Category Archives: secular

A Few Truths

Why do Christians lie so much? What is this “lying for Jesus” all about. A means to an end is not always the morally right thing to do.

There are several Christian lobby groups around these days with The Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) and Access Ministries being two very vocal, and apparently quite powerful, examples. The idea of a Christian lobby group should worry every right thinking person, religious or not. Why Christians need lobby groups is a thing to ponder, what ever happened to religious groups just doing what they do best – sings songs in churches and do a little charity work. When did they become so powerful? Are we seeing the march to a theocracy in this country?

ACL wrote this small article titled “A few truths of the religion in schools debate” supporting a Bishop who had written an article in Online Opinion (OO) complaining about The Age’s reporting of Christian Religious Education.

OzAz wrote the following comment in reply to the ACL:

Truth? You wouldn’t know the meaning of the word Truth.

If, as you’d like to portray, Christianity is the predominant religion in Australia (at last census about 60%, BUT only about 20% actual practitioners) then how can you cry “oppression”?

Australians, by and large, aren’t fearful of religion, most just don’t care either way. What we do fear is right wing fundamentalist religious organisations using tax payer funded money (for which they are totally unaccountable for!) to promote their narrow minded view of the world based on, what many believe, to be an out-dated book.

Even adherents of the various holy books do not adhere to everything written in them, so why should the rest of us adhere to anything written in them?

Some may suspect that the only reason your group, and other groups like yours, are so keen to use tax payers and parishioners money to lobby government to spend even more tax payer dollars on allowing CRE, Chaplains in schools and other forms of ensuring you get a foothold into schools and therefore young and impressionable minds is to procure more followers. The more followers the more money you can make. Pity this money isn’t always used for good charitable works.

PS I have copied this and will paste it to various other blogs and forums as I suspect you won’t have the dignity or adhere to freedom of speech and allow this comment to be posted to your site.

OzAz has forwarded this comment to me for inclusion in my blog, as he suspects the ACL will not moderate his comment as the ACL seem to have a habit of not allowing any comment which questions them in any way shape or form.

As usual Chrys Stevenson has written an excellent response to Nicholas Tuohy’s article in OO, I recommend you read it.

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NSCP – I’ve had my say

Now have yours.

The Department of Education, Employment, and Workplace Relations has posted an online survey requesting feedback on the National Schools Chaplaincy Program(NSCP), which Godless Business has posted about before. The survey asks 15 questions, some of which are check boxes the remainder require a short written answer.

My responses are as follows:

1 – Yes
2 – No, I think the minimum qualification should be higher
3 – Bachelor / University degree
4 – Youth work, Negotiation skills, Counselling skills, Other: Secular, Non-religious.
5 – Currently there is no requirement for chaplains to be qualified, this is a complete disgrace considering we are talking about vulnerable and impressionable children. Aside from the fact there should NOT be chaplains in public schools in the first place, school counsellors should have appropriate counselling qualifications, such as a Degree in psychology or similar.
6 – Yes
7 – Service providers should be suitably qualified to deal with all problems children may experience. They should, as much as possible, be free from any and all biases. Religious chaplains, due to the dogmas of their respective churches, carry biases, such as anti-abortion, anti-homosexuality, that may make it more difficult for them to provide unbiased information to some children.
8 – Service providers should have qualifications that are recognised by applicable government medical authorities.
9 – Definitely not. The whole NSCP should be scrapped and replaced with a system that employs suitably qualified youth workers and/or psychologists. Counsellors should not be employed solely on the basis that are religious.
10 – Yes. And no. This question is loaded, in fact this whole questionnaire is loaded. It is being presented as though a chaplain is the best/only solution, and offering an option to include a non-faith based support worker is somehow being generous. You are avoiding the whole issue – it should not be about faith based versus non-faith based, it should be about employing the best people for the job regardless of their superstitions.
11 – Having support workers chosen based purely on their religious leanings is discriminatory and does not enable a school to choose the best, most suitably qualified, person for the job.
12 – An administration model that provides as many suitably qualified psychologists as possible, backed up by suitably qualified youth workers, and where requested suitably qualified pastoral care workers.
13 – Pooled funding
14 – The current system is not innovative in any way shape or form, having a system that employs religious chaplains as workers in schools harks back to the dark ages rather than the 21 century.
Computer based delivery systems could be utilised that provide guidance and information for common problems, that then link a child to a suitably qualified psychologist. For rural/remote areas, systems such as skype could be a cheap and effective one-to-one delivery system for initial consultations. A pool of suitably qualified support workers could be on hand to go to areas of need as required.
15 – Why is our government even supporting a chaplaincy program in the first place? Surely this program is both unconstitutional and discriminatory? The concept of “chaplain” implies a very Christian centred program, what about other religions and non-religious children? Doesn’t the current program discriminate against them in some way? The whole NSCP should be scrapped and a new secular program instigated that provides personnel who are suitably trained to look after the needs of all children in a non-discriminatory, non-religious, non-judgemental, non-proselytising, non-evangelising, non-biased way.

Feel free to use my responses as an aid in responding yourself, additional responses can be found at the AFA Forum on this thread, which can also be used to assist you in writing your own responses.

H/T to askegg from Godless Business for the opening paragraph and information about the NSCP and ideas for answers to the survey.

Now go and fill in the survey yourself.

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What is it good for?

To paraphrase Edwin Starr’s song War:

NSCP, huh, yeah
What is it good for
Absolutely nothing

Today @ChrysStevenson tweeted about an article on the sunshinecoast.com.au site titled: School Chaplains programme could end. Written by Liberal National Federal Member for Fisher Peter Slipper who warns that “a valued school programme could be at risk under Labor.” That “valued” school program? The totally wasteful, dangerous and delusional National Schools Chaplaincy Program (NSCP). Slipper warns that under a Labor government Gillard may cancel funding to the NSCP, he states that:

The Liberal National team has committed to keep funding part-time school chaplains for at least another three years.

As if that’s a good thing!

Apart from a few deluded religious people, and obviously the churches as they see this as a great, taxpayer funded, way to proselytise to a captive audience, I don’t accept that there really are that many people who think the NSCP is a good idea?

Slipper tries to argue

“Even the former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd described school chaplains as the ‘glue’ that holds school communities together.

Well Rudd would, he’s a deluded religious nut too.

Slipper’s final statement

“A lack of continued support for this project would simply be another Labor backflip.”

Should be worded:

“A lack of continued support for this project would simply be the right thing to do.”

The only possible reason I can see that some school principals and teachers see the NSCP as a good thing is that it provides government funding for some sort of counselling. The problem is that this funding is going to unqualified and unskilled religious ministers. What the government should do is provide the same amount of funding to fully qualified, trained, experienced, secular counsellors such as the Australian Psychological Society has recommended in their submission (pdf).

I posted a comment on Peter Slipper MP’s article, under my twitter OzAz name, and also sent the MP an email, this is a copy of that email:

Just read your piece on the mysunshinecoast.com.au site. I for one, and there are very many like me, would be more than happy to see the National Schools Chaplaincy Program (NSCP) end. It is a total waste of taxpayers money and appalling that taxpayer funds are used to promote religion in public schools.

I have posted a comment on the site, I trust you will bother to read it and the other comments deploring the NSCP. In case you do not have the time to read all the comments, I posted this link: http://www.psychology.org.au/Assets/Files/APS-Submission-School-Chaplains-July2010.pdf I strongly suggest you read it, take your obvious religious bias out of the equation and decide if the APS has a valid point.

I’m not affiliated with the APS at all, and not sure if their proposal is the best, but I am sure it would be better than having chaplains performing counselling services, and at least it is a secular approach. Which is the way it should be in state schools.

Regards

May I suggest you also write a comment and or send an email to Peter Slipper peter.slipper.mp@aph.gov.au letting him know that a lot of people do NOT want the NSCP.

Cheers

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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? 🙂

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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The Charter for Compassion

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A global campaign to apply religion’s "golden rule" — treat others as you would like them to treat you — has been launched by Christians, Jews and Muslims.

Religion’s “golden rule”? More on that later.

The campaigners, claiming that compassion is at the heart of most religions, have launched an online Charter of Compassion and invited atheists and others to join them.

EVEN invited the atheists, how noble of them.

Karen Armstrong, …, says many people associate religion with violence, intolerance and dogma rather than compassion.

Surprising that.

Because compassion is not confined to religious people, the charter’s founders hope that atheists and agnostics will help work for a more compassionate world rather than berate religion. [emphasis mine]

Ah, now the real reason they want is involved.

(quotes from The Age.com.au)

The organisers of the charter want people from all over the world of all faiths, or lack thereof, to participate and have their input into the final document.

The Charter for Compassion is divided into four segments as follows, each open to public input at various stages over the next four weeks:

  • Preamble – open for comment now
  • Affirmations – open for comment Nov 20
  • Actions – open for comment Nov 27
  • Final Declaration – open for comment Dec 04

So sign in now, have a look at the sample wordings and have your say.

The following is the first sentence of the suggested preamble:

Compassion is a key and universal value in all faiths.

I will be recommending that be changed to the following:

Compassion is a key and universal value.

A simple but vital change, don’t you think?

From their about page:

… the Charter seeks to remind the world that while all faiths are not the same, they all share the core principle of compassion and the Golden Rule.

Problem being that deep down none of these faiths really have any compassion for the other faiths. Go read some literature on what Islam really thinks of other faiths and non-believers then come back and tell me if they really have compassion and can share this “dream” with other faiths. Don’t think the other religions are any better either.

Now back to the Golden Rule.

As John Perkins from the SPA said in his letter to the editor:

The fact that all religions may agree on the Golden Rule does not make it a religious ethic, as Barney Zwartz maintains (18/11). It is actually a universal and secular ethical rule.

As John, the Wikipedia entry and my FAQ 1 state, the Golden Rule, or the Ethic of Reciprocity, has been around for a long time before modern Christianity. It has also been mentioned in many ancient eastern religions and philosophies. It has to be apparent to anyone that thinks about it that this “Golden Rule” is no divine religious imperative, but rather just a humanitarian imperative.

Hence any world-wide “Charter of Compassion” should be based on secular humanist foundations for all humankind, with no religious undertones or overtones.

Compassion, Honesty, Fairness and Tolerance – all part of any “Golden Rule”. All principles able to be conducted by anyone, without need of any influence from some sort of deity.

John Perkins has drafted a “Universal Statement of Moral Obligations” which expounds further on a secular version of the “Charter for Compassion”.

————————————

One has to wonder WHY religious faiths have to make a point of writing a “charter for compassion” in the first place. Isn’t religion ‘supposed’ to be compassionate? Is it perhaps that the recent critical review of religions, and horrific events carried out in the name of religion, have made sane, critical thinking, right minded, people question the role of religion in modern society?

What do you think of this Charter? Are you going to provide input to it? What are your thoughts on the “Golden Rule”, especially that it’s “religions ethic”?

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Filed under agnostic, atheist, charter for compassion, christianity, compassion, golden rule, morals, Muslim, religion, secular

Secular and Science Events – Sydney

There are several secular and science events coming up in Sydney (and a few other cities, see links), which I am intending to attend. These include:


AUSTRALIAN NATIONAL SECULAR ASSOCIATION (ANSA)CONFERENCE:  Secular Twins: Australia and New Zealand’s Secular Heritage and its Future

WHERE: NSW Parliamentary Theatrette, Sydney

WHY: To respond to claims that Australia and New Zealand are “Christian nations”.

WHEN: 9am  – 5pm Wednesday 9 July 2008.

More details here


intelligence2 OZ Debate: We’d be better off without religion

WHERE: City Recital Hall, Sydney

WHEN: 6:45pm Tuesday 19 August 2008.

More details here


National Science Week: National Tour, featuring Michael Shermer

Where: Powerhouse Museum, Sydney

When: 6pm – 11pm Friday 22 August 2008.

More details here, bookings not yet available.

Michael Shermer is also debating John Lennox (this guy?) on Friday and Saturday, further details to be announced.


Just thought a few readers may be interested, Shermer is also going to be in Melbourne, Perth and Darwin. I hope to be attending all the above events, if any readers are also attending and want to catch up for a drink, let me know.

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Balls, Paths, Teachers, Daunting, Erred, Dr Who

Several articles of a religious nature from the SMH newspaper:

Purity Balls

An increasing number of young American women and girls are attending purity balls with their conservative Christian fathers who promise to protect their daughters’ chastity until marriage. About 88 per cent of these women lose their virginity before they wed, writes Neela Banerjee.

There are a few things about these Purity Balls that make me go WTF? The biggest one is the sexual abstinence thing, it’s just not very viable (88% is a very high failure rate), the sexual urge is a very primitive and strong urge. One that at times needs to be tempered, but also needs to be acknowledged. Another problem is the lack of sexual education these people get, they are told “just don’t do it” and not provided with the knowledge to prevent unwanted pregnancies or STDs if they do ‘do it’.

And the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health in the US found that rates of sexually transmitted diseases were higher in communities with a high proportion of pledgers.

I agree with PossumMomma, the best thing to do is provide education and develop a mutual trust and respect with your children. I wouldn’t encourage young teens to have sex, quite the opposite, but it’s better that they understand all the consequences and know all the options regarding contraception, STDs, etc. if they do want to have sex.

Catholic WYD – Clearing a path

It’s getting closer and the special laws are in place, so Sydney is now a Police State. The special World Youth Day Act means the State government can direct the Sydney Council to do whatever World Youth Day Co-ordination Authorities request! Apart from all the radical traffic changes, the authorities are/were planning on removing trees in a park to provide easier passage for the C-WYD pilgrims. Are these pilgrims so blinded by faith they need obstacles cleared from their path so they don’t bump into them? ** snerk ** 

The final paragraph of the SMH article sums things up quite well, and not just about C-WYD.

“I think we have to be careful about how communities are being disempowered under the guise of ‘You need this for security or to make this event successful’. Part of living in a democracy is consultation and coming up with better decisions together.”

Catholic WYD – I wonder what the Teachers really think?

Teachers and staff from Catholic schools ave been asked to give up to six days of their own time in school holidays to supervise overnight sleepovers for Catholic World Youth Day pilgrims.

Quite rightly, they are concerned with the logistics, duty-of-care and how to deal with inappropriate behaviour. I wonder how many also aren’t keen about losing their holidays?

Daunting World for Newly Secular

For ex Orthodox Jews the real world can be very daunting, and lonely. An interesting article featuring the story of Assaf Philip who used to be an ultra-orthodox rabbi. When Assaf decided to become a secular Jew it

cost him his family, most of his friends and excommunication from his entire community.

So, like Scientology, Exclusive Brethren and undoubtedly other religions, the ultra-orthodox Haredi Jews also practice disassociation for anyone who leaves their faith.

With no money, and no education in basic areas such mathematics and the sciences or the English alphabet, Philip says he was ejected from his home almost within hours of his rabbi learning he had lost his faith.

Philip, and others like him also have very little social skills as the Haredi Jewish community is a fairly closed community. Philip’s wife was picked for him by his father and rabbi and he met her only a couple of hours before their wedding.

Some of the other problems that secular Jews perceive are

that being Haredi carries with it certain privileges which include not having to pay tax, not having to work and not having to do three years of military service.

and some people think our government is lenient on the religious.


One last one I stumbled upon whilst trying to find the online links to the above articles. An opinion piece written by the Anglican Dean of Sydney Philip Jensen, the Anglican equivalent of the Catholic Archbishop George Pell. For those not in the know the Sydney Diocese of both the Anglicans and Catholics are the most staunchly traditional of the diocese around Australia. Pell and Jensen are also well known for voicing their opinions.


Church of Rome hath erred

So starts Jensen’s opinion piece.

Jensen says he thinks it’s an honour that Sydney is to host the Catholic WYD, but he is protesting none the less. Jensen’s protest:

is against the enormity of the claims of the Roman Catholic Church

Well that’s one thing I agree with Jensen about, but I think it may be the only thing.

Some people are born as Protestants. They are anti-Roman Catholic because of their own tribal roots.

SAY WHAT? People aren’t born as any religion, they get indoctrinated and brainwashed into the religion they are unfortunate enough to have been born into. They are anti-Catholic because their parents, Ministers and other authority figures tell them to be.

Jensen then goes on to rejecting various Catholic doctrines including the Catholics claim to divine authority, particularly

the Pope claiming to be the Vicar of Christ

Hmmm, something else I agree with, sort of. The Pope has no more ‘divine authority’ than anyone else, especially if you consider there is no divine authority.

Jensen then tells us that the Catholics have every right to get money from the government. It’s just being hospitable and like any other event hospitality is expensive. I wonder then how much money the Gay Mardi Gras gets from the government? I also wonder if Jensen, and Pell wouldn’t mind being just as hospitable to a World Atheist Day?

Jensen then discusses secularism.

World Youth Day does not compromise the separation of church and state. Nor does it undermine secular government. The Government provides facilities and security for any group, either religious or non-religious. We can only complain when there is favouritism for any particular group.

This is the confusion of secular with secularism. It is the confusion of secularist philosophy with secular government. Secular means this age – of this world. We have a government that is secular, i.e. relating to the things of this age – hospitals, building, roads, economy and so on.

Secularism is the religious philosophy, which teaches that there is no other age or world than this one.

The secularists wish to impose atheistic belief on society through government. They are the ones who do not believe in the separation of church and state. They try to use government to enforce their viewpoint. Thus they oppose the normal secular support that is given to Roman Catholics.

There are some valid points in the above quote but there is something wrong with the underlying ideas, and I can’t quite put my finger on it. Can any tell me what Jensen has got wrong here?

Dr Who makes more sense than the Bible

One last thing, did anyone watch Good News Week last night? If you missed it you can watch the video here (episode 13, 122Mb). Towards the end of the show [40 min mark] they were talking about Dr Who and Paul said:

… because even a two hearted time travelling alien who lives in a dimension warping  [police] phone box makes more sense than the bible.

I cacked myself laughing 😆 I’ve just watched that bit again, trying to transcribe the above quote, now I’m typing this with a big smirk on my face. The article in question that GNW were discussing is:

The church is ailing – send for Dr Who

There’s another blog in that article alone, but I think I’ve done enough for today.

Last but not least – Five points to anyone who can make a good sentence from my headline.

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