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Encouraging religion to "beget" off!

Monthly Archives: July 2012

Religion in Schools – a Role-Focus Analysis: The Tradition Preacher

This continues the series A Role-Focus Analysis of Religious Arguments.  To get the background, read the post at the preceding link first if you haven’t already.

This is the fifth category of theistic support for religion in schools. It is the “Tradition Preacher” – which characterises an assertive appeal to utility. We have seen it recently with an inflammatory opinion piece in the NZ Herald (Hugh Dickey: Ignore the roots of our values at society’s peril – Opinion – NZ Herald News)

Role \ Focus

Revelation

Tradition

Authority

Martyr But we are teaching values! Christianity has values. What are we doing wrong? You secularists are causing the trouble.  Why can’t we just all get along like we used to? It is intolerant to not want Christian RI in schools. We’re being oppressed.
Preacher Religion is what gives us values.  It’s in the stories. Religion prevents the breakdown of society. Christian RI is necessary for our religious freedom.
Crusader The Christian religion must be taught, because the Bible says so. New Zealand law, culture and heritage are Christian.And the Bible? Bestseller! The majority rules!  Stop complaining, or go to another school.

Objection 4 – The Tradition Preacher (assertive appeal to utility)

Rejecting religious instruction is symptomatic of the breakdown of society, where everyone “does their own thing”.

Examples:

  1. “As a Christian, I think we ignore its truths at our peril. Already we are sadly witnessing the breakdown of society as we get rid of the moral absolutes through adhering to post-modern, humanistic thinking in which everyone does ‘right in their own eyes’. In fact, there’s a bible story about just that point.”
  2. “Mr Harrison, if you are not basing values on that “archaic document” what, may I ask, are you basing them on? Once you reject God, all values become subject to personal opinion. Who is to say we should be loving, kind and honest? And who are we to tell children they should be? Society is reduced to doing what “feels right for me” and children are left to “work it out for themselves”. And we wonder why we have such massive social problems like youth crime, excessive drinking, drugs and suicide.”
  3. “In times of disaster, such as in Christchurch and the West Coast, the country has seen the vital role that churches play in holding their respective communities together. At a time of crisis, it is to Christianity that we turn. Yet we constantly pick away at the Christian fabric of this country and then wonder why our society begins to unravel.”

Responses:

  • We are not rejecting religious instruction. We are just rejecting religious people using the schools as their recruiting ground.
  • You don’t need religion to be good. Secular ethics existed long before Christianity – think of the ancient Greek philosophical tradition that preceded Jesus by centuries.
  • In any case, society does not break down without religion. We still have the police and the rule of law. Around the world, the least religious countries (such as the Scandinavian countries) have better social conditions by any measure than more religious countries.
  • The world is currently at its least violent state in the whole of recorded human history. Wars are smaller, take fewer lives, and are over quicker than ever before – and this trend is continuing. There is no breakdown of society – actually the opposite.
  • Are you really saying the only thing stopping you from going on a violent orgiastic rampage of murder and mayhem is that you are being personally monitored 24/7 by supernatural surveillance?
  • If you want your own children to have religious instruction, put them into Sunday school. No-one is stopping you.

This category of religious argument is a fairly common one, taken by those people who see religion as a civilizing force for good.   The myth that society is breaking down is the driving fear, which is quite easily refuted.

Religion in Schools – a Role-Focus Analysis: The Revelation Preacher

This continues the series A Role-Focus Analysis of Religious Arguments.

The fourth category of theistic support for religion in schools is common with “moderate” Christians. It is the “Revelation Preacher” – which characterises an assertive appeal to values.

Role \ Focus

Revelation

Tradition

Authority

Martyr But we are teaching values! Christianity has values. What are we doing wrong? You secularists are causing the trouble.  Why can’t we just all get along like we used to? It is intolerant to not want Christian RI in schools. We’re being oppressed.
Preacher Religion is what gives us values.  It’s in the stories. Religion prevents the breakdown of society. Christian RI is necessary for our religious freedom.
Crusader The Christian religion must be taught, because the Bible says so. New Zealand law, culture and heritage are Christian.And the Bible? Bestseller! The majority rules!  Stop complaining, or go to another school.

Objection 4 – The Revelation Preacher (assertive appeal to values)

Religion is what gives us values. And the Bible has such nice stories for children.

Examples:

  1. “Peter Harrison, the founder of Keep Religion out of Schools, says his group supports secular values teaching and would support something covering common values like tolerance, love and integrity. These very values are indeed taught to the children, along with other values such as it is not OK to bully, learning how to get along with one another, inclusion and respect of others, caring for the environment, etc. These values are interwoven with stories from the Bible.”
  2. “If they feel they are missing out on something – well yes they are — they are missing out on learning about the best-selling book of all time (not some mere ‘archaic document’). A book which teaches early world history as well as essential moral values. I have dozens of notes and cards from children who have thoroughly enjoyed the programmed and say they have “learned a lot” — and this includes faith and hope — something to believe in when life gets hard.”
  3. “As a teacher, I welcome the idea that children in state schools are taught biblical stories. A lot can be learned from the Bible’s narratives and many from the older generation will remember with pleasure the stories and values it contains.”

Responses:

  • Religion is not the source of values. Values are human constructs, rooted in our evolution and maintained through our shared culture.
  • There are no values taught in the bible that were not taught for hundreds, if not thousands, of years prior. For example the Golden Rule (the ethic of reciprocity) predates Christianity by over a thousand years.
  • Teaching values from the Bible involves cherry-picking the best and ignoring the rest. Avoiding the bad teachings from the Bible proves that our values do not actually come from the Bible after all.
  • Schools can teach ethics already. No need for religion.
  • Whose religion do you want to teach? If you are going to teach one, why not teach all the major world religions?
  • “Religion is an insult to human dignity. With or without it you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion.” – Steven Weinberg, American physicist.

 

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