Why we must not let fundamentalist atheism destroy our Christian education system
fallout from the 'Trojan Horse' story continues. I don't want to say 'I told you so', but my prophecy that those who want Christianity out of education would leap at the opportunity, has been proved correct. The Independent headlined "Make all state schools secular, and all faith schools, if we must have them, private"; The Times "Faith schools are divisive. Let's get rid of them". The Guardian ran with "Taxpayers' cash should not be used to fund faith schools, say voters". The Telegraph on the other hand went with "As an atheist why I support faith schools". The BBC of course immediately, in the interests of balance and fairness of course, ran a piece on 'Life in a Christian Fundamentalist School', with the obvious sub-text, being that it was not all that different from an Islamic fundamentalist school.
The Guardian story was particularly interesting because it demonstrates a major theme in contemporary society – the elites seek to govern by opinion poll (all in the name of 'the people' or 'taxpayers'). The trouble with polling is that it depends on who was polled (in this case a loaded 'representative' sample of 1,000 people), who commissioned the polling (in this case The Observer) and how you interpret the figures. For example in this particular poll whereas only 25% of over 55's had no objection to faith schools being funded by the state, that figure rose to 35% for the under 35's. So the headline could have been 'young people far more likely to support state funded faith schools'. But of course that narrative did not suit the agenda of the newspaper and so they ran with 'tax payers opposed to state funded faith schools'. And thus that headline was repeated ad nauseum.
Government by opinion poll is part of the dumbed down nature of contemporary political debate. Never mind thinking for yourself about the issues involved, why not just go with the flow and accept 'what the people say', according to the latest commissioned and headlined opinion poll? That's why we get to the ridiculous stage where so called 'quality' newspapers can argue, without a trace of irony, that in order to deal with Islamic extremism we need to close down Church of England schools!
Our atheist secularists regard their position as so obvious that anyone who disagrees with it, must clearly be either stupid or evil – religious people who are clearly in need of remedial education. At first glance their position seems perfectly reasonable and strong. Andrew Copson of the British Humanist Association, as intelligent and persuasive an advocate as you can hope to find, puts the case well: "The message was, and still is, simple: all state schools should be equally inclusive of all pupils and staff, with no one group being given special privileges. Schools should not proselytise or discriminate against anyone on the basis of their religion or belief, in admissions, employment, curriculum, ethos, or assemblies." Who, except the most stupid bigot, could be against that simple message? Equally inclusive, no special privileges, no proselytization, no discrimination because of religion or belief. Lets all sign up now to this secular nirvana.
Well, I would. If it were not for the elephant in the room. The problem is that having a 'secular' education complete with 'secular' values and no other education being allowed, gives special privileges to secularists. It proselytises for those who believe that religion should have no place in public life and it discriminates against those of us who do not want our children to be taught opinion poll, state enforced moralism. Andrew Copson and others take it as a given that 'secularism' is neutral. I take it as a given that there is no such thing as neutrality when it comes to philosophy, morality, how we think about life and especially the concepts of good and evil. The irony is that those who think their values are the 'neutral' ones tend to be more fundamentalist and dogmatic than the fundamentalist theologians! And therefore more dangerous.
One of these dangers is that reason goes out of the window. As I pointed out last week, a killer argument is supposed to be that children are natural born atheists. It still astounds me that this is regularly trotted out on atheist websites, chat boards and tweets as though it were a self-evident truth. The reasoning in so far as it goes, is that because atheism is not a philosophy but just simply a 'lack of belief in God', then babies must be atheists because they don't believe in God.
There are two ways to answer this. The first is to accept the premise and to point out that in the same way babies are not scientists, readers or speakers of Chinese (even 'Chinese' babies). They have to learn and mature. So we can accept that the infantile and immature position is that of atheism. But we would hope that babies would grow up and became mature theists! The second is not to accept the premise and to point out that none of us are born with a 'tabula rasa' (a blank slate). But all of us are born with cognitive capacities and are hardwired for both morality and God. Of course our environments influence all of us. As Andrew Brown put it in The Guardian "in an environment where religion is regarded as weird and old-fashioned, children grow up atheist because that's what their parents are. They don't think about it. They may have profoundly superstitious and unscientific beliefs, but they will think of these as rational and atheist because that's what – they know – all decent people are." Is Stephen Hawking an atheist because he has thought through the issues, or because his parents brought him up with an atheistic worldview?
But here is the rub. More recent studies have shown that if you leave children to themselves, they will grow up as intuitive theists and creationists. Even Richard Dawkins admits that children have to be 'educated' out of their natural theism. Little wonder that the more militant atheists are desperate to get hold of the education system and to use it to instil only their atheistic philosophy. They are so blinded by their ideology that they cannot see that the best bulwark against fundamentalist Islam, or extremists politics of either right or left, is not fundamentalist atheism, but rather biblical Christianity, with its God given notion of all human beings created equal in Gods eyes and its understanding that there is much more to this world than might, power and chemistry. We are to 'suffer the little children' to come to Jesus and not hinder them. We must not let the Trojan horse of fundamentalist atheism destroy our Christian education system and poison the minds of our children. I don't want my daughter to be just another brick in the atheist wall....I prefer her to be part of the living stones of Christ's Church and Kingdom.
This is a follow up to last week's article on faith in British schools:
David Robertson is the director of the Solas Centre for Public Christianity. You can follow him on Twitter @theweeflea