Trevor Brookins

*Many people subscribe to the faulty premise that one can either be religiously inclined or highly educated but not both.

This false dichotomy stems from one of two thoughts: first, that education should not be made to replace the wisdom of God; second, the current political climate in this country pits conservatives who are overly populated in non-urban areas, are more outwardly religious and have a reputation for being less educated, while liberals are found mostly in cities, seem to be less religious and have a reputation for being well educated.

This overall philosophy regarding religion not being compatible with education is belied by a number of points. 1. Anyone officiating a religious service asks those in attendance to use their intellect to understand the lesson and implement the concepts in their lives. 2. In the Judeo-Christian tradition (the primary religion in this country), the Scriptures are often interpreted not literally, but as metaphorically. Such an exercise requires the use of an intellect. 3. Anyone who goes to seminary to study the Juedo-Christian Scriptures professionally necessarily uses their intellect as they are going to an institution of higher learning.

The issues around this topic related to the current political landscape of the country is a little more complicated because of American history, race, xenophobia, and geography.

Conservatives appear to be less educated, but also are located in more homogeneous areas which bring brings into play issues of race and immigration. And conservatives proclaim their faith more openly than their liberal counterparts. Conservatives who disdain higher education do so because it challenges their beliefs about people different from them and unexplained phenomena.

Liberals deal with all of the same issues but because they come from urban areas that tend to have a more mixed demographic composition, liberal perspectives have frequently been challenged and therefore higher education is less threatening.

But notice the commonality. Both conservatives and liberals experience the challenge to their beliefs, but only one group reacts to such challenges by shunning higher education. Religion is only incompatible with education to conservatives.

I will admit that an education will present different explanations as to why the world operates the way it does. And this may mean a rejection of one’s formative religious beliefs. But for such a person, the challenge to their belief system was inevitable. Their pursuit of an education may have been the catalyst but it was not the core cause.

We should not allow the differences of opinion between conservatives and liberals be conflated to encompass all of their opinions. There is a large common ground among them of which religion is often a part.

Religion and education can offer disparate solutions for any specific situation but that should define them as adversarial.

Trevor Brookins is a free lance writer in Rockland County, New York. He is currently working on a book about American culture during the Cold War.  His writing has appeared in The Journal News. You can reach him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @historictrev.