2.c.15 – What binds religion and education?

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March 2, 2010 — Riccardo Sabellotti - Giacinto Sabellotti

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What binds religion and education?

The fundamental principles of advertising, however, are always used also for the purpose of education: in all places and all ages there have been mothers and grandmothers who told tales to their children; these are not just techniques to make the descendants sleep, they represent a tool to communicate instructive messages on what is good and what is evil, what dangers lie ahead in adult life and how we should behave; a typical example is the tale of Pinocchio, which teaches that we should not tell lies, do not be disobedient, we must not trust strangers or appearances. The tales narrate fantastic and unreal but very stimulating stories, evoking magnificent images and strong sensations, unforgettable for children who, not having yet developed to their full their rational capacities, have particular need of this type of language. The same technique is used by religions around the world: in fact all of them have their own mythology made of fantastic tales that is used to introduce and justify their moral principles, customs and criteria to distinguish a good behavior from a wrong.
From the mists of time our mothers and our religions apply what psychology has only recently discovered; these applications haven’t been intentional, however, they are the result of cultural evolution of our species. The tales may also be improvised, exaggerating experiences of people’s lives, while religions are much more deeply rooted in the collective culture: they offer models of common behavior for the whole community on the basis of the same vision of the world; without religions, everybody would have a mental map significantly different from that of the others and would be much more difficult to live in society; the educational and social function of the ancient religions is much more important and profound that we might imagine until recent times; they are the instrument that evolution has produced to manage culture in a collective and unconscious manner, training and educating a kind of common unconscious, ensuring a significant uniformity of desires, values and behaviors.
It is historically proven that religions evolve with the society to which they belong and probably do so since words exist; several clues suggest that the human brain is genetically prepared to take on religious attitudes, it follows that religion is part of human nature and, as we have seen for sexuality and superstitions, can be managed but not eliminated. The man naturally produces beliefs and superstitions, and if we try to replace them with science, the result is that the science will be accepted as a common superstition; for the nature of our minds, a belief must be supplanted by another belief and it is a logical thing because the new conviction must play the same role of the old one, like a religion can at most be replaced with another religious doctrine; the secular policies and even atheistic doctrines as communism have been absorbed by the population as religious doctrines, resulting in typical attitudes of devotion to the symbols characteristic of the party or to the charismatic leaders, fully comparable to the prophets or saints with a statue and commemorative portraits to hang in celebrative places; many events appear as religious processions and like these have generally the only effect of strengthening the sense of belonging to the group. Religions have the natural function of spiritual leader of society, and anything that leads the society and has a charismatic role in it takes accordingly in our minds a religious role; this is true for the political leaders, but also for celebrities like famous singers, actors and footballers, whose clothes or fragments of them are preserved as precious relics belonged to a saint or even sold at auction at incredible prices; similarly to what happens with the sacred images, the children hang the pictures of players in the room and the girls do the same with the singers, having clearly divinized them.
The man is a naturally religious animal, both on genetic and cultural basis; the genetic aspect is the result of natural selection that has privileged human beings with a religious establishment as it is a powerful social glue between individuals who, as we know. have in socialization one of the main resources for survival, while the cultural aspect has taken steps to strengthen this predisposition by structuring and organizing it. The path followed by religions for education, consisting of mythology, moral values and behavior patterns, is therefore the natural path for the education of the human being, what we have to follow to manage our culture in a conscious way. If we want to update our culture based on new needs, we must partly rebuild our mental map from representation of nature and putting it in the appropriate benchmarks to develop models of behavior.
With regard to the representation of nature, experimental science provides us models already more accurate than we need, in television documentaries it is also already made a very impressive presentation, sometimes too spectacular, but suited to be understood and to involve all our minds; on this basis we must now do the second step, which is to establish that what is good and what is bad for us, identifying benchmarks for the right behavior, traditionally called moral values.

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