On Religious Education

On Religious Education

A Story by Brandon Langley

In the beginning, there was the word. And the word was indoctrination.At least thats how many Christian schools seem to teach John 1:1. Increasingly in this country, there have been young people standing up for what they believe in. However, while we may think that most-if not all-young people follow a more liberal and progressive ideology, it turns out they are oftentimes indoctrinated with such belief to the point that they know nothing else. Sometimes this belief stems not from their parents, but from the schools to which their parents send them.


Adolf Hitler, the man who singlehandedly led the Nazi regime in the murder of more than six million Jews (and an oft-forgotten twenty-five million Russians), once said He alone, who owns the youth, gains the future.This idea was taken to heart by the religious organization Hitler himself identified with: Christianity. From young children exposed to the religion in their infancy to older children in private religious schools who have known religion only as fact: they have all been indoctrinated with an ancient, bigoted belief system. Worse than that, these private schools do not teach that Christianity is a belief system, but that it is fact.


From preschool through to the third grade, I went to a private Catholic school by the name of St. Matthews Catholic School. I (along with hundreds of other children) was subject to devoutly religious “”educatorssaturating our young minds with a religion we didnt fully understand. Not only did we not fully understand the religion, but we didnt fully understand that there were other options. I, personally, assumed that religion was like race: youre just kind of born with it-and while that may be true in terms of ethnicity (ie. Jews are Jews even if they convert)-in terms of belief, it is not at all. In fact, many people believe that young people shouldnt learn about religion at all until they are able to fully comprehend it and are given enough information to make an informed decision. This idea is made even more attractive when one realizes how many Atheists have read the Christian bible compared to how many Christians have. In the U.S. alone, only 38% of Christians have read the bible in full, while 61% of Atheists with a Christian background have done so.


I recently was given the opportunity to conduct an interview with Lou Goldberg, the current Principal of St. Matthews, where he affirmed by suspicions that these schools taught religion as fact:

                Q: Do you teach Catholicism as a belief system or as a fact?

                A: Im not sure of the distinction…

Q: There are people who dont believe in Catholicism, clearly, Im sure that you address that they exist-so do you also address that your own beliefs might be false?

A: No. No, we dont. In that regard, no.

Principal Goldberg went on to talk about how his school does in fact discuss and provide a question and answer time whereas the Catholic teachings on a difficult issue such as abortion are made clear as being morally superior. While discussion on social issues in such a conservative setting is indeed something to be proud of, it does not negate the fact that these children are taught from the age of four that the beliefs of the Catholic Church are both factually undisputed and superior to any dissenters.


Goldberg also claimed that his students performed better than others once they leave St. Matthews, but when asked for statistical data, he could provide only anecdotal evidence that they were killing the SOLs.While this may be true, performance on the SOLs is not an indicator of an advanced intellect, but of good preparation: end-of-year exams such as the SOLs are made not to test the student, but to ensure that they have in fact retained the information from the class to a minimum degree(hence the term standards of learning). So, in reality, parents are paying $6,000(even more so for non-Catholic families) for their child to attend SMS and be indoctrinated with a religion that the parents themselves oftentimes dont understand (my parents certainly didnt) and to perform just as well as other students on standardized tests. Meanwhile, according to one student who attended the school for all eight years, the school openly disparaged public school kidsand claimed superiority. This same student also felt she was not adequately prepared for public school and required summer schooling after her first year out of private education. She had the following to say on the matter:

After spending my freshmen year at the Legal Studies Academy at First Colonial High School, I learned that St. Matthews was filling my head with this false sense of being advanced compared to the other students… [At a public school] The teachers genuinely care about how one performs in their class and will make an effort to tutor you if you are not doing well. If you were not doing well at St. Matthews the teacher would not make an effort to assist you, they would automatically assume that you were more focused on some kind of sport rather than genuinely not understanding information.


These were not the feelings of just one student, but, as I came to find out upon further investigation, an entire population of religiously educated students. One student who had attended a variety of private religious schools on account of his parents constantly moving about the country said Religious schools have this gaiety about them: they believe that they’re the end-all be-all of education, that theyre the Harvard of elementary schools, when in reality, theyre actually sub-par at best.” From what I gathered from St. Matthews, this was true.


However, these epiphanies and realizations (whether they be of religions falsehood or simply of the schools ineptitude) oftentimes are not made by a majority of the students. According to the U.S. Pew Research Center, approximately 86% of all Christians who were introduced to Christianity at a young, impressionable age stayed devout Christians. This young impression is what religious schools leave on these children: they indoctrinate them with ancient rhetoric that not even the teachers themselves fully understand and let this conservative mindset fester within our population: it is the reason we still-in the year 2015-have people who believe that black people do not deserve the same rights as white people, that homosexual couples shouldnt get married, that transgendered people misidentify their gender because theyre sick.The indoctrination of these ideas come not from a loving parent, but from the hatred and rhetoric of an unenlightened institution spouting ancient, misinformed beliefs, and it is the reason private religious schools deserve more public oversight: education is something that should not be handled lightly for these children are our future.




Heffer, Simon. "A Continent in Chaos and Why Hitler's Evil Is Rising Again." Mail Online.

Associated Newspapers, 29 Jan. 2013. Web. 12 Aug. 2015.

Swanson, Eric. "U.S. Religious Knowledge Survey." Pew Research Centers Religion Public

Life Project RSS</i>. Pew Forum, 27 Sept. 2010. Web. 20 Aug. 2015.

Weber, Jeremy. "Surprising Stats on Who Reads the Bible from Start to Finish." Christianity

Today. Christiainty Today, 4 June 2013. Web. 20 Aug. 2015.

Berry, Robby. "How I Became An Ex-Christian." <i>Internet Infidels</i>. Secular Web, n.d.

Web. 26 Aug. 2015.

© 2015 Brandon Langley


Author's Note

Brandon Langley
As a requirement for my International Baccalaureate diploma, I was required to do a "Personal Project" over the summer months. This exposé is that. Please share this, and spread the word!

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Added on August 28, 2015
Last Updated on August 28, 2015
Tags: Religion, IB, International Baccalaureate, religious education, news, exposé

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Brandon Langley
Brandon Langley

Virginia Beach, VA



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A Story by Brandon Langley