Religion in Personal Development: An Analysis and a Prescription

Religion in Personal Development: An Analysis and a Prescription

Religion in Personal Development: An Analysis and a Prescription

Religion in Personal Development: An Analysis and a Prescription


Religion is in the forefront of current discussions about such areas as teacher preparation, parental duties, the rights of church-affiliated schools, values education, full personal growth, the proliferation of crime, moral aberrations, the loss of personal identity, and society's concerns. But what is religion? And what is the testimony to its importance from such fields as philosophy, history, anthropology, sociology, and psychology? Can today's renewed interest in ethics be satisfied without reference to religion? If systematic exposure to religion is necessary for wholeness, can it be fulfilled by learning about religion, or must it be by way of witness and commitment? May current graduates of schools without religion systematically in their curriculum be said to be educated, or must they be said to be only schooled? How does one satisfactorily include religion in government schools? In denominational schools?


An ad by a secular press states that its writers can help you do good and live well without religion. For the unchurched, they claim to be a valued voice of reason for those who would rather be happy in this life than in any next-life, and they affirm that life without religion can be at least as moral, as loving, as concerned, and as happy as it is for "true believers" in religion.

This book explores whether religion is in any way needed for personal formation: first from the viewpoints of the age-old disciplines of philosophy and history, then from the viewpoints of the newer disciplines of anthropology, sociology, and psychology, as well as from the standpoint of practice, especially in the United States. The book is for readers of all or of no religious beliefs and commitments. The motif that ties the chapters together is religion, optimal personal growth and development especially by way of schooling and education, and human beings. People have core needs to be fulfilled, potential to be realized, and questions about life's meaning to be answered. Do they need religion to help?

The Many Faces of Religion

Many see the role of religion somewhat like they see a clergyman at a political dinner: a symbol of domestication invited to ease with vague but affable prayers the consciences and the digestive tracts of those with the real power. There are, indeed, many faces to religion.

On the one hand, it is frightening what people have done to one another in the name of God, or of religion, or of the "good of the church." They have imposed prior censorship of theological debate -- in the Christian church, for example, forgetting the Acts of the Apostles, which records the newcomer St. Paul confronting the authority of St. Peter and prevailing. They have set heretics on fire, inflamed bigotry, invaded nations, slaughtered opponents -- and given religion the bad name of being the ultimate blasphemy.

Too often religion is seen as "the Church," an institution comprised of human beings which sometimes less-than-gently represses responsible freedom of thought and expression. The self-righteousness, narrow- mindedness, and prejudice of some elitist "believers" and their lack of . . .

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