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Should the Bible Be Taught at School?

Buzzle Staff May 12, 2019
Does teaching the Bible in public schools violate the first amendment of the United States? Well, at least the state of Alabama doesn't think so...
Today, the Bible is an object of controversy. Yet this is nothing new. For centuries it has been criticized and picked apart. There was a time when even those that claimed to represent it would put you to death just for owning a copy. In spite of this, it is the most widely translated, printed, and distributed book in the history of mankind.
As of 2017 the Bible has been translated into 670 languages, the New Testament into 1,521 languages and Bible portions, stories into 1,121 languages. At least some portion of the Bible has been translated into 3,312 languages. It has been used, and misused, by billions of people over thousands of years. As a result, it has changed the course of history.
As one writer once said about Jesus Christ, whose teachings are contained in this book, "All the armies that ever marched, all the navies that ever were built, all the parliaments that ever sat, and all the kings that ever reigned, put together, have not affected the life of man upon this earth as powerfully as has this one solitary personality."
It is an object of controversy in many places, specially in US as many have become very sensitive to any connection between religion and government. As the founding fathers of US were fleeing from the kind of religious oppression that can result from a state-sponsored religion, they were very careful to ensure that their new government was out of religion.
The first amendment to the U.S. Constitution specifically prohibits congress from making laws 'respecting an establishment of religion', or that prohibit the free exercise of religion. In recent years, many have used this guarantee of freedom of religion in the opposite way.
They not only demand the right to be irreligious themselves, but petition the courts to ensure that religion and religious symbols, including the Bible, are never connected in any way with government.
Yet, even if a person prefers to have no religion at all, hates religion and religious people, or actively campaigns against religion, it's hard to deny the effect that religion, and specifically the Bible, has had on mankind and the history of the world.
Even Karl Marx recognized the power of religion, calling it the opium of the people. To ignore the influence of the Bible because you disagree with it, is like ignoring communism because you disagree with it.
Recognizing this influence, in 2007, Alabama became the first U.S. state to approve a textbook to teach a course on Bible in public schools. It is called The Bible and Its Influence. It was first published in 2005, and had been used in schools in 35 states, approval by Alabama State Board of Education means it can now be purchased with state funds.
The book is 392 pages long, has color illustrations, and can be used for a single semester course or a full-year course. It was designed to avoid any accusation that it promotes a particular religion or way of life. It approaches a discussion of the Bible from the standpoint of its influence on art, literature, music, philosophy, and political culture.
Its use is opposed by some fundamentalists, who feel that the impact of the word of God is diluted by this secular approach. To make it constitutionally acceptable, authors have purposely treated the Bible like any other literary work. It is easy to see that the textbook could be considered an example of higher criticism that began few hundred years ago.
Thus, some fear that it could destroy faith. Not surprisingly, other critics of the textbook include secularists, who argue that it violates the First Amendment. Ironically, they feel that it could be used to proselytize.
Has the action taken in Alabama set a precedent for other states? Perhaps, but because of the way the curriculum selection process is set up in some states, in many cases, the question won't even arise for several years.
Considering its place in history, it would seem to be difficult to consider oneself educated without some knowledge of the Bible, as many prominent men have recognized.
  • U.S. President John Adams called Bible "the best Book in the world."
  • The early American Statesman Fisher Ames said that "No one ever became, or can become truly eloquent without being a reader of the Bible, and an admirer of the purity and sublimity of its language."
  • U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt felt that "A thorough knowledge of the Bible is worth more than a college education."
  • President Herbert Hoover stated: "The study of the Bible is a post-graduate course in the richest library of human experience."
  • Educator William Lyon Phelps said: "I thoroughly believe in a university education for men and women, but I believe a knowledge of the Bible without a college course is more valuable than a college course without the Bible."
The Bible itself says it is "alive and exerts power." Like anything with power, it has been misused over centuries, for purposes never intended. This caused many to hate it. Yet, it is an integral part of history. Whether we believe teaching it in public schools is a violation of first amendment or not, we should ask ourselves, do I know what it says?