Apparently, I was discussed at the PTA meeting last week due to the comments that I’ve put on the school and PTA Facebook pages. The school responded to a reasonable question of “I’d like to know why we are giving religious groups access to the kids?” by adding guidelines that prohibit any public discussion on their Facebook page. Now I wish I had gone to the meeting instead of researching the facts and seeking to understand the issues!
This blog is part of a story about my experience with religious education in my Daughter’s school. If you missed the start of it, you can find the beginning here.
The school seems to be stuck in the pre-internet age where any criticism had to come from a parent who had the intestinal fortitude to phone, write to them or actually walk into the office and complain. Before the internet, public forums for parents to discuss school issues as a group were few. It was pretty much limited to PTA meetings or unplanned chats in dark corners over cheap wine at fundraising events. Nowadays, we have Facebook!
Not able to resist joining in on the discussions on the NZ Herald and Stuff Facebook pages, I found that there are a lot of misconceptions about why there is opposition to the classes and some incredibly ridiculous arguments criticising me and my stance.
You’re pushing your weirdo Atheist beliefs onto others!
That’s pretty much the same as saying; “Your arguments don’t count because you’re an Atheist”. Personally, I think that is just a tad dismissive and ignores everything that I’ve said, written and provided to people opposing the removal of religious instruction. The Board of Trustees actually responded the same way after my proposal to them when they said in their written response; “We appreciate that you feel passionate in relation to your beliefs…”. Wait! What? I thought we were discussing the facts!?
Dismissing anyone’s arguments simply because of their beliefs (or lack of) is arrogant and patronising and intellectually weak.
The fact that I’m an atheist really has nothing to do with the fundamental morality of injecting faith teaching into a non-religious state school. Why should any board of trustees be able to choose a preferred religion for everyone’s kids? Why should any religion have access to spread their faith to kids in a non-religious school?
Aside from these important questions, I have no desire to teach atheism to other people’s kids. Imagine how short the entire syllabus would be! The fact is that there are no “atheist beliefs” to teach! Atheism isn’t a belief system. It’s not even really an “ism”. Atheism is simply having no belief in a god or gods. This leads me on to…
Evolution is just a theory, teach Creationism too!
This one always causes me to put my face into my hands. Not just because they think evolution is some weird atheist belief (it’s nothing to do with atheism) but because they’re putting their faith on the same level as fact. Yes, fact. Evolution is not “just a theory”!
In the same way that “gay” means something different now to what it meant in 1950, scientists use the word “theory” in a different way to the common usage. When “science” says “theory”, they don’t mean “wild guess”. What it means is; “How something works”. So when we say “evolutionary theory”, what we’re talking about is an explanation of how we think evolution works. It’s not a mad idea dreamt up over several pints of cider on a drunken night out.
You’ve heard of gravity? Gravitational theory describes how gravity works. If you doubt it, sit under an apple tree long enough and it will come to you. You can read more about the theory of evolution here.
These people are even allowed to vote…
My Mother teaches Bible in Schools and she’s 80!
There is a real concern amongst Christians that civilisation will immediately slide into the book of Revelation if Mildred from the local church isn’t allowed to tell the kids about the good Samaritan! There’s a lot of assumptions here…
Being old and/or being a Christian with lots of charitable time on your hands doesn’t mean you’re a good person. Google charitable icons, “Rolf Harris” or “Jimmy Saville”. Schools should do Police checks on people coming into the school but often, they rely on the organisation providing the volunteers to do it for them.
I’m sure a lot of the people who run these classes are lovely old souls who really do have the best intentions but that is no justification for the religious instruction. If they were teaching a Ministry of Education approved class about values and morality without their preferred religion, it wouldn’t be a problem!
You’re a hypocrite because you celebrate Easter and Xmas!
This one is a real doozy. It came up as a rebuttal over and over again in Facebook comments on the NZ Herald article. I have no idea what it has to do with religious instruction classes and suspect that it has more to do with trying to score points than being relevant to the discussion. Like the other rebuttals, it’s bollocks. Most of NZ would take holidays at Easter and Xmas, eat chocolate eggs, give presents and get together with family and it would have nothing to do with religion. That doesn’t make them hypocrites. As the numbers of people involved in religion decline, there will inevitably be religious events that receive little or no recognition while people still take a holiday. It’s the holiday we’re interested in! When was the last time you attended a trade union meeting on Labour Day, sent the Queen a card on Queen’s Birthday or worshipped the Roman god, Saturn on Saturdays?
New Zealand is a Christian Country!
No, it isn’t. New Zealand is a secular (non-religious) country where religion and state are generally kept separate. Our state schools are meant to be secular where kids can have freedom of and freedom from religious pressure. New Zealand Christians now (as of the 2013 Census) make up less than half the population compared to over 90% when the secular Education Act came in in 1877.
You’re discriminating against Christians!
Bahahahaha… but seriously… Christians have been discriminating against non-Christians and non-religious people in NZ primary schools for decades! It’s generally the non-Christian parents that have to take their kids out of their class to avoid religious indoctrination or who leave their kids in there and hope that they are savvy enough to not believe everything that they are told. Personally, I would never let anyone have 30 minutes a week to push their religious beliefs on my kids but I’ve found that even for some atheists, the desire to have their kids fit in with their peers and not stand out, is greater than their concern about religious beliefs they consider to be superstition.
Removing Christian faith-teaching in state schools is removing discrimination. It’s not being replaced with someone else’s faith. Perhaps the kids can study first aid, bushcraft or philosophy instead if they are already fantastic readers, writers and mathematicians?
The classes are about morals and Christian values!
This is probably the most common reason for keeping the classes in place. This is actually the argument that I find most offensive because it is such an easy statement to accept but also an easily exposed manipulation and a lie.
- These “values” are not Christian (is homophobia a Christian value?), they are values that Christians hold. But values are held by all of us, from every religion, atheists too. Values like kindness and compassion are secular human values. They don’t come with a Christian brand on them and they certainly weren’t invented by Christians. It’s incredibly arrogant to suggest that we need Christians to teach our kids values.
- Values are already taught by the great majority of parents. Sure there are some parents that aren’t so great but again, this is not a justification for inflicting a religion on a whole school.
- Teachers are required by the Ministry of Education to teach values to the kids already! No religion is required! The Ministry even has a list of values that teachers should be promoting. The Churches Education Commission, which provide most of the classes, also have a list that they emulated from the MoE. The only difference is that they have 6 values instead of 7. Do you know what they left out? Diversity. Religious groups do not like diversity, they like conformity!
- The offensive thing for me is that the supporters of bible classes so often manipulate the truth to try and present the classes as being primarily about values. It’s a blatant lie. Blatant because they know that what they really want to do is spread their faith. The CEC stated a few years ago that primary schools were an “un-tapped mission field”. Churches all over the country talk about the classes as “Christian ministry” and “spreading God’s word”. There was a radio Rhema interview with CEC staff last week where the classes were openly described by the host as “evangelism”. This was ignored by the people being interviewed because they do not want to be seen in that light. Make no mistake… without being able to promote religious beliefs, these classes would not exist.
Please comment below! Next Blog: The Christians Are Revolting!