lundi 5 mars 2012

Were parents right? Poll shows the more you are grounded in your religion, the more you know about other religions

A series of Canadian Newspapers published the same story a week ago. It all started with The Gazette of Montreal. This series of articles prompted this answer from a reader.

Dear Sir,

I read with interest your article entitled “Group shows exposure to other religions likely to increase interest in own faith”1 which you say confirms the “top court's statement that exposure to different faiths does not interfere with people's own religious traditions”.
I believe a few things need to be clarified.

First, the Quebec parents whose case was rejected by the Supreme Court never said that mere exposure to facts about other religions interfered with their passing on their faith; they said that the way the government was presenting those religions was doing so. The Ethics and Religious Culture program does not consist of a simple presentation of world religions. Instead, it adopts an approach that discredits religion in the eyes of the student by requiring the teacher to always present the religious content in juxtaposition with mythical and supernatural beings. In textbooks, this often leads to the presentation of Christ and other religious figures beside cartoon characters, for example. A common typical exercise in class is to invent one’s own religion.

Second, the top court's did not really say that “exposure to different faiths does not interfere with people's own religious traditions” but rather that the parents did not prove that it did interfere and that even if there was a little bit of “cognitive dissonance” associated to the ERC course, this was all for a good cause: learning to be “tolerant”. Tolerant to what the Court did not say precisely.

Lastly, finding a correlation between two variables in a poll does not prove causality. In fact, the poll could just as well be interpreted as saying that the more one is interested in one’s own religion, the more one is knowledgeable about other religions. And that is quite different to saying that the more you are exposed to other religions, the more you believe in your parents’ faith. You may, as an adult, be knowledgeable about your religion (incidentally not necessarily your parent’s one) and have more knowledge about religions in general. This seems a reasonable finding: a Christian will know quite a lot about Judaism for instance. But this does not mean that being forced as a child to be exposed to more religions (especially in a relativistic course) will make you more of a believer of your parent’s religion. And this is what was at stake in this court case. In fact, one could use the same poll to say that the parents were right: it is best for children to first become grounded in a given religion, this is apparently the best way to be interested in other religions as an adult.

P. Andries

1. See

See also

Professor Douglas Farrow's "On the Ethics and Religious Culture Program" Report as Expert Witness in the Loyola High School vs. Ministry of Education court case.

Aucun commentaire: