Lesson One (in a public school): Did god create man or did man create god?

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.

me-teaching

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.

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“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]

science-vs-religion

“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

- 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 – 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

6 thoughts on “Lesson One (in a public school): Did god create man or did man create god?

  1. Did you have the kid’s permission to post their comments. For most of them, it’s pretty obvious who they are in such a small town. It as been shared on Facebook and not appreciated.

    • Yes, the kids gave me permission (some did not). Many told me that they wanted me to use their full names – it was as if they were proud of their stance and conviction.

  2. I love checking back on your blog, there is always something new and interesting and I appreciate the wit you put in to your writing! It is great to see that you are allowing the kids to voice their opinions even if their parents don’t agree. I am sure this is hard for the many parents to accept but it’s refreshing to see young adults thinking independently and critically. Keep on opening up their minds, you are doing good work and it’s great to see how passionate you are about it. Cheers!

    • Kyle,

      Thank you so much! I agree. It is great when young teenagrs start to find their voice and path through the process critical than thoughtful analysis.

  3. I admire what you’re doing I stumbled on your blog from Michael Shermer’s facebook page, If more teachers in your situation took the objective and reasoned approach in that no topics are off limits or above criticism, It would ultimately within a generation or two make the world a better place, in that we would finally be having honest exchanges with each other. I tend to fall on the Agnostic Atheist side of the fence, but there are philosophical arguments (prime mover, ontological, theodicies, maximally great beings) that make even a godless heathen like me scratch my head a little bit, And I find that the average person when tasked to defend their faith are using bad and logically inconsistent arguments. It’s important for us to understand that belief isn’t something we can force ourselves to do, I would love to believe that an all loving creator was watching over me, but when I apply my reasoning to the problem I can’t arrive in a position that satisfies it. It’s important for us to be honest with ourselves, and some people when they approach the problem arrive in different positions and that’s fine, and it’s part of the human spirit to be curious of things that are different. I would love to start having that honest discussion with educated minds that want to have it. and I applaud your efforts in the few posts that I read I can’t detect a bias one way or another and that says a lot about your objectivity and truth seeking.

    Keep up the good work and hopefully your methods spread.

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