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The Importance of a Pluralistic Education in religion

by Francisco José Chaux Guzmán

“History has, without doubt, another distinct and greater use. It broadens the imagination and suggests possibilities of action and of feelings that wouldn’t have occurred to an uneducated spirit” Bertrand Russell [1]

One of the main arguments employed to disqualify secularism is that which favors the belief of the majority, and thus justifying the influence of the Catholic religion in State affairs. In Colombia, it is not unusual to find religious ceremonies or preaching in public schools and institutions, which constitutes a violation of the secular character of the State consecrated in the Political Constitution of 1991. The concept of the majority rule constitutes a false hood ad populum because it is based on imposing what a minority thinks on a majority. The secular State, on the other hand, is based on abiding by the rule that what is common to all men (i.e. of common interest) excludes the rule founded on a belief imposed on everybody by only a few.[2].

Caricatura de Alberto Montt
Cartoon by Alberto Montt

This secular approach implies that education should be non-religious, that is, classrooms should not be used for religious indoctrination. This principle has been ignored by most educational institutions in which religion class (and on a lot of occasions, Ethics and Civics- ética y democracia in Spanish) have been converted into spaces for the promotion of the Catholic faith.

As Religion class forms part of the curriculum, a line of thought that would be rational, would be to dedicate this area to an interdisciplinary teaching of different religions, religious phenomenon and non-religious options in relation to the present day and the history of humanity in order to promote learning free of imposition that permits the student choose their own spiritual education if they so desired. This would also help to understand others that think differently in an atmosphere of tolerance.

Teaching of this type would also help to understand the importance of having a secular State. Without going further, at the moment religious diversity in Colombia is notable due to the spread of Non-Catholic Christian churches, the presence of traditional religions of indigenous and African communities, the greater occurrence of people not affiliated to any religion including atheists and agnostics and minority groups that practice Islam. This way, understanding the meaning of the imposition of a religious ritual on a Buddhist, for example, and what that would mean for their religious freedom and their freedom of conscience.

Additionally, this approach decreases the possibility of discrimination for religious motives. Knowing the religious thought of others makes it less likely to see them as enemies or, in this sense, less opportunities arise for discrimination. There are numerous cases of discrimination of students in schools based on religious belief, by other students or teachers.

Finally, ignorance of different religions is not knowing fundamental components of many cultures, the history of other nations or our behavior. As the words copied of Bertrand Russell about history in the epigraph of this article say: knowledge of different religions and non-religious options widens the imagination and suggests possibilities of action and feeling. This way, one does not stoop to spurn others for thinking differently; on the contrary, one tries to comprehend the other’s position through acquiring knowledge.

[1] Russell, Bertrand (1993). Ensayos filosóficos. Ediciones Altaya, S.A. [2] Sanabria-S., Fabián (2006). “La laicidad: un requisito para la educación pluralista”, Revista Educación y Pedagogía, Medellín, Universidad de Antioquia, Facultad de Educación, vol. XVIII, núm. 44, (enero-abril), pp. 51-60. [3] Redacción Judicial (2015, 11 de febrero). “El calvario de una familia atea”, Diario El Espectador.


Written by Francisco José Chaux Guzmán. Writer in formation, dedicated to poetry and narrative. Economist by profession, Works in data analysis about poverty and inequality. Free thinker and secular humanist. Translated by Edward Duigenan.

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