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School Principals in Revolt

Cranbourne South Primary School Principal Joe Kelly. Photo: Michael Clayton-Jones (image from The Age)

Cranbourne South Primary School Principal Joe Kelly. Photo: Michael Clayton-Jones (image from The Age)

One interesting characteristic of an undersea earthquake or a tsunami is that, for the most part, it is silent until it reaches land. Using that as an analogy one could say an undersea earthquake has erupted within the ranks of Victorian school principals and their school councils and has reached land. Its objective: to end the practice of religious education programs in their schools. This earthquake arrived last week when a courageous school principal, Joe Kelly from Cranbourne Primary School, went public on the nature of Christian Religious Education (CRE), being provided by Access Ministries, the organisation providing the service to public schools in Victoria. Mr Kelly’s concerns were the subject of an article by Konrad Marshall in The Age newspaper on 17th February.

Mr Kelly stated that he would no longer allow Access Ministries in his school. “It is not education,” he said. “It has no value whatsoever. It is rubbish – hollow and empty rhetoric … My school teachers are committed to teaching children, not indoctrinating them.” The objection Mr Kelly and other school principals have is that Access Ministries is proselytising rather than informing; instructing rather than educating. Mr Kelly has also questioned the qualifications of the volunteers provided by Access Ministries stating that they are not professional teachers and undergo just six hours training before they are sent into schools. Meanwhile, the response to Konrad Marshall’s article was extraordinary to say the least, recording over 14,000 Facebook likes and 175 comments highlighting the concerns many parents have about faith-based religious education.

The article also brought a quick response from the Victorian Education Minister, Martin Dixon who appeared to give tacit support to the principals’ actions. He said he had “full confidence in school principals making decisions in the interests of their parent body and the school community”.

On Wednesday 26th February, the Wheeler Centre hosted an IQ² debate at the Melbourne Town Hall on the subject, ‘Faith-based Religious Education has no place in Public Schools.’ The debate attracted an audience of around 400 including parents, teachers and a smattering of otherwise unconnected but nevertheless interested people. Going back to the 19th century, education in Australia was to be compulsory, free and secular. By the 1950’s, however, ‘secular’ had disappeared and special religious instruction was taught in all states. Essentially what the Wheeler Centre debate discussed was the merit of the current model of volunteer church-run instruction as opposed to a balanced study of comparative religions which is the preferred model of the school principals and parents. Unavoidably and necessarily intertwined within this discussion was the central tenet of Australia’s democratic principle of the separation of church and state.

Prior to August 2011 Special Religious Instruction (SRI) in public schools operated under an ‘opt-out’ system where the parents were asked to complete a form requesting their child be exempt. The group ‘Fairness in Religion in Schools’ successfully campaigned to have that arrangement changed to function on an ‘opt-in’ basis. The result has meant a huge reduction in the numbers of children receiving CRE with one third of Victorian state schools no longer providing SRI programs at all. Letters to the editors in last weekend’s papers demonstrated overwhelming support for the actions of the school principals.

A few days after Konrad Marshall’s the article in The Age, the UK’s ‘National Secular Society’ picked up the feed contrasting it with their own debate on religious education in public schools with an opening sub-heading, “With widespread apathy about what passes for religious education in schools, our classrooms are increasingly being used by religious groups to carry out their missionary work. Terry Sanderson explains how Australian parents have led the way in removing evangelists from schools.” The story also found favour with the Richard Dawkins Foundation who re-posted it on their UK website attracting more comment.

The following weekend, Jill Stark in The Sunday Age revealed that Access Ministries had presented year 6 students at Torquay College in Victoria with Biblezines which included, “material claiming girls who wear revealing clothes are inviting sexual assault, and homosexuality, masturbation and sex before marriage are sinful.” The biblezines were presented to students who had successfully completed the Access Ministries CRE program.

Jill Stark wrote, “The material, produced by the News Corp-owned Nelson Bibles, America’s largest Christian publishing house, also “exposes the lie of safe sex”, claiming that condoms condone promiscuity, and urges those who think they are gay never to act on it.” Not surprisingly the outcry from parents and teachers was swift and unmistakeable. They called for an urgent overhaul of religious education in public schools.

Naturally enough Joe Kelly felt vindicated as did other school principals who had taken a similar stand. “This kind of material is disgraceful and this is why I strongly call upon the Education Department to instigate an immediate review of the practices of special religious instruction [SRI] providers with a view to having SRI taken out of our great public schools,” he said.

You can listen to an interview with Mr Kelly conducted by Samantha Donovan on the ABC Radio program, ‘The World today’ here.

The great irony in the broader debate on religious education in public schools becomes apparent when we note that a significant number of our political leaders in today’s federal parliament were taught in Catholic schools where Christian Religious Education was a driving force. When one considers the decisions made by this government and the previous two governments on the treatment of asylum seekers, we are entitled to ask if those decisions are a reflection of the Christian religious education they received and which they continue to practice.

Interestingly, the poll taken at the debate at the Melbourne Town Hall, after all the points for and against were presented, was 27% in favour of religious education in public schools, 2% undecided and 71% against. Given that governments generally show a tendency to be poll driven, perhaps they should all take note of that one too.

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  1. John Kelly

    Reblogged this on THE VIEW FROM MY GARDEN and commented:

    When one considers the decisions made by this government and the previous two governments on the treatment of asylum seekers, we are entitled to ask if those decisions are a reflection of the Christian religious education they received and which they continue to practice.

  2. Kaye Lee

    And yet the person tasked with reviewing our national curriculum has a different view….

    “There should be more religious education in Australian schools, says one of the men tasked with reviewing the national curriculum.

    Former teacher and ex-Liberal Party staffer Kevin Donnelly says Australian education has become too secular, and the federation’s Judeo-Christian heritage should be better reflected in the curriculum.”

    http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-01-11/curriculum-critic-wants-more-religion-to-be-taught-in-schools/5195410

  3. C@tmomma

    As a parent of children who have recently left the school system in NSW, may I just say that it was my and my husband’s contention that it was our decision whether we sent our children for religious instruction at their Public School and, in the broader context, whether they went to a Public or Private(Faith-based) school. We decided on a broad-based Public education for our kids. We believe they are more tolerant and inclusive as a result. If we had wanted them to be religiously indoctrinated we would have sent them to a religious school. Public Schools should be a haven away from religious indoctrination, it’s as simple as that. There are a lot of us out here who are proudly atheist, or at least agnostic.

    A Comparative Religion subject, taught by the class teacher, would be my choice for Public Schools as it would increase tolerance, not decrease it as the Access Ministries appear intent on doing and, basically, brainwashing the children in our Public Schools.

    This is not acceptable.

  4. Kaye Lee

    I would also like to know what a “Judeo-Christian heritage” means. Does it imply that Christianity has superceded Judaism? Christians have spent a millennium persecuting Jews. It is a phrase that means nothing.

  5. Kaye Lee

    Read about the two men who are going to do the curriculum review. I would have put an excerpt except the whole thing is too shocking. These two men are, in the space of a few months, going to change a curriculum that was 6 years in the making, with 26,000 submissions from concerned parties, and consultation and co-operation with all state and territory education departments. But these guys know better apparently.

    http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jan/10/the-men-behind-the-school-curriculum-review

  6. Jane Boswell

    Hi Kaye Lee, generally love your blogs and read with great interest. As a “Retired” CRE teacher and someone who attempted to get into the school chaplaincy programme, I don’t have a great deal of time for Access Ministries approach to CRE or their system of teaching, which I modified to suit my students. I did not “Brainwash” any of my students, but rather encouraged them to be better people and celebrate some aspects of the religious year. Apart from my failed attempt at Chaplaincy, Access ministries also hounded CRE teachers to donate money, to support their own ministry, something I refused to do. It is a pity, that CRE is seen in such a negative framework, there are many positives, however, there are many that approach it with that 19th century missionary zeal = which is not appropriate.
    Point 2 Kaye Lee, a Judeo Christian does not imply that Christianity has superseded the Jewish faith, Christianity has been based on Judaism and run side by side, however, to all of our shame, Christians have been guilty of the worst persecution of Jews since the time of Christ

  7. buzzztj

    Kaye Lee – I think in the manner that Pyne & co are using it, it means “Conservative ‘Christians’ who support Judeo-expansionism into the West Bank”
    With nutters like Barnyardi around it’s not too much of a stretch too see that there are likely others among the government who are keen to bring about the “end times”
    http://bit.ly/NKrxU7

  8. Kaye Lee

    Jane,

    My mother-in-law, aunt, and next door neighbour are all scripture teachers at our local schools. These are people I respect and admire and they have made many children feel special whilst teaching them all how to care for each other. They are also very active in many community projects, helping people wherever they can.

    I also had the experience of my daughter’s scripture teacher telling her kindergarten class that Santa Claus didn’t exist. This same daughter went on to study religion for the HSC but it was, as mentioned, a comparative religion study from which she learned a lot about tolerance of other cultures and religions. It took away much of the fear of the “different”.

    Religion is such a personal, individual thing that I am wary of untrained people teaching our children with no supervision. Many of them are fine people who no doubt have the best of intentions but I feel school is not the place to push one religion in front of others (unless of course you have purposely chosen a religious school).

  9. Terry2

    Good on you, Principal Kelly !

    In my humble view, we should only teach comparative world religions as an objective global overview, probably in Grade 10.

    Just as we value global cultural diversity so we should the inherent religious values embedded in these cultures but please let our children have a broad overview and allow them, when they are ready, to decide as adults if they want to support a particular faith or not.

  10. bjkelly1958

    I attended Christian Brother schools at both Primary and Secondary levels. At the primary level it was mainly focused on the Bible and the Mass. At secondary level it was about living our faith in our daily lives. Other religions were acknowledged but not examined, but there was no condemnation of them either. My parents chose to send me to Catholic schools, just as their parents chose the same for them. My children went to both Catholic and public schools and now have no interest in religion at all.

    I feel there should be “space’ for both public and faith based schools in our society, however I see no place for religion in public schools nor the teaching of hatred or intolerance of people of different faiths in faith based schools.

    Clearly, having the national curriculum reviewed by people who think there is not enough religion, and it would only be Christianity, in schools is a recipe for disaster.

  11. Catriona Thoolen

    I absolutely have a preference to Comparative Religions being taught. That way all the kids can still celebrate Christmas and Easter with the religious background as to how they came about. But also have an understanding of Jewish, Buddhist, Muslim, Shinto etc festivals and holidays. The variety of religions could be taught as part of geography and or history.

    The more our children are taught about the similarities between religions, the more tolerant they will able to be, both while young and as adults.

    I see no reason why a Christian ‘only’ view should be taught in public schools, particularly where larger % of children either come from non-religious or other religions families.

  12. Kaye Lee

    On that insidious wish list printed by the IPA is one that has really annoyed me.

    “Defund Harmony Day”.

    How much can it cost? At my nephews’ school the children wear rainbow colours and engage in a range of multicultural events where children from different backgrounds can tell their stories. In the lead-up they learn about different cultures through a variety of projects. Why on earth would you want to stop this wonderful event that teaches tolerance, cultural awareness and harmony?

  13. Ro Bailey

    I never objected to my kids having religious instruction at school although it wasn’t by Access Ministries in those days and these days I am an atheist. They didn’t have much influence on my kids though, I remember asking my daughter how school was that day and she replied “Oh it was boring Mum, we had that God lady again”.

  14. Kerri

    Lets hope the actions of these highly principled Principal’s is the beginning of a widespread revolt against the indoctrination and guilt laden religious claptrap. I have always regarded religion (apart from being comparable to the easter bunny or santa but without the gifts) as a hobby some choose to participate in. Those who are indoctrinated cannot help themselves and feel they must drag others into their fantasy world. One day i hope the god botherers are in the same category as “Trekkies” and Star Wars and Dr Who fans. In the meantime keep your bull to yourself.

  15. lawrencewinder

    Last century I was working as a teacher in a Catholic senior secondary school (aka:overfunded High School w/ ideology) and it was near the time of Keating losing to “LittleJohnny” when a conversation amongst some Y12 students (mostly from ethnic backgrounds) turned to the current politics and I was amazed at their vehement free market, anti-socialist opinions. I commented “…and what about social justice in all this?”
    “Geez, man”, one replied, “ya gotta live in the real world!” The reast assented.

  16. Keitha Granville

    The last one is so pertinent – childen are very astute. I am vehemently against religious instruction in public schools. The place for it is in a faith based school of which there are plenty. If I wanted my children to have religious instruction I would have sent them to my church or to bible studies. We should be very afraid of the plans that this government has for the national curriculum. Look at the US – creationsism is taking over from science. Speak up people, don’t let this happen to your children. Well done Joe Kelly.

  17. Anomander

    Propagating “lies to children” is a sick, perverted form of mind rape.

    As someone raised in a Christian household but now an avowed Atheist, I have serious problems with any one brand of religion being given access to children during their most formative years.

    Our children need analytical and problem solving skills more then they need the proselyting and moralising of religion, they need ethics classes that encompass challenging situations and decisions they will encounter in the modern world, not the limited dictates of some uneducated, insular, bigots whose outmoded beliefs should have died-out hundreds of years ago.

    While study the study of religion is crucial in understanding human history, society and psychology, it should be restricted until high school years when the children are old enough to comprehend, and make it independent of any particular belief system or church. A dispassionate analysis of ALL religions, including both the good AND the bad elements, the historical perspectives and the motivations, the moral stories alongside the crimes and atrocities committed.

  18. Stephen Tardrew

    How the hell are kids to be creative learners if their heads are filled with magical and mythical subjective ideologies. I studied comparative religion and science to discover what the interplay between science and religion is.

    I have said it before and I will say it again that scientific facts have preeminence over magical and mythical thinking in a technological society of increasing complexity and multifaceted threats.

    The history of religion is a broad brush of brutality, wars, dogmatism and intolerance. The old testament is cruel violent and retributive and if that is what is in store for our kids “God help us.”

    The problem is not religion per se it is one of intrinsic compassion and love for our fellow beings regardless of beliefs, dogmas and naive atheism.

    If we cannot see the debilitating effects of irrational ideological intolerance how the hell ore we gong to build a new society of justice, equity and utility?

    This madness, and madness it is, is destroying the environment and subjecting many to poverty and intolerable suffering. When religions are replete with contradictions, inconsistencies, paradoxes and victim blame almost anything can be justified in the name of religion and God. And to any rational observer it obviously is the case from the selflessness of generous and caring individuals, to religious fundamentalist retribution, they are drawn from the same texts. There is no way to logically resolve these false equivalences and contradiction within the texts themselves. You give one quote and it will immediately be contradict with another.

    Before religion left me I discover a depth of love and insight free from and religious ideology or imposed atheistic nihilism and narcissism.

    In the West we have judgement blame and retribution while in the East sin, karma, reincarnation and endless lives of suffering await us and yet we individually create nothing.

    You see insight is the courage to stand alone free in your own love without the necessity for confirmation by some ideologue or functionary who does not understand direct insight yet is immersed in a system of hierarchical power and control.

    I do not want to vilify my religious friends however when their paradigm is so rife with irrationality, contradictions and injustice almost anything is possible. We only have to witness the diverse actions of religious believers to question the validity of their theological underpinnings.

    Love is simple and straight forward while theology is bound up in endless polemic debate trying to resolve and justify endless irrationality and inconsistencies.

    Our kids will need to learn to stand alone in their own insight. If we do no provide them with the tools of critical thinking and deep and abiding love for the universe then God help us.

    The cost will be more of the same.

  19. Wayne T

    I grew-up in what most would consider a ‘cult’ (Brethren), but managed an escape at the age of 19. I have, as you may imagine, a somewhat antagonistic view towards religion in any form, and it took many years of self re-education (and therapy) to relieve myself of the burden of ‘guilt’ I was taught daily to accept as my natural state, not to mention the accompanying prejudices and fear of ‘others’.

    Most western religions boil down to the concept of good = go to heaven, bad = go to hell, (or the even more sinister bad, but say sorry = still go to heaven) That is NOT something a child under the age of 16 is capable of assessing and interpreting with anything remotely resembling critical analysis, nor should they ever be made to.

    My son’s primary school offers ethics classes as an alternative to ‘scripture’ (or whatever label you want to put on it), which I truly believe to be far more valuable in terms of life lessons and morals than beard-in-the-sky twaddle. I can also only imagine what he would have made of those Biblezines, considering his mum & dad are divorced, and one of his best friends has two mums.

    I agree with Anomander and other posters, by all means offer comparative religion as a subject in Senior, but FFS, let kids be kids without filling them full of self-worth issues, bigotries and prejudices before they even reach puberty. They get enough of that sort of pressure as is from today’s media and advertising in general.

  20. Bazzio

    Anyone who has seriously studied theology would have uncovered the Truth and been consequently ‘set free’, especially those studying Catholicism. Edmond Bordeaux Székely found this Truth in the Vatican Secret Archives, showed it to the Pope & Cardinals, and was subsequently excommunicated.
    In religion, Where Lies the Truth is really where Truth Lies

  21. JAQ

    The name of the game in education today is not education, but indoctrination, and instruction. Not only do we have a biased view of religion, supposedly Christian in which our children are taught belief in Jesus is the only belief, we have in Queensland, the John Fleming model of ” education’ in which children are basically, taught to repeat everything after the teacher.
    We are back to the 1800’s….

  22. Fed up

    Jane, the problem as I see it, we have no way of knowing not only what some scripture teachers are teaching, we have no idea of what they are telling our kids. None at all.

  23. Matters Not

    Stephen Tardrew said:

    Before religion left me …

    Yes, ‘religion’ has a life of its own? Free to come and go as it pleases? Not sure about that.

    And John Lord said elsewhere:

    For example, the term Liberal means an entirely different thing … (Then)

    And in the United Kingdom it takes on another meaning

    These terms that ‘have a life of their own’? Really? Words defining themselves?

    Then we have:

    Even Democracy itself has interpretations that take on complex variances from country to country. Socialism takes on many shades of grey often depending on an historical time frame

    The statements above suggest that religion ‘leaves’ people. That the word ‘liberal’ ‘takes on ‘different’ meanings in different countries. That the word ‘democracy’ and ‘socialism’ takes on many ‘shades of grey’..

    Can anyone connect the dots? ‘Words’ and ‘concepts’ do not have a life of their own. Words and concepts are human constructs. To be somewhat ridiculous, does anyone suggest that ‘brick walls’ (made by humans) develop a life of their own? Such as, change the ‘task’ they do? I suspect not

    Yet we (probably most) blindly accept that ‘religion’ leaves people. That words like ‘liberal’ mean entirely ‘different things’ in different locations.

    Is it just possible, that it’s ‘people’ who create ‘words/concepts’ and give meaning to same and it’s people who ‘leave religion’ rather than a human construct leaving such people? Think about it, beliefs ‘leaving people’? Please.

    Further, is it just possible that the term ‘liberal’ is ‘given’ different meanings by different people in certain socio-historical locations? You know, it’s not the humanely constructed ‘words’ being in charge but their creators? Please.

    What I am suggesting that people take individual responsibility for the ‘intellectual’ world they create, and at a fundamental epistemological level.

    Just sayin ..

  24. Judy Rand

    No. I don’t want my children taught Christianity at school. Happy to have them learn about different cultures and religions equally, but not just one, as though it were assumed we all subscribe to that faith.

  25. Matters Not

    Stephen Tardrew said:

    How the hell are kids to be creative learners if their heads are filled with magical and mythical subjective ideologies

    Indeed! But I’m not sure how one has ‘objective’ ideologies as opposed to ‘subjective ideologies’. But it matters not.

    Then:

    scientific facts have preeminence over magical and mythical thinking in a technological society of increasing complexity and multifaceted threats

    Yep! At least, I would hope so. But I’m not sure it’s the reality, however defined. Then we have this:

    If we do no provide them with the tools of critical thinking and deep and abiding love for the universe then God help us

    I prefer not to outsource responsibility to any human constructed ‘god’. I prefer your wish to ‘provide them with tools of critical thinking’.

    And I don’t believe that such skills include ‘gods’.

  26. oldfart

    Tony Abbot really surprises me, here is a man who says”paying a tax (carbon)on something you cant see, smell, taste or measure” yet he expects parents to consent to allowing their kids to take classes and be examined in “something you cant see,smell, taste or measure” Sky fairies and pollies have caused more problems for mankind than anything else.

  27. Stephen Tardrew

    Matters not I said nothing about God.

    The argument about human constructs is also up for grabs for if the universe is primarily deterministic then there is no choice and there is not human construct. They are simply configurations in the probability matrix. In this respect we create nothing we simply follow the sum over history trajectories as subatomic probabilities map onto the material probabilities rendered by mind in phenomenal reality.

    Arguments abound in the philosophy of science and mind concerning the illusion of consciousness and the illusion of time. Yet there is so little understanding of mind and time that the only solution is to posit an illusion when anything extant is of itself absolutely necessary and therefore the term illusion is fallacious. The likes of Paul Davies (a serious philosopher and physicist) holds relentlessly to this nonsense as does Daniel Dennet a doyen of philosophy of mind. Dennet has now become a free will compatibalist which contradicts the great body of his logical empirical and determinist methodology. And if you have studied free will you will know that the compatibalist and incompatibalist schools lack knockout proof. As usual with the supervenience of micro-physical laws onto phenomenal reality the solution will lie somewhere in between. (particle wave duality; non-locality; CPT symmetry violations; Schrodinger’s Cat, the Copenhagen interpretation, free parameters in the standard model, Godel’s incompleteness, matter antimatter symmetry violations, mathematical Platonism; the essential use of infinity in geometry; mathematics and calculus etc.) Solve these paradoxes and you can claim to know otherwise we are very much left in the dark.

    You can’t crack a problem simply by selecting certain statements without giving the broad scope of your theoretical basis for making such comments.

    Benjamin Libet’s delayed action response experiments puts action before thought which leaves the whole argument of choice and free will up for grabs: or actually kills it off together. As for the distinction between objective reality and subjective space I have previously explained that the closure of finely tuned laws and constants in material reality dramatically constrain degrees of freedom as opposed to unit volume complexity and feed back mechanism in neurological space which fabricates subjective renderings. These renderings provide a sense of self as enhanced degrees of freedom allow us to produce religion, art and literature form our subjective fears and imaginations thus projecting wishes, hopes and desires for happiness, security peace and love. We create none of this. These complex abstractions (just read a few quality science fiction books or watch some movies) are themselves a necessary part of the unfolding matrix of potentialities. To foreclose upon the dynamic potentialities derived from exponential growth in technology and creative abstractions in virtual reality is to put the cart before the horse. We do not have enough forward vision to understand the vast dynamic potentiality and emergent laws that will radically reconfigure our understanding of our place in nature in future epochs. If you have a basic understanding of the laws of physics then you will realize paradox lies at the hart of mathematics, calculus, and linguistics so language is not the great arbiter of proof or truth.

    The Gestalt renderings of complex systems is always more than the sum of its component parts ergo reductionism is undone.

    As for the notion of God it is predicated upon subject and object whereas for a Webberian no-dual detached observer notions of love and infinity cannot be divided from opposites because, in their essence, the are stand alone holistic configurations of their immediate renderings in subjective space.

    I could go into the complexities of mathematical and conceptual infinity and their relationship to exemplification, self-organization and the matrix of potentialities however space limits my response.

    Hope this helps.

  28. John Kelly

    Stephen, you say, “As for the notion of God it is predicated upon subject and object whereas for a Webberian no-dual detached observer notions of love and infinity cannot be divided from opposites because, in their essence, the are stand alone holistic configurations of their immediate renderings in subjective space.”

    I like discussing the notion of God, so, could you translate the above for me into street English?

  29. Stephen Tardrew

    OK John.

    Try to keep it simple but that’s going to be a bit of a struggle.

    Max Webber was in a way a naive non-dualist who uses undivided witnessing to formulate sociological models based upon observation and empirical evidence. Kant was probably the only traditional philosopher who dealt with non-dualism to some extent with his notions of phenomena the object of observation and its explanatory and descriptive elements and noumenal thing-in-itself.

    The influential Eastern philosopher Nagarjuna is the seminal non-dualist who many contemporary philosopher now study, when if fact you can and cannot study Nagarjuna because his philosophy is the negation of all statements demonstrating the emptiness of all things in own-being of the thing-in-itself. Nagarjuna had a direct influence upon Chan and Zen Buddhism as well as Advaita (non-dualist) Vedanta. Words are just words. All descriptors are archetypal metaphors and exemplars that cannot touch the thing-in-itself. He used the term sunya (loosely interpreted as void) and yet to be self-realized even the term void is to be voided. The idea is that insight into the nature of being is eternal omnipresent timeless and cannot be rendered in the duality of subject and object because they are inevitably dualistic and incomplete. (Godel’s Incompleteness theorem). Awareness demands giving up all beliefs in fact he claimed that to find insight all the Buddhist sutras (teachings) had to be dispensed with all together.

    This is why Zen teachers use paradoxical koans to shock the mind out of its habitual patterns to see through the veil of language and assumption. Mind is after all a temporary biochemical artifact of physicalism so memories and thoughts cannot be the enduring omnipresent ground of all being. As you can imagine this put the cat amongst the pigeons because sunyata voided the whole notion of rebirth, sin, karma, judgment, blame, retribution and reincarnation and it is not well understood that Zen Buddhist see reincarnation as the moment by moment passage of mind through time. Mind is dependent upon its original experience and is therefore removed from the omnipresent thing in itself. It habitually repeats whatever it has accumulated as belief and experience.

    I have had profound experiences however I was completely disillusioned with religion because I have a strong predilection for science. My personal understanding was validated when I understood that time in relativity theory exists en-block: that is every moment in time is forever conserved in Minkowski space. This is an accepted and demonstrable effect of relativity theory and the fact that gravity and velocity change time means that, in essence, every persons time frame is slightly different. GPS has to be adjusted to account for time dilation.

    Psychological time is an incredible dilemma for physicist and philosophers which has not been adequately resolved. The upshot is that the flowing through cannot be encapsulated in the block-time meta-matrix and so the essence of time and flow is non-dual ground of existence.

    Nagarjuna equated no-dualism with infinity, non-attachment, non-judgement, compassion, forgiveness and love for there is no-one to judge and no-one to be judged.

    Absolute Love and infinity rises naturally and effortlessly out of the trans-verbal and trans-symbolic foundation of being and is omnipresent and pervasive.

    Love and infinity stand alone and require no symbol or metaphor for they are what they are timeless and non-dual. No ideology or belief system can exploit what can only be self evident as the thing-in-itself. No God, no authority no dogma: just Love.The relative world is temporary and primarily deterministic. The Buddha clearly understood causation. Sunyata is omnipresent timeless, birthless, deathless and non-dual.

    Non-dualism is the silent witness that has no opinion or belief in opposites. It looks through even as the temporal mind and ordinary ego-self go about their daily life just as any other person with pleasure, pain and hardship like anyone else. Non-dualist do not see themselves as apart or special since everything is interconnected. (some more physics required)

    I have tried to compress non-dualism into a manageable construct however to see though mind its is necessary to let go of attachment to description and explanation. Description never makes explanations as explanations do not make descriptions. It is and infinite regress. Love is love alone. It is what we all are.

    The missing part here is a theoretical and mathematical understanding of infinity which will lead directly to non-dualism but not space to go into that.

    Don’t want to change minds just trying to answer your question.

    Bit nervous about posting this here but there you go.

  30. abbienoiraude

    @Anomander said it all for me.

    “You have to be taught before its too late, before you are six or seven or eight, to hate all the people your relatives hate…..”etc ( “South Pacific”)

    “Give me a boy before he is seven…..” (Jesuits?)

    So I think primary school is no place for ‘religious studies’. We did send our three to a Catholic school for a couple of years ( funny for atheists to do but the Principal was a man of principles where in a Qld public system it was rife with violence and abuse covering) where they learned the Catholic way of thinking. (Wish there had been an ethics class…even I would have attended that!!)
    Each afternoon I would pick them up from school take them home and whilst they had a snack I would ‘de-brief’ them on what they had learned that day. It took effort and dedication. I told them how other denominations (Xtian) and other faiths saw the same ‘events’ in the world, in nature, in life.

    Now they are all in their 30’s. Son lives overseas and has a curiosity about Taoism but not a devotee. Second child is a declared ‘agnostic’. Third child a believer in ‘doing good and being nice’ because she is simply a thinking caring person.
    So I think for two parents who became atheists in their 40’s we have managed to produce three free thinking privately curious and tolerant adults, who are nice people.

    Thanks to the school principals in Victoria …I hope the word spreads!

  31. John Kelly

    Stephen, No need to be nervous. I don’t think anyone will understand it, so I think you’re safe. I’m an Atheist so I guess I don’t have to bother understanding it, either.

  32. Stephen Tardrew

    John the point is that science and paradox go hand in had and there are some profound mysteries that are legitimately metaphysical but not religious. There is a distinct difference. The problem is one has to search them out to discover they do not support determinism and closure. Two recent examples are recovery of paradox in the Cheshire Cat experiment demonstrating that subatomic paradoxes are not extinguishes in phenomenal reality: wave state variability which demonstrates that particle wave states can exist in a 20% – 80% or 50% – 75% – and any other ratio and fascinatingly in a 50% – 50% ratio which supports Schrodinger’s dead and alive cat analogy. The implications of the multiverse and infinite universes is incredibly profound and cannot be explained in terms of absolutes of religion or atheism.

    Philosopher of science Thomas Kuhn demonstrated that science is value laden and that revolutionary discoveries are incommensurable with the old. The point is there have been so many profound changes in cosmology and physics that what we thought we knew has been radically revised and sadly not available in the public domain. Non-dualism sits outside of both religious ideology and scientific closure and determinism. It is a philosophy not a religion that explains more than our current reductive models do. The late Richard Feynman and one of the most important physicists of our time Leonard Suskind clearly state that if anyone thinks they know what is going on here they are kidding themselves. It is this sense of mystery awe and wonder that drives innovation and imagination in sciences as we are entering radically new textures of existence with the onset of exponential growth in technology, general, artificial intelligence, self-replicating machines and virtual reality everything is going to be up for grabs.

    At the origins of the universe there was a billion to one asymmetry that led to a surplus of matter over anti matter which seems to supervene as dualities of fights an flight as well as pleasure and pain. Most people have a heavy preference for happiness, self-sufficiency, peace contentment and love so there is a weighted preference for happiness and love implicit within biological and subjective space.

    Metaphysics is the area of hypothesis making and when our knowledge is wanting then our scientific constructs are metaphysical not factual. Quantum effects have been shown to operate at room temperature in photosynthesis, neurological microtubles, bird navigation and DNA double helix. We are continually breaking new ground which dramatically changes the core paradigms of science. All the information in our universe can be projected onto a two dimensional plain and there is no reason to assume that three dimensions cannot be projected onto a four dimensional matrix which is already achieved mathematically with polytopes.The degrees of freedom in these higher dimensional frameworks are enormous. If every moment in time is, as Einstein demonstrated, eternally imprinted beginnings and ends are in some sense subjective constructs. We do not know enough to reduce existence to a finite set of temporary material forms because the matrix is far too complex to be reduced to material closure.

    Infinity is implicitly bound up in mathematics, calculus and geometry and so the textures of potential projections in subjective space are enormous. We honestly know very little and to foreclose on metaphysical potentiality and hope to love and goodness is to forestall upon unrealized possibilities.

    Young people need hope and so the fabric of our minds can and do develop abstract possibility far in excess of our current empirical understanding. The point is no one has proven, or can,prove, absolute knowledge therefore it is critical to stay open to unknown possibilities. as Arthur C Clark noted any sophisticated alien intelligence will appear magical and mysterious to us so the potentialities are, in the respect of block-time, already there.

    Our schools are failing abysmally to keep our youth and general population informed of the profound changes in science, psychology and philosophy. Twentieth century logical empiricism is redundant due to uncertainty, incompleteness and paradox.

    All I am saying is be open to possibilities. There is a selective reason why magic and mythology predate rational thinking leading to innovation in the arts that role out in to avaunt guard abstractions that have coherent aesthetic form.

  33. Matters Not

    Stephen Tardrew said:

    Hope this helps.

    Yes and no but I’m not sure at this point whether you’re talking about you or me -re the helping. I understand that ‘assertions’ and the like have cathartic effects and sometimes cathartic affects. So I’m unsure at this point about the ‘helping notion’.

    You did say

    I said nothing about God

    Yet if you care to re-read your earlier comment you might acknowledge, the record shows you said:

    March 3, 2014 • 2:10 pm critical thinking and deep and abiding love for the universe then God help us.

    Must admit for a confirmed atheist, I was surprised. But it matters not.

    As for:

    All I am saying is be open to possibilities. There is a selective reason why magic and mythology predate rational thinking leading to innovation in the arts that role out in to avaunt (sic) guard abstractions that have coherent aesthetic form

    While I agree (I think), I will in future be reluctant to ‘engage’.

    I am now walking slowly backward but keeping a close eye on …

    Just sayin ..

  34. Stephen Tardrew

    Fair enough Matters Not the use of God was a colloquialism but point taken. Just a bit of fun. I do like jousting and ideas are good food for thought. I know a lot of people who want some alternative to religion and hard headed atheism and I am not trying to convince you of anything just having a discussion. I stick to the physics because psychology is complex and open to a variety of interpretations.

    Personal experience does have something to do with it and sometimes there are things best left not said because of the complexities. As you see I agree with things like psychophyisical parallelism however there is one deep mystery involving time and mind and implicit paradoxes.The problem is that paradox and counterintuitives are not open to propositional logic and there is a lot of confusion as to how they emerge out of a purely causal and deterministic universe. Too many unsolved problems for my liking. The science is far from bedded down yet one would hope that we do not preempt, or exclude, possibilities that may conflict with entrenched beliefs. I do think that Kuhn’s point about incommensurability is critical though many tried to water down his original thesis without success.

    My final point is that there are more things than mice and men can know with certainty and the science definitely supports such a contention. It seem to me unwise to accept any type of absolutes when so much is up for grabs. Infinity and mathematical Platonism are definitely high up amongst those dilemmas.

  35. Fed up

    I have always thought, that we focus on religion too much, in many international and national conflicts.

    I first came to this conclusion back in the days of the Irish troubles.

    Yes, it was always portrayed as Catholic versus Prostestants, but was this the real cause of the troubles.

    I do not believe so. It was more about poverty versus those with the money and power. Catholics were poor, and had no control over their lives.

    Yes, it was more a contest between the Irish people, and the British who had invaded their country. The fact that they came from different religions was just a side show.

  36. Fed up

    When was young, every day in the news, one would read of another tragedy within Ireland, and even on the streets of Britain.

    Yes, it was always the protestants fighting the catholics.

    At the same time, I had friends living in Villawood. Living next door to each other., Yes, they were great friends. Yes, they were Irish, from each side of the fence. No problems living together in this country. This could nbothat occur in the Ireland of the time.

    No problem with religion here.

    No, we need to look past religion and address the real problems that separate many.

  37. The Age of Blasphemy

    Reblogged this on The Age of Blasphemy and commented:
    “With widespread apathy about what passes for religious education in schools, our classrooms are increasingly being used by religious groups to carry out their missionary work. Terry Sanderson explains how Australian parents have led the way in removing evangelists from schools.” The

  38. silkworm

    Atheists need to get together to come up with a curriculum that can be taught in public schools.

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