Bible in Schools
What's the problem?
'Bible in Schools'. Most of us in NZ (and Australia) have heard of it. Lessons from the Bible in many of our primary schools. Maybe your kids are or were part of these classes. But what exactly is it and why is the Christian religion being pushed onto naive young kids in secular schools? Why is the Christian Bible welcomed through the school gate and treated like a reputable text book, alongside the likes of science and history text books? What's next, magic classes with reference to the 'Harry Potter' books?
Many say it's about teaching good values, so do you want your child to be taught to do the right thing because they don't want to harm others, or to be taught to blindly follow intolerant, barbaric and unjust rules out of fear of punishment from a jealous, sadistic — and it has to be said, imaginary — God?
Should our secular schools be teaching kids ethics or Bible morals? Should they be teaching science and history or Bible myths? In short, should our schools and their qualified teachers be filling kids' heads with evidence-based facts and the ability to think critically, or bringing in unqualified volunteers schooled in fundamentalist religion to fill their heads with fairy tales and the pathetic desire to submit completely to an invisible master in the sky?
'Bible in Schools' is where Christians are invited into NZ state primary schools that are secular in nature to instruct children about God and Jesus, although if questioned they'll say they're just promoting good values to live by, it's not about bringing kids to Jesus. It appears that there are generally two main reasons why many parents (Christian and non-Christian) happily give their support to religion being promoted in secular schools:
That in the 21st century ignorant Christian fundamentalists, or Christians of any stripe, are still able to have access to our schools to push their nonsense is very worrying. We've walked on the Moon, eradicated smallpox, mapped the human genome, granted equality to women and homosexuals, freed the slaves and acknowledged the chimpanzee as our closest relative. And yet these idiots that believe the world is only 6,000 years old and that Adam and Eve accepted an apple from a talking snake have free rein to enter our schools and brainwash kids, contradicting everything their teachers tell them in science and history classes.
Why do we have this seemingly anachronistic situation, that unqualified and clearly deluded individuals pushing a silly fantasy from the Bronze Age can preach in our educational institutions? Why is it that qualified teachers who value knowledge silently stand aside while these fundamentalists blinded by a dogmatic religion essentially tell the kids that their teachers have been lying to them? Is it not time that we ensured that our schools told the truth to their students in every subject, not just most of them, that we convey knowledge as we now know it to be, not as we thought it was in the Dark Ages? We're not saying outlaw the fundamentalists or their beliefs, but merely consign them, like teachers, to the appropriate sphere. Educational institutions are places for advancing knowledge and truth, not for pushing primitive dogma and superstition. The appropriate sphere for Christian fundamentalists is and always has been the church, not the school, and they should hasten there, like Frankenstein's monster fleeing the torch- and pitchfork-wielding villagers. Science teachers don't try and run classes in church after the Sunday sermon, so why does the Church get to run classes at school? Let's look at what brought about this backward, harmful and febble-minded state of affairs.
The classes that church groups or individuals get to run at state schools are known in NZ (and Australia) as 'Religious Instruction' (RI). This is usually a weekly, half hour class. These classes can be for up to an hour a week to a maximum of 20 hours a year. In the school sphere 'Religious Instruction' should not be confused with what the authorities define as 'religious education' or 'religious observance'. If a class teaches students that Christians burnt witches at the stake and believe Jesus walked on water, that Jews fought the Romans at Masada and believe their god said you shouldn't eat pork, and that Islamists destroyed the Twin Towers in NY and believe Mohammed rode his horse up to heaven, then this is deemed 'religious education', as it is educating the student about history and what various religions believe about the world, not trying to convince them as to the truthfulness of Christianity, Judaism or Islam. It is neutral regarding which if any religion might be correct. If on the other hand you have students recite or sit through prayers at the beginning of class or at assembly then this is called 'religious observance'. It is clearly not neutral since students would be praying to a specific god and be expected to believe that he really exists, that their prayers would be effective, and that this god expects them to behave in a prescribed manner.
And yet confusingly the main organisation that runs RI in NZ — the Churches Education Commission — labels its school classes as 'Christian Religious Education' (CRE), and on its website and in all its material it continually talks about 'religious education', and not what it really is, and that's 'religious instruction'. That's because according to the legal authority that permits them access to schools, they are instructing, not educating. Perhaps the Churches Education Commission (CEC) believes parents and schools will be more accepting of them if they claim to be educating their children rather than instructing them, since instruction can imply force: 'an order; an authoritative direction to be obeyed'. But regardless of what the CEC pretends to be doing, they are not there to educate about religion in a broad, unbiased sense, but to instruct in a narrow, dogmatic sense. The fact that their classes are called 'Christian Religious Education' and not simply 'Religious Education' says it all.
'Religious Instruction', like 'religious observance', is not neutral, and is not required to be or expected to be. In NZ it's often referred to as 'Bible in Schools', which again reveals its bias towards a particular religion, since only Christians believe in the Bible. It is instruction taught by a believer in a specific religion or faith, usually a fundamentalist Christian faith, and is designed to convince the students that it is the one and only true faith, and more importantly, that they should embrace it. In some schools the Bible lessons that are offered will be subtle, they may not blatantly insist that the Christian God is real and that all others are false, but all their lessons on morals and values are sourced from the Bible using Biblical characters. There are no stories of atheists or people from other religions doing good deeds, and so naïve, impressionable children come away with the message that only Christians can be moral and lead decent lives. By deliberately ignoring other beliefs and continually referencing Bible stories, lessons that on the surface might not seem to be forcibly pushing Christian beliefs will end up implying to children, by omission, that the Bible is our source of morals. Which of course is utter nonsense.
Because of the recognised evangelistic nature of RI, it is not compulsory for students to attend and they have the freedom to opt out, although this is often not a real choice, as we will explain.
We're more familiar with RI in NZ but it appears that RI in Australian primary schools is similar to ours. From as far back as 1877, NZ's Education Act had stated that all teaching in our state schools must be 'entirely of a secular nature'. Surprisingly, this restriction applied only to primary schools and not secondary. And yet it is primary schools where we find RI classes. So how can schools instruct their students on religion in a weekly, half-hour lesson if it is against the law? Well, this is where school boards, parents and lawmakers who are nothing but zombies for Christianity have conspired to invent a legal loophole that is utterly childish in its transparency. In NZ, back in 1964 we believe, they wrote into the Act a proviso called the Nelson Clause that allows them to 'close' the school for the duration of their half-hour lesson. They aren't breaking the law because the kids are no longer 'in' school. Try telling that to the kids. Since these schools insist that their school is closed, and therefore the school has relinquished their control over the kids, why are the kids still sitting in a classroom? If the school is closed, then why are those kids that aren't attending the RI classes not allowed to go home early, or at least allowed to play or have a free period? In reality the only thing that is closed during RI are the minds of the Christians that think that their sneaky little subterfuge has fooled the rest of us. Unlike NZ, in Australia it appears that they don't 'close' their schools, they simply say that teaching at their schools must also be 'entirely of a secular nature', and then like NZ, contradict themselves by adding, EXCEPT when they want to push religious instruction.
So how widespread is it in NZ, these Christians sneaking into our schools and lying to children? While not ubiquitous, it's still far too common, but thankfully it's not as bad as it used to be. This Dec 2012 article notes that 'Many primary schools have dropped or are reviewing their religious studies classes', and mentions 'CEC's national base of 2800 Christian Religious Education (CRE) teachers' and that they run their 'Bible-based classes in 730 secular schools nationwide'. This Feb 2013 article states that in NZ, 'About 40 per cent of state primary schools' have elected to provide 'Christian instruction classes'. If you think that 40% is not too bad and that many parents probably believe in Christianity anyway, would you be happy if you discovered that 40% of schools offered classes in astrology or witchcraft, which some parents no doubt believe in too? If we are going to 'close' the schools to let deluded volunteers in to teach the myths and fantasies that their group believes in, then why draw the line at Christianity? Don't other groups deserve an equal chance to push their silly beliefs? Of course some might argue that the likes of astrology and witchcraft won't be taught as they've been exposed as nonsense by science and reason. And what, religion hasn't? Didn't you get the memo?
We should also note that in addition to state schools in NZ, there are also private schools and integrated schools. Unlike state schools, they can and do preach religion anytime they like, and their teaching doesn't have to be 'entirely of a secular nature'. To have this freedom means that private schools receive no funding, and hence no control, from the state. Integrated schools however are a strange beast, a type of hybrid. Integrated schools were originally all private schools owned and run by Catholic and Protestant churches, ie private religious schools. But by the 1960s they had failed to stay economically viable, the education they offered suffered and they were all faced with closure. So the state — actually the Labour Government in 1975 — offered them a lifeline (meaning a bribe for their vote). The state — read the taxpayer — would subsidise expensive things like the teachers' salaries and the school would pay for the maintenance of the school. Many private religious schools sold their soul to the devil and took up this bailout by the taxpayer. They became integrated schools, schools that are largely funded by the state, but where they are still allowed to retain their 'special character', ie their religious character. So integrated schools don't have to close the school to have RI, nor are they limited to how many hours they spend on it. So we now have, in our view, the legally questionable situation of where the secular state is funding the promotion of religion, contrary to the Education Act. And politicians wonder why the public doesn't trust them.
We wonder if the teachers and parents of Christian integrated schools, and evidently they are almost all Christian , ever ask themselves why their God has deserted them, why they were forced to go begging, cap in hand, to the secular state? The embarrassing fact for them is that their schools only still exist because heathens are propping them up. As well as paying for state schools, the tax dollars from the likes of atheists, Muslims, Jews, Hindus and heathenish Christian sects are all that is keeping the Christian integrated schools alive. Not exactly a great advert for their protective God.
In NZ not all state schools have RI, each board of trustees gets to decide, and we guess this depends on how many happy-clappy Christians they have elected to their board, and how many parents that 'fear the Lord' have kids attending that school. As we've said, even if they have brought in the 'Bible in Schools' program it's not compulsory for children to attend, although parents must write to the Principal to have their kids kept away from the indoctrination. One document offering advice to schools on RI states: 'If a school does provide religious instruction or observe religious customs it must be done in a way that allows students to opt out freely if they want to'. That sounds great, giving true freedom to the student to decide, but it's just feel good crap. They go on to say that, 'Section 79 allows children to opt out if their parents do not wish them to participate in religious ceremonies or teaching'. So actually the student has little real say in the matter, it's all down to the parents, and remember these are primary age children, who seldom get asked which subjects they want to take. So automatic inclusion into RI classes means students must 'opt out' if they don't want to attend, although they personally aren't allowed to make this call, their parents must go out of their way to have them excluded. And because 'excluded' is what many young, impressionable children will feel if their parents separate them from their friends and peers, many kids and parents will, against their true desires, go along with the RI classes rather than create a fuss. Some parents have reported that their children who opted out of religion classes were made to sit alone and work in the library (like being on detention), while some were made to pick up rubbish on the school grounds, which again suggested to the child that they were being punished for not believing. By God maybe, we're told he does work in mysterious ways?
A fairer method would be to have kids 'opt in' to RI, with parents consciously having to think about what these classes were about, and making the choice of whether they wanted their kids involved. If the RI providers truly believed that parents wanted these classes for their children then the numbers attending wouldn't change. Of course we believe, and we're sure the RI providers do too, that their class numbers would plummet if the kids had to 'opt in'. And if the classes were poorly attended the schools would eventually cancel them all together. In support of this view, some schools have recently have gone for an 'opt in' policy, where the default keeps the child out of RI classes, for example, if parents don't bother to return the permission forms. The Sherwood Primary School provides what we see as an informative 'opt in' permission form, explaining that the classes are not part of the NZ curriculum, that the school will be closed to make them legal, that they are Christian based, run by volunteers and that teachers do not supervise the classes. According to this Feb 2013 article — 'Pressure on Government over bible lessons' — 'About a dozen schools have already dropped religious classes since a group of parents launched the Secular Education Network campaign' in 2012. It also reported chief executive Simon Greening of the Churches Education Commission conceding that, 'There's no doubt there has been a drop-off, but schools are adapting. Instead of closing the programme, they are switching to lunchtime programmes ... after-school programmes and bible breakfast clubs'. So it appears that giving parents more information about what these classes actually teach and making them 'opt in' is having an effect. Clearly not all parents and schools believe Greening when he claims that, 'Bible classes taught important values to children'. Since the number of schools ditching Bible classes is increasing, the glib answer from the likes of Greening that parents and schools want them is false. They have only survived unchallenged into enlightened times because most parents are ignorant of exactly what they are teaching their children.
So why do a large number of parents happily agree for their kids to attend what is essentially 'Sunday School'? We believe some will be totally ignorant of what's actually taught in the classes, many will be too lazy to care and some will simply not want to ostracise their kids. But a great majority will falsely believe that these classes are necessary for their kids' overall education, being especially valuable in the sphere of morals. Parents may not be particularly religious themselves, but they will be of the belief that exposure to religion, that is, Christianity, which to them means morals and how to be a good person, is something their kids can only benefit from. This false belief is of course brought about because these parents themselves were lied to as children, told that without God there can be no morality, and even in adulthood their ignorance, apathy and blind faith in their church sees them repeating the same mistakes with their own kids. Other parents will wrongly believe that their children are actually learning about the world's religions, as the name 'religious instruction' might suggest. The weird thing is that the truly devout Christians, the fundamentalists who run the RI classes, probably don't even have their own children going to state schools. Their kids will most likely be home schooled or sent to private Christian schools or integrated Christian schools where there is more shielding from the 'evil' that is taught in secular schools, especially the science classes. Like predatory Catholic priests, these RI instructors are going where they know naive new recruits to their cause can be groomed.
And if deluded parents truly believe their kids need RI, why must they get it at school? Wouldn't you think that parents who are concerned about the religious education of their children would prefer that they receive this vitally important education from the church of their choice, or from the parents themselves? That their children receive not some generic Christian beliefs, but the exact beliefs that their church teaches and they believe in? Taught by priests and ministers whose chosen career it is to spread the word of God, and not just any god, their version of god? Child sex abuse by priests aside, do they feel churches are failing their children in their religious education, and that schools need to take over that role, that they can do a better job? And yet while the priests and ministers are qualified in their brand of religion, just as the teachers are qualified to teach science and literature, the instructor that takes RI is just an unqualified layperson. Why hand your child's crucial religious education over to a person off-the-street, some born-again Christian or fundamentalist? They are vetted by the police to ensure they're not convicted child molesters, but no one, not the school's principal, teachers, board of trustees or the Ministry of Education has any authority to check their qualifications, either in teaching or religion, because they don't have to have any. Any voluntary group or individual, connected to a church or not, can go to school and preach to kids about God. Would parents be happy for an unqualified, fanatical person to come in and teach their kids firearms safety, sex education or Holocaust denial? And what about the ordinary subjects — maths, science, history etc — would they be happy if the teachers in these subjects were unqualified? (With the recent introduction in NZ of charter schools whose teachers don't have to be qualified, depressingly it appears that many parents don't see teaching qualifications as important. And let's remember that ACT MP John Banks who pushed for charter schools to be introduced has fundamentalist beliefs, actually believing that Adam and Eve were real.) But why are parents happy and insistent that their kids are taught religion — arguably from their perspective the most important subject of all — by an unqualified member of the public who believes in talking snakes?
Are churches failing to reach out and touch children in their community? Well, the Catholic ones aren't, and it's costing them billions of dollars in sex abuse claims, but churches are noticeably failing to spread the word of God. Parents aren't dragging their kids to church like they used to, or sending them to Sunday School. So Christian fundamentalists with an evangelical streak must go to where the kids are, the schools. And the schools aren't technically taking over RI from the churches, because the schools are 'closed' remember and their teachers aren't involved. Of course only an idiot would buy that answer. We think that fundamentalists spouting their nonsense in schools have the added advantage of association, that they want to spout their fairytales in school classrooms so that the perceived prestige and authority of the school might settle onto their lessons as well. They don't want it to be school lessons during the week verses church sermons on Sunday. They want it be school religious instruction class verses school science class, where they immediately get to challenge what the kids might have learnt in science. As far as the fundamentalists are concerned, the schools are where the lies are being fed to the children, especially that great evil in science classes that is called evolution. They believe the school is the battlefield so that is where they feel they must be seen, to make it appear that their answers are equally valid alternatives to what the kids might hear in science classes (or history, geography, social studies or story time on the mat etc). And they want to be able to address all the kids, not just the religious handful who turn up to church on Sunday, and whose minds they have already corrupted anyway, perhaps irreversibly. And in the mind of many RI instructors pushing creationist myths, it would appear that many churches have made far too many concessions to science and modern knowledge. After all, not many church sermons these days mention Adam and Eve as real people, or a 6,000 year old Earth or man walking with dinosaurs. RI or 'Bible in Schools' seems to attract the creationists and fundamentalists who no doubt see this as the way to turn the tide, to reintroduce creationism and its bastard child 'Intelligent Design' to naive young minds and battle the twin evils of evolution and atheism. Churches have grown old, weak and are poorly attended, but primary schools are overflowing with gullible, pliable children, and all the fundamentalists need is a few like-minded Christians on the school boards, who can sneak them in the back door and turn a blind eye to their lack of qualifications.
As we said in the intro, most parents (who are not Bible-thumping Christians) seem to support RI for two main reasons. They think it will teach their kids about morals and values to live by, and/or something about the world's religions. Both beliefs are true and false. It's true that they will learn about what the Bible asserts are good morals to live by, like it is right and proper to kill witches and own slaves, and wrong to love your parents. It's also true that they will learn about the world's religions, in the sense that they'll be told that Christianity is true and all other religions false, that non-Christians are worshiping false prophets and that they must be persecuted. But at the same time it is utterly false that their kids will learn about modern ethical behaviour or that they will learn neutral, factual information about any of the world's religions, not even Christianity.
Let's consider morality first. Many parents support RI simply because they naively believe Christian morals are necessary for a just society, even though they may not be particularly religious themselves. And yes, RI does claim to teach morals in their classes. Will it teach them good morals? No, don't be silly! Christian fundamentalists naively believe that morality comes, and can only come, from God, and that these morals have been divinely recorded for all posterity in the Bible. They especially bleat on and on about the Ten Commandments, although most Christians would be hard pressed to even list half of them, and many openly disobey many of them. How many Christians rest on the Sabbath, which is Saturday, not Sunday? How many obey the one that says they shall not worship false idols? Look at how many Christians regularly break that commandment by praying not to God, but to Jesus, to crucifixes with a dead body on them, to statues of Mary and to untold saints, and their houses and churches are littered with false idols, icons and artefacts that they worship. But these examples have nothing to do with true morals, they are just orders from a jealous god. God ordering his servants not to work on the Sabbath or listen to other gods, is no different to the pope ordering his priests not to talk to the police about child sex abuse accusations, or a fundamentalist Christian leader commanding his flock not to listen to what scientists say. Those sorts of orders are about control, not about morals, not about what is the right thing to do, not about suggesting actions that prevent harm.
On their homepage the CEC explains that their Christian Religious Education 'programme weaves together Bible stories with values set out in the New Zealand Curriculum ... which allows students to learn about positive Christian values and beliefs'. And here is an informative screen grab from their homepage:
So whereas your typical parent questioned at the school gate will assert that classes that teach their kids values are a good thing, the crowd that run these classes have a much more narrow view. They aren't merely teaching values, they're teaching 'Christian values and beliefs'. They don't teach kids values from modern society, they teach kids 'values from the Bible', the implication being that values held by people outside the Bible are clearly inferior. And note also that they're not just content to promote 'Christian values', but they tack on Christian beliefs as well. For them it's not enough to use a story to illustrate a good value, for example, the way I might use an incident from the 'Harry Potter' books. In their classes kids are also expected to believe that their stories are true, that those Bible characters really existed and did those magical things.
I also had to giggle over the fact that they didn't simply say they were going to teach kids Christian values and beliefs, but are specifically going to stick with 'positive' Christian values and beliefs, which is perhaps an unintentional admission that there are a lot of Christian values and beliefs that are anything but positive. I guess it's a start when they realise that there are Christian values and beliefs that they need to hide from the kids, and the adults. But is that a good way to build a relationship, starting out with lies?
So let's look at some of the so-called morals found in the Bible, and see if they might lead to a just and humane society, a society that might flourish and live in peace with other societies around the world.
Do you want your child taught that it is moral and right to persecute and kill homosexuals, and in fact it is their duty to so, because homosexuality is an abomination to God? Or taught that it is moral and right to kill psychics, mediums and witches? Also pagans, heathens and non-believers that reveal their doubts about God should be killed too, and believe it or not, it is, according to the Bible, moral and right for parents to kill their own disobedient children! Do you want your child taught that slavery is moral and right, and that women are the property of men? Do you think it is moral that a rape victim should be stoned to death if no one heard her scream, or in some cases, allowed to live but forced to marry her rapist? These are only some of the disgusting morals that God wants his followers to obey. There is no doubt that the Bible sanctions such repellent and inhumane moral practices such as forced marriage, child marriage, rape, honour killings, and human trafficking. Daughters are the property of their father, until their father transfers ownership to the man that becomes their husband. This is why at weddings the priest or minister asks, "Who gives this woman to this man?" He's asking if the current owner has agreed to the woman becoming the legal property of another man, and the father (or male guardian) replies, "I do", and the transaction can then continue with the property changing hands. Women are traded like livestock, and if need be, killed like livestock. For most of Christianity's history devout Christians believed with all their heart that burning witches at the stake, torturing heretics, going on Crusades, owning slaves, persecuting Jews and homosexuals, subjugating women and fighting religious wars was the moral and right thing to do. And from these barbaric and unjust morals we go right down to just plain silly and ridiculous commandments: that God demands that we don't eat shellfish, get a tattoo or wear clothes with a nylon polyester blend. Of course this is where most Christians insist that their God wasn't all that serious regarding all those commandments, and certainly not those commandments arguing for unjust killing, persecution and hatred, let alone those banning shellfish and tattoos. This is normally where they say they follow the more mellow word of Jesus in the Bible's New Testament, not God's barbaric orders in the Old Testament. But even then they are very selective about which sayings of Jesus that they quote (and obey). Why do they not obey this wish of Jesus:
'If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters — yes, even his own life — he cannot be my disciple'. (Luke 14:26)And the few admirable morals that are attributed to Jesus, such as 'The Golden Rule', were known long before Jesus even existed. Of course it's also rather embarrassing to them that their oft-mentioned Ten Commandments are actually in the Old Testament, not the New, and that Jesus himself clearly said:
'Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven'. (MT 5:17-20)Thus Jesus is confirming that God's commandments, of which there are some 613 in the Old Testament, not just the 10 that most people have heard of, are still valid. None lose their authority until the Earth disappears, which we don't believe has yet happened. God's commandments are his description of how to lead a moral life in his eyes. Yet now we have ignorant, hypocritical Christians simply picking and choosing the commandments that suit their purpose and happily ditching the rest. Seemingly they know better than God does in what it takes to lead a moral life. They have proved to us all that they, mere humans, can decide which commandments are right and which are wrong. Morality it seems now comes from their decisions, not God. God, most Christians have now decided, was wrong about homosexuals, witches, heretics and slaves. In many things God evidently was not a moral god after all.
But while many Christians have thankfully washed their hands of the God of the Old Testament and now only talk about Jesus (conveniently forgetting that they are supposedly one and the same), Christian fundamentalists, the people that will probably be taking RI classes, have not renounced the morals of the Old Testament. They still think homosexuality is an abomination, that atheists are evil, that abortion is murder, that masturbation will see us burning in Hell, that the Jews killed their Messiah and that women should be silent and utterly submissive to men. It is these fundamentalists who still believe in the literal truth of the Bible that will likely be instructing children in RI classes. It is these ignorant, intolerant fundamentalists whose moral compass has not shifted one degree from the obscene, barbaric, disgusting and unjust morals that were invented and blindly obeyed thousands of years ago that are instructing children. The unforgiving law of a primitive Bible and a vicious, jealous god is the last thing that caring parents should want their children to become slaves to.
Here is a typical comment from a Christian supporting RI and dismissive of how non-Christians can lead moral lives:
'And what is the basis for "individual responsibility for moral decisions and empathy towards others"... [when] God and His Word, the Bible, is set aside? There is no basis for morality in evolution any more than there is in atheism. When the Judeo-Christian ethic of the Ten Commandments is superseded by the survival-of-the-fittest ethic of evolution, the result is the Holocaust.'Note how this bastard tries to hide the fact that most everyone involved in the slaughter that was the Holocaust were actually Christians. Does he think the Nazis were all Hindus or Muslims or evolutionary scientists? What short and cloistered memories these Christians have. The inquisitions, the witch trials, the crusades, the Jewish pogroms, the religious wars, slavery and the ongoing persecution of homosexuals, non-Christians, abortionists etc, are all what results when their treasured 'Judeo-Christian ethic' is evoked, not when it is ignored. They insist that 'individual responsibility for moral decisions and empathy towards others' is impossible. They believe that only their god can tell us what is right and wrong, and how to behave towards others. This means that Christians have no idea within themselves whether it is wrong to murder or rape, they must consult the Bible for guidance. As an atheist I don't believe in God and yet I also believe it is wrong to murder. However for Christians it is incomprehensible that anyone could reach this realisation without a stern lecture from their God. They ask, 'If you don't believe in God, how do you know it's wrong to murder? What's to stop you killing people that annoy you?' You can almost imagine them thinking, 'I know I'd kill people if I didn't think God was watching and would punish me'. So Christians admit that they don't know how to be good without God's commandments, and from this we (and they) infer that they would see no reason to be good if God weren't around. And they try to make out that they are the superior humans on this planet! They are nothing but dangerous, ignorant, mindless zombies whose behaviour is held in check through an all-encompassing fear of their master and his punishments. As many atheists have already said, look out if one of these fundamentalist Christians ever loses their faith in God, as there will be nothing in their minds to stop them raping and pillaging their neighbours, just as we atheists evidently do. Is this why so many priests and ministers are caught fucking children, they've lost their belief in a vengeful God? They've been taught that our moral compass only has two options, and theirs has swung from, 'Fearfully obey whatever God says', to, 'Do whatever you want, there is no right and wrong'.
The fact is that the Bible is a terrible source for determining ethical behaviour, and much of it, especially the Old Testament, is barbaric, disgusting, immoral, obscene and pornographic. If young school children were required to read it, and understand it, Christian parents themselves would censor much of it. Unfortunately many people confuse ethics and morals. In a separate blog post — 'Are Christians morally superior?' — we also looked at the bogus belief that morality comes from God. We ask you to read our argument if you're still not convinced that truly good morals don't derive from Christianity, or any religion. We believe that philosophy classes on ethics are where kids will learn about morality, that truly good morals are universal within humanity and that RI classes teach nothing but ignorant intolerance, and any good values that may surface have been stolen from secular ethics and cunningly relabeled as Christian.
Now for the second reason. Many parents support RI because they falsely belief that 'Religious Instruction' means that their kids are actually learning about the world's religions, which couldn't be further from the truth. It's as silly as saying you support science classes because it's important children learn woodworking skills. Kids don't learn woodwork in science and they aren't taught about the world's religions in 'Bible in Schools'. So again, we believe many parents support RI solely through ignorance. The only thing that students will learn about religions other than Christianity is that they are wrong, that their adherents are going to Hell, and that they shouldn't be tolerated. Classes that do examine the world's many different religions in a completely neutral, factual manner are usually called 'Comparative Religion' (or sometimes Religious Studies), and are not at all common in our schools. Wikipedia describes it as 'the systematic comparison of the doctrines and practices of the world's religions'. In these classes one might learn that Christians believe in a Jewish god who impregnated a virgin whose son Jesus was killed and rose from the dead; that Muslims also believe in a version of this Jewish god and a prophet called Mohammed that conversed with angels and rode to heaven on his horse; that Jews believe that they invented the original god and that it's wrong to eat a hamburger and drink a milkshake at the same time; that Hindus believe that there is not one god but many, perhaps millions, some that may look like elephants; and that Buddhists don't focus all that much on gods at all. Students would learn what different religions believed, and the real impact they had on history and modern events. There would be, or should be, no attempt to suggest that the beliefs of any one religion were actually true.
Parents confuse the official definition of religious instruction with religious education. And this is a confusion that many Christians are willing to exploit, deceptively talking about religious education when referring to their 'Religious Instruction' classes, which should be called 'Christian Instruction', or even more truthfully, 'Christian Fundamentalist Indoctrination'. It's utterly deluded to send your kid to a class commonly called 'Bible in Schools' and expect that they're going to learn about the likes of the Hindu religion or what gods the ancient Greeks or Aztec believed in. None of these other religions are mentioned in the Bible, and their omission in the classroom lessons only reinforces in young minds that these other religions and other gods are not important.
We do see many insincere Christians pretending to argue for 'religion in schools' on the pretext that children are actually learning about the different religions, that it's not simply Christian indoctrination. But in fact all they want taught in these classes is Christianity, and not generic Christianity either, but the beliefs of their specific denomination of Christianity.
Another problem with this general ignorance on the part of parents about what is being taught in RI or 'Bible in Schools', is that many are ignorant of the creationist and fundamentalist nature of the lessons. Not only are parents ignorant of what their children aren't being taught, ie not ethics and not comparative religion, they are also ignorant of what they are being taught, ie bogus science and bogus history, on top of harmful morals. Many parents have managed (through mental gymnastics) to accept both God and evolution, both God and the Big Bang, and no doubt don't want their children rejecting evolution and cosmology for a belief in Adam and Eve and a 6,000-year-old universe. Only Christian fundamentalists still believe in those old myths, but it's often fundamentalists that teach RI classes, and so most parents will be unaware that these ancient myths are being taught to their children as facts. As researcher Cathy Byrne, of Sydney's Macquarie University's Centre for Research and Social Inclusion, said, 'most parents would be shocked to learn what goes on in some religious education classes'.
Why would RI classes lie to kids like this? Well, amazing as it seems, fundamentalists sincerely (if foolishly) believe in this nonsense, and they want children to believe in it as well, and the only access they have to children is, much to their annoyance, in RI classes. Fundamentalist Christians wish that our schools weren't secular, and that their fundamentalist Christianity was taught alongside literature, history, art and a carefully edited science. But it's not, that would require a retreat to the Dark Ages, and so to this end many fundamentalists are continually trying to have the religious nonsense know as Creationism incorporated into science classes. Until very recently, Creationism, the belief that the universe, life and everything was created by a god or gods, has been the main belief as to how we all came about. Every religion has it creationists, although in western countries it usually refers to the God of the Bible and his creation of the universe in six days some 6,000 to 10,000 years ago. Then a few years after a fiasco that involved a garden, a talking snake, some forbidden fruit and a naked woman, he then deliberately tried to destroy it all in Noah's flood because things were once again not going as well as God might have hoped for. For someone that is omniscient, God it seems was genuinely shocked at how badly things turned out. And it all pretty much went down hill from there, with massacres, genocides, religious wars and persecution, pogroms, crusades, inquisitions, heretic and witch burnings and holocausts. And for God himself it reached an all time low with he was caught conspiring in the torture and brutal execution of his own bastard son. Not only is Creationism wrong, it is embarrassingly wrong. But your kids will learn it as fact in RI classes. Who made everything? God did!
Thanks to the ongoing efforts of many scientists, such as Dr Alison Campbell in NZ, and sensible, scientifically literate parents and individuals, the fight to keep Creationism out of science classes is being won, but fundamentalists are continually testing the defensive walls for a way in. They have not by any means given up their fight to brainwash children and their latest weapon aimed at school science classes has been an erroneously labeled 'scientific theory' called 'Intelligent Design', or ID for short, that supposedly offers an alternative scientific explanation to that of evolution. But of course ID is just Creationism wearing funny glasses and a false moustache. It's still a religious explanation, and wearing nerdy glasses doesn't make it scientific.
Christians of course believe what they are saying is true, just as the ancient Babylonians and Romans thought their gods were real too. Failing to learn from history however, Christians argue that children have a right to at least learn of alternative ideas on how the universe and life arose, and thus demand equal time in our schools, especially science classes, to put forward their views. However cries of 'Equal time' and 'Teach the controversy' are red herrings, designed to appeal to the public's sense of fair play. When two people are running for public office we do insist that they be given equal time to put their views forward, and if there is a controversy over some matter, we ask to be informed on both sides of the debate. But there is no controversy in science regarding evolution, and unlike two election candidates, evolution and ID are not equal, they're not two new competing ideas that have just surfaced, and thus they don't deserve equal time. Scientists overwhelmingly support evolution, and while there is debate over some of the details, as with all disciplines, there is no denial, no controversy in science over the claim that evolution actually happened. The only controversy is between science and religion; there is no controversy within science to be discussed within science classes.
While there are always alternative explanations for most every question, we are fooling ourselves if we pretend that alternative explanations are equally likely to be correct. Let's demonstrate how absurd it is to assume that all alternative explanations are equal and deserve equal time. Let's look at how kids get presents at Xmas. There are two alternative explanations. One is that a supernatural being who knows our thoughts will reward or punish moral behaviour on the anniversary of the birth of Jesus Christ. The other is that parents distribute the gifts under the cover of darkness, and there is no old bearded guy looking down on us. A scientific, critical look at the claims surrounding Santa would soon demonstrate which explanation deserved to be believed and which ditched. One explanation is rational, the other fantasy, they do not have equal support and we should not pretend that one or the other might be the correct explanation. No sane, rational, intelligent adult would sit through a class that tried to argue that we should equally consider both explanations. And if parents and other adults stopped lying to kids and simply gave them the facts, belief in Santa would disappear over night.
Belief in religion is no different. While parents might think it is harmless to lie to their kids about Santa, the Tooth Fairy and God in the privacy of their own home and church, are they not bright enough to grasp that their lies, myths and fantasies have no place in science classes? Imagine if schools were forced to take this Christian insistence on presenting alternative explanations seriously. Teachers would have to offer Holocaust denial and pyramid building by aliens in history classes, turning lead into gold in chemistry, gremlin eradication in engineering, the stork theory in sex education and evil curse protection in health classes. Only evolution is taught in science classes because the evidence overwhelmingly supports it and not ID. Of course it's important to be open to alternative explanations, but once evidence demolishes a suggested explanation then it must be rejected. That's why our schools no longer even mention, let alone teach, the old belief that the world is flat, magically created 6,000 years ago or at the centre of the universe. Schools should not give equal teaching time to an alternative explanation if that explanation has little or no chance of being correct, and especially not if it has been convincingly proven false. Teaching kids about Creationism beliefs should be reserved for classes on mythology, or in 'Comparative Religion' classes, which are essentially the same thing.
Continuing with the equal time, alternative explanation theme, let's look at the other side of the coin. Can you imagine a private Christian school, a Catholic integrated school or any church opening its doors and inviting an atheist or Muslim to instruct their students or congregation in a weekly class on atheism or Islam? No, of course not. But that's what equal time means! That's what considering alternative explanations means! If only Christians get to put their view forward then it's not equal. Christians are saying that they want to come into a science class and talk about religion, so to be fair they must let scientists come into their churches and talk about science. That's equal time. Some Christians also say that there should be disclaimers written in science textbooks and spoken by teachers that stress that evolution is 'just a theory' and 'not a fact'. Would they also support equal treatment in churches, requiring ministers, priests etc to read out the following: 'Now remember Christianity is just a theory, not a fact, and there are other alternative theories which debunk not just Christianity but religion in general, which we will discuss in our next sermon'. That would be equal treatment. Can you imagine Christians ever promoting true equality? But it's not about equality or fairness or even science. As scientist Eugenie C. Scott said: 'People don't oppose evolution because they disagree with the science but because it offends their religious sensibilities'.
What church, or even school that offers RI, do you know of that has invited an informed atheist to come and 'Teach the controversy' and ensure 'Equal time'? Why is this not happening if they truly want children to understand alternative views?
Of course Christian fundamentalists don't want atheists or scientists in their churches, they just want their creationist beliefs in our schools. However, some people are onto their tricks. In a NSW 'Official Notice 17/09 - Advice to Teachers of Science' document, it was stated that, 'If taught as part of any school-based program, it must be clear to students that Creationism and Intelligent Design: Are not scientific, nor evidence-based'. Not that Christian fundamentalists believe that for one moment, as this comment from an irate Julie B., Australia, shows:
'I come from a family of scientists (my parents both being science teachers) in addition to my own science qualifications, and the blatant falsehood of this statement borders on the unbelievable. That statement is a lie, that even an honest atheist cannot agree with... [The] school [is] being forced to teach a lie — a lie that not only goes against [our] religion, but a lie that goes against science and logic — a lie that the education authorities must know is a lie.'Sorry Julie, but we're honest atheists, and it's your statement that is the lie. It has been shown time and time again, especially in legal trials in the US, that Creationism is nothing but religion. There is the same amount of science and evidence supporting ID as there is supporting the creationist claims in the Bible, that is, none whatsoever. Your erroneous and indignant comment actually reveals exactly why you don't like the science that is being taught in schools: it 'goes against [our] religion'. Nothing more, nothing less. It must be a filthy lie because it's different to what her Bible, written by ignorant goat herders thousands of years ago, says.
Here's some more comments from fundamentalists angered at schools trying to prevent Creationism and/or Intelligent Design from being part of science classes:
'I personally think that we need to separate state from religion and get atheism and humanism out of our school system. If they want to teach evolution then let them do it in their own faith based schools.'The writer is another idiot that confuses atheism and humanism with religion, and who in his ignorance believes that evolution is faith-based rather than evidence-based. These religious nutters blindly assume that just because their cherished beliefs are a religion and can only be supported by faith, then everything else must also be faith-based religions, including science and atheism. And what schools have classes in atheism anyway? And look at this comment from another person annoyed at secular schools:
'Considering the type of people now emerging from "secular humanist" state schools (criminal psychopaths and sociopathic misfits!)... If teaching "science" (falsely so called!) produces such large crops of soul-less degenerates, then, who needs it? Christians shouldn't take this "lying down" 'Don't you just love how these honest, God-fearing Christians have to lie to produce an argument; that the kids emerging from our state schools are criminal psychopaths, sociopathic misfits and soulless degenerates, and that scientific knowledge made them that way. Hell, most kids hate science and drop it as soon as they can to take art or business courses. How many evolutionary biologists do you know that are criminal psychopaths? Is it worth checking our prison population to see how many inmates have science Ph.Ds, compared to how many are Christians?
So, unable to peddle their creationist myths in science classes, the fundamentalists unfortunately still have free rein to brainwash children in their RI classes. And they will make full use of this time to lie to children and undermine and challenge the facts they receive in science classes. Of course Christians pushing RI pretend there is a close relationship between science and the Bible, as this comment shows:
'If you can't teach creation or ID in science class then you can teach it in religious classes. Students could have an additional class of Religious instruction which could be devoted to the science of the Bible.'The science of the Bible? Oh please, give us a break. That's as silly as using the Bible to teach computer hacking or cake decorating. According to the 'science' of the Bible, when God created the universe he caused light to somehow come into existence before the Sun was created. According to the Bible man didn't evolve but was created fully formed from dust by a magical command, and woman was moulded from the man's rib. They lived naked in a paradise called the Garden of Eden, where death and suffering was unknown. Enter the talking snake and their eviction from the garden into one of the Middle Eastern countries. This led to more adventures for the pair and their offspring, which eventually saw the entire planet being flooded and all life being killed bar for an old man, his family and their boatload of pets. We're told of a woman being turned into a pillar of salt, of stars falling to Earth, of the Sun stopping in the sky, of Egyptians turning wooden staffs into snakes, of a man parting the Red Sea, of men being raised from the dead, of a man walking on water and turning water into wine, and let's not forget the talking donkey. We hear of a man that lived for three days inside a large fish and of a simple trumpet blast that brings down fortress walls, of a star that guides astrologers to a stable, and of a woman who gets pregnant while remaining a virgin. We're informed that hail and snow is kept in storehouses, that the sea is held back by doors and bars, that the world is flat, rests on pillars and cannot move. We're led to believe that dinosaurs coexisted with humans, but that God for some unknown reason layered their fossils in the ground to make it appear that we didn't. Likewise he created the universe with the false appearance of being billions of years old, when it's evidently only thousands.
Oh yes, there's lots of good science and reliable history in the Bible. Yeah right! Even Bible stories that are plausible, that don't involve magic, such as the Hebrews' exodus from Egypt, are false. The truth of the matter is that kids would actually learn more facts about the world from reading 'Harry Potter' than they would from the Bible, and they would certainly pick up better morals from 'Harry Potter'. The Bible was written in the Bronze Age by primitive, superstitious, desert nomads who were completely ignorant of how the world came about, how big it really was and how it worked. So they made it all up. In this they were no different from most other cultures in our distant past, the question Christians have to now ask is why we have thrown out the myths and fantasies of every other ancient culture and yet they still cling to this piece of silly fiction called the Bible? But it doesn't matter why they delude themselves, the real question that parents need to ask themselves is should they let these fundamentalists teach this nonsense to their children in RI classes?
If you want your children to understand how the universe works and their place in it, then instil in them an interest in science and history, and make sure they opt out of RI classes. Science and history classes, as their names suggest, teach science and history, whereas RI classes teach lies, fictions, myths and fantasies.
The last thing kids are going to learn from RI classes is science and history. All it can do is corrupt what scientific and historical facts they may have learnt in their real classes, and at worst, cause them to reject true knowledge and replace it with a comforting, and confusingly at the same time, threatening, fantasy of a loving and vengeful God. A god who supposedly, with a whole planet to choose from, chose an obscure backward tribe in the Middle East called the Hebrews as his chosen people, and hasn't been seen since.
By tolerance we're referring to the dictionary definition where 'tolerate' means, 'to allow without prohibiting or opposing; to permit; to put up with; endure; reluctant acceptance despite reservations'. Does Christianity encourage its followers to permit others to hold beliefs that Christians themselves might not hold? We're not saying they must agree with or endorse the different views held by others, but merely acknowledge that people have a right to hold differing views and behave differently, without interference and a continual badgering to change their ways.
So let's look at some examples and see if Christianity is tolerant or intolerant of what others think and do. An obvious one today is sexual behaviour. Fundamentalist Christianity does not tolerate sex outside marriage, and sometimes not even within marriage if it's not for reproduction, that is, if it's just for enjoyment. So of course masturbation is out, and homosexual sex is the ultimate sin. Most Christians are dead against abortion and some are against contraception. For some, divorce or remarriage after divorce is a no-no. Some Christians are intolerant of sexual equality, believing instead that women are the property of men. Let's recall that the Bible states that, 'women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says. If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church'. (1CO 14:34-35). The Bible also commands that, 'A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent.' (1TI 2:11-12). So clearly no tolerating women as equals.
The Bible also tells us that we should be utterly intolerant of the likes of witches, psychic mediums, homosexuals, followers of other religions, non-believers and even disobedient children, even to the extent that on finding some we should stone them to death. Should innocent children be taught in RI classes, certainly not to go as far as executing anyone these days, but to still be intolerant towards homosexuals, atheists and followers of other religions? And if not why not, since it's what the Bible stories demand?
On the other side of the coin, where the Bible does push tolerance, it implies that we should be tolerant of the likes of slavery, xenophobia and racism, and even in some cases, rape, where rather than punishing the rapist, he is in a sense rewarded when his victim is forced to marry him. You may be aware that the Bible never condemned slavery, even giving instructions on how it should work, and as for xenophobia, Jesus had no intention of permitting non-Jews into his little group. Jesus told his disciples: 'Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel'. (MT 10:5-6). When a non-Jew approached him he initially ignored her, explaining that only the Jews are God's children and everyone else are just dogs in comparison. So to reiterate, the Bible teaches children to tolerate slavery and xenophobia and to be intolerant towards homosexuals and other religions, and the Bible is the only recommended book in RI classes.
So Jesus wanted nothing to do with outsiders, but was he at least tolerant of those that didn't accept his teaching and fall at his feet? Not in the least. Remember that he said:
'Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law, a man's enemies will be the members of his own household. Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me'. (MT 10:34-38).Jesus did not ask his followers to tolerate their family and friends who might think differently, just the opposite, they were told to hate them, to view them as enemies. He also said, 'He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters'. (MT 12:30). Jesus would tolerate no dissent. He actively encouraged conflict between different groups, as did his father in earlier days. Need we repeat that Jesus not only said, 'I did not come to bring peace, but a sword (MT 10:34)', he also said, '... if you don't have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one (LK 22:36)'. Let's remember that God chose the Jews, and only the Jews, as his chosen people, and pushed them to slaughter any and all outsiders that stood in their way. The Jews only gained Israel (according to the Bible version of events) after God ordered them to go there and slaughter all its inhabitants. God also severely punished the Jews each time they showed tolerance and acceptance towards other groups, forcing them to remain distinct from others. The males were even made to mutilate their penises to show their submission to God and demonstrate their difference from males in other groups.
Since Jesus embraces intolerance, insisting that his followers view even their families as enemies, one wonders how Jesus and the Bible views real enemies? Well, let's recall the parable that a loving Jesus offered as to how Christians should behave when he returns at the second coming: 'But those enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them — bring them here and kill them in front of me'. (LK 19:27) No tolerance there, just murderous cruelty. And here is a Biblical example of how one should behave when your enemies are vanquished: 'O Daughter of Babylon, doomed to destruction, happy is he who repays you for what you have done to us — he who seizes your infants and dashes them against the rocks'. (PS 137:8-9) What parent today would want their child taught that people who don't agree with them should be caught and executed, and that the innocent infants of defeated enemies should be murdered by smashing their heads against rocks? Christianity teaches tolerance? You've got to be kidding! Only people that have never read what the Bible really says can be this deluded.
Of course you might argue that many Christians today don't subscribe to many of God's barbaric and immoral commandments, or the command from Jesus to hate their atheist brother, which is true, but these ethical views are not the views that they would gain from RI classes. Any views of tolerance children might have going into RI classes would have been realised in the secular world and consequently destroyed in RI classes. For example, because of exposure to attitudinal changes in the secular world, many young people today are tolerant and accepting of homosexuality whereas their church-going elders are not. RI classes are a desperate attempt to reverse that trend.
The main reason that Christianity is intolerant of the beliefs and actions of others is that they blindly believe that their God is the one and only true god, and that rejecting him will lead to a life of evil and an eternity of torture. Christians can't teach their children that atheists or Muslims can be good people, since surely without their God's morals and commandments this is impossible? If they were to admit that non-Christians could lead good, kind, decent lives without Jesus, then their children would ask, 'Why do we need God to be good if they don't?' Why indeed.
All Christians (and Muslims, Hindus etc) believe that other religions aren't just different, they're wrong! If Christianity is right, then logically everyone else must be wrong. Religious believers are not just saying that other people hold DIFFERENT religious beliefs, they're saying that they hold FALSE religious beliefs. And false beliefs are dangerous beliefs, beliefs that are capable of eroding support for the one true belief.
No RI instructor will teach or even hint that Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist or atheist beliefs might be an acceptable alternative to belief in Jesus. Just the opposite, these other beliefs must be railed against, they are not to be tolerated, they are to be challenged and their followers shown the error of their ways. And in blatant attempts to destroy these other beliefs, the underlying message is that their followers are deluded, ignorant, arrogant, and often dangerous. No child will come away from his RI classes believing that Muslims or atheists are simply decent fellow humans leading good lives by following a different path, or believing that mindless evolution might be the explanation that humans exist, or that having sex just for fun is OK in God's eye. They will come away believing that they now know the truth that the Bible contains, that they shouldn't tolerate different beliefs, and that their God wants them to help these poor unfortunates see the light and embrace Jesus, not Allah or Shiva.
As an atheist I can tolerate and even enjoy the company of neighbours who are homosexual or Hindu or believers in UFOs, since their beliefs and lifestyles are no threat to me. But Christians see threats everywhere they look to their ancient beliefs, and threats must be eliminated, not tolerated. RI instructors are teaching and encouraging children to be intolerant and to persecute, to embrace God and Jesus and to shun those that don't. They are teaching that other religions are dangerous and harmful since they spread lies and untruths and keep your children from the salvation offered by a long-dead carpenter. If a child has been taught that, unlike ice cream flavours, there is only one correct choice and the rest are evil and dangerous, then we have a child that will grow into an adult that will be intolerant of anyone that doesn't believe as they do. And if they take their belief seriously, they will, as instructed by their God, persecute non-believers at every opportunity and suffer the delusion that they have a God-given right to dictate how society should function. RI instructors will have created an annoying and potentially dangerous group of Bible-thumping dictators. You've only got to look at the ignorant, intolerant, abusive mobs making up Islamic protests worldwide, the murderous Islamists blowing themselves up in crowded markets and the barbaric justice handed down by the Taliban to see where a fanatical belief in the truthfulness of your religion leads. And though held in check these days by the law, Christians have a shameful history that was as equally dangerous, disgusting, repugnant and immoral. Certainly less threatening and violent these days, but still equally ignorant and intolerant are the Christians condemning abortion, homosexuality, contraception, masturbation and genetic engineering, while raping children in churches (unfortunately for children, the loving God of the Bible went out of his way to specifically forbid sex with the likes of goats and sheep, but not with children).
Teaching children to blindly follow the commandments of one god and that the followers of other religions are deluded and sinful is teaching nothing but intolerance towards others. No child that swallows their teaching will walk out of RI classes with an understanding that all humans have a right to hold different beliefs, some which will be better than others, and that as long as those beliefs don't harm others, they are all deserving of tolerance. If the 'Christian morals and values' from their RI classes take hold, all they'll be wondering when they meet atheists like us is why we're so stupid, and how can they change our minds. Like the annoying Christian evangelists that knock on our doors, their interaction with us won't be driven by thoughts of tolerance, but by thoughts of conversion.
So what is it exactly that these Bible classes teach the kids? At the end of this 'NZ Herald' article — 'Bible teachers dropped for preaching at kids' — there is a (partial?) list of the code of expectations that Christian Religious Education teachers must abide by.
But to begin with, the article discloses that the CEC (the main RI provider) has stood down 'three volunteers for teaching pupils their own beliefs', the latest incident involving 'an "inappropriate" Bible lesson on Adam and Eve', given to children at an Auckland school. There were also two complaints 'over teachers telling the class Santa Claus did not exist', but those teachers were not stood down. CEC's chief executive Simon Greening said claims 'that children had been told they would "go to hell" had not been lodged as official complaints to CEC', adding that they'd investigate if they were lodged, since, 'We're there to educate, not evangelise'.
The mind boggles as to what the 'inappropriate' Adam and Eve lesson was. Did they describe in graphic detail what the Bible meant when it said: 'Adam lay with his wife Eve, and she became pregnant'? Or did they explain that Adam and Eve were wandering around naked and perfectly happy about it? Maybe they mentioned that Adam and Eve did something that pissed off God and now innocent children were being penalised for their mistake, and that's totally just and fair in God's book of morals. Or was it simply that they mentioned the Adam and Eve story at all, since it's not specifically mentioned on their list of approved Bible stories? What's that you say, they have a list of 'approved' Bible stories? Shouldn't all the Bible stories be approved, why are there stories about God that they're not allowed to tell children? What are they hiding, what are they ashamed of?
But let's go back to that claim Greening made. How can anyone seriously claim that they're, 'there to educate, not evangelise', when rather than providing them with knowledge, they're clearly lying to children. That is not education. And all their lies are clearly structured to make the children believe in Jesus and the Christian God, which is evangelising.
So here's the list that was provided at the end of the above article:
Christian Religious Education teachers must:What lies and deceptions are included in their list you may ask. Well, to 'Teach without denominational bias', suggests that all Christian churches are in agreement with each other, and all telling the same story, which of course is complete nonsense. Each church claims that all the others are pushing a distorted version of Christianity, which is why there is at present some 44,000 different Christian denominations, and counting. To hide this crucial disagreement from pupils is not educating them. Then they refuse to 'teach about hell or ... creationism or "end of time"', which are all absolutely essential elements of Christianity, and so hiding these elements utterly distorts the message of Christianity and gives pupils a false outlook. They also refuse to 'dismiss Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny as untrue' (the Tooth Fairy is fair game it seems), and so by omission they are again giving children a false outlook on what's real in the world. Again, this goes against the idea of education. And while they are not allowed to dismiss Santa or the Easter Bunny as untrue, note that there is no prohibition on dismissing the likes of Allah, Shiva, Thor and thousands of other gods as untrue.
They are to be told 'Bible stories such as those of Abraham, King David, and the disciples', but how is this education and not evangelism? There is no good evidence that Abraham even existed, and while King David and the disciples may have been real people, there is no good evidence that the fanciful stories about them in the Bible are true. Note that there are no stories to be told about Mohammed, Buddha, Julius Caesar or Charles Darwin. The stories are coming from the one book, a book written thousands of years ago by a primitive, ignorant, superstitious, warlike tribe that spent 40 years lost in a desert. Children are to be 'educated' about 'The story of Christmas through the birth of Jesus', and yet they do just the opposite. Jesus has nothing to do with Christmas, ie December 25th and the winter solstice, since he wasn't born at Christmas as they claim. Christians merely appropriated much older and existing festivals, such as Saturnalia, that were celebrated by pagans around the time of the winter solstice, and renamed the celebration Christmas. Christmas is stolen property. Likewise, they're not being educated when they're told about 'the Easter story, including the belief Jesus died on the cross and rose again'. How is this not evangelising? Clearly the RI teachers will do their utmost to impress on their naive and gullible pupils that this bullshit story is true. That's why they go to primary schools and not secondary schools where kids would be more intellectually mature. To evangelise means to preach the gospel to someone, convince them that it's true and thus convert them to Christianity. These RI teachers are preaching a gospel story, that Jesus truly did die and come back as a zombie, and at no time will they present the alternative atheistic, historical and scientific arguments that it's not true, and then let the kids make up their own minds. They are telling them the silly Jesus story, as opposed to the silly Zeus or Osiris stories, because they want them to believe in Jesus, and if a child leaves their class believing that Jesus did indeed die and then rise again, then they have been converted to Christianity. Mission accomplished.
And what arrogant bullshit it is to claim that we have to get Christians into our schools to educate our children about people like Sir Edmund Hillary, Kate Sheppard and Peter Snell, because of course their real qualified teachers are never going to mention them are they?
Then finally, because again they'll never learn these lessons from their real qualified teachers, or from their parents, we have the deluded notion that Christians are needed to teach our children about, 'Values including personal worth, courage, inclusion, loving thy neighbour and forgiveness [and] Notions of right and wrong including not stealing, lying, or hurting others'. Clearly they are expected to learn these morals and values from the Bible stories they're told, but note there is no mention of the truly evil, barbaric, unjust and disgusting morals and values that are contained in the Bible stories, such as child sacrifice, killing homosexuals, witches and disobedient children, keeping slaves, slaughtering the neighbouring tribe to steal their land, while keeping all their cute virgins, and refusing to forgive not just someone that has angered you, but persecuting their innocent children as well, and their children's children too. For every moral example the RI teachers will give, with a Bible story to illustrate it, many, many more could be given that illustrate just the opposite morals. They have to be terribly selective in what Bible stories they reveal. But again the false implication is that because these lessons in values are taught by visiting Christians, then children will mistakenly believe that Christianity has the hold on morality. At no time will they be told of atheists or Hindus or Muslims or ancient Greeks acting in ethical and virtuous ways, because they want to sow the belief that only those that have accepted Jesus can truly know how to be good and decent people. And again this is not education because it is clearly a lie, and it is evangelism because they are deviously pushing children towards belief in Christianity while pretending there are really no other options. They only bring the one book to class, the Bible, and apparently all the answers we need are in there.
CEC's bogus claim in the above article, 'We're there to educate, not evangelise', was uttered in an attempt to counter an embarrassing revelation made earlier in the year by CEC's commission director David Mulholland, who wrote about RI classes in a newsletter to fellow Christians and noted that:
'Churches by and large have not woken up to the fact that this is a mission field on our doorstep. The children are right there and we don't have to supply buildings, seating, lighting or heating.'He sounds like a sleazy Catholic priest when he says, 'The children are right there ...'. We've already commented here on this clear admission that this Christian organisation is deliberately targeting schools to evangelise innocent children, so we won't repeat them, but we will note that in order to improve their access to children, Mulholland wrote that, 'Christian followers were also encouraged to join school boards so they could have "more influence" on holding religious study in class', and admitted that, 'the organisation's aim was to "sow a seed" of Christianity'.
The silly thing is that according to the Bible, according to their God's wishes, Christians should be openly evangelising, and they know that, but because these days Christians are far more afraid of secular justice than divine justice, they feel that they have to be devious in winning young converts to Jesus. They can be honest with their fellow Christians, admit that naïve young children are ripe for the picking, and encourage Christians to join and sway school boards to give them access, but to non-Christians and the general public they know they have to lie about their motives for access to young minds, saying they just want to teach about values to help society, and are not at all interested in bringing children to Jesus. Yeah, right.
In a page on the CEC website entitled 'Info for Parents', the information presented there is a little more straightforward as to what the RI classes are for. For example:
'Certain parts of our curriculum reinforce the values as outlined in the New Zealand curriculum: It is important to emphasise that along with teaching Christian beliefs and Bible stories, we also teach the values outlined in the New Zealand curriculum, such as: excellence; equity; relating to others; participation; respect and integrity.'They admit that only some of their lessons are about values, the rest of the time they are concerned with 'teaching Christian beliefs'. If it was truly just about teaching values to kids, then harping on about their Christian beliefs that don't illustrate any particular value or moral is just a waste of time. Contrary to what they claim, this is pure evangelism, they are telling their silly stories in the sincere hope that the kids will believe them, and once they believe them, they've become a Christian. They reinforce this with:
'CRE teachers teach Christian beliefs: The Christian belief that Jesus is God's Son - at Easter CRE teachers teach the Christian belief that Jesus died on the Cross and rose again and the Christian belief that because of what Jesus did at Easter people can become friends of God. CRE teachers teach Christian beliefs about Jesus and use Bible stories such as Jesus healing the leper; Jesus walking on the water; and Jesus reaching out to people who were marginalised (because of their poverty; or other condition (such as leprosy). CRE teachers are trained to use language such as "Christians believe..." or "The Bible says...".'Again, teaching cherry-picked Christian beliefs, that Jesus could walk on water and that we can all 'become friends of God', has nothing to do with morals and everything to do with evangelism. And rather than proclaim that God is real, the RI teachers may be told to 'use language such as "Christians believe..." or "The Bible says...",' but how is this different to what the kids hear in their other classes from their real teachers? For example, 'Scientists believe ... ' or 'The Encyclopedia Britannica says ...'. Young kids are expected to believe what their teachers tell them, and they generally lack the knowledge and intellectual maturity to do anything but believe them. And since these RI volunteers come to their school and stand in front of a classroom and act like a real teacher, why wouldn't most kids see no difference between the statements, 'Christians believe ... ' and 'Scientists believe ... '? A lawyer or a skeptic might know that there is a huge difference between the statements 'Christians believe ... ' and 'Scientists know ... ', but kids don't, and while controlling the language the volunteers use might mollify the parents, the kids will blindly believe that the RI volunteers are telling the truth no matter what phrases they use.
So what's the alternative, since no doubt some will argue that values classes run by fundamentalist Christians are better than no classes on values at all? But is that true? If the only ones willing to run a values class was some fundamentalist Muslim group, would many parents take up their offer, for their kids to learn morals based on stories from the Koran? And if in a moment of madness they did opt for the teachings of Allah over Jesus, this would of course only be replacing one form of religious indoctrination with another. The problem with religious instruction is not just with Christianity, it is with any belief system that promotes primitive, barbaric and unjust behaviour, and to make things worse, pushes a worldview that is based on nothing by a blatant fairy tale.
But all is not lost, just the opposite in fact. With religious instruction gone from our schools, and with no replacement classes, at the very least kids will learn about the world and values from their other classes, such as history, social studies, science and literature studies. And learning how the world really came about and how society functions when people of diverse beliefs work together will produce much more informed and rounded kids than will blind obedience to some ancient holy book. And if parents feel this is not enough or too haphazard, then they could seek to have schools replace the RI classes with classes in ethics and critical thinking. They would be completely secular and so wouldn't break any laws or offend any specific religion. These courses have long been offered at universities, and so the theoretical foundation is well established and they could easily be simplified for young minds to comprehend. If it's felt that values need to be taught to kids, that they're not always going to pick up the right ones, then an ethics class is by far the best option available. A class that looks at all the morals and values that people from different cultures and religions have espoused over the centuries, and then rationally chooses the best ones to live by. It's a much more sensible move than blindly settling on one religious moral code and being forced to adopt it in its entirety, taking the horrific and unjust morals along with a few good ones. So there are indeed good alternatives to running RI classes. Just doing nothing is miles better than learning about how God wants us to treat our diverse neighbours, and offering an ethics class is better still.
So let's recap. Lawmakers have cunningly added a proviso called the Nelson Clause into NZ's Education Act. This allows them to turn a blind eye and pretend a school is 'closed', which then permits Christians (or any religious person actually) to slither in and run classes on religious instruction. All this skulduggery is to get around the law that says instruction in state schools must be 'entirely of a secular nature'. There is probably little doubt that this legally dubious situation came about due to the machinations of Christians unduly influencing politicians, many of which would also have been Christian and quite willing to work in the service of the Lord, and subvert the law of the land.
So what might young children learn in these 'Bible in Schools' classes? Or perhaps it's easier to ask what they won't learn.
Children will not learn good morals and values in these RI classes, since the source of the moral code for their lessons is the Bible, one of the most immoral books that have ever existed. If you want your kids persecuting homosexuals, subjugating women and refusing to distribute condoms in AIDS-ravaged Africa, if you want a society divided into God's chosen people and everyone else, then fine, support the classes. But if you want kids growing up to treat everyone fairly in a world where people are free to live their lives without interference, then you need to oppose the classes whose badly flawed values are based on nothing but tales of ancient ignorance and superstition.
Children will not learn about the world's different religions because, again, the source for their lessons is the Bible, and only the Bible. At no time will they relate stories from the holy books of other religions, such as Islam or Hinduism (or at least not stories that show that religion in a positive light). Nor will they provide neutral and factual information on the origins, beliefs and rituals of the world's many religions, both past and present. The fact that the organisation that runs most 'Bible in Schools' classes actually calls the lessons 'Christian Religious Education', clearly identifies the only religion children will be schooled in.
Children will not learn about science and history, which is OK, since it's not what the lessons are for, and they don't learn these topics in the likes of cooking classes either. But there is a real negative impact on science and history, since the ancient source book they're using for their morality tales is, unfortunately, but not unexpectedly, chock-full of scientific and historical errors, and so in the course of their lessons about God's morality code, they can't help but pick up untold claims about the universe and life that are quite wrong. Really, really wrong. This will lead to a genuine conflict when they encounter contrary claims in their science and history classes. Should they accept the evolution and Big Bang theories, or did God, the Christian god, create the universe and life in six days? Should they believe things on the evidence or on faith alone?
Children will not learn to be tolerant of others, since, yes, you guessed it, their lesson source book clearly explains that anyone who doesn't accept Jesus to rule over them should be killed, which is not being tolerant in the slightest. In fact there is a huge list of things that the Bible demands Christians be intolerant of, such as homosexuality, uppity women that think they should have a voice in society, nudity, stem cell research, non-believers and even people that love their family more than Jesus.
As if being totally unqualified to teach wasn't bad enough, the reality is that most of the RI teachers will hold fundamentalist and creationist Christian beliefs, meaning that unlike many of today's more liberal Christians and churches, they take the silly Bible stories literally. In their minds, the world — a flat, stationary world — really was created in six days some 6,000 years ago. Adam and Eve were the world's first humans and the first nudists. Humans and dinosaurs lived peacefully together as vegetarians. God flooded the entire planet drowning untold innocent humans and animals just because he was peeved over the actions of a few in the Middle East. Stars fell to earth (and yet no one but the Jews noticed, and amazingly these falling stars didn't even scorch the vegetation). A man turned water into wine, walked on water, drove demons from the possessed and into poor unfortunate pigs, cured disease with a wave of his hand, and even raised the dead. With the awe and wonder that true knowledge of the universe offers through modern scientific and historical research, it is a truly backward leap to corrupt the minds of inquisitive and intelligent children with the ignorant and superstitious stories that make up the Bible. Stories that the 'Bible in Schools' teachers deviously tell their innocent and trusting charges are all true, yes, even the ones about Jonah living inside a fish for three days and Lot's wife turning into a pillar of salt. The sole purpose of these classes is to convert kids to Christianity. If it's not about instilling belief in the God of the Bible, as the Christian volunteers claim, if it is only about teaching ethics and educating about all the world's different religious beliefs, then why do the classes have to be taken by fundamentalist Christians? Surely no one believes, apart from some deluded Christians, that only Christians can behave ethically and can pass on good values to young children? If it's not about evangelising, then there are untold stories from history, both factual and fictional, from numerous cultures, civilisations and religions, that would serve to demonstrate ethical values. Anything from 'Aesop's Fables' and the death of Socrates, to the life of Abraham Lincoln and stories from 'Star Trek'.
If it is truly about teaching ethics and educating about all the world's different religious beliefs, as many parents believe, then surely teachers qualified in ethics and mythology and comparative religion are the ones that should be at the front of these classes. Not unqualified, biased, closed-minded and agenda-driven Christian volunteers.
The reality is that it's not about ethics, that's just a smokescreen, it's about religious indoctrination, and Christians all but admitted that when an actual ethics class was offered in Australia in 2010, as this article explains:
'A TRIAL of secular ethics classes for students who do not want to attend scripture lessons will begin in 10 New South Wales primary schools today.On the face of it the classes seem to be offering similar lessons in values as the RI classes claim to teach. So you'd think the Christians would be happy that kids are learning good values, no matter who is teaching them. But no. The article went on to note that:
'Religious leaders, including senior members of the Sydney Anglicans, have raised concerns about the pilot, with many believing the classes may jeopardise religious education.'Note what they're admitting here, they're afraid that ethics classes would 'jeopardise religious education'. Suddenly it's not about ethics anymore, it's about religion. And we're sure that the same fear exists in NZ Christians when people like us suggest offering ethics classes in place of religious instruction classes. They don't want kids taught generic ethics or secular ethics, believing them clearly inferior if not downright dangerous. In their view kids need to be taught Christian ethics, you know, the good ethics. So we're right back to religious indoctrination, that to lead a good life, to be a good person, you have to be schooled in the Christian moral code and accept God as the arbiter of that code. It's not good enough feeling that you shouldn't kill, you must believe that God demands that you not kill.
The clear fact is that 'Bible in Schools' is an anachronism. It may have seemed fine in the backward Dark Ages, when the authoritarian Christian Church held sway over the minds of men, women and children, and when often the only subject studied in places of learning was the Bible. But now, in the 21st century, the only purpose of studying Bible stories in school should be to expose them as childish myths, and to wonder at how intelligent men and women could be so foolish as to believe them. They could easily see that gods like Ra, Jupiter, Thor and Zeus were just make-believe, the invention of primitive minds, but then they stumbled over belief in Jehovah. They giggled over pagan claims that Hercules and Julius Caesar were the sons of gods, but unthinkingly accepted that an illiterate carpenter in a Jewish backwater was the son of a god.
We all need to challenge our friends, neighbours and colleagues that still mistakenly believe that religious instruction has a place in our schools, the very place young minds are at their most vulnerable, a place where they expect to be told the truth about the world, not fed a 2,000 year-old fairy tale and asked to believe it. Educate yourself about what the Bible truly says, don't just listen to what some priest or RI volunteer wants to tell you, or rely on what you vaguely remember from Sunday School when you were seven. Like memories of all the cute animals going into Noah's Ark, while conveniently ignoring all the screaming innocent men, women and children — and animals, even the fish — that God then drowned in his worldwide flood.
If you have some influence at a school that still offers RI classes, or with parents that send their kids there, then make sure your voice of reason is heard. If people argue that there's nothing wrong with 'Bible in Schools', that it's good that kids are learning about religion, ask them if they would support RI if it was run by Muslims or Hindus. How would they feel if it was 'Koran in Schools', where their kids were taught that just as Christianity superseded Judaism, Islam has now superseded Christianity, and that the prophet Mohammed has replaced Jesus? If they don't wholeheartedly embrace the teaching of stories from the Koran as told by Muslim fundamentalists, or the religious creation myths from untold other holy books, then you know that they too, like the volunteers at the front of RI classes, aren't really promoting the teaching of religious diversity. They merely want their religion, Christianity, taught in schools, in secular schools, where by definition and by law it should never see the light of day.
It's not as though Christians don't have a place to meet, discuss and promote their delusions. All over NZ, in big cities and in small rural towns, churches sprout like weeds. They hold at least weekly gatherings where all are welcome, and in each is a person perfectly qualified to preach the gospel to young and old alike. We need to put religious instruction back in the churches, where it belongs, and where it used to be, under the guise 'Sunday School'. It's no more the job of real schools to teach kids Christianity than it is the job of hospitals to help you with your tax return.
We feel that churches and schools, Christians and non-Christians, need to reach a compromise, one that is summed up in the popular saying:
Authors: John L. Ateo, Rachel C.
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 'A Just and Fair Account? The truth behind integrated schools' by Jim Dakin. The Open Society, Journal of the NZ Association of Rationalists and Humanists, Vol 76 No.4 Summer 2003-4.
96% of integrated schools have a religious special character. There are:
Last Updated Sep 2017