Honestly, did he get all the way through law school without ever taking a class in religious studies in college? Does he really think it isn't possible to "bracket" the truth claims of a religion and study its history and belief systems?
Stephen Prothero of Boston University, who is cited several times by Van Biema (in Time), describes the project and the claim attached to it succinctly: “The academic study of religion provides a kind of middle space. ... It takes the biblical truth claims seriously and yet brackets them for purposes of classroom discussion.” But that’s like studying the justice system and bracketing the question of justice. (How do you take something seriously by putting it on the shelf?)
The truth claims of a religion — at least of religions like Christianity, Judaism and Islam — are not incidental to its identity; they are its identity.
The metaphor that theologians use to make the point is the shell and the kernel: ceremonies, parables, traditions, holidays, pilgrimages — these are merely the outward signs of something that is believed to be informing them and giving them significance. That something is the religion’s truth claims. Take them away and all you have is an empty shell, an ancient video game starring a robed superhero who parts the waters of the Red Sea, followed by another who brings people back from the dead. I can see the promo now: more exciting than “Pirates of the Caribbean” or “The Matrix.” That will teach, but you won’t be teaching religion.
Not only that; he seems to be completely ignorant of the fact that there are lots of people in various religious traditions who take seriously the truth claims of their religious traditions but see no need to deny the truth claims of other religious traditions.
I think Mr. Fish ought to stick to teaching law.