It is not advised!
To remove your children from any Religious Assemblies. MOST ASSEMBLIES ARE RELIGIOUS AND ARE ON A DAILY BASIS. BY FORCE OF THE LAW.
I wonder why? “The religious and Churches complain so much that they are not liked in the UK, as they write in their Church literature”. Ref, C of E, in their ‘News Paper’.
We did not know:”Irrational Beliefs”, or much more to the point, liked to even know, “IB would be a major source of self-harming. Self- harming is now an epidemic in the UK, with 1 in 10 children doing it”!
An early introduction i.e the seeing, teaching of mortification, barbarism, in ancient execution scenes, and the like; taken from ancient text that leads to a gross morbidity. These scenes introduced by parents or the school, with an unnatural tribal or cultural mix of sexual taboos, which are correlated now to self-downing, the peer pressure to introduce an extreme and virtuous behaviour in our young people. The early indoctrination of divisiveness and ethnic discrimination, before the full development of any proper critical faculties is thus achieved. This is now recognised to be and by the latest science in brain research, achieved much later than we thought, between the ages of 20 and 30! Ref, BBC.
No Faith In The Absurd
There is something exceedingly odd about the idea of sectarian religious schools. If we hadn’t got used to it over the centuries, we’d find it downright bizarre. The Church of England proudly disclaims any intention to convert pupils away from the faith of their parents. But isn’t there already something deeply absurd in the presumption that children ought to inherit beliefs from their parents in the first place? Think of it this way. Many of the subjects we study are controversial. In civil war history, it’s Roundheads versus Cavaliers. In cosmology there is the ‘steady state’ school of thought to set against the now dominant ‘big bang’ theory.
In economics, monetarists vie with Keynesians. In literary history ‘Baconians’ and champions of the Earl of Oxford press rival claims to the authorship of the plays normally attributed to Shakespeare. In my own field of evolutionary biology, neutralists argue with selectionists.
Everyone expects that, in a good school, children will be exposed to the different points of view in matters of controversy, and in a very good school they may even be encouraged to develop their own opinions based upon the evidence and strength of the arguments.
Now, just imagine that sectarian schools were set up for the promulgation of rival points of view in each of these controversial subjects. Imagine Keynesian schools playing football against monetarist schools. Keynesian schools preferentially admit the children of Keynesian parents, while reassuring the parents of the minorities (Monetarist or Adam Smithian children) that they would not seek to convert their children to Keynesianism.
It is one thing for parents to have views on the balance of subjects that their children ought to be taught. Some might feel that languages are more important than mathematics, and choose a school that is especially strong in languages. Or vice-versa. Within a subject like English, parents might prefer a rigorous grounding in grammatical principles over the literary creativity which other parents might prefer. If schools divide along such lines, nobody could reasonably object.
Some variety of choice would seem positively healthy. But religious schools are divided over what children are taught to believe as facts about the universe, life and existence.
The situation exactly parallels my Keynesian/ monetarist analogy, which was drawn up to be obviously absurd. Who will deny that the existence of religious schools, dispassionately seen, is just as absurd? But it is worse than absurd.
It can be deeply damaging, even lethally divisive. Why do people in Northern Ireland kill each other? It is fashionable to say that the sectarian feuds are not about religion. The deep divides in that province are not religious, they are cultural, historical, economic. Well, no doubt they are, in the sense that Protestant gunmen or Catholic pub bombers are not directly debating the Transubstantiation, the Assumption, or the Trinity. There is a ‘them-against-us’ mentality burned deep into both sides of the Northern Ireland psyche, and we can all agree that it is not directly related to theological disagreements. But how does each individual know which side he is on? How does he decide whether the victim of his violence is one of ‘them’ or one of ‘us’? He knows because of centuries of historical division. And the basis of that division, generation after generation, is to a large extent sectarian schooling.
If Protestant and Catholic children ceased to be segregated throughout their schooldays, the troubles in Northern Ireland would largely disappear – not overnight, but rather precisely in a generation. But I come back to my main point. The idea that primary schoolchildren could be labelled ‘Protestant children’ or ‘Catholic children’ is as absurd as ‘Tory children’, ‘Labour children’ or ‘Liberal children’ would be.
No sane person would advocate the setting up of sectarian schools for the segregated education of the children of pro-Euro parents on the one hand and anti-Euro parents on the other. How, then, can it be sane to advocate the existence of sectarian religious schools? And who can justify the spending of taxpayers’ money on them?
Professor Richard Dawkins FRS is Charles Simonyi Professor of Public Understanding of Science, Oxford
Earlier this year, a survey for the National Association of Head Teachers found that church schools experience the most problems recruiting heads.
More than a third of Anglican secondaries have to readvertise a head vacancy. More than half of the top posts in Catholic secondaries were readvertised. Some clergymen have joined Professor Dawkins in attacking the plans. The Rev David Jennings, rector of Burbage and a member of the Leicester diocesan synod said:
“I am not sure we need church schools in the society we live in at the moment. Churches run the risk in a multicultural and predominately secular society of establishing something that is not entirely real and, at worst, quite divisive”.
Richard Dawkins, the eminent biologist and author of ‘The Blind Watchmaker’; here gives his reaction to the Rushdie affair. It was first printed in the ‘New Statesman & Society’ Richard Dawkins recently became an Honorary Associate of the Rationalist Press Association.
WHO IS the enemy of this deplorable episode? Is it an individual or a religion? I suggest not a religion but religion itself. Could it be faith that is the enemy? A letter to The Independent recently quoted Elizabeth Jenkins’s biography of Queen Elizabeth I:
“In December 1580 the Papal Nuncio of Madrid wrote to the Pope on behalf of two English noblemen who wanted to know if assassinating Queen Elizabeth would be a sin”. The Cardinal Secretary Como replied, “Since that guilty woman of England … is the cause of such injury to the Catholic faith and loss of so many million souls, there is no doubt that whosoever sends her out of the world with the pious intention of doing God service, not only does not sin, but gains merit, especially having regard to the sentence pronounced against her by Pius V of Holy memory”.
The facing page of the same newspaper documents the Vatican’s official condemnation of Salman Rushdie for ‘blasphemy’, and its ambivalence towards the murder threats against him. Church of England pronouncements, while tut-tutting at murder, nevertheless express deep ‘understanding’, ‘sympathy’ and ‘respect’ for Muslim outrage at ‘blasphemy’.
Government ministers echo this conciliatory tone. The Archbishop of Canterbury has magnanimously suggested that the blasphemy laws should be extended to other faiths.
There is something almost touching about such pathetic attempts to curry favour with a rival religion whose leaders would have an Archbishop for breakfast if he tried to chum up to them in person.
The same newspaper carried an article by an obviously nice, liberal, and incidentally courageous rabbi. He told how he and his friend the vicar had got together and invited local Islamic leaders to join them in community prayer-meetings filled with ecumenical brotherly love. They had to give up when the Moslem’s exploited the meetings by aggressively preaching the superiority of Islam over Christianity and Judaism. Vicar and rabbi were united in their disappointment. But what on earth did they expect? What on earth do they think religious faith is all about?
Faith is a state of mind that leads people to believe in something-it doesn’t really matter what-without a whisper of doubt or a wisp of evidence; and believe it so strongly in some cases they are prepared to kill and die for it without the need for further justification.
This is the terrifying thing about faith.
Brains infected by it are not open to reasoned argument. They aren’t open to persuasion. Faith is powerful enough to immunise people against all appeals to pity, to forgiveness, to decent human feeling. It can even immunise them against fear, since many of them honestly believe that a martyr’s death will send them straight to heaven. What a weapon! Religious faith deserves a chapter to itself in the annals of war technology, on an even footing with the longbow, the warhorse, the tank and the neutron bomb. It just happens that in our time Islam is faith’s chief standard bearer. With a few shining exceptions like Northern Ireland, Christianity has gone soft and almost decent, and that is no way to rally the faithful.
Our whole society is soft on religion.
The assumption is remarkably widespread that religious sensitivities are somehow especially deserving of consideration-a consideration not accorded to ordinary prejudice. Without being religious, we may find all sorts of things offensive. If somebody finally murdered Esther Rantzen on the grounds that he found her deeply offensive, would he receive respectful ‘sympathy’ and ‘understanding’ of his sincerely held beliefs’ from religious and civic leaders? No, because his prejudice happens not to be a religious prejudice. I admit to being offended by Father Christmas, ‘Baby Jesus’, and Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer, but if I tried to act on these prejudices I’d quite rightly be held accountable. I’d be challenged to justify myself. But let some-body’s religion be offended and it’s another matter entirely. Not only do the affronted themselves kick up an almighty fuss; they are abetted and encouraged by influential figures from other religions and the liberal establishment. Far from being challenged to justify their beliefs like anybody else, the religious are granted sanctuary in a sort of intellectual no go area.
Even secular activists are incomprehensibly soft when it comes to religion.
We join feminists in condemning a work of pornography because it degrades women.
But hands off a holy book that advocates stoning adulteresses to death (having been convicted in courts where females are decreed unfit to give evidence)!
Animal liberationists attack laboratories that scrupulously use anaesthetics for all operations. But what about ritual slaughterhouses in which animals have to be fully conscious when their throats are cut? If the advocates of apartheid had their wits about them they would claim-for all I know truthfully-that allowing mixed races is against their religion.
A good part of the opposition would respectfully tiptoe away. And it is no use claiming that this is an unfair parallel because apartheid has no rational justification.
The whole point of religious faith, its strength and chief glory, is that it does not depend on rational justification. The rest of us are expected to defend our prejudices. But ask a religious person to justify his faith and you infringe ‘religious liberty’.
Admittedly, faith is not always deployed towards evil ends. It may even do some good. The trouble is that faith, by the very nature of its vaunted detachment from objective reality, is a weapon that can be arbitrarily turned on any target. It is morally neutral, but very powerful and therefore very dangerous.
Have no illusions, this episode is just one battle: there is a long way ahead of us. Our best weapon is education, especially education in the secular scientific world-view. It costs money but it is money well spent.
Think of it as part of the defence budget!