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David Hines's Avatar Joined about 5 years ago
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Go to: Primary school indoctrination (UK)

David Hines's Avatar Jump to comment 11 by David Hines

I did buy it, and I read a chapter of it to kids in my church. I'm a lay preacher. And they loved I didn't tell them Richard Dawkins was an atheist, so nobody complained.

In the chapter I used, Dawkins compares the Bible story of Noah with the Babylonian story of Utnapishim, which the Bible story is based on. And I asked the kids to compare the two. (for one thing, the Babylonian story has more gods).

I didn't explicitly tell them that both stories were myths ... that would have pushed them too far, for the smaller kids. But by putting the two stories side by side, I let them draw that conclusion if they wished. One of the kids, aged about 12, did draw the connection; she was fascinated to see how similar they are.

This is the approach our Secular Education Network is working for ... not to rubbish different religions, but to place them side by side, to help them appreciate one another.

The later stage, critically comparing the stories and comparing them with science, is something I would keep till they are maybe 10 years old. But a bright 7 year old might well draw the same link. In that case, I would take the question as far as they wished, without pushing the uncritical kids to go the distance.

So that's what we are discussing in New Zealand. And we'd appreciate it if Richard Dawkins would give us his support. Because it's an international issue ... how do atheists and Christians find common ground. Secular education is one area of common ground.

Fri, 06 Jul 2012 22:17:19 UTC | #948702

Go to: Primary school indoctrination (UK)

David Hines's Avatar Jump to comment 9 by David Hines

In New Zealand we have a huge problem with a loophole in our Education Act that allows religious volunteers free time to take weekly "lessons" in state primary schools. But a surprising battle is building against it, including Atheists, Christians and everyone in between. We're the Secular Education Network, backed by the NZ Association of Rationalists and Humanists ... just picking up momentum over three months. I'm the religious liaison aiming to get Christians, Jews, etc into the support team, with surprising success, especially high profile figures like Lloyd Geering, our homegrown Christian atheist. So Richard Dawkins ... come over and help us. And bring your "atheists for Jesus" t-shirt. Or watch our Facebook page called "Secular Education Network". It's religious tolerance gone mad.

Fri, 06 Jul 2012 08:08:26 UTC | #948676

Go to: Locked Out: How the Church Responded to their Pastor’s Coming Out

David Hines's Avatar Jump to comment 107 by David Hines

The real injustice of Teresa’s treatment was not when her church officials locked the doors on her; it was they made it a condition of her employment that she must never change her mind. Many a person, including myself, took on the job of being a minister, with the aim of helping people. It is a good vocation from a number of points of view; you help people who are bereaved, encourage people to use their talents etc etc. You get a lot of encouragement coming back from them.

But the price of all this co-dependency comes whenever you have an independent thought, whatever it might be ... you might discover that some non-Christian people live good lives; you might discover that some “key” part of the Bible is not true; you might discover that gay people are OK. In any other vocation, if you started having independent ideas, you would try to sell them to your employer and ask for a raise; if that didn’t work you might go to their competitors; if that didn’t work you might give up and try some career where your new ideas were appreciated. It would be an honest exit from an honestly chosen career and everyone would see it that way.

With Christianity, this kind of honest re-thinking is discouraged ... because it doesn’t fit with the idea of a divinely sanctioned career. The basic philosophy is: “God doesn’t change his mind,” so if you change your mind you must be evil.

Once you find you are a theological misfit, you then face the second dilemma, that you still want to help those people, so you start compromising your beliefs, while you think things over. Many religious leaders are stuck in this situation, wanting to be honest but not wanting to give up on their friends and parishioners. In some liberal churches they have liberal friends who will stick with them through all this, but not all are so open-minded.

My exit was much easier, because I stepped from minister to lay preacher, to Christian humanist ... with some support all along the way, because I belonged to a fairly tolerant church.

But I don’t blame Teresa for continuing being a pastor while she thought it through; and I don’t blame her for not telling her congregation first ... because it is a hell of a step to take, and most of us only take it when we are in a support group. And if that support group happens to be a roomful of atheists with TV cameras rolling ... that’s the way it is.

The only way to change this situation is to give support to people who have dissenting views ... whether they are Christians turning into atheists, or the other way round. I am a lucky exception: my congregation includes some who are friendly to humanists, and my humanist club is friendly to Christians. Come to New Zealand, Teresa. It is one of the most secular, and most tolerant countries in the world.

Mon, 28 May 2012 09:19:10 UTC | #943934

Go to: I just told my parents that I'm a Non-Believer... That was harder than I thought

David Hines's Avatar Jump to comment 72 by David Hines

Comment 14 by Richard Dawkins :

Comment 11 by Jay G :

I have made a choice. I choose the love of my family over "coming out" in the name of "truth". I don't believe it is a good thing to bring hurt and pain to people I love just so I can feel good about myself. If I have to make a sacrifice (and it is a sacrifice), then so be it.

What is so sad is that you have to make such a choice. A choice between family love and truth. Yet another example of how "religion poisons everything."


Another sad thing about keeping quiet about what you believe is that it becomes a vicious circle. I am a liberal church member and I know a number of clergy who keep quiet about their beliefs, so as to protect the feelings of conservative members. This then leads to other liberal Christians thinking their ministers are conservative. This then leads to them feeling afraid to show their own liberal beliefs. It's a very vicious circle. So though I sympathise with JayG, I hope more people like him will come out, for the benefit of us all. I actually welcome it when atheists come out, as many are doing in a bus campaign in my own city. It encourages all kinds of other people to come out, including liberal Christians.

Updated: Thu, 05 Aug 2010 20:46:16 UTC | #496374

Go to: My family found out I'm a non-believer BEFORE MY PARENTS!

David Hines's Avatar Jump to comment 58 by David Hines

Good luck, Hector X. I am a Christian, but was an atheist for about 20 years, and when I made that decision I announced it in my church, and I was amazed that everybody was supportive. During this atheist period I also worked for Zealandia, the Catholic newspaper in New Zealand, and the staff there were also totally respectful of my decision. My employer was the bishop of Auckland,and I hever heard of any criticism from him.

So not all believers are bigoted. Many will respect you for your honesty. In fact, I was reading the Catholic catechism a week or two ago, and was surprised to find that conscience is one of their main principles. ie, they officially respect your conscience even if they think you are wrong. I hope your parents will be the same.

I am not an atheist now, but am an atheist-friendly Christian. See my website,, if you want an example, and I preach this stuff in church.

So I join everybody else in supporting you. I think one of the most helpful comments was somebody who suggested writing your parents a letter. It's a good technique if you have something really difficult to say.

But, despite the contemptible treatment by your aunts, I think you will feel a load off your mind once you do spill the beans. You will find who your real friends are, and I'm sure you will have many. So don't get upset if you can't please everybody. That's life.

Tue, 03 Aug 2010 21:48:10 UTC | #495540

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