P.Z Myers has unearthed a story that would, I’m sure, become a daily occurrence all over the country were comparative religion — currently a requirement for kids in the United Kingdom, I believe — taught routinely in American public schools. It would be seen as nothing more than a state-sponsored attempt to undermine the faith of Christian kids, and would, I am certain, lead to people withdrawing their kids en masse and placing them in Christian schools.
Depending on your level of cynicism, this would either be a blessing (“Good riddance; let the morons keep grooming their kids as moronically as they like if it means they’ll leave education in the thinking world alone”) or a shame (“Great, now we’re going to polarize the country further, with the godless kids becoming even better educated and half the nation being taught that the world was really created in six days”).
In a sense, those fearing mass deconversion are correct. Because religious belief is what it is, asking kids to do with regard to religion what we occasionally expect of them in every other realm (i.e., think) amounts to a direct challenge. The more that people are actually inspired think about unjustified beliefs they’ve held for a long time without questioning them, the more likely they are to alter or relinquish them if they decide that the evidence merits such a move.
The last thing religious people want is exposure to facts. Challenges to the faith — however well supported by science and history — simply cannot do.
By the very nature of religion, a sect has to maximize its numbers in order to be most effective. Not one religious sect has any evidence for the things it promises, so creating a veneer of legitimacy via bloating the membership rolls is critical. This ensures a steady influx of money as well as all of the benefits that come from having a large, unquestioning bloc of like-“minded” voters.
The dominant religion in any culture obviously stands to lose its advantage when the playing field is leveled. Pointing out that the similarities in religious belief across cultures hearken not to some divine edict but to basic elements of human psychology, and that the undeniable similarlity of the Genesis account(s) to pre-existing creation stories from various cultures implies exactly what it appears to imply, are not things that encourage people to keep pounding the same Kool-aid.
One of P.Z.’s commenters asks:
“Honestly, is calling biblical story a “myth” really so insulting?”
Yes, it is, when your world view hinges on lunacy. It’s one more “war on.” As tiresome it is to hear a nation of wall-eyed bumpkins wailing about this crap, they’re not making it up as they go; they believe it out of hand thanks to having more or less had their heds thwacked repeatedly against tree trunks as young children.
The implications of creationism being untrue go beyond what we see from the outside — the well-supported dismissal of a drastically unscientific (to be charitable) “explanation” of origins, not only of life but of everything. If it’s not true as written in the Bible, there was no Adam and Eve, hence no original sin, hence no need for Jesus to scapegoat himself on the cross to redeem all of our sorry asses, hence no need for Jesus at all, hence no Christianity. Therefore, unless you’re a liberal Christian, lose creation and you lose the whole funky shitball.
Strict isolation from the most basic of facts is a sine qua non for producing the kind of people capable of, well, this. Just look how effective Nathan Bradfield is at ignoring the huge body of refutations to his various claims. Blogging, in theory, puts hardcore religious believers at a special risk; those most apt to have counterevidence and those most likely to respond to what you say, so in a sense when you run a pro-Christian blog and invite comments, you esentially open the door to your own comparative religion seminar. This is why Nathan (see here) never follows any of the links people give him or actually reads their comments, and why he is exquisitely careful to get all of his news and “information” from within the nutty but sizable philosophical bubble in which he lives.