Potiphar12's Blog
An Octogenarian in the modern world

RELIGIOUS EDUCATION AND TRUTH

The Daily Telegraph has a report about reduced grants for people training to become teachers of Religious Education. It also has a very good leading article about the subject. The article points out that all religions promote a concept of right behaviour and that the influence of this concept extends far beyond the religious professionals of each faith. Ordinary people who subscribe nominally to a faith, without thinking too much about it, are influenced by their heritage. So there are times when the behaviour of a person can’t be fully understood without some knowledge about his or her faith background. This makes religious education a social necessity. When I was a boy RE was all about the Christian religion and the growing number of sceptics could argue that it was all a fairy story and should not be encouraged by the provision of state money. Today, the situation is quite different. religion, in many different forms, underlies the behaviour of different citizens in our multi-cultural society. If we are to understand how our neighbours behave we must understand their reasons. If we lack that understanding we are more likely to become enemies.

This relates to the concept of Truth. Most religions claim that their explanation of ‘the world, the universe and everything’ is the right one, all others being wrong. But truth is a meaningless concept. It does nor exist. It is just a word applied to things that a person perceives with his senses or believes in his mind. Dogs can smell things that humans can’t and eagles can see things that humans can’t. Their reality is different from ours. Humans agree about reality because we belong to one species, but that does not make our reality the only one.

If we accept that none of the religious stories are True, then by what standards are they to be judged? There are others available which are much easier to apply. What message does the story offer? Is it beautiful? Is it inspirational? Does it offer an example to follow? Does it inform and educate? Does it stimulate thought? Does it offer an explanation?

The creation myth of the Navaho people speaks of four clouds coloured Black and White and Blue and Yellow.  These four merged into two clouds, black and white creating FIRST MAN and blue and green creating FIRST WOMAN. You don’t have to believe the myth to see it as a beautiful story and to reflect on the inherent qualities of male and female. In this sense all great stories are True. We just have to chuck out our previous definition of Truth. Maybe Keats got it right.

 “Beauty is truth, truth beauty,’ – that is all ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.”

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