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Warning Scripture replaced by new type of Theism

“Morality cannot be derived from myths,” writes Hugh Harris as he illustrates the problems with promoting unverifiable beliefs. But what do we replace them with?

Placating the Reverend Fred Nile and the various religious lobbies is no easy task, but the NSW Government has taken to it with Yes Minister style obtuseness and Baldrick-like cunning. Maintaining its cuddly relationship with Scripture enthusiasts, the government has spent $300k on a comprehensive report, waited 18 months to release it (just before Easter), and then refused to accept most of the recommendations.

Particularly brazen, was both the refusal to include Ethics on the enrolment form, and continuing to prevent non-participating students from proceeding with curriculum learning while Scripture was conducted. Both, the NSW Secondary Principals’ Council, and the NSW P & C Federation expressed disappointment and mystification at this outcome.

So, in the wake of this ongoing debacle – and like the phantom from Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol – I’d like to offer the advocates of Scripture a disturbing glimpse into Australia’s atheistic yet-to-come. Christianity is in freefall in Australia: the 2016 Census result will show non-belief overtaking Catholicism as the most popular category. Soon, classes in Secular Humanism and Rationalism will appear in Victorian schools as part of “Learning about world views and religions”. Although these classes will be educational rather than evangelical, it’s not hard to imagine an increasingly irreligious society acquiescing to a more muscular approach to teaching nonreligious worldviews.

Imagine the following inverse scenario: State governments have become beholden to irreligious lobby groups, demanding to protect their freedom to promote their naturalistic belief systems. Perhaps we even have an antitheist holding the balance of power.

And now that the metaphysical wheel has come full circle, we atheists will band together, gather up our copies of “God is not Great – Religion Poisons Everything” by Christopher Hitchens, and begin offering evangelical classes in a new type of Theism. Yes – Antitheism! Just like Scripture, classes will be deceptively marketed as “educational”, and a benign “introduction”, but in practice they will be all-out, Hitchens-like assaults on religion, aimed at ridding children, once and for all, of the human susceptibility and credulity towards the supernatural.

After enduring a century or so of state school Bible-bashing, it’s about time. We have developed a non-believer’s version of the Lausanne movement – the Christian group committed to entreating children into fellowship with Jesus, based on research showing that if they don’t embrace the Lord before the age of 13 they likely never will. Our secular version will scare the bejesus and Jesus out of young children, warning them off celestial tyrants for life.

You’re not a teacher? Don’t worry, we’ll give you the Antitheism crash course, some angry YouTube videos, and a sober pep talk on the importance of brainwashing other people’s children.

We’ve had plenty of time to plan the rise of evangelical antitheism. While Scripture classes segregated us from our friends and frittered away hours of our childhood, we were in the other room, brooding quietly– imagine Damien from Damien the Omen – and secretly plotting revenge.

We envisaged the sort of spine-tingling, dystopian future that would chill the blood of any good Scripture teacher. Same-sex marriage is law. Evidence-based laws and regulations with appropriate limitations allow abortion, euthanasia and stem cell research. And with religious exemptions removed from anti-discrimination law, no-one has to lie about their sexuality or pretend to believe in ancient myths to secure employment.

Finally, in state schools, Bible classes have made way for supercharged Antitheism, administered with the same deceptive policies which currently fail to regulate Scripture. Who approves and vets lesson content? No-one.

Parents who fail to be vigilant enough to opt their children out, will find them automatically enrolled into Antitheism. And – accidents will happen – even devout children will suddenly find themselves being told matter-of-factly that there is no God. There’s no heaven or hell either, kids. And by the way, we disapprove of your superstitious parents.

Kids will be Hitch-slapped with the absurdity of the Christian idea that our lives are governed by a God so powerful, he created an unfathomably vast universe with trillions of planets; and yet, is such an inveterate gossip and all-knowing busybody, that he insists on listening to the prayers of every single person on the planet.

Supplanting current day Scripture classes presenting the Bible as “factual” and “historical”, our classes will pillory the “good” book as a litany of fables and comical morality tales. No kids, people did not reside inside of whales, joyride upon Dinosaurs, nor live for 600 years before deciding to have children. Koala’s did not wave goodbye to Noah and leap from tree to tree all the way to Australia without leaving any trace anywhere else.

Morality cannot be derived from myths. Anthropology has shown that Adam and Eve did not exist, thus original sin is bunk. Prohibitions against murder appeared in civilisations predating Christianity and Judaism, well before the supposed Mt. Sinai summit of Moses and God.

That will bring us to the end of term, and our “God is dead” Sombrero party, climaxing spectacularly with the smashing of a lolly-filled Pinyata of Christ the Redeemer.

But we won’t repeat some of the more desperate Christian SRE classes, such as those encouraging instructors to bring in dead animals to dissect, simulating beheadings, age-inappropriate vampire lessons, comparing kids to dirty towels in need of cleansing, and threatening young children or their parents with death.

Nonetheless, Scripture advocates might justifiably recoil from this dread atheistic future. But this future is not inevitable. Take it as a warning of what’s in store unless we change our ways. Perhaps, after all, there is something to be said for a non-discriminatory and comparative approach to teaching religion in state schools. And hopefully the idea of obtruding unverifiable beliefs onto children may seem a little less appealing.

 

Hugh Harris is an architect, columnist, and member of the Rationalist Society of Australia.

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). Hugh blogs at rationalrazor.com.

 

Recent articles:

Christianity no longer a central part of Australian life – Rendezview The Daily Telegraph 17 April 2017

Fundamentalist Islam and rise of Alt-Right go hand in hand – Courier Mail 25 January 2017

Scientology’s personality test said I have “no real reason to live” – The Daily Telegraph 13 January 2017

Trying to Silence Unwelcome Views Only Perpetuates Them – The Huffington Post Australia 6 September 2016

Queensland’s abortion law among the most repressive in world and must change – The Courier Mail 9 August 2016

Parents should worry about religious education materials –  The Sydney Morning Herald 07/06/2016

The Church and its weakening grip over Telstra and taxes – ABC’s The Drum 14 April 2016

The horrifying religious instruction classes planned for Qld schools – Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, The Brisbane Times 20 April 2016

Queensland law should reflect public support for abortion – The Brisbane Times 07 April 2016

We Should Be Promoting Freedom of Belief, Not Religious Freedom – ABC’s The Drum 22 October2015

A Letter to Gun Obsessed America From a Concerned Australian – The Daily Banter 18/12/15

 

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21 comments

  1. Graham Parton

    Loved it.

  2. Tim

    Oh good, another article talking about right wing politics and assuming all Christians are like that.

    News Flash its possible to be significantly more left wing than Mainstream Australia and way more socially progressive than the majority of the country while ALSO being Christian.

    I just don’t get it, you keep touting the declining numbers and yet in your rational world that would mean that we are making huge progress on these issues you keep talking about, we aren’t or those issues aren’t fought along Religious lines. The Majority of Christians aren’t against Same-Sex Marriage.

    If you were truly rational you would be pushing people to the left by calling out the hundreds of left wing quotes from the bible. That’s what the right does (oh btw the people really in charge of the right are also atheist meaning Christianity isn’t the “Ultimate Enemy™”). They use Christianity as a tool by pushing certain quotes (generally out of context) so people ignore the majority of what they are doing. Rationally it would make sense not to fight the entire religion but ally with the part of the religion that shares every single value you do except belief in a higher power. Whose policy when it comes to living a “natural” life is identical to your own. The best part? They are following the bible.

    Consistently on this website its mentioned that the right are corrupt, why is it so hard to admit that Christianity is fundamentally a left wing religion. You don’t have to agree with the spiritual side to get that it would make sense that the right uses religion to push their agenda.

    Surely it would long term make sense even if you were a Anti-Theist that having a person who shares all your values save belief would be easier to debate in a rational way allowing for a real discussion on the issue instead of a right wing deflection like we get every single damn time a religious person debates an atheist.

    What an article like this does is signal that you don’t care about what the majority of Christians think in terms of policy but a few people who don’t represent them (ie from a different denomination) are allowed to paint all Christians with the same brush. What this will do is push genuine left wing Christians away from those policies and ultimately prolong the left and right struggle in a time when we cannot afford to be still fighting over it (Climate Change etc).

  3. Alan Baird

    If christianity is a left wing religion, it happened very recently ‘cos in history they’ve generally been in alliance with the local lord and his mates. Often the local lord was the religious head as well. In early Oz history they were pretty conservative, even from a quite right wing perspective. Nowadays there are some more enlightened christians but the really powerful ones are the singularly UNenlightened ones who are often the noisiest and allied with right wing in politics. They tend to mimic and adopt the most strenuously conservative memes from extremists in the USA, and they can trace their genesis back “moral majority” types.
    Apart from that, I find it very hard to devote enormous emphasis on an invisible entity and its interface with the planet, even if it WAS a bit left wing. There is more than enough trouble with the hordes of very ordinary humans in the here and now. Many of them continue to call on their entity daily with little effect, and with no discernible influence in their favour from any particular tribal version of the entity, even though their particular entity may have its own very distinct rules. Enough!

  4. Harold Hodson

    The scriptures tell us that this will happen thats why Gods wrath is coming.

  5. Pingback: Warning Scripture replaced by new type of Theism | Rationalist Society of Australia

  6. guest

    “God’s wrath is coming”. Thank you, Harold. Are you being ironical?

    There is enough of God’s wrath in scripture. God flooded the Earth out of wrath at one time, according to scripture – fire next time, we are to believe. Something to look forward to. Sounds like the end of the solar system in umpteen billion years time.

    And the God of Israel smote many enemies to protect the Children of Israel, his chosen people. And send his son, also divine, apparently, to die on the cross – but the son rose up into heaven and sits on the right hand of God. Sounds like the Greek gods residing on Mount Olympus.

    In fact, if one were to look more widely, such ideas about death and resurrection appear in all kinds of myths and are not pertaining only to Christianity. And rules about behaviour are not confined to the Christian religion either, but are widespread. The ten commandments are not the result of some kind of special reasoning on the part of Christians or Jews. Anyway, Christ brought a new testament which did away with the idea of an eye for an eye which had prevailed for so long under the old testament.

    When one looks at the condition of the world, it is hard to believe it is observed by a loving god who sees even a sparrow fall. Nor is it possible to believe that all this chaos is the result of some original sin in the Garden of Eden.

    By all means, let people believe all this if they wish, and let their faith hold out against all criticism, but when we see Christians bombing people who are innocent, such as children, and religions which worship basically the same god tearing at each others’ throats, then we have to wonder: What is the point?

    We are too easily trapped in our “mind-forged manacles” (Blake) is the sad truth.

  7. Susan

    ‘God’s wrath’ – one definition of ‘wrath’ is vengeance or punishment as the consequence of anger.
    According to the rationale of that scripture you quote, Mr or Mrs God gets ‘angry’ at his/her creations and then lashes out at said creations. Okay, I make a pot of clay, it’s a piece of junk, I get angry at the pot of junk and throw it at the TV. Who is stupid, me or the pot?

    Try this thought and see if it works:
    God is a source of divine love, this world a testing ground of challenges.
    There are only failures in time.

  8. Zathras

    Christianity is definitely not a left-wing religion in the USA.

    Here are what some of it’s more outspoken representatives have been up to in support of Donald Trump – http://www.rightwingwatch.org/

    We hear reports about crazy Muslims in the media almost daily but did we hear anything locally about the Baptist Minister who was deported from Botswana for hate-speech against gays or the other Minister who married a 10 year-old girl from his congregation or the one who claims Starbucks is spiking their Lattes with semen to turn men gay?

    How about the taxpayer-funded Noah’s Ark Theme Park that not only claims that there were dinosaurs on the Ark but that Roman gladiators once battled them in arenas? This is what some seriously want taught in schools in place of evolution.
    That’s just some random examples in a very very long and often scary list.

    Once they just used to yell from the sidelines but now the “Guilt and Shame Industry” is deeply embedded in all facets of society and especially in politics. The National Liberal Party for example is heavily influenced by the NSW Branch (previously called the “NSW Uglies”) whose leader is in Opus Dei (as are many prominent people). Likewise there was suspected political donation money laundering involved taxpayer in payments to The Exclusive Brethren coming back via a Tasmanian shelf company set up for just that purpose.

    A Federal ICAC would reveal much but as long as the parties are controlled by vested religious interests it seems unlikely.

  9. Maeve Carney

    If parents want their children to be subjected to religious indoctrination that’s one thing (although one has to wonder why they can’t just send them to Sunday School instead), but to deny the other children the right to actually learn something is utterly wrong and completely unjustifiable.

  10. Tim

    it appears you have conflated what people push as doctrine as opposed to the actual teachings, lets go through it shall we.

    -Jesus fed the 4 thousand and the 5 thousand, for free, This can be related to welfare.
    -Jesus healed the sick, you could liken that to healthcare, again for free.
    -Jesus said a rich man would have an easier time getting a camel through the eye of a needle than into heaven, you can take this 2 ways either literally impossible or the secret passage in Jerusalem where a camel carrying gold etc can’t fit. either way its saying the acquisition of wealth will stop spiritual enlightenment essentially
    -Jesus overturned the money changers in the temple, Royal commission into Banks anyone?
    -Jesus healed the ear on the soldier who was arresting him, violence doesn’t solve problems?
    -Acts 2:44-45 “All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need.” oh look left wing ideology literally got its talking points from the bible, also feel free to read around that particular text, its not out of context.

    I could list a hell of a lot more too. These things are only modern in the sense that for hundreds/thousands of years the rich and right wing have ignored these particular things in order to push their own agenda. That however isn’t a stain on the teachings themselves.

    As for belief in the spiritual details that’s your own choice, i have no desire to force people to learn it and i think it actually does more harm than good as it gets people opposed to it. hell i didn’t even like it in school and i was a believer. I’m for fully secular schools with private schools being forced to be secular too, for the record I’m a devout Christian that is for secular schooling across the board, let that sink in for a second.

    As for right wing American Christianity sure probably the majority are crazy right wing in America, we weren’t talking about that but sure. Not Exactly sure what it has to do with this topic apart from agreeing with me? I said that the rich and powerful have been misusing Christianity in order to push their right wing agenda and America is the crowning jewel of that argument. its disgusting how little these people know of their own religion. I’ve seen countless videos of these people being quoted scripture saying their right wing ideological beliefs are wrong and they ignore it saying “No that’s not in the bible”.

    Hell, people like Ken Ham the guy with that creation museum ark thing is a testament to how even Christians kicked that nut out of this country.

  11. Vikingduk

    What proof, other than that book of lies and bullshit, the bible, is there that Jesus actually existed? For mine, I consider the whole thing a construct designed to control and weaken the peasants, and it still works fortunately on a decline. Be ready for the next myth I suppose.

    Particularly like the piñata party Hugh suggests, an idea of fun and perhaps future business/employment opportunities — piñata manufacturing. The pell piñata could be a real goer.

  12. Kaye Lee

    Tim,

    It’s the emphasis on worship that really got to me. I found chanting responses particularly objectionable. If the church was the coming together of the community to support each other and to help those less fortunate, which it is in many cases, I would still be there. I have found many community groups that achieve what I was looking for. Doing good is not tied to religion.

    I often quote from the bible. If viewed as an allegorical text expressed in fable form to show the struggle of tribes interconnecting more and the emergence of rules to help guide a growing society, it can be interesting if not always agreeable. It leads to interesting philosophical and anthropological debates like what was the real message behind the “virgin” birth?

    I am also uncomfortable with the accumulation of great wealth by the church and their failure to recognise the problem of overpopulation. Their views on contraception, abortion, euthanasia, homosexuality are outdated – they are based on the ancient need to build up the tribe with marriage for the sole purpose of procreation and children promised to the tribe at birth.

    I chose to be part of the church for quite a while and many people I love and respect are actively practising their religion (an interesting way to describe it). Respect for choice and tolerance of difference is something both sides find hard to do.

  13. jim

    The bible talks and it said “life is like a box of chocolates”. I can point anyone to how the Bible has changed to accommodate current challenges they face with some parts of the Bible. For example women, were not allowed to speak or even preach in public but that it’s gone now. This is the very reason women were not allowed to vote until 1920. then there was hundreds of years of killing “witches” by the righteous ones…..In every facet of our lives the religious nutters want to sway our thinking ,about time the atheist fought back.

  14. guest

    Susan, am I to believe that “divine love” destroys the “junk” it creates?

    It reminds me of some people of a sect who were desperately hoping they would be in the chosen 144,000 who would make it to heaven. They were in competition with all those other sect members who numbered more than 144,000. A very cruel competition.

    So what happens to all those people who never heard of God or Jesus? They will be given the benefit of “divine love” and “forgiveness”, apparently.

    I find it all a very sad story about doing as you are told because God loves you. Or God moves in “mysterious ways”. Or it is the “will of God”.

    “As flies to wanton boys are we to th’ gods. They kill us for their sport.”

  15. Mark Needham

    We all wish to know the truth, but our brain always gets in the way.
    Truth, is relative to the way we think.
    The way we think, well, how this bit works, no one knows.

    “Now, I know the truth, therefore, you are wrong.”

    Understanding, that in most cases we would be all miles from having an ounce of truth in our thoughts, is something that none of us are willing to accede.

    Oft wondering,
    But Knowing?
    Mark Needham

  16. jimhaz

    Was watching some ‘Weird Wonders’ show last night and they some genetic engineering inserting spider genes into goats to produce silk protiens.

    Pretty cool if you ask me.

    https://www.theguardian.com/science/2012/jan/14/synthetic-biology-spider-goat-genetics

    I’m not bothered by genetic manipulation – other than in relation to patents. I see it as a form of evolution. It is something we both have to do and should do. If there are downsides, so be it.

    We do need to ensure we maintain seed silos across the world though – so we can always go back to naturally evolved plants if the need arises. I’d have a special GM production tax to ensure a kitty for such endeavours and research as well.

  17. Susan

    Hi guest, in my attempt at a ‘creator junking his/her creation’ analogy, I was trying to get the point across that anyone who holds dear to their heart a ‘god’ that gets wrathful over failure is not aiming very high. Placing value on a god with less empathy than an ordinary run-of-the-mill parent and more temperamental than a dodgy printer is making a mockery of the possibilities that life can offer.

    In regard to the 144000 people, heaven, competition and grace (taking ‘grace’ as a substitute term for the benefit of “divine love” and “forgiveness”): Jesus postdates Buddha and Socrates by 500 years and a host of other Self-realised individuals by many thousands of years. As far as I can see, grace is a natural part of life and not an invention by this or that individual. A sect whose leader say that only members of his/her sect can avail grace sounds limited and I’d avoid such.

    In regard to being sad about God’s ‘mysterious ways’ I understand that too. Given the conditions of parts of the world at any one time, the only way I can explain it to myself is to think that challenges and tragedies are learning experiences. ‘Mystery’ might be something to do with different levels of understanding existing simultaneously. ‘Will of God’ versus will of man?

    Try Alan Watts talks if you are interested in progressing your understanding.

  18. jimhaz

    @ me

    Wrong thread dummy.

  19. guest

    Susan, thanks for your reply. But it did not help.

    I do not see any “grace of God” in the world, however else it might be named. Nor is it useful to have a God we do not understand, whose ways are a ‘mystery”.

    As for Watts, I found out about him in the ’60s when I discovered Kerouac. Zen was a bit of a fad in those days, but not very enlightening. Too much talk from Cloud Cuckoo Land.

  20. Susan

    guest, seeing grace in the world is a kind of gift and happens when it will. Some live with it 24/7, eg. Eckhart Tolle. I’ve been fortunate enough to see in him so I’m not just going on what he says. Once you see you know it’s a possibility. I can’t help you much more than that. 99% of people will need to go to source to come into contact with it. ET is one of the exceptions as he found grace without any prior searching even.

    In regard to wanting to understand every mystery, think that through. Consider the potential of watching a sunrise happening. There is no guarantee that it will be enjoyed as a mystery or otherwise. For example, imagine looking at a sunrise as a scientist and mentally debating with oneself the electromagnetic spectrum output in relation to the relative humidity on that day then drifting into judgement as to how the clouds are interfering with ‘your’ view of something you intend to take a photo of blah blah; or being in front of a sunrise after you just crashed your SUV in the guard rail next to the viewing platform and getting wrathy at the guard rail and missing ‘your’ sunrise in the process; versus simply looking at, enjoying and being grateful for a sunrise. I wonder if animals enjoy the sunrise – they certainly sound like they do. Thinking about things distorts experience. Just look into your thought process for the gaps between thoughts is one bit of advice I heard might help.

    Mystery lends a certain something to life without which life would be a place of mechanical stuff happening. Life minus mystery might be a bit boring.

    Zen still exists, there was some German guy somewhere in Japan who is an adept if still alive.
    I looked at his training schedule a number of years ago and just gave up.

  21. auntyuta

    Susan says:
    “Try this thought and see if it works:
    God is a source of divine love, this world a testing ground of challenges.
    There are only failures in time.”

    What is wrong with seeing God as a source of divine love and to see the world as a testing ground of challenges?
    Our failures are many, are they not? We can only hope we can rectify them over time. To be able to do this we need to be loving rather than hating and showing vengeance . . .

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