Reading through The Guardian online last week I came across the news that UK Poet Laureate Andrew Motion, an atheist (and also one of the directors of The Poetry Archive), has “called for an overhaul of the school curriculum to reverse the ‘depressing’ trend which threatened to leave future generations unable to fully understand the works of Milton and Shakespeare or even more recent writers such as TS Eliot”:
Mr Motion, who holds a chair in creative writing at Royal Holloway, University of London, said that he had struggled to teach Milton’s Paradise Lost to undergraduates because they had no concept of the fall of man.
“These were all bright students, very hard-working, all with good A-levels, but their knowledge of the great ancient stories was very sketchy,” he said in an interview.
“So when the time came to talk about Milton, I found very few knew there had been a civil war. As for the Bible, forget it, they just about knew who Adam and Eve were.”
He insisted that while secularist ideas had put many people off studying the Bible, parents who do not believe in God should have nothing to fear from their children learning about the Bible.
“If people say this is about ramming religion down people’s throats, they aren’t thinking about it hard enough,” he said.
“It is more about the power of these words to connect with deep, recurring human truths, and also the story of the influence of that language and those stories.”
And he warned that growing ignorance of the great stories of the Bible as well as classical mythology was becoming an increasingly serious handicap for those studying literature.
“Many of my students stumble into vaguely mythological stories in their writing,” he said.
Read the rest of the article here.
Here’s the perfect example of what you can do with a little book learning, not to mention a great deal of craft and patience: retired farmer Alec Garrard’s 12′ by 20′ model of Herod’s Temple; as Mr. Garrard notes, “I have an interest in buildings and religion so I thought maybe I could combine the two and I came up with the idea of doing the temple”. A detailed slide show of the model is here.
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Religious Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know — And Doesn’t by Stephen Prothero
World Religions: The Great Faiths Explored & Explained by John Bowker (DK Publishing)