27 January 2007

 

Secular Facts and Arguments 1

This is the first of a series of occasional postings aimed at helping secularists and humanists to counter misrepresentations and misperceptions and build the political, social and moral case for secularism and humanism.

We are winning the argument but we still need to convert this into political pressure and action.
In Leicester we prevented a second Church of England academy.
But in addition to preventing we need to project the idea of a better way, a secular way, forward that all can share in.

Apathy is the big problem.

Support http://petitions.pm.gov.uk/endfaithschools/

Allan Hayes


(1)Religion not a basis for most (http://www.humanism.org.uk/site/cms/newsarticleview.asp?article=2288)
(http://tinyurl.com/y2yejj )
In this poll:

62% chose ‘Human nature by itself gives us an understanding of what is right and wrong’, against 27% who said ‘People need religious teachings in order to understand what is right and wrong’.

62% said ‘scientific & other evidence provides the best way to understand the universe’ against 22% who felt ‘religious beliefs are needed for a complete understanding of the universe’.

65% said that what is right and wrong ‘depends on the effects on people and the consequences for society and the world’. The rest split almost equally between two profoundly un-Humanist views: 15% said right and wrong were ‘basically just a matter of personal preference’ and 13% said what was right and wrong was ‘unchanging and should never be challenged’.

This supports the call for a radical reform of religious education in schools.

(2) Under representation of non-religious
20% of children in Leicester state schools are listed as having no religion (this is probably a gross underestimate). Seven years ago British Humanist was asked to provide help in meeting their needs, I am the third humanist representative on the Leicester Standing Advisory council on Religious Education, but I am hampered by being allowed to be only a co-opted non-voting member, and there is a move afoot to stop me from participating in some important
discussions.



(3) Government pays too much attention to religious groups and leaders (http://www.humanism.org.uk/site/cms/newsarticleview.asp?article=2287)
The poll mentioned in (1) yielded the following ranking by percentage voting for each choice of the group that the government pays too much attention to.
Leaders of other countries 44 Religious groups and leaders 42 Newspaper headlines 35 Big Business 34 The Royal Family 20 Trade Unions 17 Ordinary people 3 None of these 9.


(4) Heads against faith schools(http://education.guardian.co.uk/newschools/story/0,,1963587,00.html)
A recent ICM poll of head teachers found:
47% felt there should be either fewer or no faith schools, while 32% felt there should be no change. Only 9% agreed with the government's policy of increasing the number of faith schools.
Only 25% believe the presence of schools with a religious character creates more religious tolerance in society; 18% reckon they make no difference, while 45% think they actively contribute to less tolerance.

(5) Faith schools not better
(http://cee.lse.ac.uk/cee%20dps/ceedp72.pdf)An LSE study, Faith Primary Schools: Better Schools or Better Pupils?Stephen Gibbons, Olmo Silva, November 2006 is the only the latest showing that any advantage in performance of faith schools is very small and is due to the difference in student intake.
But government praise and support might lead to damaging gaps developing as parents exercise their choice.

(6) Religion does more harm than good (23 Dec 2006)
http://www.guardian.co.uk/religion/Story/0,,1978045,00.html
This ICM poll found that 82% see religion as a cause of division and tension between people: only 16% disagree. A clear majority, 63% say that they are not religious

(7) Faith schools, numbers, funding, discrimination, purpose
One third of our state schools are controlled by either the Church of England (one quarter) or the Catholic Church. Church schools are not gifts from the churches: until last year all the running costs, salaries and wages, and at least 90% of building costs were paid for out of taxes, now, the 2006 Education Act allows the state to pay all building costs.
Faith schools promote their own religions and can discriminate on religious grounds in the admission of children and in the hiring, promoting and firing of staff.

Government policy is to encourage more faith schools: we are heading for half our schools being faith schools.

(8) £9,000,000 to Church of England for building conservation over next three yearshttp://www.opsi.gov.uk/SI/si2006/uksi_20061008_en.pdf
Compare this with the effort LSS has to put in to get money for the regeneration of Secular Hall.

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Comments:
I supose in the same vain you'll also support
http://petitions.pm.gov.uk/faith-tolerance/
 
I won't be signing that petition myself. I consider it more important to spend time teaching literacy than spreading knowledge of religious fantasies. Indeed lessons would be better than "lesions" in the major faiths, and should culminate in questions rather than "cumulate" misinformation. And by the way atheism is not a faith.
 
George,
Fristly, it's good to see your major arguments against the petition relate to my dislexica.
Secondly, do you think religous belife will vanish in the next few years? Because, if not then surely teaching kids about the different belife systems will increase social harmonay. Unless of course you support the BNP/HT and where dream of a monocultrual socity.
Thridly wikipedia defines faith as "To believe with reason", surely that sum's up atheism?
 
The first definition of "faith" in the Collins Dictionary is "strong or unshakeable belief in something, especially without proof or evidence." Atheism is belief that there are no gods. I suppose you could take that on faith, but most atheists I know are atheists because they have not found any evidence for such beings.
 
Dam! What a fool I was to let you off the hook and this turn into a discussion on the definision of faith...

I'd like an answer to point two thro.
 
You asked for an answer to your second point: "Do I think religous belief will vanish in the next few years?" No, but I think we should aim to eradicate all of its irrational aspects by Y2100.

"If not then surely teaching kids about the different belief systems will increase social harmony." There are so many different belief systems. We should teach about them as far as they were important in history, but not hold services or spread their theologies.

We should teach reason, logic, scientific method and critical thinking, not atheism.
 
"There are so many different belief systems. We should teach about them as far as they were important in history, but not hold services or spread their theologies."
Where do I call for there to be services within RE classes?
Surely if your right, and there is not God, the strength of your argument would win through. or are you worried your argument isn't that strong?

"We should teach reason, logic, scientific method and critical thinking, not atheism."
I'd agree but why not teach about atheism? surely atheism should be held up to critism as much as the faiths you disagree with?
 
I just looked at the wording of your petition again. (Can't you get the spellings corrected? That might get you more signatures.)

You want "all schools to teach lessons in the major faiths (including atheism) culminating with a question and answer section with a local representative of that faith". So that means at the end of term we have a procession of Christians (of all Protestant and Catholic denominations), Sunni, Shia, Wahhabi etc Muslims, Jains, Buddhists, Pagans, Scientologists and Jedi Knights. Plus all varieties of Atheists, all lining up to catechise the poor pupils? It ain't going to work!
 
"Can't you get the spellings corrected? That might get you more signatures."

Nope :(

"So that means at the end of term we have a procession of..."

No not at all. The idea is to increas torlerance. Sure I agree that if you have all the above listed views it would be a nightmare to time table.
Thats why I would say (If in the unlikely event it was taken up) that it would focus on the main groups.
which are (according to wikipedia)
Christans
Muslims
Hindus
Chinese Universists
Buddhist
and Atheists

Thats six major faith groups and since I'm not talking about explaining things to a university level, just what each group basicly belives, it's IMHO do-able.
 

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