Here’s a really fascinating 2.5 minute video showinv the spread of world religions starting in 5,000 BC. It’s not perfect, but given the complexity of the topic, it’s well-done.

I guarantee it would shock a lot of American Christians.

In discussions about requiring a course in world religion in public schools there’s often a huge backlash by Conservative Christians … but also, many nonbelievers.

  • "Public schools should NOT be teaching religion at all. If I wanted my kid to be indoctrinated, I wouldn't be sending her to public school."
  • "Why waste time teaching kids about fairy tales? Teach kids FACTS only. Religion has nothing to do with real life."
  • "Maybe as an elective, for those kids who are interested. But do NOT require it."
Ugh. No. Americans are religiously illiterate, compared to other first world nations, and that's actually a very bad thing.

You may think religions are “fairy tales.” But Aesop’s Fables and Grimm’s Brothers stories haven’t contributed to human migration (including the Pilgrims to America), marriage, law, art, music, architecture, philosophy, psychology, medicine and war.

If skeptics really want kids to learn tolerance and/or skepticism, one of the best ways to start is to show them that:

  1. Many, many beliefs exist, and
  2. Followers are all equally convinced theirs is "true."
A lot of American Christians are so Christiancentric, they actually believe:
  • Christianity is the oldest religion
  • The vast majority of the world is Christian
  • Buddhism, Hinduism etc are "fringe" beliefs that are dying out
  • Christianity is true because it has been around longer and spread faster than any world religion
Seriously, I encounter Christians like this all the time.

Yesterday I encountered a guy who believed Buddha copied some things from Jesus, when actually Buddhism predated Christianity by thousands of years.

And we wonder why Americans are isolationist, selfish, and ignorant. Hello.

I’m not talking about “teaching religion,” but teaching ABOUT religion. ONE unit, with a NATIONALLY standardized curriculum.

Such a class would cover the BASICS about the major world religions… how and when they started, basic doctrine, number of adherents, etc.

Of course it would only touch the surface. That is true of many topics. And of course there are opposing views. Again, that is true of many topics.

It would not be necessary to “say what’s wrong about each belief system.” Simply revealing the diversity says a lot.

Another thing: Some atheists get frustrated because people don’t understand what atheism is and isn’t. Well, a class in world religions would also include definitions of words like atheism, agnosticism, humanism, etc.

Why required rather than elective? Because this elective would “preach to the converted.” It’s the kids who wouldn’t choose the class who need the info the most.

Here is Pew’s Annual Religion Quiz.

How did you do? I always get 100% … many atheists do, because statistically, atheists DO know more about religion than religious people do. That’s why many of us are atheists!

Which is why I am surprised so many oppose teaching the topic. (Overall, scores are abysmal).




I totally agree in THIS political environment it would be impossible.


Had we been teaching it all along, we wouldn’t BE in this political environment.

Unpopular?? Outrageous!! Inconceivable!!


A friend gave me a pin a few years ago:


In a comment elsewhere by @citizenschallengev3 it said

What’s the point? Science, religions, heaven, hell, political beliefs, even God, they are all products of the human mindscape, generations of imaginings built upon previous generations of imaginings, all the way down. …
I am confused as to the context, but religion can be taught in a similar way as philosophy is taught, in that you are explaining that X believed this, Y believed that...

I’d like to dig into this more, but, off the top of my head, the argument that teachers couldn’t do the curriculum justice, since they aren’t familiar with the details of the subject is kind of a slap in the face to teachers, isn’t it? They aren’t political science PhDs and might not have military experience, but they teach about wars from the Revolutionary on up the WW’s don’t they?

But then, we live in a world where Reza Aslan was confronted on Fox News because he wrote a history book about Jesus but he wasn’t a Christian. :frowning:


@ tee

To be clear Tee, “What’s the point?” wasn’t in regard to the suggestion of requiring world religion in public schools. Sorry, not touching that.

It’s in regard to the challenge of clarifying the key difference between Religious Thinking and Scientific Thinking.

Both of which are products of our Human Mindscape.

On the one hand we must acknowledge that all we see and experience, is through our senses and then processed by our brains to the best of their individual learning & abilities.

The “Mindscape” is just that, the product of our body, nerves and mind, and all its thoughts and emotions.

Religions are all about our “Mindscape" itself, with it’s constant dialogue and self-story telling and fears, emotions and needs. Its freedom to poetically tie together whatever it wants. It is the realm of the metaphysical wishing and daydreaming and story telling. Very important because its those stories that tie humans together and make community and civilization possible. It’s reflected in our need for getting together and celebrating, often with ritual ceremonies those things that are common to all humans. Birth’s, coming of age, marriage, children, witnessing and aging and repeating those events with the constantly changing roles we live out, as the seasons and decades pass.

Wondering, dreaming, storytelling and creating explanation that evolve into religions, was among the first things humanity’s Mindscape achieved - there is a good reason for that.

The important thing to appreciate is that science is sort of the same thing, but it took hundreds of thousands of years, if not millions depending on how finely we want to split hairs. In any event, not until roughly 500 years ago did people’s observational and thinking abilities mature enough to enable us to create science. Just as humanity created religions.

But science wasn’t about our inner emotions, insecurities and fear of death, it was about wanting to soberly and objectively understand the physical creation we existed within, personal feelings be damned.

Science is what happened out of that need. It seems to me (and I’m waiting for someone to correct me) that science is fundamentally a set of rules and expectations on how to observe and discuss those observations of our natural world.

Honest is its Gold Law.

Openness within a community of learned, competitive, skeptical people looking over each others shoulders is our guarantor.

The learned have always acknowledged the unreliability of our “Mindscape” that’s why science never speaks in certainties, it speaks in probabilities. As for “proofs” - those are reserved for mathematics since nothing in Earth Sciences is ever proven or settled, further learning and refinement of our understanding will always happen and it’s what makes life fun.

As for teaching a descriptive world religions course? In principle? Awesome idea! In practice, that’s were the devil hides :wink:

In one of the YouTubes I posted recently, the guy concludes with a thought that another Scopes Monkey Trail moment is on the horizon. With advances in neuroscience as applied to religious thinking, it won’t be long before mainstream science is teaching that we are wired for hyper agency detection and a desire to exist beyond our physical limitations and how that leads to religion.

It’s not teachers who are preventing this idea from becoming a reality. It’s the religious people who will be up in arms over a curriculum that doesn’t hide the uncomfortable aspects of their beliefs or the worst passages from their holy books or the terrible history their religion has.

Each religion and flavour of religion will demand that they get to send a representative to teach their version of the truth, which results in a bunch of sermons in school. The main benefit would be that kids get to see how many different religions are out there and the large number of rival interpretations of each one (especially Christianity).

Hopefully students would realize that only one might be right and all might be wrong.

All I know is I wouldn’t touch the job of writing that curriculum. There’s a good chance you might literally die at the hands of someone not happy with the truth being taught.



It’s been done. When I attended shitty public schools 20 years ago we were taught about world religions in a purely historical sense. Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism. It made no difference whatsoever.




Well, @thatoneguy, I guess that settles it.

Whatever curriculum you were taught, by whatever teacher you had, in whatever school you attended, in whatever city and state… It made no difference.

And you know this, because you know the personal thoughts of all the students who took it there.

That’s powerful.

That’s definitive.

I guess the various groups doing research into this should just stop.

Thanks for settling it.


There kinda was a Scopes Part Deux — Kitzmiller v Dover, in Pennsylvania, 2005. But it didn’t satisfy some folks.

So I’m sure something bigger will come up eventually. The Dover trial wasn’t a wild, mock-up publicity stunt, like the 1925 trial involving my namesake Bryan.

But if you have never seen the NOVA documentary on the Dover trial, I highly recommend it. It’s only an hour long.



Flash from the past. Seen it, worth watching. Good link up.


(I just now realized… are you “Pirate?” Slow on the uptake)

》It's not teachers who are preventing this idea from becoming a reality. ...《
Oh, I absolutely don't blame the teachers. They're too busy trying to make sure 9th graders can read.

And yes – in today’s political climate, only a glutton for punishment would volunteer to create such a curriculum (alone).

As I said, a national curriculum would be required. In theory, this would be compiled by a large committee of representatives from different groups, and approved (like by the Dept of Education, or whomever. Actually, I’d love to be on a committee like that.

But this is just my fantasy.

As a freshman at a public high school in Milwaukee, I took an elective called “The Bible as Literature.” We learned about how the OT and NT were painfully assembled over centuries, and translated and changed multiple times.

Representatives of various Christian denominations came in and gave us their “take,” many of which were mutually-exclusive.

I think that class made a valuable impact on my life… much more valuable later than I realized at the time.

“Bible Lit” was a popular elective course. And I don’t recall one iota of controversy. But the year was 1979. It was a different, more liberal era. I honestly don’t think most Americans realize how much more Conservative many things are now.

@thatoneguy, I apologize… I posted this a few hours ago, and I thought your comment about the class in your school was to invalidate mine. But mine had disappeared. Sorry I was snotty.








》The main benefit would be that kids get to see how many different religions are out there... and the large number of rival Hopefully students would realize that only one might be right and all might be wrong.《
This WOULD be the benefit, in my mind.

I honestly think American ignorance about religion is exactly what allowed the Christian Right to exert so much influence over the past 30 years. I think it contributed to getting Trump.


I do think, in a slightly more liberal climate, such a curriculum could be created. There are historical events, and the basic dogma of each religion could be taught the way philosophy is taught.


Another wrinkle here is Evangelical’s whiny and false narrative that “God was kicked out of public schools,” that students get expelled for having a Bible or wearing a cross, and that teachers get fired for mentioning Jesus in a historical context.

This type of bullshit has been reinforced by the shitty “God’s Not Dead” franchise, which hystronically and insanely misstate the 1962 and 1963 Supreme Court rulings on school prayer, First Amendment rights, and the role of the ACLU.

God, these liars piss me off

God, these liars piss me off
Many are liars. The rest have been lied to and are simply passing on what they honestly believe to be true.

Unfortunately the honest believers are so willing to drink whatever Kool-Aid the liars are peddling, that it’s almost impossible to convince them they’re wrong.

Maybe if school kids have their religious indoctrination countered by a true education, they will avoid falling for religion in the first place, or if they do fall for it, they can be more easily cured if they keep an open mind.


There kinda was a Scopes Part Deux — Kitzmiller v Dover, in Pennsylvania, 2005. But it didn’t satisfy some folks.
Science vs ID is just rehashing the old arguments in there most recent version. What I see coming, or the guy in the lecture did anyway, is the psychology of religion. We can stimulate your brain and give you the experience of spirits talking to you or being out of your body. We can poll people across cultures and find their common experiences.



How about, instead of teaching religion in school, we teach the psychology of belief.

If people understand that we can induce ‘spiritual’ (religious) experiences and our brain is wired to find meaning regardless of whether it exists or not, they will be able to understand any religious experiences with full awareness of the reality of what’s going on.

This will prevent religions from getting in the way of impartial religious teaching.


To be clear Tee, “What’s the point?” wasn’t in regard to the suggestion of requiring world religion in public schools. Sorry, not touching that.
Gotcha .... I was unclear of the context.