"Official" Moment of Silence in Secular Schools
(Top Posts - Social/Legal - 103001)

With the "official" moment of silence thing, present in
some secular schools as a recent fad in America, is it
a promotion of religion or just a nice quiet time to
reflect on whatever one's mind wishes to contemplate?

Well, perhaps it's all in the spin, the way the moment
of silence is treated by the schools / teachers involved,
isn't it?

Sample session in a fictional classroom, with an enlight-
ened teacher and an enlightened student (and one com-
ment towards the end by a devoutly religious student) ...

Teacher: Now, class, it's our moment of silence time ...

Student responds: Why?

Teacher: Well now, I really don't know why. It's just
something we're doing because we can.

Student responds: Because we can? But what about
religions that are using the "moment of silence" to con-
vey that there is a god? What should disbelievers say
about that?

Teacher: Well now, silence is an equal opportunity event,
so everyone can silently disbelieve or believe whatever
they want, can't they?

Student responds: Oh, you mean like a moment to offer
a silent prayer?

Teacher: Well now, silent prayer is certainly possible by
students who believe in prayer.

Student responds: Didn't the muslims that murdered thou-
sands of Americans pray?

Teacher: Now now, you're getting into religion and I
respect the separation of church and state and ... yes,
it's my understanding that prayer was a valued element
amongst the mass murderers who attacked America on
9-11-01.

Student responds: Well then, isn't a moment set aside so
folks can publicly pray silently actually encouraging said
silent prayer and, if so, isn't that paying respect to a crit-
ical element of what the mass murderers who attacked
America were all about?

Teacher: You're really getting into areas which I feel un-
comfortable addressing, now. Suffice to say, the moment
of silence neither encourages nor discourages silent prayer.

Student responds: But shouldn't the key element of the
mass murderers' lives, an element which was fundamental
to their attack on America, a call to a god they felt was
leading them to attack America, be something discour-
aged by Americans, in this time of patriotism and war by
our soldiers in foreign lands?

Teacher: No, religion is off topic at schools, unless it's
discussed in a religious studies course, and even so, it
would be ill-advised for any teacher to offer opposition
to any religion in any way, as someone might construe
that as state support for no religion. Religion, as pertains
to promotion of belief, is a topic best left in churches,
synagogues, mosques, temples, and other places speci-
fically deigned to be the province of worship and religion.

Student responds: But hasn't the court ruled that schools
can be used for religion after school is let out?

Teacher: Well, I'm not fully familiar with the court rulings
on that matter, but after school is let out implies that the
state is not endorsing religion and, as such, may be allow-
able.

Student responds: Oh, I see, a fundamental cause of the
mass murder of Americans is religion, and the state is OK
with a moment of silence and schools being used to pro-
mote religion after hours.

Do you think that the state is acting in the students' best
interests or, really, when it comes right down to it, the
state acts to inhibit criticism of religion in public schools
by virtue of its stances of "In God We Trust" on money
and coinage, "One Nation Under God" in the pledge of
allegiance, and recent efforts to vote for "God Bless
America" by over 400 to zero in the House of Repre-
sentatives?

Teacher: My, you are well-informed. Let me put it this
way, the courts have ruled God is a deistic synonym for
whatever force or entity is responsible for all that is. Many
folks see God as a particular God of religion, many folks
see God as nature, many folks see God as merely a sub-
stitute for unknowns.

God is, per generalistic ecumenical philosophy, a repre-
sentative of all that is good and genuine and true. How-
ever, that being the case, in order to avoid religious wars
and invocation of a particular God mindset as law, the
separation of church and state has allowed the U.S. to
continue along a heavily religious-steeped mindset while
not falling prey to what were formerly long-lived prob-
lems of combining church and state.

Student responds: So, you're saying that God is what-
ever folks want it to be but in order to avoid the risk of
a particular interpretation or set of interpretations becom-
ing the law of the land, a distance from God specificity
has been endemic to American culture ...

while at the same time a general God word has been used
to convey
an ecumenical commonality of subservience to
whatever God is, and even though most perceive God as
an almighty sky daddy who rewards good believers with
immortal life and damns bad disbelievers to immortal tor-
ment, government and folks, in general, feel comfortable
with ideas like "God Bless America", "In God We Trust",
"One Nation Under God", and so on and so forth.

Is that what you're saying?

Teacher: The comfort with God is normally not perceived
in the manner you described it. In all honesty, most folks,
when God is used, think their interpretation of God is the
true one, and they only pay lip service to other interpreta-
tions in order to avoid, well, you know, violent confronta-
tions and threats and all that goes along with taking a par-
ticular interpretation to be the one and only truth.

Student responds: Well, that was wh_

Another student, a devoutly religiously-steeped student
interjects:
Now, wait a minute, I go to church and my
preacher says the bible is the word of God. You seem to
be saying it's not.

Teacher: I think we've had just about enough discussion
on the moment of silence issue for today. As I prefer to
keep my job rather than discuss religion and God, let me
reiterate, God is a concept which means different things
to different people and is not a topic which can be ade-
quately addressed in classrooms apart from those speci-
fically designed for the study of religion in an objective
and analytical manner.

For God views, read, study, go to church, ask your
parents, or decide on your own, but whatever you do,
don't think you're going to get an objective analysis of
God in schools under fire from certain elements of
society to be promotive of God, in general, or a specific
interpretation of preferred elements of the monotheistic
God, in most cases.

Now, where was I, ah yes, that moment of silence thing.
Let's just do it and get it over with ... after that detailed
discussion, I think a bucket full of moments of silence
would come in handy.

<students applaud - moment of silence, commensurate
with a lot of giggling, ensues>

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