Recently, I found myself taking a look at a child's parochial grade-school notebook that had come across my path. To my surprise and amusement, this particular notebook included notes and lesson plans from a class on comparative world religions.
My first thought was how fantastic to know that a grade-school was offering such a course, and to see that at least some children in the region were being introduced to the ideas behind not only Christendom, but of Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, and Sikhism. Paganism, unsurprisingly, was not included in these studies, although there were numerous references to "humanism," which really can't be all that bad.
But as I read through the child's chicken-scrawl and the assorted teacher's remarks more closely, I came upon a test essay question that raised my eyebrows. "As distressing as it is," read the question, "religion is in sharp decline. What outcome might we expect from this?"
What struck me was the completely subjective value judgment behind the query. Granted, the purpose of this particular class was to introduce youths to various theories and maxims of various world religions, that in itself being a huge leap in educational pluralism since when I was a kid... but the question's structure seemed to reify the concept that religion is a vitally necessary component to human society.
What if we disagree? What if 'the decline of (organized) religion' was not necessarily perceived as something "distressing"?