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Secular schools of thought tainted - Comments

Ed-words's Avatar Comment 1 by Ed-words

Australia had an openly atheist Prime Minister?

Terrific. Throw another shrimp on the barbie.

Mon, 22 Sep 2008 08:53:00 UTC | #238776

rod-the-farmer's Avatar Comment 2 by rod-the-farmer

I like the idea of going into the churches and/or religious schools and giving a weekly talk on rational thinking, what it means to be an atheist, and what resources there are for those who wish to just ask questions. Where do I volunteer for this in Ontario, Canada ? I figure I have a sufficient background in science to cover a broad swath of potential questions from the students.

PS. You don't want to hear what I will do if I win the local lottery.

Mon, 22 Sep 2008 08:55:00 UTC | #238779

Erik's Avatar Comment 3 by Erik

My old atheist group used to get invited to churches to discuss atheism. Invariably, the discussion became a debate on rational thinking. Being in a southern city (Houston), I half expected fireworks and hostility, but never got either. In fact, sometimes you could not help but wonder whether quite a few of them knew that what they believed in was a total crock, but just could not bring themselves to throw off their beliefs.

Mon, 22 Sep 2008 09:10:00 UTC | #238790

LaurieB's Avatar Comment 4 by LaurieB

I'll take the bait, What will you do if you win the lottery?

Mon, 22 Sep 2008 09:11:00 UTC | #238791

flobear's Avatar Comment 5 by flobear


PS. You don't want to hear what I will do if I win the local lottery.

Thank god you won?

Mon, 22 Sep 2008 09:34:00 UTC | #238799

Caudimordax's Avatar Comment 6 by Caudimordax

I wish I travelled more - I would like to replace gideon bibles in hotel rooms with "The End of Faith."

Edit: Why do hotel rooms have bibles anyway? Is this true in Europe or is it just an American thing?

Mon, 22 Sep 2008 09:35:00 UTC | #238800

flobear's Avatar Comment 7 by flobear


Why do hotel rooms have bibles anyway?

I bet some organization donated them all back when religion was more prominent in the US. You can bet your last dragon sword the first hotel chain that stops the tradition will be boycotted.

Mon, 22 Sep 2008 09:46:00 UTC | #238802

amalthea's Avatar Comment 8 by amalthea

I think it's just the US. If a Brit found a Bible in a hotel room, they'd think the management was taking the piss.

That Gideon fella, very careless isn't he?

Mon, 22 Sep 2008 09:47:00 UTC | #238805

Sargeist's Avatar Comment 9 by Sargeist


Yes we have the Gideon over here, too.

Someone on another thread once mentioned that if the bibles were replaced with something like TGD or TEOF, they'd all get nicked.

Interesting that the bibles never seem to be.

And for some reason this has just made me think of how amused I am whenever I see the Koran in "Penguin Classics".

Mon, 22 Sep 2008 09:49:00 UTC | #238806

bluebird's Avatar Comment 10 by bluebird

Mon, 22 Sep 2008 09:55:00 UTC | #238811

carbonman's Avatar Comment 11 by carbonman

Some encouraging stuff here.

Religious instruction is often seen as a "good thing" no matter how deceptive, divisive or judgmental it may be.

This is the nub of the issue. Too many people - including too many atheists - see religion as fundamentally good and harmless.

Don't agree with this bit though:
Public schools should respect the full range of beliefs, opinions and attitudes represented by their diverse student population

People deserve respect. Beliefs and opinions do not, unless they can be justified. It is perfectly possible to show respect for a person while tearing into his/her baseless opinons and beliefs.

I have over 20 years experience as a teacher and I've written about this sort of thing before, in UK. Goodness, I nearly posted a link to my blog then...

Mon, 22 Sep 2008 09:59:00 UTC | #238814

rod-the-farmer's Avatar Comment 12 by rod-the-farmer

If I win the lottery, I will run for office as an Independent, on a platform of cutting off funding for religious schools, and banning children from churches etc or religious instruction outside the immediate family unit until they have reached the age of majority. Men whose wives and/or daughters wear concealing clothing must wear equally concealing clothing themselves, in the spirit of equality of sexes. Of course, I will not likely win, but the debate will be furious. Let's raise some awareness. Remember, you heard it here first. Anyone wishing to assist by sending me a winning lottery ticket, or even a share in one, will receive credit, and where possible, a tax receipt.

Mon, 22 Sep 2008 11:07:00 UTC | #238864

steve8282's Avatar Comment 13 by steve8282

I don't have the ticket Rod but if you ever get there I will drive out to the debate to back you up.

Mon, 22 Sep 2008 11:16:00 UTC | #238872

Blue Monster 65's Avatar Comment 14 by Blue Monster 65

Isn't one supposed to "take" those bibles with them when one leaves the room? And then one can do whatever one wants to with them, right?

And some of us do.


Mon, 22 Sep 2008 11:38:00 UTC | #238883

Skeptic Pete's Avatar Comment 15 by Skeptic Pete

Australians are a pathetic lot when it comes to religion.

Most of us are "not religious" as in we don't attend church much, we don't pray much, and we rarely discuss religion with workmates or friends.

However like a previous poster pointed out, most Australians seem to believe that religion is a "good thing" and that "Private" Schools have better standards of teaching and instill better "values" into our children.

We give undue respect to church leaders, seeking their opinions on everything from stem cell research to gun control.

Our politicians seek photo opportunities in Pentecostal churchs like Hillsong and recite the Lord's Prayer in parliament.

As a child in primary school we were always asked our religion. Not our parent's religion but "our" religion. We were all neatly segregated into separate classrooms for our 2 hours of Scripture (religious instruction) each week.

You'd look out the window, bewildered at the handfull of misfits whose parents had the fortitude to exempt them from such classes.

The biggest injustice in my opinion, is the fact that religious schools get equal government funding but are allowed to discriminate when hiring staff or accepting pupils, on the grounds of religion.

Mon, 22 Sep 2008 12:02:00 UTC | #238910

Laurie Fraser's Avatar Comment 16 by Laurie Fraser

Comment #252034 by Skeptic Pete

Spot on, mate. As an aside, I had an interesting opportunity several years ago when I was on the P&C of my kids' primary school. I offered to take any kids who didn't want to go to a scripture class for a lesson in philosophy. For that year, I had about twenty kids who got to discuss various ethical and general philosophical issues appropriate for their age. Some parents complained that I was undermining the role of scripture in the school (which I was, of course!), but the principal, to her credit, told those parents to take a hike.

Mon, 22 Sep 2008 12:09:00 UTC | #238917

Greyman's Avatar Comment 17 by Greyman

Good for you Laurie!

Here in Queensland, there was a move a few years back to allow secular humanism to be taught as an alternative during the Religious Instruction period.  It’s never been passed by the government because secular philosophy does not involve a belief in the supernatural.  Legally, it’s not a religion and so cannot be taught during that time.

Despite this, it very nearly happened.  Exactly the type of outrage mentioned in Jane Caro’s article did happen, actually.  A progressive act was almost passed, when the Christian lobby acted, using fear tactics about the “secular agenda creeping into the classrooms”, and spreading misinformation over how the act would allow satanism and wiccan beliefs to be taught.

(In point of fact, the then and current act would allow this if parents were to insist, since they are covered by the legal definition of religion.)

Mon, 22 Sep 2008 13:36:00 UTC | #239013

SASnSA's Avatar Comment 18 by SASnSA

You go Rod! Teach the Controversy: Atheism in Sunday School! If they're gonna do it to science, we should be able to do it to religion too.

Mon, 22 Sep 2008 13:49:00 UTC | #239036

hoops mccann's Avatar Comment 19 by hoops mccann

Comment #252007 by Blue Monster:
"Isn't one supposed to "take" those bibles with them when one leaves the room? And then one can do whatever one wants to with them, right?

And some of us do."

Q: What's the difference between a bible and a koran?

A: A bible burns longer.

Mon, 22 Sep 2008 13:58:00 UTC | #239048

T4Baxter's Avatar Comment 20 by T4Baxter

Right children, every body sit down and ooh, whats this?
It's mister gene!

and so on...

Mon, 22 Sep 2008 14:01:00 UTC | #239051

j.mills's Avatar Comment 21 by j.mills

Carbonman said:

People deserve respect. Beliefs and opinions do not, unless they can be justified.

Right on. You hear human rights erroneously trotted out as a reason why 'beliefs' should be respected. No: the most you are entitled to expect from me is respect for your right to HOLD bonkers beliefs, not respect for the beliefs themselves.

Greyman said:
the act would allow satanism and wiccan beliefs to be taught

Point of order: devil-worshippers do worship the devil (duh!), but the (separate) Church of Satan denies there are any supernatural beings at all. To them, Satan is a symbol of the rebel, the adversary, a role they aspire to; he's not an actual entity, so logically it's not a religion, it's a philosophy.

Mon, 22 Sep 2008 14:15:00 UTC | #239071

T4Baxter's Avatar Comment 22 by T4Baxter

Woah,woah!. Woah woah! ,woah woah, Woah woah!, woah woah!, woah woah!,

there's no limit!

Mon, 22 Sep 2008 14:21:00 UTC | #239073

Ivan The Not So Bad's Avatar Comment 23 by Ivan The Not So Bad

Last year, Sir Ian McKellan told reporters that whenever he stayed in a hotel with a bible in the room, he would rip out the pages referring to homosexuality.

Referring to Leviticus he was quoted as saying "I think it's rather obscene and pornographic and shouldn't be there, so I remove it".

He added that he had been vandalising bibles in this way for years and that others did so also and often went so far as to post him the evidence.

He finished off by saying that the Bible should be labelled as fiction.

Nice work Sir Ian!

Mon, 22 Sep 2008 14:38:00 UTC | #239082

KRKBAB's Avatar Comment 24 by KRKBAB

"The Church of Satan denies there are any supernatural beings at all"- well, not exactly- I've looked into this a bit. It's like EVERY OTHER RELIGION- some, or maybe even most don't believe in Satan as a supernatural being- but SOME DO. That same "make it what ever you want to" crap exists also in Satanism- otherwise it would be a very cool thing, as it ALMOST is.

Mon, 22 Sep 2008 16:25:00 UTC | #239122

ALargeBird's Avatar Comment 25 by ALargeBird

"Public schools should respect the full range of beliefs, opinions and attitudes represented by their diverse student population, without taking sides."

Sorry, but this sounds like a bit of crap. So public school administrators should respect the opinions of those students who are sociopaths without taking sides as well?

Mon, 22 Sep 2008 17:02:00 UTC | #239131

Frankus1122's Avatar Comment 26 by Frankus1122

Isn't one supposed to "take" those bibles with them when one leaves the room?

I used to steal Bibles when I was at high school (catholic). As a stupid teenager I thought I could be bad and good at the same time; the holiness of the Bible would cancel out the sinfulness of the theft.
I had about 20 in my locker by the end of the school year.

Mon, 22 Sep 2008 17:19:00 UTC | #239138

Drool's Avatar Comment 27 by Drool

"It is obviously inappropriate to compel a child to attend a school that preaches a religion or philosophy different from the one taught at home."

Mon, 22 Sep 2008 17:24:00 UTC | #239142

Pete H's Avatar Comment 28 by Pete H

Kids do opt out of scripture class, but parents must explicitly authorise this in writing. The alternative non-class of non-education, run by non-teachers supervising non-students doing non-things, is referred to as non-scripture.

But the quality of teaching in scripture classes in NSW primary schools is so bad it is likely to achieve the opposite of its intentions. If they teach religion as well as they teach maths then we can expect religious belief to dwindle to the point where it will eventually become as rare and insignificant as mathematical numeracy.

The real problem is the waste of time. The non-scripture kids are not shown endless repeats of videos. Even that would disadvantage the scripture students. Instead many kids do nothing at all. Rules for the non-scripture kids are the usual impossible pedagogical objectives: sitting down quietly, no moving around, no noise, no poking etc. From my (1 time only) observation even personal reading isn't practical because the room they sit in doing their time under the wardenship of teacher's aide isn't sufficiently well lit, or even equipped with chairs, to enable reading.

The long term outcome is that the kids who attend these mid-week supplementary Sunday school classes are the more compliant and less self-motivated kids, whose parents don't care, or those who aren't strongly motivated to read independently in dim light.

This indicates a growing problem with religion. Atheists might be partly to blame, as so many independent and curious people no longer participate in religious institutions. Church goers, on average, might now tend to be a little more gullible and uncritical than other groups. That would be enough to make these people significantly more attractive to manipulative, charismatic, deviants who can more effectively exploit them.

Perhaps dealing with religion requires a more subtle strategy such as atheists joining churches, attaining influential senior clergy roles, and gradually converting religion into some form of spiritual science-worship. If they can have religion taught in public schools and a clergyman as a director of the Royal Society then someone like Richard Dawkins would make an ideal next Archbishop of Canterbury.

Mon, 22 Sep 2008 17:35:00 UTC | #239146

KRKBAB's Avatar Comment 29 by KRKBAB

"Scripture classes"- those two words together make me fucking nauseous.

Mon, 22 Sep 2008 17:38:00 UTC | #239147

Caudimordax's Avatar Comment 30 by Caudimordax

Dispiracist - Hell, you're saying atheists have to go back to church and change the system from within???!!!!

Actually, I always wanted to go to Yale and I think the divinity school is the easiest to get into.

Mon, 22 Sep 2008 17:45:00 UTC | #239149