Want to read Slashdot from your mobile device? Point it at m.slashdot.org and keep reading!


Forgot your password?

U.S. Classrooms Torn Between Science and Religion 1115

Dystopian Rebel writes "A New Jersey public-school history teacher was recorded telling his students that they 'belong in Hell' if they do not accept Jesus. The teacher, who is also a Baptist Pastor, lied later when he was asked by the school principle what he said to the students. Unfortunately for this dodge, a student recorded the teacher's 'lesson'." From the article: "The student and his parents have requested that the teacher's anti-scientific remarks be corrected in open class, and that the school develop quality control procedures to ensure that future classes are not proselytized and misinformed. They have also referred the matter for disciplinary action. No apology has been forthcoming from the teacher or from the school."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

U.S. Classrooms Torn Between Science and Religion

Comments Filter:
  • Fortunately (Score:4, Funny)

    by MutantHamster ( 816782 ) on Thursday November 23, 2006 @04:19PM (#16966536) Homepage
    They live in New Jersey so when they wind up in Hell it won't be much different.
    • Which Hell? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Kadin2048 ( 468275 ) <slashdot.kadin@x[ ].net ['oxy' in gap]> on Thursday November 23, 2006 @04:24PM (#16966574) Homepage Journal
      Well, if they end up in Hell, Grand Cayman [wikipedia.org], that would certainly be a step up from Jersey. Hell, Michigan [wikipedia.org], probably not so much.
    • by BSAtHome ( 455370 ) on Thursday November 23, 2006 @05:05PM (#16967012)
      We all go to hell. See Thermodynamics of Hell [ediblebrain.com] for a good story. The good point made there is that regardless of which relegion you have, you will end up in hell because each religion claims that their's is the only correct one and the non-believers will go to hell.
      Happy to be one who doesn't need a religion to accept to go to hell. Finally a warm place to relax.
    • "Who would have ever thought there was such a place as Robot Hell? And that it would be in New Jersey?"
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 23, 2006 @04:20PM (#16966542)
    It's a clash between science and stupidity. You'll never hear someone like Dawkins talk about the millions of Christians who don't oppose science, because he wants to limit the debate to right-wing fundie atheists vs. right-wing fundie Christians.
    • by Decaff ( 42676 ) on Thursday November 23, 2006 @04:29PM (#16966630)
      It's a clash between science and stupidity. You'll never hear someone like Dawkins talk about the millions of Christians who don't oppose science, because he wants to limit the debate to right-wing fundie atheists vs. right-wing fundie Christians.

      Quite the contrary. Dawkins talks a lot about the 'moderate' Christians, as he considers that a large number of those have a 'soft' belief that is succeptible to rational argument. He describes the antics of the fundamentalists in an attempt to get through to the millions. And good luck to him.
    • by ThinkFr33ly ( 902481 ) on Thursday November 23, 2006 @04:41PM (#16966744)
      Actually, Dawkins talks about the millions of Christians who don't oppose science all the time.

      You obviously don't read many of his books (such as the latest one, The God Delusion [amazon.com]), nor listen to many of his speeches (most of which can be found on YouTube or at RichardDawkins.net [richarddawkins.net]), because Dawkins has made that seemingly benign group of people the target of many of his criticisms.

      In The God Delusion, Dawkins examines how he thinks these people are able to compartmentalize their lives in such a way that makes belief in God possible while also having a natural and healthy skepticism about other, non-religious claims. For instance, most people scoff at the idea that idea that there should be evidence of God's existance before they believe in him, yet would demand just such evidence if I were to claim I had a dragon in my garage [godlessgeeks.com].

      While Dawkins certainly loves picking the low hanging fruit (the right-wing religious wackos), he is more than happy to address what he views as the hypocritical moderates. In fact, he has said numerous times that he almost has more respect for people who are steadfast in their religious beliefs than those who are willing to blend modern life with religious dogma.
    • Thank you. This is a story of something that isn't so bright. :\ Christians are just like everyone else - the majority of them are stupid (just as with atheists, muslims, catholics, etc).

      "The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians...who acknowledge Jesus with their, then walk out the door and deny him by their lifestyle. That, is what an unbelieving world, simply finds, unbelievable."

      Bad #1 - Preaching hellfire and brimstone in a school classroom about science. The two ARE NOT mutually exclusive. Sure, saying you'll go to hell if you don't accept Jesus may very well be a fact, it has been well established that you are supposed to seperate church from state in a public classroom. To try to get away with it was stupid.

      Bad #2 - Lying about it. He acknowledged Jesus with his lips, THEN turned around and denied him by his lifestyle. What are those very students going to think now?

      If you feel justified in defying established rules and try to preach the gospel openly in a public school classroom, you have to walk the walk, and accept the consequences. You can't do this halfway. Either way he was stupid to try it, but lying about it makes it even worse. :(

      Gives Christianity a bad name on every front.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 23, 2006 @04:22PM (#16966554)
    It's a clear violation of the separation of church & state doctrine.

    You're not allowed to prosceletize in a public school, period.

    The school & teacher could be looking at a sizeable lawsuit.

    Oddly enough, the capthca word for this post is "idiots".
    • by rbochan ( 827946 ) on Thursday November 23, 2006 @07:39PM (#16968572) Homepage
      About a million years ago, back in the '80s, my 9th grade "Social Studies" teacher decided he was going to toss out our American history book the day before Christmas vacation and pull out his bible and hop upon his pulpit. A couple other students and I got up and started to walk when he threatened to have us suspended for leaving his class. I told him to go ahead, and walked straight to the principal's office and told him what was going on, and asked if I could go home, since it was my last class for the day. I told him I wasn't going to be forced to sit there and be preached at when I"m supposed to be sstudying American history. I wish I'd had a photo of the principal's face when I told him, his color just turned to ash, and he hustled out of the office and down to the classroom. When he returned, he gave me a pass and told me to have a good break.
      Turns out that the teacher was sitting in the classroom by himself, since the rest of the class took the cue from us and all bailed as well. He got suspended, not the students.

  • Dark Ages (Score:4, Interesting)

    by neoform ( 551705 ) <djneoform@gmail.com> on Thursday November 23, 2006 @04:28PM (#16966606) Homepage
    Funny how until about a decade ago, Science was welcomed and seen as the answer, then suddenly the Discovery Institute came up with Intelligent Design and suddenly the thought that science shouldn't be taught anymore comes up.

    Does anyone remember what the dark ages were? Looks like we're about to have a relapse.
    • Re:Dark Ages (Score:5, Insightful)

      by CrackedButter ( 646746 ) on Thursday November 23, 2006 @04:32PM (#16966658) Homepage Journal
      Nobody in America remembers what the Dark Ages were, they never had one.
    • Re:Dark Ages (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Jabbrwokk ( 1015725 ) <grant.j.warkentin@g m a i l . com> on Thursday November 23, 2006 @04:50PM (#16966830) Homepage Journal
      The Dark Ages weren't all that dark.

      They were filled with people with hopes and dreams, making discoveries and learning new things just like people do today. Just because they didn't have computers to post on Slashdot or the wealth of scientific knowledge we have today doesn't mean they were "dark."

      Science was progressing, albiet more slowly, and for different reasons. Many "natural philosophers" made scientific discoveries while they were looking to prove the bible, or learn more about the nature of God and creation.

      The Scientific Revolution roughly 300 years ago was when people started doing research for the sake of expanding knowledge, not for anything else. Yes, scientific knowledge increased and technology became more advanced, but to assume that everything before that point was just darkness and ignorance is arrogant, uninformed and shortsighted.

      I have a strong interest in science, which people should remember is not working closer and closer to a definite answer but to a broadening understanding. Scientific study often enough doesn't definitively answer questions, it just raises more questions. For example, quantum physics. 100 years ago scientists thought they could close the physics books. Then Quantum physics came along. Now every new discovery raises more questions. I think that's pretty exciting.

      As for creation "science," which is deservedly flame bait, I wish people would distinguish between people who are fanatical about the politics of "Christendom" building ridiculous museums when the millions of dollars should have gone to house the homeless and feed the hungry, and those who are followers of Christ. I consider myself the latter -- simply, a Christian. I believe God created the universe. How he did it is a matter for science to explore.

      And I'm more interested in the why.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by hazem ( 472289 )
        The Dark Ages weren't all that dark.

        They were filled with people with hopes and dreams, making discoveries and learning new things just like people do today. Just because they didn't have computers to post on Slashdot or the wealth of scientific knowledge we have today doesn't mean they were "dark."

        They weren't so dark because they were lit by the fires of burning heretics, witches, and anyone who espoused a knowledge or wisdom not sanctioned by the Holy Roman Catholic Church. Other than that, it was a pea
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Profound ( 50789 )
        >> The Dark Ages weren't all that dark.

        Europe went from the ancient world of Rome/Greece with its democracy, literacy, technology, plumbing etc, to a world where 90+% of the population were tied to a feudal lord to work land they did not own, were illiterate, shat outside and plagued by disease.

        Almost nothing was recorded because almost nobody could write, except people who were so religious they make intelligent design supporters look tame! Sounds pretty dark to me.
  • Anti-scientific? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Eco-Mono ( 978899 ) on Thursday November 23, 2006 @04:29PM (#16966638) Homepage
    The comments made by this teacher were totally inappropriate and took advantage of his authority position. So why not call them that instead of using phrases like "anti-scientific" that imply a war between religion and science?
  • Looney Tunes (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Ronald Dumsfeld ( 723277 ) on Thursday November 23, 2006 @04:32PM (#16966668)
    Religious people of pretty much any flavour seem to be normal people until you hit that one spot where the gears seem to just mash into each other and they go haywire.

    This guy shouldn't be teaching, particularly not history. Any loon who tries to tell a bunch of kids that (a) Noah's ark was real and (b) There were dinosaurs on it should have their license to teach revoked.

    Marx was right, it is an opiate, because there certainly seem to be a fair share of the users acting like they're on something.
    • by kraut ( 2788 ) on Thursday November 23, 2006 @04:52PM (#16966856)
      > Any loon who tries to tell a bunch of kids that (a) Noah's ark was real and (b) There were dinosaurs on it should have their license to teach revoked.

      Doh.. use some common sense. Of course the dinosaurs didn't get on the ark: That's how they becamse extinct! ;)
    • Where the "gears grind" (well put!) is called cognitive dissonance. The tension that occurs when 2 strongly held cognitions (beliefs, feelings, concepts etc) conflict. Common in anybody with strongly held beliefs such as some religious fundies, left/right wing political nutjobs, and audiophiles. People who not only refuse to accept evidence that their beliefs are wrong, but actually may not be able to accept it without a sort of major ego collapse. Kind of scary when you encounter it, isn't it?
  • by pembo13 ( 770295 ) on Thursday November 23, 2006 @04:33PM (#16966674) Homepage
    Such people are as much Christians as are scientists who believe the world is flat. Please do not judge us Christians by the actions of these radicals.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ex-geek ( 847495 )
      If this guy isn't a Christian, what is he then? He is a radical? What exactly is he radical about?
    • by VidEdit ( 703021 ) on Thursday November 23, 2006 @05:38PM (#16967338)
      "Such people are as much Christians as are scientists who believe the world is flat. Please do not judge us Christians by the actions of these radicals."

      You don't get to decide who calls themselves Christians! Christianity isn't a trademark. It is what ever someone says it is to them.

      The idea that people will to hell if they don't accept christ as their personal savior is, to my understanding, fairly mainstream Christianity. It is very hard to try and prove that one person's irrational belief is ridiculous and radical whereas your irrational belief is completely reasonable. How do you prove a difference? Trying to claim that your religion is demonstrably "truer" or "more Christian" on rational grounds is going to be a bit of a stretch. I'd say that most Christians aren't very Christian in the sense of following the teaching of Christ which centered primarily around caring for the poor among us. By that standard, the idea of a rich "Christian" preacher is an oxymoron.

      Also, your analogy is bunk. Science is a system which praises reason over bind faith. It adapts its theories as more information is learned and tested. It is a system of separating what appears to be true from what is true and it slowly changes and adapts. Religion is a system of irrationality which praises blind faith over reason. It is designed to stay stagnant and never change no matter what we learn. It starts out with an inalienable premise and praises people for sticking with it in spite of evidence against it. A person could not be a scientist and still believe in a flat earth because Science is about Empirical Evidence. A person can be Christian and disagree with the parent poster because Christianity isn't a system based on facts and there is no way to prove a person's Christian beliefs to be "right" or "wrong."
  • Why? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by RootsLINUX ( 854452 ) <`moc.liamg' `ta' `xunilstoor'> on Thursday November 23, 2006 @04:34PM (#16966686) Homepage
    Why are there these people that feel like every other living soul in the world HAS to accept what they believe, otherwise they should be killed/crucified/outcasted/suffer for eternity in the afterlife? Aren't these the people that killed thousands during the Crusades? Aren't these the people that are killing thousands now in the name of Allah? Are all the religions and dieties that man-kind have believed in one way or another so damn righteous as to demand that their followers mame all others in their name?

    I just don't understand why people can't accept that others can believe different things than they do. If the whole world was just more accepting of others and respected others' beliefs even if they disagreed, the world would be a much, much better place. Not to mention that millions of innocent people wouldn't have had to die in ages past.
    • Because (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Sloppy ( 14984 ) on Thursday November 23, 2006 @05:23PM (#16967194) Homepage Journal
      Why are there these people that feel like every other living soul in the world HAS to accept what they believe, otherwise they should be killed/crucified/outcasted/suffer for eternity in the afterlife?

      Because that's what God told them, and you don't argue with God. If God says "believe in me or else spend eternity in hell," then who the fuck are you, to use your puny humanoid intellect -- a brain so small that it can't even conceive of 1% of the Lovecraftian aweful truth -- to try to talk God out of his ultimatum?

      Now let's say you're a caring, loving person to whom God has told his message. You don't like what God has done, maybe you even hate him for it. You don't understand its seemingly infinite evil, but you also know that you'll never really understand why God has done this, and you just have to accept it. And the thing you have accepted is this: you believe it is a fact that if someone doesn't do what God demands, they will suffer infinitely. It's not something you have chosen; it is the reality imposed upon you.

      Is it responsible, given this undesirable situation, to stick your head in the sand and pretend it doesn't exist? If some hippie says that he understands the universe better than God does, and that "Be good to one another," is a perfectly acceptable policy (and it's certainly a pleasant one!) does that make what the hippie says, be true? Or is it deceiving, taking the easy way out?

      Might you be willing to commit a relatively minor atrocity, for the "greater good?" Isn't it really worth it, when you get right down to it, to torture people, put them on the rack or burn them alive, writhing in intense agony -- even doing it for a decade if only a person could actually burn that long without dying -- if it might result in that person doing the right thing? What is a few minutes, or even a century, of suffering, compared to the eternal timescales described in religious dogma? You might not personally have the stomach for it, but "rationally" (please don't explore this too closely ;-) you know that it's a good policy to break a few eggs to make that omelette.

      Think about it: is there any conceivable thing, any possible evil, than any puny human can possibly commit with their tiny limited means and impotent nuclear weapons (or even planet-destroying Death Stars), that even compares slightly or is anywhere nearly in the same league, to the infinite eternal suffering that a person will endure if they are not saved?

      Killing people? Geez, everyone dies eventually. The long-term question is how many people are going to be saved and enjoy the afterlife forever, versus how many people will be utterly destroyed forever or be tortured forever by the devil's minions.

      I think that once a fundamentalist really accepts religious dogma -- if they really believe it -- their seemingly-cruel decisions aren't really all that cruel or evil. They are executing the best policies they can, given a rather nasty premise.

      My question to mystics is: What causes you to believe that? What do you see, that the rest of us don't? How did God's message get into your head? That's what's really baffling, not the things that they do as a consequence once they have been given The Aweful Truth.

    • Transcripts (Score:5, Informative)

      by ex-geek ( 847495 ) on Thursday November 23, 2006 @05:28PM (#16967234)
      Now before anybody attempts to defend the guy, here is an actual quote from the transcript in which he himself anounced that he would beat his own kids, if they stopped believing.

      Public school teacher tells class: "You belong in hell" [blogspot.com]
      Transcript: A look at what was said in KHS class [theobserver.com]

      "But if my kid is aged 12 and he's kinda like dad, i appreciate what you've taught me but i've decided in my 12 years of religion that i'm gonna stop going to church, after i break his backside, we're gonna have a little attitude adjustment and i'm gonna say you're gonna get in the car with the rest of the family and go to church. you're entitled to your own opinion, but you're gonna do what i tell you to."
  • Regardless of your opinion on God (and evolution vs. intelligent design), it's readily apparent that the teacher was stepping outside his defined role as a science teacher. If the school district and state dictates that a science teacher should teach evolution, that's what they need to teach. If they dictate they should teach intelligent design, that's what they should teach. And if the standards are to teach that humans come from storks and that pigs fly, the instructors should teach this or go to a different state/private school. Public schools are kind of like McDonalds ... you may not receive the top of line, but it should always be consistent.

    If this pastor/teacher thought that he was going to convert a bunch of high schoolers by damning them all to hell, he must not have a very successful church, and certainly should be fired immediately. If he really wanted to use the classroom as a pulpit, he should have chose philosophy as a subject, or just taught at a parochial school. The most he could have done was to just express his religion very simply (e.g. a cross around his neck, picture on his desk, whatever), and use kids' natural curiousity as a chance to invite them to his church to learn more outside of school. This is dangerously close to some line in the sand, but better to toe the line than to jump clear over it like he did.
  • Simple Solution. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by crhylove ( 205956 ) <rhy@leperkhanz.com> on Thursday November 23, 2006 @05:01PM (#16966958) Homepage Journal
    Unless it is a seminary class, there should be NO room for religion in the class. Except history, maybe, to show how so many random tribes have used religion to justify genocide.

    Seriously, learning and study are on the opposite end of memorization and faith. It's not just a simple difference of opinion among some "teachers". It's a fundamental difference between logic and reason, and blind retardation.

    No person espousing any type of religious dogma should be considered a teacher by the simple definition of the word. They are not in fact a teacher at that point, but a malignant propagandist for a religious agenda that, 99% of the time is ignorant and bad for humanity, and the rest of the living things on the planet.

    If there is debate between religion and science, it is no longer a class room but a seminary room involving a lame argument devolved between two parties where one side uses reason and logic, and the other side says, "The bible says so!".

    It's stupid and pointless and if YOUR tax dollars are paying for it, you should be damned pissed off.

    I certainly am.

    God can go hang out wherever he wants, but not where my money is getting wasted by morons.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Shados ( 741919 )
      I prefered the way it was done here (I'm not american) when I went to school (though I beleive they removed it since then, but anyhow).

      We had strict rules about no religion in class. However,we had one, mendatory class, for every year of pre-collegial school (elementary, highschool, ) which was about moral and society. As part of that class, we were taught various aspects of all religions, in a non-biaised way, positive and negative, from the viewpoint of the scriptures, the people, the culture, and so o
  • by spiritraveller ( 641174 ) on Thursday November 23, 2006 @05:02PM (#16966974)
    and wonder why non-Christians hate them.

    This kind of crap happens ALL THE TIME. It is a given for any fundamentalist Christian sect that they will take whatever forum where they think they can get away with it and use it to give the hard sell. (And I do mean "sell", because it's not benevolence they're offering, but a product.)

    Another Baptist preacher once used my uncle's funeral as an opportunity to try and convince the non-Christians in our family that we had better accept Jesus before OUR time was up. This jerk didn't even know my uncle, but just wanted to exploit the situation to try to get more people into his church.

    Here, another typical instance of high-pressure salesmanship from a fundamentalist preacher, only this time it's not just you he's trying to sell his product to... but it's your CHILDREN.

    So he tells your kids that they are going to burn in hell if they don't buy his shtick. That's damn close to child abuse.
  • Well... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by NerveGas ( 168686 ) on Thursday November 23, 2006 @05:23PM (#16967180)

        As much as I believe in the seperation of church and state, I do also believe in equity. During my education, from junior high through college, there would occasionally be a teacher who would go out of their way to ridicule religion to the class. Not just talk about good or bad aspects, but just come out and ridicule religion - or even class members who were religious. I was never really involved or concerned one way or another, but the teachers were pretty mean-spirited towards some of the class members.

        So, in be equitable, I think that the same standard should be applied to both sides. Either let everyone talk about religion as they please, or tell everyone to shut up about it. Just don't tell one group that they have to keep quiet, but allow the other side to keep on about it.
  • by guidryp ( 702488 ) on Thursday November 23, 2006 @05:28PM (#16967230)
    After all they were the only country scoring below the USA for belief in Evolution (recent survey). They were 34 on the list the USA was 33. Then again maybe he is disgruntled that Turkey is winning the race to root out rational thinkers.

    When is "Intelligent Design" going to incorporate the belief that Darwins Evolutionary theory is the root of Terrorism? Another area where Turkey is ahead.

    http://today.reuters.co.uk/news/articlenews.aspx?t ype=scienceNews&storyid=2006-11-22T141111Z_01_L092 65541_RTRIDST_0_SCIENCE-RELIGION-TURKEY-EVOLUTION- DC.XML [reuters.co.uk]

  • by c6gunner ( 950153 ) on Thursday November 23, 2006 @05:30PM (#16967256)
    There's been a lot of teachers doing similar thing in the past, including, but not limited to, the idea that the US government carried out 9/11, and the myth that American Indians were all peaceful tree-hugging poets and philosophers until the horrible white man slaughtered them.

    The fact is that there are many, MANY teachers who use their position of authority to try and brainwash their students. I'm sure most of you can think of at least one such experience in your student days. It's irrelevant whether the teacher is pushing religion, politics, historical revisionism, or wacky conspiracy theories; any of them constitute an abuse of authority, and none of them should be allowed. Teachers need to be able to present relevant information in an unbiased manner, not preach from the pulpit of their favorite cause célèbre.
  • by jcr ( 53032 ) <.moc.cam. .ta. .rcj.> on Thursday November 23, 2006 @06:19PM (#16967790) Journal
    Baptist preacher? Why, that uppity Heretic!

  • by AK Marc ( 707885 ) on Thursday November 23, 2006 @11:45PM (#16970332)
    If I did something bad, then lied about it to my boss, I should be fired. If I thought it wasn't bad, then I would have not lied about it. It's the lie that *everyone* should be behind getting him fired for. A kid claimed that the teacher said something. He bore false witness against the kid. The teacher is a pastor, but openly breaks the Commandments. He should be fired from being a pastor for that. He is a teacher but lies to his boss (the principal) about it. He should be fired for that. The idea of religion doesn't need to even be brought up to show that this guy is an undependable liar that should be fired.
  • by erroneus ( 253617 ) on Friday November 24, 2006 @12:23AM (#16970546) Homepage
    To the teacher I remind him of one of the more significant commandments:

    Thou shalt not bear false witness!

    Over and over again, I have to sit and watch virtually every "religious" person I see break their god's laws on a regular basis. I live in the U.S. so I guess that's to be expected. Wish I could get some insight into why Bush think's it's okay to kill when his god says thou shalt not.

    Religion sucks. It makes people lie to themselves and to others.

There's no such thing as a free lunch. -- Milton Friendman