Karl Marx once described religion as the opiate of the masses. Maybe that’s even more true when the adage is applied to the current opiate crisis in America. A little bit of religion can be helpful, providing tradition, community, social structure, an occasional day off from work, and, quite literally, relief from pain during our most challenging moments. But too much religion can lead to a dangerous overdose. America’s streets are sadly littered with opiate overdoses. America’s institutions, from the Supreme Court to local book-banning school boards, are suffering from a religion overdose. I don’t want to talk trash about your religion. So I’ll talk trash about mine. The NYT’s Eliza Shapiro and Brian M. Rosenthal spent more than a year investigating the performance of schools in a couple of New York’s Hasidic neighborhoods. These are, of course, religious schools. But they’re funded by the government to the tune of about $1 billion over the past four years. What are American tax payers getting for their money? Don’t ask the students in these schools. Math is not one of their specialties. In Hasidic Enclaves, Failing Private Schools Flush With Public Money (Gift Article): “The Hasidic Jewish community has long operated one of New York’s largest private schools on its own terms, resisting any outside scrutiny of how its students are faring. But in 2019, the school, the Central United Talmudical Academy, agreed to give state standardized tests in reading and math to more than 1,000 students. Every one of them failed. Students at nearly a dozen other schools run by the Hasidic community recorded similarly dismal outcomes that year, a pattern that under ordinary circumstances would signal an education system in crisis. But where other schools might be struggling because of underfunding or mismanagement, these schools are different. They are failing by design. The leaders of New York’s Hasidic community have built scores of private schools to educate children in Jewish law, prayer and tradition — and to wall them off from the secular world. Offering little English and math, and virtually no science or history, they drill students relentlessly, sometimes brutally, during hours of religious lessons conducted in Yiddish.” This is cultural child abuse and we are funding it. With the line between Church (and Temple) and State being gradually obliterated, these stories will only become more common. It reminds me of an old Yiddish proverb. “A man may learn for seventy years and at the end die a fool.”