Study of religion holds promise

A requirement to take a class that outlines the world’s religions is not a bad idea.

Last week, a task force at Harvard University issued a proposal to the faculty that outlines what it recommends curriculum requirements for undergraduate students should be. Under its guidelines, Harvard should incorporate a “Faith and Reason” requirement, among others. If approved and adopted, this will likely become a nationwide trend for public institutions of higher education.

The “Faith and Reason” category would entail classes that teach students about how religion functions within a democracy. The initiative is designed to better prepare undergraduate students for things they will undoubtedly encounter after their academic careers.

There is no question that religion holds a very meaningful place in the world society. The world’s many religions are often misrepresented and misunderstood, leading to further stereotyping, and mass intolerance can, and often does, emerge.

Educating college students about the religions of the world and how those religions work within their society and others is a movement toward creating a universal understanding and acceptance of faith-based beliefs. As Harvard usually sets the stage for other institutions’ actions, this proposal could likely change curriculum requirements across the nation.

In the future, even the University of Minnesota might consider changing College of Liberal Arts requirements to include a course about comparative religion. Are not the religions of the world as important in shaping communities and actions as their governments and histories?

A required course that teaches a general overview of the world’s major religions, their histories and the societies in which they are practiced would give students more light on a subject about which they would otherwise carry only preconceived notions.

An increased understanding of various beliefs would help Americans be less ignorant about the world outside our little corner.