Friday, November 13, 2015

Girl Meets World - Girl Meets Belief - I'm Not Loving Their Use of Religion

While I usually write about unscripted (or pseudo-unscripted) television, I need to talk about tonight's Girl Meets World episode. Ultimately, I did not like it.

As I watched Girl Meets Belief, I was happy with it - it showed kids who had belief in a higher power and those who didn't. It was fair and balanced - some did, some didn't. Farkle aired on the side of science and Maya was rightfully cynical. Riley and Lucas, who are similar in many ways, both had belief in a higher power.

My problem came later in the episode when Corey, the authority figure (Riley, Maya, Farkle and Lucas' teacher, and also Riley's father), shared his belief in a higher power with the kids. Between his convincing and Riley's, Maya seemed to become at least somewhat of a believer, which was evident when she told Riley that she prayed at the end of the episode.

I realize this is a TV show and Corey told the kids why he believes in God outside of the classroom, so I'm not sure it breaks any laws, but:
- This sets a dangerous precedent for the rights of students and teachers in public school classrooms. Pushing one's own religion is not allowed in the classroom, and rightfully so. People have, and are entitled to, their own beliefs. Teachers are not legally able to project their beliefs to their students in public schools because everyone is entitled to freedom of religion. Even though Corey shared his beliefs outside of the classroom, he did so to several students from his class.
- This episode gave the impression that it's okay to try to convert non-believers into believers. It is absolutely 100% okay to discuss religion with others, but it can lead to unethical behaviors when you're teaching kids that talking about religion (or lack of) can lead to the conversion of non-believers to believers.

Don't get me wrong - I believe strongly in religious freedom. People are entitled to believe in whatever they believe in. Whether people are religious or non-religious, that's perfectly fine. But the episode gave the impression that non-belief is the less correct option, and I think that's a dangerous message for children. The show aimed to portray that it's okay to have differing beliefs (which it is) but gave a different twist at the end.

One other thing - I didn't like how the show implied that believers are better people than non-believers, like how Riley, as a believer, does the right thing because she believes in a higher power, whereas Maya doesn't because 'nobody is watching her'. It creates a strong link between ethics and religion, and that isn't fair - there are plenty of wonderful non-believers in the world.

What are your thoughts?

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