I’m currently taking a 200-level religion class that is required for my major, though I somehow overlooked it until last semester (I’m currently in my sixth year at Missouri State University, partially due to how much I suck at reading degree audits) so I’m just now taking it. Paths of World Religions is essentially a world-religion-summary class, with an hour or two dedicated to each religion in a whirlwind tour of belief systems.
Unlike most 200-level religion classes, I have been surprised to see that a lot of the class is actually interested in the subject and excited to be learning this stuff. Since it also counts as a general education requirement (which is the reason most people are in there), you usually see students who are just looking for a grade, but this particular class has a lot of people who honestly want to learn about religion.
That’s all fine and well, and it’s nice to see, but they’re also people who are only now being introduced to some of these religions and concepts. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it means that their conclusions are usually wrong.
And though I like the teacher, who is a very nice woman with a great deal of energy and exuberance, I think that she should probably be telling them that.
When a student compares the Buddha to Jesus, stating that the Buddha was doing OK but then made a mistake and sinned so he had to go out into the desert and meditate/pray before becoming a religious leader, well that’s just wrong. It’s historically inaccurate, and though there are some similarities between the moral codes of Christianity and Buddhism, the view that they’re practically the same religion is incorrect.
We don’t do a person any favours when we go on letting someone think something that is wrong. Yeah, you can inform them nicely, but you still have to tell them the truth or they will continue being ignorant. There’s nothing wrong with ignorance in and of itself–we’re all there until we gain in knowledge on a particular subject–so I don’t think it’s something to be feared, ashamed of, or hidden. But I do take umbrage with people who 1) willingly remain ignorant or 2) allow someone to remain that way, particularly if the person is looking for knowledge.
So if you’re hear someone say something that’s wrong, correct them. Tell them they’re wrong and then explain how, why, and what the truth is. You’re not doing them any favours by pulling your punches and letting them think they’re smart for making a connection between the Tao Te Ching and the Hebrew Bible simply because they’re both religious texts. We have an obligation to spread truth and knowledge, and sometimes that will mean telling someone they’re wrong. Don’t worry, they can probably handle it.
And if they can’t, then I guess they’ll have to learn how to.