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Posts Tagged ‘faith-schools’

Jonny Scaramanga, has taken up video-blogging!

I'm disabling comments on this post; it's his work, not mine. Please visit Jonny's post to comment. Or, indeed, to catch up on the rest of his wonderful blog.
Daz

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QualiaSoup on how religion seeks to infantalise believers and those it wishes to recruit.
Daz

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On the instructions of Bishop Fred Henry, a catholic school board has banned HPV vaccinations (which are most effective when administered at an early age), on school premises.

In keeping with the disturbing obsession of his church with matters sexual, Henry, of Calgary, makes the ludicrous claim that:

"If we don't attempt to change sexual behaviour that is responsible for transmission of the HPV, but attempt to solve the problem by getting a series of shots, then we don't have to exercise self-control, nor develop virtue, but can use medicine to palliate our vices"

Bioethicist Dr. Ian Mitchell disagrees, saying:

"It has been studied and does not increase promiscuity," … "If the bishop has evidence, he should come forward with it."

The ban puts at risk the lives of 2,000 girls from Grades 5 to 9 who would receive the injections, a panel told reporters, adding opposition to the vaccine isn't doctrine among the Catholic church's higher reaches.

Read the rest of this story at the Calgary Sun.
Daz

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Leaving Fundamentalism

I recently made the controversial claim that I could have been a suicide bomber.

I claimed that my faith was so devout, and my ability for critical thought so crippled, that if someone had shown me an interpretation of Scripture that made it seem like God’s will, I would have killed for the faith. And I was depressed enough to kill myself, because fundamentalism doesn’t offer any real answers.

Of course, Christians will deny a Biblical basis for such actions is possible. But Islamic scholars claim such a reading of the Koran is equally unsustainable, yet suicide bombers exist, and only preposterously politically-correct liberal commentators deny that faith is a motivating factor. So today I’ll show that, in principle, there’s no reason why a Christian suicide bomber couldn’t arise. Here’s what their propaganda leaflets might look like:

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Jonny Scaramanga, of the Leaving Fundamentalism blog, features in the latest podcast at Fundamentally Flawed.

Although it widens in range a bit in the last ten minutes or so, it's largely focussed on the subject of ACE schools, their slow but steady encroachment into the UK, and Ofsted’s rather astounding approval of such schools. (Somehow 'schools' doesn't seem the right word. Try 'houses of indoctrination.' )
Daz

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Apparently, it’s Blasphemy Day. It almost passed me by! It’s gone 10:30 PM here in the UK as I write this, but heigh-ho; out there in Internetland there’s still places that have most of the day left to enjoy taking the names of various gods in vain.

Problem is I’m not feeling very imaginative, so I’ll just start ranting and see where it takes me…

(more…)

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Undated post, migrated from old site.

I came across this brilliantly succinct summation of why I think fundamentalist and vehement Christianity is hitting the headlines more lately, in the comments on an Australian news story about the teaching, or lack thereof, of Humanism in schools.

“You are correct Marg Christian groups fear most that children will be able to think for themselves. while religion may be fading it is also getting distilled and more virulent, intolerant and insidious, they know if children are allowed to learn how to think and not what to think religion will fade all the more quickly.

I love that. It’s a point I’ve tried to make several times, but never in so few words. But it’s not what I want to talk about here. The comment immediately below it is a perfect example of the kind of rhetoric usually spouted, in this country, by the BNP, UKIP, and other organisations who regularly hide their extreme right-wing, often racist-slanted, views under the bushel of ‘concern for the traditional British way of life.’

“We are a Christian country so we should therefore be taught Christian religious education. End of story. Everyone against it, go to a private school that teaches your religion. Alot of benefits occur from teaching R.E including good morals and values. Why change something that is already working?

Now, I know this originates from Australia, but you’ll see this argument made by people in most countries where the modern population is mostly of European derivation, so I’m going to treat it as if it were of British origin. If you balk at that, I recommend you search the comments on any Daily Mail, Sun or Express article dealing with religion, immigration or any other subject involving ‘non-indigenous people,’ and the like. Believe me, the one I quoted is polite and non-racist compared to many, and I’m sure non-Brits can find examples of people holding these views in their own country. Anyway, let’s take it apart, shall we?

“We are a Christian country…”

Well, yes, by tradition we are. But then, by tradition, we are also a country where women’s labour is worth less pay than men’s, where homosexuality is criminalised, and homosexuals in positions of power or authority are deemed security risks due to them being an easy blackmail target. Traditionally we are supposed to imbue the landed aristocracy with higher intelligence, better manners, better morals and all sorts of other laudable qualities, purely by virtue of their birth. The list of ‘traditional’ aspects of our society which have fallen out of use is long, and most of them were no more justified, and contained no more justice, than the few I’ve mentioned, so the argument that we should hold on to one more tradition merely because it is a tradition, is nonsense.

“…so we should therefore be taught Christian religious education.”

And the person who constructed that sentence should have paid less attention to RE, and more to English. If that seems a bit spiteful of me, I’ll freely admit it, but it does speak somewhat to the intelligence of the commenter, if they believe you can be ‘taught education’, except in that you can be trained to be an educator, which is not the meaning implied by the context. Anyway, ad hominems aside, no matter how gratuitous they may or may not be, what about the actual statement?

Some people might find it odd, but I’m all for religious education. It’s a very important subject, influencing, as it does (sadly), many people’s opinions, including politicians and voters. Indeed the rise of radical Islam and the equally radical Christianity of many western policy-makers, especially in the US, arguably the most influential democracy in the world, means that it’s a more important subject now than it was when I left school in the early ’80s. That’s not to say, though, that I believe children should be taught religion in school as fact. No, they should be taught about religion. They should learn how the various religions influence people’s thought, and how they have influenced the history of civilisation, sometimes for good, too often for bad. They should learn what ethical positions are most likely to be taken by nations heavily influenced by the major religions. Creation myths can be an excellent introduction to the history of knowledge and philosophy. The value of the study of religion can’t be ignored, but teaching religion as truth to vulnerable young minds is, or should be, counted as breach of trust and, as such, as a criminal act. In no other subject, on any rational curriculum, could a teacher get away with teaching lies and unsubstantiated hypotheses. And, though it should hardly need pointing out, concentrating on just one religion won’t help them a jot. When studying ancient Greece, we need to see how the ancient Greeks’ religions influenced their view of the world, not judge their actions through the ideas of Islam, Christianity, Norse mythology or any other religious lens. If we don’t take that basic step, most of their moral and ethical decisions will seem arbitrary to the point of nonsense.

Digressing slightly for a moment, it’s worth mentioning that the labelling of children by the religion their parents adhere to and then, as happens all to often in the ‘faith school’ system, segregating them according to those labels, is inhumanly disgusting. As Richard Dawkins never tires of pointing out, we wouldn’t label children, or separate them out, as conservatives or architects based on their parents’ politics or professions, yet we unthinkingly, and horribly, do so on the basis of their parents’ religion. But back to the comment we were examining…

“Everyone against it, go to a private school that teaches your religion.”

So this person, though I doubt they’ve actually thought it through to the logical conclusion, would make state education dependent on either having a particular religious conviction, or at best being prepared to shut up about one’s own convictions and ‘go with the flow’. How nice. How charitable. How bloody disgustingly, patronisingly, bigoted. I’ve already talked about the first assumption, that a child can, and most often is, regarded as having a religion. How about the ingrained feeling of cultural superiority shown by anyone willing to place their own version of a world view, which has no supporting evidence, above anyone else’s differing ideas about the world, morals, ethics and beliefs.

Of course, if they shut their Bible for a few minutes and read some real history, they might take note that the early industrial revolution was, for the main part, driven by people shut out from mainstream further education by their religion being frowned upon. The Quaker schools went on to become the world’s first technical colleges, and their alumni, educated in practical matters like engineering and chemistry, formed a large percentage of the moneyed businessmen of the next generation. But warnings from history about the society-changing consequences of their bigotry are unlikely to sway buffoons who can make statements like that.

“Alot of benefits occur from teaching R.E including good morals and values. Why change something that is already working?”

Why, when religion can, and has, been twisted to condone the most barbarous acts and prejudices, should children be taught moral behaviour from a contradictory book of bronze- and iron-age myths that can be, and have been, with the proper care in picking and interpreting passages, made to support or condemn almost any behaviour, from charity to familial love, and from genocide to slavery? I’m not saying that you can’t find good things in the Bible, just that you can find an equal number – or more, in all likelihood, though I don’t know if anyone’s counted, and if so how they made the judgements – of bad things. When I was in senior school, a new subject was just being introduced, called Citizenship. At the time it consisted of how to vote, deal with government forms, handle money, and so on. As far as I know it still exists, under various names, and it could quite easily be expanded to include comparisons of various systems of morals, and the sort of behaviour expected in various situations under the then-prevailing ideas of the society in question.

Unlike a religious dogma, with its hard and fast, unchanging rules, the generally agreed upon moral framework of most societies shifts and reshapes over time. Sometimes this happens quite quickly, too. Just look at the acceptability of racism in humour on prime-time television, only thirty to forty years ago. Even if such a joke got past a show’s editors these days, just think of the moral outcry it would receive, from all sections of society, once it had been aired. And thus we improve. Little by little, and too slowly for many of us, but improve we do. But only when we reject the hidebound dogma embedded in religion.

I digressed a bit there, but what I was trying to show was that, in order to find good messages in the Bible, so that the Bible can appear relevant to the society of our time and place, we have to cherry-pick the bits that fit current ideas of what is good, and quietly ignore the parts that currently appear bad. In other words we have to choose the parts which agree with what we want to say by applying a moral sense of what is good, developed outside that dogma, in order to point out the (currently) good bits within that dogma. In short, we’ve developed a moral code that doesn’t need the damn book anyway, so why would we need it to teach children about morals?

Finally, a few generalisations about the oft-observed views of people who feel happy to make statements like the one we’ve been looking at. I should point out that I have no idea if any of these, apply to the person who made the statement. For all I know this one ill-thought-out opinion is merely a slight quirk of an otherwise balanced and fair outlook on life, and I in no way mean to imply that they believe any of the following. Rather like in thermodynamics, applying statistical generalisations to a large crowd is useful; to individuals, unproductive and quite possibly libellous. (To my knowledge, no one has yet been successfully sued by a gas-molecule.) When the conversation continues from this quite common opening statement, however, some or all of the following will quite often emerge.

  • The commenter equates religion with race. To them, in general, middle-eastern means Islamic, European or New World means Christian. White-skinned means Christian, and vise versa. Indian or ‘Pakkie,’ as they often charmingly put it, means Hindu. What emerges, if you can stick the conversation long enough (and, to be fair, read between the lines a little – a dangerous practice if not done carefully), is that what matters most to them is the idea of white racial superiority. All the rest is just tacked on bigotry or an attempt to justify that racism as having some ground in truth, and not actually based on skin-colour.
  • The commenter will generalise the fundamentalist eccentrics, terrorists and other extremists of all religions but their own as representative of the whole, but will loudly and constantly point out that those of their own religion are not representative of the whole. They will not see the irony here, even when it’s pointed out to them.
  • The commenter will express political opinions about the government and the legal profession not having the right to interfere with their right to live as they want, believe what they want and say what they want, but will be supportive of the idea of bringing in laws to restrict others from doing the same, if those others’ ideas, lifestyles and beliefs deviate from the laws laid down in their holy book.
  • The commenter will see any attempt to analyse their religious beliefs for evidence of truth or moral defensibility (surely the obvious first step in the process of deciding whether to teach it to children) as an attack on them personally. The idea that such things should be examined rather than taken on faith is anathema to them. In serious cases this can lead to them pasting large tracts from their holy book into the comments, in the belief that a quote, whatever the source, adds weight to an argument. They live by dogma and authority, and believe that sceptics do the same, apparently never having looked up the word ‘sceptic’ in a dictionary. (Philosophers seem to be slightly afflicted by this idea too, though nowhere near to the same extent.)

I’ll say this once more, as I don’t want there to be any mistake about this. Those were generalisations. To apply them before the fact to individuals would be both presumptive and rude. Not to mention possibly extremely hurtful in the case of accusations of racism. They’re good points to watch for, though, when conversing with such people.

As always, I’m having trouble thinking up closing remarks. I usually have the same problem with the opening paragraph too, so I’m 50% better off than normal. Anyway, in order to distract you from my clumsy ending, here’s a video that’s been doing the rounds lately. It’s vaguely related, in that it deals with the outlook on life espoused by organised religion. Regulars at The Meming Of Life and The Blessed Atheist will probably have seen it before, but to others it may be new. Either way it’s a thought-provoking and awe-inspiring video, and well worth a second watch.
—Daz

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