A bill in the Florida House to require public schools to offer elective courses on the Bible and scriptures has prompted the expected debate about whether God belongs in the schools.
One perhaps unexpected response came from the Atheists of Florida.
Although the group was not on board with the Bible course, it announced its strong support for all high schools to offer a comparative religions course.
“We would be happy with it as an elective, but would prefer it be a requirement,” said Judy Adkins, Atheists of Florida vice president.
The reason is simple, said Jim Peterson, a member of the organization’s board of directors: Religion is deeply intertwined with culture.
“It’s kind of essential,” Peterson said. “You look through the survey of human civilization and literature, and you really can’t understand Shakespeare, you can’t understand Dante, you can’t understand Goethe or anyone else unless you understand the role religion played in the society that gave them birth.”
The issue, he added, would be ensuring that the course is taught in an objective manner, including the social, historical, archaeological and other aspects, so students can properly assess the role of religion in society.
“Trying to get down to the nub of religion is quite apart and separate from what the advocates of the various religions would say about them,” Peterson said, noting that many claim their religion to be the true path to salvation. “That decision would have to be made in the family circle.”