Harvard and Religion

Harvard and Religious Courses

A couple of weeks ago Newsweek magazine had an article about Harvard University and Religious courses. It seems that there are certain professors who believe that for a person to be “well-educated”, they should understand how religions play such an important role in much of many societies. However there are others who feel that religion should not be taught on the same level as science and other courses of higher learning. Here is a link to the article: http://www.newsweek.com/id/233413

I found it interesting that they didn’t discuss the approach that seemed to be the most logical to me: teach it like they used to teach Greek and Roman mythology when people studied to receive “The Classical Education”. It used to be that education included the Classics of Latin as a language, and Greek and Roman Mythology. This provided a basis for studying the Classic Literature. One cannot understand (to say nothing about appreciate) John Milton’s Paradise Lost without a good grounding in “the Classics”. So why not present today’s religions in a secular university like Harvard, the same way that Edith Hamilton presented the Greek and Roman myths?

I had a friend recently tell me that he was showing the movie Elmer Gantry to a group of Japanese young women engaged here in an immersion program. He stopped the film and asked if they understood what was going on in the movie and they confessed they did not. He then found out that they did not understand the concepts of heaven and hell nor of a preacher. When he asked them what religion they were, they didn’t know how to answer him. Finally one student said she guessed she was Buddhist. The teacher realized then that these students should be taught religion if they are going to understand what goes on in our society.

The various religions are better understood as stories rather than conflicting facts and we can (and should) understand not only Christianity but also other religions that are a major part of other societies.

David Kimball


3 Responses to “Harvard and Religion”

  1. March 18, 2010 at 10:58 am

    Relgion isn’t going away, so people who work in the field of public policy need to have a basic literacy with regard to religious beliefs, because it influences both the political atmosphere and also how people absorb information. I don’t think that’s necessarily true if people want to study finance or physics, so I wouldn’t make it a requirement.

  2. April 18, 2010 at 9:00 pm

    Religion has varying degrees of importance within each country and for each individual. It is just one more way of getting to understand people around the world. You can seldom do business effectively with anyone anywhere unless you have some knowledge of their cultural background.

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