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Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Fear of “Things that are different”

Recently I heard of a situation where some parents in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador were upset that a group of Gideon’s had visited schools and handed out copies of the New Testament to the children there.

Perhaps the adults involved were Hindu or Muslim or Jewish or atheist or for that matter they may have been "Born Again Toenail Worshipers". I don’t know the reason for their ire and I honestly would rathe not know because it might scare me too much. I have to say that this incident bothers me like very few have, and anyone who has read my articles knows that I bother quite easily.

You might wonder why this upsets me so. Doesn’t everyone have the right to freedom of religion and why should another one be forced upon them you might say? You would be right of course, but is that what was happening here? Was another religion being forced down someone’s throat or was it simply a case of, as Canadian songwriter Burton Cummings once put it, “Passing out Bibles”?

With crime levels in North America rising faster than the price of oil and the moral standards of most developed nations going into the toilet, what is the harm in simply making religious literature available to our youth.

Religion has been taken out of the schools, but these institutions are still supposed to be a place of education. I can understand the line of thought that might not want specific religious ideology promoted in the classroom, but why not give our future leaders at least a chance to understand various religious concepts by accepting mainstream literature if they choose to do so?

Why not let the students who want to accept one of these testaments "take one away"? (sorry Burton)

What harm could it possibly do?

Many of the problems the world is facing today can be traced back to a basic lack of understanding of anyone or anything that is considered different in some way. So what’s the issue with kids who are of a specific religion being given an opportunity to learn more about it, or allowing those of other faiths (or no faith) the opportunity to learn about the religions of others?

Fear of “things that are different” is what leads to mistrust, hatred, terrorism and war. It is what keeps the world from actually doing what is right for everyone rather than simply their own "group", whatever that may be. It is what ensures that those who look, sound, act and speak the way we do are all treated the same way while those who are different from us are treated differently.

We see it all the time in many aspects of our daily lives, not just religion.

People always find ways to separate “us” from “them”. We refer to blacks and whites, Protestants and Catholics, Rich and Poor, upper/middle and lower class, women and men and in our own Province, even as Newfoundlanders and Labradoreans. People always want to label everyone else so they fit neatly into nice little compartments that supposedly identify who they are.

It doesn’t work people!

The reality of the matter is that there is only one category not many. That category is simply “People”. No matter how much some may try to hide the fact, it remains just that, a fact.

I may be overly idealistic, but I can’t help but feel that the more we know about our fellow beings on this plant, the more likely we are to treat each other fairly. The more likely we are to help each other out and the more likely we are to accomplish great things. Since religion has played such a pivotal role in the development of world cultures, reading the religious text of other ideologies may just be a step in the right direction.

By sectioning each other off into neat little boxes with tidy little labels we only become more and more alienated from each other, retard our progress and ensure that hatred and fear survive.

As the old saying goes, “united we stand, divided we fall”.

Is passing out a few religious books in Newfoundland and Labrador schools really that bad? I don’t think so, in fact, I would suggest that someone also hand out copies of other mainstream religious texts, the teachings of Chairman Mao, the writings of Confucius and any other documents that have touched the psyche of large populations over the centuries, either for good or for bad.

People just need to open their minds a little wider. I promise it won’t hurt too much.

Education is a wonderful thing and it might just help all of us to understand each other just a little bit better.

What’s wrong with that?


NL-ExPatriate said...

What this world needs is a good alien invasion to unite us!

Maybe then and only then will we put aside all of our different religions backgrounds and differences and stand united.

Anonymous said...

"Fear of “things that are different” is what leads to mistrust, hatred, terrorism and war."

The more I read of Myles, the more I support education reform in NFLD, LAB and all of Canada.

Maybe mistrust is due to ideological extremes that have proven they can't be trusted by, say, loading oneself with explosives and killing a schoolbus full of children.

Maybe hatred is due those who hate you and want to destroy you.

Maybe terrorism breeds from an unwillingness to embrace modernity and value life. Hell, the seal hunt sure does.

And maybe all those things lead to war. And maybe war is sometimes the best answer, ie Nazi Germany.

But to this specific cause celebre...

Maybe the issue here is that parents want to have some control over what their children are exposed to. And for the life of me, I can't understand why Myles would oppose that.

There are no red herrings here - we are talking about children. Nobody of sound mind argues censorship against adults.

These are kids. More than that, these are people's kids.
Parent's kids. Parents who want to try and raise their kids with some sense of morality.

I assume, given Myles' stance, he'd have no problems with nudists, homosexuals, Satanists, Muslim Extremists, LSD Enthusiasts, Pedophiles, etc...from approaching his kids under the guise of "keeping an open mind."

Crap. Of course he would.

I agree that there is nothing inherently wrong with exploring new ideas, and new concepts. But I disagree strenuously with the idea that parents have no right to have some say in how their children are exposed to those ideas.

NL-ExPatriate said...

Wouldn't they already have a Bible in the library? Along with the Coran and Budda and Confusious etc?

Also some of those cults like the UFO one and on and on?

Don't get me wrong I think Jesus was a great great person, profit if you will. I try to follow his teachings in my life. Mainly because that was what I was taught and party because I tend to agree with those teachings for the most part.

An even better religion or set of principles IMHO would be the ten Commandments.
But even the ten commandments are open to interpretation by different religions.
Just try and find a copy!

Patriot said...

To Anon:

To say you support education reform in all of Canada is nothing more than an insult. Do you realize that the Canadian educational system has been shown to produce a much higher overall level of results than those in the U.S.

Are you aware that certain manufacturing companies are re-locating from the U.S. to Canada because of difficulties finding the educated workforce they need in your country making Canada a better choice?

As for parents protecting their children from certain litrature, that is a load of crap. You are correct that anyone would want to protect their children from some of the things you mention like:

"Satanists, Muslim Extremists, LSD Enthusiasts, Pedophiles, etc"

but that is not what I said. What I did say was mainstream litrature.

It is only a narrow minded individual who would think that reading a bible, the Koran, the teachings of Confucious, etc. could somehow harm their children. It is this type of narrow minded thinking that needs to be changed and our children are the place to start making that change.

In your comments on one of my other articles you mention fighting the Nazis. Very true that it needed to be done, but you have to remember that the one of the first tactics used by the Nazi regime to control the population and spread thier warped sense of reality was to limit the exposure of people to "ideas" as you say parents should practice.

Again, don't take this out of context. I am not promoting hate litrature, pornography or anything else like that, but lets get real. Globally accepted theology of various cultures is not in the same category.

By the way Anon, I will be responding to your comment on my other article momentarily. Stay tuned.

BNB said...

I recall when the Gideons came to our school to pass out new testaments. There was no force-feeding religion. There was simply the offer of a free Testament. I came to find out that the Gideons are members of very many of the various Christian churches, RC, Pentecostal, Sally Anne, United etc. They fund raise and distribute Testaments to children who might not have one otherwise. And place them in Hotels for those who are interested. One girl in my class did not accept one (at her parents request.) No big deal.

The question is how do we deal with religious rights and freedoms when there are opposing views? Many schools have choosen to prohibit all religious symbolism. In my opinion this is a grave mistake. A spirital life in some form is as fundamental as mental and physical health.

Why can't we have an opportunity for all faiths to represent their own religious values?! A Menorah doesn't exclude my right to display a cross or nativity scene.

Myles has nailed the true issue here. Ignorance breds ignorance, only when we learn and open our minds will we strengthen our own faith and belief system, as well as tolerance and understanding of others.

Anonymous said...

You all (purposely) are ignoring the central issue here...in this case regarding the school...


Yes, Myles, there are problems in the US education system. No question. That said, we have 300 million people and you have 30 million. I'll put our top 10% against your 100% any day of the week.

Look, I don't disagree with you on tolerance and open mindedness. What I am saying is that, as a parent, I have the right to say I don't want my kid being exposed to everything some activist jackass wants to show him.

I would certainly let my kid read the Quoran - but not in school. Nor the Bagavad Gita, the Old Testament, New Testament, Book or Mormon, Dianetics or any of that crap. Not in school. Not from some proselytizing a-hole passing out books outside of school.

My kids are my responsibility, and no one - NO ONE - has the right to coopt that responsibility for themselves.

And 99% of parents on this planet would agree with me.

Patriot said...

Look Anon, fume all you want, but when you start out by saying

"I don't disagree with you on tolerance and open mindedness"

you really don't help yourself by following it up with comments like,

"the Bagavad Gita, the Old Testament, New Testament, Book or Mormon, Dianetics or any of that crap"


statements like:

"...proselytizing a-hole"

As much as you try to let everyone know how tolerant you are, your lack of tolerance is coming through loud and clear.

Anonymous said...

That's ridiculous, even for you.

I used "crap" as a euphism, and you know it.

And yes, someone who tries to convert children at schools is a proselytizing a-hole.

And you are STILL CHICKEN to deal with the central thesis of my argument -

- don't parents have the right to raise their own children and expect tax supported institutions not to interfere?

BNB said...

Isn't the simple fact of sending a kid to school in some very real way allowing others to raise your kids? Sending kids to school is putting a trust in others to uphold your own values. It is when there are differing belief systems, esp. religion that there is debate. At this point the school must find the compromise. I believe Myles is speaking of defeating ignorance and spreading wisdom and knowledge and not prohibiting a parent's involvement. The "tax supported institution" of school is a very prominent part of our children's lives. The truth is nothing short of home-schooling and isolation allows that sort of absolute control.

Absolutely parents have a right to raise their children as they see fit. Ultimately though the parental influence will only be a part of his/her overall experience.

Patriot said...

Well said BNB, finally a voice of reason in the wilderness.

Kujan said...

To paraphrase,

Anon says Myles is defending the right of proselytizers to corner your children outside a school and attempt to foist a secluded version of Christianity upon them.

Anon says Anybody who does not find that repugnant is insane.

I agree.

NL-ExPatriate said...

Here is a study done at SFU on schools and how different approaches have had effects on schooling and the level of education attained.


It is a long and boring read IMHO. I've been reading it now for three days.

ISDABY said...

People get a grip...the gideons pass out new testaments, so what. What kids do with them after that is their own business (and their parents). I am atheist but don't mind what the gideons are doing...Gideions are not preaching or trying to convert (are they"? they never used to...) not like other groups like Jehovahs witness who come to your door,(and then they simply withdraw when you say your not interested.)

No, someone giving out bibles is not necessarily trying to convert, just making sure people have access to the information. IF that's a problem, maybe we should prevent churches and religious groups from listing in the phone book and make them move their churches to the back roads...a little less paranoia please!

That said, if they were Moonies or from the Solar Temple...I'd say 'toss em out now'!!