Sunday, April 4, 2010

using my religion

Easter Sunday is an appropriate day to make this particular confession: I take full advantage of my religion in the classroom. I was raised in a fairly religious household (even though my parents were not of the same religion), and although I left the Church for most of my time as an undergraduate, I eventually found my way back. It's not that I'm brainwashed, stupid, ignorant, or unaware of the socio-political functions of religion, it's just that I was raised in faith and, no matter how much I told myself that those beliefs were not "rational", I found that I fundamentally still believed.

My personal faith journey isn't particularly relevant here. I only mention it because I have found my religion to be helpful, especially when I'm teaching BioAnth. Even though my BioAnth class isn't required, I still have a handful of students each year who take it despite the fact that they don't believe in evolution. There are also a fair number of students who dismiss much of what I say about human diversity as just the PC propaganda of yet another left-wing ivory tower academic. Both groups of students are somewhat disarmed by my declaration of faith. They find me harder to dismiss, and I've had several productive conversations with students who are honestly interested in how I blend religion and science.

Of course, the answer to that question is rather complex (complex enough for a whole 'nuther post, and, frankly, sometimes I think my solution comes down to Fitzgerald's quote about "the test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time.") I know it's not possible for all students to find a resolution to their religious conflicts. I'm Catholic, and my personal experience has been that Catholics tend to have fewer problems with a perceived religion/science conflict than Mormons or members of certain Protestant sects, particularly the more conservative ones. Among the students that I have personally known, at least, that has been the case. I certainly wouldn't claim it is universal! Those students who have been taught young-earth history, and literal Biblical interpretation, are unlikely to be moved by the fact that I'm Catholic (particularly if they were taught that Catholicism is an evil cult). For other students, though, I know I make them stop and think.

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