Teach the ENTIRE Bible
Letters to the Editor
As an ardent, activist atheist, I wish to add my hearty second to David Van Biema’s proposal (April 2 issue) to add the Bible to the curriculum of our public high schools. I do so for the same reason I support teaching English, keyboarding, and the US Constitution: because it’s useful knowledge for informed citizens in a democracy.
My only caution (aside from the obvious “teach it, don’t preach it”, which Van Biema covered well) is this: Teach it ALL!
We wouldn’t pick just bits and pieces of, say, Macbeth, David Copperfield, Jane Eyre, Frankenstein, 1984, or Catch-22 in a literature class. We’d expect the students to read the entire work, cover to cover. Just so with the Bible.
I’d want a guarantee that students would be exposed not merely to the pleasing platitudes that preachers cherry-pick for their Sunday sermons each week. They should also see all the stupidity, cruelty, arrogance, contradictions, pettiness, racism, and sexism that the Bible has in abundance. Many teachers of literature justly extol the soaring poetry and stately cadences of some of the Bible’s finer writing, but they too often skip over their least favorite parts -- the mindlessly dreary, plodding “begats” and other passages that the average teenager would rightly liken to spending spring break in Snooze-Out City, just prior to asking “Is THIS the best that divine inspiration could produce?”. It would be swell if students were encouraged to ask why God had it in for graven images, but somehow “Treat women and black people as fellow human beings.” didn’t make it into his Top 10.
Van Biema quoted a couple of religiously motivated sources of pedagogical information about the Bible. It’s too bad he didn’t do a simple web search to come up with 2 invaluable resources:
that provide exactly what their parent organization (OABITAR) claims: Objectivity, Accuracy, and Balance In Teaching About Religion.
I must confess that my enthusiasm for this proposal is not entirely selfless. As an atheist, I totally subscribe to the position espoused by the late, great Isaac Asimov: “Properly read, the Bible is the most potent force for atheism ever conceived.”
Let’s get started!