“Question with boldness even the existence of God” – America as a Christian Nation.

August 24, 2012

The often quoted claim that the United States of America is a “Christian nation” is not an attempt to link the percentage of the population who identify themselves as Christian, with how the Country should be governed; but is in fact a suggestion that the Country was founded by devout Christians, developing a country on the Christian system of belief and values.
This simply isn’t true.

The true genius of America’s Founding Fathers lies in their commitment to the separation of Church and State. It is impossible to quantify how huge an experiment this was. Church and State had been intrinsically linked without question for at least a thousand years. The merging of the two, was based on religious authority. To question that, was to question the legitimacy of religious rule itself. A truly revolutionary concept.

It is true that none of the Founders were Atheists, many were deists and highly critical of Christianity, and few were devout Christians. None were Theocrats. Christianity cannot claim the Founders as their own, nor can they claim the intention of a Nation built on Christianity. We Atheists, similarly cannot claim the Founders as our own. Neither have a strong case. To understand the brilliance of the Founders barrier between Church and State we must examine the context of the period in which they lived. We must not view them through 21st Century Atheism/Christian Right tinted specs.

1776 was a time far before Darwin produced the greatest scientific discovery of all time, the greatest story ever told; The Origin of Species. It was a time when, up until very recently, to question Church doctrine was punishable by torture, imprisonment, or even death. For over a thousand years the basis of government was questioned very periodically and with very little acknowledgement of the fusion of Church and State. The two were the same thing. Kings and Queens derived their ‘right’ to rule from God. That they were the middle men between God and humanity, and so they were not accountable to anyone other than God. Powerful barons at times tried to overthrow the Monarchy; Simon De Montfort (power hungry, had no intention of popular rule), Oliver Cromwell (Puritan; as fundamental as Christianity gets). But the logic that the Monarch derives their power from God was left unchallenged, and was still at the heart of the understanding of how Government works by 1776.

The Church was at the centre of the community. Education was predominantly Christian by nature. And Capitalism was developing in the Northern States whilst the Southern States seemed poised to hold onto an economic system built on slavery; the two systems would one day clash violently, resulting in the triumph of Capitalism. We almost instinctively link the birth of modern Capitalism to the United States. But Capitalism has its roots in Christian thinking. Weber once argued that the type of Protestantism that made its way to the United States in the 17th Century differed vastly from the old Catholic powers, in that it exhalted the importance of the individual and his/her duty to improve the materialistic needs of those around them. Before the Constitution officially separated Church and State we can see that the new Protestant work ethic surrounding the materialistic desires of the individual was helping to foster the atmosphere of a nation built around the individual. In this respect, Christianity played a pivotal role in the building of America.

During their schooling the Founders would have attended Catechism classes, sang hymns, and made to learn and recite Bible passages as was the norm for the education system at the time. The majority of the population would have been subjected to Christian literature, and not much else. And this is where the Founders differ.

They were all, without exception, members of the upper classes. Their education would have been mixed. It would certainly have included the necessary Catechism classes and hymns and Biblical recitals, but it would also have been mixed with new Enlightenment ideas coming out of Europe around the time. It is important to note that Thomas Jefferson was schooled in Latin, Greek and Classical Literature. His Philosophy teacher was a man named Professor William Small; himself a child of Enlightenment ideals. Jefferson’s philosophy lessons covered morality, ethics, and the study of early Greek atheist writers.
Benjamin Franklin was a student of the Socratic method, and idolised the Ancient Greek Atheist. Franklin himself states quite openly:

“I have found Christian dogma unintelligible. Early in life, I absenteed myself from Christian assemblies.”

Franklin exemplifies Socratic reasoning with:

“The way to see by faith is to shut the eye of reason.”

– We may call Franklin a Deist, but I’m pretty convinced he’s as close to Atheist as the 18th Century could ever produce, given the lack of scientific understanding for much of how the World, and human biology worked.

It would seem that the United States of America, as a political entity is wholly secular. The Constitution itself is a beautiful piece of Enlightenment literature. It unequivocally states the end of the Divine right to rule. A 1000+ year old settlement that not even the Magna Carta could break. It gives power to the people in a way that had never been considered before. But whilst the political resolution was indeed secular, the majority of the American public in the 1780s, were Christian. But that is largely irrelevant to our understanding of what America “is”. For that, we have to understanding the Constitution, and the people who framed it. As already noted Franklin was pretty much an Atheist. Jefferson on the other hand, was simply anti-Christian. He was Deist:

“But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.”

“Millions of innocent men, women and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined and imprisoned; yet we have not advanced one inch towards uniformity.”

“Christianity neither is, nor ever was a part of the common law.”

“Question with boldness even the existence of a god; because if there be one he must approve of the homage of reason more than that of blindfolded fear.”

And, I think most importantly of all Jefferson’s writings…. a letter he penned to the Danbury Baptist Association in 1802:

“Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legislative powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ thus building a wall of separation between church and State.”

– In fact, the Christian Right in Jefferson’s time attempted to block his Presidency based on the belief that he was an Atheist. Jefferson is a deist. He believed in a creator, but not the God of Christianity. He believed more strongly in the principles of the Enlightenment; individual freedom, the supremacy of human reason, and a binding separation between the Church’s ethical positions, and the State. He believed in certain teachings of Jesus (but denied his divinity) that supported the golden rule seen throughout the World and not limited to Christianity; treat others as you wish to be treated. This is where the new Christian Right and the Founding Fathers part ways.

The 1950s saw a new strand of Christian thought, moulded to political agenda with the Christian Right. This took on three branches:

  • Anti-Communism.
  • Hayekian Free Market Principles.
  • Opposition to social liberalism; values that appeared to be incompatible with traditional Christian thought.
    In short, it was a response to the massive changes economically, socially and politically taking place during the middle of the 20th Century. Science and technology were becoming ever more necessary and sophisticated. Darwinism was being taken seriously. Women were ever more liberated, working and forging careers. Immigrants from non-Christian backgrounds were arriving. Communism was supposedly threatening property and individual freedoms. The Christian Right could vastly broaden their appeal, if they aligned themselves with a political and economic view point that Government = bad, Corporations = great. Suddenly poorer people struggling to put food on their tables will vote Republican to uphold traditional Christian values, not realising that economically their neighbourhoods will be ignored, investment dried up, and any sort of Welfare help cut to within an inch of its life…. all for the benefit of a few wealthy tax cuts under the almost hilarious – if it weren’t so curiously dangerous – rhetoric of “Well, they’re wealth creators”. So, the Christian Right has a broader appeal.

    This merging of Christian fundamentalism with the Right Wing can be most clearly seen with its most revered members. Billy Graham managed to link Christian dogma with anti-communism and as a result, ranks a record 41 times between 1948 and 1998 on Gallup’s poll of Most Admired Men in America. The agenda seems obvious; align Christian Right Winged thinking with the National identity; make America a Christian-Right country, and claim it has always been so. And it’s had its successes….

    In 1979 Ronald Reagan appointed a man named Paul Laxalt as his campaign manager. Among the campaign team, and later the White House staff, Laxalt was known as the “First Friend” for his close relationship to the President. Laxalt, in 1979, whilst Senator for Nevada, introduced a Bill called the ‘Family Protection Act’. Note the naming of the Bill. Point three on my list above, points to opposition to social liberalism. This Bill is a prime example of that. ‘Family Protection’ is worded to suggest there is an imminent attack on YOUR family. Be afraid. Where does this attack come from? Well, according to the Bill; pretty much everywhere that isn’t fundamentally Christian. It restricted access to abortion, restricted gay rights, and offered tax incentives to stay at home moms. It is a curious paradox of the Right Wing; they claim to be anti-big government, yet enact very anti-Constitutional, anti-separation of Church and State, anti-individual rights, where ever those individual rights don’t suit their very narrow vision of what being an ‘American’ truly means; (Christian, white, rich, male).

    Like the rest of the Right Wing, Christian America holds Reagan up as a great President. The perfect Christian Conservative. It seems Christian voters are happy to overlook his disastrous Presidency (truly one of the worst in history – as I have noted in a previous blog), simply because his values were Christian by nature. Reagan’s legacy was one of homelessness, selfishness, arrogance, lack of compassion or empathy, hate, Corporate greed, death, and misery. All in the name of an economic policy disastrously known as “trickle down”. History will remember both him and Thatcher as little beacons of horror and misery for the majority. That’s all.

    Thankfully Laxalt’s Bill never made it past Committee stage, but the fact is that as small Christian Right pressure groups popped up during the 1960s as a way to counter the social liberalism of the day…. by the 1980s, they had members in both Houses of Congress, and very close to the President. This says three things to me about the nature of the American identity by the 1980s; people are willing to vote based on religious conviction, ignoring the economic implications of their vote. Two, most people in the US considered their faith to be of great importance. Three, those who do vote based on religious conviction, are anti-Constitutional in their belief that religion should play a part in the legislative process, and not simply be kept between the individual and their ‘God’. And Reagan was the ideal candidate to play on this anti-Constitutional religious dogmatic approach to politics. He was quite willing to break down the wall that was so brilliantly erected between Church and State some 200 years previous. In 1984, Reagan gave a speech the National Religious Broadcasters. The only President up until that point to agree to give a speech to them, in which he states:

    “Let’s begin at the beginning. God is the center of our lives; the human family stands at the center of society; and our greatest hope for the future is in the faces of our children. Seven thousand Poles recently came to the christening of Maria Victoria Walesa, daughter of Danuta and Lech Walesa, to express their belief that solidarity of the family remains the foundation of freedom.”

    – This irritatingly nasty little manipulative quote stands to try to define what it means to be a human being. God must be the centre of our existence. The family, can only possibly be a religious concept. To a Christian public angry at the social liberalism and apparent moral relativism born out of the 1960s, this must have sounded wondrous. It is also, of course, nonsense. The entire paragraph, utter garbage. Let us not forget that whilst Reagan stresses the importance of ‘our children’ for the future of the Nation, he was busy cutting away all social programs, oversaw the closing of schools and libraries on a huge scale, creating a legacy of child poverty that still hasn’t been fixed, ensuring that the gap between rich and poor widened beyond anyone’s expectations. This wasn’t a man who cared about humanity, or “our children”. But he believed in God, and so the public warmed to him.

    In 1988 Reagan completely destroyed any trace of Enlightenment thinking that brought around the creation of the secular United States of America with his State of the Union address, in which he states:

    Well now, we come to a family issue that we must have the courage to confront. Tonight, I call America — a good nation, a moral people — to charitable but realistic consideration of the terrible cost of abortion on demand. To those who say this violates a woman’s right to control of her own body — can they deny that now medical evidence confirms the unborn child is a living human being entitled to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness? Let us unite as a nation and protect the unborn with legislation that would stop all federal funding for abortion — and with a human life amendment making, of course, an exception where the unborn child threatens the life of the mother. Our Judeo-Christian tradition recognizes the right of taking a life in self-defense.

    And let me add here: so many of our greatest statesmen have reminded us that spiritual values alone are essential to our nation’s health and vigor. The Congress opens its proceedings each day, as does the Supreme Court, with an acknowledgment of the Supreme Being — yet we are denied the right to set aside in our schools a moment each day for those who wish to pray. I believe Congress should pass our school prayer amendment.

    – Here, he completely reasserts the link between Church and State. He includes the famous phrase from the Declaration. He appears to be trying to link himself to the Founders. Suddenly political America has a “Judeo-Christian tradition”. This is a Theocratic President, not a secular, democratic, constitutional President. This is a Christian that the Founders specifically wanted to keep away from Government.

    The rewriting of history to suit Christian America is a regular occurrence from the 1950s until the present day. Somehow, it has managed to convince a Nation that “One Nation, under God” was always a part of the Pledge, or that “In God We Trust” always appeared on the dollar bill. Both of which are a product of the rise of the Christian Right in the 1950s. Jefferson and Franklin would have reacted with anger at the inclusion of “One Nation, under God” on any public institution.
    The rewriting of history doesn’t stop there. The Christian Right are experts at rewriting the Bible to appear to support their prejudices. As noted above, anti-social liberalism is a key ingredient in the making of the Christian Right, and this social liberalism extends to homosexuality. We see the influence of the Christian Right in the passing of the ‘Defence of Marriage Act’ – again… using ‘defence’ to hide the fact that they are slowly breaking down the barrier between Church and State, slowly eroding individual rights, replacing them with Christian theocratic ‘values’. The ‘Defence of Marriage Act’ states:

    “In determining the meaning of any Act of Congress, or of any ruling, regulation, or interpretation of the various administrative bureaus and agencies of the United States, the word ‘marriage’ means only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife, and the word ‘spouse’ refers only to a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife.”

    -If this isn’t a restriction of human rights, by a bunch of homophobic anti-constitutional theocrats, I don’t know what is. This is the ultimate in Government power over individual rights. It is a restriction on ‘love’. Which on the surface, appears to be based on Biblical principles, but underneath it is clearly a case of prejudice making its way into law. I say this, because if marriage were in fact based on Biblical principles, we could all marry our sister’s as advocated in Genesis 20:1-14. Or we could, by law, have a right to take concubines as advocated in 2 Sam 5:13
    and 2 Chron 11:21. Or that we’d be forced to shave our wife’s head as advocated by Deut. 21:11-13. Or a wife would be banned from offering an opinion of her own, especially in Church as advocated in I Corinthians 14:34-35. Or if a man rapes a virgin, as long as he pays, he is entitled to marry her as advocated in Deut. 22:28. Or we may take a child of a foreigner, and marry her, because by law she’d be our property, as advocated by Leviticus 25:44-46. And so it goes on. The ‘Defence of Marriage Act’ is simply a Bill of prejudice, and nothing else.

    What The ‘Defence of Marriage Act’ shows is how vast the Theocratic Christian Right has managed to penetrate a Government that was built on anti-Theocratic, Enlightenment principles. Language like “Defence” and “Freedom” and “Individual” when linked to Christian-inspired changes to the law, are an attempt to provide a direct link using secular language, to the nature of the Founding documents and the people who penned it, whilst being vastly incompatible with the ideals set out by the Founding Fathers as they seek to limit the rights of anyone who doesn’t fit the narrow band of “Christian” that they attempt to perpetuate. It is within this context that it isn’t surprising that the Republican Party requires the Christian vote to be electorally successful, and so with that need comes deeply anti-constitutional, anti-freedom policies designed to placate Christian extremists with regard to abortion, homosexuality,and the teaching of evolution above creationism (I refuse to call it ‘intelligent design’).

    The growth of the Christian Right seems to be a reaction to a perceived ‘threat’ to their understanding of how a moral society should work. It is true that Protestantism, as noted by Weber, set the ball rolling for the freedoms that would paradoxically come to shatter the grip that the religion had on the Country. The attempts by Reagan, and later by Presidential candidates like Santorum to make sure the wall between Church and State be forever knocked down have had their successes when trying to define the United States as a ‘Christian Nation’, but luckily the principles of the Enlightenment and the atmosphere created by the Constitution seem almost always likely to prevail, unfortunately the Christian Right will always have an incalculable affect on the nature of National identity within the very secular United States. It is the nature of a secular Constitution, a secular system of Government, contrasting with a majority Christian population.

    Nevertheless, it is within the atmosphere of an almost entirely Christian Nation, in 1776, before Darwin, before Einstein attempted to provide a theory of everything, before anyone had even suggested the model for the Big Bang; that a few men came together, and questioned the prevailing notion that a society should be based on religious values. People who insisted that reason and inquiry were key to progress, and who told us all to question everything, including the existence of a God. Were they influenced by Christianity? Of course. It would have been impossible not to be. But breaking the chains that Christianity had forced upon its subjects for so long, was an act of great rebellion. To build a country around these new principles was ground breaking, and without any precedent. To them, they were not building another Christian nation. They were building something that transcended religious belief. It is something the Christian Right have attempted to destroy time and time again over the past sixty years. For my part, I am with the Founders. Religion should be kept as far away from the public sphere as notably possible.


  • The burden of proof

    February 22, 2011

    It seems apparent from early on in the history of the Church, that the existence of a Christian God was not disputed. The arguments and the philosophical debate seemed irrelevant. It simply gave many people who were already becoming suspicious of the Polytheistic system forced upon them by Rome, a chance to reassert control over their lives, and a way to escape and hide in a World of their own. A sense of individuality apart from Rome.

    Doctrine became more important than spirituality and truth. Bishop Victor of Rome, around 190ad decided when Easter would be celebrated. He came up against opposition from a sect called the Quatrodecimens who insisted on celebrating Easter on Jewish passover. Victor demanded uniformity. The Catholic Church was becoming powerful very early on, and any descent from its ranks, was met with swift punishment and calls of heresy. Many gnostic groups felt the full force of the Catholic Church’s iron fist. The truth was that many different Christian sects existed. Some didn’t even acknowledge the resurrection. Many didn’t believe that Jesus was born of a virgin. There could only be one sect that reigned victorious; not because of any divine power, but because it had friends in very high and rich places. The Catholic Church spread its message violently and with threat of severe punishment, for centuries proceeding the early years of the Church. Islam is experiencing much the same attempts to monopolise knowledge and debate in Eastern Nations now. If you dare to question the tenets of Islam in a Nation like Iran, you better run for your life. That is the only reason organised religion is perpetuated. The existence of God and the philosophical arguments surrounding his supposed transcendental nature, were not explored pre-Enlightenment, through fear alone, not reason.

    Anyway, today I had a short discussion with a Muslim guy who told me that as an Atheist, I could not disprove the existence of a God.

    There were two problems I can see instantly with this statement.

    Firstly, this is entering the realms of Deism. It is true, I cannot disprove a creator. But a creator has no attributes, and so it takes a rather large leap to get from a creator, to the Christian or Islamic God. A creator could be anything; an infinitely good creator, an infinitely evil creator, two creators, a creator whose final act before dying, was to create the universe, a creator that created the universe but then stepped back. This is entirely different from a God of religion. To prove a religion is worthy of public power, it must first prove a creator who is infinitely good, infinitely knowledgeable. And so we are given the old cosmological argument provided by Aquinas, and currently being used constantly by William Lane Craig in every debate he has:
    1. Every thing has either been caused to exist by something else or else exists uncaused.
    2. Not every thing has been caused to exist by something else.
    3. Therefore, at least one thing is itself uncaused.
    The problem being, that point two is conjecture, rather than truth. Aquinas’ logic is limited by time itself. If existence is infinite, then everything that exists has indeed been caused by that which came before. Fortunately for those of us who languish in unbelief; not everything that exists, has a cause. On the subatomic level, protons appear spontaneously and cease to exist just as quickly. The entire study of Quantum Mechanics backs this up. Both Stephen Hawking and Lawrence Krauss attest to this.

    Even if Aquinas’ logic is applied to the existence of a God, it is impossible to assign the logic to the existence of a God of organised religion, because Aquinas’ God could have been the first cause, but has had nothing to do with existence ever since. Perhaps it was more than one first cause. But obviously this is irrelevant because no philosopher would take the old cosmological argument seriously any more.

    There is a more rounded version and a more modern version of the cosmological argument that is early Islamic in origin, though taken from earlier traditions. But even this argument, is weak. The Kalam Argument as it is known states that:
    1. Everything that begins to exist has a cause.
    2. The universe began to exist.
    3. Therefore, the universe has a cause.
    It is weak because of how it is worded. The language is its downfall. “Everything that begins to exist has a cause“. This places a limit to “everything“. Everything…. that begins to exist. Which automatically excludes the idea of something that doesn’t begin to exist, i.e – a God. It is trying to prove God, by just presuming God already exists as something that didn’t begin to exist, and just existed any way. The Islamic Kalam argument does not point out where the evidence is for that which did not begin to exist. It is trying to persuade the reader that God is already a known. He is transcendental and so already exists. Almost clever, but not actually.

    It is also limited by the constraints of time. Something cannot ‘begin’ unless time exists. Since time sprang into existence at the point of the big bang, there is no ’cause’ before. Because before doesn’t exist. The entire chain of cause and effect began at the point of the big bang. So, the premise of the Kalam argument is wrong. It follows then, that the rest of it, is wrong.

    On the cosmological argument, the Muslim guy tried to suggest to me, that the Koran offers evidence that science has only just managed to discover. He quoted the Koran:

    Then He turned to the sky, when it was still gas, and said to it, and to the earth, “Come into existence, willingly or unwillingly.” They said, “We come willingly.”

    Quite how this relates to science is beyond me. As far as I can discern, a God looked at some Gas and said “make the Earth”. I’m pretty sure that isn’t what Stephan Hawking is trying to suggest. It is not a very persuasive argument to say the very very least. Even then, the Koran is saying nothing new. Even for the time period. The Ancient Greeks, 1000 years before the Koran, were theorising about atoms, gas particles and even evolution. The Greeks had guessed that the atom was the building block of everything, long before Islam sprang into existence. It would be wholly arrogant for Islam to take credit for knowledge that pre-dates it, by about a millennium. That being said, the Koran doesn’t mention atoms. It mentions gas (doesn’t go into much detail, unsurprisingly for a Religious text). And so, is wrong. Scientists would be ashamed to call this verse scientific in any way whatsoever.

    The cosmological argument, in every way, fails.
    Even if it didn’t fail, the cosmological argument does not imply a personal God of any sort. That is problem number one with the statement “Prove God doesn’t exist“.

    The second problem and most important, is the burden of proof.
    As an Atheist, I did not start by saying “God doesn’t exist“. I simply hear a religious person say “God does exist” and I reject the notion, based on the lack of evidence to support the assertion that the religious person has made.

    The burden of proof is not on me to disprove the existence of a God, because it is logically impossible to do so. It would be equally as impossible to ask a religious person to prove that there isn’t a monkey sitting on my head, that turns invisible whenever someone else looks at me. They would not logically be able to disprove it, because it is an assertion that I have made without the use of evidence. The burden of proof is lodged firmly with me. If I am to make an extraordinary claim, and use it to justify horrendous abuses and prejudices (the appalling and frankly moronic and dangerous way religious people treat homosexuality), then they MUST provide extraordinary evidence.

    Proof against an assertion with no characteristics or evidence, is logically impossible. I should not be expected to provide evidence for denying an assertion. The person making the assertion should provide the evidence.
    So the burden of proof is not on Atheists, it is on the believers. And none of them can offer any proof whatsoever. It comes back round to the original cosmological argument, especially with reference to the Kalam argument. A God that cannot be seen or heard or have any kind of human attributes attached to it, and was the first cause so must exist outside of the realm that He created (if I make a cup, I am not part of the cup, I am apart from the cup), cannot be disproved as such. I cannot possibly, as an Atheist summon up enough arrogance to presume I can disprove something that according to those who make the assertion, exists beyond the realm of human knowledge. We are all subject to the limitations of time and space and we cannot transcend that. That goes for religious people also.

    And so it stands, the burden of proof is not on me, it is on the religious person.
    Needless to say, the Muslim guy I was speaking to briefly, didn’t answer.


    The antonym of reason

    February 7, 2011

    It is no secret that given my way, I would have chapters from ‘God is not great’ by the wonderful Christopher Hitchens read loudly to school children in early morning assembly, followed by a reading from Darwin’s Origin of Species. Sadly, at my primary school, we had to endure horrid little assemblies that started with prayer, followed by hymns, followed by a Jesus story; all presented as fact, father than fairy tale.

    So I took it upon myself, now that I am older – and free to question without being sent out of assembly for disrupting prayer – to send an email to our local council, to raise this with them. I inquired:

    I was wondering if you could spare a couple of minutes to answer a few questions I have.
    I am an ex-pupil of The Meadows. I am 25 now and studying at Demontfort University. I was talking to another ex-pupil a week or two ago, and we both vividly recall the school assemblies in which we started each one with prayer and hymns. This strikes me as a little odd. I never questioned the religious aspect of what we were being taught. As a kid, I understood the stories from the Bible that our trusted teachers were reading to us, as fact. Why would I assume any different? We weren’t being taught any different.

    The stories we were read from the Bible were taught as truth and as factual as 1+1=2. If we did not sit in silence and pray and sing hymns, we were sent out of the assembly. I wondered why this is?

    I do not recall hearing the name Darwin until I was at least 12, and even then it was in passing. We were encouraged to read or listen to Biblical stories, which I’ve since dismissed as nonsense, and yet were never introduced to even the very basics of Darwinian thought.

    We were taught the Christian way in the truth. Any one of any other religion was sent out of the assembly for prayers and hymns, creating a horrible social barrier that you can’t see past as children, it simply perpetuates the problem of suspicion toward anyone considered “different”.

    I also note that the Christian story, whilst not being contrasted with the very fundamentals of Darwinian fact, was also not contrasted with any other form of philosophical thought. We were not taught to question what our headteacher was reading out to us. We were not taught the frankly appalling history of Organised Religion, instead we were apparently a part of that organisation because we were being told that fairy tales were truth without being encouraged and taught to think freely for ourselves, we would be punished if we were to do so.

    I was wondering if this was a government policy at the time, or if the school imposed those ideas on us themselves, and if so, do you believe it was the right thing to do?
    Thanks for your time.

    It is surely a matter of concern when a teacher is imposing religion onto easily suggestible young minds, without teaching them also how to question what is being said? The Jehovah’s Witness kids along with the Muslim children were always sent out whilst prayer was conducted. And as kids, we always viewed them as “different”. This apparently needless social barrier is reflected later in life. Especially in deeply religious Nations. Muslims and Atheists especially in America are treated with fear and a degree of resentment from the Christian Right. I cannot see any purpose in morning prayer and hymns. It certainly isn’t cultural learning, because it espouses the ideals of Christianity above all else.

    Anyway, the Senior School Development Advisor for the School Improvement and Performance Service of the Council very kindly got back to me, with:

    Dear Jamie

    Thank you for your e-mail which has been passed to me for response.

    The legislation around assemblies (which is still in place today), is that there should be a daily act of collective worship which should be wholly or mainly of a broadly Christian nature in every maintained school, whether it is a church school or not. Therefore, what you describe as practice at the Meadow Primary School would have been following the legislation. There is scope within the law for parents to request that their children do not attend Collective Worship and alternative supervision has to be put in place for these children. In some schools, parents make alternative arrangements for their children to have tuition about their own religions at this time. From your description, I would imagine this was the case at The Meadow Primary School when you were a pupil there.

    The collective worship does not form part of the religious education curriculum, although the school can designate assembly time to cover part of the syllabus if they wish. The religious education curriculum is education about different religions and the syllabus is drawn together in each local authority by an independent group of advisers from different religions. Teaching in religious education is intended to inform about different religions, not convert children to any religion. Darwinism is not included as it is not considered to be a religion. Again, there is scope within the law for parents to request that their children should be withdrawn from Religious Education.

    The theories of evolution are covered in the Science curriculum, particularly in primary around the way animals and plants have adapted to their environment. At Primary School, “Charles Darwin” might not be mentioned in person (this is not prescribed in the curriculum) but some schools might choose to do so.

    In your e-mail you question the school’s practice of withdrawing children who misbehaved from assembly. Every school has a duty to ensure that the behaviour of some children does not interrupt the concentration of others and I presume this is how the school implemented that duty.

    You obviously feel strongly about the collective worship and religious education in Primary School and the effect it had on you. Legislation about Collective Worship and the content of the curriculum is set by central government. The Department for Education is currently running a consultation on what should be in a revised curriculum. Although they are not looking specifically at RE, I strongly advise that you consider responding to the consultation with your views of the curriculum, as it is important that young people who have recently been through the education system should have opportunity to contribute. I include a web-link for your convenience, which also contains links to the DfE curriculum review facebook page.

    Whilst I appreciated the response, I did get the feeling that she was suggesting that she sees no problem with the balance being tipped too far in favour of religion over the fundamentals of Darwinist thought. The entire study of Modern Biology is based on the concepts discovered by Charles Darwin. In fact, not just Modern Biology, but all the life sciences…

  • Ecology
  • Biocomputing
  • Nanotechnology
  • Botany
  • Medicine
  • Genetics
  • Food science
  • Immunology
  • Zoology
  • Biomedical Sciences
    etc etc etc etc etc.
    Whilst it might be true that the adaptation of plants and animals to their environment was taught…. I don’t remember it, it wasn’t pressed home, it wasn’t explained, and its immense importance on philosophy, science, human development and our ancestral history was passed over because they apparently think it is far more important for us to believe that God put us here; a lie. We certainly never knew that all life is descended from common ancestry; the very fundamentals.

    The problem, as I see it, lies in this line:

    “The collective worship does not form part of the religious education curriculum.”

    The above line is reflected in the legislation that it references.
    The School Standards and Framework Act 1998, section 70, states:

    Requirements relating to collective worship.

    (1)Subject to section 71, each pupil in attendance at a community, foundation or voluntary school shall on each school day take part in an act of collective worship.

    That’s quite a worrying line in a piece of legislation, to me. Why is it considered necessary, by law, for a child to be involved in worship? Why isn’t the child allowed to choose? Surely it is not a requirement of the State to be demanding mandatory religious worship of its children?

    The “collective worship” (what an awful phrase, very cult-like) is not a part of the education curriculum. It stands outside of that. It transcends the curriculum. Something as unimportant as unprovable dogma and superstition is considered strangely important enough to be placed above the curriculum and used primarily for a method of Christian indoctrination, as it was at my school. At the same time, the way plants adapt to their surroundings, is on the curriculum, it is of secondary importance, according to the legislation of the land, and it is all that exists in the way of the fundamentals of Darwinian thought. I see this as a major, major imbalance in the system. Couple this with the incredibly unhealthy concept of Religious Schools themselves, and humanity is always going to be strangled at a very early stage in the development of our minds, by religious dogma.

    “At Primary School, “Charles Darwin” might not be mentioned in person (this is not prescribed in the curriculum) but some schools might choose to do so.”

    – That is absolutely not good enough. His name is far, far more important, to be heard at a young age, than Jesus. There is absolutely no question about that. One of those names probably didn’t exist, and simply speaks of a very narrow spectrum of morality, contradicting himself and prior Christian teachings, endlessly. His words were written down 40 years after he died, and have been rewritten, manipulated and revised for centuries. The other is responsible for the most important discovery that humanity has ever stumbled across.

    The Department of Education issued guidance on collective worship, which states as its objective:

    …. promote the spiritual, moral, cultural, mental and physical development of pupils and of society.

    – It is true that an assembly is a great way to bring children together, but it shouldn’t be assumed that religion is the basis of morality. There is a quite a formidable case to be made, that says religion has not been a force for moral good in the World, and that by excluding the horrific history of religion, schools are teaching a vast amount of ignorance on such an extreme level. Basing morality on Christianity is an epic over statement, and suggests that without collective worship, children would be unable to taught to distinguish between right and wrong. Morality is not based on religion. Religion attempts to base itself on the contextual morality of a specific time. Morality is simply society evolving collectively, for its own survival and advancement. Christian interrogation techniques of the 1500s would not be considered moral today. The slavery advocated in the Old Testament, is certainly not moral. The imprisonment of George Holyoak for blasphemy in 1843, would not be considered moral now. Religion is a dynamic force that updates along with society, it is not special, it is offering nothing new, and it is still a force for regression. Humanity invented it, so humanity can do without it.

    The guidelines go on:

    It is a matter of deep concern that in many schools these activities do not take place with the frequency required or to the standards that pupils deserve.

    – What is actually of deep concern, is state sponsored fairy tales promoted as truth. What is “collective worship”? What are we worshipping? Can the state prove that was we are collectively worshiping actually exists, and if by some miracle they can justify it, can they prove that the entity they are worshiping is good? Because for every relatively non-violent passage in the Bible, I can pick out another ten that say otherwise.
    They are promoting Christianity for reasons of tradition, and tradition is the absolute antonym of reason.

    I argue that the balance is tipped firmly in the wrong direction. It is the reason why people will still genuinely believe themselves when they say “yeah but evolution is just a theory”….. no it isn’t. The supreme ignorance cannot be attributed entirely to the individual, it must start from a young age. Evolution; and all the wonderful branches that stem from it, such as biology and zoology, are apparently less important than making sure impressionable children believe religion is the foundation of all morality. The early education system teaches that Jesus was born to a Virgin, they he is the son of God and that he died for our sins. It is a very one sided view of history and a vast manipulation of a child’s mind. A mind which is like a sponge at that age, cannot comprehend the illogical nonsense of what their trusted teacher is implying.

    Religious teaching in schools should be limited to cultural studies, not presented as fact.


  • The Enlightenment of the Devil

    November 23, 2010

    Dwindling aimlessly in the realm of unbelief, as I am doing recently, I am reading “God and the State” by Bakunin, along with a plethora of other books. A passage from God and the State stood out for me, because it sums up exactly how I feel about Christianity, and it’s obvious contradictions.

    The quote:

    “The Bible, which is a very interesting and here and there very profound book when considered as one of the oldest surviving manifestations of human wisdom and fancy, expresses this truth very naively in its myth of original sin. Jehovah, who of all the good gods adored by men was certainly the most jealous, the most vain, the most ferocious, the most unjust, the most bloodthirsty, the most despotic, and the most hostile to human dignity and liberty-Jehovah had just created Adam and Eve, to satisfy we know not what caprice; no doubt to while away his time, which must weigh heavy on his hands in his eternal egoistic solitude, or that he might have some new slaves.

    He generously placed at their disposal the whole earth, with all its fruits and animals, and set but a single limit to this complete enjoyment. He expressly forbade them from touching the fruit of the tree of knowledge. He wished, therefore, that man, destitute of all understanding of himself, should remain an eternal beast, ever on all-fours before the eternal God, his creator and his master. But here steps in Satan, the eternal rebel, the first freethinker and the emancipator of worlds. He makes man ashamed of his bestial ignorance and obedience; he emancipates him, stamps upon his brow the seal of liberty and humanity, in urging him to disobey and eat of the fruit of knowledge.”

    I wanted to expand on this quote.
    What Bakunin is getting at, is the idea that the God of the Bible is a ruthless, heartless, crazed dictator. He wants His subjects to understand that they should not question Him. He holds the ultimate knowledge and they shouldn’t. If anyone disobeys him, as Adam and Eve did, they shall be punished. The Catholic Church similarly seemed to punish anyone throughout the centuries, who fell across ideas and discoveries that ran contrary to their teaching. The Church’s treatment of Galileo is a famous example of the brutality of the Church when its authority is challenged. God had the same superiority complex, and tantrum when humanity demanded educating, in the garden of Eden. He created the concept of sin, He punishes a concept that he created, and then a few thousand years later He sends His one begotten son, to die an horrific death in order to absorb the concept that He created in the first place.

    God placed a restriction on knowledge. He demanded obedient slaves, and if they wanted to improve their knowledge, they would be punished. Alongside complete obedience, he demands worship. This seem like a game. It serves no overriding purpose. Pawns are played with. And to make matters worse, those pawns are given curiosity and a yearning for knowledge and self improvement, built into their mentality. This wretched little game played by God, is both pointless, and torturous.

    Along comes Satan. A symbol of evil, simply, it seems, because he tempts humanity away from God. I’m not entirely sure why this is considered a great evil. We must first accept that we wish to be next to God, to be tempted from him. And that requires our faculties of reason. Perhaps then, Satan is getting a bit of a bad press. Why is the questioning of authority a bad thing? It seems to me that questioning authority, is the basis of liberty. God wants complete obedience as revealed through scripture. This means any progressive free thinking is entirely forbidden. It means if our conscience tells us that a cute old lesbian couple, deeply in love, are not evil people destined for hell, we are to ignore it and instead choose prejudice as sanctioned by the Bible. If we follow our conscience (a conscience given to us by God in the first place), we are simply being tested by the evil of Satan. It means, Galileo should have been imprisoned for questioning Christian dogma, dogma that plunged Europe into a devastating Dark Age, ruthlessly suppressing all advancement, and discarding advances made by the Greeks. Free thought and curiosity, according to God, is a sin. That is the way of God. Satan, if anything, tells you to think for yourself.

    If I am to think that the the systematic murder of hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of first born children, sanctioned and executed by God in the book of Exodus, is wrong, I am being tempted by the Devil away from God. I should be condemning those first born children. That is the reality of being close to God.

    Further in Exodus, we see God demanding the deaths of anyone who dances around the golden calf. This includes family, children and friends of the group. Exodus 32:28 suggests 3000 people were slaughtered for dancing around a calf. I’d say this God is evil.

    In Numbers 31, God commands the total annihilation of the Midianite people (The Midianites were a tribe of Abraham’s descendants through the line of Keturah. This story always struck me as particularly cruel, whenever I read the Bible. I have my copy of the Bible sat on my lap as I write this, and I cannot for the life of me workout how anyone can read it, and not despise this God as we despise people like Hitler and Pol Pot. He seems no different. After the annihilation of the Midianite people, Moses, working on the command of God, says:

    “……. kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman who has known man intimately. But all the girls who have not known man intimately, spare for yourselves.”

    Kill all the male children, but keep the female children, as long as they’re virgins, for themselves. Nice. 32,000 virgins in all. I am not sure how Christians or Jews can suggest that any children deserve that treatment. The Midianites inhabited a large area. Much of Northern Arabia was Midianite territory at one stage. They were a diverse people.

    An authoritarian God, cannot also promote truly ethical values and behaviour. An authoritarian God necessarily negates free will. We must be good because we’re commanded to be good, by the standard of Holy Texts that most of us find the majority of, to be abhorrent to our sense of right and wrong. Morality is not morality, if it is forced and threatened.

    “The Catechism of the Catholic Church”, a book of defined Catholicism suggests that Satan exists only because God allows him too. In paragraph 395, it states:

    Although Satan may act in the world out of hatred for God and his kingdom in Christ Jesus, and although his action may cause grave injuries – of a spiritual nature and, indirectly, even of a physical nature- to each man and to society, the action is permitted by divine providence.

    You may be mistaken into thinking that the above is the ramblings of an insane person. You’d be wrong. But only slightly. It is the ramblings of an insane institution; the Church. God allows Satan to exist. God therefore allows what he considers evil to exist. He is not at war with evil, he will never be at war with evil, because he is in complete control at all times. Which suggests, he isn’t all that loving afterall. But we knew that, given that he’s already wiped out a few million people, whilst condemning young virgins to a life of abuse at the hands of his followers (Catholic Priests are carrying on the tradition recently, it would seem).

    Paragraph 397 states:

    Man, tempted by the devil, let his trust in his Creator die in his heart and, abusing his freedom, disobeyed God’s command. This is what man’s first sin consisted of. All subsequent sin would be disobedience toward God and lack of trust in his goodness.

    – Interesting use of the word ‘freedom‘. You are ‘free‘ to decide whether or not to believe in God’s word, but if you choose not to, you will be punished. That’s like saying to your child “You are free to play with the skateboard indoors, but if you do, I will put your head in the oven.” Freedom isn’t freedom if one of the two available chooses includes awful punishment.

    In fact, there are virtually millions upon millions of people condemned to death, and violent deaths at that, by God. I cannot for the life of me find one death ordered by Satan. All he tends to do, is tempt people to question everything this maniac in the sky tells them. Satan, although portrayed in Christian literature (although not so much in the Bible) as the fallen angel turned demon, sent to tempt humanity into evil, seems actually to be the voice of reason. If we were to take the Bible as metaphor, perhaps one could infer that Satan represents reason, and enlightenment, whereas God represents Christian/Islamic dogma and slavery.

    The only way we “know” that Satan is evil, is because it is alluded to in the Bible and subsequent Christian texts. Forgive me for saying, but I am not going to rely on the writings of the single most violent and corrupt institution that has existed over the past two thousand years, to lecture me on what is good and what is evil. How hypocritical of them. It also suggests that Satan is far more powerful than God. The entire history of humanity and its suffering, according to Biblical principles, was caused by Satan. The triumph of free thought over mind-dictatorship.

    Bakunin points out that Satan is the first great rebel against great an evil authoritative figure. He encourages disobedience and questioning. He is the founder of the enlightenment, millennia before the enlightenment takes place. Satan is the Christian version of Prometheus. A champion of mankind. It would appear that Christianity has taught us, that an entity that gave us the courage to investigate for ourselves, and expand our understanding, and to question everything; is evil. Genocide on a scale that would make Stalin fall to his knees in awe, gets twisted and presented as “good”, whereas educating people away from this nonsense, is presented as “evil”. Christianity is therefore a very regressive force within society. The Catholic Church embodies this regressive nature perfectly.

    The Enlightenment, and all the advances it brought with it. The scientific method, political and social rights, evolutionary theory, separation of Church and State….. This is what the Biblical God forbids, and attributes entirely to Satan.

    We should perhaps be a little more critical of the Theocratic dictator God whom punishes you for loving the ‘wrong’ person, requires constant worship, and demands complete obedience, and a little less critical of the free thinking, enlightened Devil.