In my previous post I have raised the alarm concerning our children being forced to endure Christian religious brainwashing sessions at their supposedly secular state schools, all under the government’s approving eye. This time around I want to focus on my reasons for being so vehemently against the evangelization of religion in secular schools.
When it comes to religion, my basic approach is to raise a religion neutral child. That is, raise the child without introducing him (in my case, it is a “him”) to religion at all, to the point of him not being aware of the concept of god in the first place, and maintain that approach as long as suitable. Suitability is measured by the child’s ability to make his own mind up as opposed to surrendering to what others tell him is right through the power of their authority; and in order to ensure my child is thus able, my focus in bringing him up shall be on teaching him the tools of critical analysis.
This approach of mine is not limited to religion alone. I refuse, for example, to choose my son’s football team for him; he should have the pleasure of choosing his own team for his own reasons. Religion is different to sports, though, in that religion attempts to provide a framework for everything in life, and therefore the handling there is much harder. Yet similarly to football, I do not intend to teach my son that atheism is the right way (which, indeed, is my firm opinion); he should make his own mind up.
Personally, I can’t see a way for any sensible person to willingly choose religion. I mean, just look at the crap coming from the religions in my immediate vicinity: the old testament teaches us its quite cool to murder others if they don’t hold your own beliefs (check out Joshua), while Christianity’s myth of Jesus dying to save us all can only make sense when you realize it’s nothing more than a barbaric lust for blood.
In effect, what I am trying to do is to cure my son from religion by not introducing it to him at all. The simple analogy would be the lack of a need to vaccinate a child against a virus that does not exist: I am seeking to keep my son in a religion free bubble until he’s old enough for his mind’s immune system to deal with it without the need for particular directions on my behalf. And as most viruses in our environment can be dealt with using a healthy immune system, so can an able mind easily deal with religion’s numbing effect.
The way I used to see it, the only flow in my plan is my own parenting skills: I do not have much confidence in my ability to instill critical analysis skills to my son. Frankly, at this early stage I don't even know where to start. But I intend to work in it.
The way I see it, other than this not so minor flaw my plan should have been perfectly achievable in Australia. Not in Israel, mind you, given the way that country is very nonsecular and Judaism is forced on you left and right; but Australia, on paper, is a multicultural secular country. Things could not be easier.
But then I learn that Australia is not secular at all. And then I learn that Australia may be multicultural but there is one culture that’s above the rest of them. In Australia, Christianity is the one culture to rule them all.
As Sarah pointed out with her comment to my previous post, things are not as bleak as I portray them to be. As was pointed out to me, the religious lessons are carried out by old grannies with no genuine teaching skills and the whole affair is no more dangerous to a young person’s mind than other means of time wasting. Any danger those classes might have are easily averted by discussing them at home.
There are a couple of rubs here. The first is that I would prefer to avoid discussions on religious matters at home in the first place. Not because I don’t enjoy a good laugh (this blog is evidence I do), but rather because I prefer religious neutrality given the three contradicting religious views held by family members (Judaism, Christianity and atheism/agnosticism). Needless to say, if pushed to a corner then my son is going to have one major advocate for atheism by his side, able to utilize the full load of intellect “my” side has: between Dawkins and Sagan, religion does not stand a chance in a rational debate. The God Delusion alone obliterates it into tiny pieces (and if you haven’t read it, do it: it’s a great read), and PZ Myers breaks it apart several times a day in his blog. But again, I don’t want things to come down to that.
The second rub, and the reason why I am not about to allow complacency towards religious education in school, is to do with history and what I can learn from it.
The history books are pretty clear here. Throughout its existence, religion has always made a bid for the young mind, looking to make future loyal subjects by brainwashing them when they're young. Christianity in particular, being a missionary religion, has dedicated institutions for dealing with such tasks.
And if you think this is just ancient history and I'm being overly paranoid, think again. Since this last weekend the newspapers have provided enough information to demonstrate that today's church leaders are just as bad as those of days we thought have gone by. Perhaps the only difference is in the church's relative lack of resources (compared to days of yonder) forcing them to use the services of rather useless grannies instead of a professional brainwasher.
Check this article, written by the head of the Australian Christian Lobby and published in The Age in protest of NSW considering the limited replacement of religion classes with secular studies of ethics. The general gist of the article is the author claiming Christian ethics to be the number one source of ethical standards for humanity. That's not only factually wrong, it's a comment most people would find racist; if I was to make such a claim myself on behalf of, say, Judaism I would be rightly prosecuted. The church dudes, however, can get away with it in modern Australia; their way rules, and they must have their way forced on our children.
Then we learn here that the same church dudes have had a private chat with the NSW Premier, as a result of which they are now allowed to vet the contents of the replacement ethics classes. In effect, through the corrupt politicians running our supposedly democratic country, the church has found a way for its brainwashing classes to continue uninterrupted.
And don't you think for even one moment that it is only the church we're dealing with here. There are bigger forces at hand, as this article demonstrates: the power group of xenophobic Christian Anglo Saxons is mighty strong in Australia. For a start, they include the former Prime Minister, John Howard, and plenty of other powerful Liberal Party power brokers; later this year we might blink and find them in power again. Remember, these are the people that think apologizing to the aboriginals for the things done to them was a mistake. If you ask me, judging by the way these weirdos want to preserve their cultural seat of power, these people wouldn't mind going back to policies that actively discriminate against aboriginals (or rather, given the still pathetic situation many aboriginals are in, these are the people who would be happy to make things worse).
In short, I'm arguing that in my struggle to keep my son religion neutral I am not fighting an old incompetent granny; I am fighting mighty institutions with a lot of power behind them, institutions with a record of not avoiding stooping to corruption when it comes to ensuring the supply of numbed up brains to their ranks. Such opposition cannot be trifled with. Such opposition requires a call to arms on behalf of all rational people.