I brought up God today in class. Unabashedly. Ok, maybe a little bit abashedly.
Before we go any further into the separation of church and state discussion, I'd like to point everyone to our Indiana Standards: SS 7.1.4: "Describe the historical origins, central beliefs and spread of major religions."
And we all know that learning is so much better when it's relevant to the lives of students. When it applies.
So, I asked students to write a response to the following questions: Do you believe in a god? Why or why not? What causes you to believe this? Do you believe in Heaven or Hell? If so, what do you think they'll be like?
Then we discussed it. We talked about respect, and to the students' credit - every class was respectful and attentive when their peers were talking.
But it was also a little bit awkward. Students aren't used to talking about faith in the classroom - they're not used to espousing their views. Some told me they felt like they weren't supposed to share what they believed. I reminded them that this was the reason for the 1st amendment - that they could have the freedom to believe whatever they wanted, and share it if they'd like - or keep it to themselves if they chose. (I'll add here that I didn't force anybody to talk.)
Of course it's also a little bit awkward because there's no getting around the fact that some students believe there's a chance other students are going to end up in Hell given their current religious beliefs. And for the students and their families who believe this - it's very troubling to be on either side. If you genuinely believe it - you don't want to see your friend on a path to Hell. And if you're on the other side, you don't want to be reminded all the time that you're bound for Hell.
It was generally a good conversation if the students participated - but they didn't always participate, so sometimes it was lacking. I encouraged them all to talk to you about their beliefs, rather than talk to me about them.
We also traced the roots of the three monotheistic religions back to Abraham using an interactive flow chart I made. Check it out, I'm still working on it though:
If you want the extra credit for reading and discussing the blog with an adult, tell them about our discussion today. How do you think it went? Could it have gone any better? What would have had to happen? When you're done, write two sentences from the conversation on a piece of scrap paper. Have the adult sign it, and turn it in tomorrow.