There is a double standards in the UK with regards to religion in schools. We don’t mind the teaching of “Christian” values. See Christian values are seen as local and from places that are near to us. So if we hear Christian hymns being sung in schools, we turn a blind eye to it.
If someone utters Allahu Akbar then religion has gone too far.
This one’s about Project Trojan Horse or the plan to infiltrate a mainly Muslim school and create enough changes to provide fundies with a system of recruitment of children turning it into a “Madrassa”. A word here? Madrassa means school. It doesn’t mean religious school explicitly. I went to a “madrassa” when I was younger myself.
But when we discuss it in the west we specifically refer to the madrassas that teach the “Koran”. Part brainwashing, part cram school, part philosophy class, the majority of these are designed to get kids to recite the Koran. The original “korans” were people. It was an oral tradition written down as oral reciters had a bad habit of getting killed in wars. But the problem here was that this school had a fantastic reputation, and they wished to use it to sneak nonsense under the radar. The plan failed. It was a stupid plan (since we have inspectors to ensure schools are doing their job and it would show on the results when you suddenly replaced evolution with Islamic Creationism as a subject). But needless to say it was a plot, no matter how incompetent and silly.
In light of the Trojan Horse failure and the committed drive to secularism, Christianity has come under scrutiny and people don’t like it because they don’t mind if Indra never gets a say, the gods of the Bible though must stay. Without an understanding of Romans one cannot do quadratic equation. As we all know Shakespeare is completely useless without Exodus and I myself have to read Corinthians to get my Stethoscope to work.
I don’t want to say ‘I told you so’, but my prophecy that those who want Christianity out of education would leap at the opportunity, has been proved correct. The Independent headlined “Make all state schools secular, and all faith schools, if we must have them, private”; The Times “Faith schools are divisive. Let’s get rid of them”. The Guardian ran with “Taxpayers’ cash should not be used to fund faith schools, say voters“. The Telegraph on the other hand went with “As an atheist why I support faith schools”. The BBC of course immediately, in the interests of balance and fairness of course, ran a piece on ‘Life in a Christian Fundamentalist School’, with the obvious sub-text, being that it was not all that different from an Islamic fundamentalist school.
Yes, faith schools are divisive. Look. We are repeatedly telling “foreigners” to integrate. And by foreigners, you mean Asians. The problem being that the British native idea of a good time is not what a lot of us consider to be a good time. Most Muslims find drinking a lot bad and don’t really fit into bars and pubs and restaurants. Dietary restrictions keep them out.
So we end up with a situation where we are “desperate” to have common ground but one side saying that we are the ones refusing to have common ground. We are constantly seen as different. Granted? As an ex-Hindu it is my biased opinion that Muslim communities kind of encourage the “separateness”. It isn’t clothes to be fair. It’s a complete inflexibility and unwillingness to realise that some things simply cannot be done. It is the whole strangers in your own country thing. The UK is a land of opportunity but too much and it makes you gay or have children out of wedlock or divorces.
It doesn’t matter, both faith schools have the capacity to alienate. It doesn’t matter which gods you pray to. What matters is that a private matter (religion) is being funded by public tax payer money to push a private viewpoint on children. I had religious education in my school, it was secular though. A sign of that otherness was that the Muslim kids were excused from it. Apparently reading about Judaism and Christianity was unacceptable. In short? Islam’s culture in the UK or at least Pakistani culture of Islam was effectively crippling its young children and their capacity to understand other faiths and compromise and indeed co-exist.
I fear that the lack of belonging to the UK is what drives the fundamentalist streak in British Islam. They are strangers in their own land because they are told repeatedly that they cannot participate and learn. While I am sure Christian schools have just as biased a teaching scheme.
The Guardian story was particularly interesting because it demonstrates a major theme in contemporary society – the elites seek to govern by opinion poll (all in the name of ‘the people’ or ‘taxpayers’). The trouble with polling is that it depends on who was polled (in this case a loaded ‘representative’ sample of 1,000 people), who commissioned the polling (in this case The Observer) and how you interpret the figures. For example in this particular poll whereas only 25% of over 55’s had no objection to faith schools being funded by the state, that figure rose to 35% for the under 35’s. So the headline could have been ‘young people far more likely to support state funded faith schools’. But of course that narrative did not suit the agenda of the newspaper and so they ran with ‘tax payers opposed to state funded faith schools’. And thus that headline was repeated ad nauseum.
Perhaps younger people don’t remember (we certainly don’t report it with the same verve and gusto as Islam’s terrorism) the sectarian violence and so think the CofE and Catholic and Protestant schools are a bit harmless.
Government by opinion poll is part of the dumbed down nature of contemporary political debate. Never mind thinking for yourself about the issues involved, why not just go with the flow and accept ‘what the people say’, according to the latest commissioned and headlined opinion poll? That’s why we get to the ridiculous stage where so called ‘quality’ newspapers can argue, without a trace of irony, that in order to deal with Islamic extremism we need to close down Church of England schools!
I don’t think you quite understand this but governments that tend to think for themselves and not accept what people say tend to be called dictatorships.
Our atheist secularists regard their position as so obvious that anyone who disagrees with it, must clearly be either stupid or evil – religious people who are clearly in need of remedial education. At first glance their position seems perfectly reasonable and strong. Andrew Copson of the British Humanist Association, as intelligent and persuasive an advocate as you can hope to find, puts the case well: “The message was, and still is, simple: all state schools should be equally inclusive of all pupils and staff, with no one group being given special privileges. Schools should not proselytise or discriminate against anyone on the basis of their religion or belief, in admissions, employment, curriculum, ethos, or assemblies.” Who, except the most stupid bigot, could be against that simple message? Equally inclusive, no special privileges, no proselytization, no discrimination because of religion or belief. Lets all sign up now to this secular nirvana.
Andrew Copson’s point is incredibly strong. An education system should exist for education. I do not consider religion to be the educational purview of the state. I think the UK’s Church of England should be like the Queen. A neutered body maintained for tradition rather than a robust organisation that seeks to try and spin reality through the lens of faith to allow the pushing of ideas that would not be considered constructive.
Well, I would. If it were not for the elephant in the room. The problem is that having a ‘secular’ education complete with ‘secular’ values and no other education being allowed, gives special privileges to secularists. It proselytises for those who believe that religion should have no place in public life and it discriminates against those of us who do not want our children to be taught opinion poll, state enforced moralism. Andrew Copson and others take it as a given that ‘secularism’ is neutral. I take it as a given that there is no such thing as neutrality when it comes to philosophy, morality, how we think about life and especially the concepts of good and evil. The irony is that those who think their values are the ‘neutral’ ones tend to be more fundamentalist and dogmatic than the fundamentalist theologians! And therefore more dangerous.
And here in lies the problem. In plain English?
What if we don’t want to stop teaching kids a superstition? We definitely want children to not learn about Islam but is there any way to keep teaching them about Jesus? And I don’t think he understands what secular means. It means it doesn’t give any special privileges to anyone.
Ah! One of the advantages of a schooling that taught skeptical thinking was the capacity to read between the lines.
See? In a secular world the Christian school can no longer hold itself as a moral compass of divinely ordained laws but has to admit that it’s stuff that people believed 2000 years ago. Which is why Jehovah has no problems knocking up a 13 year old Mary. It’s also why we think Mohammed’s a paedophile but conveniently forget the “Jehovah” thing.
In short? If we have a secular education, then who will tell our children about hating gays?
One of these dangers is that reason goes out of the window. As I pointed out last week, a killer argument is supposed to be that children are natural born atheists. It still astounds me that this is regularly trotted out on atheist websites, chat boards and tweets as though it were a self-evident truth. The reasoning in so far as it goes, is that because atheism is not a philosophy but just simply a ‘lack of belief in God’, then babies must be atheists because they don’t believe in God.
No. Children are naturally born potatoes. Look, it’s a very adorable potato but it isn’t developed. We aren’t born “complete”. It is why baby horses are up and playing in a day while baby humans can only blink at the lights. We aren’t born fully developed. We have to spend nearly a year before we can stumble about and make a few noises. A product of evolution of our gigantic heads. Seriously? Nearly a fourth of the baby’s body is “head”. This isn’t me being cruel, and a lot of people find it terrible when you say this but honestly?
You aren’t born fully developed. You are shaped by the conditions around you. And indeed you too shape the world around you. Want to know something funny?
Papa, Baba, Mama, Amma, Appa, Daddy, Mummy are always a baby’s first. Check it out. It’s always something along these lines. Even in Chinese and Arabic. The reason is not because the baby is learning to speak but it is a reference point to begin with. The first sounds a baby makes and so that is associated with a parent or food. That’s how babies learn languages slowly.
Babies are really stupid. They have to be. We aren’t beings of instinct but intellect. We have evolved to think our way out of things and that necessitates birthing naive children. They learn everything from us and we teach them about our world. If you think religion is real then you will teach them that too as a natural progression. You aren’t born atheist, you are born potato. You are TAUGHT religion. If you aren’t you will still create gods to explain the unexplained. Some of them are benign like your imaginary friend. Some of them are good like Santa Clause and the Tooth Fairy. Some of them are terrible beings that lurk under your bed and in your closet and in your head like the bogeyman. But let us not kid ourselves, these are gods. A rational being created by our minds to explain irrational things and our feelings. Our fear of the dark is a survival mechanism, once the bogeyman was leopards and tigers. Today where there are no such things, we create them.
The reasoning is that babies don’t believe in anything, therefore they are atheists. That so much is true but they don’t understand their existence either so cannot be atheist until they realise what a god is and why they don’t believe in it. But a child has no more choice in his religion than in his language. It is a purely taught phenomenon. A child born to atheists from Prague will have no religion and probably speak Czech as a first language while a child born to Hindus from Gujarat will speak Gujarati and believe in Krishna. To the religious such a choice is as natural as language. To us atheists, one is a method of communication the other is superstition.
But remember, we don’t fear the punishments of angry gods, the parents do not teach their children to fear angry gods out of malice but out of their own fears about the child’s well being.
There are two ways to answer this. The first is to accept the premise and to point out that in the same way babies are not scientists, readers or speakers of Chinese (even ‘Chinese’ babies). They have to learn and mature. So we can accept that the infantile and immature position is that of atheism. But we would hope that babies would grow up and became mature theists! The second is not to accept the premise and to point out that none of us are born with a ‘tabula rasa’ (a blank slate). But all of us are born with cognitive capacities and are hardwired for both morality and God. Of course our environments influence all of us. As Andrew Brown put it in The Guardian “in an environment where religion is regarded as weird and old-fashioned, children grow up atheist because that’s what their parents are. They don’t think about it. They may have profoundly superstitious and unscientific beliefs, but they will think of these as rational and atheist because that’s what – they know – all decent people are.” Is Stephen Hawking an atheist because he has thought through the issues, or because his parents brought him up with an atheistic worldview?
Yes but it is funny how no Native Americans were Christian prior to the arrival of missionaries to convert them.
See there is a difference in the way I think about “Atheist babies”. yes the Tabula Rasa exists. But no it isn’t atheism. It is potato. A state of a lack of comprehension. We don’t learn religion, we grow into it by seeing it as the truth. A child praying to the gods is not a rigid thing. Parents are proud and show off their babies reciting prayers to me along with their nursery rhymes. These children recite these prayers with their tongues tripping over the words and to the parents the meaning isn’t lost because it is recited by an unskilled tongue. The child’s hands may not be safe around fire so the child merely waggles it at a distance.
The gods are understanding in Hinduism. It is why you can be a moral atheist in Hinduism. The intentions of the child are good and mistakes do not anger the gods if they are made by those who are learning.
That Tabula Rasa is strengthened by repeated scratchings of the stylus of the parents. You can see it in a child aged around 8 to 9 months. They start getting scared of strangers. It is done, the child’s mind has imprinted mummy and daddy on it. The stylus has finished that etching, a necessity. It keeps babies safe. It prevents them from wandering away from mothers and keeps them close by and prevents their theft.
The theist here sees the blank slate as atheism. An absence of any ideas on the universe. Sure, that’s what atheism means. But we seldom are just atheists. We subscribe to various philosophies of how to live our lives. Our lives aren’t empty simply because we don’t have the any gods. Our worlds aren’t bleaker because there are no fairies in it.
The first type of argument is a character assassination. Atheists are immature like babies. That the higher state of being is to believe in a god (naturally? The most evolved state is believing in your particular god). All theists are mature and developed, Christians are just more mature and developed than the rest.
The second type of argument falls over because children tend to believe in the gods of their parents not because of magic or an inherent truth but for the same reason they speak the language of their parents. Because that is what they are exposed to first and that is what they think is real.
But here is the rub. More recent studies have shown that if you leave children to themselves, they will grow up as intuitive theists and creationists. Even Richard Dawkins admits that children have to be ‘educated’ out of their natural theism. Little wonder that the more militant atheists are desperate to get hold of the education system and to use it to instil only their atheistic philosophy. They are so blinded by their ideology that they cannot see that the best bulwark against fundamentalist Islam, or extremists politics of either right or left, is not fundamentalist atheism, but rather biblical Christianity, with its God given notion of all human beings created equal in Gods eyes and its understanding that there is much more to this world than might, power and chemistry. We are to ‘suffer the little children’ to come to Jesus and not hinder them. We must not let the Trojan horse of fundamentalist atheism destroy our Christian education system and poison the minds of our children. I don’t want my daughter to be just another brick in the atheist wall….I prefer her to be part of the living stones of Christ’s Church and Kingdom.
Yes, but that is because we instantly seek to rationalise forces upon us. It is a sensible thing to fear things that lurk in the dark. People who didn’t died to the things that did lurk in the dark. It is a logical fear to uneasy when alone. To crave light and sound. Not because there are daemons beyond the camp fire but because there are real things. When we stopped fearing the real things out there we had to invent daemons to justify our fear of the dark.
It’s midnight and you are alone in a woods in England. There are no large predators. And you have heard a branch crack and a tapping noise from a dead wood tree. You would worry, you would feel scared. There are no predators and the world there is safe. There is nothing out there. So you create beasts and ghouls and monsters that lurk in the darkness that prey on mankind to explain why you still wish to keep the light on.
It is why children sleep with the light on. It is an evolutionary response to fear the dark because children who wandered off into the dark seldom came back alive. You don’t grow up theists and creationists, but believe in the small gods and little ghosts of the unexplained.
A simple trick. A magician saws a woman in half on stage. A child thinks “HOLY CRAP! THE MAN JUST SAWED HER IN HALF”. You think “What an excellent illusion, it appears that the woman has been sawed in half through trickery, legerdemain and optical illusion. Now the child has it in his head that it is possible to saw someone in half and that magic exists that allows you to saw people in half. You know that physics and optical illusions exist and that your mind can be tricked.
When you see a magic trick you don’t think “That’s real” but you think “that looks real, how the dickens did he do that”. That is how children grow up. As they grow up, an education makes them realise the world doesn’t operate by magic. That an unknown event is merely an unexplained event. Close examination will discover how something works. Just because we don’t know how something works doesn’t mean it is acceptable to invoke the divine and the supernatural (or the profane, the hellish and daemons and monsters) as a rational reason.
The thing is? The author thinks “Chemistry” is something mundane and boring.
You are powered by an explosion. An explosion that has happened for billions of years. Every day this explosion carries on and we have tried to harness that in our atomic weaponry but they are just a fraction of it’s power. If we detonated every single nuclear bomb simultaneously, we would not match the power of this explosion. And it is that which powers us. We see it every day. It was among the first gods we created was the divine Sun. That gave warmth and life and the gift of fire to mankind. The being that chased the moon but never caught it. But it was not a god. But a single unending explosion that will be here long after we who read this die powering more creatures. The energy of this sun is harnessed by plants and made into things we and other animals can eat. That single piece of apple pie has it’s energy from this explosion.
And in a more literal way these explosions make us up too. The heavy elements created by this enormous explosion are fired off into space and settle into planets. Every single Carbon, Nitrogen and Iron atom that makes us up was forged in the heart of a star. We are Chemistry. And marvellous chemistry at that. Our bones are a type of cement but arranged to be light and strong and flexible. Our muscles are a ratchet system run by calcium ions. Our body relies on ion exchanges Our blood is like salt water, artificially maintained to transport things. At our very basic level we are phospholipid bilayers and long carbon chains and nitrogenous compounds. And all this chemistry is what makes you think and learn.
Imagine sitting down after a year of boring repetitive food. Rice and lentil curry. You fly into Abu Dhabi airport (or Dubai) and you have a couple of hours to kill. The shops hold little interest, all except one. Mc Donalds. You go in and get a Big Mac. That first taste of carbohydrates and sub par ground beef after those months is heaven. But all it is, is chemistry. Long carbon starches, nitro-carbon chain compounds. That’s really it. Just chemistry. But the satisfaction is real. Or is it? That also is Chemistry. So you still have time and you know what you miss. You go to a bar and order a drink. Scotch. It’s just ethanol and some carbon compounds and maybe some proteins. But that warm burn and taste? Nothing beats it. Yet it is Chemistry. You finish your journey and you walk out and you see the person you love standing at the airport. She smiles at you and waves and your heart just skips a beat then pounds in your chest. It’s adrenaline. A chemical (R)-4-(1-Hydroxy-2-(methylamino)ethyl)benzene-1,2-diol to be precise.
And all you can think about in that one perfect moment is her and how you never want to leave her. That is love. And that too is a chemical. Our entire life is chemistry.
And you want it to be magical? You think this is boring? This is incredible. We are nuclear powered shrapnel from an enormous nuclear explosion that can fall in love with another piece of nuclear powered shrapnel while being powered by the light from this explosion that has been converted to edible form. And we can make music and art and make a child smile, And all you can respond with is “I prefer it all to be inexplicable and happen due to the magic powers of an unprovable divine puppet master. Not that puppet master but this one!”. And you think Chemistry cannot speak to you and your soul? Pah! The photographer’s art is chemistry and physics but it has halted wars and made us laugh and smile and cry. Because we aren’t “Just” chemistry. We are so self aware as a chemical reaction that we can analyse and recognise our own chemistry and fix it when it breaks down. We are Chemistry that figured out how to fly by blowing stuff up in a controlled fashion. We are Chemistry that climbs mountains solely to do it. That is how amazing we are and that is who we are as humans. We are not defined by the gods we create to believe in but the things we do.
And then you think the best response to fundamentalist Islam is fundamentalist Christianity? Because exchanging one pile of superstition for another is better simply because modern Christianity has been castrated in the UK. But not entirely, we remember the sectarian violence and the claws that religious fundamentalism can have within the UK. You just want to make it easier to grow more Christian fundamentalists because you think they are harmless. Or because you think that their predation will spare you. That good Christian Soldiers will be your shield against the evils of Islam. Remember though, remember what happened when we thought the source of all morality was fighting Islam and the pain and suffering we inflicted while justifying the butchery of others.
Because “god” willed it. We excused our crimes against humanity by claiming a divine absolver.
Fundamentalist Christianity will be as terrible and violent as Islam. The only reason it is not today is because we saw the price of blind adherence to faith. We saw it’s toll. We saw how easy it became a method of hate. We have seen over and over again the victims of religion and we remember when we fought each other over which hat the same god liked. We look back at that with trepidation. You think that we should go back to that sort of thinking. And needless to say you want it to be your church and your idea of Jehovah and your idea of what hat to wear to be the one followed by “good Christians”.
And that is how it starts.
I jested about the need for religion in education. Frankly we don’t need anything from religion in our education outside the secular RE class that teaches about various faiths. When religion enters schools it tries to spin education through it’s lens and what it does is make children see the world through the lens of faith. At its most harmless is a propensity to keep praying to imaginary beings. At it’s most harmful it encourages children to grow up to support ideas associated with conservatism such as anti-abortion and anti-GLBT. At it’s most harmful it can stunt children’s educations by teaching creationism. And it’s most harmful? It can speak about a dialogue of hate and create barriers to society and discrimination and sectarianism.
Schools should be about education. Fiction in schools belongs in the English class and mythology in the RE classroom. If you can adhere to that and the respect of all including women, GLBT and non Christians you can have your “faith school”. If you cannot? Then I am afraid your school cannot be supported. Which is why I ask whether a private issue of religion should be encouraged and enforced in schools that will discriminate and create sectarian ideals in society rather than teaching kids to exist in a secular world and expose them to ideas.
What these schools do is hide Children from the world in order to make reality a one where there are gods.
What they do wish to tell you is that the world is sinful and that everything we do is inherently wrong especially that thing you do with your hands….