“Why do you allow so much violence in our schools?
“Signed, A Concerned Student
“Dear Concerned Student,
“I’m not allowed in schools.
I saw the above posted on Facebook in one of those little framed sayings that’s incredibly popular there. Who makes all those mini posters, anyway?
This particular missive bothers me because it arises from a faulty premise. Supposedly there is violence in schools because God isn’t allowed in schools, but the second part of that is not true. God is allowed in U.S. schools. Even prayer is allowed in U.S. schools. Any student or teacher is allowed to believe in God and to pray to that God within the course of a school day. (Dollars to donuts, there are lots of kids silently praying, “God, please don’t let me flunk this test,” and no one stops them.)
However, there is no government sanctioned prayer or government sanctioned god in school because the United States was founded on religious pluralism and freedom. Which prayer or god would the government choose? Typically, the people who think that God is not allowed in schools are the ones who want only their particular God to be recognized and to Hell (quite literally) with all the rest.
I grew up Catholic and my concept of God as a kid was that He was a big meany who hated women and was ready to smite a kid for something as small as eating candy during Lent. As I grew into adulthood, God became a kinder being who was gender neutral, but still “human.” And then my concept of God changed into the idea of an organizing universal force, which I tend to picture as light energy. I currently identify as agnostic, which means I don’t know whether there is a God or not because no one has presented definitive proof of God (believing in God doesn’t prove that God exists, no matter how strong the belief).
That does not mean that I am an atheist. An atheist believes as strongly that there is no God as a theist believes there is a God. Agnostics are fence-sitters. We are open to the idea of there being a God, but we’re not sure. And we’re okay with the uncertainty.
I’m just one person who has had several ideas about God in my life. Which of those Gods should we allow in school? (I sure don’t want the meany God.) Now extrapolate my experience to the entire population of the United States and multiply it by every possible religion. That’s a lot of Gods to choose from, not to mention a lot of prayers that could possibly be said.
Right now, every single one of those Gods is attending school with their believers and students are allowed to say whatever they like to their different Gods. This is as it should be. If the government were to sanction a specific God from a specific religion with a specific prayer that must be said to that God, there would be a lot of Gods expelled from school. Is that what we want?