Education and Faith; Reza Aslan and Religious Apologists

Here’s an article in Psychology Today about Why Education Corrodes Religious Faith. Well, of course it does; it’s all pretty obvious, but the article is a nice, concise summary for those who need it spelled out. (And an antidote, perhaps, to those who understand yet resist this, and home-school their kids and send them to religious colleges, where their faith will not be challenged by education about the real world outside their faith community.)

The threats, detailed in this article, are from history, psychology, anthropology/society, science, philosophy, humanities, and religious studies.

Education is mind expanding, in countless ways. Critical thinking, doubt, skepticism, independence of thought, and even existential insecurity, are common results. None of which make for healthy, durable piety.

Reza Aslan, author of the recent Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth and earlier books such as No God But God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam, has been in the news lately as an apologist for Islam in response to comments from Bill Maher and others. Salon’s Jeffrey Tayler responds with Reza Aslan’s atheism problem: “Fundamentalist” atheists aren’t the issue, apologists for religions are. Subtitled: “Major religions all contain macabre fables, explicit injunctions for vile behavior no civilized person should accept”. Well, of course.

Now we have to stop and ponder what we are being sold here. Aslan is essentially taking a postmodernist, Derrida-esque scalpel to “scripture” and eviscerating it of objective content. This might pass muster in the college classroom these days, but what of all those ISIS warriors unschooled in French semiotic analysis who take their holy book’s admonition to do violence literally? As they rampage and behead their way through Syria and Iraq, ISIS fighters know they have the Koran on their side – a book they believe to be inerrant and immutable, the final Word of God, and not at all “malleable.” Their holy book backs up jihad, suicide attacks (“martyrdom”), beheadings, even taking captive women as sex slaves.

There is this continual disconnect between the supposedly intellectual apologists for religious faith, who appeal to various strains of abstract theology to dismiss attacks against religion, and the believers on the ground, who take their religious texts at face value, to the point of beheading infidels and condemning gays to hell (in, needless to say, very selective readings of their religious texts), with a certain strain of right-wing American politicians among this group.

Tayler’s article concludes,

We will all be better off when we relegate religious texts to the “fiction” section in our local bookstore. And given the violence and lurid conduct they feature, we might want to stamp their covers with “X–RATED: NOT SUITABLE FOR MINORS.”

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