The Bible as Elective Course in Public Schools

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The full report on the National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools’ Bible course curriculum is now available from the Texas Freedom Network. The report was written by Mark Chancey, a professor of Biblical studies at Southern Methodist University. As Chancey notes, the National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools has quite a select group of supporters and they’ve managed to compile an entire curriculum on how to teach about the Bible without a single Biblical scholar on either their 8 member Board of Directors or their 50+ member Advisory Committee. They do, however, have Mr. and Mrs. Chuck Norris on that committee, so no doubt they’ll have great material on spinning back kicks and bad movies. The list of folks who endorse this curriculum is staggering and they include everyone from the American Center for Law and Justice to Kent Hovind’s Creation Science Evangelism, which hardly boosts their credibility.

One of the interesting things that Chancey notes is that the entire curriculum is written from a peculiarly Protestant viewpoint. One would think that a non-sectarian and informational rather than devotional class about the Bible would include, for instance, an examination of the history of the development of the Bible, the different versions of the Bible in use by Christian churches around the world, the Jewish perspective on the Biblical texts that were written in Hebrew and how they developed, and so forth. But this curriculum contains virtually none of that information:

Though the Christian Old Testament and the Jewish Tanak have the same contents, they are arranged differently. The Tanak has 24 books, as opposed to 39 in the Old Testament, and they are arranged into three divisions, the Torah (Law), the Nebi’im (Prophets), and the Ketubim (Writings), not four, as in Christian Bibles. Some of the books are in a different order; for example, the Jewish Bible ends not with Malachi but with 1-2 Chronicles. Students who are not already familiar with these significant differences will be unlikely to learn about them from this curriculum. Nor are they likely to learn much about why some books are regarded as scripture and others not (what scholars call the “canonization process”) and how different versions of the Bible developed.

He also notes that the curriculum treats the King James Version as authoritative, referring to its “historic use as the legal and educational foundation of America.” The Protestant nature of the curriculum is also obvious in the fact that the curriculum declares that there are 39 books in the Old Testament, which is only true of the Protestant Bibles, not the Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox Bibles (they contain additional books that Protestants refer to as the Apocrypha). The discussion on the Ten Commandments, as well, is explicitly Protestant with no notice given of the differences in enumeration between the Protestant and Roman Catholic versions of the Ten Commandments.

Chancey also notes that the curriculum goes beyond explaining what Christians believe about the bible, instead directly endorsing those beliefs as true. For instance, he writes:

The diagram “The Tabernacle,” reprinted from a Rose Publishing resource, includes “Fascinating Facts about the Tabernacle” (pp 102). Under “What is the Tabernacle?” it reads:

“The Tabernacle and its courtyard were constructed according to a pattern set by God, not by Moses. We study the Tabernacle to understand the steps that the Lord laid out for a sinful people to approach a holy God.”

“The tabernacle of the Old Testament was a ‘shadow of things in heaven.’ Hebrews 8: 1-5 tells us that the real Tabernacle is in heaven. This is where Jesus himself is our high priest (Heb. 8:2).”

[The first statement presents a theological view of the Tabernacle as a factual and historical statement. The second statement assumes that the reader is Christian and presents a theological claim of the New Testament book of Hebrews as a factual and historical statement; it also reflects a belief in Christian “replacement theology,” that through Jesus the Jewish tabernacle was replaced by a heavenly tabernacle.]

He also notes that the curriculum routinely refers to the Bible as the “Word of God” and defines “scripture” as “Old Testament and New Testament which makes up God’s written word.” Additionally, Chancey notes, the curriculum also offers arguments for Biblical inerrancy:

Not only does the curriculum treat the Bible as an inspired book and as literal history, it implies that the Bible is completely accurate in its historical claims, claims that this accuracy is confirmed by archaeology and the hard sciences, and argues that the words of the biblical books have been transmitted from the original authors to the present day without error or change. It is thus advocating a specific view of inspiration called “inerrancy,” in which the Bible is believed to be without error. Though inerrancy is a very important theological doctrine within some conservative Christian circles, it is not held by other Christian groups or in nonsectarian scholarly circles.

But perhaps the most troubling aspect of the curriculum is that it repeatedly presents the work of pseudo-scientists and cranks as proof of the Bible’s validity. A perfect example:

“Respected scholar, Dr. J. O. Kinnaman, declared: ‘Of the hundreds of thousands of artifacts found by the archeologists, not one has ever been discovered that contradicts or denies one word, phrase, clause, or sentence of the Bible, but always confirms and verifies the facts of the Biblical record” (p. 170).

[This quotation clearly illustrates the book’s apparent goal to convince students that archaeology consistently confirms the Bible’s accuracy. It also illustrates how the curriculum represents the authorities it cites. Here Kinnaman is said to be a “respected scholar.” Actually, Kinnaman’s name is largely unknown in contemporary academic circles, and most scholars would reject his theories if they heard of them. Kinnaman argued in his book Diggers for Facts: The Bible in Light of Archaeology that Jesus and Paul visited Great Britain, that Joseph of Arimathea was Jesus’ uncle and dominated the tin industry of Wales, and suggested that he himself had personally seen Jesus’ school records in India. According to an article by Stephen Mehler, director of research at the Kinnaman Foundation, Kinnaman reported finding a secret entrance into the Great Pyramid of Giza, in which he discovered records from the lost continent of Atlantis. He also claimed that the pyramid was 35,000 years old and was used in antiquity to transmit radio messages to the Grand Canyon.]

And this sort of thing happens throughout the curriculum, apparently. The curriculum actually does pass off the “NASA found the missing day from the Bible” myth as proof of the Bible’s accuracy. This is truly one of the most idiotic claims I’ve ever heard but that doesn’t stop it from being repeated breathlessly from one ignoramus to another. The fact that it found its way into this curriculum is really all you need to know about how rigorous their academic standards were in putting it together. This is stupidity on the “men have one fewer rib than women so that proves that God created Eve from Adam’s rib” level. Nor do they help their credibility by citing such authorities as Carl Baugh, a creationist fraud with a fake degree whose work is so bad that even his fellow young earth creationists find him embarrassing. The curriculum even includes videos by Baugh claiming that the earth is 6000 years old and that Noah’s Flood was both global in extent and real. This is the same “creation science” nonsense that the Supreme Court definitively ruled unconstitutional for public school classrooms in 1987.

Chancey goes on to list dozens of errors in the book, and he has an entire section on the curriculum’s “Christian Nation” arguments, all taken directly from David Barton and all profoundly ahistorical. It even includes several of the fake quotes that Barton himself has had to admit could not be found in the writings of the men they are attributed to. He also notes that the curriculum includes numerous texts that are not referenced at all but are plagiarized from other sources. The sections on Pontius Pilate and Herod, for example, are lifted word for word from Microsoft’s Encarta Encyclopedia without any attribution given. In short, this curriculum is garbage and should be removed from use in any public school in this country immediately.

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The idea of having course in public schools about the Bible makes some sense. There is a lot of literature, art, philosophy, and history which requires some basic familiarity with the Bible - not just the stories in the Bible,... Read More

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This is the same “creation science” nonsense that the Supreme Court definitively ruled unconstitutional for public school classrooms in 1987.

Yes, it certainly is. Perhaps it is time to start enforcing criminal penalties for breaking the law.

I find it interesting that they completely ignore the fact that Catholics would disagree with what they are presenting there as ‘truth’. What I don’t get, is why do many American Christians regard the King James version of the bible as the most accurate? From memory, King James V was a bit of an oddball and he had the bible translated to *his* liking. If I recall correctly, he had one passage “thou shalt not suffer a witch in thy home” (or along that lines) to simply “thou shalt not suffer a witch”. This little bit of translation difference led to many women being tortured or ‘burnt’ at the stake as witches.

I do often wonder if all the people who “endorse” these various efforts really understand what’s under the hood. The bible (sic) is incredibly fascinating, is rife with truly deep insights into human nature, and has had an abiding, personal, and profound influence on nealry a quarter of the world’s population. Yet, through timidity, laziness, over-reaction and over-reaching, the study of this magnificent book is all but banned from public schools of the United States. When a fanatic in 1st Amendment clothing comes along and says he has a curriculum that will restore the study of this seminal document of Western civilation to the public school classroom, I know my first reaction might be, “Where do I sign.” Every reaction thereafter, however, would focus on things like, “Who are you? Where are the other deep, seminal, and insightful religious documents of the world – the Koran, the Upanisahd, whatever the Bhuddists think relevant – never mind the multiple flavors of the the Bible?” IMHO, studying these great documents (all of them, not just the Bible) ought to be as much a requirement of a sound high school education as Civics and History 101; not as religion but as one of the most significant underpinnings of most of extant human civilization. And, for the fundies of the world, if you truly have the faith in your God that Jesus seeks from you, then what a marvelous foundation your children will have for their prayers and meditations. IMHO.

The problem is, religions regard being told of their religion as being ‘converted’ or beginning said process of conversion. It’s interesting though, that all through my Catholic education I was taught about other religions, what they believed and other aspects.

As usual, I was less than clear. What is being palmed off as a non-sectarian, even handed, intellectual approach to the Bible appears to be a very poorly disguised fundie tract intended, once again, to slip a little illegal establishment of religion into the public school system.

He also notes that the curriculum treats the King James Version as authoritative,

What, are they going to imply that the Bible was written in English? That Moses and Abraham and all of them went around speaking English?

referring to its “historic use as the legal and educational foundation of America.”

Ummm, didn’t Jefferson write his own Bible version, stripping out some of the more supernatural claims? If the King James version was the one historically used as the legal and educational foundation of America, why did Jefferson decide to make his own version? More important, if the Bible in general is the historic legal and educational foundation of America, why are so little of its commandments found in the Constitution? I see nothing about Adultery, violating the Sabbath, or honoring parents in the Constitution. Furthermore, none of the dietary laws in the Bible appear in the Constitution, or any reference to a state religion or to requirements to obey and worship the Lord, as required by the first several commandments.

On the other hand, I do seem to remember the “no religious test shall be required to hold public office” and “Congress shall make no law regarding the establishment of religion nor prohibiting the free practice thereof.” Curious words to include if the Bible, and one particular religion’s interpretation of the Bible, were the “legal and educational foundation of American.”

Usually I sit back and let the guys with the official science credentials comment on the science stuff, but this is constitutional law, and it’s my area of actual expertise, and I’ll be damned if I let religious extremists misunderstand and misrepresent it so egregiously.

The very last thing the conservatives would tolerate would be a serious Bible class like the kind of Bible courses frequently offered to Freshmen in nonsectarian colleges. The scholarly consensus about the Bible is far more threatening to fundamentalists than the scientific consensus about evolution.

I don’t think you can make a plausible historical case that Darwinism had much to do with the increase in secularism over the last hundred and fifty years or so, but there’s plenty of reason to think that scriptural studies have played a key role in the loosening of the grip of theology over Western thought since the 17th Century. Spinoza’s Tractatus theologico-politicus(1670), which introduced a rational way of reading scripture, was a far more dangerous book than the Origin of Species.

In my high school English class, we had a section on the Bible. The teacher prefaced it with, “I know that not all of you find this book to have spiritual significance; however, its significance in Western literature is indisputable, and that’s the perspective we’re going to take.” And she did; we read some fairly non-sectarian passages (the Good Samaritan, etc.), and discussed them from a literary standpoint.

It blows my mind that high school kids don’t know the Bible stories that form such a central part of Western tradition. And nobody has much of a feel for the English language without some familiarity with the cadences of the KJV.

Readers of these threads will note that many of us infidels are quite fond of scripture and know it rather better than the run of traditioanal believers who apparently honor the Word more often than they read it. The recent debates about the Ten Commandments revealled a really shocking level of ignorance of the actual texts on the part of supporters of religious displays in public buildings.

The Texas Freedom Network, which includes clergy of several faiths, also said the course offered by the Greensboro, N.C.-based National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools is full of errors and dubious research.

Source: Clergy group attacks schools’ Bible study course Watchdog group says class promotes fundamentalist Christian world view.

How sad to see how some people rely on public education to teach the Bible to their children.

Now let’s teach the controversy… :-)

There was a bible class in my High School, and IIRC, the protests all came from fundamentalists unhappy that the guy wasn’t teaching literalism.

As any serious Biblical scholar knows, the King James version is not the authoritative English translation of the Bible. The version used in any genuinely academic institute is the Revised New Standard Version. But even if public, taxpayer funded schools wanted to teach Bible study using the correct version of the Bible, it would violate the establishment clause of the First Amendment as applied to the States through the Fourteenth Amendment. This proposed curriculum represents an attempt to overturn the Supreme Court’s decision in Abington School District V. Schempp (1963), in which the court held that “We have come to recognize through bitter experience that it is not within the power of government to invade [the inviolable citadel of the individual heart and mind], whether its purpose or effect be to aid or oppose, to advance or retard.” The Biblical curriculum’s sponsors intend to distinguish their practice from Abington by showing that, instead of having to ‘opt-out’ of a compulsory religious curriculum, students can instead voluntarily ‘opt-in.’ In Abington, Henry Sawyer, counsel for the Schempps, argued that the free exercise clause of the First Amendment did not give any religious group the constitutional right to pray under the aegis of the state, regardless of whether that group constituted a majority. If the school allowed students to use their classrooms, and their PA systems, and to take time from the student’s school day to conduct even a VOLUNTARY Bible lesson or prayer session, this amounted to an establishment of religion by the state. In the Court’s decision, the justices refered to the decision in Engel V. Vitale (1962) in which teh Court said: “When the power and prestige and financial support of government is placed behind a particular religious belief, the indirect coercive pressure upon religious minorities to conform to the prevailing officially approved religion is plain…”

The court also noted that it had rejected unequivocally the contention that the Establishment Clause forbids only governmental preference of one religion over another. This was stated so as to thwart any proposal to counter the ‘coercive pressure’ of the majority religion by teaching all (or more) religions in schools.

Justice Tom Clark, writing for the majority in Abington, emphasized that “the Bible is worthy of study for its literary and historic qualities” in classes that do not involve “religious exercizes”. But this would also apply to the Torah, the Koran and many other religious books. The fact of the matter is that the Bible has no more authority than Moby Dick, except in the minds of those who freely choose to give it such authority. If their belief in this book’s authority were compelled by external human authorites, it would violate the inviolable citadel of the individual human mind and thus would not fit the definition of ‘belief’ at all. I’m afraid this is exactly what our Texas “Freedom” Network intend.

I think PvM makes an excellent point, albeit it in a suitably tongue in cheek fashion. Teach the controversy indeed.

What we need to combat said attempts at introducing a specific fundamentalist religious view into schools is the “Centre for Renewal of Education and Religion”. This Centre would have the specific mission to introduce different religious doctrines into any situation where a specific religious view was being discussed/promoted.

So on Sunday (or whenever), when Ma, Pa and Junior Religioso were in church/synagogue/mosque/temple/gurdwara a-praising of God(s), and the pastor/preacher/priest/piss-artist was a-sermonising, Lenny Flank could pipe up with “But why should we take YOUR religious opinion any more seriously than that of my pizza boy?”. Then he could mention, preferably in detail and at some length, a variety of alternative religious views of equal validity both in terms of evidence and a swathe of spiritual criteria.

An asterisk should be placed next to “God” on US currency, and the pledge should read “One nation, under/above/next to/part of/nothing to do with God/Gods (insert preferred pantheon here)/the sky/the protection of the All-Mother/the spirits/the ancestors/the great green Arkleseizure* delete as applicable”. All of which has to be read out in full, including the “delete as applicable”, in order that we don’t exclude, persecute, prefer, or offend any one’s religious views.

I see only one problem. We only have one Lenny. This is of course why cloning technology is so vital for the future stability of humankind. We need a Lenny in every place of worship, and one for every religious person (just in case), including himself. In the interim, might I suggest a series of recordings to be played as a caveat to every religious comment and pronouncement made by any religious person anywhere.

After all, it’s only fair that this heinous controversy is suitably publicised. Have I missed the point? Hmmmm. ;-)

Would this group be willing to teach the J,E,D, & P authorships and when they were written, and undeer what circumstances? Or do they wish to teach Moses sitting in the lap of God, steno pad in hand? Do they teach the fights over what was to be included? No, they have an overpowering urge to teach people to be ignorant. And as we have seen, ignorant people vote.

My honey, an educator, writer, and television producer, got the job of writing a “Religion for Kids” script. It was supposed to be a non-threatening, non-sectarian course that would increase children’s understanding of the diversity of religion. She’s Lutheran but speaks more Yiddish than I do, and is very good at solving tough communication problems.

She read briefing papers by experts and consulted with lots of groups. The Rabbi and the Imam loved what she wrote, but no wording was acceptable to the christians. We decided that christianity is really a “group of religions,” and that the curriculum wouldn’t fly in this country.

Some writers quit and some got fired, and the project died. I still wish I had a course like it when I was in school, but in the current environment it’s gonna be a tough sell.

They could have a special lesson plan on ‘science in the Bible’, teaching that the Earth is flat, the sun revolves around the Earth, pi = 3, bats are a type of fowl, insects have 4 legs, etc.

They could have another special lesson plan on ‘Morality in the Bible’, covering God’s commission, approval, or condonement of slavery, polygamy, genocide (including the unborn) and human sacrifice.

Maybe another section on ‘Economics in the Bible’, starting with the prohibition of lending money for interest, the difficulty of rich persons gaining entry into heaven, etc.

I could support Bible instruction like that, but I doubt that’s what would come of the current effort.

I see where this is coming from. Evolution supporters said “It’s not science, so it doesn’t belong in science class. Go try social studies.” And some of them did.

the project died

Did she keep any notes? Could they be published on the internet? Ie for general interest, reference and possibly home-schoolers.

From memory, King James V was a bit of an oddball and he had the bible translated to *his* liking.

Jimmy was King James VI of Scotland from the age of 1 (1567-1625), then also gained the English throne (1603-1625) as James I.

Oddball? James was what we now call bisexual, though his hetero side (he was notoriously misogynistic) was apparently expressed primarily for the duty of begetting royal heirs. Queen Anne may have felt some ambiguity about all this, since James accepted the doctrine that bathing was unhealthy (bodily sponge wipes were allowable), and typically washed only his fingertips for eating.

If I recall correctly, he had one passage “thou shalt not suffer a witch in thy home” (or along that lines) to simply “thou shalt not suffer a witch”. This little bit of translation difference led to many women being tortured or ‘burnt’ at the stake as witches.

Apparently James comes out on the good-guy list in this area. In Scotland he wrote a book about witches and their evil-doing (Daemonologie, 1597), but as King of England he investigated the witch-hunts in progress, decided they were opportunistic profit-driven exploitations of superstition and hysteria, and banned them in 1628, effectively ending that practice in Great Britain (where most “witches” had been executed by hanging or drowning, not burning).

I’m not clear as to how much influence he may have had over the shadowy group of 47 which translated the Bible into English, but they were not a royal commission as such, and attached his name to it as a dedication, not because of direct sponsorship. Nor do I have any information on the original language of “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live”, or the politics of its translation.

Hmmm - on re-reading my posts, I note that I have James banning witchhunts in 1628, three years after his death.

Mea culpa - what I get for conflating notes from different sources. That King James died in 1625 came from an encyclopedia; that he was still making policy afterwards came from Carl Sagan, The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark, pg 127:

It was King James’ opinion that tobacco is the “devil’s weed,” and a number of witches were exposed through their addiction to this drug. But by 1628, James had become a thoroughgoing skeptic - mainly because adolescents had been found faking demonic possession, in which state they had accused innocent people of witchcraft.

I suspect Sagan to have fallen victim to a typo, either in his sources or in production of this book. The only relevant reference I have here in my home library is Darren Oldridge’s The Witchcraft Reader, in which Christina Larner’s “The Crime of Witchcraft in Early Modern Europe” says that “James VI of Scotland, for example, withdrew his general commission against witchcraft in 1597, partly on the grounds that people were raising accusations of witchcraft simply to pay off old scores.”

In the same volume, “Women: Witches and Witnesses” by Clive Holmes reports that a 1645-6 witchhunt in England was interrupted by a ban on the water-ordeal by one Judge Godbolt, so I was evidently mistaken on that topic as well.

For those who have never lived in the Bible Belt of the USA, I would like to point out that in some locales an “elective” course means ‘if you don’t sign your children up for this course they will be beaten up on the way home from school every day’.

As a child, I also lived and went to school in two Bible Belt states. And yes, as a kid, if you didn’t believe like the “group”, you got your butt kicked often, or were ostracized. And I assure you from personal experence that school and church leaders turned a blind eye.

And so said The Great Turtle …

Where are public school “studies” of the “little traditions” that once were all that humans could design? The Anthropology of Religion would be an exciting, vibrant curriculum, but like MACOS (Man: A Course of Study) from a few years ago, it asks students and parents to think and critically evaluate—-and that shall not pass in post modern America.

Reading everything in translation is hardly a way to understand the richness and complexity of human thought. Greek, anyone?

I’d also like to point out from personal experence that students attending these “classes” will not be free to discuss, challenge, or question the information in any way. It’s all Truth! Questions always quickly lead to ridicule at your obvious stupidity, or, (my personal favorate), a smack on the knuckles with a ruler. Any questions are always “from the devil”. Even my dinosaur toys as a child were “devil inspired”. That’s were were going folks, it was scary then, and even more so now.

I find it interesting that they completely ignore the fact that Catholics would disagree with what they are presenting there as ‘truth’. What I don’t get, is why do many American Christians regard the King James version of the bible as the most accurate?

Are you aware that some Protestants, typically from the U.S. South, do not consider Catholics to be Christians?

“He also claimed that the pyramid was 35,000 years old and was used in antiquity to transmit radio messages to the Grand Canyon.”

Wait a second! That’s wrong! Everybody knows the earth is 6237 years old. (Or whatever.)

What I don’t get, is why do many American Christians regard the King James version of the bible as the most accurate? From memory, King James V was a bit of an oddball and he had the bible translated to *his* liking.

The fundamentalists’ rabid homophobia has even led some of them to reject the one document that has long served as their one and only “true source” – the King James Bible. When historians were able to confim that King James was, in fact, himself a homosexual, some fundamentalists released their hellfire: fundamentalist presidential candidate Gary Bauer thundered, “I feel uncomfortable that good Christians All over America, and indeed the world, are using a document commissioned by a homosexual. Anything that has been commissioned by a homosexual has obviously been tainted in some way.” (cited in Blaker, 2003, p 26).

We only have one Lenny.

“Create two, three, many Lennys !!!!!!!”

(With apologies to Che)

Seriously, anyone out there can reduce IDers to a blobbering pile of jelly simply by asking them two innocent questions; (1) what IS the scientific theory of ID and how do we test it using the scientific method? and (2) why are YOUR particular religious opinions any more authoritative than mine, my next door neighbor’s, my car mechanic’s, or the kid who delivers my pizzas?”

They can’t answer either of those questions. And they get REALLY pissed off when you ask.

Try it sometime. Preferably, next time Behe or Dembski or Meyer or one of the other Wedge-ites is preaching – er, I mean “lecturing” – near you.

I do often wonder if all the people who “endorse” these various efforts really understand what’s under the hood. The bible (sic) is incredibly fascinating, is rife with truly deep insights into human nature, and has had an abiding, personal, and profound influence on nealry a quarter of the world’s population. Yet, through timidity, laziness, over-reaction and over-reaching, the study of this magnificent book is all but banned from public schools of the United States. When a fanatic in 1st Amendment clothing comes along and says he has a curriculum that will restore the study of this seminal document of Western civilation to the public school classroom, I know my first reaction might be, “Where do I sign.” Every reaction thereafter, however, would focus on things like, “Who are you? Where are the other deep, seminal, and insightful religious documents of the world – the Koran, the Upanisahd, whatever the Bhuddists think relevant – never mind the multiple flavors of the the Bible?” IMHO, studying these great documents (all of them, not just the Bible) ought to be as much a requirement of a sound high school education as Civics and History 101; not as religion but as one of the most significant underpinnings of most of extant human civilization. And, for the fundies of the world, if you truly have the faith in your God that Jesus seeks from you, then what a marvelous foundation your children will have for their prayers and meditations. IMHO.

The problem with “comparitive religions” classes, though (I had one in hgih school and quite enjoyed it) , is simple — the fudnies don’t want it. They want THEIR religious opinions to be taught, and nobody else’s.

Just ask them. Ask them innocently “how do feel about Islam or Wicca or Santeria or the Church of Satan being taught to your kids?”

(And indeed, I am quite aware that a growing portion of fundies prefer to homeschool their little darlings rather than have them exposed to the real world. So, it’s apparent, they’re not all that interested in having Bible courses for THEIR kids — they want them for YOUR kids. THEIR kids don’t need them.)

The scholarly consensus about the Bible is far more threatening to fundamentalists than the scientific consensus about evolution.

Yes indeed.

It’s one reason why so many fundies are just as utterly pig-ignorant about the hisotry of their own Bible and Christianity as they are about basic biology.

How many fundies even know that “fundamentalism” itself is less than 100 years old . … . … . ?

How sad to see how some people rely on public education to teach the Bible to their children.

Indeed, they are nothing but pinko commie Leninists, who want to take the responsibility for religious instruction out of the hands of parents and the family, and place it into the hands of the state and its bureaucrat employees.

I think they shoud be asked (at every opportunity) to defend their Leninist view.

Are you aware that some Protestants, typically from the U.S. South, do not consider Catholics to be Christians?

Heck, most fundies don’t even consider non-fundie Protestants to be “Christians”.

For many of the nutters, the defining characteristic of a “Christian” is “one who takes the Bible as literal and inerrant”. The vast majority of Christians, worldwide, do no such thing. The Biblical literalists are, despite their rather loud mouths, a tiny lunatic fringe within Christianity. Were it not for the political influence they have through the Republicrat Party, no one would pay any attention at all to their rantings.

Bayesian Bouffant, FCD Wrote:

I see where this is coming from. Evolution supporters said “It’s not science, so it doesn’t belong in science class. Go try social studies.” And some of them did.

No they didn’t. They tried – and frequently succeeded – getting a fundie catechism class adopted as curriculum in public schools. Studying the origin, development, history, and effect of the bible (sic) on Western civilization is a completely different enterprise from the Bible study class these groups are foisting off.

'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank Wrote:

How many fundies even know that “fundamentalism” itself is less than 100 years old .….…. ?

Well… Maybe the term is only 100 years old. The debate/unlimited-warfare between the literalists and the analogists goes back to the third century ACE, at least. I can’t find my copy of the book “Orthodox Corruption of Scripture” but it’s a very accessible treatment of the debates among the early christain churches. Further, the analogists seemed to hold most of the high ground until an initially small and relatively weak sect of christians gained power through connections with some political hack named Constantine. Those who fail to learn from history…

Louis Wrote:

What we need to combat said attempts at introducing a specific fundamentalist religious view into schools is the “Centre for Renewal of Education and Religion”.

Whoa! Backup a second. From the rest of your post, you seem to be kidding but what a great idea! I’ve been looking for something to do when the young whipper-snapper database gurus finally put me out of a job…

Jim Harrison Wrote:

Readers of these threads will note that many of us infidels are quite fond of scripture and know it rather better than the run of traditioanal believers who apparently honor the Word more often than they read it. The recent debates about the Ten Commandments revealled a really shocking level of ignorance of the actual texts on the part of supporters of religious displays in public buildings.

I’m reminded of a recent letter to my local newspaper which insisted that the Ten Commandments were perfectly suitable and appropriate for posting in all government buildings, because after all, they’re just the basic rules by which we should all live our lives and don’t mention any particular religious belief or supreme being. No joke.

The letter in question can be viewed here: http://www.recordonline.com/archive[…]19letter.htm (bugmenot may be required).

Thanks, Adam! As it happens, I’ve just been researching versions of the 10 commandments for a (no kidding!) market research report, so they were at the forefrom of my mind when I followed your link and read that letter. Absolutely hilarious!

Incidentally, http://www.religioustolerance.org/c[…]0co.htm#menu has some interesting discussion of the commandments, the ways in which they have been interpreted, etc. There appears to be (ahem) some controversy…

So, it’s apparent, they’re not all that interested in having Bible courses for THEIR kids — they want them for YOUR kids.

Yes, that’s what it looks like to me too. After all, they don’t train missionaries to keep them at home for themselves.

Lenny and EoRaptor,

I was really just advocating you as an example of what to do/who to emulate on this particular issue. The whole piece was decidedly tongue in cheek, as I am sure you noticed. All I was satirically getting at (as EoRaptor has noticed) was that we could fight fire with fire.

Every time some biology teacher mentions evolutionary biology in a US classroom there is the spectre of Dembski or Gish hovering in the background wagging it’s deluded finger and saying “Now you know we religious fundamentalists, oops sorry, creationists, bugger, I mean “scientists” don’t all agree that that there evolution happened at all (or whatever).”. That spectre, whilst horribly misguided and wrong, still exists. In my humourous use (abuse?) of Lenny’s good name I humbly suggested that we need a Lenny clone (either biologically, spiritually or intellectually) present at every place of worship, religious education class or religious gathering to do precisely the same job.

They want a “controversy” taught? Fine. Instead of allowing them leeway and letting them to get away with non-existant, trumped up bullsh*t controversies about well established biology, let’s strike back with a GENUINE controversy. Let’s make sure that everytime they wish to mention their deity(ies)/belief(s) that someone is informing those to whom these things are being mentioned of the alternatives. Let’s put them on the back foot and make them justify their claims and beliefs.

This is why I parodied the DI: A centre for the Renewal of Religion and Education. An organisation specifically set up to interject every time a religious person opens their mouth. The interjections of course not being derogatory or nasty, but simply pointing out that there are holes in the claims being made, and alternative viewpoints available. With the plethora of differing religious viewpoints that exist I can confidently predict that the churchs will have gone out of business by the end of the first sermon, mainly because they would have to fund the alternative pronouncements (just as schools have to fund the drivel being promoted by IDCists etc) which may take a while.

The beauty of the idea is that the IDCists etc don’t have a genuine controversy to harp on about, the evidence is in, science won. In the ever shifting ephemeral world of religion however, REAL controversy exists, and that can be exploited in an analogous fashion. They want to play political silly buggers? Fine. Then let’s play political silly buggers with real controversy. Better even than that, we can tap into that wellspring of human guilt that lurks beneath the title “political correctness”. I can see it now: “What do you mean my belief in voodoo is not as valid as your christian belief? Are you discriminating against me because I’m black?”. With any luck we’ll tie them up in the judiciary for so long, that us scientists can get back in the lab and do some real bloody work without having to correct the misinterpretations of every agenda bearing loon and crackpot.

P.S. Ooops, after a quick re-read I thought it best to make it clear that I am not hostile to every religious thing/person etc.

The analogy I am making is that there exists a subset of religious people who wish to wrongly infest ALL science classes, universities, and scientific announcements with their particular religious dogma. Thus there is a similar situation that scientists can force upon them. If this subset of religious people think it is fair and right for them to interject their irrelevant and erroneous “controversies” into all science, then shouldn’t it be at least equally fair and right for a subset of scientists to interject a genuine and accurate controversy into all religion? The irony is hopefully apparent.

I hope it is clear that the science/religion dichotomy alluded to here is being made by this specific subset of religious people, not by me!

This seems tangentially relevant: Oldest known Bible to go online

A team of experts from the UK, Europe, Egypt and Russia is currently digitising the parchment known as the Codex Sinaiticus, believed originally to have been one of 50 copies of the scriptures commissioned by Roman Emperor Constantine after he converted to Christianity.

The Bible, which is currently in the British Library in London, dates from the 4th Century. … “That’s the really distinct feature of it - layers of text - it’s one of the fascinating aspects of it and it shows us how the Biblical text developed over a certain period, how it was interpreted in those crucial early years of Christianity.” …

I don’t think anyone has commented, but the Hebrew Bible has 39 books, not 24. 1 and 2 Samuel, and so on, are counted as 2 books. I do not know where the number 24 originates; maybe someone else does. The preferred transliteration is Tanakh or Tanach, since the last consonant is a guttural.

I think there is a better alternative to this craziness- the Bible Literacy Project, at www.bibleliteracy.org. Their text isn’t out yet, but I am very hopeful based on their research and scholarly approach… with real scholars, unlike the fundie group. Also involve Catholics, Jews, etc…

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This page contains a single entry by Ed Brayton published on August 1, 2005 7:24 PM.

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