I have long advocated that public high school students in Ontario be required to take a comparative religion class. Such a class
would expose students to various world religions and their teachings. Once exposed, they will be in a position to compare religions. Since many public school students come from religious homes, this means they would be exposed to religions different from their own. This exposure would provide an effective inoculation from religious bigotry, extremism and even violence. Sadly, incidents of
religious violence and terrorism are a growing concern worldwide, increasingly even here in Canada.
Many religious groups continue to demand that the various trappings of religion be reintroduced/introduced into taxpayer funded public schools. Often, such religious groups will argue that morality requires religion, and it is our duty as a society to give students
a moral and ethical foundation, even in public schools. Fine, I say. The Government of Ontario should then require all public high school students to take and pass a comparative religion class, as a prerequisite to graduate. Middle school and elementary students should regularly be exposed to a variety of religious beliefs, taught from a historical perspective, throughout their academic careers. What better way to turn out well rounded students than to expose them to a variety of beliefs, including atheism, agnosticism, humanism, paganism, and even LaVeyan Satanism? Doing this prepares students for choosing their own non-religious/religious path. By the time students graduate from the Ontario high school system - they will have a sufficient understanding of religion and will be in the position to choose accordingly.
Surely religious parents want their children to have all the facts about religion, including their own particular faith? Surely, they do not want their children making ill informed decisions about God and salvation? Well, actually many religious parents do not want their children to be exposed other religions. Instead, many religious parents diligently indoctrinate their children into what they believe is the one true faith. Children born into religious homes are bombarded with calls to put their faith and trust in their own particular faith. Many religious leaders along with religious parents quite often use manipulative and high pressure techniques to induce children into religious conformity - even where this has a potentially detrimental impact on their ability to be fully productive residents of this province. Quite often such such as potential friendships, career opportunities, social networking, and psycho-sexual development are greatly hindered as a result of a strict religious upbringing. The goal is to make sure children are 'saved' and put on a narrow religious path before they become young adults. Religious leaders and parents know if religiously unindoctrinated children reach adulthood they are often “lost” forever.
The next time you hear religious parents clamoring for their own religion to be reintroduced/introduced into the public schools, ask them if they would support teaching students about other religions. Keep pressing them until they admit that what they really want is a religious monoculture. In their minds there is no religious truth but their own religious texts. If left to their own devices, many religious leaders and even parents would burn freedom of religion at the stake and turn this country into a theocracy of their own flavor. Exposing all Ontario public school children, especially those reared in religious homes, to other religions is crucial in our attempts to beat back theocratic thinking. Once exposed, religious bigotry, extremism, and even violence begins to lose its power.
My proposed mandatory comparative religion course - to be taught at the high school level - which explore a variety of major world religions from an historical, analytical and most importantly critical perspective.
Canada in general and Ontario in particular must actively strive to prevent religious self-segregation and ghettoization - while at the same time celebrating our diversity. I do not believe that these two things are mutually exclusive.
I believe that in order for Canada in general and Ontario in particular to remain a peaceful, tolerant and egalitarian place in which to work and live - we must equip our public school students with the ability to better understand their own religious faith and that of their future friends, neighbors, coworkers, bosses, employees, teachers, partners - with a specific emphasis on employing their critical thinking skills and deductive reasoning abilities in that regard - while retaining mutual respect and understanding.