Michael Gove is the worst education secretary we’ve had for some time – perhaps all time. I’m not being party political, as I don’t think much of Labour’s record either – specialist schools and academies were their bright ideas, leading to the gradual, now accelerating, destruction of the state system under local authority control. Since Gove took over at the Department for Education, he’s introduced one crazy idea after another,...
This week’s National Secular Society e-newsletter quotes Irish writer Jennifer Johnston saying, “Personally I think that religion should be abolished and I think when you look around we’re doing not too bad a job of it in this country at the moment. It’s all just moving and about time, too.” This was in an interview with the Irish Independent. Johnston’s attitude is understandable, when you read about her own and her family’s experience of Catholicism, but abolishing religion isn’t the answer. I remember being shocked when, some time ago, I heard one of the British Humanist Association‘s leading activists say more or less the same thing – and he was serious. It’s an attitude that persists in online atheist forums. Calling for the abolishment or banning of religion isn’t a rational response to the problems that it causes. It was tried by the Soviets and by the Chinese during the Cultural Revolution, but they only succeeded in driving it underground. There have always been extremists, religious and atheist, and they’ve always caused destruction.
The answer is secularism, or an end to religion in civil affairs and no religious instruction in schools. Children might learn about religion but not to be religious. Teach children to think, not to believe. Most organised monotheistic religion is about power. Remove that power, and you remove most of the damage it causes.
“A good teacher makes you think, even when you don’t want to.” (Tom, aged 10)
Teach people to think, and maybe they won’t make foolish statements like, “Ban religion!”
The church has been complaining again, this time about the BBC’s religious programming. There’s not enough of it, they say, or it’s not the right sort. The Bishop of Manchester, the Rt Rev Nigel McCulloch, says,
There is also a danger of the â€˜David Attenboroughâ€™ effect: religion always reported from the point of view of an observer of a fascinating and increasingly rare species, rather than explored as something of fundamental importance to the vast majority of the country.
When Pope Benedict XVI visits the UK next year, he might have expected protests from gay and lesbian organisations, child protection campaigners, and HIV and AIDS activists. Now it’s looking like his reception by our Head of State, HM Queen Elizabeth II, might be somewhat frosty, and Archbishop Rowan Williams may find it hard to be welcoming.