Social Conflict and Religious Schooling

Though many like religious schools, they may be sources of public conflict that are best kept to a minimum… If so, am I promoting the wrong thing?
As the world watches some with particular Islamic ideologies attempt to destroy those with other Islamic, Christian, secular, and Jewish ideologies, one must ask whether religious schools of any kind are good. Religious schools promote religion and religions seems to be a problem. The average Western Secularist likely stands above and outside the "religious" fray and thinks, "Mild religion is ok, but the fanaticism bred in religious schools makes for unhappy children, prejudice, political oppression, factious nations, and ultimately, bloodshed."

A popular reading of current and past history may support this view, which supports a state preference for secular education. Rarely does religion seem to favor peace except within a localized community of believers. Broad religious commonality doesn't seem to insure peace, and of course deep world view differences spark conflict. The history of the West is riddled with Christian nations fighting Christian nations, and the present Mid-East embodies Muslims fighting Muslim. For examples of tensions between religions, we can look to conflicts between India and Pakistan, much of the Islamic world and Israel and the West. Religions are definitely a source of conflict!

But this popular reading of history tends to overlook the "non-religious" ideologies of the world of which communism is the most obvious example. During the 20th century, communist governments killed more than
94 million of their own people (China killed the most - 3 times more than the USSR). This is nearly the same number of deaths caused by WWI and WWII combined! Further, this number is twice the number of deaths caused by all other political and religious motivations - i.e. during the 20th Century, no traditional religion came close to causing the conflict as this non-reilgious ideology. (We will see how the 21st Century fares with its increased violence at the hands of Muslim "extremists.")

So, perhaps religion per-se isn't the problem; more accurately, the problem seems to be the presence of
any strong ideologies that would motivate people to use force or persuasion to win others to their beliefs. Perhaps John Lennon in 1971 articulated the true vision of peace in the lyrics of his song "Imagine" - "Nothing to kill or die for - no religion, too. Imagine all the people living life in peace…" Again, we find support for secular public education that seems to promote more tolerance than idealism.

However, all the above is only one side of an unrealistic picture. Surely ideologies cause conflict, but what is civilization - let alone humanity - without deep ideologies? The sum of Lennon's conditions for peace leave humanity in a directionless ideological void more akin to a drug induced high than the real world. Without deeply meaningful ideals, people are not motivated beyond fulfilling the pleasures closest to them.

Ideals (at the heart of every ideology), motivate people to action and constraint. They present beliefs, rationales, and motivations that are bigger than the self-interest of the individual. Without ideals such as the call to "love your neighbor," to not covet, to not steal, to value human life, to value human equality, etc. the world would not be a place of peace. Without ideals - natural desire, disease, disaster, and deterioration goes unchecked.

Supporters of secular public education presume that their social ideals exist apart from deep ideologic foundations. They believe kids will grow into compassionate, productive citizens with only shallow ideological nurture. I am convinced this is not true. Ideologicallly shallow cultures - even when "educated" (increasingly exemplified in Europe?) - tend to become unproductive, immoral, less humane, and more governmentally controlled. America, founded on religious ideals that secular schools cannot teach,
cannot and will not remain true to its founding ideals with its predominance of secular schools.

The path to peace is not the absence of deep ideologies,
but the nurture of ideologies that strongly shape communities toward peace! This cannot be a governmental undertaking (coercion poorly changes hearts and minds), but government can facilitate the private sector by allowing parents to do their job. Government must get out of the way and allow parents to nurture their children in the ideals they are convinced lead to the fullest and most meaningful life for their children and society. Though some religious schools may be a bane of peace, Christian schools can be a parentally chosen and vital source of peace for America and the world!
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