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April 13th, 2013
02:38 PM ET

My Take: Nothing wrong with Nazi assignment

Editor's note: Stephen Prothero, a Boston University religion scholar and author of "The American Bible: How Our Words Unite, Divide, and Define a Nation," is a regular CNN Belief Blog contributor.

By Stephen Prothero, Special to CNN

(CNN) – School officials in Albany, New York, are racing to control the damage after a teacher at Albany High School gave students a persuasive writing assignment that challenged them to defend the proposition that “Jews are evil.”

After studying Nazi propaganda and rhetoric, sophomores in three English classes were instructed to imagine that their teacher was “a member of the government in Nazi Germany” and to prove that that they were “loyal to the Nazis.”

But this unidentified teacher is now caught up in a propaganda swirl of his or her own.

Albany Superintendent Marguerite Vanden Wyngaard, at a Friday press conference at which she was flanked by members of the Anti-Defamation League and Jewish Federation of New York, apologized and promised disciplinary action.

One student, Emily Karandy, told The Times Union of Albany that she kept putting off the assignment “because I didn’t want to think about it” and she felt “horrible” when she turned it in.

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New York City Councilman David Greenfield has called for the resignation of the teacher, who has been placed on leave.

"The teacher responsible for coming up with and assigning students with this task must be held accountable for attempting to indoctrinate children with anti-Semitic beliefs," Greenfield said in a statement. "Quite obviously, this teacher lacks the judgment and common sense necessary to have a position of such great responsibility and is clearly not fit to return to the classroom."

"You asked a child to support the notion that the Holocaust was justified, that's my struggle," said Vanden Wyngaard. "It's an illogical leap for a student to make."

I think it’s Greenfield who is lacking in common sense here. And it's the superintendent who is being illogical.

I suppose it is possible that the teacher is a closet Nazi attempting to reconstruct the Third Reich in Albany. But isn’t it more likely that he or she is trying to teach students about the dangers of propaganda and the horrors of the Holocaust?

Consider the student who felt “horrible” about doing this assignment. Is that really a bad thing? How are high school students today supposed to feel about Nazism and the Holocaust?

Apparently, what they are supposed to feel (and think) is nothing, because the lesson high school teachers are going to take away from this fiasco is to avoid this topic at all costs, lest they risk losing their jobs.

When I was an assistant professor at Georgia State University in Atlanta, I used to teach Nazi theology. My students read sermons by Nazi theologians arguing that Jews were evil and were responsible for killing Jesus. They also read a book called “Theologians Under Hitler” by Robert P. Erickson, who tried to explain how and why Christian thinkers could come to believe that exterminating Jews was somehow Christ-like.

I am not a Nazi. I was not teaching Nazi theology as the truth. I was teaching it as propaganda, just like this Albany High School teacher was doing. My purpose was not to make my students sympathetic to Nazism. My purpose was to unsettle them. And to teach them something along the way.

I had two goals when teaching this material.

First, I wanted my students to realize that smart Christians with doctoral degrees supported the Holocaust. Second, I wanted them to grapple with the implications of this fact on their own religious commitments. Do Christians today have any responsibility to know this history and to try to make sure it doesn’t happen again? If so, how can they exercise that responsibility without coming to understand the contours of Nazi thought?

But instead of grappling with these questions, my students almost universally tried to side-step them. The Nazis were not Christians, they told me confidently, because Christians would never kill Jews just for being Jews. Case closed. Time to move on to more comfortable topics.

What I witnessed in Atlanta, and what we are seeing today in Albany, is a failure of imagination. My students were so locked into their current circumstances that they couldn’t imagine things being different in a different place and time.

For them, to believe that Christians could condone the Holocaust was (to quote from the Albany superintendent) an “illogical leap.” But Christians did condone the Holocaust. How can students learn that without digging into the primary materials? And how better to wrestle with those primary materials than by constructing a persuasive essay built upon them?

If I were teaching at Albany High School I might have worded this assignment a little differently. But it's a terrific assignment, and one that should be used at more high schools across the country. To far too many American youth, the Holocaust is an echo of an echo. Assignments like this bring it alive in all its horrors.

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But students aren't the only victims of the failure of imagination we are now witnessing among Albany school officials and Jewish leaders. The teacher is a victim, too. And so are public school teachers across the country who are being told via this fiasco not to be creative as teachers, not to challenge their students to think in new ways.

If this teacher is fired, I will invite him or her to Boston University, where I now teach, to explain what he or she was trying to accomplish in challenging students with this assignment. And I will give the same assignment to my college students. I think it will do them some good.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Stephen Prothero.

- CNN Belief Blog contributor

Filed under: Culture wars • Education • Holocaust • Judaism • New York • Prejudice • United States

soundoff (1,829 Responses)
  1. Skwisgaar Skwigelf

    Stephens Prothero is giant dildos, he shoulds be Nihilist likes me and most of Sweden where we stops the worshipping of Odin.

    April 13, 2013 at 9:44 pm |
  2. Mr. Stephen Prothero

    The reason for The Lord to be be crucified was for you and I to have eternal life. It was neither the Jews nor the Romans that had power over this divine act of redemption. At the cross he forgave all of them. In his resurrection we all have hope for salvation. He was the ultimate sacrifice that was made for the salvation of mankind.
    Please read John 3 :16 and accept him as your savior.

    April 13, 2013 at 9:20 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      No thanks. The bible puts forth a stupid "story," and I can't call "good" most of the things that bible's god does. Enjoy your delusion.

      April 13, 2013 at 9:22 pm |
    • Answer

      LOL

      So funny.

      April 13, 2013 at 9:23 pm |
    • To Mr. Stephen Prothero

      That post was addressed to you Stephen Prothero

      April 13, 2013 at 9:23 pm |
    • Austin's Mom

      Austin dear – I just wanted to let you know I'll be out tomorrow in case you try and call. Good night, dear.

      April 13, 2013 at 9:29 pm |
    • Austin

      A stupid story moby? Is that what your congregation said?

      April 13, 2013 at 9:39 pm |
    • Laura in Albany

      Thank you, thank you, Mr. Prothero, for saying precisely what needed to be said. My daughter is in the class that received the assignment and she and many of her classmates are horrified by how her teacher has been demonzied. Even the girl who was widely quoted as not wanting to do the assignment also expressed her belief that the teacher had no anti-Semitic agenda or inclinations. As my son said, "It's like a witch hunt."

      I replied to the principal who send my daughter and her classmates a charming damage control letter advising that the school will be scheduling "sensitivity training" for students and teachers. I declined to allow my daughter to attend. The ones who need the training are those who in ignorance, failing to understand the extraordinary value of the assignment as you described it above, hurled hate speech at the teacher. From the principal's letter alone came "prejudice, insentivity, offensiveness." As I suggested to the principal, it was similar ignorance and fear that allowed the horrors of the Holocaust to occur.

      April 13, 2013 at 10:08 pm |
    • tallulah13

      There is little that is more disgusting than the christian fervor about this story of bloody human sacrifice. They are thrilled that a man was tortured to death, because it means that they are not responsible for their own actions.

      I'm not exactly sure why this makes them believe that they are morally superior.

      April 14, 2013 at 1:32 am |
    • waynerowlands

      Stephen, this is great, You must understand that for the unbelievers, scripture is foolishness. Here what God says (1 Corinthians 2:14) "The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit." My recommendation is that before one says negative things about the word of God [the Bible], they will want to read it first.

      April 14, 2013 at 3:53 pm |
  3. Tom, Tom, the Other One

    I have in mind an assignment that would suit kids of high school age well: Construct a religion that is persuasive, convincing, one you yourself would believe in. What does it need to be persuasive? What does it need to offer people to be as attractive as existing religions. No fair using a God currently claimed by anyone, though. This has to be all your own.

    For what purpose? To give the students a sense of how existing religions came into being, persisted and spread.

    April 13, 2013 at 8:40 pm |
    • Saraswati

      I believe Unitarian kids do something like that for their version of confirmation, but it'd be great if a UU out there could verify/clarify.

      April 13, 2013 at 8:46 pm |
  4. Stephen Hawking is an Idiot

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qOkImV2cJDg

    April 13, 2013 at 8:28 pm |
    • clarity

      Is that one of John's open triangles down in the lower right?

      April 13, 2013 at 8:44 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Actually, Stephen Hawking is brilliant, and has done more with a physically devastated body than most completely healthy people will ever do. However, you need to insult this man, simply because he does not believe what you do, shows that the superior morality claimed by christians exists mostly in their own imaginations.

      April 14, 2013 at 1:28 am |
    • David

      I am a Unitarian Universalist (UU) and what you describe is the "Coming of Age" ceremony which ends after a year of exploration and mentoring. Typically, the child is around 14 and spends a year discovering the many world religions. So, for example, in my "church" we took the children to religious services of every religion we could find in the area, from every denomination of Protestant, to Catholic, Jewish and Muslim. I was with the children when we went to a Christian Scientist service. We always tried to get the religious leader in that church to meet with children and answer any questions. At the end of this year of guided exploration, each child had to stand before the congregation and summarize what they learned, what this meant to them and if they had decided on their own personal path.

      April 15, 2013 at 1:52 pm |
  5. Lolwutzzz

    We live in a time where those brave few who bring to light the absolute political, monetary and class corruption that occurred prior to Nazi Germany has now encompassed the entire planet, that those so-called "poor slaves" are once again the world's wealthiest slavemasters, we who dare speak the truth are silenced and "reeducated". Remember this the next time you look up and watch the drones fly overhead. You are in an open-air prison by your own complacency and allowing foreign traitors to run OUR government.

    April 13, 2013 at 7:31 pm |
    • ISLAM FOUNDATION OF AMERICAN CONSTI TUTION

      Gift of truth absolute GOD, FREEDOM is not free, nor every one considers himself to be a hindu gentile, filthy slave of hindu Jews, criminal self centered, time to undo hinduism, racism of few hindu Pundits, criminal tricksters pretending to be, what they never were, more than any other human being.

      April 13, 2013 at 7:49 pm |
    • Austin

      Freedom is free! No one can tell me I am not free.

      April 13, 2013 at 8:29 pm |
    • Austin

      Lolwutzzz

      That was a great post. The article has way too much emphasis on Christians and not enough on the crazy empirical world. Christian is a ti.tle that many many idiots gallop and prance around on with a pompous painted face.

      I believe in the resurrection, and I also know how crazy stupid people are. those people killing the jews just happened to be people who prided themselves with church. A group of misled people who kill Jews are mislead by the devil, not Jesus.

      April 13, 2013 at 8:34 pm |
    • ISLAM FOUNDATION OF AMERICAN CONSTI TUTION

      If freedom is free by your hinduism ignorance, no one needed to have sacrificed his life for you to make a hindu stupid claim like this.

      April 13, 2013 at 8:40 pm |
    • Austin

      Spiritually I can not save myself, but I am still free in life . free will is part of our created being. We are not captivated by anything physical.

      April 13, 2013 at 9:43 pm |
  6. Cielo

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=DexwrLBdbFE

    April 13, 2013 at 7:06 pm |

    • Booooooooooorrrrrrrrrrrrriiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiinnnnnnnnnngggggggggg!!!!!!

      April 13, 2013 at 7:13 pm |
  7. really?

    What I witnessed in Atlanta, and what we are seeing today in Albany, is a failure of imagination"
    –Which part of the imagination do you want to tap into to feed the mind with evil thots? The same article about gays or other minorities would have been shot down with vociferous protests.
    We don't want imaginary skills that are negative in thought. (Period)

    April 13, 2013 at 6:50 pm |
    • ISLAM FOUNDATION OF AMERICAN CONSTI TUTION

      Posted by upside down hindu ignorant mind, no need to call hinduism illegality , truth absolute legality, Brain storming is human nature and way to find constant of matters. Jew means a secular, a self centered, denier of truth absolute, what is wrong to put a hindu Jew , ignorant secular under a scope, a hindu pig, ignorant secular , by another designation is always preferred specimen to learn medicine.

      April 13, 2013 at 7:11 pm |
    • Islam and Hindu

      Please leave us out of the love you have for each other. We don't want to be part of this love you have for each other.

      April 13, 2013 at 7:13 pm |
    • ISLAM FOUNDATION OF AMERICAN CONSTI TUTION

      Like it or not, it is matter of truth absolute and hinduism, denial of truth absolute, by hindu secular ism, criminal self center ism, crux of debate, you may not like it to please your soul, desire, but you can not get away from it, as long as you live.

      April 13, 2013 at 7:43 pm |
    • Thought Purification

      your truth is your fart, of course you love it, don't force people

      April 13, 2013 at 7:47 pm |
    • ISLAM FOUNDATION OF AMERICAN CONSTI TUTION

      No one is forced to read my post, nor you have any right in hindu secular ism, criminal self center ism to stop.

      April 13, 2013 at 7:51 pm |
    • Thought Purification

      of course, when you fart, no matter how quietly, in public, people around you are forced to smell, only person enjoys is you.

      April 13, 2013 at 7:56 pm |
    • ISLAM FOUNDATION OF AMERICAN CONSTI TUTION

      opinion of a hindu stinky skunk, no on hinds stinks more than a hindu stinky skunk, even hindu monkey, stupid secular, your god runs away from you.

      April 13, 2013 at 8:12 pm |
  8. ISLAM FOUNDATION OF AMERICAN CONSTI TUTION

    STOP

    AUCHTUNG
    BEAWER OF
    HINDU UNCIVILIZED
    DOGS, SECULARS
    MAY LOOK LIKE HUMAN
    DO NOT ENTER
    THINKING, SPEAKING AND WRITING ABOUT HOLY MOTHER COW, CALLED JEW, SECULAR OF HINDUS, IGNORANT S IS FORBIDDEN, BY ORDERS OF SONS OF GOD, HINDU JEWS, CROOK SECULAR S, DENIERS OF TRUTH ABSOLUTE GOD BY FAITH.

    April 13, 2013 at 6:40 pm |
    • Thought Purification

      Bhung of Navaz Sharif

      April 13, 2013 at 6:43 pm |
    • ISLAM FOUNDATION OF AMERICAN CONSTI TUTION

      Hem , bhung is Favorited tool of hindu sanatans, filthy goon man gods of hindu secular s, stupid self centered, not of me, hindu, ignorant. No thanks enjoy it.

      April 13, 2013 at 6:57 pm |
    • Thought Purification

      Saale Bhngi ki aulad

      April 13, 2013 at 7:32 pm |
  9. ISLAM FOUNDATION OF AMERICAN CONSTI TUTION

    STOP

    AUCHTUNG
    BE AWER OF
    HINDU UNCIVILIZED
    DOGS, SECULAR S
    MAY LOOK LIKE HUMAN
    DO NOT ENTER
    THINKING, SPEAKING AND WRITING ABOUT HOLY MOTHER COW OF HINDUS, IGNORANT IS FORBIDDEN, BY ORDERS OF SONS OF GOD, HINDU JEWS, CROOK SECULAR S, DENIERS OF TRUTH ABSOLUTE GOD BY FAITH.

    April 13, 2013 at 6:29 pm |
    • Thought Purification

      I was wondering what took so long to a RACIST aka terrorist wannabe to show up here !!! Why don't you just hang around with crowd of your type on The Nation in Pakistan? You think you're cute!!!! Look in a mirror, do you see a LOOSER (like you write)

      April 13, 2013 at 6:41 pm |
    • ISLAM FOUNDATION OF AMERICAN CONSTI TUTION

      I am a human and look like a human, unlike son of hindu languor, secular, product of evolution from hindered gutter of hindu secular ism, filthy self center ism by faith called india. It is amazing for a human to see son of a languor ,secular, believer of induism, racism by faith calling a human believer of human equality a hindu, racist.

      April 13, 2013 at 6:54 pm |
    • Thought Purification

      but we think you're a BHUNG from Pakistan

      April 13, 2013 at 7:28 pm |
  10. Turf13

    I can see the author's point, it is fundamentally a good subject concerning mob behavior and misinformation. the way the teacher wanted them to dig in to the problem was highly flawed however. there were a lot of different ways to highlight the issue, and this teacher picked just about the very worst one.

    April 13, 2013 at 6:15 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      Why was it "the worst one?" It seems to me that he brought it home to THEM and their beliefs; he was saying, "Look, even though we are the ones worshiping the right god in approximately the right manner, we are still susceptible to this sort of mentality."

      Do you not think that was a good objective or do you think that there is a better assignment to get that across? What assignment should Proth have used to get across to Christians that even Christians can be deceived in the Nazi sort of mind virus?

      April 13, 2013 at 6:19 pm |
  11. Moby Schtick

    Great work, Prothero!

    April 13, 2013 at 6:11 pm |
    • Austin

      Moby, coming from a pastor who quit the faith, I am sad to hear you acting out. But I did the same thing. Living in sin.

      That is where you are . Living in sin.

      April 13, 2013 at 9:53 pm |
    • The real Tom

      I don't think he's lied about his dreams, Austin. That alone puts him way ahead of you.

      April 13, 2013 at 10:29 pm |
  12. To Mr. Prothero

    You may not be a Christian, but no Christian would ever condone Nazis.

    April 13, 2013 at 5:58 pm |
    • Akira

      I don't think Mr. Prothero does, either.

      April 13, 2013 at 6:07 pm |
    • To Mr Prothero

      Read the commentary s l o w l y to see the point Stevie is making.

      April 13, 2013 at 6:11 pm |
    • Akira

      I read it s l o w l y. I disagree.

      April 13, 2013 at 6:17 pm |
    • Tori

      Evidently they did condone them, according to the article. So if you are refuting him here "To Mr. ..", then you should explain why you disagree.

      April 13, 2013 at 6:19 pm |
    • My Take: nothing wrong with...

      Dear students, I am a very positive person in life . Fill out this assignment on why you HATE ... use any of the options below:
      1) gays
      2) pick any other minorities

      Hatred is a very positive emotion.

      April 13, 2013 at 6:28 pm |
    • Akira

      First of all, Mr. Prothero is not atheist.
      Google him.
      Second of all, having one delve into the reasons Nazi ideology progessed into what it did is not tacit approval of the Nazi ideology.

      And who is "they", Tori?

      April 13, 2013 at 6:29 pm |
    • Saraswati

      @My Take,

      The point was to pick an assignment with which none of the students were believed to agree and force them to see how it is that it was possible that people came to this belief. The oversimplification of the Nazi possition is, on this view, potentially dangerous insofar as we can try to prevent the repeat of something we don't understand.

      I have, btw, already said on here a couple of times that I don't agree with this assignment, as done, for high school students. But it was not a crazy thing to do. To better understand it maybe you should try writing an essay on why the assignment might be a good idea.

      But you won't, because you already assume it is crazy.

      April 13, 2013 at 6:35 pm |
    • really?

      "What I witnessed in Atlanta, and what we are seeing today in Albany, is a failure of imagination"

      –Which part of the imagination do you want to tap into to feed the mind with evil thots? The same article about gays or other minorities would have been shot down with vociferous protests.
      We don't want imaginary skills that are negative in thought. (Period)

      April 13, 2013 at 6:50 pm |

    • "evil thots"

      Attack of the thot people!!!

      April 13, 2013 at 7:14 pm |
    • My goodness but you're stupid

      99% of the entire Nazi army was christian and believed they were fighting for christian ideals.

      April 13, 2013 at 7:30 pm |
    • Akira

      Really, history is both good and bad. To dismiss the bad parts of history because it may put a negative thought into one's head is to perhaps repeat the history.

      I will say, though, that I agree with Saraswati's assessment of the assignment suitability for high-school students.

      April 13, 2013 at 7:35 pm |

    • my goodness ...what a colossal idiot you are. read some history on politics, you fool.

      April 13, 2013 at 7:48 pm |
    • Austin

      Mr Prothero is running an evil and disengenuous trick . Notice He does not say He believes in the resurrection? Does anyone have any other information to say he does believe in the resurrection? does he believe in the Christian doctrine about Antichrist deceivers and apostasy?

      April 13, 2013 at 9:57 pm |
    • The real Tom

      Austin, do you have any evidence there WAS a resurrection? Then post it. The bible doesn't count, as it is not reliable evidence for anything.

      Do proceed, dimbulb.

      April 13, 2013 at 10:31 pm |
    • e

      The Nazis WERE CHRISTIAN and the Vatican condoned them.

      April 15, 2013 at 7:00 pm |
  13. JASON

    Chad what would you say to JESUS. You religious zealots ARE FINE with anything if it SUITS YOUR agenda. If you check your history all religious have MUCH blood on their hands in the name of JESUS/"insert your GODs name here" they all see religious views other than their own "brainwashed views" as we are RIGHT your wrong and going to die/hell. If you DON'T look at anything but your OWN opinion/view history WILL support your view 100%. Grow a brain and use it thats why "GOD" put it in your head so you would use it NOT be lead around like sheep.....It is a valid assignment you have to read learn about things even if they are distasteful otherwise we will have another HOLOCAUST and it won't necessarily be Jews this time.

    April 13, 2013 at 5:56 pm |
  14. Conspiracy

    As I said on another thread...I believe "satan" is just another word for Nordic alien. Blonde. Look up alien conspiracy. That's all I have to say about that.

    April 13, 2013 at 5:52 pm |
  15. Correctlycenter

    True folowers and servants of the Lord Jesus Christ do not blow themselves up, commandeer passenger planes with innocent people aboard and in buildings and murder them, become dictators and proclaim themselves basically as god, execute people because on their race or class, or murder anyone, period.

    Those who are under the influence of Satan and evil do resemble these characteristics...

    April 13, 2013 at 5:49 pm |
    • JASON

      NO they tie gays or anyone they DO NOT agree with in the name of GOD to fences and cry and light candles;all because it is SO horrible. When its THERE INTOLERANCE and HATE mongering in their CHURCHES of "GOD" that say its ok. HOW is THIS any different that murdering JEWS because they are JEWS? It all hate mongering in the name of GOD......

      April 13, 2013 at 6:04 pm |
  16. Bostontola

    Nothing wrong with the assignment? The key word is "nothing". Mr. Prothero should have better judgement. Teaching kids to form arguments without advocacy is excellent. If the teacher had half the class take the opposite position (as is usually the case for an assignment like this), there would be no question that a position was advocated. You may have argued that the subject was still sensitive, but not enough to warrant suspension. This would have been a good learning exercise if constructed properly. I would have thought Mr. Prothero would know how a critical skill exercise should be constructed.

    April 13, 2013 at 5:42 pm |
    • Dominic

      You're creating an entirely different assignment. Debating an argument as clear cut as "Was the Holocaust a bad thing?" would not have taught students about the dangers of propaganda and its utility. The message of propaganda is usually irrelevant but its use as a tool of control, manipulation, and compliance which is what this teacher was attempting to convey. If these were elementary school students then such an assignment would be too complex for them to understand, but we should not be coddling high school students and keeping them from addressing serious real world issues.

      April 13, 2013 at 6:18 pm |
    • Bostontola

      Dom, click on the assignment link in the first sentence of Mr. Prothero's piece. You will find thevteacher's original assignment. You will find that I am right and your definition of the assignment is not the one the teacher assigned. This was an exercise in rhetorical argument not a moral lesson on propaganda.

      April 13, 2013 at 6:32 pm |
    • Saraswati

      @Bostontola,

      Agreed. The assignment could have been done exactly as you describe or, better, having students address both sides of the argument. You could even have the students flip sides after the first effort and address another students argument.

      I think the only point though in using this particular topic is to both work on both persuasive argument skills and to gain an understanding of what happened in Germany. Otherwise it would make more sense to use a modern topic with modern issues and less controversy.

      April 13, 2013 at 8:19 pm |
  17. Chad

    Stephen, when you were an assistant professor at Georgia State University in Atlanta you taught Nazi Ideology for two reasons:
    1) To try and show everyone how evil Christianity is. I have no doubt you never once attempted to show how deranged so called Christians were who supported the Nazis, and I have no doubt you never once attempted to show how bizarrely wrong it is to claim that Jews killed Jesus.

    2) I'm sure that while you disagree in principle with holocausts, you feel that a great deal of it was brought upon the Jews by themselves. I have no doubt your are a strong believer in the "Palestinian cause" and that Zionism is the root of the problems in the middle east.

    What are you going to say to Jesus when you meeting Him?

    April 13, 2013 at 5:10 pm |
    • clarity

      Wow Chad – how in the world did you read this article and arrive at these two points you listed? Did you look at the article and catch a few lines, but didn't actually read it all the way through? Are you trying to put words in Mr. Protheros' mouth based on something else besides what he wrote here?

      ??

      April 13, 2013 at 5:29 pm |
    • Chad

      @Clarity "how in the world did you read this article and arrive at these two points you listed"

      =>very easy

      were I to teach a class on Christian compliance in the Holocaust, I would spend the entire time talking about two things:
      1. An examination of how scripture teaches that we ALL "killed" Jesus. We are all, every single one of us, the reason Jesus Christ died on the cross. Any other doctrine is deeply, badly, erroneous.

      2. An examination of how you and I would react in a situation like that, would we cave and support the regime, or would we go to our deaths to support what we felt was right?

      now, just scroll up and see how Prothero taught it to see how my first assertion is correct.

      Regarding my second assertion, that was no real trick, Prothero is very pro-palestinian, anti-Jewism. Just read his previous posts on the subject.

      April 13, 2013 at 5:49 pm |
    • Akira

      You base your absolute certainty about Stephen Prothero's reasons for teaching this based on what?
      Present your evidence.
      Unless you personally took the class he taught, which I would have assumed you would have stated in your post were that true, everything you have said is pure, unadulterated conjecture.

      April 13, 2013 at 5:50 pm |
    • Robert

      Chad, Great questions to Steve. Looks like any article that Mr. Prothero writes about the Jews is nothing but hatred for them. One has to wonder where this hatred stems from?
      Aside from that, if the teacher were to give an assignment about gays or some other minority and ask students to fill in the assignment of -- are evil, it would have been a ruckus of national proportions.

      April 13, 2013 at 5:54 pm |
    • Akira

      That is how YOU would teach the course, Chad.
      Those are YOUR views.
      They don't reflect ALL views.

      I have no doubt that you would make a very fine teacher at Liberty.

      April 13, 2013 at 5:55 pm |
    • Chad

      Prothero is an atheist whom has dedicated his life to attempting to cast doubt on the truth of Judeo/Christianity.

      April 13, 2013 at 6:01 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      Chad is an atheist whom has dedicated his life to attempting to cast doubt on the truth of Judeo/Christianity. He does this by pretending to be a Christian, but then saying stuff "in defense" of chrisitanity that is amazingly stupid. Althou, on further review, the reader understands that this ridiculous response is actually the best possible that any Christian could muster-regardless of its sheer stupidity.

      I am so, so, so grateful for his efforts!! Thanks, Chad!!!!!!

      April 13, 2013 at 6:09 pm |
    • Robert

      Chad, true! Hope Steve realized that hatred of any kind is anti thetical to Christian doctrine. Sadly, he won't as he is blinded by his own hate. 🙁

      April 13, 2013 at 6:09 pm |
    • clarity

      @Clarity "how in the world did you read this article and arrive at these two points you listed"

      Chad: "very easy – were I to teach a class on Christian compliance in the Holocaust, "

      Uh, excuse me Chad – where does he say he's teaching a class in Christian compliance in the Holocaust?

      [.. Chad going on about how he would teach some course by some different name ..]

      Chad: "now, just scroll up and see how Prothero taught it to see how my first assertion is correct."

      So, you see, Chad – you can't say "it" in the line above, when you've already changed "it".

      I will leave the second point for others to discuss, but again – you made a apple into an orange so you could speak to the general topic in a way differently from the author's points.

      April 13, 2013 at 6:31 pm |
    • Akira

      If you have read any other of Prothero's essays besides the ones he posts here, you would see that he is VERY anti-atheist.

      April 13, 2013 at 6:35 pm |
    • babs

      chad – bright you are – very bright – arguments like what if the assignment was about 'gays' – gays were never executed and burned by the millions – the relatively modern holocaust is just – / as far as 'open-mindedness' (sorry – do not have a theology degree) – points made about Christian support for Hitler, et al SHOULD be recognized – whole thing was not done right – real point here is teachers have GREAT INFLUENCE – thus they need to be extremely careful and brilliant in HOW they teach - no exceptions! – (unless you do preschool – in that case – learn something as well)

      April 13, 2013 at 6:40 pm |
    • Chad

      @Akira "If you have read any other of Prothero's essays besides the ones he posts here, you would see that he is VERY anti-atheist."

      =>please post a link to an anti-atheist post by Stephen Prothero

      April 13, 2013 at 6:41 pm |
    • Really-O?

      @Chad – "Prothero is an atheist whom has dedicated his life to attempting to cast doubt on the truth of Judeo/Christianity."

      For goodness sake, Chad! Are you too lazy to figure out the who/whom thing or are you just too stupid? I'm just sayin'.

      April 13, 2013 at 6:56 pm |
    • Really-O?

      Chad posting as "Rachel" –

      http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2012/09/06/richard-dawkins-evolution-is-not-a-controversial-issue/comment-page-10/#comments
      Starting ~September 9, 2012 at 7:24 pm
      Busted – September 9, 2012 at 8:13 pm

      Cheers, you dishonest douchebag.

      April 13, 2013 at 6:58 pm |
    • clarity

      @babs

      I agree that, as other have said, the assignment is most likely not appropriate for high-school and there certainly must be other ways to exercise young minds without having to get so close to some of the most sensitive issues man has ever faced. I really also want to say that because of how separation of church and state is applied to public schools (which I strongly support) (and I'm assuming this occurred in public schools), I don't feel it is appropriate for teachers to, beyond teaching accepted curriculum history, be trying to teach "what-if" exercises that are in some way going to involve religion where said religion may be misrepresented as part of that exercise.

      April 13, 2013 at 7:02 pm |
    • Really-O?

      @Chad – "Prothero is very pro-palestinian, anti-Jewism."

      Anti-Jewism? Really, Chad? Really? Knucklehead.

      April 13, 2013 at 7:04 pm |
    • clarity

      Oh, I missed that, Really-O. I thought he was talking about non-stick gummy bears or something like that.

      April 13, 2013 at 7:10 pm |
    • Akira

      @Chad:
      This is the first one o grabbed off of Google.
      Perhaps you can do the same, for others; I saw one from about.com that blasted him for being a bigoted anti-theist, but I didn't get the addy.

      Note his opinion on atheists in debate. It sounds a lot...like you.

      http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mobileweb/nicole-neroulias/stephen-prothero-intervie_b_630606.html

      You might have to tweak the address, as I AM on my phone.

      April 13, 2013 at 7:19 pm |
    • Really-O?

      @Clarity – "non-stick gummy bears"

      Clever...funny!

      Hey, while I understand your reservations regarding the thought-exercise discussed in this article – especially in public education – I do think it is desirable that discussions of this kind take place at some point in the education process (and given that not all will attend university, secondary education may be the only time for some). If ingrained beliefs are not tested, they may never be modified. Thoughts?

      April 13, 2013 at 7:20 pm |
    • Akira

      That should be "anti-ATHEIST" in regards to the about.com post.
      But do use Google. It's probably a whole lot easier for you to do your own investigation, Chad, rather than have to rely on my phone to do it for you.

      April 13, 2013 at 7:24 pm |
    • clarity

      @Really-O – but exercises to test ingrained beliefs or something more generic that simply forces one to argue both sides of an issue, for instance? If you mean the prior, then how do you accomplish that in a high-school setting for public schools without allowing representatives from the belief system involved to participate? In any event, I think one is just asking for trouble, so to speak, by approaching that particular topic in a high-school setting.

      April 13, 2013 at 7:37 pm |
    • Really-O?

      @Clarity – "but exercises to test ingrained beliefs or something more generic that simply forces one to argue both sides of an issue, for instance?"

      I apologize, but I don't understand. Would you please clarify this for me?

      April 13, 2013 at 7:43 pm |
    • Chad

      Prothero is a weak atheist that oppose militant atheism. He refers to himself as "religiously confused".

      He is a moral relativist and views "acceptance" of all "faiths" the really important thing (well, that and casting doubt on the truth of the Judeo-Christian God)

      April 13, 2013 at 7:44 pm |
    • clarity

      @Really-O: Well you had mentioned "I do think it is desirable that discussions of this kind take place at some point in the education process" and I agree (and understand about not everyone getting to college). But if you are talking specifically about "what-if" discussions involving religious belief, then how do you accomplish that without possibly misrepresenting the views of a particular belief system if the law doesn't permit (in public high schools) representatives of said belief system to participate?

      April 13, 2013 at 7:54 pm |
    • Just another example of how christians are totally disconnected from reality

      Robert"Chad, true! Hope Steve realized that hatred of any kind is anti thetical to Christian doctrine. "

      Please explain how witch burnings and the inquisition show that "hatred of any kind is anti thetical to christians"? Or more recently , how an army of christians slaughtering over 8000 unarmed men and boys in 1995 demonstrates that "hatred of any kind is anti thetical to christians" (Goggle Srebrenica massacre)?

      April 13, 2013 at 7:56 pm |
    • Really-O?

      @Clarity –

      Got it. Thanks. I agree, and that is the reason I support Daniel Dennett's assertion that religion – all religions – should be taught in public school. It's difficult not to see the nonsense that comprises your own religion when held side-by-side with the nonsense of all other religions.

      Cheers

      April 13, 2013 at 8:04 pm |
    • clarity

      @Really-O: But, if they start teaching about religions, certainly one of the gazillion are going to be missed. Do you see it as a "top 10 religions of the world" or similar? Interesting idea, but I don't see how it can be practically applied fairly and easily and still have students get their three "R"'s.

      April 13, 2013 at 8:14 pm |
    • Really-O?

      @Clarity –

      I took an elective course in comparative religion at university and, while it was seminal with regard to my current "non-belief", I don't believe it in any way detracted from the nuts-and-bolts of my education – to the contrary, actually. In my opinion, the "three Rs" are overrated.

      April 13, 2013 at 8:23 pm |
    • Saraswati

      @clarity, it would be the same as with any other social sciences topic. When students study history or geography they don't hit everything. You always have to make some judgment calls, and it certainly wouldn't be easy. Many other countries teach religion, however, and a starting point would be to evaluate those programs.

      April 13, 2013 at 8:24 pm |
    • Akira

      Chad, so where does "religiously confused" equal "no belief in any god?" (Weak or militant?)

      You may certainly disagree with his views, as I frequently do; but labeling him as atheist because you don't like his views is something else again.

      April 13, 2013 at 8:29 pm |
    • clarity

      @Sara & Really-O: OK, I'm not really against the idea. So is your thinking that because such a public high-school course would be like a comparative religions course and not proselytizing, that it would be exempt from current Establishment clause jurisdiction? Do you see regulation of such a thing as coming from a nationally-approved curriculum or state? ( I mention that because I could see some states saying "OK here's Christianity – that's all you get"; lol. )

      April 13, 2013 at 8:34 pm |
    • Saraswati

      @clarity,

      I'm guessing it would be done by school district or state like any other social studies class and end up in the courts pretty often. The areas that couldn't handle it because of their fundamentalism of whatever kind would just end up not having the course because nothing would be sustainable. So it would be self-limiting and only take place in regions where the people were ready to handle diversity of opinion. Some public schools already have this kind of thing as an elective, and certainly a lot of private schools do.

      April 13, 2013 at 8:44 pm |
    • clarity

      Oh – I did not realize about it being an elective in places. Thanks, Saraswati – good to know.

      April 13, 2013 at 8:46 pm |
    • Chad

      @Akira

      Prothero believes in no god, that makes him a weak atheist.

      that's the definition.

      April 13, 2013 at 9:58 pm |
    • Really-O?

      "Prothero believes in no god, that makes him a weak atheist." – the Chad

      I wonder if Chad can provide an authoritative source for this assertion...or, perhaps he's too busy trying to figure out the who/whom conundrum. Hahaha!

      April 13, 2013 at 10:10 pm |
    • Chad

      @Chad "Prothero believes in no god, that makes him a weak atheist."

      @Really-O? "I wonder if Chad can provide an authoritative source for this assertion"

      Weak atheism, also sometimes referred to as implicit atheism, is simply another name for the broadest and most general conception of atheism: the absence of belief in any gods. A weak atheist is someone who lacks theism and who does not happen to believe in the existence of any gods — no more, no less.

      http://atheism.about.com/od/atheismquestions/a/strong_weak.htm

      ==
      Just lacking belief in Gods is often referred to as the "weak atheist" position; whereas believing that gods do not (or cannot) exist is known as "strong atheism."

      http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/mathew/intro.html

      ===
      Weak atheism is a lack of belief in any gods. Unlike strong atheism, there is no positive assertion that no god exists. Weak atheism is occasionally called negative atheism, negative meaning it makes no positive claims.

      http://wiki.ironchariots.org/index.php?title=Weak_atheism

      -
      let me know if you need some more..

      April 13, 2013 at 10:25 pm |
    • Really-O?

      @Chad –

      Uh...that was a request for an authoritative source regarding your assertion that Prothero believes in no god. What a dimwit.

      April 14, 2013 at 1:16 am |
    • Chad

      Prothero describes himself as religiously confused. Prothero, Stephen (2010). God is Not One. New York: HarperOne.

      April 14, 2013 at 10:30 am |
    • midwest rail

      Religiously confused need not equal atheist.

      April 14, 2013 at 10:32 am |
    • Moby Schtick

      Being "confused" in no way connotes atheism, weak or strong. Most atheists would not use that term because of the position they hold. An atheist is NOT claiming confusion on the matter.

      Confusion implies struggle with the concepts under review. If Proth is confused then he is trying to work out the particulars-–hardly something an atheist would do.

      Once again, Chad is proven a liar. He can't help it, though.

      April 14, 2013 at 10:34 am |
    • Really-O?

      @Chad-

      Just as I thought, another baseless assertion. If nothing else, you're predictable. Dimwit.

      April 14, 2013 at 11:31 am |
  18. Jim

    This isn't an assignment for high school students. Moreover, Stephen Prothero takes the very dangerous step here of alleging that German theologians endorsed the Holocaust, when it should only be claimed that many particularly in the German Evangelical Church endorsed the Nazi party and antisemitism. Theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer opposition to the Nazis cost him his life. Furthermore, any insinuation that the German Catholic Church, which might be guilty of not speaking out forcefully enough in opposition to the Nazis, endorsed the Nazis or the Holocaust is a blatant canard and an insult to the assassinated leaders of Germany's Catholic Centre Party.

    April 13, 2013 at 4:56 pm |
    • clarity

      "This isn't an assignment for high school students."

      I agree.

      April 13, 2013 at 5:31 pm |
  19. Geesh

    It could have been a great objective to the assignment, if students could have experienced the complexity of the factors, economic, geographical, philosophical,etc. and see that some nationals were caught up in an untenable situation where tough ethical decisions presented themselves, AND then have them make application to today's issues and how they would handle, overwhelming odds, financial needs, in making their way through the world, instead of bemoaning I have the wrong version of a video game.....

    April 13, 2013 at 4:43 pm |
  20. PC not

    Pure crap again. read this idiot Jews, we know all about you google Balfour Declaration.

    Yes folks the Jews that come from Israel are from the legacy of Rothschild himself. And in Europe the movie IronSky is bountiful and dare I say Nazi's? Anyone who uses Rothschild and Israel is called anti Semitic, get over it your f'in idiots yourself for saying that.

    I support this teacher for 1st amendment rights and say to all you Rothschild's out there go to hell and burn, why because I dare say you do not deserve anything from the USA the people that are free to do and say anything Anti Semitic if it pokes fun. Like IronSky, its poking fun.

    teacher go get em.

    April 13, 2013 at 4:39 pm |
    • charlie

      This is why I posted my comment. I didn't read this before I wrote my comment but I wrote knowing what is out there. This is why this is not a suitable subject for a persuasive writing class in high school.

      April 13, 2013 at 4:47 pm |
    • How christian of you

      More christian hatred

      April 14, 2013 at 12:17 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.