A new school year has begun and I’m back “polluting the minds of children with false ideas” (to quote my critics). I am now in my eighteenth year of teaching my course that critically examines religion – I have not been run out of town yet. Whew! Thank god?
As you can see in the below photo I do not waste any time in cutting to the chase. During the first two days I introduce my students to theories regarding the origin and “purposes” of religion. For nearly all of my students, this is the first time they have ever been in discussions that critically examines religion. Needless to say, it is a bit overwhelming for some of them. Most are Christian kids. And most have never had an opportunity to look at and learn about religion in an objective, honest, and skeptical way.
In previous years I have always had the kids write an end-of-the-year reaction essay to the class. But this year I decide to have them write an essay after just three days of lecture. I was curious as to what their first impressions were and how they were feeling. In the below photo they are hard at work on the assignment. And further below are excerpts from their essays. I’m pretty sure anyone who has an interest in religion and education will find them to be eye-opening. Enjoy.
“When I first signed up for this class it was just something my counselor told me to take to fill up my schedule. Now that I’ve been in class, I’m really glad I signed up for it. Almost everything we’ve discussed so far has severely intrigued me. It makes me look at things (especially religion) in a whole new way. I have already learned so much in three days. I’m very excited to learn more.” - Amanda
I took this class trying to have an open mind. But after the second lecture, when you showed the picture of the handicapped kids, I was furious [see below]. I had never seen such a picture, much less a teacher that had such a wrong idea of Christianity… I’m glad though that I decided to take this class so I can hear everything from a different perspective and point of view.” – Mati
[Author's note: I use the below image as a springboard for discussion]
“This class has helped me reflect on my own religion and beliefs. I think a lot of the time people focus on Christianity and don’t care to know about other religions. I like how you don’t show favoritism or hate toward the different religions. Instead you explain concepts and meanings behind religion.” - Kristina
“Being in this class hurts my brain more than I thought it would. When I first signed up for it I thought we would just learn the history of religion. This class is almost like a different way to see the world. Is it confusing? Heck yes! It is different from any class I have ever taken!” -Dylan
“I feel like you are tearing Christianity down and building up science and Hinduism. I’m glad I am taking the class though, so I can see the way other people believe, even though I don’t agree with them. Talking about reincarnation is crazy to me. I just can’t see how people can believe in coming back as another baby when they die. I think it is ridiculous. - Terrell
“I am a Christian and most things you say would usually offend Christians, but it does not affect me at all. I love the stuff you teach us and I’m excited to learn more over the semester. The only negative: there are a lot of notes, but I understand that it helps people stay focused and on task.” - Brogan
I was told that this was a good, fun, and interesting class by my friends, and I completely agree. You tell it how it is and it gets me thinking.” - Blake
“My family is very biased against other religions. They are Christians, but I don’t fully believe in the Christian faith. I am hoping this class gives me some insight to help me find my own path. You’re an amazing teacher – you aren’t trying to direct your students toward one religion or none. I admire that!” - Mykaela
“I thought this class would be the same-old, same-old with some boring teacher who really doesn’t know what the heck they are really talking about and we would just read from a book that is ten years old and outdated. But, you aren’t boring (so far), and you do seem to know what you are talking about. You give a good view, you don’t seem biased at all, and I’m really enjoying the class. Usually I don’t like classes where you just listen the whole time, usually it makes me sleepy but this class isn’t really like that.” - Audrey
“I’m loving this class because it makes me think about things – like did god create man or did man create god? My first thought was, ‘well, there is no answer to that.’ But, as I started thinking about it, there are many possibilities. You make me think! You are so passionate about your teaching and that’s what makes it interesting and that’s why I love this class.” – Jessie
“Mr. Morrison, I want to thank you for sharing your knowledge and not trying to influence any beliefs I currently have.” - Ellee
“I’ve learned more about religion in the past three days than I have during my whole life – it is hard learn about religion when you grow up with the same one going to the same church.” - Claire
“Out of the three times we’ve had class I have only been here once due to illness, and I do plan on getting those notes into my notebook. The one class that I have been part of was probably the best lecture I have ever been part of. When I first came into this class I figured you were going to ramble on about God, Christianity, Luther, etc. But during that lecture you really caught my attention and I was so interested that the class period just flew by almost too quickly…when you showed the image of kids with polio and how religion and prayer did nothing, while science cured them [see image above], that really opened my eyes and made me think about things… In conclusion, this class is the most interesting class I have ever taken (so far) and I love it. It really is interesting! Oh, and can I call you by your first name?” – Tristan