Religious education only brainwashes

Last updated 05:00 19/07/2012

Heard the one about the lie detection clocks at the Pearly Gates? Everyone has one, apparently. Every time you tell a lie, the hands on your clock move. Mother Theresa's hands never shifted at all, they say, indicating she never told a lie. Mahatma Gandhi's moved only twice, telling us he told only two lies in his entire life. George Washington was the same. Tony Blair and George W Bush? It's said their ones are used in Jesus' office as ceiling fans.

Was reminded of that old yarn this week as a procession of "Bible in Schools" programme advocates popped up to defend their access to state primary school classrooms. They were only teaching values, they said; not belief. They only wanted to make people aware of Christianity, not seek to indoctrinate. How fast must their clock hands be turning right now? Maybe they can cut one off and use the other to track the seconds?

We should at least offer an immediate dispensation on this to Reverend Clay Nelson of St Matthew-in-the-City. As he said of "Bible in Schools" the other day, "it's un-Christian to force our faith on other people". Christian education in public schools should be "swept into the ashcan of history". Well said, that man. Not for the first time in recent years, the central Auckland church has proved itself a leader where so many others have exposed themselves as imposters.

Values-based learning indeed. The Churches Education Commission, this country's biggest provider of "Christian instruction", must find it hard to keep a straight face. So much for the ninth commandment. Check out the Te Awamutu Bible Chapel's explanation of "Bible in Schools" as an example: "The motivation is to see the children develop an understanding of who God and Jesus are, and to encourage them to let Jesus into their hearts." 

That seems pretty clear, doesn't it? To these people, values equal Jesus, and Jesus equals values. They want to convert our kids. They'll use words like enlighten and enriching but really? They simply want to capture the impressionable minds of our children as early as possible. The Royal Oak Baptist Church's call to become involved in "Bible in Schools" is just as obvious: "The entrance of your word gives light," it tells potential volunteers.

It's remarkable we continue to give the benefit of the doubt to these God peddlers. Bad enough, surely, that tax-payers are contributing to the church's existing school-sponsored hatcheries, without creating loopholes in the Education Act to allow them to infiltrate the public system as well. These people are selling God. And by allowing them in our primary school classrooms we give their beliefs a credibility they don't deserve.

Little wonder, as the New Zealand Herald noted the other day, many schools are starting to opt out of the bible programme amidst growing opposition from parents and pupils. Shouldn't come as a surprise. The only reason more kids haven't mutinied is not because of the allure of "Bible in Schools", but because nothing else is provided for those who decline. Try offering options of sport, theatre, music and dance and see what happens.

It's true; we had a massive argument about this a few weeks ago. Just in case the same questions are raised again, here are some background notes. No, I'm not an atheist, I consider myself agnostic. Yes, I do have some background in religious education, having been raised a Catholic, educated by Catholic nuns, taken to church every Sunday, and encouraged to believe in God. (Oh, to have seen the clock faces of my "betters" then. How their hands must have been spinning).

Religious education? "Bible in Schools"? Here's my ten cents worth. The entire initiative is a confidence trick and it shouldn't be allowed near our state education system. It's not an exercise in teaching values, it's simply a recruitment campaign. The more parents who encourage or assist their kids to opt out, the better.

» Read more of Richard Boock in the Sunday Star Times.
» Follow Richard on Twitter: @richardboock.

- Auckland Now

Post a comment
Marika   #1   09:29 am Jul 19 2012

The Bible gives us guidlines how to live and what are the consequences. Well what has happened since people have turned away from the Bible? The teens of today don't even know who they are anymore, they lack respect and discipline Parents are resorting to alcohol, they can't cope.Well this should make a person think!The Bible is a wonderful book to read, it is filled with a wealth of knowledge and IF ONLY people would start understanding the value of it they will re-think about Bibles in School!Don't read bits and pieces of the Bible but read the whole book, it is amazing what comes to light, history, geography, mathematics, science, biology, social studies and your home language be it English, Spanich etc.

Sam   #2   11:48 am Jul 19 2012

Marika these problems have existed for years and have not suddenly appeared because the bible is no longer taught in schools. People like you will choose not to believe it because you think the bible is going to save the world. Forcing kids to learn about religion is abuse. Kids should make the choice themselves not have it forced on them. You don't need to be religious to teach your kids values, respect, manners etc. Respect your kids and they will learn to respect others.

joel   #3   12:10 pm Jul 19 2012

Interesting that the writer of the article says that religious instruction only brainwashes, he went to a catholic school and is now not a practicing catholic, it is obviously lost on him that his articles main point about brainwashing is not true as he was NOT brainwashed! No doubt the good values of the schooling have become important to him.

Michael   #4   06:00 pm Jul 19 2012

Marika, have you actually read the *whole* bible? A wonderful book? Could you please explain to my why Leviticus in the OT says a single woman who is raped must marry her rapist? Or how Timothy in the NT says a woman must not be allowed to teach men? By posting your comment disagreeing with an article written by a man, you betray the rules set out in your own book!

mark   #5   06:09 pm Jul 19 2012

SO whilst he is not brainwashed - having been forced to know Jesus , he has discovered , that in order to be a good human you need no such thing in your life, As having Jesus in their lives isn't stopping Bibles in Schools Blatantly lying about their true intentions in trying to convert 5 year old children , They have no respect for the rights of these small trusting children ,if they were to stop and consider how they would feel , if for example "the Koran" was been taught to their children , under the guise , its just about the values , oh they could opt out - but would they stand by and let it continue ? I think not , and nor will the public of NZ, its a human rights violation, the world has evolved , with people like Einstein, Darwin, Edison, Currie, Freud , Hawking all non believers and free thinkers leave the children alone and society may produce another . keep your church and lay preachers away from my children and out of my school.

Paul Hurst   #6   09:40 pm Jul 19 2012

'The Bible gives us guidlines (sic) how to live and what are the consequences' It also contains a lot of pretty unpleasant stuff as well, more than most popular fiction. On balance, the combined works of J.K. Rowling probably provide a better, and more relevant guide to modern life!

'...he was NOT brainwashed!...' No, but others are, and all children have the right to protection from such abuse. Just because some of us manage to make up our own minds in the end, it doesn't follow that the hobnailed boots of the theists have not left unwelcomed impressions and bad memories. An injury may not kill you, but pain and suffering will still have been caused, and may remain for a very long time.

Lisa   #7   09:36 am Jul 20 2012

The people who want to teach "Christian Values" to our children are showing a lack of Values themselves. I think that Reverend Clay Nelson of St Matthew-in-the-City sums it up well when he says "it's un-Christian to force our faith on other people". Joel - Richard is certainly not alone, he is just like many other New Zealanders who are sick of having Christianity forced upon us. How about a bit of respect for the many other beliefs.

Big Johnny Farnham   #8   10:28 am Jul 20 2012

Great post. People have choices. No need to inflict organised religion on everyone.

richardb   #9   10:36 am Jul 21 2012

#8 BJF!! we finally agree on something! :)

Timato   #10   11:28 am Jul 21 2012

Great column. Let's not forget that the Christian philosophy is based on the idea that killing things takes away sin (the death of Jesus being the ultimate sacrifice based on his supposed perfection). Great value to be teaching there! Got something perfect? Kill it!

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