15 February, 2014

Religion and biblical fables

Last week, the media reported on some research carried out by the Bible Society, which indicated a number of things:
  • almost three out of ten children did not know that the story of the birth of Jesus comes from the Bible;
  • a similar number had never heard stories about Adam and Eve or the Crucifixion;
  • more than a third did not know that the tales of the Good Samaritan and David and Goliath come from the Bible;
  • many of the parents in the study considered the Bible to be a good source of values for their children AND YET almost half of them did not recognise that the story of Noah's Ark comes from the Bible, and many muddled up biblical stories with the plot lines of well know films such as the Harry Potter series.
I was surprised by these findings -- and the fact that parents were confusing biblical stories with film plots struck me as laughable. How was this possible, I asked myself?

In a bid to understand, I asked my children about the stories listed above and where they come from. They knew the answers and, it turns out, they know a lot more detail about these stories that I do. Our family is not religious (I don't remember having told my children biblical stories), but we do have a good level of general knowledge and my children do attend Church of England schools. Maybe that's the answer, then.

Even though I'm not religious, it strikes me as 'a good thing' to know a bit about the Bible, the stories and morals contained within it, and religion in general. Why? Well, first off because religion is an important part of the history and culture of this country, and is worth learning about for that reason alone. Second, because religion has shaped and affected many of the events and thought processes in British culture (the Crusades, divorce, dissolution of the monasteries, ordination of women, to name but a few). And third because whatever one might think of the Bible (or indeed religion in general) it does impart some significant messages. The importance of putting sectarian differences aside in order to help an individual in need (aka the tale of the Good Samaritan), for example.

Granted the plot lines of the Harry Potter films do highlight some thought-provoking issues, but  for some reason I find myself baulking at according them the same level of historical, cultural and moral significance as our religious and biblical fables.

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