Monthly Archives: April 2010

Ethics and Religious Education

The St James Centre has been trialling, successfully from what little I’ve heard, ethics classes in schools as an alternative to religious education (RE) classes. Why RE is being taught in PUBLIC schools is beyond me, but that’s not the main point. The point is the religious don’t want these ethics classes. Why? Heaven forbid (TIC) that children will be taught ethics, but that doesn’t seem to be the main problem the religious have with the program, as pointed out in this article on smh.com.au

THE Anglican Archbishop of Sydney has privately lobbied the Premier, Kristina Keneally, against the permanent introduction of secular ethics classes in public schools, saying they would jeopardise the future of religious education. (emphasis mine)

Or should that last word be indoctrination? ūüôā

Why is the Archbishop worried? Probably because he knows that old adage “give me the child until he is seven and I’ll give you the man” and is worried he and his cronies won’t be able to continue to brainwash young children into specific religious dogmas.

I have no major problem with comparative religion being taught in schools in a social science type class. Where children are taught the histories and beliefs of all religions as concepts not as truths. Where they can be taught issues related to freedom of religion and freedom from religion, as well as the separation of church and state; among other religious issues that impact everyone on a secular nature.

from Jason via email:

The Christian rent-a-crowd have been busy inundating NSW MLC Penny Sharpe’s inbox, pleading with the government to kill the St James Centre NSW ethics classes so they won’t compete with scripture classes. (from Penny’s twitter timeline http://twitter.com/PennySharpemlc/status/12190784832 )

We need to let Penny know that there is support in the community for the ethics classes in NSW. Please consider sending her a personalised message of support on why you think this is an important initiative.

You can contact her by email: http://pennysharpe.com/contact

Or you can tweet her @PennySharpemlc (please use twitter hashtag #nswethics )

Or send her a message on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pennysharpemlc

Government at all levels needs to know that many people approve of the ethics classes being taught as an alternative to the RE classes. Senior clergy should not be allowed to sway the decision making process as they have a very obvious bias toward being allowed to indoctrinate young children into their specific religion. Please contact Penny and other parliamentarians (particularly your local MP) and let them know that you want alternatives to RE classes and that the ethics classes should be taught in all schools. Don’t let the religious rent-a-crowd hijack another excellent program, a program which can only be a good thing for children to learn,

Media coverage of the issue and related issues (thanks again to Jason and others)

http://www.smh.com.au/opinion/society-and-culture/find-these-kids-an-alternative-for-gods-sake-20100411-s0c7.html

http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/keneally-allows-anglican-church-to-vet-content-of-ethics-lessons-20100412-s43m.html

http://www.smh.com.au/national/education/bishop-enters-battle-against-secular-ethics-classes-20100413-s7pp.html

http://www.smh.com.au/opinion/politics/you-cant-teach-ethics-without-referring-to-christianity-20100409-rxai.html

http://www.atheistfoundation.org.au/media-releases/ethics-classes-not-attack-religion

http://www.smh.com.au/national/letters/churches-have-nothing-to-fear-from-clear-thinking-20100413-s7dj.html

http://www.abc.net.au/pm/content/2010/s2871823.htm

http://www.smh.com.au/opinion/politics/how-the-west-was-lost-a-lack-of-faith-in-civilisation-20100411-s0ow.html

http://www.smh.com.au/national/the-diary/top-cop-leads-god-squad-20100411-s0wp.html

http://twitter.com/PennySharpemlc (Penny’s twitter timeline)

There are some amazing, and a little scary, stories from parents particularly in the comments on the first link.

I don’t have, and never had, children in school but that doesn’t stop me from wanting to discuss this issue and help stop the religious having undue influence over young and impressionable minds.

update 26 July 2010

Here are a few more links for all things SRE, RI (RE), NSCP and Ethics Classes .

http://www.highcourtchallenge.com/index.html

http://www.stopthenscp.org/religioninpolitics.htm

http://www.backintheact.com/index.html

http://campaign.specialethicseducation.com.au/index.php

http://parents4ethics.org/

http://www.australiansecularlobby.com/

Note that Queensland has slightly different laws when it comes to Religious Instruction (RI) (sometime wrongly labelled as ‘Religious Education’ (RE)) compared to NSW and it’s Special Religious Education (SRE). From what I gather the National Schools Chaplaincy Program (NSCP) is above and beyond RI and SRE?

Religious Education – it should be taught by religious people in religious places (NOT public schools, or any other public or government institution) to people who want to learn it, not to people who have no choice (ie. children who are ‘forced’ to attend).

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Filed under Anglican Church, atheism, atheist, Catholic, ethics, religion, religious school, secular

Fuck you Pell

I could almost agree with the first six paragraphs of this article written by Cardinal Pell, but the next two paragraphs are …. words fail me; but feel free to insert you own.

“The many excellent government agencies are religiously neutral, secular and not anti-God, paid for largely by the taxes of the Christian majority,” Cardinal Pell said.

“But we find no community services sponsored by the atheists.”

WFT? WTF? Pell please get your head out of your arse!

How can two sentences contain so much wrong? It’s beyond me. OK, bit by bit.

The many excellent government agencies are religiously neutral

Not strictly true, bordering on outright false. Parliament, and even some councils, start with prayer sessions,¬†Christian¬†based ones mostly. Governments have awarded various (again, as far as I’m aware, all Christian)¬†religious¬†organisations all sorts of government contracts, including a family planning one!

secular and not anti-God

Secular, barely. Not anti-God definitely because of all the god-botherers in senior positions!

paid for largely by the taxes of the Christian majority

Oh , fuck right off Pell you¬†ignoramus! Every worker, religious or not, pays taxes to keep this country and it’s government agencies running; not just your “Christian majority”. On top of that all us non-religious people, about 1/3 of the populace by the way Pell you ignorant fool, pays taxes for your tax free, and tax break, status that religions get. That nice company car you drive Mr Pell is partly paid for by my non-religious taxes.

“But we find no community services sponsored by the atheists.”

That’s partly¬†because¬†we don’t get tax breaks for doing so! Additionally there are quite a few non-religious charitable organisations that do an awful lot of good in the community, and the world, but unlike you religious people we don’t generally shout from the rafters¬†what¬†wonderful people we are for doing what should come naturally to people anyway (which is helping your fellow beings). There are also many non-religious community services which probably are sponsored by atheists however their non-religiosity¬†is not advertised. PS. yes I do donate to charity each year, but only non-religious ones.

</rant>

I am normally fairly civil in my blog posts, but in this instance I’m not holding back.

Written late at night after a few glasses of wine and whilst just a tad upset (at Pell’s article) so apologies it it’s a little incoherent and without much¬†factual¬†basis (though I’m sure I could back up most of my claims with a¬†little time and effort), and thankfully spell check works. ūüôā

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Filed under Catholic, religion

I don’t reject your god.

I simply don’t think your god exists.

This is a subtle but very important difference, which a lot of theists either don’t understand or refuse to understand.

There is a third option why some theists insist that atheists are “rejecting god” it is that they can not comprehend that not everyone believes in their god. They think that everyone believes there is a god but are just lying to themselves when they say they don’t. The reason for this I surmise is that the theist is worried that the atheist might be right (which we are by the way ūüôā ) and therefore their whole belief system, and for some their whole way of life, is a fabrication and a lie (which it is by the way ūüôā ).

So why discuss this topic, again?

Well I came across this site yesterday and posted a reply to the post Is Atheism a Crutch? , in which I thought I had clearly spelt out the definition of an atheist and thus the reason why the whole concept of their post was wrong (my comment is near the end). The author of the post stated this:

Perhaps atheists are rejecting God because they’ve had a bad relationship with their father.

Which is a Straw Man of the highest order. Atheists don’t reject god they just don’t think god(s) exists (hard to reject something that doesn’t exist), secondly the author’s reason for the rejection is just wrong on so many levels.

Well it seemed that my simple explanation for disagreeing (my comment starts “What utter tosh…”) with the author’s post, and particularly with the authors definition of atheism, wasn’t simple or logical enough.

A person by the name of MrSprinkleFingers replied to my comment with, well this:

@OzAtheist

One red chip. One green chip. One blue chip. None of which have an inscribed value. The poker players in Game A decide to assign $1 to the red, $2 to the green, and $5 to the blue. The poker players in Game B decide to assign $10 to the red, $20 to the green, and $50 to the blue. Which group of poker players has assigned the correct value to the poker chips? The question is non-sensical because it assumes a “correct” value exists when none, in fact, does. What matters is that when the poker players of Game A and Game B decide play together that they come to a common agreement on what the value of each color chip will be. Likewise with the word “atheist.”

There exists no innate or “correct” meaning to the token “atheist.” There only exists the meanings which groups of people have assigned to the word. Hence, it makes no sense to speak of atheist as having a “correct” or “incorrect” meaning.

To go a step further, because Koukl’s definition of atheist as being one who rejects god(s) is indeed the common usage, it stands to reason that the popular definition of atheism being propagated by atheists on the Internet stands outside the norm. Thus, for practical reasons, it makes more sense to employ the common definition rather than some convenient definition created and defended with a horrendous etymological argument to avoid the responsibility assigned to all participants of a conversation via the Cooperative Principle.

I tried posting the following reply but the site wouldn’t take my comment, I suspect it may be too long? So I decide to post my reply here.


Lot’s of nice big words there @MrSprinkleFingers but I will still have to disagree with you.

For a start Greg Koukl, who I’d never heard of until I read you comment, is a Christian apologist, therefore HIS definition of atheist does NOT constitute the common use of the term. As is often the case with religious apologetics they create there own definitions for words in order to either demonise others, or to try and rationalise their own beliefs. This does not make their definition correct or the one that is in common use, unless you are talking about in common use amongst religious apologetics who are attempting to win arguments by changing the definitions of words?

I would believe a dictionary or wikipedia before I would believe any religious apologetic when it comes to defining a word.

a·the·ism [ey-thee-iz-uhm]
-noun
1. the doctrine or belief that there is no God.
2. disbelief in the existence of a supreme being or beings.
from http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/atheism

see, nothing about “rejecting” in those definitions. This is by far the more common usage for the term atheism, particularly amongst atheists.

The Atheist Foundation of Australia, of which not surprisingly I’m a member, uses this to define atheism:

“ATHEISM

is the acceptance that there is no credible scientific or factually reliable evidence for the existence of a god, gods or the supernatural.”

The problem with religious apologetics using the definition of the word atheism as meaning “one who rejects god(s)” is that it implies that atheists actually believe god(s) exist, which is not the case.

Oh, and your whole first paragraph is irrelevant nonsense. There is a vast difference between assigning values to something (poker chips) and defining a word. A poker chip is still a poker chip, no matter what dollar value you assign to it everyone will still know what a poker chip is. Equally with any other word, it has a standard definition which is commonly accepted. In the case of the term ‘atheism’ it is generally held to mean “the absence of belief that any deities exist” (from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atheism ), or similar as shown above, NOT “rejecting god(s)”.

It should be noted that the word “reject” is used on the wikipedia page, however unlike Koukl’s totally incorrect definition “one who rejects god(s)”, the term is used as follows: “the rejection of belief in the existence of deities.” Note the difference, which is subtle (perhaps too subtle for some) but important, Koukl’s definition is implying that god(s) exist (and that atheists know this), whereas wikipedia’s definition does not.

Like a lot of words, their meaning and definitions can change slightly over the years, dictionaries will regularly update accordingly, currently atheism is defined around the concept that atheists consider that there are no gods.

Oh, and don’t start on the term belief it doesn’t mean what you probably think it means when used in the contexts above.

MrSprinkleFingers your “logic” (using the term very loosely) is rather bad. You state that “it makes no sense to speak of atheist as having a “correct” or “incorrect” meaning.” but then state “Koukl’s definition … is indeed the common usage” on who’s authority is Koukl’s definition the correct one? Certainly not any atheist’s that I know of. Then you state the following “it stands to reason that the popular definition of atheism being propagated by atheists on the Internet stands outside the norm.” erm how? If a popular definition of a word is being propagated by it’s adherents (and backed up by dictionary definitions!) wouldn’t that make it the norm rather than some obscure religious apologetic’s definition? Your logic MrSprinkleFingers fails again. Your last sentence is utter semantic nonsense, lots of big words but all you are trying to say is “use my definition not yours” – despite Koukl’s definition being wrong and not in common use like you (alone) assert.

If you want to cooperate try using the correct definition of the terms atheist and atheism (ie. acceptance that there are no gods) NOT your incorrect demonising definition that implies atheists know that god exists but are ‘rejecting’ him because of whatever reason (we hate him, or he did something bad to us, or whatever ridiculous argument you come up with to try and rationalise in your head that ‘atheists reject god’, because you can’t accept that, unlike yourself, not all of us are deluded into the belief that god exists).

All these words and I just realised that’s basically what I wrote in my first post! MrSprinkleFingers I think you will find that this comment only further backs up my original assertion: “If an atheist has confidence [and I do] that god(s) do not exists, or confidence that the likelihood of god(s) existing is so remote as to make them non-existent, then how is it possible for an atheist to be worried about “the frightening implications of God’s existence”?”

So, can you answer my original question?

One last thing, please stop propagating your incorrect definition of the term atheism.

I think you will find that the correct term for atheism is something along the lines of number 2 of the online dictionary “disbelief in the existence of a supreme being or beings”, and yes it does make sense to use the term “correct” as that is the definition in various dictionaries and internet reference sites which adheres to what atheists actually think and which is most commonly used (except for some religious apologetics who are using an incorrect definition for their own nefarious reasons).


I attempted to post a link to this page on the ‘Stand to Reason‘ blog, but that wasn’t accepted either,¬† perhaps there is a fault on that blog at the moment. I got the following in an error dialogue box:

We’re sorry, we cannot accept this data

Please let me know if you think I have incorrectly defined the terms atheist and atheism, or if any of my logic is wrong. But be prepared to back up your claims with evidence.

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Filed under atheism, atheist, god, religion