The Importance of Religion

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Since the beginning of time, people have killed others in the name of God to defend or advance their religious convictions. What was true during the Crusades, the Protestant Reformation and World War II is still making headlines today as suicide bombers die in the name of their God in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, many countries in Africa, Yemen and in many other countries around the globe.

“Religious beliefs are the most strongly held beliefs in our society,” said Dr. Howard Miller, Professor of Christianity. “They are absolutes, and absolutes are worth dying for.” While this might seem like a strong statement to a large portion of the world’s population, Miller asserts that moderation of religious views, a certain “enlightenment” if you will, is a very recent development in society.

“Many of the conflicts we see throughout the world are a revolt against 300 years of domination by Western civilization,” said Miller. “Some extremist religious groups are trying to expel the outside influences, primarily from the West, from their culture.” The fact that extremist religious factions feed on these conflicts and reformulate them according to religious absolutes is a key point, according to scholars. A Caliph in Afghanistan doesn’t speak for all Muslims any more than Pat Robertson speaks for all Christians. It is important to study religion to help us understand the diversity within religions and to promote an understanding of how religion functions as part of human identity, history and culture.

Each religion has very different beliefs. For instance, nearly all Christians believe in some form of the Holy Trinity—the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Muslims believe in one true God, Allah, who is all-seeing, all-knowing, all-pow...

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...nt, identify themselves as Muslim, but there are great differences among adherents of Islam as well. It is interesting to note that the next largest percentage of the global population, 16 percent, identify themselves as non-religious.

For many years, State Universities did not teach about the scriptures of the Bible. Students could study Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism and a host of other religions but not Christianity. In the past decade, state governments have decided it’s possible to teach about Christian scriptures without advocating Christianity any more than other religions.

It is not the intention of the state universities to make students religious nor to discourage religious beliefs and practices. The goal is to teach students to understand how to think about religion as a framework and reference for viewing and assessing developments within our society.

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