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The Bible's role in culture

March 18, 2007

Re "Reading, writing and Revelation," Opinion, March 14

As concerned as Stephen Prothero might be about the current rate of biblical illiteracy, which anthropologists call religious reductionism, there is no reason public schools (and taxpayers) must pick up the slack for the failings of Christian parents using the guise of Western literacy and societal morality as an argument to favor promotion of this particular religion. Christianity and other religions do not have a lock on literacy, morality or truth.

The Bible is not a source of historical significance but rather a font of religious anachronisms. Perhaps we can move forward to be the country we claim to be and keep all religions where they belong -- in churches and the home.

STEPHEN HARGROVE

West Los Angeles

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As one who has taught literature of the Bible since 1975, I find that every semester more than two-thirds of my students begin the class having never opened the Bible. This is not their fault. They have been raised in a culture that discourages interiority and by parents who don't talk to their children, don't take them to museums and libraries, don't encourage them to read and don't ask them thoughtful questions about issues that matter. The Bible is a singular influence on Western civilization. We cannot understand the development of literature, art, music, history or philosophy unless we know the text on which so many of our predecessors depended as writers and thinkers. Let's put aside false anxieties. The Bible ought to be taught from the earliest grades as a cultural document. That is not promoting religion; that is encouraging a healthy understanding of the history of a civilization so many of us take for granted.

DALE F. SALWAK

Glendora

The writer teaches English at Citrus College.

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Prothero asks: "How can citizens participate in biblically inflected debates on abortion, capital punishment or the environment without knowing something about the Bible?" How about rationally? How about thoughtfully? How about without sectarian rhetoric that only serves to separate us? I refuse to argue fact and merit with someone whose only rebuttal is: "But God says...."

MERRY BIERD-DOBBINS

Dallas, Ga.

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