By God, Yes!
What does one do when juniors ask inconvenient questions about symbols and practices in vogue by virtue of the faith followed by the family? I have had baffling experiences as a father and again now as a grandfather. For instance, when my youngest grandchild wondered the other day:
“Isn’t Hanuman a lucky guy!’’
I asked him what made him think so.
“He is lucky; he can’t put on any uniform because of his tail!”
“He doesn’t have to go to school!’’ A Christian friend shared the unpleasant surprise he had when asked by his grandchild:
“How could God the Father, the all-powerful seated in heaven, remain a mute witness when Christ grievously suffered on the cross?’’
And then there is the classical case of the Jewish boy asking:
“Why the All-Merciful created men with a manufacturing defect that had to be set right by nothing less than a very painful surgery?” We parents/teachers often brush aside such inconvenient questions. Each religion provides its own justifications and explanations for this sort of riddles. But we often forget even the fact that we had once put the same sort of questions at least to ourselves. Though we truly believe and well conform, we seldom understand the texts deep enough. Junior’s questions are inconvenient because either one doesn’t know the right answer and/or does not have enough patience to explain. In either case, the child is left guessing or tends to make conclusions not entirely right or sustainable.
Children of today come up with a lot more questions than those of the generation immediately past. This is because science has become the be-all and the end-all of their world. And rightly so because science is the only equipment man has to design and implement corrections in all things wrong including the ones brought about by science and technology implemented with less than enough caution and care. Under the circumstances what place should religion have in education? “No-religion-please” and “only-my-religion-please” are of course extremes. The argument in favour of the first attitude is supposed to be based on utilitarianism: what does it give? It does not qualify one for any job, cannot be sold for a profit, will not be accepted in exchange for anything worthwhile and heaven provides no attraction unless it is
available right here and now. Why waste precious time which can be more profitably utilised?
Happiness is not one among the commodities modern education proffers. It helps find a job or profession, earn enough to fulfill necessities, even comforts and luxuries, and insures against eventualities threatening animal comforts. But is this all there is to life?
How about happiness; earning and keeping it? Motivation for material success ends up in wild goose chases if a backdrop of ‘emotivation’ does not bring up the rear as well. Faith alone heals, refreshes and redeems!
Right, in that case, why not the second attitude? Why waste time bothering about many a religion when one’s own will suffice? Well, it won’t. Comparison alone can make conviction deeper and firmer. An idea accepted without choice or comparison may later appear unworthy and that too at a critical juncture and even too late.
Recently I happened to be talking to a group of Indians in the United States on the sciencephilosophy equation.
“Do you mean religion and science?’’ was the question that popped up just as I had just covered the introduction part of the talk.
I said, “yes”.
“All religions,” I said.
“Do you mean to say one should study all the religions of the world? It will be ideal if one has the time and also is willing to do that. But I am told I should not read the Koran or the Bible or the Thora as those are all false. Have you or have you not tried to find out for yourself?”
Once upon a time we were told that the Earth was flat but now we know otherwise for sure, don’t we?
That is because science has proved it to be so.
Isn’t it scientific to be impartial? We are told a lot of things, but isn’t it best for us to make our own judgment?
Isn’t it true that science is yet to find final answers?
Each religion sets forth a set of final answers. Science, looking for final answers, naturally knocks first at the doors of religions. Why fight shy of giving it entry and a fair chance? Won’t it benefit if rudiments of religion are taught along with rudiments of science and eventually the depths of both so that an educated man is a balanced person?
Absence of multi-religious education at the school level leaves the possibility of even the educated being waylaid by the merchants of hatred. Politicisation of society on communal lines is the result. The fabric of social life is damaged. Faith that leads to hatred can never bring health and stability to human society.
Science and technology are fast bringing nations and people physically together, reducing the world to the size of a marble on one’s palm. If refined faith helps demolish emotional barriers at the same rate it will certainly mark the beginning of a new era which is in fact overdue.
So, do we teach all religions in schools?
Yes, by God, we better do!