Dan Fagan’s column appears to have stimulated strong opinions. However, the reaction is overblown.
I taught art history at Tulane for nearly 30 years. I always included in the courses that introduced students to the arts of the ancient world specific lectures on the different religions and their respective expressions in art and architecture. Without discussions of the religions and religious texts of the ancient civilizations, understanding and appreciation of their art would be impossible. My students learned about the religions of ancient Egypt, Sumer, Iran, Babylon, Assyria, Anatolia, Judea, Crete, Malta, Greece, Rome, etc. Once the course moved to the Common Era, Christianity and the Bible were introduced to the discussion, as was Islam and the Quran.
Responsible teaching is not proselytizing. All religions express the same human longing. Sometimes, the stories or iconography differ; sometimes, just the names of the characters. Knowing these stories and understanding them gives us insight into ourselves — not as Christians, Muslims, Buddhists or Hindus — but as humans.
In my opinion, our public school curriculum should definitely include a course on the religions of the world. Objectively presented, such a course can go a long way in reducing prevailing religion-based prejudice and irrational hate of the "other," whoever that may be.
Thomas M. Bayer