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Review Signals the Beginning of the End for Bible Classes

By Hugh Harris

The recent Queensland government review of the “Connect” Religious Instruction (RI) materials bring to light several reasons why, ultimately, faith-based classes will cease in school hours in the Sunshine state.

Also, given Connect’s lessons are widely used, the New South Wales government would be wise to take note. However, driven by his own Christian faith, Premier Mike Baird has committed to maintaining special religious instruction (SRE) while he’s in office. He’s supported by Education Minister Adrian Piccoli, who stubbornly refuses to release the $300k report by ARTD consultants, investigating various concerns about SRE, despite holding on to it for nine months. A source from ARTD consultants said the report was an objective analysis, which no-one would be happy with.

In contrast, Queensland Education Minister Kate Jones deserves credit for instigating the review and following up its recommendations. Stung into action after Windsor State School principal Matthew Keong scrapped the Connect RI program because he found 39 examples of “soliciting” students to Christianity, the review lists numerous examples of “outdated and inappropriate content”.

Disturbing material includes the “grooming” of seven-year-olds to form “special friendships” and keep secrets with instructors. Also, lessons discussing whether disabled people are being punished by God, using dead animals as sacrifices to God, and using tomato juice to simulate the drinking of blood.

Beset by controversy, recent media reports highlight Youthworks Connect lessons featuring vampires and beheadings. Concerns have been raised by the sin and salvation messaging, which denigrates children as sinners akin to dirty towels, and menaces them that they’ll die if they’re selfish.

A statement from Ms Jones admitted there had previously been “no consistent oversight of materials being used for religious instruction in Queensland state schools”. Consequently, the education department will forthwith exercise greater control over lesson content.

Enrolling in RI will become explicit and opt-in, mitigating a common cause for complaint that many students are placed in RI by default, without parental consent.

Enrolments plummeted by nearly half when it became Opt-in in Victoria, and three years later RI was removed from school hours due to lack of interest and “to focus teachers and students … on the core curriculum”. (It’s still available at school out of hours).

There’s no reason to think this pattern will not repeat itself in Queensland. And the momentum towards change becomes irresistible when we consider some of the other concerns.

Australia’s slipping performance in literacy and numeracy – as noted in our PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) and NAPLAN results – reinforce the consistent findings of educational reviews – that the curriculum is overcrowded.

One of the architects of our school curriculum, Professor Ken Wiltshire recently demanded a stop to the “outsourcing’’ of religious instruction and sex education to “ideological interest groups’’.

Furthermore, studies undertaken by Stanford University professor, David Labaree, show that add-on programmes targeting social issues such as alcohol abuse, drug use, and racial equality, have little, or no effect.

Our priorities in education are reflected in how we measure it. If we’re going to measure our education system on literacy and numeracy, then we need to sharpen our focus on those key areas.

But, as our society becomes less religious and more diverse, the push to revive our Christian tradition becomes ever more aggressive and desperate. State school RI programs have become more fundamentalist and proselytising.

The “right” for faith groups to teach religion like “any other subject”, has been championed by Australian Catholic University fellow, and Australian curriculum author, Kevin Donnelly.

But alas, RI is not taught like any other subject.

Instructors are not required to have formal teaching qualifications. According to Queensland Teacher’s Union President, Kevin Bates, classes often become unruly requiring the supervising teacher to step in and retain control.

RI Classes bear scant resemblance to knowledge based classes, such as politics or economics, which provide a comparative reading of competing ideologies. In contrast, these entreat children, (identified as mostly non-Christians by Connect’s lesson materials), to recite prayers and accept the message of Jesus.

Youthworks own website says making disciples of children is “why we exist”. Disturbingly, the publisher of Connect even obtained legal advice to suggest that proselytising is allowable unless aimed at converting a child from one RI approved faith to another. The review agreed with this advice, but disappointingly, failed to make any specific recommendations forbidding proselytising.

And so, in the short term, schools will continue to divide up classrooms for evangelical bible lessons. The project reeks of social engineering and discriminates against nonreligious families and those who do not belong to the faiths on offer. There’s simply no necessity to teach religion in public schools.

Australian parents retain the freedom to bring up their children in whatever faith (or lack thereof) they choose. Under-patronised churches, built for that very purpose, stand within a slingshot of most state schools. We even have independent faith-based schools as an option.

RI allows approved faith groups to co-opt state school classrooms for up to one hour a week. Children who don’t participate must be offered other unspecified non-curricular activities. Wasting time, in other words.

The “Every Day Matters” policy of QLD’s Education department seems startlingly at odds with a curriculum where bible classes take up nearly a full term of a child’s primary school tenure. Rather than continuing with the same policy and praying for a different result, schools will eventually discard contested and non-core courses, and focus on reading, writing and numeracy.

For good reasons, pressure continues to mount on State governments to move faith classes outside of school hours.

hughphotoHugh Harris is a freelance writer, board member of the Rationalist Society of Australia, and blogs at rationalrazor.com.

Hugh has written for ABC’s The Drum, The Brisbane Times, The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, The Courier Mail, The Huffington Post Australia, New Matilda, and The Daily Banter (US).

 

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52 comments

  1. peter ball

    good

  2. Jaquix

    Good for you Annastacia and your government. Australia is supposed to be a secular country, though churches are a powerful lobby group, and enjoy generous tax free status. Religion does not belong in our education system. In fact the program sounds more like child abuse. Victoria has proved you can get rid of it. The time is better used on any number of subjects, and Critical Thinking would be top of my list.

  3. Travelalot

    If you want an education (maths and science, etc.) go to school. If you want to learn about religion then go to a church. Simple really!

  4. Carol Taylor

    Teach religion as part of an ideas or philosophy series of lessons. But make it all religions. Religion is an ‘idea’ not factual information and should be treated as such. I would be appalled if any RI teacher attempted to threaten or intimidate any child with concepts such as inherent evil. I would be giving them no opportunity to do so.

  5. Jaquix

    Carol this would be fine, but I dont think young children are ready for this, or need it, but it could be OK for high schoolers.

  6. Miriam English

    I would have thought it was illegal to push religion in state schools. Our constitution forbids our government to favor or require any religion. State schools are government schools.

    If you want kids to learn facts we have school. If you want them to learn beliefs, no matter how crazy, we have any number of churches, synagogues, mosques, covens, etc that will happily indoctrinate kids, with the side-benefit, at no extra charge, of increased chance of molesting them too. Yay.

    When will we learn?

    I’ve never seen convincing evidence of any benefit from religion. Its proponents commonly excuse it by saying that it improves morality, but studies have shown that religion actually correlates with moral malaise. Wherever religion is strongest so are many of society’s worst ills: murder, sexually transmitted disease, infant mortality, divorce, teen pregnancy, abortion, early adult death. All those are less of a problem in strongly secular societies.

    Thankfully religion is dying out. And not too soon either. We will need our thinking abilities to deal with the difficult times ahead.

  7. Matters Not

    There’s no reason to think this pattern will not repeat itself in Queensland.

    Perhaps. Well remember the time when a Queensland Minister for Education was subject to a ‘citizen’s arrest’ attempt because he hadn’t enforced the then Education Act and accompanying Regulations re Religious Instruction. He was shocked and completely out of his depth because, while he was a very religious person, he didn’t know the details of the legislation. (And he could be excused because the vast majority of teachers didn’t know it as well. And those who did simply ignored it. And to be real how many Ministers at all levels across the political sprectrum have the time, let alone the wit and wisdom to understand the legislation they administer. Never met one.)

    When he departed from politics he became a registrar of the Anglican Church. But that didn’t end well either.

    A former Queensland government minister who later became a registrar of the Anglican Church has been defrocked over his handling of child sex abuse claims. Pat Comben, 65, served as an education and health minister in the Goss administration before he was ordained and relocated to NSW, where he was registrar of the Grafton diocese.

    During that time, Mr Comben dealt with 42 people who claimed to have suffered abuse while at the North Coast Children’s Home in Lismore between 1940s to 1984. Many claimed to have been beaten and raped. Royal Commission into Institutional Child Sexual Abuse heard that as the number of claimants increased, the diocese disputed liability, pleaded poverty and cast doubt on the veracity of some of the claims.

    He also conceded not telling police of serious allegations being made about some clergy. Mr Comben admitted to have taken a hard line approach to victims, telling the commission in 2013 that he felt guilt over his actions

    Indeed we need to define the purposes of Education. And there’s no room for ‘magical interpretation’s of the world’.

    Mustafa Kemal Atatürk’s view that education must be about giving all students the knowledge, skills and attitudes to actively participate in a secular, democratic society seems like a good starting point.

    http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/queensland/former-queensland-government-minister-pat-comben-defrocked-by-anglican-church-20150715-gide70.html

  8. Zathras

    Turning a public school into a religious Madrasa is not what I expect from my taxes, especially when those Churches bother to pay no taxes themselves.

    Next they’ll be introducing bogus subjects like Intelligent Design or straight-out Creationism into the curriculum and despite what the Bible says, bats are not birds and rabbits do not chew their cud.

    I prefer to live in a nation of intelligent critical thinkers than one of closed minded zealots. We have a surplus of those already.

    Education – not indoctrination.
    Tolerance – not institutionalised bigotry.

  9. Kaye Lee

    When my daughter was in Year One her scripture teacher decided to tell a bunch of 6 year olds that Santa Claus didn’t exist. Aside from robbing children of that right of passage where they figure that out for themselves, it backfired because it didn’t take long for my daughter to decide that God doesn’t exist either.

  10. Jaquix

    Priceless, Kaye !

  11. Zue

    When my daughter was in kindergarten the religious education teacher (a Salvation Army member who had volunteered) told the class of 5 year olds that they would burn in hell if they didn’t love Jesus.

  12. Aortic

    Having been brought up in a fundamentalist sect I can attest to the fact it is nothing less than child abuse. Took me years to rid myself of the guilt. As was stated previously if you wish to believe in something supernatural do so and worship at your chosen venue. Schools should be purely for secular subjects and proselytising should be stamped out whenever it is found.

  13. Rob Holmes

    When we arrived in Queensland some years back we enrolled our two girls in the local Catholic school as the local state school appeared to be dominated by a very “rough” element. As our kids has been brought up in a non-believing family, I thought it would do them good to learn about the Christian background to Western culture. To my growing dismay there was no bible instruction (stories from the old and new Testaments as I had enjoyed in my own junior school days) whatsoever, just a daily grind of prayer at every possible opportunity and constant indoctrination into the Catholic brand of religion. I finally put my foot down when I found that my kids had built an alter in their bedroom complete with a Mary statue and “Jesus-with-the-bleeding-heart” picture – and that was the end of Catholic schooling. I did a check on academic success rates – finding that the Catholic school did not achieve anything near the year 12 results at the local “rough” state school – obviously teaching of the Catholic view more important than core subjects. My experience leads me to believe that there is absolutely no reason for government funding for schools where any particular brand of religion, be it Catholic, Brethren, Mormon or Muslim is relentlessly forced into kids at the cost of core teaching. If you want your kids indoctrinated into your own belief system, dont expect the government to pay for it.

  14. jimhaz

    Good chance it would be gone by now if Gillard did not have a minority government. Surely, the only reason it was not cancelled were for political reasons to not stir up any further the religiously-inclined Tea Party like groups who went on childish emotional rampages about the carbon tax.

  15. Gangey1959

    @ Travelalot.
    The question and problem lies with those indeterminate subjects like geography, history, languages, and maybe even to a degree some of the more applied sciences.
    Does one attend school or church to learn about the shape of the Earth? (I went ta s’kool, an eye’m kwyte appy wiv da shaype ov de erf as bein round), but if one is less sure about these things, maybe a church might be better.
    Personally, I still want to see a model of the Earth as we know it built by a flat earthiest, but I think I might be waiting for a while.
    Meanwhile back in reality (Queensland ??? WTF ???) Go for it. Religion is for those of us who have failed at life and have given up, like my old man who found jehova at 70ish, not for our children to have shovelled between their ears by the people who are supposed to be teaching them to spell and count and know their times tables, and is certainly not for ”In School Hours” at school by school.

  16. win

    I would like to see schools teach religion ; comparative religion, so our children can learn how different societies talk about transcendence ,meaning and purpose as part of being human. done by teachers trained and qualified in the subject it could be seen as part of cultural learning and done well ,would lead to greater tolerance and understanding. I call myself a practising Christian, but I do not think ‘ bible study ‘ is likely to achieve much of use to the general public, let alone children. Too much ancient patriarchal baggage, and pre-scientific thought modes for uncritical use, even by adults!

  17. anne

    I was not even aware the classes were running until our 6 y/o came home crying after being told his family were going to hell because we did not believe in Jesus.
    I was shocked that religion lessons did not teach about all religions but rather only christianity which was taught by fundamentalist christians who’s primary goal is to save souls and convert prospects.
    We signed the opt out oaperwork and then he had to sit in the same classroom and do maths or cleaning.. quite punitive behaviour i thought.
    I sent colouring in books and other fun activity books for him
    eventually there were so many kids with colouring books that they were given a seperate space.

  18. Jaquix

    Good on you Anne. Shocking waste of precious learning time for children. And sneaked in under parents noses, by being opt-out. Glad its been made opt-in in Queensland, and in Victoria that lead to so few takers, they abandoned it altogether!

  19. Pingback: Review Signals the Beginning of the End for Bible Classes - Rational Razor

  20. Allan (The Voice of the Feurieu)

    So which of the over 4,300 religions in existence today are they proposing be pissed into children’s ears?

  21. Miriam English

    Allan, where did you get the 4,300 number? I’m not disputing it, I’m very interested. Wikipedia lists about a thousand major religions. I’ve always wondered about a way to estimate the total number of religions. Of course each person probably has a slightly different belief to every one of his religious fellows, but I’m interested in organised religions. The more there are, the more ridiculous their assertion that they alone are right and all the others wrong.

  22. Matters Not

    each person probably has a slightly different belief to every one of his religious fellows

    Indeed. Knew a fellow who was a strict SDA. Or so he thought. His PhD was all about how (or maybe not) great was the diversity across the SDA ‘common sense’? His research showed that the SDA community was across the political spectrum. Shook him up big time. Realised that his ‘common sense’ was neither ‘common’ nor ‘sensible’.

    Sometimes it’s not wise to look too deeply – but only if you want a contented life. Not a questioning one.

  23. Charybds

    Religion is like a penis ..
    it’s all very satisfying for the person who possesses it.
    But it should not be waved around in front of children.

  24. Pingback: Beginning of the End for Bible Classes? | Rationalist Society of Australia

  25. mikebull1

    It’s a while since I’ve read such ignorant comments. I taught religious education as a volunteer in a local high school for 9 years, and I found that over the period of one semester with each class, as I answered the tough questions posed, questions I myself have had, most of the teenagers could see that a Christian worldview not only holds water, it is vindicated by its outcomes in history.
    Secularists assume that their little world will survive without “religion,” but the truth is that secularism was only ever the tolerant “front porch” of Christianity, and without Christianity, secularism will cease to exist. We see this happening in Europe, and it will happen here. But the way things are going it will be only a temporary loss. Both secularism and Islam only survive as parasites upon the civilisation built by Christianity. They are both attempting to kill the host, but Christianity will outlast them both. It always does, because unlike the various religious and non-religious utopian fantasies of history, it is actually true.
    Secularists want a “neutral” education but there is no such thing. All truth rests upon an assumed worldview. It is becoming more and more clear – even to many non-religious scientists – that naturalism is mere atheist dogma, now maintained despite mounting evidence rather than because of it. But that doesn’t make the news.
    Secular humanists want religion out of public schools, but now we have social marxists corrupting the entire curriculum with propaganda which is not only perverse but also unscientific. Atheism is just another “faith.” What makes it unique is that it has absolutely nothing to offer. All it does is destroy. Sometimes this is via the vacuum it creates in the human soul.
    Added to this, we wonder why leadership in both private and public sectors is suffering such a plague of corruption. Welcome to the outcome of that first generation that did not go to Sunday School to learn the basics. A tree is know by its fruits, and atheism is turning out to be sterile, not only ethically, but also socially and demographically. We no longer know why we even exist.
    I recommend David Goldman’s “Why Civilisations Die” for some hard truth on what is happening to Western culture. Thanks to “rationalism” it is dying. This is because a mind without knowledge of or inspiration from God is incapable of any truly rational decision not only because it is unaware of what human beings actually are, it also refuses to believe in anything it cannot see. That means it makes short-sighted decisions, sacrificing the permanent on the altar of the temporary.
    At least the great atheists knew what they were throwing out with Christianity. The current crop mistakenly think that the pillars of society to which they are accustomed can survive without Christianity. Thankfully, some are waking up to the truth, due to the incursions of the barbarism of Islam into the West, which without a common faith is defenceless.
    The good news is that some stats released about four years ago show that there are approximately 300 fewer atheists in the world every day. How Darwinian.

  26. Miriam English

    mikebull1, wow! It’s difficult to know where to begin in responding to your comment. Your blinkered worldview is so centered on Christianity that it admits of nothing else.

    The Chinese have had continuous civilisation for at least 7,000 years. The Japanese have had a continuous civilisation for more than 10,000 years. Islamic states kept Western knowledge and culture alive while the Christian church burned everything (figuratively, and in the case of many books and people, literally) during a thousand years of Dark Ages. Since the end of its thousand year high-point (the Dark Ages), Christianity has been in gradually accelerating decline.

    You think, as many religious people do (merely because they’re told so by their preachers) that people are becoming more immoral, corrupt, and violent. But that’s not supported by the facts. Violence has been declining for hundreds of years, ever since we’ve kept records. Ask any criminologist. Likewise morality has been continuously improving from biblical times when slavery was considered normal and murder common, through times when women were owned by men and dark skinned people were not considered human, and children existed only in so far as they had exploitable value (especially female children), to a time now where we begin with the assumption that all people have rights, including those with non-white skin, women, children, and even other animals.
    See Steven Pinker’s talk on the surprising decline in violence and his book on the topic: The Better Angels of Our Nature.

    All around the world, when you put a statistical magnifying glass on religion you find that’s exactly where corruption and violence are worst, from paedophilia, to swindling followers, to outright murder. In contrast, places with a strongly secular worldview have the lowest rates of violence, as well as lowest abortion rates, lowest divorce rates, lowest rates of sexually transmitted diseases, lowest rates of infant mortality, and greatest adult longevity.
    http://moses.creighton.edu/jrs/2005/2005-11.pdf
    http://evp.sagepub.com/content/7/3/147470490900700305.full.pdf
    Listen to Phillip Adams interview Gregory Paul on the results of that research.

    If you’re really interested in genuine academic studies of why civilisations die you might be interested in Jared Diamond’s Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed and his short talk summarising the topic. His earlier, award-winning book, Guns, Germs and Steel discusses the topic you seem to be thinking about in your Christian, Eurocentric view. You can watch a National Geographic video explaining the topic if you don’t feel up to reading the book. Jared Diamond explains the many and complex reasons why civilisations collapse and cautions against people who give simplistic explanations. They tend to have an ideology they want to push instead of being interested in reality.

    And this last point, really the most damning, in my opinion: that religion tends to promote a blinkered or even blindfolded view of the world, where belief is substituted for reality. It guarantees that those afflicted with it will be unable to correct their errors. You would think that those who believe that the world is created by their God would be the leading proponents of studying His work, but no. Religious people are pretty reliably the most vociferous opponents of learning from the world around us. They reject the most basic understanding of evolution, of astronomy, of biochemistry, of neurophysiological psychology — of any part of the real world that conflicts with their mythology. It saddens me that for this very reason you’ll reject the facts before you in favor of your personal fantasy.

  27. angela

    Reading some these comments is terrible!

    I too teach scripture in public schools. Parents YOU have a choice to make. If YOU don’t want your child being taught pull them out. Its simple really.

    Don’t pretend to speak on behalf of every parent. You are not the majority, believe me.

    YOU make the choice and YOU will answer for it.

    Well done scripture teachers for your great work! May GOD continue to guide you.

  28. Jaquix

    Angela, state schools should be providing good quality, secular education. There is so much for children to learn, time should not be given to religious organisations to spread their beliefs, because that is what RI is. Any teaching of religious beliefs should take place in churches, and parents who attend there can have their children attend Sunday School. Churches already receive substantial taxpayer funded benefits, so they should use their own premises for this activity. That is where it belongs, not our schools.

  29. Matters Not

    angela November 15, 2016 at 9:43 pm

    YOU will answer for it.

    To whom? (Don’t answer that.)

    As Jaquix wrote:

    state schools should be providing good quality, secular education.

    Even In Islamic Turkey, Kemal Ataturk (the founder of the modern Turkey) argued that school education was about allowing students to prepare for life in a secular, democratic State. He was on the money.

    We should be clear about the aims of public education or indeed any schooling that is publically funded. I take it angela you believe that there should be a clear separation between ‘church and state’? You wouldn’t want the state interfering in church matters and therefore you wouldn’t want the church interfering in matters of state?

    Or maybe not?

  30. Miriam English

    angela, you say, “May GOD continue to guide you.”

    Which god?

    The god who drowns all the children in a flood because his experiment in making humans didn’t work out the way he wanted and murdering them all was easier than being a good teacher and moral example?

    The god that afflicts Job with diseases, kills his family, and wrecks his life for the sake of a stupid bet with his rival?

    The god that implores Christians to murder every man woman and child and even all the cattle and burn to the ground any city where the people are worshipping a different god?

    The god who condones murder as punishment for loving the wrong person, or talking back to your parents, or exerting yourself on the sabbath?

    The god who loves you so much and is so just and wise that he will torture you just for not believing in him… not for an hour, not for a day, not for a week, but forever???

    Is that the god you hope will guide us?

  31. Matters Not

    Is that the god you hope will guide us?

    Or is that the god you created?

    Or did you know about ‘god’ from birth? That you didn’t have to learn anything about this god? And if you were born elsewhere, would you have learnt about a different god? If so, then why?

    All serious questions.

  32. Miriam English

    angela said “Reading some these comments is terrible!”

    So I went back and read them all again. The only one I found terrible was the ignorant one from the Christian, mikebull1, whose spittle-flecked, hate-filled diatribe denounced all that was not Christian, vowing that we would all suffer for it. In comparison, all the secular responses seemed pretty mild to me… though I have to say my final one a few minutes ago wasn’t very nice. It was probably a bit impolite to quote some of the Bible’s horrors back to a Christian.

  33. Kaye Lee

    I have a real problem with teaching children to uncritically accept one group of people’s beliefs and to then “worship” them (often entailing giving them money). What exactly is the point of worship?

  34. Miriam English

    Excellent point, Kaye.

    Why does it make any sense to worship a god who is so insecure that he requires constant worship and praise, especially a god prone to fits of rage, jealousy, and petty vengeance?

    The great surprise about religion that studies have found in recent years is that religion, which always promotes itself as the source of morality, is actually associated with increased immorality wherever it gathers in the world. The more religious a people are, the more corrupt and violent they tend to be, from paedophilia, to swindling followers, to outright murder. This alone makes it extremely unlikely that there is a (good) god at the heart of their beliefs. In contrast, places that are strongly secular, with high numbers of atheists and agnostics, have the lowest rates of murder, lowest abortion rates, lowest divorce rates, lowest rates of sexually transmitted diseases, lowest rates of infant mortality, and greatest adult longevity.

    NOTE: I’m not saying all religious people are immoral. It is a statistical tendency. Religious people have, on average, higher rates of most social and moral ills. The conclusion that religion promotes immorality is pretty-much inescapable. That it does so while convincing its followers that they are more moral is fascinating.

  35. angela

    Okay. lets all stick to the issue, shall we?

    No one is forcing you to believe in anything, right?

    You are responsible for your childs upbringing, right?

    No one is forcing your child to attend scripture, right?

    So, what is exactly your points? Your all getting worked up about things, in the end your missing the point.

    If you feel insecure about things, that’s fine. That’s your business.

    Don’t try and and force your beliefs and what you think about scripture on others.

    You choose what you want, the choice is yours. And yes you are correct, and I will answer it, YOU will answer to God, whether you believe in Him or not.

    And another thing, in my faith, we don’t force our beliefs on anyone nor do we force the children to attend. If the parent wishes they join if not they don’t, very simple.

    So, lets all be nice and let the volunteer scripture teachers do there job and you do yours

  36. Jaquix

    No sorry Angela, its you who are out of line. You say ” Don’t try and and force your beliefs and what you think about scripture on others” yet you expect parents to have to opt out of what should not be taking place in our state schools anyway. This was an Abbott initiative and the $245 million dollar cost should be stopped immediately, and transferred to school funding in general. Your scripture lessons need to be transferred to the appropriate place – Sunday School.

  37. Kaye Lee

    God doesn’t scare me angela

  38. jimhaz

    Christianity is nothing more than a cult that just happens to be a big old one. We should not have cults in our schools, nor fund them.

    “There is a great deal of interest in “cults” which can take many forms: They may be religious or racial, political or mystical, self-help or pseudo-psychological, but they all have half a dozen recognizable characteristics:

    Powerful and exclusive dedication/devotion to an explicit person or creed.
    The use of “thought-reform” programmes to integrate, socialize, persuade and therefore control members.
    A well thought through recruitment, selection and socialization process.
    Attempts to maintain psychological and physical dependency among cult members.
    Cults insist on reprogramming the way people see the world.
    Consistent exploitation of group members specifically to advance the leaders goals.
    Cults nearly always go in for milieu control signals: a different,unfamiliar setting with different rules, terms, behaviour patterns.”

  39. angela

    Um, you should know that we volunteer, therefore don’t get paid, so I don’t know what this 245 million is???

  40. angela

    Listen, if you all have a problem with religion, that’s fine. That’s your business. What you say were doing to the children, you are actually doing this to us.

    Let us teach whoever wishes to come, there is no doing this against your will. They are your children, and you choose.

    All I am asking is just let us do what is in our hearts to the ones that want to come.

    I understand your concerns, but what I am trying to say is we are not pushing your children into a faith. It is our faith and your choice to put them in or not. You choose which religion you want or which you don’t, totally up to you.

    Don’t make this difficult for the teachers that are so passionate about their faith. This is a free country.

  41. Miriam English

    Angela, how would you feel if you found out that the school you sent your child to had been converting your child to Islam? You hadn’t been told this was happening and you found out only after your child had been drawing pictures of scenes from the Koran at home several months into this indoctrination. You’d be upset and feel your trust had been violated, right? When challenged, the school defends the brainwashing by saying “Look, it’s okay. You can opt out.”

    Religious instruction should not be in public school. If people want to send their children to church or Sunday school, that’s their choice, but government schools have no business teaching religion, especially as an opt-out programme snuck in, generally without the parents being aware of it. Such programmes are not innocent; they’re indoctrination by stealth.

    Personally, I think we should have laws that prohibit teaching any single religion to children under voting age. After that they can choose for themselves. The only way to teach children below the voting age should be as a balanced comparative religion course. This would actually give them the knowledge needed for genuine choice.

    Teaching a single religion to a child should be considered child abuse because of the way it can permanently damage a child’s ability to freely choose… and that’s not even considering the terror stories about murder at god’s behest and eternal torture in hell can produce. No parent should have the right to do that to their child.

  42. Miriam English

    Angela, when you say “What you say were doing to the children, you are actually doing this to us” I know you probably don’t realise how wrong that is, and I know you probably mean well, but what you are doing to the children — altering their ability to choose whether they want to be a part of religion or not and damaging their ability to think clearly — is completely different from what we’re doing. Nobody here is forcing anything on you.

    It constantly amazes me how religious people act as if they are the injured party when atheists or agnostics point out why they are doing wrong.

  43. angela

    Miriam, if you want your child to freely choose, do it. Let them do whatever they want. Don’t tell them to eat their veggies cause its good for them. Hey, don’t worry about telling them to wear a jacket as is cold. Don’t even worry about sunscreen. Don’t worry about what time tey should be in bed, its okay, they can make their own decisions, isn’t this what your saying, yes?

    Come on, you need to guide your child, good parents too. But seems to me hypocritical when you choose were to guide your child.

    Teaching a child religion is not child abuse, you not caring is.

    It constantly amazes me how atheists etc do not practice what they preach, you only point out what we, that believe in God are doing wrong.

    Notice the hypocrisy Miriam?

    By the way your name is Moses sisters name, amazing is it not?

  44. Jaquix

    My grandfather was born in 1885, and always said that children should be able to make up their own minds aboutcrrlugion when they grew up. Still good advice. Couldnt agree with you more Miriam.

  45. Miriam English

    Angela, you mistake what I said. By all means give your child guidance. Teach honestly about Hindu, Islam, Christianity, Jainism, Confucianism, and so on. Also inform honestly about agnosticism and atheism. Give them the intellectual tools to actually decide healthily. Don’t take those tools away and call that guidance.

    You’d agree that to brainwash a child into Satanism is child abuse. To do so for any of the roughly 1,000 major religions before the child has the necessary thinking tools truly is child abuse. It stamps their impressionable mind indelibly with a distorted view of the world. They can spend a lifetime trying to fix what was broken.

    You know, I don’t see the problem. If your religion is truly correct and self evident with a genuine good and gracious god behind it, why would you fear letting the child grow first? Why this insistence on getting the child when they are most easily damaged?

    I know you think you’re doing the right thing, but remember yours is just one of more than a thousand religions, each one insisting it is the only one that is right. Every one of those others damages the child by brainwashing them when they’re young. Can’t you at least admit the odds are good that your religion risks doing the same? Wouldn’t it be safer to leave the child to enjoy growing up and gaining the tools to decide properly?

    .
    Actually, my name is far more ancient than that. It reaches back way beyond the Bible into ancient Egyptian history and further. Mary is a variant of Miriam. Middle-Eastern friends often misspell my name Maryam as that’s a very common variant. Versions of Miriam turn up in other very ancient civilisations that predate the Bible by thousands of years.

  46. Kaye Lee

    You can teach your child to be a good person who cares for others. You can teach them to embrace diversity. You can teach them the importance of honesty and integrity. You can teach them the tolerance and respect required for peaceful co-existence in a world where there are many different beliefs.

    That has nothing to do with religion and to suggest that parents are negligent who don’t make their children kneel down and chant while someone wearing special robes waves incense around, bows to a statue and reads from a book written a thousand years ago, is hardly fair. If you stuck to good deeds and dropped the worship I would be more interested.

  47. angela

    Sorry Kaye to disappoint, deeds without faith means nothing, nor does faith without works. However, faith and works is what counts, now read the bible then you definatley would be more interested.

    Mariam, like I mentioned above, why bother teaching your child anything? Let them do whatever they want. Let them grow on their own. You cant can you? You want whats best for them right? So do we (Christians). By the way I don’t scare children with the devil, yes he exists and the children know that, but I like to focus on the Love of Christ more. I don’t make a subject of the devil and yes we don’t want to frighten them.

    So, I could go on and on and I know that what I teach is right. You can choose and you also can let your child choose too from a young age and see what happens.

    But I shall shake the dirt of my sandals and move on.

    May our God and Jesus and our Most Holy Mother Mary help you find the truth. God Bless.

  48. Kaye Lee

    angela, I can pretty much guarantee that I know the bible at least as well as you do. I was voluntarily involved in the church for a long time. The things that turned me off, aside from the worship as described above, were the outrageous greed of the church, their attitude to women and homosexuals and other faiths, their objections to contraception and the idea that sex was for purposes of procreation only, the fact that they were still deciding whether to exonerate Galileo in 1992, the brutality of some nuns, brothers and priests, the intolerance……and then the final straw – when neither the Catholic or Anglican churches would agree to “welcome my children to the house of the lord” – they both insisted that my kids had to be labelled with THEIR brand of Christianity, promised for a lifetime of worship from birth. I left.

    Now you would no doubt believe that my unbaptised children, apparently born sinners, will either spend eternity in purgatory or head on down to that real devil you speak of. Thankfully, they believe more in karma – what you give is what you get returned. They understand that one small act of kindness has a ripple effect. It’s a much healthier way to live.

  49. Matters Not

    I know that what I teach is right

    I agree that YOU ‘know’ what you teach is ‘right’. But how do you ‘know’? On what basis do you ‘know’? Experience? Logic? Science? Rationality? Readings? Personal communications? Visions? Divine intervention? Or is it just ‘faith’?

    As for the ‘right’ aspect of your claim. Is the ‘right’ to be equated with the ‘good’? Are ‘right’ things always ‘good’ things. Are ‘good’ things necessarily ‘right’ things? Or are such questions just ‘silly’?

    Not that I want you to ‘dirty your sandals’ again.

  50. Miriam English

    Angela, you persist in misreading what I said. Do you genuinely not understand, or are you trying to bait me?

    Of course you know what you teach is right, just as those who teach Islam know they are right, and those who teach Buddhism know they are right. Unfortunately the source material you work from has hundreds of contradictions, and more than 800 variants of Christiantity have sprung up arguing different meanings for many passages in the Bible. They all know they alone are right.

    Some of the errors in the Bible have produced astonishing levels of wickedness, for example “though shalt not suffer a witch to live” is a mistranslation. The original text doesn’t say anything about witches or killing. It spoke of people who use poisons and said that they should not be allowed in the village. That error meant countless people were burned alive by people who knew they were right to do so.

    One of the most beautiful stories in the Bible, when the townspeople bring a woman accused of adultery before Jesus and say the law demands she be stoned to death and Jesus gives the brilliant line that he who is without sin cast the first stone — my favorite story, masterful. Unfortunately it is a forgery inserted by a nameless monk in the Dark Ages. We have manuscripts from before that don’t have the passage and manuscripts from after that do have it.

    There are other stories that don’t make sense until you read the books omitted from the Bible, such as Adam and Eve being cast out of Eden for eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge. Other inconvenient books removed during early Christianity explain that the fruit of the tree of knowledge is a metaphor for agriculture. Suddenly it makes sense. Of course agriculture lost them the garden of Eden, as it has time and time again all around the world.

    Many of the stories of the Bible are appallingly immoral. God drowning everybody on Earth — all the children, kittens, songbirds — because it was easier than being a good moral example. Hardening the heart of Pharaoh so that god had a chance to kill more. Telling the Israelites to kill babies and children and all the men and women but take the virgin girls to rape. Instructing that if you find a city where people believe in a different god then you should kill every man, woman, and child and all the cattle and burn the place to the ground. Women are instructed that they are not to speak in church, and certainly not to teach (you’re disobeying that one). You can sell daughters into slavery. Enslaving other people is perfectly acceptable.

    Can you see why others consider Christianity as little different from all the other false beliefs? Each religion has believers so very certain of its truth, yet all jealously condemn each other.

    Standing alone out of all of them is perhaps Jainism. That is a true religion of peace. It is still wrong, but at least it doesn’t do any harm.

    Christianity has the Crusades, the Inquisition, paedophile priests, the conquistadors, the crooked TV preachers, and much, much more.

    But they got to you early, didn’t they, Angela. There’s no waking you from its trance. Unfortunately you will go on to damage other children the way you were, condemning them to live their lives only half awake. So sad. I’m genuinely sorry.

  51. Kaye Lee

    Miriam,

    The bible is a bit like Donald Trump. You are supposed to ignore the nasty bits in the Old Testament and concentrate on the coming of the saviour.

  52. Miriam English

    Kaye, yes, unfortunately. The New Testament has some pretty immoral stuff too, though nothing quite compares to the Old Testament for disgustingly bloodthirsty hatred. It amazes me how so many Christians gloss over it and are somehow not embarrassed by the sheer enthusiasm for blood and destruction in the Bible, not to mention the joy taken in rape and oppression of others.

    So many things in Sunday School are presented as lovely stories, animals two by two on the ark, David overcoming Goliath, Samson and Delilah, except when the poor child thinks about it later they realise that everybody else — millions of children — who didn’t get onto the ark were murdered by god; Goliath was no match for David whose weapon, like a gun, let him kill from a distance, and after knocking Goliath to the ground David bloodily hacked Goliath’s head off; Samson was sexually lured by a prostitute to find out how to take his strength, whereupon he is captured, bound and his eyes poked out, but eventually Samson gets revenge and kills everybody.

    The child then sees these aren’t cute stories at all. They’re pure unmitigated horror. The poor kid then realises the god at the heart of them is the most monstrous dictator imaginable, requiring people to bow to him or else be tortured by burning forever in a lake of fire.

    Yeah, Sunday school. I went there when I was a kid. The people struck me as nice, but hopelessly deluded and generally kind of stupid, sugaring up the most awful stories imaginable. Give me science any day, where people are equally nice, but intelligent. They spend their lives trying to learn about the real world.

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