Picked this on up in the NYT. Apparently, college students are becoming more religious.Â
Why? The article speculates on social issues and trends, such as the religious right both sending more kids on to college and that the RR has sparked religious discussion causing questioning. September 11th has also made us aware that religion is important and shapes our world.
My opinion also is that secularism is not a satisfying philosophy. It was never meant to be a philosophy that governed private and family life in the first place, but one that allowed freedom. Being raised in schools where speaking about religion was not allowed sent a message that religion didn’t belong anywhere. It leaked out of our social dialogue in general. Religious parents began to feel threatened.
I think secularism, in a lot of ways, has harmedÂ more than helped the intellectual development of my generation.Â It divided us. Those religious who were frightened of this began to push back with private schools,Â homeschools, andÂ becoming tribal about the literal interpretation of theÂ Bible,Â vigorously fighting againstÂ teaching anyÂ information they feel couldÂ spiritually harm their child.Â The children of these parents have come out of these situationsÂ with a warped and gapped education.Â
But the children of the secular familiesÂ are no better off. They were taught a history where religion made very little impact on history or scientific development. Often, it was only the negative occurances regarding religion that was left in the histories. These children fearÂ religion.
As often happens,Â whenÂ a child percieves a weakness in the philosophies of their parents, they convert. What they don’t lose is theirÂ fear and loathing of the other side. Often, a convert hates the belief system they’ve come from more than they’re lifetimeÂ believing colleaguesÂ hate it.
This leads to more division, and more energy is spent on argument rather than discovery, dragging down the intellectual progress of an entire society.
The exploration of the nature of nature, the question of God, the question of our existanceÂ hasÂ a rich and deep history.Â That secularism evenÂ exists is a part of that history and ourÂ desire to let everyone explore the question without fear of reprisal. What secularism as a philosophy must now embrace is the open discussion of these questions.
Tolerance is not pushing ideas into the closet, but allowing them to be inspected and, of course, judged by all.Â People will differ from us in beliefs and sometimes that difference requires of those people a public expression. Religious sensitivity shouldn’t be about avoiding offense as we act out our beliefs, but avoiding being offended. We should be able to discuss our ideas and hear strong disagreement with them without taking it personally. Only by vigorously defending our beliefs with integrityÂ can we be sure they are worth holding on to. We may find that some of them are not.
Secularism does not allow that kind of discussion. And so, this generation of students are exploring. I hope they do a good job of it.