Religious education is an oxymoron

Good quality’ ‘Religious Education’ (RE) in schools is seen as important and valued by the public, research commissioned by the Religious Education Council (REC) has indicated. According to the research, 53% of adults in England and Wales think that RE should remain a compulsory subject in state funded schools. A greater number (58%) think it is beneficial for pupils to study RE.

REC of England and Wales brings together fifty professional organisations and religion and belief groups with an interest in promoting good quality RE.

Err, good quality religious education? I think that’s what’s called an oxymoron.

Religion and education are at two opposite ends of the spectrum. One is dogmatic, prescriptive and punishes free thinking and reason. Education is *meant* to be the opposite.

I’m really not sure why anyone who is not part of a religious group would be glad that adults recognise the importance of religious education.

And if it’s so important for children to be force-fed their parents’ religion – which is what this is all really about – why not have political education classes too? It is also very helpful in raising obedient robots.

I know, I know, it’s all about exploring the ‘many varied ethical and religious perspectives to promote understanding and to assist in the personal development of each student’, blah, blah, blah.

But religion is the last thing that can help in anything to do with promoting understanding and children’s personal development.

Maybe it would be best if the ‘professionals’ started looking at it from a children’s rights perspective rather than from the perspective of religion.


I’m blogging every half an hour from 9am to 3pm GMT in support of the Secular Student Alliance blogothon. The SSA is trying to raise £100,000 by 16 June.

Try to support the SSA if you can. If we’re going to beat the religion industry, we need to support organisations promoting secularism and reason.

Here’s a link to the official SSA Week page, which has lots of information about the SSA as well as an easy-to find donation widget.

Here’s a list of quotations collected by Greta on why the SSA is worth supporting.


We cannot remain silent about Islamist attacks on Tunisia’s universities

The below statement has been initiated by Djemila Benhabib and Caroline Fourest and supported by myself, Mina Ahadi, Boualem Sansal, Taslima Nasreen, Shoukria Haïdar, Elisabeth Badinter, Elisabeth Roudinesco, Nadia Geerts and many others. Please sign on to it in the comments section below and I can forward it to Djemila:

The entire Tunisian university community has been living under grave tension since the beginning of the 2011-2012 academic year. Serious incidents have taken place at the College of Humanities and Sciences in Sousse, the College of Commerce in La Manouba, the Institute of Applied Science and Technology in Kairouan, and the College of Theology in Tunis.

The worst attacks have occurred at the College of Arts and Letters in La Manouba, where Salafist militias are demanding that a prayer room be opened and that full veils be worn during all pedagogical activities, including exams!

Ever since November 28, 2011 this College has seen guerrilla warfare, led by a small group of female students (twelve at most) dressed in niqabs and supported by militant Salafists, who for the most part are not associated with the College. They are led by Mohamed Bakhti, a 27 year-old in his first year of history studies, a former member of an armed group of Tunisian Jihadists linked to Al-Qaïda and directly implicated in terrorist attacks on Tunisian soil in 2007.

The ultra-minority group has injected fear into the heart of the university community through the deceptive and perverse nature of their demands, actions and motives. Why insist that a prayer room be opened when a place of worship is available just a stone’s throw away from the campus? Why not respect the decision of the College’s Scientific Board, who has determined that wearing a full veil is incompatible with the basic requirements of personal safety and also contradictory to educational requirements?

The college’s dean, Habib Kazdaghli, has refused to give in to Salafist pressure. As a result of his decision and given the great solidarity within the university community, this small group has not hesitated to use extremely violent methods: paralyzing the college for nearly a month, occupying administrative sites, ousting the dean from his own office, holding him for several hours and threatening him with death; physically abusing teachers, students, employees and reporters.

Instead of assuring the safety of those within the academic establishment, Tunisian authorities turn a blind eye, thus allowing a deleterious climate to continue, a climate in which the arbitrary and the tyranny of totalitarian thought flourishes. Worse yet, the Department of Education and Scientific Research, directed by Moncef Ben Salem, a deputy of the Islamist Party Ennahda, has severely criticized the dean by affirming that Kazdaghli “has not done what he should have to resolve the problem peacefully and, furthermore, has political ambitions.”

We cannot remain silent in the face of this untenable situation. This is why we women, democrats working in different professional and paraprofessional realms, commend the heroic resistance of the teachers, students and employees of the academic institutions of Tunisia, and particularly pay tribute to the College of Arts and Letters in La Manouba and to Dean Habib Kazdaghli. We urge you to join us in expressing our steadfast solidarity with the Tunisian Committee for the Defense of University Values (Comité Tunisien de Défense des Valeurs Universitaires).

You’d give us leave to self-flagellate

I’m slightly annoyed because my 6 year old’s school has just refused us leave to take him on the Centre for Inquiry’s riverboat cruise that I am speaking on this upcoming week with Richard Dawkins and Ronald A Lindsay. I have explained how I must go to such events for my work (the only way I can raise support for what I do is via such speaking engagements) and since it is 9 days long, I can’t possibly leave my son behind and must take him with me. The school has refused leave though it often approves things of a ‘religious and cultural’ nature.

Basically if I was taking my son off to self-flagellate somewhere during the school term, they would most likely be more than happy to approve leave but take him along to something that is actually educational – well no can do.

I could most probably also argue that a stint amongst atheists and freethinkers might be quite useful since they are so busy filling his head up with religious nonesense (he goes to a state school not a faith one in case you’re wondering). He came home the other day and said god created us all, whereby I had to explain how he came about because mum and dad mated. A few weeks before that he had come home and asked to pray at dinner thanking god for our food, whereby I had to explain that if anyone was to be thanked it would have to be the farmers who grew the food and I for cooking it.

Anyway, I know you’re all saying what a tough life I have – having to go on a luxury cruise to speak about Sharia law, apostasy and what not. But I have been doing this for 25 years now and none of it has ever been on a cruise so I think it’s well-deserved – leave or no leave.