as religious training that some children get (fortunately not me, although it was in the atmosphere at school, with playmates, etc., so in retrospect I imaging many of the kids in the hood got some version of it): the infant is shut into a steel barrel with a glowing red eye painted on the inside top.  Then somebody bangs on the barrel with an iron pipe shouting “You’re gonna DIE, You’re gonna DIE!” 

lindajean - 27 March 2009 10:10 AM

Don’t children deserve to know truth based on evidence?  If I lied to children in my classroom and told them the sun moved around the earth, I would be tarred and feathered in my profession. Yet it is OK for us to encourage belief in children as a form of masking the brutal realities from them.  If a child asks his parent why babies starve in Africa and the child is told it is God’s will what does that teach the child?  That babies starving in Africa is OK?

What I think children deserve is to be taught what is necessary for their continuing growth as individuals, in a form that they can digest at their current level of physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual development.  What they usually get is something different: programmed into a variety of belief systems, religious and otherwise, without being given the critical skills that allow them to move out of these as they mature.  Young children need structures within which they can feel secure.  They don’t need to get stuck inside these structures when they are no longer necessary.

lindajean - 27 March 2009 10:10 AM

I don’t understand why anyone wants to teach children such stupidity based on religion.  It closes the doors of opportunities to children to think about how they might be able to change the world in positive ways.  It forces children to accept the ugly parts of humanity as god-ordained.

Unfortunately, religious beliefs are often taught in that way.  But they don’t have to be.  My religious training was pretty loose, got sent to Sunday school in what was at the time a pretty liberal church and basically didn’t get much of anything but nice bible stories that were presented in about the same way as the OZ books my great grandmother read to me (heaven, OZ, neither were Kansas or Arizona, that’s all I needed to know).  I recall at about age 10 or 11 starting to wonder about some of these stories and was there anything in them that required something of me.  Out of that developed what I think was a pretty positive orientation (including the idea that belief in any religion wasn’t all that important, what was important was how one lived one’s life and related to other people).  The story of Solomon asking for wisdom, for example, certainly encourages children to think about changing the world in positive ways. 

lindajean - 27 March 2009 10:10 AM

Yes, the most benign religions can appear to be exactly that.  But why prop yourself up on religion at all?  Why not teach your children that the ethics of Jainism or black liberation theology or unitarian values are really simply human and humanistic values.  That they come from humans and they are practiced and followed by humans. Why put god in the framework in order to achieve moral and ethical works? Why muddy the waters when you can swim in the clear, blue stuff and you can do it without lying to your children and without giving your children false hope and false gods?

The pertinent question here is not should we tolerate harmless, incorrect beliefs?  The question is why would you want to teach your children at all to accept anything based on such misaligned and incorrect beliefs?

This is the crux if the matter, how are you going to teach your children, given that the world they are going to have to live in is as it is.  This takes me back to one of my favorite recommendations: Prisons We Choose to Live Inside.  I’ll even go back to another thread where I posted an extended quote and repost here since I haven’t figured out how to do the links yet.  confused

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Posted: 27 March 2009 09:39 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 23 ]  
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Another rock on one of my hobby horses. 

From Doris Lessing, Prisons We Choose to Live Inside.

  “We cannot expect a government to say to children, ‘You are going to have to live in a world full of mass movements, both religious and political, mass ideas, mass cultures.  Every hour of every day you will be deluged with ideas and opinions that are mass produced, and regurgitated, whose only real vitality comes from the power of the mob, slogans, pattern thinking.  You are going to be pressured all through your life to join mass movements, and if you can resist this you will be, every day, under pressure from various types of groups, often of your closest friends, to conform to them.
  ‘It will seem to you many times in your life that there is no point in holding out against these pressures, that you are not strong enough.
  ‘But you are going to be taught how to examine these mass ideas, these apparently irresistible pressures, taught how to think for yourself, and to choose for yourself.
  ‘You will be taught to read history, so as to learn how short-lived ideas are, how apparently the most irresistible and persuasive ideas can, and do, vanish overnight.  You will be taught how to read literature, which is the study of mankind by itself, so as to understand the development of people and peoples.  Literature is a branch of anthropology, a branch of history; and we will make sure that you will know how to judge an idea from the point of view of long-term human memory, recorded memory.
  ‘To these studies will be added those new branches of information, the young sciences of psychology, social psychology, sociology and so on, so that you may understand your own behavior, and the behavior of the group which will be, all your life, both your comfort and your enemy, both your support and your greatest temptation, since to disagree with your friends—your group animal—will always be painful.
  ‘You will be taught that no matter how much you have to conform outwardly—because the world you are going to live in often punishes unconformity with death—to keep your own being alive inwardly, your own judgment, your own thought….’
  Well, no, we cannot expect this kind of thing to be in the curriculum laid down by any state or government currently visible in the world.  But parents may talk and teach like this, and certain schools may.  And groups of young adults who have run the gauntlet of state education, or private education, and survived with enough of their critical faculties intact to want more than they have been given, may teach themselves and each other what they will.
  Such people, such individuals, will be a most productive yeast and ferment, and lucky the society who has plenty of them.”  pp.75-76

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Posted: 27 March 2009 11:23 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 24 ]  
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GAD - 27 March 2009 12:05 PM
lindajean - 27 March 2009 10:10 AM

The pertinent question here is not should we tolerate harmless, incorrect beliefs?  The question is why would you want to teach your children at all to accept anything based on such misaligned and incorrect beliefs?

Your question is only relevant if you believe that theists believe that what they teach their children is a lie. Hint, they believe it’s the truth.

Of course they believe it is true. That is not my point.
It is irrelevant to the theist who believes the beliefs are correct.

But it should not be irrelevant to the moderator who believes some religious beliefs are incorrect but harmless.

Whether one teaches his child he will rot in hell if he has premarital sex (very fundamental view) or if one simply teaches the child that   god works in mysterious ways—-a rather benign and moderate view of god—-and that sometimes babies have to starve to death in Africa because of god’s mysterious ways—you are teaching children that god has some just insights into humanity.  This kind of view limits children’s ability to understand and respond to the egregious problems of humanity spanning the globe. And it certainly blindsides their ability to reason. 

Whether it’s benign or malignant; whether you believe it is harmless, correct or not, from the eyes of children it is a powerful and heady message.  Perhaps the most independent and most questioning child will overcome it, but statistically, given the power of religion in our world today, the chances of that happening appear to be rather grim.

(BTW: I thought you weren’t talking to me anymore?  smile

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Posted: 27 March 2009 12:29 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 25 ]  
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Burt
But there are things we teach children that are not true, but necessary given a child’s stage of development.

What do we teach them that is not true but is necessary to lie to them about?
Granted, there are things we exclude from a young child’s education because developmentally they are not ready to comprehend or rationally understand such things. One example is explicit sex education.  Probably not a good idea to show 5 year olds porn movies and show them how men and women copulate. But NOT showing them a porn movie is not lying to them. Many 5 year olds want to know where babies come from. Any understanding parent will explain to them some of the basic facts of life with no explicit information.  This is not lying to them.  It is telling them the truth that is comprehensible for their level of thinking.  ( We do this all the time in the classroom.  It is called “developmentally appropriate” education.  But it does not involve lying or telling mistruths. You don’t teach the theory of relativity to 7 or 8 year olds.  But you do teach them basic ideas about time and space.) Telling a child the stork delivers the baby to mommy in the hospital is a lie and no 5 year old should be told such a lie. Telling a 5 year old that babies are formed inside of a mother and the baby comes out of the mother at birth is a fact most five year olds can understand. But I don’t see the necessity of lying to them because of their developmental level.

There is also a difference between what a child has a right to know by virtue of being born into the world and deserves to be educated about and what is none of a child’s business. How often her parents have sex is none of her business. How much money they spent on her birthday presents is none of her business as well. There are certain personal things about the world a child has no business knowing. Teaching your children the difference between these is important.

What we don’t do in other cases is try to restrict that development to the childish level for the rest of their life.

Agreed.  But if you don’t lie to them in the first place you don’t have to be concerned about such “restrictions.”  Instead you just keep building onto the truths that you have already told them.

The spiritual education of children is a sensitive subject that isn’t dealt with in churches or schools and most parents don’t have a clue on doing it well.  Instead, they feed them religious stories without giving them the proper attitude for understanding because they never got it themselves.

I’m not talking about sensitive spiritual subjects, here.  I am talking about parents and institutions that lie and tell mistruths to children about religion and others who   apologize for those lies and call them “harmless.”

“Spiritual” is a very ambiguous term. One can be “spiritual” and not believe in god or religion. That is a different topic for a different thread.


lindajean

I am dumbfounded when 5 year old children tell me that god is taking care of them. I am sickened when I hear their parents tell them if they are not good, they will not go to heaven.  Why isn’t institutional lying to children a form of child neglect or abuse?

Burt
Back when I was around 19 or 20 I had an image of the child abuse passing as religious training that some children get (fortunately not me, although it was in the atmosphere at school, with playmates, etc., so in retrospect I imaging many of the kids in the hood got some version of it): the infant is shut into a steel barrel with a glowing red eye painted on the inside top.  Then somebody bangs on the barrel with an iron pipe shouting “You’re gonna DIE, You’re gonna DIE!”

An extreme version…most children do not undergo such torture. It is much more benign and culturally complicit.

Burt
What I think children deserve is to be taught what is necessary for their continuing growth as individuals, in a form that they can digest at their current level of physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual development.

Exactly.

Burt
What they usually get is something different: programmed into a variety of belief systems, religious and otherwise, without being given the critical skills that allow them to move out of these as they mature.  Young children need structures within which they can feel secure.  They don’t need to get stuck inside these structures when they are no longer necessary.

Exactly. That’s why as the 5 year old ages and begins wanting more information about sex you don’t keep denying their need to understand by giving them more crap about the stork. Now you give them more details, and bring up sperm and eggs and throw some biology in there for them to think about. Later, you can start a more mature discussion about sexual intercourse, birth control, STD, etc…this is the reasonable way to educate young people.  Not throwing fabrications around for them to try to figure out.

Lindajean
I don’t understand why anyone wants to teach children such stupidity based on religion.  It closes the doors of opportunities to children to think about how they might be able to change the world in positive ways.  It forces children to accept the ugly parts of humanity as god-ordained.

Burt
Unfortunately, religious beliefs are often taught in that way.

Exactly.

Burt
But they don’t have to be.  My religious training was pretty loose, got sent to Sunday school in what was at the time a pretty liberal church and basically didn’t get much of anything but nice bible stories that were presented in about the same way as the OZ books my great grandmother read to me (heaven, OZ, neither were Kansas or Arizona, that’s all I needed to know).  I recall at about age 10 or 11 starting to wonder about some of these stories and was there anything in them that required something of me.  Out of that developed what I think was a pretty positive orientation (including the idea that belief in any religion wasn’t all that important, what was important was how one lived one’s life and related to other people).  The story of Solomon asking for wisdom, for example, certainly encourages children to think about changing the world in positive ways.

But there is a difference between the OZ books and the Bible stories.  Even in my classroom, when I read fairy tales and mythologies to my young students, we have discussions about determining fact from fiction. We are obligated as adults to teach children to discern the difference but this does not occur in churches across the globe.  Children are indoctrinated with Bible stories and they are never told they are fabrications, mythologies, or fantasy. They are told to believe in the stories or at least to believe in the god who deemed these stories as important.

So that story of OZ is indeed much, much more benign than any Bible story you heard in your liberal church. If your church outright made a disclaimer to the children attending that the Bible is a work of fiction, art or literature that would be a step in the right direction, but if they did that, there would no longer be a reason for going to church.

lindajean
Yes, the most benign religions can appear to be exactly that.  But why prop yourself up on religion at all?  Why not teach your children that the ethics of Jainism or black liberation theology or unitarian values are really simply human and humanistic values.  That they come from humans and they are practiced and followed by humans. Why put god in the framework in order to achieve moral and ethical works? Why muddy the waters when you can swim in the clear, blue stuff and you can do it without lying to your children and without giving your children false hope and false gods?

The pertinent question here is not should we tolerate harmless, incorrect beliefs?  The question is why would you want to teach your children at all to accept anything based on such misaligned and incorrect beliefs?

Burt

This is the crux if the matter.

Glad you see it that way.

Burt
How are you going to teach your children, given that the world they are going to have to live in is as it is.  This takes me back to one of my favorite recommendations: Prisons We Choose to Live Inside.  I’ll even go back to another thread where I posted an extended quote and repost here since I haven’t figured out how to do the links yet.  confused

It is the crux so why keep clinging to your belief that a benign liberal church upbringing isn’t part of the problem when it clearly teaches the wrong thing to children.  If we are going to agree that what we teach children is so important and that they need to understand the differences between fact and fiction,  and a firm training in critical thinking, again, why would you want to teach them this benign liberal nonsense?  Why not instead enroll them in a secular study of religion, so they can learn to compare and contrast the religions of the world and study religion as a source of knowledge? Why do you want to leave it to children and young adults to try to figure out? Especially when it is obvious so many of them are not succeeding at it like you apparently did.  It seems disingenuous to me.

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Posted: 27 March 2009 12:35 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 26 ]  
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burt - 27 March 2009 01:39 PM

Another rock on one of my hobby horses. 

From Doris Lessing, Prisons We Choose to Live Inside.
  ... Well, no, we cannot expect this kind of thing to be in the curriculum laid down by any state or government currently visible in the world.  But parents may talk and teach like this, and certain schools may.  And groups of young adults who have run the gauntlet of state education, or private education, and survived with enough of their critical faculties intact to want more than they have been given, may teach themselves and each other what they will.
  Such people, such individuals, will be a most productive yeast and ferment, and lucky the society who has plenty of them.”  pp.75-76


Indeed, more productive yeast, that is not fermenting in the halls of benign liberal churches….....

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Posted: 27 March 2009 06:07 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 27 ]  
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lindajean - 27 March 2009 04:29 PM

It is the crux so why keep clinging to your belief that a benign liberal church upbringing isn’t part of the problem when it clearly teaches the wrong thing to children.  If we are going to agree that what we teach children is so important and that they need to understand the differences between fact and fiction,  and a firm training in critical thinking, again, why would you want to teach them this benign liberal nonsense?  Why not instead enroll them in a secular study of religion, so they can learn to compare and contrast the religions of the world and study religion as a source of knowledge? Why do you want to leave it to children and young adults to try to figure out? Especially when it is obvious so many of them are not succeeding at it like you apparently did.  It seems disingenuous to me.

Here you are being a bit dogmatic it seems to me, insisting that you know for sure what the wrong things are.  Personally, I take an attitude of suspending judgment on the essential claims of religions while recognizing that religious mythologies are at best symbolic stories.  Given that, if parents want to raise their children within a particular religion (and most religious parents want to) I’m more interested in their teaching how to interpret stories in allegorical ways than their telling them that the stories are false.  Where we do agree is that it isn’t doing a child a favor to insist that religious myths are factual truths, but young kids have a tough time telling the difference between fact and fiction and will tend to take fictional accounts as fact.  Ideally, parents would be sensitive to this and teach in accord with their children were capable of understanding but that assumes that the parents are pretty enlightened as well.  I don’t know how Piaget is regarded in education these days, but it seems to me that rigorous critical thinking only comes in starting around age 9 (and can blossom in the teens, for sure).

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Posted: 28 March 2009 12:09 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 28 ]  
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lindajean - 27 March 2009 03:23 PM

(BTW: I thought you weren’t talking to me anymore?  smile

No, try and reason with you anymore smile

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Posted: 28 March 2009 06:50 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 29 ]  
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GAD - 28 March 2009 04:09 AM
lindajean - 27 March 2009 03:23 PM

(BTW: I thought you weren’t talking to me anymore?  smile

No, try and reason with you anymore smile

If you believe you are unable to reason with me then I would suggest it is pointless to “talk.”

Let’s just stop playing games and call it quits if that is really the case. (I don’t think it is.. You just like being a smart ass when you don’t agree with me.)

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Posted: 28 March 2009 07:45 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 30 ]  
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LJ
It is the crux so why keep clinging to your belief that a benign liberal church upbringing isn’t part of the problem when it clearly teaches the wrong thing to children.

Burt
Here you are being a bit dogmatic it seems to me, insisting that you know for sure what the wrong things are.

Not sure what is dogmatic in saying the church does not teach children to seek out factual truths (or wrongs)  which is what our forum moderator calls harmless incorrect beliefs.  Please explain to me why you would find that dogmatic. Are you now saying that churches tell children facts in their bible stories and in their talk of God? .

Burt
Personally, I take an attitude of suspending judgment on the essential claims of religions while recognizing that religious mythologies are at best symbolic stories.

At best they definitely are symbolic stories, so why can we not teach them to children as we would teach them Greek Mythology or Native American folklore?

Burt
Given that, if parents want to raise their children within a particular religion (and most religious parents want to) I’m more interested in their teaching how to interpret stories in allegorical ways than their telling them that the stories are false.


Well, now here you seem to be playing with words a bit.  If you are going to teach children that the Bible stories are symbolic and allegorical, then you are really teaching them that the stories are metaphorical and not to be taken as literal truth.  So, is this really so much different than teaching them they are “false.”  Again , we teach children Greek mythology or other myths in similar fashion and children do not grow up believing in Zeus. When you teach children to think critically and to understand metaphor and myth, you are in essence teaching them that these stories are not literally true (that in essence they are false.)  Churches do not do this with the Bible, so let’s just agree they do not, and there is a reason they do not, because they do not want children to lose their “faith” in god.


Burt
Where we do agree is that it isn’t doing a child a favor to insist that religious myths are factual truths, but young kids have a tough time telling the difference between fact and fiction and will tend to take fictional accounts as fact.

Exactly, so why do it?

Burt

Ideally, parents would be sensitive to this and teach in accord with their children were capable of understanding but that assumes that the parents are pretty enlightened as well.

“Assume” is not reality in my neck of the woods. I understand your point of view, but it seems a bit lofty and unrealistic. In a perfect world, sure….............

Burt

I don’t know how Piaget is regarded in education these days, but it seems to me that rigorous critical thinking only comes in starting around age 9 (and can blossom in the teens, for sure).

That’s correct.  In fact he would say the “rigorous” part of critical thinking doesn’t come about until around 12 (the age of reason I once heard it quipped.)  So in the meantime let’s fill that 5 year old’s pretty little head with lots of fantasy and tell her it is God’s truth.


Piaget was a genius.  Geniuses don’t do well in the education field.  Only politicians, bean counters and business administrators seem to thrive.  smirk

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jean_Piaget

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