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Posted by on Apr 23, 2008 in education | 2 comments

Schopenhauer on religious education

Philalethes. […] But religions admittedly appeal, not to conviction as the result of argument, but to belief as demanded by revelation. And as the capacity for believing is strongest in childhood, special care is taken to make sure of this tender age. This has much more to do with the doctrines of belief taking root than threats and reports of miracles. If, in early childhood, certain fundamental views and doctrines are paraded with unusual solemnity, and an air of the greatest earnestness never before visible in anything else; if, at the same time, the possibility of a doubt about them be completely passed over, or touched upon only to indicate that doubt is the first step to eternal perdition, the resulting impression will be so deep that, as a rule, that is, in almost every case, doubt about them will be almost as impossible as doubt about one’s own existence. Hardly one in ten thousand will have the strength of mind to ask himself seriously and earnestly—is that true?

As the examiners say, “Discuss”. Is this true today? Is it true in, say, Ibrahim Lawson‘s school? To what extent does it account for the religious experience that one “just knows” God exists, etc.?

Source here.


  1. Whatever happened to Mr Lawson? Did he simply hoist petticoats and run?

  2. Schopenhauer is one of my favourite philosophers of all. “Life is a difficult question; I have decided to spend my life thinking about it” was his response to his father’s letter in which he registered his disappointment in him in choosing to do philosophy over something more ‘useful’. In relation to the selected piece, I think religion most certainly benefits from its inculcation at an early age (Jesus camp, anyone?). Beliefs we adopt at an early age can become so embedded in our world view that they become ‘naturalised’ – perfectly normal beliefs. So for instance, beliefs like the holy trinity, original sin, salvation made possible by Jesus’s sacrifice, if believed from as early as it is possible to understand them, may be seen as entirely unproblematic. Thomas Paine said something illuminating in that connection: that “A long habit of not thinking a thing wrong, gives it a superficial appearance of being right, and raises at first a formidable outcry in defense of custom.” True too of those beliefs we have from youth.

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