If I believe (and I am really wary about using the word!) about anything associated with ‘religion’, it is that those who seek power have used religion to turn something which could have been a force for good into, in many cases, a force for evil.
I was brought up in a Christian household, I was a Sunday School teacher in my mid-teens and an agnostic by my mid-20s.
Growing up in the UK in my youth was to be in a society which paid lip-service to the Church of England (or Scotland, etc) as being the basis for the national religion, which had been, damagingly, transported to all the colonies in Africa, Asia and North America.
As an aside – the Spanish and Portuguese divided the world between them and transported the Catholic faith, while Germany and the Netherlands would have taken Lutheranism and Protestant Christianity to their colonies. All sort of well-intentioned but eventually damaging!
The ethics which underpinned my upbringing remain, but I share Stephen Fry’s attitude towards the existence of a god.
A second link involving Stephen Fry gives you a longer and just as delightfully iconoclastic insight into religion, life and death. Please make the time to watch it.
In today’s’ world, education has, IMHO, been much too much linked to religion, when it should be solely concerned with knowledge. Science, in particular, encourages asking questions and seeking answers, while accepting that there will often be more accurate information gleaned later, which updates accepted truths.
Opinions are also too often accepted as truths, and questioning accepted truths is, again, often seen as a bad thing. In the eyes of the Catholic Church, it is often condemned as heresy if it seriously conflicts with their accepted dogmas, whereas it is the only way to increase the accuracy of information currently accepted as fact.
A witness of truth bore testimony against George Pell, which convinced a jury of 12 citizens that Pell was indeed guilty of the charges laid against him of sexual abuse of a child. The Court of Appeal has confirmed this verdict, yet we have self-opinionated people like Andrew Bolt and Alan Jones – who gravitate to (preferably male) people of importance – refusing to accept that verdict. Their hubris is – in my personal opinion – disgusting!
True, Pell’s legal team are considering seeking leave to appeal to the High Court, but they will need very strong grounds to obtain that leave and would then still have to convince the High Court justices.
‘Belief’ involves acceptance of authorised information as being truth without seeking evidence. Science conducts a continual search for evidence – and in doing so has, over the centuries, upset religious institutions by demonstrating that their accepted ‘truths’ are often ill-founded. Galileo?
In Australia, instead of imposing a common curriculum on all schools which receive funding from governments, the ‘faith’-based schools are allowed to teach incorrect information because the truth does not agree with their beliefs, which in turn are based on ancient ignorance. (How much acquaintance did the authors of the Book of Leviticus and the letters of Paul the Apostle have with the modern scientific knowledge of the development of the foetus?)
For a school to be able to refuse to employ a teacher – let alone enrol a student – whose sexuality does nor align with their commonly-accepted dichotomy, is totally unacceptable. Based on current knowledge, ALL people are equal, irrespective of their sexual identity, and ALL are entitled to equal opportunity.
Growing up in England, which had multiple Christian sects, but a Catholic minority, Guy Fawke’s Night was celebrated annually and there was then (I cannot speak for now – nearly 50 years later) a deep underlying mistrust of Catholics.
In 1957, I graduated from Imperial College London with an honours maths degree. This was a time in the Space Age when authorities were finding a severe shortage of secondary school maths and science teachers, capable of laying a foundation to bring students up to the level required to continue studies at tertiary level in these areas.
So instead of having to spend another year studying for a Graduate Diploma in Education, we were allowed to go straight into teaching, while being on probation for our first year. Maths in particular, in those days, was very textbook-oriented which made this process easier.
If we passed our year on probation, we were then granted qualified teacher status. (Sadly, when I later came to Australia, despite its sharing the shortage of maths teachers, my qualifications and experience were not deemed acceptable to be employed except casually! These uppity colonies!)
So – in 1957, not expecting easy acceptance, I applied to 3 schools who had advertised in the Times Education Supplement – and was immediately offered positions at all three! So – I chose the nearest, which was in west London and easily accessible by the Underground from my home.
It was, as had been my C of E secondary school, a State-aided, all-girls school and the Principal, a charming and very astute woman, was the Mother Superior of the Convent! The level of acceptance of the variety of others under her governance was a lesson for all!
Approximately one-third of the teaching staff were lay non-Catholics, the rest splitting fairly evenly between lay and nuns, and ALL being suitably qualified academically. Those of us in the lay non-Catholic category were not given pastoral care for a ‘homeroom’ group, nor were we expected to attend mass on Thursdays. As with most schools at that time, we started the day with a school assembly, including a hymn, a prayer, a bible reading and then general notices. As a pianist, I played the piano for the hymn.
In lieu of the pastoral care, I did yard duty for half the daily lunch hour. Because England relied on teachers having relevant academic qualifications, there were no problems in my being employed and the school syllabus was identical with that taught at all other grammar schools. At that time in the UK, there were various levels of secondary schooling and Grammar Schools were geared to preparing students for tertiary education.
Well before I left the UK, salaries for female teachers were brought up to parity with male teachers with equivalent qualifications over a seven-year period, so coming to Australia was quite a shock on many issues.
Firstly, there was an element of time travel. Australia, in general, seemed to be about 10 years behind the UK on most issues and for Queensland, that gap was 20 years! Secondly, there were odd social differences which were gender-related. Women did not shake hands with men and at social functions, the men all kept in a bunch and predominantly seemed to talk sport, while the women also kept together.
Also. at major social functions where there was often a smorgasbord arrangement, I was amazed to see women queuing up with two plates, and waiting on their male partner, a complete reverse of what I was accustomed to. And if one of the women wanted to go to the toilet, they always seemed to go in pairs! The attitudes often reminded me of the experience of Leslie, the young woman at the centre of Edna Ferber’s novel ‘Giant’!
But the most confronting difference was religion and the pervasive influence of the Catholic Church!
We are literally in the throes of a dramatic change with the last of the jurisdictions, NSW – decriminalising abortion. And it is 2019!
The law allowing abortions to be delivered legally (after meeting several criteria) and free, under the NHS in the UK, was passed in 1967 and I had an abortion – legally – following contraceptive failure in 1969! THAT WAS HALF A CENTURY AGO!!
Small wonder that Australia not only seems to be behind the UK – but it also seems to be falling further behind. And it is religion – remember: Fred Nile is involved in this? – acting as the brake.
We now have a Prime Minister, whose strange and – to me – un-Christian cult is defying our Constitution and dragging us further into the thrall of those who misguidedly believe that religion should be our guide to life.
I have no quarrel with the ethics which are recorded as having been espoused by Jesus Christ. They are, for me, excellent guides to living in harmony with all others. “Do unto others as you would they would do unto you.”
But once you delve into the minutiae of the rules recorded in the Old Testament, the Torah (which has much in common with the OT) and the Qur’an, you realise that they are based on the then-current knowledge, yet science has advanced our knowledge massively, making those rules totally inappropriate for today’s world.
Cults like the Pentecostal and Evangelical bear little relation to the teachings of Jesus Christ, with his instructions to give to the poor, and mislead people into attitudes which are far from ethical.
The current – and in my view totally unnecessary – push for legislation to protect religious practices appears to me to be close to breaching Constitution S 116:
The Commonwealth shall not make any law for establishing any religion, or for imposing any religious observance, or for prohibiting the free exercise of any religion, and no religious test shall be required as a qualification for any office or public trust under the Commonwealth.
The current government seems to be ignoring the fact that Islam is well established for a minority of Australians, as are several other religions, a large proportion of us do not practice any religion, and – as has been only too well illustrated during the Same-Sex Marriage plebiscite and the Israel Folau family church hiatus – it is those claiming to be religious observers who are doing the damage!
This is a secular country. The Constitution leaves everyone free to practice – or not – their chosen religion. Many of us are agnostic or atheists as well as Muslim, Hindu, etc (the Buddhists practice a way of life which is generally less contentious) and, until John Howard decided to try to prevent SSM, we were all getting along just fine!
Please, can we ensure that modern science is taught in ALL schools, including the facts of the LGBTIQ sexuality spectrum, allow the safe schools project in ALL schools, to reduce inappropriate prejudices being retained because of ignorant parents, and let the religious practice in ways which do not harm the rest of the population!
We are all capable of thinking for ourselves – even our children, who are fighting a battle to force our recalcitrant government to accept the reality of the Climate Emergency and take action before it is too late to prevent the worst outcomes – and which will cause more harm to our children with their whole lives ahead of them!
BELIEVE THE SCIENTISTS, NOT THE RELIGIOUS NUTS!
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