“The statutory laws of the state are imperfect imitation replicas of religious codes. The secular state, or the godless state, allows the citizens to break the laws of God, but restricts them from disobeying the laws of the state; the result is that the people in general suffer more by breaking the laws of God than by obeying the imperfect laws made by man.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 1.13.42 Purport)
Friend1: Do you think religion should be taught in schools?
Friend2: That’s a loaded question if I ever heard one.
Friend1: [laughing] It’s worth asking. I know about the science of self-realization. I know that we are not the body. There is a difference between matter and spirit.
Friend2: Okay, so what does that have to do with religion?
Friend1: That’s part of Hinduism. It’s a central teaching, if I’m not mistaken.
Friend2: It may come from a very ancient text that is today associated with the culture labeled as “Hindu,” but where does religion come into play when discussing the difference between matter and spirit?
Friend1: I’m not sure I follow.
Friend2: Take gravity for example. Pretend I’m talking to someone who’s never heard of it. I tell them that every object they see is automatically attracted to the ground. They can prove this by seeing what happens when they release an object from their hand.
Friend1: Right, so that is science.
Friend2: Precisely. Saying that a person is spirit and not matter is also science. We mistakenly take this to be a tenet of some religion, but that’s only because we’ve never heard this truth, which is logically sound, before. At the very least this simple truth should be taught in the schools.
Friend1: But you know that people will object. They will say that you are imposing your religious values on others. Even if you try to explain it to them logically, they won’t understand. They will surely accuse you of indoctrinating the children.
Friend2: What is the alternative, then?
Friend1: Secularism. Just don’t mention religion at all. This is what we have now, in the public school system at least. There is no mention of religion. There is no obeisance paid to God.
Friend2: Yes, this is a great trick played on the less intelligent. Secularism is just as much a religion as anything else is. It is a philosophy, after all. It is rooted in ignorance, for the foundational truth of secularism is that the living entity is identical to the body.
Friend1: There’s no faith involved, though. I can see the body. I cannot see God.
Friend2: You can see the body, there’s no denying that. You can also see that it is constantly changing. You can see that the individual is the same throughout the changes. This means that you are not your body. To teach that the individual is the same as their body means that the philosophy is flawed from the outset.
Friend1: No one is being forced to follow a certain religion. That’s why it’s called secular. It follows the establishment clause in the first amendment to the Constitution. The government cannot establish a religion for all people to follow.
Friend2: That’s fine. Religion is nothing more than one’s ultimate conclusion in life. I’ll repeat myself: this secularism is just as much a religion as the standard ones out there. It is flawed from the outset. It is wrong from start to finish. In fact, for there to be progress, there has to be mistakes. What they tell us now may not be valid in the future. That is how science works. Things are always changing.
Friend1: But how is it a religion?
Friend2: It is the worst kind of religion because it is forced upon everyone. You cannot go against the theory of evolution. You cannot say in school that God created everything. You cannot question how species can suddenly grow new body parts or become intelligent over the course of time. You also cannot question the validity of pursuing material advancement for sense gratification. It is proven every day that this path does not lead to happiness. It brings more pain and misery than is seen in the animal community. The animals are supposedly less evolved, but without knowing the difference between matter and spirit, the human being is no wiser than the animal.
Friend1: So what are you proposing? You want the Bhagavad-gita forced upon everyone?
Friend2: I’m just saying that there is already religion in school. It is a cheating religion that denies the existence of God. Therefore it is the worst kind of religion. To make matters worse, it is forced upon everyone. There is no choice. In the Bhagavad-gita, after explaining Vedanta philosophy and the core concepts of self-realization, Krishna still does not force the listener to follow Him. He leaves the choice up to Arjuna [Bg 18.63]. That is God. That is real religion. Each person has this choice to make. They are never forced to surrender to God.
Friend1: I see. But this secularism, isn’t it better than some other religion coming in and forcing people to follow it? The Pilgrims fled to the New World precisely to practice their religion without interference from the government.
Friend2: You don’t have to force anyone into anything. You can at least lay the options on the table. You can present each philosophy. You can allow the students to assess the various philosophies and choose for themselves which one they want to accept. This would be the honest way to do things, and the secularist is anything but honest. In Sanskrit they are referred to as an asura, which means one who goes against God. God is the Absolute Truth, so one who goes against Him is inherently a cheater. A cheater will not permit a fair debate, a competition in the arena of ideas.
Friend1: So what can we do?
Friend2: You can take further confidence in Krishna’s teachings through this analysis. As He left the choice up to Arjuna, it means that He really is God. Only the Supreme Lord, who is the most gracious and kind, would eschew force in the surrendering process. Only with the lack of force is there the potential for love. And love is the true mission for the human being. The person who loves Krishna does so of their own choosing, and so they feel always liberated when chanting the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
Though God seemingly not obeyed,
In secularism laws there are made.
One where identity taken,
From body, spirit forsaken.
This philosophy upon all forced,
By the state happily endorsed.
But Krishna’s behavior just see,
Left choice to Arjuna did He.
To tell from this compassionate way,
That genuine religion Krishna to say.