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An angry parent has told us that the Gideons have visited her child’s school, where they contributed to an act of collective worship and gave every child a Bible. Most people have heard of Gideon Bibles being left in hotel rooms, but they distribute them in many other places too. On their website they say,
We are aware that many people in Britain have never seen a Bible and may be uncertain what it is.
Our aim is to give them the opportunity to read it for themselves, perhaps for the first time, and to discover God in a personal way.
The Gideons place Bibles or New Testaments in many areas including:
Additionally we make personal presentations of God’s Word.
Each year we present personal copies of the New Testament and Psalms to children in thousands of British secondary schools and to many university and college students.
We make personal presentations to medical personnel and uniformed services – Armed Forces, Police, Ambulance and Fire.
We place New Testaments at hospital bedsides.
Quite apart from the fact that it isn’t appropriate to allow groups like this to proselytise in schools, the Bible isn’t a guide for life, as we reported earlier. When teachers allow this to happen, maybe they haven’t considered why they shouldn’t? Suffolk’s SACRE (Standing Advisory Council for Religious Education) has provided some guidelines for schools on visitors to RE lessons and assemblies.
Last week, during a celebration of the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible in Oxford, David Cameron said “the Bible has helped to give Britain a set of values and morals which make Britain what it is today,” and that a “return to Christian values” could counter the country’s “moral collapse”. Admitting that he’s a “committed but vaguely practising Church of England Christian” might explain Cameron’s ignorance of what the Bible actually says. For example:
When the LORD thy God shall bring thee into the land whither thou goest to possess it, and hath cast out many nations before thee, the Hittites, and the Girgashites, and the Amorites, and the Canaanites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and mightier than thou;
And when the LORD thy God shall deliver them before thee; thou shalt smite them, and utterly destroy them; thou shalt make no covenant with them, nor shew mercy unto them:
Neither shalt thou make marriages with them; thy daughter thou shalt not give unto his son, nor his daughter shalt thou take unto thy son.
For they will turn away thy son from following me, that they may serve other gods: so will the anger of the LORD be kindled against you, and destroy thee suddenly.
As for Christian values:
But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.
Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.
For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law.
And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household.
He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.
I distrust those people who know so well what God wants them to do because I notice it always coincides with their own desires.
The Internet has been flooded with obituaries to Christopher Hitchens today, since the news of his death. One of the so-called ‘New Atheists’, his book, God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, upset lots of religious people and delighted many fellow atheists. True, he was exceptioanally gifted with the written and spoken word (there are some examples in the Guardian), and wrote lots of thought-provoking copy for Vanity Fair, among other publications, but I wasn’t a fan, especially because he thought that invading Iraq was a good idea, regardless of the consequences – who were mostly civilian.
If an easy target like Christianity could be destroyed solely with words, Christopher could have done it. However, the main effect of his witty attacks on religion was to delight other atheists, not to persuade believers of the error of their ways. It’s untrue that “religion poisons everything”. That’s far too simplistic and ignores the many examples of good things that religious people have done. Philanthropists like Elizabeth Fry, a Quaker, achieved social reform long before the introduction of the Welfare State, for example, and religious people still do good without evangelising or proselytising.
I find Dawkins’ simple-minded view of religion very difficult to take. It pays no proper attention to the history and tradition of religion. It says that religions have done nothing but harm but that is manifestly not true. He omits all the good things, the education, the cathedrals, the music. All that’s disregarded.
If you haven’t seem these sites, they’re worth exploring:
The Secular Web has pages and pages of food for thought. Thay say:
The Secular Web is owned and operated by Internet Infidels, Inc., a nonprofit educational organization dedicated to defending and promoting a naturalistic worldview on the Internet. Naturalism is the “hypothesis that the natural world is a closed system” in the sense that “nothing that is not a part of the natural world affects it.” As such, “naturalism implies that there are no supernatural entities,” such as gods, angels, demons, ghosts, or other spirits, “or at least none that actually exercises its power to affect the natural world.” And without miraculous interventions into nature from a spiritual realm, neither prayer nor magick are more effective than a placebo.
Butterflies and Wheels is edited by Ophelia Benson.
Butterflies and Wheels was established in 2002 and has (not surprisingly) evolved since then. At the beginning it focused mainly on various kinds of pseudoscience and epistemic relativism, aka postmodernism. The latter prompted an increasing focus on moral or cultural relativism and a defense of universalism and human rights. This in turn led to concern with the chief opponent of universalism and human rights, which is religion. This then led to interest in the backlash against overt atheism.
Keep thinking. If nothing else, it’ll help to keep Alzheimer’s at bay.
Monty Guest runs Suffolk Radiation Technical Services Ltd which provides advice on radiation protection to companies and organisations throughout the UK.
For a nation of talkers and self-confessors, we are terrible when it comes to talking about God. The discourse has been co-opted by the True Believers, on one hand, and Angry Atheists on the other. What about the rest of us?
The rest of us, it turns out, constitute the nation’s fastest-growing religious demographic. We are the Nones, the roughly 12 percent of people who say they have no religious affiliation at all. The percentage is even higher among young people; at least a quarter are Nones.
In my experience, even more British people are Nones too, and can you blame them? Angry atheism is as off-putting to many people as in your face religion. What’s wrong with keeping your beliefs private? It would make a change.