Tue, 16 Mar 2010 3:18p.m.
A Victoria University academic believes teaching primary school children about the world's main religions will promote understanding and tolerance, and prepare kids for an increasingly diverse 21st century.
Has anyone else spotted the irony?
Religion is responsible for most of the world's most impacting misunderstandings and intolerant behaviour. It promotes conformity, not diversity.
They say religion is the opiate of the masses and, like drugs, people often spend money on religion they cannot afford. It causes delusional beliefs and, at times, makes people talk utter nonsense.
Groups lock themselves in dark places for many hours, then go out and try to convince others it's what they need to be happy. Religion causes violence and sometimes even provokes suicide and murder.
So, why do we want children to know more about it?
If we want children to know more about understanding, tolerance and diversity, teach them that, for God's sake. Actually, do it for their sake, for our sake.
Teach them that diversity is about uniqueness and commonality, similarity and difference. Diversity is not about what we believe, it's about how to believe, especially when we don't agree with others, or they disagree with us.
Diversity is not about age, gender, sexuality, religion, culture, disability, marital status, etc. That's categorisation and representation.
Diversity is about self-awareness, communication, inquiry, exploration. It's about certainty and confusion, knowing and not knowing. It's about recognising fear and meeting it, head on, with love and peace.
Where religion promotes fear and doctrine, diversity promotes realisation, wisdom and fluidity.
I experienced a powerful example of how fluidity is becoming more of a social imperative at a recent forum run by Rainbow Youth. Several of the young people speaking were transsexual, having either transitioned from living as a young man to a young woman, or vice versa.
When I was 19 I came out as gay and that was difficult enough. I'm still recovering. These 20-somethings had already come out as bi, then lesbian, then male and are now often mistaken as being gay when they are actually straight.
Confused? That's fluidity for you.
What saddened me was that, in a world of Boy Georges and Ellens, Melissa Etheridges, Elton Johns and Ru Pauls, it's still not safe to come out as transsexual. You may not know that the guy you work with used to be a girl, because in our "modern" society, people are still threatened with isolation, hatred and violence if they do not conform to a binary notion of gender.
And that's not just in the straight world, either. Gender intolerance exists in the gay world as well and the panel believed the change needs to be led by the gay community. I agree.
If you think we live in enlightened times, you're right. But you're wrong.
We are close and yet so far. And believe me, a better understanding of religion is not going to help.