atheism · children · Christianity · education · philosophy · religion · school

Swedish study confirms secularist education leads to intolerance toward religion

lotsofbooks-flickr-by sleepyneko used under Creative Commons licenceAlthough students and teachers in Sweden call their nation a “Christian” country, they only say that in reference to its bygone era of tradition and history, according to a new study done by University of Gothenburg researcher Karin Kittelmann Flensner. In her study of 13 teachers and 24 different student groups involved in Sweden’s Religious Education courses in upper-secondary schools (i.e. older teens), religious people were often considered “the others” or “them” by both teachers and students, even when there were students in the group who came from homes representing various religions, such as Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity, Islam, etc.

Kittelmann Flensner also noticed other things about the groups. “The others” that the secular-leaning students and teachers referred to were discussed in a demeaning manner that revealed that teachers and students despised the religious–considering them to be unintelligent, deceived, and clinging to systems that had no place in their modern world. They were more open to discuss spirituality in the broad sense of debating ideas of the spiritual realm and life after death as opposed to a focus on specific doctrines. Kittelmann Flensner stated, “I found that religious faith is portrayed as incompatible with being a modern, rational and independently thinking human being. In contrast, a non-religious, atheistic position is articulated as a neutral and unbiased approach to religion. I had not expected this discourse to be so strong…”

All of the classes follow the same syllabus since it is a nationalized course. It’s goal was to foster understanding and respect among people with differing viewpoints and backgrounds, but just the opposite is occurring, causing Kittelmann Flensner some concern. Observing that this makes it difficult for students to adapt to life in a pluralistic society where they will face people who have views in opposition to their own, she stated, “If teachers can be made aware of how religion and people with religious faith are talked about in their classrooms, I believe they can contribute to a learning environment that better promotes understanding and respect between different positions.” However, her hopes may just be a pipe dream given the fact secularism is by default an exclusive, biased religion of humanism that doesn’t want other religions having their say even when the Bible, for instance, can be proven accurate in its spirituality, history, and science.

7The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction. 

29…they hated knowledge, and did not choose the fear of the Lord:

30 They would none of my counsel: they despised all my reproof.

31 Therefore shall they eat of the fruit of their own way, and be filled with their own devices.

32 For the turning away of the simple shall slay them, and the prosperity of fools shall destroy them. Proverbs 1

Source: University of Gothenburg, Swedish teachers and students often talk about religion as something outdated and strange, EurekAlert.org, December 23, 2015.

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