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Berlin to vote on religion lessons - Comments

lackofgravitas's Avatar Comment 1 by lackofgravitas


There we go again, Too liberal, allowing the mullahs their own space to practice their vile idea of law.

What's that? You want to kill apostates? OK, here's a rifle and some ammunition. Now, you're only going to kill ex-muslim apostates aren't you? Not sit in a clock tower picking off innocent members of the public? OK, good, as long as that's clear......

< happy that my spell-checker doesn't recognise the word muslim :) >

Fri, 24 Apr 2009 11:53:00 UTC | #353103

TIKI AL's Avatar Comment 2 by TIKI AL

"Ich bin ein Atheist Berliner?"

BTW, everyone who was there at the time knew JFK was referring to a citizen of Berlin and not a jelley doughnut.

"I am Danish" does not mean a sweet roll/human hybrid either.

Fri, 24 Apr 2009 11:56:00 UTC | #353106

bjornove's Avatar Comment 3 by bjornove

I believe it was Daniel Dennet who said that the best way to lesser religious influence in society was to require everybody to have religion in the curriculum. That is, history and sociology of religion teach in a objective critical way, philosophy should of course also be included. That's the way it's been in Norway forever and look where that has taken us,we all almost all secular or very liberal Christians here now. Many secular people actually attribute this decline in religion here to the fact that we have mandatory religion in school, that and the fact that we also have a official Lutheran state church.Personally I, as an atheist, agree with this politics. To criticise the absurd claims of religion you will have to learn about it.

Fri, 24 Apr 2009 12:16:00 UTC | #353124

NineBerry's Avatar Comment 4 by NineBerry

Stupid BBC. It is the Christians that are the driving force behind this movement, spearheaded by the Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union

Fri, 24 Apr 2009 12:20:00 UTC | #353127

Fausto's Avatar Comment 5 by Fausto

I've ear that honor killing may not be linked to religion at all. That already existed before Allah existence. You see something like that in sicily...

Fri, 24 Apr 2009 12:53:00 UTC | #353150

theantitheist's Avatar Comment 6 by theantitheist

Of course teaching reliogion needs to cover it in the same way as geology and history; I.e. X was formed slowly through the movements of y & a impacting on this type of society, explain how this would differ if v would have happened instead

If reliougous class is root learning of dogma it will not be welcome and should be changed (I believe this is how most faith schools teach it, with normal schools teaching all aspects but in a non critical wAy)

Fri, 24 Apr 2009 13:10:00 UTC | #353162

wetbread's Avatar Comment 7 by wetbread


Of course, variants of honor killing are older than Islam and persist in non-Muslim societies. But the point is that we should recognize it as killing, whether it has religious underpinnings or not. Europe seems to be in the process of building up a system of political correctness that would make honor killing a different (and lesser) crime when religiously motivated than when not. That's a serious problem.

re: bjornove...

I agree with you and with Dennet on this point, but it will only work if students are taught about all religions (or at least all the major religions). It's the comparative process that leads students to begin wondering how any one can claim divine provenance.

Fri, 24 Apr 2009 13:15:00 UTC | #353167

Max of Earlobes's Avatar Comment 8 by Max of Earlobes

The problem with all religious education is that it doesn't seem to have been brought home to the public as a whole that religious ideas are not to be taken seriously and are not worthy of our attention. I am a student in Britain about to take a G.C.S.E. in Religious Studies, and I have to study the different indoctrinations of different ignoramuses (only Christian ignoramuses, by the way). The board that set the specifications proclaims proudly that it seeks to give pupils "An understanding of the different Christian views about ethical and spiritual matters.". Apart from showing me how utterly divided and irreconcilibly shattered a religion Christianity is, it has made me truly aware that the public thinks that religious ideas are to be respected, honoured and taught to children, alongside serious ethical (and sometimes even scientific) debates, as serious ideas that should be given credence.
This is a cultural problem.

Fri, 24 Apr 2009 13:33:00 UTC | #353178

Szymanowski's Avatar Comment 9 by Szymanowski

Berlin introduced ethics classes after the "honour" killing of a Muslim woman by her husband, a shocking incident in a city that is often seen as a multicultural success story.
The city - not the incident - is often seen as a multicultural success story. At least one comma would help in that paragraph.

Fri, 24 Apr 2009 13:37:00 UTC | #353179

ods15's Avatar Comment 10 by ods15

I like the "dichotomy" here...

"pupils have a choice between religion and ethics"

Fri, 24 Apr 2009 14:06:00 UTC | #353191

NineBerry's Avatar Comment 11 by NineBerry

I don't know why the BBC article puts so much emphasize on muslims. This initiative was started by Christian organizations and they are the driving factor behind all of this.

Look at the list of supporters:

* Evangelische Kirche Berlin-Brandenburg-schlesische Oberlausitz
* Erzbistum Berlin
* Jüdische Gemeinde zu Berlin
* Türkisch-Islamische Union der Anstalt für Religion
* Caritasverband für das Erzbistum Berlin e.V.
* Evangelische Jugend Berlin-Brandenburg-schlesische Oberlausitz
* Diakonisches Werk Berlin-Brandenburg-schlesische Oberlausitz
* Zentralkomitee der deutschen Katholiken
* Evangelische Studierendengemeinde Berlin
* Malteser Hilfsdienst
* Johanniterorden
* CDU Landesverband Berlin
* FDP Landesverband Berlin
* Evangelische Kirche in Deutschland
* Deutsche Bischofskonferenz
* Bund Katholischer Unternehmer
* Katholische Arbeitnehmer-Bewegung

= 13 Christian organization
= 1 Jewish organization
= 1 Muslim organization
= 1 Christian political party
= 1 liberal political party

Now look at the opposers:

* SPD - Landesverband Berlin.[30]
* Die Linke - Landesverband Berlin
* Bündnis 90/Die Grünen - Landesverband Berlin (mit Ausnahme ihrer "Arbeitsgruppe Christen")[31]
* LandesschülerInnenausschuss Berlin und LandesschülerInnenvertretung Berlin[32]
* Aktion Christen Pro Ethik[27]
* Humanistische Union[33]
* Humanistischer Verband Deutschlands[34]
* Alevitische Gemeinde zu Berlin
* Deutsche Buddhistische Union
* Deutscher Freidenker Verband
* Gewerkschaft Erziehung und Wissenschaft (GEW)
* Lesben- und Schwulenverband Berlin-Brandenburg (LSVD)
* Türkischer Bund Berlin-Brandenburg (TBB)
* Türkischer Elternverein Berlin-Brandenburg

= 3 left leaning parties
= 1 school students' association
= 1 Teachers' association
= 1 Christian organization
= 3 humanist organizations
= 1 Muslim Alevi organization
= 1 Buddhist organization
= 1 gay organization
= 2 ethnically Turkish organizations


Fri, 24 Apr 2009 14:09:00 UTC | #353193

NineBerry's Avatar Comment 12 by NineBerry

Also, the following information is wrong:

At least 600,000 Berliners must vote for the referendum to even be valid and a majority of those must support the change for it to go through.

In reality, at least 25% (that is 612,000) persons of all persons eligible to vote must vote YES for the referendum to be accepted (if there are not more NO votes).

Fri, 24 Apr 2009 14:35:00 UTC | #353205

jignle's Avatar Comment 13 by jignle

Does anyone one here know a link that would give domestic violence statistics by religious confession? I see a lot of stories about "honor" killings, but am left wondering if muslim men kill their wives or daughters more than, let's say, christian or jewish men?

I've done a couple different googles but haven't come up with anything yet.


Fri, 24 Apr 2009 14:37:00 UTC | #353206

bartman's Avatar Comment 14 by bartman

I'm from Berlin and run a flyer campaign to maintain mandatory ethics lessons. There are quite a few things this article gets wrong:

Religion has been a class at school available to every student in every grade. They can feel free to visit it if they feel like investing 2h/week into it. There are religion lessons for the major religions, as well as for smaller ones such as buddhism etc. This vote won't change anything about that.

What it will change is this: Right now, nobody keeps you from visiting religion class at any time. However, what they want is that you can either visit ethics or visit religion. You can switch every year, everything else is up to you (or your parents, if you're under 14).

I don't think I have to state what it means to allow a choice between ethics and religion in a city where 1/3 of the pupils have at least one immigrated parent.

Pro Reli is actually very impudent when it comes to advertising. You could take each and every Pro Reli poster, put Pro Ethik instead of Pro Reli on it, and it would make sense. They try to trick people into assuming a problem where none is and lie shamelessly.

I hope all the work to educate people about the real issue of this vote will eventually help. We'll know sunday evening.

Fri, 24 Apr 2009 14:50:00 UTC | #353212

Nyarlat's Avatar Comment 15 by Nyarlat

Hi! I live in Berlin and will vote NO at sundays ballot.

The Christinas in this city have found it´s a bad idee to be taught an objectiv view on all religions and what they have to offer.
Berlins society is divided into a majority of Atheist and Agnostics most from the East side of town. 3/4 of Berlin is atheistic or agnostic. The rest fears to further loss grip on the youth so that they will die out.

They brought all weapons to bear to stop the influence by the leftists "Die Linke" who the conservatives find guilty of having this idea. Teaching childrens in ethics sounds like DDR(GDR) to them. So that caused the fight.

It really has ailienated much people on both sides who have lived until then in peace. So a good thing was once again corrupted by religious jealousy.

I hope i could explain somthing to you. hope my english is not to bad for such a complex situation.

btw. The conservatives found their love for muslims during this fight. It would have been to inconsistent to let christians choose between ethics and religion courses in school but not the muslims. For years the churchgoers fought against islam as a leagal course in schools.


Fri, 24 Apr 2009 14:58:00 UTC | #353217

Nyarlat's Avatar Comment 16 by Nyarlat

regarding "honor killings"

It happens often also in christian familys. But it´s called "Familien Tragödie" (tragic family event?) in Germany.

Most of the time a father kills his wife and all or most of the kids. After that he kills himself. The husbands of these murdered wifes can not get over being divorced. Or their wifes want to divorce but did it not imidiatly. Some men fell totaly lost then and begin to hate their family. But they also feel deeply dishounored when this happens. They think they lost their honor.

So it´s different but it´s not always the muslims that have this problems.

Fri, 24 Apr 2009 15:07:00 UTC | #353219

NineBerry's Avatar Comment 17 by NineBerry

bartman wrote:

I'm from Berlin and run a flyer campaign to maintain mandatory ethics lessons. There are quite a few things this article gets wrong

I don't understand, why has chosen to publish the BBC article. I have sent in an article on that topic on Spiegel online two days ago and would have preferred that that one would be published instead. It has much more information, more accurate information and even a photo gallery showing the campaigners.

Fri, 24 Apr 2009 15:21:00 UTC | #353222

theantitheist's Avatar Comment 18 by theantitheist

Just touching on (ihaveno) honour killings and linkin these into a recent hate crimes legislation in America , honour crimes should carry more weight under the law in my opinion, not less, as these are often used to control a her weak minority and people should be so scared to carry it as that tv weak will have more confidance in finding their voice

Fri, 24 Apr 2009 15:52:00 UTC | #353227

Michael.B's Avatar Comment 19 by Michael.B


The BBC article makes it seem as if the Ethics courses were a reaction to the "honor" killing. But in fact the trigger was a poll among mostly Muslim students that indicated that a high percentage tolerated or approved of the murder for religious reasons.

On the plus side, this referendum has triggered a broad debate on the separation of church and state, so hopefully there comes something good out of it.

Fri, 24 Apr 2009 16:36:00 UTC | #353236

mlgatheist's Avatar Comment 20 by mlgatheist


"Honor" killings are in several different cultures. However, in most of these cultures the majority religion seems to support the idea "honor" killings.

While they are killings they are in no way honorable.

Fri, 24 Apr 2009 17:26:00 UTC | #353248

antx's Avatar Comment 21 by antx

I am from Berlin as well and I´m going to vote a big fat "NO" on Sunday.

Ethics is a class that all students in Berlin have to take, whereas religion class is a matter of free choise.
ProReli now wants to get religion classes on the same level as ethic classes with the interessting catch to it that the students will have to choose between either ethic classes OR religion classes.
This whole thing has no point to it what so ever and serves only the interests of the religious lobby.

Religion classes are simply no alternative for ethic classes, no matter the claims that during those classes ethical and cross religious topics will be covered. It could never cover what the ethic classes would give. It sure would also never give a neutral view of different religions as the ethic classes would do. Especially not concidering the wording of the proposed law. That one (which was printed in the brochure that came with the plebiscite notification) says that the teachers that are to hold these religion classes have to be approved by the religious comunities. That alone is completely unacceptable.

I just hope this will turn out right on Sunday...

Fri, 24 Apr 2009 17:26:00 UTC | #353249

mira's Avatar Comment 22 by mira

Danke, NineBerry, Spiegel article is far better indeed. I wondered what were these "pro-reli" people were upto this time as I visited Berlin at new years eve and saw the posters and things...
It is such an obvious manipulation and a propaganda trick where "pro-reli" side knowingly spreads misinformation. I's really frustrating, why do people take on themselves this kind of shit and want to impose it onto others?! Where is the diginity of the people? Urrr!
Berlin is too cool for that the best times I've had have been there. Please make it NO.
Liebe Grüße!

PS Sorry for the rant.

Edited: a minor typo

Sat, 25 Apr 2009 00:51:00 UTC | #353288

black wolf's Avatar Comment 23 by black wolf

Greetings to all my fellow Berlin rdnetters!
Another two NO votes coming from us. The only difference the ProReli campaign wants is more division without more effort - precisely the easy handle on indoctrination of children they've had traditionally, cemented by non- and antisecular laws and federal treaties over the course of centuries. The only break in the routine was the Socialist/Communist regime of East Germany - which is of course a welcome propaganda instrument to the religious.

The statement most often heard is that surely nobody can be against non-indoctrinating religious education. Of course. But that's not what's happening. In Germany, the state and the school is obliged to employ the catechist/imam that the religious organization in charge decides to recommend. These educators are themselves educated by theologians, and both must be loyal members of the organization to have a chance. Fully paid for by the taxpayer, not the church or its membership.
My wife and I both attended religion class in Berlin. These classes were mostly in the range from boring to superfluous. But they are not bias-free zones. My class was handed crosses as a reward for good participation. My wife's class was requested to pray (which they refused and resolved to ridicule the teacher from there on). It is a fact that the large Abrahimitic religions carry an obligation to proselytize. Someone choosing to become a religion teacher is likely to do so in that spirit. With ProReli or without it, the religion teacher in charge of educating the kids about Christianity will always be a loyal Christian regardless of other qualifications, because the church-state-treaties demand so. The only teacher allowed to teach about all religions without bias is the ethics class teacher. Children do not learn that everyone is to be equally respected by dividing them up and then telling them that they are the ones who happen to follow the word of God truly while the other ones are those who just believe to be doing so. The 'secret' they are afraid of losing is that useful systems of ethics and morality are older and better reasoned than religious ones, and that a Word of God can only make it more relative and arbitrary while encouraging chauvinism.

Sat, 25 Apr 2009 03:14:00 UTC | #353300

Infozombie's Avatar Comment 24 by Infozombie

Another Berliner here, voting NO!!! tomorrow.

I really hope we can set an example for all of Germany here. I don't know if anyone's already mentioned the fact that the obligatory RE lessons ("ethics" as an alternative was only added in the eighties) in the rest of the country (except Bremen) is due to a contract made with the Vatican by the Nazi government during the 3rd Reich. It also regulates the amount of professors at theology faculties and gives the churches the right to define the RE curriculum (as oposed to the state doing it for all other subjects) and to hire and fire teachers on their own terms.


Sat, 25 Apr 2009 04:51:00 UTC | #353313

nalfeshnee's Avatar Comment 25 by nalfeshnee


I live in Germany myself (UK ex-pat), and what with the stymied bus campaign and now this so-called "vote", I am fast losing respect for those in charge of things in this country. (Doubly annoying since I can't vote to change any of this at a national level.)

Lest there be any doubt what the "pro" camp actually wants, this is (translated) taken from the FAQ on their very own website (

FAQ, Question 1. "What is the difference between ethical and religious instruction? And why is it so important to make pupils choose between one of these subjects - Ethics or Religion - in Berlin's schools?"

When teaching values, one addresses the essential questions of human existence: "Why am I alive? What I am living for? How should I live?".

Ethics attempts to find answers for these questions while taking as neutral an ideological standpoint as possible -- from the standpoint of human rights or the Constitution, for example. The sole point of reference is human existence in the here and now.

Religious instruction, on the other hand, uses belief as its basis, seeking to find answers to these basic questions of human existence with reference to the transcendental.

(As readers of my past comments will know, I often state my opinion that religions are diametrically opposed to basic human rights. For example, I do not see how any religion can honestly agree to Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights -- their exclusionist principles presumably preclude them from agreeing that "man is created (sic) equal". But to find my theory confirmed in practice so openly in the very first question of the FAQ on this Pro Reli site is quite something.)

Quite apart from anything, I don't see how Pro Reli think they are going to "win" long-term, even if they win on paper tomorrow. There are at least 20 religions with major (i.e. above 20K members) represented in Germany (see,and that's not counting all the little splinter sects (even within Islam, there are at least 6 sub-groups). Once Berlin gets around to organising state-supported teaching (and exams!!) for these so-called "subjects" it will be so broke it will simply have to stop for financial reasons.

And as Richard has tirelessly pointed out: there is no such thing as a religious child. All the new regulations will mean (assuming PR gets the vote) is that a lot less young children get to visit ethics classes.

Sat, 25 Apr 2009 05:01:00 UTC | #353314

nalfeshnee's Avatar Comment 26 by nalfeshnee

As a follow-up to Infozombie's point about Hitler and religious education in Germany, here's a quick question for you all:

"Who re-instated religious education in Italy, after the unification in the 19th threatened to severely reduce Catholic power?"

Yes, you guessed: Benito Mussolini.

Sat, 25 Apr 2009 05:10:00 UTC | #353315

Stewart's Avatar Comment 27 by Stewart

Another Berliner chiming in here (obviously a "NO" voter tomorrow). That Pro Reli has been lying shamelessly throughout their campaign is obvious to anyone even slightly informed. The recent development I find most interesting is the last-minute defection of one of their celeb backers, who has now left their campaign after realising how they lied to her to get her backing in the first place. Apparently they told her religious education was to be done away with in Berlin, and she has now discovered it was never in the slightest danger. As I'm not the first to point out, nothing shows up the lack of ethics on the part of the religious as clearly as the way they've been running their campaign.

One other thing I noticed that I haven't yet seen covered in the press: on Kurfuerstendamm on Thursday afternoon I saw young people with home-made banners advising passersby that if they're sickened by the dishonest tactics of the "Pro Reli" campaign, they mustn't forget about the option of leaving the church, if they haven't already left it. This is one of the rights about which many seem under-informed or simply neglect to their own detriment and that of society as a whole.

Sat, 25 Apr 2009 15:49:00 UTC | #353409

black wolf's Avatar Comment 28 by black wolf

I assume you're talking about comedian Mrs. Nick. In her statement accompanying her picture in Der Tagesspiegel, she gives the reason that the campaign was marked by internal intolerance against Catholicism (it seems she considers herself a loyal Catholic, although I can't really square that with her favorite theme, sexuality).
I've also read the other statements given by prominent and celebrity supporters of both sides. Between nebulous and meaningless CDU hogwash to uninformed incorrect assertions by soccer players, ProReli hasn't much to offer. They know that their clientele are those who are merely pro religion, so they try to convey the impression that this mandatory ethics class we have is somehow a discrimination against religion and not a neutral basis. As a blogger puts it, those who feel they need their weekly extra dose of bronze age mythology can still choose to attend that class.
The head of the parents association pro reli thinks that academically sound religious education can only be given in a separate class - omitting the fact that such an academically trained teacher of one religion will also be a faith-group appointee who works under an explicit loyalty pledge to his doctrine. When parents of one denomination send their kids to that class, segregated from the children of differently believing parents, they will not hear complaints about a lack of neutrality or critical viewpoints.

It's true that we can thank the ProReli campaign for using the slogan 'Religion or Ethics - it's your choice'. Gold.

p.s. I predict that they will reach the pensioneers, the many old ladies with their misleading message. From the first 'live' messages at Der Tagesspiegel, this appears largely true. Most younger Berliners are uninterested either way. A poll yielded the result that there is a narrow margin in favor of maintaining the status quo (voting no), but if that actually reflects how and if people will be voting we'll only know this evening. Results should be in by 20:30 (CET).

Sun, 26 Apr 2009 02:21:00 UTC | #353499

hogi's Avatar Comment 29 by hogi

i find the main argument of pro reli supporters disturbing: generally they say, that you need a good religious education in your own religion, in order to tolerate and understand the others.

it's the same argument that tony blair gives when pushing the agenda for more faith schools. somehow the notion that segregation is a prerequisite for integration has become widespread among the religious.

on the other hand, it might well be true that, if one has been indoctrinated to believe in their own irrational nonsense, one is more likely to respect that others hold equally irrational beliefs. it looks a bit like an alliance of different major religions to counter the spread of atheism and, of course, smaller sects that won't get their own religious education classes.

Sun, 26 Apr 2009 03:23:00 UTC | #353514

nalfeshnee's Avatar Comment 30 by nalfeshnee

Another classic quote from a Pro Reli speaker (a bishop), found on the Deutsche Welle English version website:

Religion as a subject is confession-based, with students segregated according to faith. Father Hans Langendörfer of the German Bishops Conference argues that religion as a subject not only covers the ground of ethics but goes much further.

"Teaching religion is of course not identical with teaching ethics," he said. "Religion asks questions about God, about meaning, sense and perspective in our lives. Of course that includes many ethical issues but it's more than simply teaching the values of our society."

The crucial difference he adds is that in ethics, students simply debate what could be done in a given situation or problem. But religion tells the students what they should do.

As Hitchens advises, I have merely underlined Mr. Langendörfer's words.

Deutsche Welle article at:,,4204156,00.html.

Sun, 26 Apr 2009 03:39:00 UTC | #353516