The Harvard Religion Debate

Finally a subject of some substance.

There is currently some debate going on at Harvard regarding the proposed doing away with the requirement that students take core religion classes. This is not an endorsement of a particular religion or that the students must be theists, it is simply designed to ensure that Harvard graduates have a basic understanding of world religions and how these issues impact politics in the real world.

I am very much a proponent of absorbing all kinds of knowledge, regardless of whether or not it falls into line with what I believe. It’s why I watch Mysteries of the Bible whenever I see it on (even though I’m not a Christian) and it’s why I try to keep abreast of current developments in feminist and socialist thought even though I’m not a hippie. It was very much a surprise to me, then, when I discovered that the eminent language-dude Steven Pinker has been active in arguing against the Harvard religion requirement.

For those who don’t recall I posted a favorable review of Steven Pinker’s “The Blank Slate” and I regard it as a must-read for anyone with an interest in the nature/nurture debate which is key to understanding both human nature and the rightful nature of politics. For the record Mr. Pinker stated that he is all for teaching students about world religions, just not as a requirement. His view is that religion should not be put on the same level as science and he compared it to a requirement that students study both astronomy and astrology.

While I agree with Mr. Pinker on many levels, it is my view that world religions affect global politics on a wider scale than astrology so I don’t find the Harvard requirement objectionable. Before 911 most Americans could not have found Afghanistan on a map (and many of them probably still can’t). How much less do they know about the political and ideological divide between the Sunni Afghans and the Shi’ite Iranians? Could this possibly be used to an American advantage? Not if people are ignorant of it.

I am 100% against any public university compulsion in religious belief. At the same time I find a Harvard religion requirement advisable (both because it is a private institution and because the idea is good in and of itself). On this I take the other side as the esteemed Steven Pinker. Nevertheless he’s still my dawg. I even sent him a good-will email telling him to buy himself a beer. And THAT, more than anything else I’ve ever done, proves I’m a nerd. Who the hell sends fan mail to Ivy league professors?

14 Responses to “The Harvard Religion Debate”

  1. mexi says:

    Don’t sweat the content guy, I’m just hitting random keys. Kind of like that job you had with the bank in Lansing.

  2. I read The Reference Frame almost every day and comment two or three times a week. It doesn’t get more Ivy League than that.

    As for curricula, the course selection should be dictated by the major. Certain core courses should be taken but religion is NOT a core course. As a matter of fact, religion is pretty much the realm of fanatics and definitely the realm of mystics.

  3. mexi says:

    Yes it’s mysticism. But do you think boxers don’t study their opponents just because they don’t agree with their tactics? You haven’t addressed my argument that even non-believers should have a working knowledge of world religions because those ideologies have an impact on the real world.  I believe it was Fonzie who said “Know thy enemy.”

  4. HMT says:

    I’m right in line with ya Mexi…

    Religion should definately be looked at because it does have as much an affect on world affairs as science, math, anything..

    BELIEF DICTATES BEHAVIOR.. it’s as simple as that. Many if not most have gained their beliefs through their core religious mythology.

    America has set up their system of government based on the Christian mythology. We re-create our system of government, what is deserving of punishment/reward much in the same way that we set up our own collective relationship with God. The collective US view him to be vengeful, preferrable of this or that, and needing of things – see exhibit 1 of this same interaction… government.

  5. They simply DON’T teach what religion is about. Religion is the Primacy of Consciousness. There is no fundamental difference from any one religion to another.

    Oh, I see…YOU still think somebody with a laptop in a cave in Afghanistan caused NORAD to stand down on 911 and, even though several of them are alive and well today, you think 19 Arab CIA operatives destroyed the WTC. Therefore we should study Islam. Whatever…

  6. mexi says:

    (tilting head to the side): REALLY???

  7. R says:

    I was watching this thing on C-SPAN with Condoleeza Rice and she forgot what date we were attacked. She thought it was the 19th.

    It was funny and sad at the same time.

  8. mexi says:

    Einstein reportedly could not remember his own phone number. Ultimately it wasn’t a big deal. It’s more important that she knows WHAT happened. And according to Quasar a bunch of A-rabs, working under the auspices of the CIA, flew some planes into some buildings that were already rigged to exploded (circling finger around my ear).

  9. R: Condoleeza probably got 9/11 confused with another famous date for false flag operations…4/19. It was a freudian slip.

    Mexi: Whoever reported that Einstein could not tie his shoes was a fool trying to validate a dichotomy in their own mind. It is true that Einstein was NOT wearing shoestrings when he emigrated here because he did not have any. Photographs bear this out.

    Mexi: NO, the A-rabs, several of which have been proven to work for the CIA, did NOT crash planes anywhere on 9/11. That’s how some of them are still alive today. They were flown by remote control.

    (tilting head to the side)…
    (circling finger around my ear)…
    Perhaps it would be instructive for you to actually consider some facts rather than worshiping herd-speak.
    (sticking right index finger into left nostril and making circular scraping motion with fingernail)…

  10. mexi says:

    I didn’t say he couldn’t tie his shoes, I said he couldn’t remember his own phone number. And two, what makes you think only the herd thinks your ideas are comically stupid? Is it not possible that an individual might reach the same conclusion? And what is your evidence that those Arabs are still alive today? Do you seriously expect us to believe that you can tell Arabs apart? Do some Arabs have the same name as the hijackers?

  11. My bad on the Einstein thing. I should have had a cup of coffee and put my glasses on before getting on the Internet.

    I realize that it is sometimes difficult to tell people apart. Just last night I received a call to tell me that I had just been positively identified in Fort Smith, Arkansas. I was sitting right here in Oklahoma City all along.

    Do some Arabs have the same name as the hijackers?

    Some arabs not only have the same names as the hijackers but look just like them, are the same age, have the same parents, (and presumably the same fingerprints) and claim to be the same people. I will get this info for you. However, I need to go dig it out of some videos somewhere so it will take me a few days.

  12. PS
    Just Google “911 terrorists alive.”

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