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Poems inspired by Paul's Epistle to the Ephesians
  1. Turned by Divine Love: Starting again with God and with others – BRFonline
  2. Religion and Education Around the World
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Turned by Divine Love: Starting again with God and with others – BRFonline

In India, the most learned men and sometimes women of ancient times were residents of Buddhist and Hindu monasteries. In the Middle East and Europe, Christian monks built libraries and, in the days before printing presses, preserved important earlier writings produced in Latin, Greek and Arabic. In many cases, these religious monasteries evolved into universities. Other universities, particularly in the United States and Europe, were built by Christian denominations to educate their clergy and lay followers.

Most of these institutions have since become secular in orientation, but their presence may help explain why populations in the U. Apart from their roles in creating educational infrastructure, religious groups were foundational in fostering societal attitudes toward education. There is considerable debate among scholars over the degree to which Islam has encouraged or discouraged secular education over the centuries.

Early Muslims made innovative intellectual contributions in such fields as mathematics, astronomy, philosophy, medicine and poetry. They established schools, often at mosques, known as katatib and madrasas. Under Muslim rule, southern Spain was a center of higher learning, producing such figures as the renowned Muslim philosopher Averroes.

But other scholars contend that these educational attainments, and the regard that Muslims had for intellectual inquiry in realms outside religion, were gradually attenuated by a complex mix of social and political events over several centuries. These events included foreign invasions, first by the Mongols, who destroyed the House of Wisdom in , and then by Christians, who pushed Muslims out of Spain in Some scholars argue that the educational decline began earlier, in the 11th and 12th centuries, and was rooted in institutional changes.

In particular, contends Harvard University Associate Professor of Economics Eric Chaney, the decline was caused by an increase in the political power of religious leaders who prioritized Islamic religious learning over scientific education. In the view of some historians, this shift severely constricted intellectual inquiry in the Muslim world as the natural sciences, critical questioning and art were downplayed. Some scholars argue that the decline in secular learning and the narrowing of intellectual inquiry among Muslims have been exaggerated, or did not take place.

Nowadays, Islamic religious leaders and religious schools still have great influence on education in some Muslim-majority countries, but they compete with government and private schools offering secular topics. In the view of some scholars, the 16th-century Protestant Reformation was a driving force for public education in Europe. Protestant reformers promoted literacy because of their contention that everyone needed to read the Bible, which they viewed as the essential authority on doctrinal matters. Driven by this theological conviction, religious leaders urged the building of schools and the translation of the Bible into local languages — and Reformation leader Martin Luther set the example by translating the Bible into German.

Historians Richard L. In more recent times, religion was a prime motivator in establishing U. The Scopes Monkey trial in further highlighted the rift between science and some branches of Christianity over the theory of evolution, a contentious relationship that endures even today. In sub-Saharan Africa, meanwhile, scholars describe how religious missionaries during colonial times were the prime movers in constructing educational facilities and influencing local attitudes toward education. These missionary activities, the scholars conclude, have had a long-lasting positive impact on access to schooling and educational attainment levels in the region.

Research by Baylor University sociologist Robert D. As a result, they established schools to promote literacy wherever they went and translated the Bible into indigenous languages. Woodberry and Nunn conclude, however, that Protestant and Catholic missionaries had differing results. Except where they were in direct competition with Protestant missionaries, Catholic missionaries concentrated on educating African elites rather than the masses, Woodberry observes. And Nunn notes that Protestant missionaries placed greater stress than Catholics on educating women. As a result, Protestants had more long-term impact on the education of sub-Saharan African women.

Asma, a professor of philosophy at Columbia College Chicago. This theoretical openness to scientific knowledge, however, did not always play out at the practical level within Buddhist communities, Asma contends. Despite this tension between theory and practice, Buddhism has been a major influence on the educational systems of many places, especially India, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos and Tibet.

From around the fifth century onward, Buddhist monasteries emerged as centers of education, not just for monks but also for laymen. In India, the most famous of these educational centers — Nalanda, in what is now Bihar state — is said to have had 10, students from many different countries, and offered courses in what then constituted philosophy, politics, economics, law, agriculture, astronomy, medicine and literature.

In Thailand, monastic schools located in Buddhist temples were the main source of education for male children for many centuries, though they offered primarily religious education. When the Thai government introduced Western-style, secular education around the beginning of the 20th century, it used monastic schools as the vehicle for reaching the wider population.

For Hindus, education vanquishes a fundamental source of human suffering, which is ignorance, says Anantanand Rambachan, a professor of religion at St. Olaf College. Hindu scriptures urge adherents to seek knowledge through dialogue and questioning, and to respect their teachers. The Hindu esteem for education is reflected in different ways. To start with, the most authoritative Hindu scriptures are the Vedas, a word that comes from the Sanskrit root word vd , which means knowledge, Rambachan says.

Religion and Education Around the World

University of Florida religion professor Vasudha Narayanan says Hindus regard two types of knowledge as necessary and worthwhile. The first, vidya, is everyday knowledge that equips one to earn a decent and dignified life. The second, jnana , is knowledge or wisdom that brings awareness of the divine. This is achieved by reading and meditating on Hindu scriptures.

Historically, the caste system in India was a huge barrier to the spread of mass literacy and education. Formal education was reserved for elite populations. But in the seventh and eighth centuries, the vernacular language of Tamil began to be used for religious devotion in southern India, which led to greater access to all kinds of knowledge for a wider group of people.

Later, in the 18th and 19th centuries, both secular and religious education came to be seen by Hindus as a universal right, and it gradually began to be extended to all members of the faith. High levels of Jewish educational attainment may be rooted in ancient religious norms, according to some recent scholarship. The Torah encourages parents to educate their children. This prescription was not mandatory, however, until the first century. Sometime around 65 C. A few years later, in the year 70, the Roman army destroyed the Second Temple following a Jewish revolt.

Temple rituals had been a pillar of Jewish religious life. To replace them, Jewish religious leaders emphasized the need for studying the Torah in synagogues. They also gave increased importance to the earlier religious decree on educating sons, making it a compulsory religious duty for all Jewish fathers. Over the next few centuries, a formal school system attached to synagogues was established.


This religious obligation meant that male Jews, to a greater degree than their contemporaries, were literate, which gave them an advantage in commerce and trade. Jewish scholarship was enhanced in the early Middle Ages, beginning in the late sixth century, by the emergence of Talmudic academies of Sura and Pumbedita in what is now Iraq.

In the late Middle Ages, centers of Jewish learning, including the study of science and medicine, emerged in what is today northern Spain and southern France. Until the early 19 th century, however, most education of Jewish boys was primarily religious. This intellectual movement sought to blend secular humanism with the Jewish faith and to encourage openness to secular scholarship among Jews.

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At the same time, they were strong proponents of reforming Jewish education by including secular subjects, such as European literature and the natural sciences. This educational project often brought the reformists into conflict with more orthodox Jewish religious leaders. Some scholars have noted that from the Reformation onward, Protestant groups encouraged educating women, with effects that still resonate today. Lake Forest College political scientist Fatima Z.

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This is not the case when family laws are based on more general Islamic precepts. In this regard, sociologists Darren E. While Darnell and Sherkat focus their research on Christians in the United States, their observations about how religious attitudes toward secular knowledge may affect attainment offer possible insights into attainment patterns seen in other religions and other parts of the world. Some scholars, however, hypothesize that higher levels of religious observance and engagement produce greater educational attainment. Ellison, in a study of U. Lehrer observes that those who frequently attended religious services during adolescence completed one more year of schooling than their less observant peers.

Strong social capital also is proposed by Paul Burstein, a sociologist at the University of Washington, as a topic needing further research to explain the high educational attainment of Jews. If this is true, one might expect higher percentages of religiously unaffiliated people in parts of the world with high educational attainment. A sidebar in Chapter 3 explores data relating to this question, finding mixed results. As noted earlier in this report , the difference between Christian and Muslim educational attainment in sub-Saharan Africa is among the largest intraregional gaps in the world.

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