When religion and textbooks clash

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When religion and textbooks clash

In downtown Seoul, we often find cars equipped with speakers and covered with signs with people inside shouting, “Believe in Jesus and you will go to heaven. If not, you will end up in hell.”

The speakers constantly blast loud voices soliciting Christian beliefs. I personally know many respectable Christians, but this kind of mission work makes me frown. I also run into Christians propagating their religion on the subway. Their passion and sense of calling is noteworthy, but at the same time, I cannot help but pity them. Of course, they must find a non-believer like me pitiful. We live our own lives while feeling compassionate for each other. I find their loud evangelical work somewhat uncomfortable but I tolerate it.

If they become excessively loud, I would protest or request them to stop. Nevertheless, I am willing to endure a certain degree of discomfort. While some Christians condemn George Winston’s New Age music, they are not preventing me from listening to the music.

I find it interesting that Hollywood stars like Tom Cruise and John Travolta believe in Scientology. I also find it convincing that the Vatican is sensitive about movies like “Avatar” and “The Da Vinci Code” and the conservative Christians are irritated by “The Passion of the Christ.”

But I draw the line at Lady Gaga. It is too hard to tolerate the attempt to do away with her concert. Those in Korea, Indonesia and other countries around the world who fought to ban her show were displaying religious arrogance. This viewpoint is starting to affect other aspects of our society as well.

Embracing the requests of the Society for Textbook Revision, a Christian group, the high school science textbooks have removed or revised the description on archaeopteryx as a proof of evolution.

The passage on the evolution of horses is to be omitted. Since the sections on archaeopteryx and horses were already controversial in mainstream academia, the omission does not mean rejecting evolution and embracing creation. However, the objective of the Society for Textbook Revision is not to establish proper evolution theory but to remove evolution from textbooks altogether.

The science curriculum mandated by the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology clearly states that textbooks must include “the key ideas of evolutionary theory” and help “understand the theory of evolution.”

It is a serious issue that the textbooks that our children learn from are influenced by a certain religion. The removal of evolution is accepted as grave crisis in academia. Mediating between politics and religion is hard enough, but this time religion and education are entangled.

*The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Noh Jae-hyun
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