Dan Denett Argues that Religion needs to be taught in schools as an analogue to the evolution of history and identity. Teaching facts about the worlds great religion allow 2 benefits.
1. Informed Consent
2. A case study of how cultural institutions spread, evolve, and effect the success of populations
Over time religions change,
and studying that change gives a perspective on humanity that is beneficial to students. Modern nations began as a family, a community, a small state, but to grow into empires and even global alliances they needed strong institutions to establish identity and culture. Religion provided an institution, rituals, and trademark for the underlying culture and a system to ensure uniformity.
Much like domesticated animals and plants those in power steered selection of religious principles while at the same time religions naturally took on beliefs from assimilated groups. Dan compares this natural and guided change to animals who are guided by natural and human selection for their usefulness in our lives.
In societies where religion was recently banned the state quickly moved in to provide a national culture and identity such as in the “cultural revolution” in China or in the DPRK (North Korea). These cultural strongholds hold people together with a common identity and purpose.
The modern explosion of self help authors shows how this need for purpose is a basic human need, but that there are dangers in filling it with an outdated religious framework. His example cites the Best Selling Purpose Driven Life. Where the author provides legitimate help to people in need at a steep cost of promoting scientific ignorance, denying climate change, and dulling our very real need to fix environmental problems.
Children inheriting an informed planet
Studying the function that religion and culture plays in society helps students understand philosophical arguments, history, the evolution of human identity, and the necessary needs of human psychology. It also shows them that now more than ever we need to accelerate the “human selection” of religious doctrine before the “natural selection” changes beliefs to match the future world of climate collapse and war.
That’s the devil speaking
The most dangerous philosophical argument that student need to be aware of is shutting out criticism by claiming the devil is speaking. Asserting that disagreement with dogma is a crime, will not succeed in the global and religiously fragmented world. Students must realize that there are different cultures and belief systems that need to coexist on this planet, and any one being exclusively correct can only lead to war, and disaster.