There are a number of research studies out at the moment highlighting the psychological benefits of religion in the lives of the religious. While often depicted as "the root of all evil," religion actually produces a greater sense of well-being and better general health. Australian researchers have just published a series of studies on the subject in a special issue of The Medical Journal of Australia. In an interview, epidemiologist Richard Eckersley effectively summarizes the importance of religion not only to the individual, but to society:
A lot of people have a pretty hostile view of religion, essentially seeing it as a source of misguided notions about life and a source of problems and conflict. But religion as perhaps the most common cultural expression of the spiritual - not the only expression - does provide many of the things that are conducive to well-being - and these include social support or social networks, a coherent belief system, a sense of purpose, a clear moral code. Religions tend to package these things in a way that makes them accessible to people and that historically I think has been its social role and value.Religion is an expression of who we are and what we hold dear. Our founders understood this as they sought to institute a system which prevented the abuses a state religion had caused in England. Religion is not so easy to uproot, and when confronted directly can cause conflict. Take the example of Germany. The stated reason that homeschooling cannot be tolerated is that it produces parallel societies which are an enemy of a pluralistic society. So the state goes on the offense, aggressively pursuing homeschoolers and strengthening legislation against it, thereby forcing the development of the parallel societies it so fears. This is a direct result of the enlightenment, which I'll get into later, Dr. Michael Donnelly of HSLDA had some very insightful comments in his speech to at the colloquium held in Germany. Actually, I encourage to read the whole thing. While he is speaking directly to this issue in Germany, the same problem is at the heart of the socialization question and is something we as homeschoolers need a better answer for.
While parallel societies may indeed be the enemy of a democratic state, dogmatic and coerced uniformity is the enemy of a pluralistic societyIdeas can be changed in society through conversation, debate and the free exchange of ideas. They cannot, however, be forced externally. That is, of course, true whether you seek to eradicate religion or uphold it. Our beliefs and expression thereof are deeply personal and and inextricable from who we are. External force serves only to divide and isolate groups within society, forcing them into "parallel" societies and increasing the tensions between groups.
...In Germany what we see in Education is not pluralism but rather support of a state controlled system of education--the purpose which is not to promote pluralism but rather to standardize and integrate children into society. Forcing all children to attend state sponsored schools is a sure way to stamp out pluralism. In the State schools a uniform curriculum provided by uniformly organized teachers in uniformly organized and established schools creates a uniform social structure within society. This is a tautological argument. It speaks for itself.
Indeed, one can argue that by forcibly curtailing educational choice in Germany, the German government is sowing the seeds of parallel societies and future conflict between these societies within Germany.