2050, we’ll still be burning witches

How a church won 300 hours of every child’s life

Mr. Reagan in 1984 was asking “why can’t the freedom to acknowledge God be enjoyed again by children in every schoolroom across this land?”. Thirty years later we still have the question polarizing people, this time on the other side of the planet.

In my country, Romania, that one with Dracula, Nadia, Credit Card fraud, Ceausescu, yes — you’ve heard of it, there still is a hot debate over:

primary school mandatory religion classes.

Excuse me for all that emphasis but it baffles me. The debate is whether these classes should be:

mandatory or optional.

Excuse me again. Ths is not whether there should even exist a religion class, but the debate is about making it mandatory or not. Can you believe this is still a matter of public debate in the 2014th year after of this age? I can’t, but I live on the Internet side of humanity.

Now mind you, the “religion class” is not some hour of ethics, morals, history of thought, philosophy or religious exchange. This is the eastern orthodoxy class: bearded man in the sky (probably the least of problems but the most quoted); Eve as a secondary creature, suffering all her life as women deserve to, because apples; the entire wold flooded mainly for sodomy; cursing of the fig tree as a parable for the unworthiness of the unproductive life, the list is long.

But people all over the social spectrum are gathering around their zealot or conservative campfires and pitch the long black shadows of their sharp beliefs into the midday sky.

On one side famous local folks plead for the rest of the folk to opt in for their child — in place of their child — to take the religion class.

This group thinks that, without the proper guidance of an orthodox priest in school, the child will have no way to discern right from wrong. Seriously, i am not kidding.

The other famous local folks plead for atheism as a right. Multiculturalism. Freedom of thought. All these great concepts, none to the point of taking the spirituality of children out of the parent’s concern and externalizing it to some institution.

This group thinks that spirituality is either a story invented by the bad guys or a new age remix of ideas. Being a non believer is trendy.

In the mean time the zealots won. 93% of primary school kids will take the religion class held by an ordained priest who shows up in priest specific wardrobe and asks the pupils to say a prayer first thing. Their parents opted in for them and most will enjoy this special class where there is almost constant positive feedback, no one flunks the religion class. Instead they get the everlasting worry of flunking their religion based life.

A church won 300 hours of every child’s life.

We have fundamentalist wars raging in Africa and the Middle East. We have the Paris killings. We have the fear. We strive to make those gone, in all possible ways, from diplomacy to drone wars. All while ignoring the worrying lack of healthy secular societies in so many countries which are supposed to be fighting the fundamentalist societies.

Romania is a third class economy at the outskirts of civilized Europe, a last bastion of the European way if you will. Like all marginal territories for hundreds of years it was the land of vampires, “strigoi” — a zombie kind of whatever, and other such imaginary things. Therefore mandatory religion classes are really neither that much of a surprise, nor such a hurdle for the superstitious society of Romanians.

In 2015, about 24 countries still have state religions, excluding Vatican. I wonder if looking away while these religious political forces gain ground in a country that has been member of the EU for 8 years is a smart move. It is a problem that a state so busy with monitoring its population, so much that the number of legal eaves dropping by the state secret service has grown about 300% in five years, that we had to rally against laws that kill privacy, this state has no stake and no position into how open minded the future generations will be.

Yet, if you think about it, it is just an empty, hollow subject in a bigger scheme of us evolving as humans beyond the conditioning imposed by our apparently petty, humble origins and transcending as intellects beyond the awe we feel in front of the impossibility of our existence.