Up Front by Emma Hart

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Up Front: Oh, God

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  • Amanda Wreckonwith,

    Whilst I am opposed to any religious instruction in State schools, I think there is a case to be made for 'religious education' - or at least in the format that I observed as a child in the '70's.
    At my state school in the Midlands of the UK, we received 'religious education'. This encompassed the basic tenets of all the major religions. It also gave us an insight into the lives and cultures of those that had arrived when Idi Amin began to turf out the Indians, Pakistanis and Bangladeshis from Uganda. Without this insight, it would have been easy to fall prey to the National Front lackeys that waited outside the school gates in order to recruit the fearful.
    As NZ becomes ever more multicultural, understanding the varied beliefs of those around us is essential.

    Since Sep 2012 • 171 posts Report Reply

  • Rosemary McDonald, in reply to BenWilson,

    You’d know that you can’t actually do this, right? Putting aside utter impracticality of it to the point of ridiculousness, you are aware that parents can’t just rock up to classes

    Err....unless things have radically changed in the past five years, then I am sure that parents would not be refused permission to sit in on classes. Any 'having a go' sessions would of course be held in private...unless of course the 'teacher' was advocating the kids reject their godless parents immediately and give themselves over to the lord...immediate intervention probably understandable at that point.

    What "story", Ben? I am offering my experience and my opinion.

    Not the same as yours maybe. I respect that.

    It is truly offensive to accuse someone of lying, simply because you disagree with them.

    Where is it written that we should all have the same opinion?

    Giovanni...the Catholic Church has a hell of a lot to answer for....one wishes there really was a hell for those who abuse children. There were no priests or nuns teaching in my childrens schools, and they were not involved closely in the liturgical aspects of church activities, so opportunities did not arise for priests to be alone with them. And, of course, my children had been well educated about keeping safe, and speaking out if they felt something was not right. Like the music teacher....

    And, to continue the sporting theme...how many coaches of childrens teams have turned out to be paedophiles? Concerned parents would be at every practise, on every sports trip...

    Okay...ban all God Stuff in State Schools. Seems to be a majority opinion.

    But I do hope that all those who demand this also refuse to celebrate Christmas and Easter.

    On the grounds that they are Christian festivals, and you are not Christian, this is not a Christian country etc etc...because, as "Danielle" says...

    "The insidious religious bullshit everywhere is at best tiresome and at worst actively harmful. "

    Even worse is when religion is used to promote orgies of consumerism.

    If you want to piss someone off...ask them at the height of their Christmas shopping frenzy if they are going to midnight mass at their local church....

    Waikato, or on the road • Since Apr 2014 • 1344 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart, in reply to Rosemary McDonald,

    On the grounds that they are Christian festivals, and you are not Christian, this is not a Christian country etc etc…because, as “Danielle” says…

    Danielle's name is Danielle, "Rosemary". Maybe exercise some basic good manners?

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4650 posts Report Reply

  • Rich Lock, in reply to Rosemary McDonald,

    celebrate Christmas and Easter.

    Define 'celebrate', please.

    I haven't 'celebrated' easter for around 25 years. I have worked for private companies that have closed their offices on good friday and easter monday. I'm afraid I didn't beg them for the opportunity to come in to work. Does that count as celebrating? Now I work for myself I have been known to work on both those days. Sometimes I get time off by default as my clients aren't working.

    I tend to thank secular trade unions more for my time off - you know, negotiating things like weekends, fair working conditions including the length of a working day and paid overtime.

    back in the mother countr… • Since Feb 2007 • 2728 posts Report Reply

  • Max Rose, in reply to Rosemary McDonald,

    What surprises me about this conversation is the depth of anti – religious feeling….like, where is the fear coming from?

    Others have put this better than me: it's not fear, it's anger. At least from us as adults: as children, if you are made to feel that your beliefs and desires are considered not only socially unacceptable but an offence to a supremely powerful being, then damn right we were fearful.

    I went to a state high school, and not an integrated one. I got repeated detentions for refusing to sing along with hymns in assembly (I didn't make a fuss of it, just bowed by head and stood quietly), to the point where I was one hymn away from getting the cane. Fear of violence is a justified fear. Also, as Ben said, enforced ignorance is a sensible thing to be afraid of. We had a senior science teacher who refused to teach evolution, and who made sure that the whole school had no sex education. I'm angry about that, and angry for the fear that was driven into us.

    And I was lucky enough to be heterosexual, with married parents. I can't imagine what it must be like to grow up in an environment where your growing sexuality is deemed evil, or your parents were said to be "living in sin". A very close friend of mine did grow up gay in a conservative school with Christian teaching, and he would sum up his experience thus:

    Wellington • Since Sep 2011 • 83 posts Report Reply

  • Max Rose, in reply to Rich Lock,

    Define ‘celebrate’, please.

    I'd say that most of us celebrate Xmas with feasting, indolence, exchanging gifts, drinking, and inadvisable sexual encounters (well, if you count office Xmas parties). In other words, much more consistent with Brumalia, Saturnalia, and other winter solstice festivals than anything to do with the baby Jesus.

    Wellington • Since Sep 2011 • 83 posts Report Reply

  • Pete,

    There is no god.

    Religion is on a par with homeopathy, astrology and wearing crocs.

    You nutters can believe this garbage if you want but excuse me if I laugh at it and call it garbage and resist your attempts to indoctrinate children in your fantasy.

    I don't expect religious people to admit that their lives are a lie but without proof they can all bog off

    Since Apr 2008 • 106 posts Report Reply

  • Rich Lock, in reply to Max Rose,

    I’d say that most of us celebrate Xmas with feasting, indolence, exchanging gifts, drinking, and inadvisable sexual encounters (well, if you count office Xmas parties). In other words, much more consistent with Brumalia, Saturnalia, and other winter solstice festivals than anything to do with the baby Jesus.

    http://crispian-jago.blogspot.co.uk/2013/12/the-venn-diagram-of-christmas-traditions.html

    All hail the blessed St John of Nakatomi. For verily did he walk barefoot amongst the evildoers and deliverest the innocent from their embrace. And verily didst the same shit happen to the same guy twice. And then three more times with diminishing returns of quality.

    back in the mother countr… • Since Feb 2007 • 2728 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Rosemary McDonald,

    Err….unless things have radically changed in the past five years, then I am sure that parents would not be refused permission to sit in on classes.

    Have you ever done that? Sat in on one of your children's classes uninvited? I have quite literally never seen that happen, nor have I heard of it happening to anyone.

    But even if it's true that one technically can, the idea of actually doing that is laughable. If you're that distrustful of a teacher, and have the spare time to attend school classes, and actually do attend, then there's really no point having your child in the class.

    I think you were speaking hypothetically, though, right? As in you're not actually suggesting anyone do that, and that they should trust the kids opinions afterwards? Well here's the thing - all the people on this thread saying they thought the whole thing was a fucked up waste of time, or worse, were once kids, and I do trust them in what they say.

    Personally I never had to put up with any of it, so I can offer the perspective that it didn't do me any harm to miss out on that, either, which is at least as strong a reason as all you've managed to give, so far, plus I got upwards of 500 hours of my life back, and didn't weary my parents ears with God bothering. Nor did I get molested or spend hours worrying about my damned soul. I still had values instilled in me, and came to understand more than I ever really cared to about Christianity.

    Even with an entirely secular upbringing it's not like I can avoid hearing about the Western world's favorite invisible friend and his book that loops 4 times before finishing. I read as far into it as I could handle some time around the age of 10, and most of the major stories in it have been cast into film, verse, fiction, short stories, fables, anecdotes etc. Really, that's enough bloody Bible. It's there in a hundred translations and 20-odd English versions and beginners guides and what-have-you, that even the dullest enquiring mind can find out all they'd ever want to know without having to be committed to it from a young age. I've got an app on my phone for it, one of the thousands on offer. There's 5 churches within 2 km of here. You only have to ask a damned Christian and they'll fill you in, if they don't offer to do it for free. They'll come to your doorstep every week in the hope of filling you in. Have I heard of Jesus? Have I ever! I really don't think my kids are going to miss out.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10633 posts Report Reply

  • Danielle,

    Rosemary, I've been posting here under the same name since 2006. What's with the scare quotes?

    How people do or do not engage with Christianesque* religious festivals in their own time is actually irrelevant to the argument at hand, which is whether *primary school children*, *in state funded schools*, should be taught religious dogma as truth by *non-qualified individuals* on a weekly opt-out basis. I don't think they should.

    *I celebrate Christmas as a family and food festival rather than a religious one. We like lights! We like giving each other presents! We like elaborate meals! We've taken the fun parts and left the other stuff alone, and that's fine for us and makes us happy. Anyone who got up in my grill about my consumerism or non-church attendance would be given... rather short shrift, because seriously, WTF with the weird judgeypants concern trolling? How is it any of your damn business?

    Charo World. Cuchi-cuchi!… • Since Nov 2006 • 3828 posts Report Reply

  • David Haywood, in reply to BenWilson,

    Genius!

    Dunsandel • Since Nov 2006 • 1156 posts Report Reply

  • Rich Lock, in reply to Rosemary McDonald,

    If you want to piss someone off…ask them at the height of their Christmas shopping frenzy if they are going to midnight mass at their local church….

    Just out of interest, is this something you do? You know, approach people at their most stressed and busy, when they have a lot to do and prepare in a short space of time before everything closes down for summer, when they're probably also concerned about money, when they're fighting with hundreds of other people doing the same thing, you choose exactly that time to approach them and ask them irrelevant highly personal questions?

    Seems awfully like trolling for the lulz to me.

    back in the mother countr… • Since Feb 2007 • 2728 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Amanda Wreckonwith,

    At my state school in the Midlands of the UK, we received 'religious education'. This encompassed the basic tenets of all the major religions. It also gave us an insight into the lives and cultures of those that had arrived

    I see great value in such broader understanding - properly taught as part of the curriculum.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19683 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to BenWilson,

    They'll come to your doorstep every week in the hope of filling you in. Have I heard of Jesus? Have I ever!

    heh

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19683 posts Report Reply

  • Joe Wylie, in reply to Sacha,

    At my state school in the Midlands of the UK, we received ‘religious education’. This encompassed the basic tenets of all the major religions. It also gave us an insight into the lives and cultures of those that had arrived

    I see great value in such broader understanding – properly taught as part of the curriculum.

    Introducing a jealous god to his neighbours. And yeah, it's always a he.

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 4591 posts Report Reply

  • Lucy Telfar Barnard,

    In my little rural school in the Coromandel, we had a visiting Bible studies teacher. I told my fervently atheist step-father, in the hope he'd write me a note to be excused (so I could read instead, which I always would have rather done than anything else). He came along to the first session, and to my disgust said it was fine and that knowing what was in the Bible was good general knowledge to have.
    Part of that though was that (from the little I remember) that particular teacher was very much about telling the stories and not at all about the "you better believe this or you'll suffer for it". If it had been the latter I'm sure I would have been excused.

    Hawea Area School in 1978 was heavily religious. We practised handwriting by copying out hymns. There were not only prayers in assembly, but a class prayer at the beginning of every day. I found it pretty weird, and it made me uncomfortable. I could never bring myself to say "Amen" because it felt wrong to say something I didn't believe.

    However: I read the Bible from cover to cover in my early teens (OK, I admit to having skipped a few of the "begat" chapters), but not out of religious interest. And it really has been good general knowledge to have. For example, you really can't understand Spanish literature in depth without a good knowledge of bible stories, and ideally Catholic imagery as well (which I picked up elsewhere).

    Thing is though, that it was, as Ben Wilson described, very easy to acquire that knowledge. With the world now a bigger place, and New Zealand more diverse, I would like it if the stories behind Islam, Buddhism, or Hinduism were as accessible.

    My own children - my son is at a primary school with a diverse student body. I think he did come home once when he was quite young worried because Ahmed (not his real name) had said that my son and all his family were going to go to hell because we weren't Muslim, but we dealt with that, and I think the school goes out of its way to avoid discussing religion at all in class so as to avoid potential conflict; while at the same time respecting and recognising celebration of different religious festivals. It's a delicate line, but I think they do well.

    My daughter is at a private school where they have compulsory RE up to Year 10. I can think of few greater hells to inflict on a priest than having to teach religion to a bunch of cynical young people who see the subject as only marginally different from a free period. I can only assume they still teach it because it's a condition of their school charter or bequest or something.

    So I came through school attempts at Christian indoctrination unscathed, but that's not an endorsement. I would say a big fat "No." to "religious/bible/christian studies/education/whatever" in state schools. I'd be very happy to see comparative religion taught, but not until secondary school social studies - at primary school it's just too easy to get it wrong.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 580 posts Report Reply

  • Moz, in reply to Max Rose,

    I can't imagine what it must be like to grow up in an environment where your growing sexuality is deemed evil, or your parents were said to be "living in sin".

    The Presbyterian Chruch where my mother was an elder decided that since she'd driven her husband away (he moved in with his secretary) she was no longer fit to be an elder. She stopped going to church at all shortly afterwards. That did change how I viewed the chruch, I admit.

    My school was quite heavily evangelical, but interestingly they were much more accepting than judgemental. I suspect because of the teacher who lead it, but with a couple of exceptions the kids involved were way more keen to recruit-and-save than judge. A couple of kids from evangelical, judgey homes were arseholes and the school group didn't seem able to rein them in.

    That said, my problems with the school and the church were less about sexuality and more about being different. Just, different.

    Sydney, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 1193 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen,

    My two cents.

    I don't mind if folks want to believe in the sky fairy of their choice. if that's what it takes to make them happy and keep them mostly functional in society that's fine by me.

    I don't mind educating children about religions. But that's not what bible classes do. If those classes actually studied the hideous atrocities committed by humans to other humans over the last several thousand years of recorded history _in the name of whatever religion was popular in the day, then I would be fine with religious education.

    Instead those bible classes try and indoctrinate children into one or other of those very same religions that have so happily maimed, killed, raped and abused in the not-too-distant past.

    I'm fine with people believing what they like, I'm fine with them getting together and providing social and moral comfort to each other ... it's the bloody religions I loathe, and letting those organisations near our children ... sheesh.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4450 posts Report Reply

  • Stephen R, in reply to Lucy Telfar Barnard,

    And it really has been good general knowledge to have. For example, you really can't understand Spanish literature in depth without a good knowledge of bible stories, and ideally Catholic imagery as well (which I picked up elsewhere).

    I agree, completely. I think there might also be some negative correlation between knowing what's in the bible and being unthinkingly Christian (According to one book I read, 10% of American "Christians" think Joan of Arc was Noah's wife).

    When my wife was singing with the Catholic Cathedral Choir in Christchurch, about half the choir was atheist, singing because they liked the music, and in general more educated about the history and credo of the church. One of the priests was heard to lament "Oh that the learned were more pious, and the pious more learned."

    I'm an atheist, but I've been to midnight Mass, Latin Mass, and even Mass in a cathedral in Paris when we were there (Cathedral Notre Dame - great singing by a bunch of Nuns). I play along (stand when they stand, sit when they sit), and don't pretend that I'm a member (I don't take communion), but I'm pretty happy with saying to other people "Peace be with you".

    I once made the mistake of saying that I was pretty laid back about tolerating religion, since I didn't see that it did that much harm, and a friend that I'd not known about his childhood went off about how much it fucked him up and damaged his entire family, and he really really didn't like the idea of allowing parents and teachers to propagandise children and make them feel terrible if they didn't play along. I've since thought about it a bit, and I see his point.

    So teaching religious history in schools? No problem.

    Trying to make children good little co-religionists? Not nearly so keen.

    Wellington • Since Jul 2009 • 259 posts Report Reply

  • B Jones,

    On the subject of atheists enjoying Christmas, I'd like to add this:
    White wine in the sun

    It's also nice in that it's clearly Southern Hemisphere without being kitsch kiwiana or aussiana.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 976 posts Report Reply

  • Danielle, in reply to Stephen R,

    Some of my favourite music on earth is explicitly Christian or gospel-influenced. I find it beautiful and comforting in a humanist way, if that makes sense? That we could make this art for ourselves, because we're frightened, or joyous, or thoughtful.

    It's still not a reason to have Bible in Schools be a thing in state education, of course, but it's not like I'm completely hostile to all religious feeling.

    Charo World. Cuchi-cuchi!… • Since Nov 2006 • 3828 posts Report Reply

  • "chris", in reply to Bart Janssen,

    I don’t mind educating children about religions. But that’s not what bible classes do.

    It was always something of a disappointment to me returning home to find that Religious Studies isn’t really offered in any academic capacity in New Zealand. If I’d remained abroad I’d almost certainly have taken GCSE Religious Studies.

    develop their interest and enthusiasm for the study of Religion and the relationship between Religion and the wider world

    develop their knowledge, skills and understanding of Religion by exploring the impact of beliefs, teachings, practices, ways of life and forms of expressing meaning

    express their personal responses and informed insights on fundamental questions about identity, belonging, meaning, purpose, truth, values and commitments.

    As it was, on returning home, I had to settle for Calculus. I do strongly agree with Emma’s original insistence as you and others have reiterated that “there is a place for teaching comparative religion and looking at the role of religion in society”.

    However I have been – not unusually – less than quick on the uptake here. Perhaps the use of ‘indoctrination’ didn’t sound all that different from the nationalist agenda that suffuses preteen social studies. Perhaps ‘Bible class’ seems too easily confused with a component of Religious Studies, amongst the requisite literary analysis of Qu’ran and Torah class. When the central issue being presented is most evidently proselytizing in the classroom.

    And I think, if one is serious about instigating change, that being clear about this is of utmost importance. Because one can teach comparative religion and look at the role of religion in society and still proselytize in the classroom. As Simon Bennett brought to light, you can still be a teacher of any old subject and work in ways to proselytize.

    “You see that sweat Jonesy, That’s God telling you you’re unfit!”

    It’s all very well being clear about what we don’t want, but without specifying exactly what it is that the people do want then we leave children open to the same shit different day. So I believe it’s of utmost importance IF actual comparative Religious Studies is to be taught , then it should be taught with the same nationalized curriculum oversights as anything else, academically, with targets and most definitely informed by methods used in other countries to minimize bias. And that this should only be introduced alongside legislation prohibiting in-class proselytizing.

    the hideous atrocities committed by humans to other humans over the last several thousand years of recorded history _in the name of whatever religion was popular in the day

    As I see it one of the crucial reasons to introduce Religious Studies for me is that, and sorry to strip your quote of context and meaning here Bart, sweeping generalizations like this (**not the full quote**) are all to easily digested and exploited to manipulate intolerance. Especially in this day and age. Bin Laden’s attack in the name of Islam, the 2003 invasion of Iraq in the name of Christianity, The Manson killings in the name of The Beatles, The Afghanistan invasion in the name of Freedom. The Athiest Chinese cultural revolution. Religious Studies can help us recognize

    “religions that have so happily maimed, killed, raped and abused in the not-too-distant past”

    But just as powerfully it can help us distinguish more clearly the blurred line intersecting the culpability of religions and the culpability of other agencies, groups and individuals who have exploited religion and how. This can develop our ability to recognize how nonreligious ideologies are similarly exploited. Nothing in the bible about WMDs etc.

    Sorry to decontextualize and manipulate your words for my own purposes there Bart, I agree strongly with the sentiment in your post. It was just easier than coming up with some examples of my own. And while I’m here, might I say Bart, completely off topic, your post a few months back where you volunteered to pay a higher personal income tax rate is my nomination for post of the year. You put a smile on my face.

    location, location, locat… • Since Dec 2010 • 250 posts Report Reply

  • Rich Lock, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    Instead those bible classes try and indoctrinate children into one or other of those very same religions that have so happily maimed, killed, raped and abused in the not-too-distant past.

    I’m fine with people believing what they like, I’m fine with them getting together and providing social and moral comfort to each other … it’s the bloody religions I loathe, and letting those organisations near our children … sheesh.

    It had been arranged by the prison charlie, as part of my further education to read him the Bible. I didn't so much like the latter part of the book which is more like all preachy talking, than fighting and the old in-out. I liked the parts where these old yahoodies tolchock each other and then drink their Hebrew vino and, then getting on to the bed with their wives' handmaidens. That kept me going.

    I read all about the scourging and the crowning with thorns and all that, and I could viddy myself helping in and even taking charge of the tolchocking and the nailing in, being dressed in the height of Roman fashion.

    - A Clockwork Orange

    back in the mother countr… • Since Feb 2007 • 2728 posts Report Reply

  • Rich Lock, in reply to Danielle,

    it’s not like I’m completely hostile to all religious feeling.

    I certainly like to fill myself with the holy spirit.

    back in the mother countr… • Since Feb 2007 • 2728 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    After my daughter was born and her mother and I had separated, she moved from being atheist to Catholic which has been very difficult for me. My daughter has come home to me religious, and as part of the negotiations through the family court I gave in on her choice of school and she went to a Catholic school, in return for me having her at my house more. Luckily recently I've been able to move her to a secular school.

    Drives me mad that it's legal for schools to bring in this nonsense, I remember that it happened at my primary school under the Muldoon government, and one kid from my class used to go to the library.

    Since Nov 2006 • 6243 posts Report Reply

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