My Jewish Son Doesn't (Yet) Know The Seven Sacraments (Thankfully): Updated

My son is in 7th grade in California, at a public school. I don't normally read the state standards, but when my son told me about his upcoming test and that he is not sure he knows all "7 sacraments" I got concerned (I don't know what they are--yet). After all, he is an atheist Jew, like me, and studying for his bar mitzvah.

When he mentioned the 7 sacraments my stomach turned. Is the class going to learn about the 600 or so mitvot? Fuck no! And there is no reason for them to learn this shit.

So, my foul language out of the way, I know many of you will say I am over-reacting to a rather benign bit of information. But look what I found among the History Standards for California's 7th graders:
7.10 Students analyze the historical developments of the Scientific Revolution and its lasting effect on religious, political, and cultural institutions.

1. Discuss the roots of the Scientific Revolution (e.g., Greek rationalism; Jewish, Christian, and Muslim science; Renaissance humanism; new knowledge from global exploration).

2. Understand the significance of the new scientific theories (e.g., those of Copernicus, Galileo, Kepler, Newton) and the significance of new inventions (e.g., the telescope, microscope, thermometer, barometer).

3. Understand the scientific method advanced by Bacon and Descartes, the influence of new scientific rationalism on the growth of democratic ideas, and the coexistence of science with traditional religious beliefs.
The coexistence of science with traditional religious beliefs isn't possible.  A scientist may be able to reconcile holding both religion and science as co-existential, but they--the notions on their own--aren't.  Are they?  Isn't science about tossing out the old when new information deems/proves the old wrong or useless?  Doesn't religion make holy old books and ideas in exactly the opposite fashion--never tossing anything even though it's been shown to be erroneous?  Isn't faith the opposite of reason?

I cannot understand this standard.  How are religion and science able to coexist except as segregated, nearly mutually exclusive disciplines?

I want comments!

Update: Here are the Seven Sacraments:
The Seven Catholic Sacraments

The Latin word sacramentum means "a sign of the sacred." The seven sacraments are ceremonies that point to what is sacred, significant and important for Christians. They are special occasions for experiencing God's saving presence. That's what theologians mean when they say that sacraments are at the same time signs and instruments of God's grace.

If you learn more about the sacraments, you can celebrate them more fully. To learn more about the individual sacraments, please follow the links below. You'll find easy-to-understand articles and a good sample of common questions and answers.

Holy Orders
Anointing of the Sick
Now I am even more livid. And doing a word search for "sacrament" in the Standards produces not one result. The word sacrament is not there. I know, I know, there are lots of things we teachers teach that are not in the standards. But RELIGION?! Of all the choices a teacher can make, and she chooses religion?

I can't wait to see how my son's learning of Catholicism's idiosyncrasies and "sacraments" helps him in life, or school. Hopefully it will reinforce his demand for reason, evidence and facts.

I sure do love him, my little atheist Jew.

Update II: His teacher sent me an explanation:
Because the sacraments are an accessible and understandable part of the Catholic religion, they are taught as a part of our understanding of Medieval Europe. Medieval Europe was a highly religious society that centered around the Catholic church. Furthermore, much of the political and economic activity was run by the church. In order to understand the motivations of the people who lived during that time, we study the sacraments as they affected the choices people made in their every day life as well as people's understanding of their world (i.e.: the black plague was viewed as punishment from God- people turned to the sacraments to try and figure out what they had done to deserve punishment). Understanding the sacraments helps us understand WHY people made pilgrimages, why they participated in the Crusades, why they repented sin, why the Pope had such far reaching power and ultimately leads us into the reformation and age of reason when people began to question the church.

We will be studying Islam intensely in our study of the Middle East during medieval times (and the five pillars of the Islamic faith - as they tell us why people do what they do in Islamic societies), Buddhism in our study of China and Japan, Islam again in our study of West Africa, animalist religions, religions of the Maya, Aztec and Inca as well as changes in the church (reformation) and so on.

As a historian who is NON-religious, I find the study and understanding of religions to be fundamental in understanding a society as they permeate so much of daily life and activity. In fact, I find that by understanding the sacraments, I can better understand why people did what they did during Medieval times- they were very powerful motivators in the choices people made. In fact, in one story we looked at (Pope Gregory VII and Henry the IV) we can see how the sacraments had huge power- Henry (the King) begging Gregory to allow him back in the church because he feared he would be sent to purgatory.

If you would prefer that [your son] not be a part of these lessons, I would recommend that you speak to the district as to an alternative curriculum that would not contain religion.

If your concern is that Catholicism is somehow being "taught", I can assure you this is not the case. My classroom is a place where all views, religions, ethnicities, etc are celebrated, shared and explored. Nobody is expected to "believe" anything- but I do think that there is tremendous value in understanding as much about different views/religions as we can.

thank you,

Ms. [Teacher]
I don't know. I'm not convinced that she is NOT teaching religion. She is explaining this part of history not as people reacting to an oppressive church, but as believers who buy completely the whole of their religion. There needs to be, in my opinion, some push-back against the notion that behaviors were organic due to belief as opposed to forced due to fear of the Church.

I just think there ought to be a bit more skepticism and a bit less deference paid to the power of religion and more deference paid to power of fear.

But what the hell do I know?

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