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View Full Version : Mythology vs. Religious classes?



faye_cat
March 21st, 2009, 06:04 AM
So a random thought came to me today as I rocked my son and became even more sleep deprived :bigredgri...

How would you feel if schools or colleges, etc, starting teaching Greek/Egyptian/Norse/etc pantheons as part of the religious studies program instead of the english programs?

I think it would be good in the fact that it would mean (maybe) that more faiths and beliefs are recognized as valid paths, and that more people would understand them and their followers.

Anybody else have any thoughts?

(and if this is in the wrong forum, I apologize. I thought this was the closest I'd get.)

Nuadu
March 21st, 2009, 07:27 AM
I think its a good idea the pagan trads are an innate part of all european cultures it aids your understanding of where you come from and IMO teaches you where you should be going as part of the nation.
Its already a part of the curriculum here from secondary school on. Highschool to Americans.

Infinite Grey
March 21st, 2009, 07:44 AM
Mythology constitutes the bulk of most religious beliefs... I fail to see how they can vs each other... unless you're referring to non-religious mythology vs religious mythology.

Nuadu
March 21st, 2009, 08:55 AM
I assumed it means comparative religion isnt taught in american highschools and universities much less the study of traditional pre christian religions

green aventurine
March 21st, 2009, 10:27 AM
I assumed it means comparative religion isnt taught in american highschools and universities much less the study of traditional pre christian religions

This was also my understanding of the initial post.

I also think it would be a good idea - not just because it would give people a choice of which one to follow if they felt like it but also because it would give people an opportunity to look at common links between religions and how they might have influenced each other which you wouldn't necessarily get from studying a single religion. I think this would give you a better understanding of a particular religion even if you decided to just stick with a single one.

BenSt
March 21st, 2009, 11:20 AM
Well, it's all how you look at it.

Religious studies tend to focus on extant religions. Although there seems to be lack of funding for classes in certain religious traditions. I recently took a Sikh History course, and I plan on taking a Religions of South Asia course coming up next year... but those classes were not part of religious studies but instead part of South Asian Studies. The issue that the professor brought up was that the funding for religious studies programs tends to come from outside sources. She was able to teach and be paid by a donation from a Sikh organization (with the idea that once they donate the money, the professor will have complete control from then on).

If you look into the english and humanities programs, many of them offer courses on mythology. If you look into archeology or anthropology, many of those programs also have classes on religious customs.

University though that I've seen is a money driven endevour. If a topic may not be popular or have low enrolment, because of the vastness of other topics to cover in courses they may decide to drop topics. There's also the issue of the professors themselves, what specialities they have.

I also don't think that it comes down to validity of paths, because Universities try not to dabble in that. In my Intro to Religions course last year, although it didn't study particular religions but instead major themes found around the world, Wicca was brought up.

I also think that there are issues with studying the Pagan movement because it is so segmented and not as defined as other traditions that it would be a complicated thing to study. As most reconstructed religions now (Asatru, Hellenismos, Sumerian Recon...) are based off and not a continuous line, they can't be studied in full by religious studies because we don't know the entirety of the practices, both written down or oral.

So, I don't necessarily think that it's Universities choosing not to... I think there are many factors. But you are right, there is a lack in curriculum.

BenSt
March 21st, 2009, 11:23 AM
This was also my understanding of the initial post.

I also think it would be a good idea - not just because it would give people a choice of which one to follow if they felt like it but also because it would give people an opportunity to look at common links between religions and how they might have influenced each other which you wouldn't necessarily get from studying a single religion. I think this would give you a better understanding of a particular religion even if you decided to just stick with a single one.

The thing with this though is that that is what religious studies do. I can't speak for all Universities but the program at York in Toronto has a mixture of religion in general (comparitive theme based approach) and ofcourse studying certain aspects. But you don't have to choose a single religion to study... you can choose classes that focus on many traditions. For examplke there are courses on aspects of Islam, Christianity, Judaism, and Buddhism.

The focus of religious studies is also not to convert... and the academic process is quite brutally an outsider point of view. I think that it would be wrong motivation to go into a program like that wanting to find a new religion because I don't think that you would leave satisfied.

green aventurine
March 21st, 2009, 12:58 PM
The thing with this though is that that is what religious studies do. I can't speak for all Universities but the program at York in Toronto has a mixture of religion in general (comparitive theme based approach) and ofcourse studying certain aspects. But you don't have to choose a single religion to study... you can choose classes that focus on many traditions. For examplke there are courses on aspects of Islam, Christianity, Judaism, and Buddhism.]

I was probably a little loose when I said “this was also my understanding of the initial post” because I was really focusing just on school (and not university) and thinking about my personal experiences. Apologies for that, I can see where it might have confused you. When I was at primary school, for example, all we were taught was Christianity in R.E. lessons and really what I meant was that it would be good to give people a choice when they're growing up rather than forcing them to take lessons in school in one particular religion. In my last sentence what I meant was, I thought it was a good idea not to force a single religion on people and let them know there are other religions to follow, if they fancy it. I didn't mean sticking with a single course.

I imagine all this has completely changed over here now but I don't know what it's like in America in school.


The focus of religious studies is also not to convert... and the academic process is quite brutally an outsider point of view. I think that it would be wrong motivation to go into a program like that wanting to find a new religion because I don't think that you would leave satisfied.

I began a comparative religion university degree years ago (which I left after about six months maybe) and also found that religious studies is not out to convert.

There were some people who were complete atheists on the course and some people who were religious etc but I don't know their motivations for joining it. I can't really comment on current programmes, especially not in America, but for me personally, academic texts/articles in general are a big factor with exploring religion/spirituality and also making choices in some instances.

BenSt
March 21st, 2009, 09:00 PM
I was probably a little loose when I said “this was also my understanding of the initial post” because I was really focusing just on school (and not university) and thinking about my personal experiences. Apologies for that, I can see where it might have confused you. When I was at primary school, for example, all we were taught was Christianity in R.E. lessons and really what I meant was that it would be good to give people a choice when they're growing up rather than forcing them to take lessons in school in one particular religion. In my last sentence what I meant was, I thought it was a good idea not to force a single religion on people and let them know there are other religions to follow, if they fancy it. I didn't mean sticking with a single course.

I imagine all this has completely changed over here now but I don't know what it's like in America in school.

I think you raise an important point. I attended a british school in North Wales before I emmigrated to Canada with my family and your right, it's very common to find religion in public schools like the Lords Prayer or the Christmas story at Christmas assemblies. I didn't know that you have to take lessons in Christianity, that is not something I can agree with.

In public schools here in Ontario religion is strictly out of the curriculum. There is a catholic and other private systems ofcoruse but that's a choice for people to go there.


I began a comparative religion university degree years ago (which I left after about six months maybe) and also found that religious studies is not out to convert.

There were some people who were complete atheists on the course and some people who were religious etc but I don't know their motivations for joining it. I can't really comment on current programmes, especially not in America, but for me personally, academic texts/articles in general are a big factor with exploring religion/spirituality and also making choices in some instances.

Oh and I don't disculde that some people may go into the programs searching, I mean I certainly did. But I think I've come to realize that the whole way of studying a religion is really in an academic, societal way to the point that it does take away the reverential aspect and atmosphere out of the texts. Which I think is good because otherwise it would create potential problems. Thats cool you went for the program, albeit fort 6 months, nice :)

green aventurine
March 22nd, 2009, 01:16 PM
I think you raise an important point. I attended a british school in North Wales before I emmigrated to Canada with my family and your right, it's very common to find religion in public schools like the Lords Prayer or the Christmas story at Christmas assemblies. I didn't know that you have to take lessons in Christianity, that is not something I can agree with.

In public schools here in Ontario religion is strictly out of the curriculum. There is a catholic and other private systems ofcoruse but that's a choice for people to go there.

It's been a while since I was at primary school, but until I left at the age of 13, I seem to remember we basically would have to do things like say grace before we ate school lunch, say the Lord's prayer every morning in assembly before lessons started and have maybe a couple of (half an hour) classes on RE a week.

I would imagine public schools might have been different but I'm not sure. There was a state catholic school near me but I don't know what happened there. My primary school was private. I personally wouldn't repeat the experience (I don't think I'd be able to fit anymore under the little school desks we had, for a start :)) or send my children, if I had any, to a primary school like that.

green aventurine
March 22nd, 2009, 01:45 PM
Oh and I don't disculde that some people may go into the programs searching, I mean I certainly did. But I think I've come to realize that the whole way of studying a religion is really in an academic, societal way to the point that it does take away the reverential aspect and atmosphere out of the texts. Which I think is good because otherwise it would create potential problems. Thats cool you went for the program, albeit fort 6 months, nice :)

I was 19 at the time and it just wasn't really the right time for me to be doing a degree and I left it after about a couple of terms.

It's an interesting point that you mention about your experiences with the attitude towards texts - it's possible from what you've said that I come from a slightly different perspective/approach to you (these days, anyway) towards religion etc, so it wouldn't be that noticeable for me necessarily (it's a little difficult to explain in couple of sentences). But yes, while I think it would be appropriate for a minister to be trying to convert people during a church service or having that kind of attitude towards the Bible, it would be very inappropriate/unprofessional for a university teacher behaving like that during a lecture on the Bible.

BenSt
July 22nd, 2009, 11:10 PM
Exactly, it would be. And the truth of the matter is that most universities or colleges that are publicly run and funded and connected with the greater academic world certainly do have biases and ideas of whats in vogue and not... the one hallmark about them is that they are more objective than a religious institution. Religious institutions are always preaching to the choir and so they take for granted the fact that everyone in the audience believes the same way. If an academic tried to promote an idea as truth that was not shared, she/he would come under major scrutiny because of the core ideals of academia. That being said, religious academics have to also be very careful that they don't promote ideas that could be viewed as blasphemous. Christianity and to some extent Buddhism, are very open to academic scrutiny and attenton because they have recieved quite a lot of it. Academic scrutiny such as promoting historically based findings of history that may fly in the face of religious doctrine is a little more difficult and contreversial with religions like Sikhism, Hinduism and Islam. Not because of anything in these religions, but mostly because academic attention of these faiths have been to a much lesser degree than Christianity.


I was 19 at the time and it just wasn't really the right time for me to be doing a degree and I left it after about a couple of terms.

It's an interesting point that you mention about your experiences with the attitude towards texts - it's possible from what you've said that I come from a slightly different perspective/approach to you (these days, anyway) towards religion etc, so it wouldn't be that noticeable for me necessarily (it's a little difficult to explain in couple of sentences). But yes, while I think it would be appropriate for a minister to be trying to convert people during a church service or having that kind of attitude towards the Bible, it would be very inappropriate/unprofessional for a university teacher behaving like that during a lecture on the Bible.