For those who live in the UK or have followed our news during the last few weeks, you know that religious extremism has reared its ugly head once again with the brutal murder of a British solider in the street by an Islamic extremist.
So once again religion, and religious extremism, is under the microscope. Unfortunately, in the world of religion, the extremists are the only true believers and thus form the real basis of the religion.
Forgive me you liberal religious persons reading this, but you don’t truly believe unless you base your life around the key tennets of your religion. For example, you are a church-going Christian and your child is terminally ill. You should be happy that God is calling them to a better place, not sad and desperate to treat what they have. You should be happy when any Christian dies because they’re going to Heaven for eternity, not sad or upset and the unfortunate nature of the world.
You should be happy when a good Christian soldier is killed by a religious extremist because for certain he will find favour with God. And eternity is a heck of lot longer than whatever lifespan he might have had on Earth.
If any of those thoughts leave a bad taste in your mouth then I believe that you don’t truly Believe. Incidentally, I’m also thankful you don’t, I just wish you’d be more honest with yourself.
Yes, clearly I’m an athiest. I have no problem with you believing what you want to believe inside the walls of your own home (as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else). But it bothers me greatly when religion overflows into society. And it has. And it does. To the extent that, in England, there is no escaping it.
For example, it is not possible to send your child to a secular school here. Even those with a more secular bent are required, by law, to have the Lord’s prayer and to teach in a manner that reflects the Christian nature of the country (paraphrased from the legalese).
Despite my misgivings, our daughter attends a Catholic school. It appeared to us to be one of the best, for education and facilities, in the area and they played down the religion during recruitment (although she was required to have been baptised to attend). Ever since she’s started there, I’ve been uneasy.
I don’t want her to change schools, because she’s made good friends and because there’s a part of me that feels paranoid. After all, I grew up in a Christian family, although Canadian schools went secular when I was in grade 4 and I managed to escape. Surely if there’s one parent helping her, she won’t be sucked in too deep either. Yet every time she comes home reciting a child’s Catholic prayer or singing a song about God, I feel I’m party to a crime against my daughter’s future. That I’m allowing her to be brainwashed into some cult.
I do make subtle hints and give gentle questions as to the meaning of the songs and what she understands. So far, fortunately, it’s not too much (although she has some very interesting ideas about God and heaven). But, being as she’s exposed to religion from the teachers, and her friends, and that the school aims to start them on the path to communion at year 3(!), I remain worried.
For those of you who don’t have children, you may just say, well, tell her the truth, convince her of my perspective. What you likely fail to realize with such comments, just as I had, is exactly how much power a teach in reception through year 3 has on a child. In terms of education, children at this age take their teacher’s word as law. Yes, even over and above the word of their parents.
Needless to say, the challenge for instilling contrary information is significant. But I hear even the non-religious among you saying ‘Why bother? What’s the big deal?’ To which I say… hypocrits!! Let me explain.
Imagine you’re Christian (probably not too difficult for most of my readers) and you have a four-year old that starts school next year. You want to give them the best opportunity they can have because their early experiences are so important. So you look around your community and you find that the absolute, hand-down, no-contest best school within 10 miles is… a devout muslim school. Would you send your child?
If your answer is no, and I suspect it would be for many, if not most, then I humbly suggest you need to think more carefully about your own beliefs and your comments to athiests who feel the same way.
Because, replace muslim with christian and this is the issue facing many athiests in England today.
Insight and longevity