The Atlantic has a very long wordy windbaggy article arguing that universities should teach students religion; not about religion, but religion. Why? Because they’re adrift, and only religion can fix their adriftitude.
Long long long introductory passage that tells us far more than we want to know. He used to teach. He got to know some students.
What I discovered was that many of the students I talked to were disappointed, confused, and lost. They were bright kids. Many of them had looked forward to going to the university all their lives. College was, in their imaginations, a sort of promised land, a place where you find your calling and get the skills necessary to pursue it. What they found, however, was not a promised land at all. To them, the college curriculum was a bewildering jumble of classes that led to nothing in particular.
And so on and on and on in that style, loose and relaxed and endlessly explaining the obvious.
I also learned that because they were adrift in so many ways, they suffered. It was not difficult to get them talking about their distress, probably because no one at the university had ever thought to inquire. There were those who drank too much and got into trouble. There were those who were full-blown alcoholics or drug addicts.
And on and on and on through every type he can think of. Bad writing! We get it; a couple of examples will do; we get the idea. Cut to the chase.
He himself had a crisis once. What to do? Psychiatrists were not much help; they couldn’t get at the core problem. What to do? Religion.
What to do? I had never been religious. Far from it, I was a confirmed atheist. But, in desperation, I began to attend what might generically be called a “spiritual program.” Some call it a “religion” and others call it a “practice.” It doesn’t matter. The important point is that the people in this spiritual program embraced me, identified with me, and told me to do a specific set of things. There was talk of God, but they explained that talking was secondary to doing. I didn’t have to believe in God, they said, all I had to do was practice the teachings of the “religion.” If I did that, they said, I would be relieved of much of my suffering.
And it worked. Why? Because it gave him a way of life.
Without a way of life, I would say, one’s thoughts and actions tend to move at random, like water poured on a surface, spreading out and seeking the lowest places. With a way of life, I would continue, one’s thoughts and actions move in a single direction, like water poured in a channel, moving in a single direction toward a final end.
And that’s why he thinks it’s a remedy for everyone. Kind of pathetic, isn’t it.
There are a few hundred more paragraphs about why it’s ok to teach this to students.
American higher education has, however, one glaring deficiency: it does not teach its undergraduates how to live. It teaches them when the French Revolution was, what the carbon cycle is, and how to solve for X. It does not teach them what to do when they feel confused, alone, and scared. When they break down after a break-up. When they are so depressed they cannot get out of bed. When they drink themselves into unconsciousness every night. When find themselves living on someone’s couch. When they decide to go off their meds. When they flunk a class or even flunk out of school. When they get fired. When a sibling dies. When they don’t make the team.
Believe it or not, there’s more like that. More examples; more “when they”s. That guy cannot write for shit. He should have skipped the religion and maybe even skipped graduate school and just learned how to write.
I do not think he gives good advice about what to teach students.