I was asked to promote this petition to stop forced religious indoctrination in Greek schools, and I support it and you should go sign it if you agree.
Greek public schools hold daily Orthodox prayer, schedule regular church visits as well as mandate the taking of a “religious studies” class every year. However, Greek law also allows students to opt out by submitting a simple form signed by their guardian if they are under 18. Unfortunately, many school administrators are either unaware or simply refuse to allow the exemption and ministry officials are not holding them to account.
The latest case is Stavros Kanias, School Principal in the Glika Nera suburb of Athens. Kanias is refusing to allow a middle school student to opt out even stating that his refusal is based on a desire to “follow the law of Christ”. Even though the required form has been submitted it is not being accepted. Many similar cases are often not publicized.
When Greek MP’s have raised the question in parliament, the Education Minister has simply reiterated the procedure and deferred to lower ministry officials.
But I do have one reservation: it doesn’t go far enough. It’s a good idea to give students the ability to opt out of religious instruction, but why is religious instruction in any school any where?
I’ve usually taken a pragmatic perspective on this issue before. We don’t have much choice to but to give way on minor compromises in school curricula, and this is often an easy one: if religion is taught comparatively and objectively, it’s a good tool for breaking dogma. I can’t get too irate at a school offering a “world religions” class, because I know that would be the first step towards atheism for the students (for the same reason, though, I’m suspicious. Our opponents aren’t morons, and they’d know this too — I suspect them of plotting to smuggle orthodoxy into the classroom under cover of objectivity, and for instance, knowing that a local priest of the dominant cult will often offer to teach the course.)
But here’s my major problem. It’s a useless subject. And no, I’m not one of those elitist yahoos who thinks art and philosophy are useless subjects, rejecting anything that isn’t a hard science; I mean, it is literally useless, distracting, and narrow. If right now students were getting an hour a week in a “religious studies” class, I think they’d be far better served by getting an hour a week for anthropology, or philosophy, or poetry…or sure, more math.
I know what the usual argument would be: but every culture has a religion of some sort, it’s a human universal, people find it important and we ought to acknowledge it. So? Every human culture has parasites and diseases, so why don’t we have a mandatory weekly course in parasitology? It would be far more entertaining, interesting, and useful. What wouldn’t be quite so useful, though, is a course taught from the perspective of the malaria parasite, praising its role in shaping human civilizations for thousands of years, which is pretty much equivalent to what kids get in a “religious studies” class right now.
I don’t think religion will ever disappear, but I’ll be satisfied when seminaries and theology departments all shut down everywhere for lack of interest.