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Jun 21 2011

Passing through the eye of the needle

One of the funny things about the Bible is how regionally-specific its allusions are. Jesus is described as a shepherd, a potter, a sower of specific types of seeds… all references that would be readily understood by those living in the Middle East. Of course a culture that has no sheep wouldn’t really understand the reference, likewise with cultures that don’t use pottery, and has anyone ever seen a mustard seed grow into a tree? I’ve only ever seen them on a sandwich.

One of my favourite Biblical allusions comes from the book of Matthew:

And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.

Any of you shocked by the fact that a confirmed and vocal atheist would quote the bible need not be: I quote Shakespeare, Nietzche and Orwell too. A good phrase is a good phrase, regardless of how bat-shit insane the author may be. This particular quote, replete with its regional dialect (why a camel? why a needle?) suggests that rich people, or more specifically people tied to material and worldly goods would find getting into heaven very difficult. ‘Abandon your material possessions and focus your attention on Yahweh’ is the bedrock of Jesus’ theological position.

They must make those needles pretty big in Nigeria:

Nigeria’s pastors run multi-million dollar businesses which rival that of oil tycoons, a Nigerian blogger who has researched the issue has told the BBC. Mfonobong Nsehe, who blogs for Forbes business magazine, says pastors own businesses from hotels to fast-food chains.

“Preaching is big business. It’s almost as profitable as the oil business,” he said. The joint wealth of five pastors was at least $200m (£121m), he said. Evangelical churches have grown in Nigeria in recent years, with tens of thousands of people flocking to their services.

The wearisome part of blogging about religion is the depths of hypocrisy that one finds among believers, especially those that lead the flock (of camels?), becomes almost cliché after a while. It becomes repetitive and rather thin gruel for people who have been paying attention to religious establishments. It is pretty much de rigeur for those who claim a superior level of morality, purity, and righteousness (as given them by strict adherence to YahwAlladdha’s commands and the power of the Holy Spirit) to be caught, sometimes literally, with their pants down in violation of some stricture or other. Another religious zealot violates the strictures of her/his own purported beliefs? Ho hum… where’s my Congressional cock shot?

The reason I think this stuff bears repeating is twofold: first, because there are people who honestly believe that these kinds of things are isolated indiscretions rather than exactly what happens when human beings give other human beings power that is not only unquestioned, but fundamentally unquestionable. Criticizing the god-man is a good way to get ostracized and run out of the community, and when you depend on that community for your survival, you’re even less likely to raise an eyebrow when your hard-earned dollars are going to buy his… what did these guys buy again?

Bishop Oyedepo owned a publishing company, university, an elite private school, four jets and homes in London and the United States, according to Mr Nsehe.

“Oyakhilome’s diversified interests include newspapers, magazines, a local television station, a record label, satellite TV, hotels and extensive real estate,” Mr Nsehe said.

Ah yes, the kinds of necessities that are needed to support and develop the communities from which the funds come. Authority derived from religious faith is basically a blank cheque for corruption and abuse. It requires the engagement of the rational part of your brain to recognize and critique hypocrisy – faith actively encourages the suspension of the rational mind. The next thing it actively encourages is for you to make a show of sacrificing your material possessions to gain an afterlife reward for which no evidence is offered (“you just have to believe!”). We have to begin to recognize that the only legitimate reason to believe in a leader is a proven track-record of effectiveness and honesty – piety shouldn’t enter into it.

The second reason I bring this up is that it is usually the people who can least afford to give away their money that are most susceptible to these hucksters. It’s the poorest and least-educated that have the greatest level of desperation, and who are therefore most likely to abandon what little they have for the promise of something greater in the future. Conversely, it is those who have the most to gain from fraud and deception that prey on that same desperation to make what is a huge amount of money in a place like Nigeria. And of course religious organization like the Vatican can’t say anything, lest they open themselves up to more accusations of gross hypocrisy about how much money they take in from gullible suckers pious believers.

It is a great shame that these funds are being used for the exclusive benefit of the pastors. Had the people in these communities instead invested in themselves, they could have built their own schools, newspapers, and real estate. Imagine for a moment if they had pooled that money to attract skilled tradespeople to teach community members how to build businesses and develop commerce. That’s how wealth gets built. Instead, they happily threw it into the pockets of the first hypocrite to cross their path.

Or maybe they just have tiny camels.

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30 comments

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  1. 1
    Curt

    It’s interesting that many informal surveys/studies point to the fact that the poor generally give more (percent of income) to charities than do the wealthy and middle-class individuals and that conservatives are more likely to donate and yet these studies never actually say where the donations are being made or to which charities. They generally neglect to point out that these donations are generally made to churches, which are used for proselytizing or like, buying the preacher a new jet-ski… so yeah, not only do religious leaders do exactly what you say they do and prey on the poor and credulous, they also take advantage of the situation and turn it into a pro-conservative/pro-religious talking point while they’re at it.

  2. 2
    grassrute

    You can probably well imagine how disheartening I find a story like this. You are right in pointing out the hypocrisy of these pastors. Their actions, however, in no way minimize the importance of God or the church in our lives. This story only proves the corrupt heart of mankind and our being inclined to doing what is evil. The bible text you point out lays out the destination of these pastors unless they repent…well done!

    When police officers engage in hypocritical behavior, it in no way diminishes the importance of the police force, or the need for law. The officers who engage in this kind of behavior (e.g., G20 Summit), break the laws they are supposed to enforce. What’s the correct response? All police forces continue to deal with corruption, a.k.a. sin. Sin is everywhere, in our work place, in our hospitals, in the police forces and even in our churches. This is because it’s in our hearts.

    “Had the people in these communities instead invested in themselves…” It is through churches that schools are built. One blog post couldn’t cover all the works of mercy churches are involved in. If personal gain is the only worthwhile purpose for applying one’s self, I guess I’m one of those gullible suckers.

    I hope these pastors practice what they preach and repent.

  3. 3
    Crommunist

    When police officers engage in hypocritical behavior, it in no way diminishes the importance of the police force, or the need for law

    Absolutely, but when police break the rules it is obvious, and we have a legal recourse against them. Plus, they are bound by secular authority. Even if you believe in God, He only exercizes His authority after you die, which means that people are free to fleece the flock (to use a bad pun) their whole lives. Plus, if they repent on their death beds, they get off scott free. Also, depending on what branch of Christianity you listen to, faith alone in Jesus as the son of God may be enough to secure entry into heaven, so repentance isn’t even necessary. Not exactly the same as a corrupt police chief getting fired. The problem arises when faith is the only check against which to measure someone’s words. If a pastor says God talks to him, and all you have is faith to go by, how can you be sure he’s wrong? Can you afford to be wrong about something like that?

    Schools and hospitals and social programs exist outside the church. One could make the historical argument that they USED TO require the church for the organization and funding, but that is no longer the case. The fact remains that the church is not necessary for the “works of mercy” – some of the world’s largest philanthropists are non-religious (think of things like the Red Cross and United Way that are explicitly secular).

    If personal gain is the only worthwhile purpose for applying one’s self, I guess I’m one of those gullible suckers.

    I would argue that doing things to get into heaven counts as ‘personal gain’. Again, we could go ’round and ’round about whether or not true altruism can exist, but I’d say that investing in your community is not, strictly speaking, selfish. Even if it is, it is a constructive type of selfishness that results in a greater good than if you spent the money on yourself. CERTAINLY better than if you spent it to buy your way into God’s good graces.

    I hope these pastors practice what they preach and repent.

    I will join you in your preference that people behave less hypocritically. Jesus had quite a bit to say about hypocrisy too. Shame that those parts get ignored by many of those who would claim to be followers of his teaching.

  4. 4
    Crommunist

    I should also point out that I don’t buy “sin” as an explanation for anything. “Sin” is just a blanket term for the aspects of human nature we don’t like. We can find ways to build our organizations (even our churches) with checks and balances to mete out corruption and hypocrisy, such as civilian review boards for police departments (to borrow your example).

  5. 5
    G.Syme

    QI reliably informs me that the Aramaic for camel (gamla) is remarkably similar to the Aramaic for sturdy rope (gamta). Just sayin’.

    As for these pastors, maybe instead of simply drawing attention to these abuses of power when they happen, we should start a long and comprehensive list of them. The outrageous excesses of the religious elite are so ubiquitous that I’m pretty sure Paul even mentions them in one of his letters. They weren’t exactly off to a good start.

  6. 6
    grassrute

    I hope you don’t mind my tardy response.

    I’m not familiar with the laws in Nigeria, but here pastors who engage in such activity can be charged with fraud. The congregation will only be fleeced if they permit this theft to take place. The pastors should be deposed.

    I’m sure you’ve heard the quote “absolute power corrupts absolutely.” This is true for gov’t, police and even church. Give a sinful human absolute power and corruption is sure to follow. A church that is ruled in a “top down” fashion sets the stage for this kind of behaviour.

    Indeed, there are many secular organizations engaged in offering humanitarian aid. This doesn’t minimize the value of churches doing the same. It’s funny that you mention the United Way. Administration absorbs are large part of the donation pie.

    If memory serves me correctly you were raised Catholic. For that reason I can understand why you think “works of mercy” are done to obtain a place in heaven. There’s nothing good about those kind of works. It’s important to compare a pastor’s teaching/actions with the bible, as you have successfully done in this thread.

    (remove any reference to the church or pastors and insert government or bureaucracy and you have a nice libertarian article:)

  7. 7
    Crommunist

    Once again though, what you call “permitting theft” I could just as easily call “submitting to the demands of faith”. If you sincerely believe that God wants you to give away all your material possessions to demonstrate your piety, is that being defrauded or voluntarily divesting one’s self of material possessions?

    Indeed, there are many secular organizations engaged in offering humanitarian aid. This doesn’t minimize the value of churches doing the same.

    You originally said that it was through churches that schools were built – are you willing to amend that statement now? My argument is that since we have found ways to do good work in the absence of a faith framework, and since faith can so easily be manipulated and abused, that it would be better for communities to organize outside of a faith basis. I’m sure the irony of evangelical megachurches (not to mention the Vatican, although you seem to be no fan of the RCC either) will not be lost on you, if you’re willing to point out the amount of money that the United Way spends on administration. Since churches are totally superfluous to performing humanitarian acts, any amount of money spent on building and maintaining churches is therefore (by your own admission) simply absorbing that same slice of the pie.

    (remove any reference to the church or pastors and insert government or bureaucracy and you have a nice libertarian article:)

    I’m not inherently opposed to the libertarian position. Indeed, I used to self-identify as libertarian before I really took a hard look at the implications of its teachings, in the same way I used to call myself a Christian. Indeed, both philosophical traditions have many valuable contributions to human flourishing and happiness, provided you’re willing to get rid of the absurd and monstrous parts.

  8. 8
    grassrute

    Submitting to the demands of faith doesn’t require blindly giving possessions away. Stewardship is another faith requirement. Giving your money or possessions away to the greedy is very poor stewardship.

    By saying that schools are built through churches, am I also saying schools can’t be built without churches? This “good work” you are referring to is tainted as well. You already know what my views are of the public schools and the United Way supports abortions financially. There is a big difference in the way a “good work” is carried out by the church as compared to a secular or government organization. In fact, the works of Planned Parenthood aren’t good at all.

    For some of the United Way’s administrative costs check this out: http://www.ncrp.org/news-room/news-2008/131-united-way-president-paid-12-million
    It’s clearly not just people of faith that can be manipulated and abused.

    As for church buildings, they need to be the initiative of the church members. The buildings are used for instructing the church members. In these buildings people are instructed not to: steal, kill, disobey the governing authorities, etc etc etc. A definite benefit to society that is proactive rather than reactive.

  9. 9
    Crommunist

    Giving your money or possessions away to the greedy is very poor stewardship.

    What if you think you’re giving them to the poor? Or if your pastor tells you that God wants you to sacrifice to show your faith?

    As far as the rest of your statement goes, you seem to be arguing that both church-based and secular groups are equally capable of doing good things, and are subject to the same biases and flaws. That’s my position exactly; I just take it one step further and say that since the church does evil things in the name of “faith” (I am thinking of ex-gay ministries, moving to kill sex education, trying to put creationism in schools, organizing to block equal rights legislation both now and throughout history), and is shielded by a veneer of unearned respectability, doing charity work through a church is superfluous and contributes to human suffering.

    Your statement about Planned Parenthood is simple ignorance. I will not respond to Republican Party talking points – take 5 minutes and learn what it is that PP actually does.

    Churches are absolutely not required to teach people not to steal or kill. You insult not only yourself, but everyone else on the planet by making the assertion that if nobody tells you “God says don’t steal, and you should believe me because I speak for Him”, you wouldn’t be able to work through the idea that stealing hurts people, and hurting people isn’t a sustainable way of living. There have been human societies far longer than there have been organized churches, and even if that weren’t the case, we are certainly capable today of giving moral instruction without making it contingent upon pleasing an unknowable, unseeable, intangible deity.

  10. 10
    grassrute

    “What if…” I fail to see your point. What if a renovator takes a deposit from a senior to remove vermiculite insulation from her home and never shows up to do the work? The old lady falls prey to the scam because the renovator claimed that vermiculite insulation contained asbestos and must be removed according to Health Canada.
    There are many gullible people, and many others willing to take advantage of them. Whether they use Health Canada, the water heater scam or faith in God says nothing about Health Canada, water heaters or faith in God.

    What’s wrong with ex-gay ministries? (Sex) education is a parental matter. Creationism and Christianity is part of our heritage, children should learn about it and Christian parents have a right to teach their children about creation. Why is it that you call these things evil? What do you base it on? Even if you believe they’re evil, should your morality be imposed on children against parent’s wishes?

    When you cherry pick, the respectability of the church becomes unearned. Suggesting that charity work done through a church contributes to human suffering is simple ignorance. Take five minutes to really investigate this without cherry picking.

  11. 11
    Crommunist

    I guess my response to your renovator example is that we are not taught that the renovator is a representative of the almighty Construction God, and that questioning his suggestions will lead to the fires of eternal damnation. If we were taught that priests/pastors are just guys who have interesting philosophical insight, rather than representatives of a deity, then I’d be less outraged. The teachings of faith actively erode the application of critical thinking when it comes to “spiritual” matters. At least, I will agree that hucksterism isn’t the sole province of the religious, and there are scam artists in all walks of life.

    Today’s post explains why ex-gay ministries are evil.

    Sex education may be a parental matter, but when the parents do a shitty job of teaching their kids, then those kids are at a serious risk. We know that there is a strong correlation between abstinence-only “education” and spread of STIs and early pregnancy. Are you suggesting that it is better for kids to get STIs and children they can’t support than it is to allow public schools to teach kids about what options they have? If that is seriously your position, then we can’t really get far beyond that, and your position is immoral.

    Creationism and Christianity are indeed part of our heritage, but they aren’t science. Pretending as though there is some kind of scientific debate on whether or not evolution is true, or if “a magic man done it” is not covered by an appeal to tradition. Teach it in history class. Teach it as “this is what we used to think, but now we have evidence that suggests otherwise”. It’s evil because it undermines the scientific process and promotes the teaching of lies to children under the guise of balance. Kids who grow up not knowing about evolution end up being screwed when they study science later in life. It actively discourages religious children from studying reality because science is antithetical to their parents’ superstitions.

    I get to “impose” my morality on children against their parents’ wishes because a) the kids’ welfare is at stake, and b) it affects me too. I have to live in a society where people who think that global warming is a scam because God invented the rainbow after Noah’s flood. I have to live in a society where the unwanted children of kids with syphilis because their parents didn’t bother to teach them about condoms grow up to become criminals. If a parent wishes to lock their kid in a closet because she talked back to her mother, would you say that it is a crime to lock up those parents? Is that “imposing my morality” on the parents’ wishes?

    When you take the actions of the church as a whole, it reveals itself to be no more respectable than any other human organization. It doesn’t deserve any special treatment because some of the things it does are charitable. I appreciate your attempt to turn my argument around on me, but I explained exactly why supporting churches is supporting the evil actions they do explicitly because of religious faith, whereas the good things they do could just as easily be done by a secular group. The two statements are therefore not equivalent.

  12. 12
    grassrute

    “we are not taught that the renovator is a representative of the almighty Construction God and that questioning his suggestions will lead to the fires of eternal damnation.” In this case the renovator could claim to speak on behalf of Health Canada – having twisted the truth – just as the pastor claims to represent God when he steals from his congregants. The threat of severe health issues arising, like cancer, parallels the threat of damnation. Whether claiming to represent an intimidating gov’t agency or a deity makes little difference to the con artist. The fact that it happens says NOTHING about the church.

    “We know that there is a strong correlation between abstinence-only “education” and spread of STIs and early pregnancy” Children who abstain don’t get std’s. Those who engage in sex with multiple partners are still at high risk when using a condom. Encouraging such behaviour is irresponsible! Although I don’t condone either, a child is in greater danger having sex than being locked in the closet.

    I have no problem teaching our children about the THEORY of evolution. How creatures mutate has nothing to do with their origins. Teaching science is crucial, but teaching the Big Bang as fact is simply lying to children. I’m not suggesting that all children must be taught creation as fact, as I said, it’s a parental choice.

    “When you take the actions of the church as a whole, it reveals itself to be no more respectable than any other human organization” Firstly, you don’t know what the church is, so that’s a bold statement to make. The “religious” and sects are not the church. Secondly, your definition of charitable and mine differ greatly as does your definition of maternal care.

  13. 13
    Crommunist

    “We have this scientific evidence that asbestos increases your risk of developing mesothelioma”
    “We read in this really old book that you’re going to suffer unimaginable torment for the rest of your life if you have sex with another woman”

    If you seriously can’t see how these two statements are different, then I’m not sure what options are left as far as communicating ideas goes.

    Children who abstain don’t get std’s

    Thanks for the factoid there, professor. Please point out where I said that a) abstinence was bad, and b) that people who get proper sex ed don’t still have the option to choose abstinence. What I said was that teaching abstinence only is bad, because kids who are not taught anything else still have sex, and don’t know how to protect themselves. It’s like giving a kid the keys to a motorcycle, then saying “don’t drive it, and also there’s no such thing as helmets.” It’s stupid.

    It’s kind of scary that you think it’s better for a kid to be locked in a closet than to have sex. Scarier still because you have kids. My question wasn’t whether or not you would do those things; it was whether you think that a parent has the right to lock their kid in the closet as punishment for breaking the 5th commandment, or whether the state should intervene in such an egregious example of child abuse.

    Teaching science is crucial, but teaching the Big Bang as fact is simply lying to children.

    What on Earth do you think science is? Seriously. I would really like an answer to this question. When you follow all of the evidence, it points to the Big Bang as the explanation for the origins of the physical universe. That’s what teaching science is. Same story with evolution. “How creatures mutate has nothing to do with their origins.” – lolwut? That’s like saying “the speed and direction of a moving object has nothing to do with where it started.” Teaching science is indeed crucial, and I wish someone had done it for you.

  14. 14
    grassrute

    I don’t think a parent has the right to lock their child in a closet for any reason.

    Also, I intend to teach my children about what you would define as “safe-sex.” So yes, they will know about condoms, but will also know God’s design for sex.

    “The evidence points to…” Thanks for that. I would like to point one thing out…bear with me for a minute. If Adam were to date a pc of rock 3 days after creation – assuming he had the lab and equipment to do so – the rock would have likely tested billions of years old. Had he cut down a large tree, it would have had multiple rings…

  15. 15
    Crommunist

    But you said that I don’t have the right to impose my morality on parents, as they have supreme rights on how they raise your child. Do you want to revise that to “the state can impose its will only when parents are doing something I disagree with?”

    I’m glad that you’re planning on educating your children (although you think that any sex is more risky than being locked in a closet, so I’m not really sure how accurate that education will be…), but it’s not about you. There are churches and religious groups here and in other places in the world that are agitating to deny any sex education in schools. This means that thousands of children will not receive accurate information – just because you aren’t personally one of them is not really much of a comfort to me.

    I’m not sure which part I’m supposed to “bear with”, but Adam never existed, and there was nothing like “3 days after creation”. If you’re referring to the first member of a species we’d recognize as homo sapiens, then yes of course the world would still appear billions of years old – because the world is billions of years older than humankind. So are trees. However, the different species of trees available to be chopped down at that point (~100k years ago) would likely be quite different from the ones we see today, because of natural evolution and human cultivation.

  16. 16
    grassrute

    “something I disagree with?” No. There are a number of things parents do to their children that I disagree with:
    http://news.nationalpost.com/2011/05/25/toronto-parents-hide-childs-gender-in-bid-to-for-neutral-treatment/
    I don’t support state intervention until what can be defined as child abuse has taken place.
    Failing to teach the public education system’s version of sex-ed, isn’t child abuse. Locking a child in a closet may be.

  17. 17
    Crommunist

    Okay, now we can have a reasonable conversation. If you are willing to admit that the level of state intervention is proportionate to harm being done to a child, then I will be happy to admit that parents most often know what is in their particular child’s best interest, and in cases of unclear benefit/harm, the state should side with the parent.

    Here’s the problem: faulty sexual education does lead to clear harm, insofar as it increases the population-level risk of developing STIs and unplanned pregnancies. A parent that would rather keep their child ignorant is increasing that child’s risk of harm – some level of state intervention is warranted. Should police lock those parents up? Absolutely not – that is an unwarranted level of government intervention. However, it seems entirely reasonable to make information available to children in public schools, even if it goes against the parents’ wishes (which you have granted are not absolute in cases of harm). Even though the parents may think that what they are doing is in their child’s best interest, they could be wrong and are wrong in the specific case of someone that thinks abstinence-only education is sufficient.

  18. 18
    grassrute

    You mentioned that you’re not opposed to teaching abstinence as part of the “safe sex” education. Even if you are promoting the just-in-case they have sex reasoning, I still take issue. If a parent doesn’t want his kid riding a motorcycle, is it the teacher’s place to say “well your dad has a point, but in the event you do take his bike for a joyride, you’ll be safe if you wear a helmet, in fact, let me show you how to put it on properly.” If you want to protect children from motorcycle accidents, keep them off the bike…period! It will be much safer if the kid waits till he has his (marriage) licence.

    STDs have reached epidemic levels. This is not because an increasing number of parents are teaching their children abstinence only education. Rather, the epidemic coincides with an increase in sexual promiscuity resulting in a false sense of security that a thin piece of latex will protect them. Anyone who teaches that you cannot get herpes from a sexual partner even when a condom is used properly is either ignorant, or a liar. Once a child develops an appetite for sex, it’s only a matter of time before the opportunity arises and there’s no condom available. What’s the reasonable response when a child gets an STD after having “safe sex” on the advise of his/her teacher in spite of the parent’s wishes? Faulty sexual education certainly does lead to clear harm. State intervention is certainly warranted…lock the teacher up!

    You do realize that there are numerous studies saying that abstinence education/programs work? There will obviously be exceptions e.g. do what I say, not what I do

  19. 19
    Crommunist

    You’re making most of this up.

    If you want to protect children from motorcycle accidents, keep them off the bike…period! It will be much safer if the kid waits till he has his (marriage) licence.

    You are creating a false dichotomy between “teaching the kid how to be safe” and “telling the kid not to do it”. You’re assuming that kids who are told NOT TO DO SOMETHING are less likely to do it. If anything, the opposite is true. There is a third option: give the kid the knowledge required to make a safe choice, knowing that kids occasionally… just sometimes… once in a while… do things without their parents’ permission. Are you really so naive as to think otherwise?

    STDs have reached epidemic levels

    No they haven’t.

    Rather, the epidemic coincides with an increase in sexual promiscuity resulting in a false sense of security that a thin piece of latex will protect them

    You’re making that up too.

    Anyone who teaches that you cannot get herpes from a sexual partner even when a condom is used properly is either ignorant, or a liar

    Indeed. Who says otherwise?

    Once a child develops an appetite for sex, it’s only a matter of time before the opportunity arises and there’s no condom available.

    It’s called puberty. Look it up. Kids ‘develop an appetite for sex’ regardless of what they are taught.

    What’s the reasonable response when a child gets an STD after having “safe sex” on the advise of his/her teacher in spite of the parent’s wishes?

    Medical treatment.

    State intervention is certainly warranted…lock the teacher up!

    You’re only pretending to be this stupid. That’s like saying “a dad taught his kid how to light a campfire. Later, that kid burned down a house… lock the dad up!” You’re not that stupid.

    You do realize that there are numerous studies saying that abstinence education/programs work?

    No, there aren’t. There are flawed studies with suspect methodology, funded by religious groups that buy the responses they want. Since there are ‘numerous’ studies, you’ll have no problem finding me say… 3 rigorous scientific studies that show the superiority of abstinence-only education. That is, 3 studies I can’t pick apart with trifling ease.

  20. 20
    grassrute

    Hmmm. A teacher shows a kid how to safely drive a motorcycle. The kid goes home, takes his dad’s bike for a joyride and gets into a serious accident. The correct response to this is “medical treatment”. Nothing more? I’ll agree the teacher doesn’t need jail time, but he/she should face disciplinary action.

    I’ve made none of what I’ve said up. It’s all information I’ve read somewhere.

    Wrt studies, I’ll give you two:

    Abstinence
    http://www.abstinence.net/pdf/contentmgmt/01JanFeb0608Weed1FINAL-1.pdf

    Virginity Pledges:
    http://s3.amazonaws.com/thf_media/2010/pdf/79366_1.pdf

  21. 21
    grassrute

    It’s time we included “safe driving” courses in the school curriculum. It’s naïve to think that just because kids who are told NOT TO drive are less likely to do it. So let’s give the kids the knowledge required to make a safe choice, knowing that kids occasionally…just sometimes…once in a while…do things without their parents’ permission. http://www.thestar.com/news/crime/article/1015945–york-police-officer-dies-after-being-dragged-300-metres-by-van

    Don’t get me wrong, if parents want to teach their children that wrapping their dick with saran wrap will make promiscuous sex safe, all the power to them. But when parents want to teach their children values, that sex is a special gift to be shared only with your spouse, that a woman/girl isn’t a sex toy, that virginity is honourable and can’t be returned once it’s gone…teachers should butt out.

  22. 22
    Crommunist

    Okay, now you’re being INTENTIONALLY STUPID, and it’s starting to irritate me.

    Find me ONE curriculum that says that you should use Saran Wrap as birth control. ONE. Find me ONE that says that women are sex objects (not to mention the fact that WOMEN GET SEX ED TOO), or that virginity can be “returned” when it’s gone. ONE.

    Your dishonesty and lack of character in this discussion is shockingly uncharacteristic of you.

  23. 23
    Crommunist

    And I don’t know what your point is about the police officer and the van. You’re saying that the public schools taught this kid to drive? Or that this situation would have been made WORSE if the kid had been taught how to use a car safely?

  24. 24
    Crommunist

    Your analogy is flawed. Sex education is not sex lessons – nobody is teaching kids to fuck.

    Better analogy: a teacher knows that one of his students has access to a motorcycle. Despite the fact that this student’s parents have warned her not to joyride, the teacher knows that this student is thinking about doing so. Knowing that the parents can’t be around 100% of the time, the teacher says to the student: “Riding motorcycles is really dangerous, and you could seriously hurt or even kill yourself.” “I know that,” says the student “but I’m going to be careful and only ride at night.” “Actually,” says the teacher “Your risk of injury or death INCREASES when you ride at night. Riding in the daytime is much safer, because cars can see you, and you can see obstacles. Plus if you wear a helmet, you’ll have a much smaller risk of life-threatening injury. The safest bet is still to not ride.” The kid goes out riding at night, more afraid of getting caught than of hurting herself, and crashes. You’re saying that’s the TEACHER’S fault?

    I suppose it’s unfair of me to ask you to produce high-quality studies, since you are not scientifically literate. I might as well be asking you to ballet dance or arc weld – you don’t have the necessary training. These studies you have cited (I asked for 3, by the way) are just as I thought – methodologically flawed. The first study compares a group of kids that get AOE (abstinence-only education) to a group that gets no education at all. Yes, some education is better than none, but sex-ed is better than AOE. The second “study” is not a study either – it is a position paper from the Heritage Foundation (and if you don’t understand why that’s a problem, then I suggest you do a little bit of digging into their ideological background). It is not peer-reviewed, and relies on the so-called “grey literature” (books, newspaper articles, other Heritage Foundation publication) to make its points rather than rigorous science.

    What you’re looking for is research conducted by people working at a public health institute, possibly in conjunction with a university (these institutions often have strict rules about funder interference). It should compare a group (or several groups, preferably) of young people who get AOE with a group that gets evidence-based sex ed (which includes abstinence, but also accurate information about condoms, birth control pills, STIs, and pregnancy). It should look at rates of STI, pregnancy, and age of first sexual contact. The scientific consensus is that kids who have proper sex-ed do better on all of these measures than do AOE kids.

  25. 25
    Brian Lynchehaun

    “A teacher shows a kid how to safely drive a motorcycle. The kid goes home, takes his dad’s bike for a joyride and gets into a serious accident. The correct response to this is “medical treatment”. Nothing more? I’ll agree the teacher doesn’t need jail time, but he/she should face disciplinary action.”

    For what? What rules did the teacher break?

    Let’s move it up a level: what ethical constraints did the teacher break? In what way is the teacher beholden to the wishes of the parent? (hint: none)

    “I’ve made none of what I’ve said up. It’s all information I’ve read somewhere.”

    I’m sorry. Everything you’ve ever said (and in future too, except when it agrees with what I say) is bullshit. That’s all information that I’ve read somewhere.

    Wow. That was *easy*. I guess I’ll just go off and flip a coin until the end of time, since all I need to do to demonstrate my case is disagree with someone, and claim that I read the information “somewhere”.

    Regarding your “studies”, I’m slightly confused:

    http://www.abstinence.net/pdf/contentmgmt/01JanFeb0608Weed1FINAL-1.pdf is a survey. Surveys aren’t reality. Surveys are a measure of a opinions about reality. And (hold on to your corn cob pipe) people lie.

    The biggest issue here is, of course, methodological: you have a bunch of students taking a survey issued by people who have spent *months* telling them “having sex is BAD”. There is a strong incentive to lie. How do we tell if they have lied? Blood tests and physical exams (which won’t magically test virginity, but *will* detect prevalence of sexually transmitted illnesses).

    In the Limitations section (page 12), it is stated that “The researchers used several methods to minimize respondent error and maximize candor” yet these methods are not laid out in the “Research Design and Procedures” section (unless they are merely referring to “The confidentiality and the aggregate use of the questionnaire data were emphasized by the instructors before students filled out the survey”, which is laughable if that’s the extent of their “methods to minimize respondent error and maximize candor”.

    Were blood tests and physical exams undertaken? Nope.
    This “study” is crap.

    The second “study” isn’t a study at all, but a re-examination of data from a prior study. I do not have the science/math background to wade through 50 pages of statistical manipulation. I leave that joy to Ian.

    I’ll bet dollars to doughnuts that it’s just reshuffling the numbers until they generated statistical significance. Science isn’t a single study: science is replication.

    It seems to me that Grassrute has gotten significantly more wing-nutty than last time I responded to his posts. Or, at the least, he’s more vocal…

  26. 26
    Crommunist

    Meh, the fact that it’s a survey isn’t really the major flaw of the study. If you look at tables 3 and 4, you’ll see that none of the measured variables actually predict whether or not they’ll have sex except whether or not they’ve had ANY kind of instruction. It seems as though having values taught to them doesn’t matter – only scaring them about sex, and whether or not they intended to have sex a priori. The R^2 value (how much the model explains the outcome) is also very small, meaning that most of the factors that predict sexual initiation have nothing whatever to do with the AOE programs.

    As far as the ad hominems go, he’s being particularly wingnutty in this specific conversation, and I don’t know why. Outside of this post, he’s been his usual self, which I have actually grown to like.

  27. 27
    grassrute

    Crom, (& Brian,) I will admit I get a little emotionally involved on this sensitive topic. I am a parent and am concerned about what my children are taught.

    A few clarifications:
    1) My use of the word saran wrap was intended simulate condom use. I was also, as usual, making the point that if *parents* want to teach their children that saran wrap…” key word “parents”
    2) My motorcycle example – which had its flaws – was about countering the parent’s instruction to the child. In your rebuttal to my example, not once did you suggest that the teacher should have called the parents if there was a concern the child might drive the motorcycle.
    3) I didn’t say that curriculum says women are sex objects or that virginity can be returned. It is, however, a message that *can* be inadvertently received by children.
    4) My concern with curriculum is when it goes against parent’s wishes. Before changing the curriculum, parents need to be on board. If the parents can’t be convinced, the argument for change mustn’t be very convincing.

    Let’s consider for a minute what we do agree on:
    1) Children who abstain from sex don’t get STDs or unplanned pregnancies
    2) Condoms, even when used properly, don’t guarantee protection from STDs
    3) Children need to be taught safe sex

    Are children being taught safe sex if they are taught to use a condom? Although it’s safer than no condom, it’s not safer than abstinence.

    The safest sex someone can have is sex with a person they can trust and know for certain doesn’t have an STD. That person also won’t be having sex with anyone else. The safest sex is sex that doesn’t necessitate a condom.

    I’d have less issue with sex-ed if a teacher taught children that it’s best to wait till they’re married and that there are condoms for preventing pregnancy and disease, but they’re not 100% effective even when used properly. You said that “faulty sexual education does lead to clear harm.” Isn’t selling sex with a condom as “safe sex” just a little faulty? Perhaps “less unsafe sex” is more accurate.

  28. 28
    Crommunist

    You seem to be labouring under this bizarre assumption that being a parent means that you have the right to control what information gets into your children’s heads. There is a staggering amount of information in the world, and if your solution is to try and block it out rather than teach the kid to sort good from bad, then you’re fighting a losing battle.

    Saran wrap and condoms are not comparable, unless you’re deluded or distorting the truth to try and make a false point appear reasonable. You can decide which of those you were doing – neither of them are acceptable.

    not once did you suggest that the teacher should have called the parents if there was a concern the child might drive the motorcycle.

    “Hi, Mr. Smith? Yes, this is Billy’s teacher. Just so you know, he’s a teenager, and is thinking about having sex. How do I know? Because he’s a teenager.” Is that the kind of phone call you were thinking of? If parents don’t know that their kids are horny, and thinking about experimenting with drugs and alcohol, then those parents live in the same parallel universe that Michelle Bachmann’s research team lives in.

    It is, however, a message that *can* be inadvertently received by children.

    Bullshit. That’s the same ridiculous line of ‘reasoning’ that says you shouldn’t teach children about common human descent from primates, because they’ll start acting like monkeys. Consent and partner respect are core parts of sexual education. I’m guessing you never had it?

    4) My concern with curriculum is when it goes against parent’s wishes. Before changing the curriculum, parents need to be on board. If the parents can’t be convinced, the argument for change mustn’t be very convincing.

    Ah yes, because parents are always reasonable when it comes to their children. And because parents are NEVER stupid and bigoted themselves, trying to enact their small-minded agendas through their children. Parents have input into curriculum planning, but since the vast majority of parents know dick-all about education, it’s probably something that you’d want to leave up to, I dunno… people who know what they are talking about?

    I’d have less issue with sex-ed if a teacher taught children that it’s best to wait till they’re married and that there are condoms for preventing pregnancy and disease, but they’re not 100% effective even when used properly.

    So… science? You want teachers to use FACTS when teaching topics? What a novel idea. That’s exactly what they do teach in sex ed (minus the ‘wait until you’re married’ thing, which is nonsense because even married people cheat). They also teach about other forms of birth control, they teach anatomy, they teach hygiene, they teach some basic biology and embryology. They’re quite good – you should take a class.

    The safest sex is sex that doesn’t necessitate a condom.

    Unless you don’t want to get pregnant and can’t use birth control pills.

    Perhaps “less unsafe sex” is more accurate.

    Yeah, that’s fair. No amount of sex is completely safe.

  29. 29
    Brian Lynchehaun

    “Meh, the fact that it’s a survey isn’t really the major flaw of the study.”

    If the question is about reality, rather than *opinions* about reality, then ‘being a study of opinions’ is rather a significant flaw, no? In the same manner that a study of the mating habits of ducks doesn’t tell us a whit about the growth rates of the Savannah.

    Also, there are zero Ad Hominems in my post. There’s a negative characterization, sure, but no Ad Hominems.

  30. 30
    Brian Lynchehaun

    “4) My concern with curriculum is when it goes against parent’s wishes.”

    As pointed out by Crommunist, this would appear to be your core point.

    To which I can only respond: so what? So what if the curriculum goes against parent’s wishes? What does that have to do with *anything*?

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