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Bible-Bashing Barbarism

When I start writing these blog entries I am usually thinking about what would be a catchy title for them. The title is usually something a little bit quirky but still relevant to the subject under discussion and should occur somewhere in the blog post, preferably at the end. For this one I considered “Maths Not Myths” and “Education not Indoctrination” but finally settled on the one I have used.

The subject for this post is religious teaching in schools, a topic which has already featured on several occasions in this blog. My opinion on it has gone in the opposite direction to many other opinions because I have actually become more extreme in my opposition. Yes, as surprising as it may seem, my opinions on most subjects are more moderate now than in the past!

The latest chapter in the Bible in schools saga involves a parent by the name of Jeff McClintock who decided to take his child’s school to court over the way they taught her Bible lessons. The “lessons”, which originally happened in 2012, were done by an organisation called “Values in Action” which claims to not be specifically Christian although it makes extensive use of the Bible and Christian mythology in its “teaching”.

Judging by the reports coming from these lessons this is clearly religious propaganda by stealth. Many Christians believe they have some sort of unique ownership of moral principles which is completely untrue. Not only are the positive moral aspects of Christianity not unique to that religion and in fact mostly pre-date it, but there are many negative aspects to Christianity which no reasonable person would see as moral.

So moral teaching should have as much of a link to Christianity as it does to any other belief system or philosophy. Even if the underlying aim is genuinely just to present better moral values – and this is extremely doubtful – a presentation involving just one interpretation of what is moral is surely a bad idea.

I’m not against morality being taught in schools, and I’m not even against Christian values being part of that process, but I am against the suggestion that to be moral you have to be a Christian and I am against disguising a program of proselytising as one helping kids make good choices. Following a religion which uses such deceitful tactics to gain new members is not a moral path!

The title of this post is “Bible-Bashing Barbarism” and that came from a blog post by Sue Bradford. Given the other forms of religious barbarism evident around the world currently isn’t this just a bit hyperbolic? Well, maybe, especially when the truly barbaric acts happening in the name of religion in the Middle East are considered, but I do think that deliberately exploiting young children’s increased credulity to instill Christian beliefs of doubtful value is also quite barbaric.

The school Bible programs have made extremely unpleasant statements about other people’s lifestyles which they disagree with, and they have directly or indirectly threatened young children with the prospect of Hell if they don’t follow the same beliefs as the “teachers”. That is barbaric. Maybe not quite to the same degree as beheading people you disagree with, but if someone is naive enough to belief Christian mythology then the prospect of spending eternity in Hell is in some ways even worse.

As I have said in past posts on this topic, many kids won’t be taken in by Christian propaganda and will see the stories as either fun fantasy (Genesis), weird and really messed up stuff (the story of Lot), or just bizarre and meaningless nonsense (Revelation). And I’m not denying the possibility that some kids’ moral standards might be improved, but there is just as much (maybe more) chance that this will make their morals worse.

Let’s just get honest about this. School should include discussions about morality but these should be done in an truthful and unbiased way. They might include some Christian material but equally they should include moral standards from philosophy and other sources (obviously presented in a simplified and entertaining way).

We can teach both myth and math but the myth should be presented as what it is, not some depiction of a history which never happened. Presenting Christianity as the only moral path is dishonest. The more they try to do it the less moral they become. We need education not indoctrination in the form of reasonable opinions from a wide variety of fields. And we definitely need less Bible-bashing barbarism!

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