Wednesday, April 27, 2005



As usual, unhappy with their own personal skills of conversation, likability, and the option of buying commercial time from godless heathens, religious nuts -- from Texas, natch -- have voted to put the Bible in the 2006 Odessa, TX public high school curriculum.

If one takes it at face value, there is something to be said for teaching the Bible as literature, or even as history; explaining the geography of the Middle East and how it led to the sorry state of affairs currently occupying the world geopolitical stage; even how it has influenced art and literature for 6,000 years.

Of course, this is not to be taken at face value. This is all about inculcating a particular set of religious beliefs into Texas young'uns, regardless of which sect of Christianity the students belong, or whether the students may be Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, or, most especially, agnostic or atheist. All using money that comes from people who may not necessarily believe.

Think they mean it to be taken at face value? Go check out the website for the National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools, which is so excited about this plan that it will assault your ears with celebratory music when its website opens. (I wonder if there's subliminal proselytization occurring. Remember, this is the sect of Christianity that believes that Jesus is all in favor of bombing people into body parts if they don't follow him.)

Here's what I believe. The First Amendment does not permit any arm of the government to authoritatively force a set of beliefs on anybody. That means you can't teach the Bible in class unless you establish it as what some people believe, just as you can't teach the Koran without the same caveat. That applies to public art, equestrian statues, or publicly funded Easter egg hunts.

On the other hand, there's no reason (sorry, ACLU) that students can't have a meeting of the Odessa Baptist High School Students Society in one of the classrooms... as long as any other religious group of high schoolers can do the same. I have no problem with a statue of Muhammad on any public property, so long as it is paid for with private funds. (Of course, Muslims will have a problem with that, so it won't come to pass.) A creche at the courthouse is okay around Christmas, as long as a setting is left for Elijah at the local public library during Passover.

If these Bible zealots really do mean to have the Bible viewed from a secular perspective in this class, then they'll have to discuss the historical fact of who the actual writers of its books are, how they were chosen to be included, and whether they indeed reflect the word of a deity, or are no different than an Ovidian discourse on Zeus and Hera. All religious belief is ultimately personal, and is best shared with those who understand the truth as you do.

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