Religious education in our schools has been redefined. Backed by the British Humanist Society, three families have launched a successful legal challenge to the validity of the new GCSE in religious studies. The High Court concluded that the Education Secretary had made “an error of law” in claiming that the new exam would “fulfil the entirety of the state’s RE [religious education] duties”. Mr Justice Walby stated that the Government has a legal duty to ensure that “information or knowledge included in the curriculum is conveyed in a pluralistic manner.”

In other words, the study of religion must incorporate non-religious as well as religious viewpoints, atheism as well theism. Politically correct pluralism trumps all in education these days. Never mind the integrity of subject knowledge or even basic common sense, it is pluralism, aka ‘inclusivity’, that matters most.

Ironically, the new exam syllabus is specifically designed to be more pluralistic than the previous syllabus, requiring the study of two, rather than one, religious faiths. In addition, 50 per cent of the course is devoted to philosophy and ethics. This lends itself readily to the inclusion of non-religious perspectives, such as humanism.

Dissatisfaction with the proposed new syllabus, however, has been evident for some time. The British Humanist Society, jubilant at its ‘victory’ in the High Court, makes this clear on its website:

“Government rejected the results of its consultation, and went against the opinion of RE subject experts and religious leaders, by omitting humanism from the GCSE RS subject curriculum.”

Amongst the 28 religious leaders who objected to the new syllabus on the grounds of it not being inclusive enough was the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Williams. The leaders’ objections centred on the requirement that the two faiths studied have to be chosen from a set list of world religions: Buddhism, Christianity, Catholic Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Judaism and Sikhism

All that High Court has done is to ensure that religious education complies with the legal requirement that the over-riding responsibility of the curriculum is to promote pluralism:

“…the state must accord equal respect to different religious convictions, and to non-religious beliefs; it is not entitled to discriminate between religions and beliefs on a qualitative basis; its duties must be performed from a standpoint of neutrality and impartiality as regards the quality and validity of parents’ convictions.”

This legal judgment will be seen by the ‘Blob’, the educational establishment, as a timely rebuke for peddlers of old-fashioned notions about subject knowledge being pre-eminent in learning. Those days have long gone in our country. ‘Knowledge’ is now seen as a click away on Google, provided you can read.

Should the study of religion play any part at all in the school curriculum? Some persuasive voices tell us to keep religion out of school, altogether. The truth is, though, knowledge and understanding of religions has probably never been more important than it is now.

If learning is to be worthwhile and valid it needs to be built on a foundation of subject knowledge, not on a foundation of political correctness. This applies as much to religious studies as to other subjects. The High Court’s definition of religious studies undermines the integrity of subject knowledge in the curriculum. Religious studies should, surely, be about the study of religion, not ‘non-religion’. We do not expect a syllabus in English to include French, or a Mathematics syllabus to include history, even if tangential links may exist and may be referenced by teachers.

The High Court judgment will impact not just on the new GCSE religious studies syllabus but also on the teaching of this subject and others more widely across the curriculum. Deficiencies in the law can be remedied by Parliament and in this case, probably, by a simple statutory order from the Education Secretary. I hope that she will have the good sense to act.


  1. I agree, it’s complete nonsense to include atheism in religious education.

    Whether religious education should be Christian is a ship that’s sailed given the make-up of the population, and once you diverge from it being “teaching Christianity”, it eventually morphs into teaching the phenomenon of religion, and the reason humans have so frequently chosen to believe in supernatural explanations for unexplained natural events……. and for that reason I think teaching about religion is useful, and it’s a distraction to incorporate atheism.

    • Of course that’s the intention, but it won’t be the effect. Everywhere in the World I look I see that the enthusiasm for religion is negatively correlated with how much people understand about it, so let’s have more education of the nature of religious faith.

      I accept that might not work if the teaching was of one specific faith (like in much of the US) but that’s not possible in GB today so teaching about more than one faith makes it inevitable that people realise how unsound they are – after all, they can’t both be true!

      In my book, the more you understand religion the more it becomes obvious how ridiculous it is.

    • You write “I think teaching about religion is useful”. Why is it useful to teach children about something that is absolute b*llshit ? You may as well teach them about fairies, pixies, gnomes, leprechauns etc and tell them that’s for real too.

  2. The (current) education secretary and “good sense” are not things that we often see in close proximity, unfortunately. Still, hope springs eternal.

  3. The irony is that humanism is the current state orthodoxy which dictates how the entire curriculum is constructed, not just RE.

  4. I’m afraid this is rather poorly informed. As with most journalism careful reading of the judgment would be a better idea that relying on press releases which cause knees to jerk uncontrollably. The judgment is available here:

    The judgment is expressly not about exam syllabi unlike the claim in the article. It is stated quite clearly (paragraph 75) that an exam syllabus concerned only with religion is perfectly lawful. However, the Education Secretary’s guidance to schools was legally wrong in stating that the religious education obligations which schools are under (most recently from 2010 legislation) would not be satisfied by students studying a syllabus for an examination concerned solely with religion. It would be quite possible for schools to teach an exam syllabus concerned solely with religion and then fulfill their wider RE obligations in another way, as is often the case for pupils who do not take any examination in the subject at all.

    This article conflates those two very important issues. The first question is about examinations and there is nothing in the judgment which derogates from the importance of subject matter or knowledge in relation to that. The second question is about the wider obligations schools are under and it is here that pluralism is relevant.

    • I think this should read:

      However, the Education Secretary’s guidance to schools was legally wrong in stating that the religious education obligations which schools are under (most recently from 2010 legislation) would * be satisfied by students studying a syllabus for an examination concerned solely with religion. [* = “not” deleted]

      As others have commented, JS has got the point of the case right.

  5. Keep teaching religion (different magic systems) out of school. It does no good to anybody. If you must teach it, teach it as a study of the psychological phenomena of religion.

  6. An education in mysticism is hopeless. Neither should atheism be encouraged. The entire education system is a political experiment with a total abolition of rounded critical thinking-giving young adults the tools of logic to use their minds to determine their own path without prejudice.

  7. The author conflates educating children about religion and teaching them to be religious. The former cannot be done without reference to other religions and also a critique of religion, the latter is just indoctrination. Political correctness has nothing to do with this. Why should the taxpayer fund religious indoctrination?

    • If taxpayer money has been used for religious indoctrination, it has been to indoctrinate against, rather than in favour of, Christianity.

      It certainly is to do with political correctness, the religion with which the young have been, and are being, indoctrinated, funded absolutely by the taxpayer.

    • “Why should the taxpayer fund religious indoctrination?”

      No one is forced to attend a faith school. They exist because parents (ie taxpayers) want their children to attend them. The number of faith schools thus reflects the demand from the market (parents/taxpayers) for them. Why should those taxpayers who want a faith school for their children be denied their taxes being spent on providing them?

  8. “Religious studies should, surely, be about the study of religion, not ‘non-religion’. ”
    Illogical, captain. In order to understand what religion is, how and why it arose, and what it claims, you need to be able to compare it with other philosophies and approaches which do not include a creator god/s.
    I don’t see the problem. If religions cannot cope with comparing and contrasting their world view with science and non-religious approaches, they have lost the argument.
    BTW, an English language syllabus should certainly include understanding of how much of our language is borrowed from French, and before that from Latin. These are more than “tangential links”!

    • You need to be aware that there is no argument allowed in schools. The religion of evolution is taught, unchallenged, as fact, in science lessons with no comparison or contrast made with the other religious approaches that are treated as myths in RE.

      • Yeah, it’s like they think there’s some evidence for evolution, like fossils and stuff, when everyone knows God put the fossils there to throw us off the trail and test our faith.

        Once again, I bemoan the absence of a :facepalm: on this site.

        • Darwin’s Theory of Evolution is a “theory” precisely because it is not proven. It still has to be proved to be correct. If we all began as apes, how come apes do not have advanced language, play music, paint pictures etc?

          • Please, is this serious? What can I say? I suggest you read up on evolution. In short,

            – we did not start as apes, we and apes evolved from a common ancestor
            – evolution does not proceed towards an intelligent creature, it’s simply about what suits the environment survives so there’s no need at all for everything to become smart
            – evolution is what’s behind MRSA and “superbugs”, as antibiotic treatments cause the resistant strains to thrive and the non-resistant get killed.

            Honestly, if you really want to have your beliefs based on truth then read up about it. Then if you decide it’s wrong then at least you have the consolation of knowing why.

          • Like I say, study it.

            Perhaps you could tell me exactly how ‘man is different’. Last I checked we worked with a heart, two kidneys, two lungs, a brain, a stomach, two sexes…….. should I go on?

            Please open your mind, this indoctrination thing is not good.

          • I have explained how man is different. When did you have an in depth conversation with a chimp or ask one to attend a concert with you. Yes we are vertebrates, but man thinks, processes, invents etc.

          • So which would you have us believe? That we magically came into being through the action of some deity some 8000 years ago ( at half 4 in the afternoon) for which there is absolute no evidence as opposed to evolution for which the evidence is absolutely overwhelming?

            Embryology, genetics, molecular biology, fossils, biodiversity, comparative anatomy …

          • I consider that the earth developed over a period of time. I do not accept the Big Bang Theory as you do not get order out of chaos. Everything in nature Is intrinsically linked and ordered as we are finding out more and more ecologically. The story of Creation talks of 7 days, but the bible also says that one day can be as a thousand years, so the time line is not definable. As I believe in God, if he is God, then nothing is beyond Him – it is just beyond my comprehension. By the way we are also told in the bible that the earth will wear out and I don’t think any amount of cleverness on our part will stop that just as we cannot stop volcanoes or earthquakes.

          • Do you accept that the Universe is expanding? (this is a proven fact)

            Do you accept it has been expanding for a long time? (another proven fact)

            Do you accept that by tracing backwards you reach the logical conclusion that it must have come from a point?

          • Of course I accept it changing. Ice ages, volcanic eruptions – it is a living thing. I also believe it will wear out. Of course it came from a point – it is a dispute about that point that got us to this discussion.

          • I didn’t talk about the tiny, minuscule, vanishingly insignificant speck called Earth, I was talking about the Universe.

          • As neither you nor I will exist if this insignificant speck disappears I was not talking of the universe. I will leave the Star Trek journey to you.

          • Of course chimps think!! They can even communicate through sign language, with some mastering other forms


            As for humans, I’ve met many who cannot grasp sophisticated concepts, and I cannot grasp some of the conversations the wisest physicists can.

            The average IQ of a human is close to 100. A chimp is well above 0, yet the highest human IQ recorded is well above 200. Maybe that human is farther from the average human than he is from a chimp?

            You need to get away from the drivel written by ancient Arab tribesmen, and learn about the way the World really is.

          • I think maybe you would be happy living with chimps instead of humans. The work force might be a bit limited and meal times a bit messy. If you don’t know the difference between animals and humans there is not a lot to add.

          • All you’re saying is that science hasn’t got there yet, not that science won’t get there, but the race isn’t run yet and your religion has had two thousand years to prove itself, without ever doing so. To claim that ‘God’ must have done it because science hasn’t yet explained it is absurd. Science has explained a lot of things that the religious once claimed to be the work of ‘God’ and science is going to explain a lot more things in the future. At what point will people like you accept that science has explained so much that was once attributed to ‘God’ as effectively to have disproved the existence of ‘God’, without necessarily actually having done so?

          • Wrong on all 3 counts. The suggestion that all life forms originated from, shall we say a single cell ? breaks every observed scientific law of biology.

            To say nothing of the single cell’s origin, or is a lightning storm over a mixture of volatile chemicals enough to produce one ? If so perhaps you can explain why scientists are unable to replicate this ? I see, what we find impossible now becomes possible if we factor in enough time ? No it doesn’t.

            As for the famed MRSA/superbug stories, so beloved of the popular media, you clearly have no idea what is happening there. The antibiotics originally worked by engaging the bacteria with a perfect ‘ fit ‘.Over time the bacteria mutated. THIS MEANS THEY LOST GENETIC INFORMATION. ALL MUTATIONS INVOLVE A LOSS OF GENETIC DATA .The antibiotics were then unable to fit the mutated bacteria. As the originally perfect bacteria were numerically reduced by the antibiotics, the prevalence of mutated strains became the majority.This is clearly not evolution, a theory which purports that genetic information increases in complexity as organisms ‘ evolve ‘.

            Honestly, if you really want to have your beliefs based on truth then read up about it. Then if you decide it’s wrong then at least you have the consolation of knowing why.

          • You don’t seem to have addressed any of the issues I raised Mr Bonzodog, or should that be Professor Bonzodog ?

          • Oh wow. That exactly IS evolution. Like, precisely natural selection.

            And single cells aren’t the first stage of organic molecules. I mean, seriously!!

            This is unbelievable, I just never realised people could be as ill-informed as this. It’s staggering, no wonder people slate the state of education.

            Yeah, a sky fairy makes so much more sense doesn’t it?

          • You’re descending into invective again. It doesn’t seem to take much ‘provocation ‘.
            You certainly have some unique takes on evolution. All players accept evolution is premised on increased information/data/complexity. Mutations are a retrograde step. Extra wings on a fruitfly are just as harmful as no wings.
            You know very well I never said single cells predated organic molecules. And the repeatably demonstrable pathway from organic molecules to single cells is ? ……. perhaps you can fill in the blanks or provide a youtube link to the laboratory ?
            What on earth is all this sky fairy nonsense that the atheist bloggers keep rehashing ? It’s become quite passe ( sorry, don’t have an acute accent on the keyboard ).

          • Who told you mutations are less complex? Who told you they are always retrograde? This is totally wrong. How do I converse if you don’t have even a basic understanding of the process?

            The sky fairy is one way describe a supernatural being who has frequently been portrayed to reside above. It’s quite reasonable really.

          • Who told you mutations are less complex ?
            Study the mutated DNA. There is a fault in the copying.Therefore it’s less complex because something is MISSING, not ADDED.

            Who told you they are always retrograde?
            Practical scientific experience, observed in the laboratories. Mutations are accelerated with radiation to exceed the expected natural rate thus mimicking a longer time span. No improvements on the original species have been claimed.
            How do I converse etc. ?
            We are conversing and my understanding hasn’t been remotely challenged on serious grounds.
            As for the notion that the supernatural being resides above, that is simply an anthropomorphic misunderstanding. It is the infant school classroom notion of God and I rather think that the atheist bloggers are rejecting this notion as they haven’t advanced theologically since infant school. You really need to get over this old man/long white beard/lives in sky stuff.

          • What’s to say? You’re wrong. If you don’t believe me, read this;


            As for all mutations being retrograde, that’s so packed with non-understanding it’s actually impressive. You do realise that this is a value judgement and the value of the mutation depends on the suitability of the mutation to circumstance don’t you?

            As for God I find it hard to find anything more absurd than the concept itself. A spirit who creates people, messes up so drowns them all, issues directives not to combine fibres in clothing, sacrifices himself to himself, etc. etc., well sky fairy is pretty rational compared to that.

          • Thanks for taking the trouble to post the link. On first reading I found it quite surprising that the notion of inevitable increase in biological complexity was being challenged but on re-reading it became clear that several theories were proposed. It claims an increase in maximum complexity over the ‘ history of life ‘ and suggests natural selection triggers an evolutionary arms race towards more complexity.On the other hand the colourful bar charts are used to suggest the complexity mode is fairly static but is silent on the question of how long such a plateau has existed or whence it arose.
            In short it is long on description and short on explanation.
            I for one am not blinded by technical jargon and seek to cut to the chase. Every scientific discipline will have its need for accurate terminology but if the underlying case is hollow, no amount of hyperlinks will make it whole.
            As for your misunderstanding of theology I suggest you leave it well alone. You are certainly out of your depth in it. The interpretations you force are infantile and can only be motivated by a deeply held personal rancour, for which I can offer no help as ” there are none so deaf as those that refuse to hear ” if I may paraphrase the words of Jesus Christ Himself.

          • I don’t make this rubbish up, it’s all there in the Bible.

            It’s exactly what I’d expect from the predecessors of IS, writing up justifications for their nasty dealings with neighbours.

          • The concept of evolution is that those best equipped to survive do. That genetic mutations add possible advantages to the gene-pool, as well as disadvantages.

            Those best equipped survive to breed and pass on their genes.

            Thus from single cell “bacteria” we evolved into humans.

            OK…..that may be true. It doesn’t answer how the first life appeared.
            It also doesn’t answer how forced breeding of dogs has produced animals that look as different as a Yorkshire Terrier and Great Dane or a Staffordshire Bull Terrier, or (insert your favourite breed here).

            They are all the same species. So it takes one hell of a mutation to change the species. That is exactly where the fossil record fails.

            I repeat, I DO believe in evolution…I am NOT a creationist. But the current theory is poor.

          • We’ve been cross breeding dogs for what? A speck of time. And we’ve turned a wolf-like thing into a soft colossus or a yapping mite.

            As for first life, we start with organic molecules which in some forms self copy, and we’re off.

          • Oh dear .. yet another person who doesn’t ( or most likely won’t) understand what a “theory” is when used in a scientific context. A theory is not a guess, not a wild stab in the air nor does it mean an imperfect fact. It is, however, the best explanation for a body of facts, a sort of overarching principle. Evolution is real, it is fact and it is as proven as any other scientific theory. What to try an experiment? Gravity is a theory. Leap off a building and then decide if it is proven.

            There is no better explanation ( and I mean “no”) for how life on Earth came to be as it is than neo-Darwinian evolutionary theory.

          • It would seem that it has rather a few holes in it though from the contributor above! Gravity is a fact – apples drop to the ground. Much of Darwin’s theory is good – not all is necessary correct. It is still a theory as opposed to the Laws of gravity.

          • Then you still don’t understand what is scientific theory is. In many respects it is higher on the scientific hierarchy than a law.

            A scientific theory encompasses laws since it provides an explanation for those laws.

            Go and learn some science before bringing creationism here.

        • As a Catholic, I believe that some form of evolution is quite likely to be true. But as logical scientist I have read volumes on the matter and have concluded current theories of evolution are full of holes and contradictions.

          If it were not for the absence of another plausible, non-creation scientific theory then the current ideas would be laughed at.

          There are so many gigantic holes in the fossil records and so many missing links and little evidence that species change happens even by selective breeding.

          I admit, I am not a biologist, but I would point out that surveys show that among scientists, biologists (wedded to evolution) are the least likely to be theists and physicists the most likely to believe in a divinity or at least be agnostic.

          • And every time a fossil hole is fixed you guys claim there are two new holes.

            Divinity is absurd, utterly without any evidence at all. And you complain about some missing fossils!

          • I also said I wasn’t against evolution……so to put me in the creationist camp is unfair. I am just pointing out that scientifically, all these years after Darwin, it still isn’t a demonstrated theory and thus gets its legitimacy from not having any serious competition.

            As a mathematician who also studied Physics at undergraduate level I have serious doubts how the universe can be as it is without design.

            Yes, people have given explanations that are plausible but undemonstrated to be true ( I use that word because as a mathematician, a proof is a certainty based on axioms… physics nothing is ever certain), but I do not see it as being likely myself.

            I’m not a statistician, but I have a reasonable grasp of stats…and my OPINION is that evolution is pushing the bounds of what is likely, at least in its current form. Things may change.

  9. I was one of a tiny number in my school who took the old GCE “O-Level” Religious Knowledge- in my case because I was so useless at Chemistry. We all ended up as “unbelievers”. The only benefit has been the ability to conjure a biblical quotation for any circumstance which usually shuts people up as they don’t want to offend by arguing with Scripture.

    • IT’s more specific:-Deuteronomy 22:11 – “Thou shalt not wear a garment of divers sorts, [as] of woollen and linen together.” Because it really buggers use of the fast-spin cycle

      • Or possibly an economic boycott as the Hebrews were herders of wool producing flocks, while flax production was in the hands of the Canaanites and Egyptians.

        • If only God had provided decent fabrics none of this would have been needed. I guess that’s him working in mysterious ways again.

    • That makes two of us!

      I remember arguing with the teacher because she said there were possibly two events where Jesus fed loads of people with a packed lunch because the numbers were different in two Gospels.
      Even back in those days the Old Testament was a complete embarrassment to them and brushed over. I think the ‘O’ level was specifically New Testament, but missing out Johns acid trip at the end.

    • I am not aware that the rules delivered to the Jews in their early history applied to Christianity. [Sarcasm]

      • Well quite so. Except that the Ten Commandments were affirmed by the New Testament and Christ. Diet laws and clothes laws and a lot of the OT was discarded by him, or those that spoke for him.

        Does not every Catholic priest feast on bacon every morning?

        • So God changed his mind? So much for being all-knowing and wise – guys a complete idiot making the Universe them realising he’s all over the place.

          You’re saying the Bible contains wrong things. So on that basis how do you know which bits are right? The nice bits you like?

          • No, He didn’t “change His mind”. He, had in mind two phases for humanity. The Old Covenant, and the New Covenant. Which actually, if I think about, is evidence for evolution. That God understood that His latter message would be too difficult for early man.

          • You do realise that putting it all down to the self-interested scribblings of old Arabs is much more reasonable don’t you?

          • Why? Is there evidence that God created it all, realised he’d screwed it up a few times, flooded the place to kill almost everyone, then realised he had to come down to Earth to sacrifice himself to himself so the sins of the people killing him could be forgiven because the rules he’d set up himself didn’t allow him to forgive them anyway?

            Or did the tribe just write this crap to justify why they killed other people for territory?

            Ooh, let me think………

          • OK Boggy, I get your humour.

            But you must admit that the perfect doctrine of Christianity is to love everybody?

          • It’s presented that way to summarise it’s so mad. I get that Christians are attracted to it because they want a message of love, and if you filter out all the nasty stuff you can be left with that, but…..

            – that requires you to be very selective about it, screening out a huge share, and even some NT stuff.
            – none of that actually means there IS a God. No matter how nice, or worthy, or how desirable a happy afterlife is, that doesn’t equal evidence.
            – any holes in our current understanding of the origin of the Universe don’t themselves amount to evidence for a God either. They’re just gaps in current knowledge; there’s no sense in filling them with “ah you don’t know that so there must be a supernatural being”

            There’s just not a jot of evidence, and so we come back to the fairies. I only invoked them to show that there’s as much evidence for something we all agree is fictitious, and on that basis why on Earth believe in one and not the other?

    • I was put in for O-level RE, without being asked, and didn’t bother to turn up for the exam. I had no interest in the subject at all and provoked my music master to apoplexy when I informed him, in reply to his enquiry as to why I had not sung in assembly, that I would not sing songs of praise to a god I do not believe in. His less than intelligent or mature response was to order me to sing in future and never to tell him again that I do not believe in God. He later became an Anglican priest.

  10. If Atheism is not included are you suggesting Chris that children should be taught that there is indeed a God? No time is spent on atheism at the school my children attend but given their parents’ beliefs we have ensured they appreciate that not everyone believes in sky fairies (I imagine I’ve given away my own views with that comment). We have four children whom are free to choose whether they believe or not (3-1 to the atheists so far); Sadly many other religions such as Islam don’t allow their followers’ children that freedom. That final point is why I believe it is VERY important that “non belief” is included in the subject if it’s to have value.

    • No time is needed to be spent on atheism at the schools our children attend because everything, including RE, is delivered from an atheist standpoint.

      • Well I guess that just goes to show how different schools can be, if delivered from an atheist viewpoint then they are indeed including it. Are you saying you want that reversed? If so then fine but Atheism at that point would surely have to be included?

        • Not necessarily reversed, but at least a degree of honesty about it; maybe make a start by renaming the schools, then parents could make a more informed choice between, say, Gradgrind’s Atheist Academy and the Shaftesbury Christian College.

        • Yes – and it makes sense doesn’t it – a believer of any theistic creed would be hypocritical to teach the current orthodoxy of all religions being equal.

    • You cannot teach non-belief because you are teaching something – you are teaching a denial of God. As you have shown by your sky fairies comment you are dismissive of faith. What a brave child you have to go against the current in your household. I can only speak for my faith – Christianity. Christ offers himself on the cross to make us able to have a relationship with God as our Father. He offers, he does not coerce. The famous Holman Hunt picture of Christ the Light of the World shows that there is no handle on Christ’s side of the door, only on our side. He waits for our yes. To explain this to children has been a great honour in my life and to see them accept this gift, a great joy. Try reading the book “Who rolled the stone”, it was written by an aetheist who came to believe.

      • Actually Tricia I was religious and went the other way. No bravery needed at all in our house, I believe children should find things out for themselves and not be indoctinated. I get the impression you wouldn’t agree with that with regards to your own faith!

        • How will the children find things out? Children learn from their environment. There is a lot of talk of indoctrination, believe me there is no chance of a child being indoctrinated in modern day school – quite the reverse. I was not brought up by my family in faith, but I did get a basic understanding of Christianity as I went to school a long time ago! I actually began to seek understanding myself and eventually came to faith at 35. I wish you and your family well.

  11. Dunno exactly how it fits into the discussion, but I am put in mind of a quote from a man who often wrote on the subject of belief and unbelief:

    G.K. Chesterton: “The purpose of Compulsory Education is to deprive the common people of their commonsense.”

  12. Atheism is nothing but the absence of a belief in any god. It is not any kind of set of beliefs. You can no more “teach” atheism than you can teach blue.

    I am an atheist. It’s my choice, not something I feel entitled to impose on others.

    • “Atheism is nothing but the absence of a belief in any god.”

      Atheism is the belief that there is, or probably is, no god. So absence of a belief in god is not an absence of belief – you are making a claim to knowledge every bit as much as someone you believes in a deity. And if you believe something and wish to be taken seriously intellectually you have to be prepared to give reasons for it.

      • Piffle.

        I don’t believe in the Loch Ness Monster, either, or “Gaia”, or man-made global warming. These things are inherently implausible. I don’t need to spend time thinking about why they don’t exist. It’s the same with god. You are challenging me to prove that god doesn’t exist, but it’s up to you to prove that he does.

        Obviously, you can’t.

        As I said, atheism is not a set of beliefs, but an absence of belief.

          • The “a” in “atheism” is the Greek negative prefix. It’s negative (i.e. the opposite of positive) by definition. Do stop spouting twaddle, if you possibly can.

          • That is the etymology of the word atheism. We know that languages evolve [As an aside, this is why many of us argue for the retention of Latin in the Church, because Latin is a dead and unchanging language whereas the vernacular translations change their meaning quite quickly.]

            My argument is that an atheist surely by all logical definitions asserts that there is no deity.

            That is a positive assertion. The statement “I believe in a god” is the negative of “I do not believe in a god” which is equivalent to “I believe there is no god”.

          • According to your idiotic “logic”, any statement is “positive”, even when it includes the word “not”.

            I’m not surprised that your fellow-loon, LoveMeIAmALiberal, supports your absurd argument. Take that as a “positive”, if you like.

          • By the way, you’re wrong about Latin, too. It’s a dead language, certainly, but it had already experienced an awful lot of evolution as a written language, by the time it became the language of the Catholic church, which means that there is plenty of scope for varying interpretations by scholars who actually understand Latin.

        • You want a philosophical argument? Right.
          The computer on which I’m typing this has no belief in god so by your definition it is an atheist, which is why your definition is nonsensical. You believe god does not exist, so you must have reasons for this. I don’t believe in the Loch Ness Monster because I can think of some obvious reason why it seems not real. Same you have to do with the notion of god
          I’m not challenging you to prove god does not exist, I’m challenging you to provide some evidence to support your assertion. Do I have to explain the difference between evidence and proof to you? I can offer four good arguments for Christianity (cosmological, teleological, moral, historical Jesus) and argue for hours on the subject.

          • The computer on which you are typing, aptly enough, has no brain, so it has, of course, no belief in god, or in anything else.

            I don’t need to argue for the non-existence of a god. By the way, Hindus believe in many gods, as have numerous cultures (Inca, Roman, Babylonian, Mayan, Aztec, Ancient Egyptian, Classical Greek…). Are you planning first to argue away all those superfluous gods, or will you skip to defending the one in which you do believe?

            It’s pretty telling that you can’t do better than challenge me to disprove your belief. I’ll remind you that my original point was that I can be an atheist without trying to impose my lack of belief on anybody else.

            You claim to be able to offer arguments for Christianity. I’m not interested. It wil take someone far more articulate, intelligent and honest than you to persuade me that there is a god. I respect your belief, but you should respect my lack of belief. Otherwise, you’re just as bigoted as the “caliphate” (just lacking the hardware).

          • “Are you planning first to argue away all those superfluous gods, or will you skip to defending the one in which you do believe?”

            False dichotomy. Anyone who believes in a deity is a theist, though the nature of the god or gods they believe in may differ. So the first question to address is whether there’s any good reason to think theism is true; the nature of the deity only follows after that question.

            “It’s pretty telling that you can’t do better than challenge me to disprove your belief.”

            I mentioned four arguments I would use as evidence of god, the last one applying specifically to Christianity. You acknowledge this yourself (“You claim to be able to offer arguments for Christianity”) thus contradicting your assertion above.

            “but you should respect my lack of belief. Otherwise, you’re just as bigoted…”

            I never said I disrespected your view, just I disagreed with it.

            “It wil take someone far more articulate, intelligent and honest than you to persuade me that there is a god.”

            Ad hominem. It will take someone who can make a convincing argument without resorting to personal abuse to persuade me there is no god.

            “Where does the infinitely clueless LoveMeIAmALiberal stand on that? (I suspect it’s a bit too much for his diminutive brain to compute.)”

            Ad hominem again, and repeating the ‘many gods’ point you made earlier in your post. For someone who ‘respects’ my point of view you sure spending a lot of time making snide comments.

  13. I have sympathy for those trying to establish a framework for any sort of religious instruction today because modern Britain now incorporates a multiplicity of faiths, not all of them involving the concept of God. Outside of the traditions of Christianity in its various strands we have those who worship ideas like climate change, shopping or some other entirely unrelated secular activity. Into this mix we now have Islam, an intolerant certain faith whose intents run entirely against the national grain and culture, the ramifications of which are not yet being fully appreciated. It is then more than awkward to search for an alternative means of creating in people the influences once provided by traditional Christian faith. The secular, whose heart seems to orbit around the material, may suit some, but it has not yet offered a way of fulfilling those who see life as more than just a collection of cells.

  14. Anyone who believes in any religion and any god is just as likely to believe in fairies at the bottom of their garden.

    • G K Chesterton said: “when a man stops believing in God, he does not believe in nothing, he believes anything”. So it is not those with faith who believe in fairies, it is those with no understanding of God. We have merely in the West transferred our worship to celebrities and goods and of course money. But when we are confronted with the terror attacks from a vicious ideology, these new Gods offer nothing.

      • Why should I believe or take note of anything said by G.K.Chesterton ? He was a man born one thousand eight hundred and seventy four years after the supposed virgin birth of Jesus Christ so his knowledge or understanding of the matter is no better than mine. He may as well claim to know more than others about the every day life of Alfred the Great.

        • Of course philosophy and literature and learning have nothing to offer the world – we have Google. C S Lewis was another learned man who has plenty to offer anyone seeking truth. You obviously have no understanding of the Christian faith which is not surprising nowadays. Christ is not dead, He lives. He can be met and encountered by anyone today just as He has been for the last 2000 years. The Russians and the Chinese are encountering him in their thousands after years of aetheistic communism.
          Societies like communism which are bereft of God are dull drear places.

          • There is no sky fairy. “At the heart of man is sin”. This causes untold misery. Communism, fascism, Nazis, Pol Pot, Rwanda. At the heart of the bible is the command to “Love God, and love your neighbour as yourself”. Why do you think that in the Christian west we have hospitals, schools, palliative care, a care system, charitable works?

          • I believe in those good causes you mention but they have sfa to do with a sky fairy. Why can’t you understand that people can be good, kind and compassionate without believing in a fairy story ?

          • Because at the heart of mankind is “self”. Self-interest, self-preservation, self-satisfaction, self approbation etc etc. When your universe does not revolve around you, you are able to see life differently. To be a Christian you become a new creation – your life view different. The saints down the ages have shown this. John Newton was a slave ship Captain – he turned to Christ and wrote “Amazing Grace” and went on to campaign for the abolition of slavery with William Wilberforce, also a Christian. And ultimately became a vicar.

          • That is your opinion and you are welcome to it.
            By the way, you do know that when the Christian West was in the Dark Ages, Islam was carrying on ALL of those things that you claim for the West?

          • I thought all religion was sky fairy stuff to you. Why bring in Islam to the discussion. All religions have a philosophical content – aetheism does not. Islam does not give the freedom Christianity has given. The flourishing of music and the arts and education of women in the West show this.

          • No, not all religions are “sky faery stuff” – Buddhism for example is a non-theistic religion.

            I brought in Islam to counter your seeming claim that Western Christianity was the reason that there are “hospitals, schools, palliative care, a care system, charitable works”. It is clearly not true.

          • Why do you think that none of those things can be developed without some irrational belief in a divine father figure? There is good evidence that Neanderthals cared for their sick and old, without the benefit of Jesus.

          • Unlike those great atheists, Hitler, Mao, Stalin, Castro…….they only brought harmony….and worse mass murder than religion ever has.

          • Hitler wanted to be a Roman Catholic priest and Stalin an Orthodox priest – boith had excellent religious educations.
            The folks you mention are amateurs when it comes to mass murder by the Christian colonisers or the religiously tolerant Genghis Khan. But I’m sure that you already knew that.

          • I don’t think Hitler was ever intended for a seminary but Stalin certainly was, mostly his mother’s idea .I read one of his biographies once and it clearly reveals that his rejection of Christianity was brought about by his reading of Darwin’s origin of species. One example of his consequent amorality was his quote ” Gratitude is a dog’s disease “. Hitler’s racial theories and eugenic programme were clearly based on the notion of ‘ survival of the fittest ‘.
            Incidentally you are quite wrong to infer that religiously inspired killings dwarf secular ones. The numbers are incontrovertible.The 20th century alone saw mass murder by secular rulers on an industrial scale.

          • I refer you to Alan Bullock’s book “Parallel Lives”.

            My understanding is the Ghengis Khan was, by a very large margin, the greatest mass killer in history.

            The German Army, even under Hitler, used belt buckles with the epithet “Gott mit uns” – a reference to the Christian god.

          • A simple plausibility test would make Genghis Khan very unlikely to top the murder stakes. How long did he live ? What weapons did he have ? What were the population densities of Mongolia/Asia at the time ?
            Besides he hardly qualifies as a religious leader. He was just another ruthless tyrannical empire-builder. History is full of them. Most so-called religious wars are really more political than religious . Mankind’s motivations are rather more complicated than the superficial readings suggest.
            As for the Wehrmacht having religious belt buckles you are surely scraping the barrel there. You’re not seriously suggesting Hitler was a religious leader as well ?
            It strikes me that the modern sceptics are very choosy about the issues they doubt, and very willing to believe anything else at face value.
            By the way, everyone who knows me considers me a sceptic by nature but I have come to some firm conclusions based on the evidence I’ve sifted.

          • Really. You do know that Polybius estimates that close to 70,000 Roman’s died at Cannae in one afternoon and all with “primitive” weapons – about the same as killed by the Hiroshima bomb.

            Ghenghis Khan was very religious.

            Hitler repeatedly asserted that he was waging a war to protect Christian Europe from the “Godless” Judeo-Bolschevik hordes. It is interesting that Mein Kampf has never been placed in the Index Librorum Prohibitorum
            by the Holy See. Hitler wrote: “by defending myself against the Jew, I am fighting for the work of the Lord.”

          • Prevailing wisdom is that Mao was the biggest mass murderer in history. Hitler, from what I can gather was brought up a RC but ceased practicing. He certainly didn’t commit mass murder while he was a Catholic or in the name of Christianity.

          • Well said. The early communists said pretty well all the things spoken today by atheists, though of course they combined it with violent repression. What we are hearing today is nothing new. As you say, Christianity is flourishing in those countries, even though the Chinese authorities are still trying to repress it.

          • No one defending religion can criticise atheists or communists for ‘violent repression’.

            People in glass houses …

          • What’s it like in lala land ? I hope you’re looking after them well – those fairies at the bottom of your garden.

        • Why should I believe or take note of anything said or written by Rick Brown? He doesn’t seem aware of the source documents that are commonly available.

          • What documents – something with no authenticity that was written 2,000+ years ago. You’re ‘aving a laugh !

        • I’d like to think that if I was an ignoramus ( in the literal sense rather than it’s use as a colloquial insult ), I’d keep very quiet about it. You seem mighty keen to parade it. Curious.

          • You can think what you want but the fact of the matter is that G.K.Chesterton has no more practical knowledge of god and Jesus Christ than you or I.

            Some of the most intelligent and learned people I have met in my life have been idiots in many ways whereas others with a seemingly lack of knowledge have been the most sensible.

          • I cannot. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t there. I am also not saying that anyone can prove the non-existence of a god(s).

            But you wish me to prove there is one………

            So your position is OK despite the fact you cannot prove it, but mine is ludicrous because I cannot prove it.

          • No, the burden of proof is on you because you’re the one making the hypothesis that God exists. I’m not.
            It’s silly to suggest that the logic works the other way, that’s why you’re stuck accepting God is no more demonstrable than fairies, or Santa for that matter.

          • There are centuries of writings. There are books written by people who have come to faith. There are people alive today who can tell you of the experience of coming to faith. But the truth is that Faith is a step you have to take, or a door you need to open. No-one can force you to believe, it is impossible.

          • There are people suffering all sorts of delusions. Some even hear voices. What am I supposed to do about that?

          • Again Bogbrush, I hardly think that is relevant. You obviously cannot help the mentally ill……but to suggest someone like Tricia is mentally ill because she believes in God is ridiculous.

          • I didn’t say she was, she told me that people ‘come to faith’. I know a guy who told me (honest) that he was in Church and actually heard God speak to him.

            I was too polite to suggest you can get treatment for that.

          • No, logically the two are the same. There are huge philosophical and physical questions about existence that atheism cannot answer. So, the idea of theism provides an answer.

            I am not sure that applies to Father Christmas.

          • Did you say you were a scientist? Surely you know that a hypothesis demands proof. All I’m saying is I’ve seen none.
            Your ‘huge questions’ are easily answered without the need to invent a God.

          • I did, yes. A hypothesis does need prove but it is put up to be knocked down. That is the scientific method.

            For example, the idea of aether, which was alleged to fill the universe, even the vacuum of space, was once a hypothesis believed by many.
            Michelson-Morley proved it was not so. Einstein’s ideas flowed from it.

            As a mathematician (with a continued interest in physics…..I am not an expert on physics) I still think that atheistic ideas of the Big Bang don’t explain what happened……what happened mathematically.

            Of course I could be wrong……I know that. All I am saying is that your assertion that believing in a god is akin to believing in Faeries is ……as I said…….not thought out and rather insulting to some of us.

          • Because the two are not similar. I believe in God for good reasons. I am a (sometime scientist) and a mathematician and while I accept I cannot prove god, I have good reasons for believing. The idea of it being a fantasy based on nothing like the faeries… bull.

          • The spelling of fairies as ‘faeries’ was a sixteenth century literary conceit. Even in Middle English the word was spelled as now.

          • Yes. As far as I am aware, that particular spelling was first used by Edmund Spenser, at the end of the century.

          • Use ‘faerie’ by all means, if you will, but please don’t ask us to accept it as the correct spelling. It isn’t.

          • I know that Father Christmas exists because I have seen the magic he performs.

            More seriously, as far as I am aware FC has never been the excuse for mass murder and wanton cruelty, unlike Jesus Christ and the Judaeo-Christian god.

          • “As far as I am aware FC has never been the excuse for mass murder and wanton cruelty”
            Presumably you haven’t heard of Black Friday then

          • Yours is ludicrous because it is based on the notion that you can get away with asserting the existence of something without evidence and ask others to believe it too. There is as much evidence for the existence of the god you say you believe in as there is for Grendel’s Mother.

          • A hundred years ago, how much evidence was there for some of the quantum mechanical effects we observe today?

            Who would have accepted that, in the actual real word, that something like a rock could just disappear and appear somewhere else?

            But we now know this to be true.

            So in Newton’s day there was no evidence of general relativity. In 1880 there was no evidence of QM.

            Today there is no “proof” of dark matter.

            There ARE postulations in Physics and Philosophy about the existence of a god…..unproven….yes. But not ridiculous like the childlike certainty of the atheists on these pages.

          • The god you argue for is a god that watches over you and orders your affairs and may just intercede on your behalf if you praise him sufficiently. _That_ is the ‘ridiculous … childlike certainty’, not the atheist position.

            Were you to postulate as God whatever created energy and the way in which things stick together perfectly to make bigger things, sometimes imperfectly, we might take arguments in favour of such a force seriously. However, such a force could have little if any purpose in taking any more interest in us than any of the other life forms on this planet or any of those that must exist on some of the trillions of suitable planets in the universe.

            The religious teachings that ‘God’ is a divine father figure who loves us and gave us free will yet demands unstinting obedience and will condemn us if we disobey are absurd, as is the notion that we alone as a sub-species of a species of ape are worthy of a god’s love and protection.

          • Don’t be silly, Jen, you know I can’t prove a negative. The onus is on you is to prove a positive, that there is a god. Please prove it.

          • It depends how you phrase the question whether it is a negative or a positive.

            “”I am an atheist”…..I assert there is no god.

            “I am a theist” ……I assert there is a god(s).

            An agnostic might get away what you say………..

        • If I had the cash I could commission You Gov to ask a few thousand people who say they believe in a god(s), if they also believe in faeries ( by the by, I applaud your earlier use of the correct spelling) at the bottom of the garden.

          I cannot prove it, without doing so ( I have better use of my cash) but do you really think if I did most “people of Faith” would admit to believing in faeries?

          • It doesn’t matter if millions of people believe in god or fairies, it doesn’t prove a thing. I have no doubt that a person called Jesus existed and that he was crucified but to me he is no more plausible or omnipotent than David Icke, who made similar claims.

            If someone like Jesus came along today in the Middle East he would either be murdered by a bunch of mad muzzies or be sectioned. If he turned up here he would be subjected to the same amount of ridicule as the aforementioned Icke.

            I do thank you though for taking the time and trouble to respond to my posts. On political matters you and I normally seem to agree but on the subject of religion I think we will just have to agree to disagree. Good luck.

  15. I’m very happy for atheism and humanism to be on the RE curriculum. For a start, the terms would have to be defined and this is where unbelievers will start to shuffle nervously as they can’t even agree on what atheism is (“it’s not a belief at all!”) or what constitutes ‘humanism’ (anyone?). Faced with such questions, atheists (or certainly the New Atheist variety) just assert their view more vehemently. The exchange between William Lane Craig and Christopher Hitchens, see link below, is a delicious example (if 11 minutes is too long then the summation of it at 10:52 by other atheists tells you all you need to know).

    • I certainly think the truth about Islam should be on the curriculum. Then at least children would learn what the goal of this religio-political belief system is and why ISIS behave as they do. Not there is any chance of it, it will be falsely presented as a religion of peace…..the official line.

    • unbelievers will start to shuffle nervously ”

      Yes indeed. It is one thing to attack religion, it is quite another to provide a cogent, constructive argument for the alternative worldview – something the atheists on this thread have totally failed to do so far

    • Nice biblical reference at the end.

      ‘Silly word games’ – if only Hitchens had thought of that as a response.

  16. If the court is so aggitated about balanced teaching anti-religion, why is it not also aggitated about the unbalanced teaching of gloval warming and the EU, for instance. One could add the size of the state, individual responsibility and many other angles which are routinely taught in an ideological way.

    • Who is the religious far right? There is doubt GW is still happening and there is HUGE doubt man has anything to do with it.

      Two things are certain, NASA is not God, Nasa is not even impartial.

      • I have no intention of again running the whole AGW debate, suffice to say. NASA put a man on the moon…..yes. That doesn’t mean that today they are not suffering from the politicisation of science that is now endemic in the west. Who pays NASA?

        US Government centre right and religious? You are bonkers! Obama is a Muslim (religious, yes, but the way you imply) and a fairly extreme lefty wedded to the politics of AGW.

        You believe who you like, but there are plenty of climatologists out there who dispute man has any involvement.

        • What do you think happens to those that disagree with the religion of AGW?

          Obama shows all the signs of being a Muslim. But I guess only he knows for sure. If he admitted it he would have ruined his chances of becoming President.

          “”……and you are capable of “again running the whole AGW debate” “”

          Probably not! What I meant was I have argued many times online and elsewhere about this issue and the debates never go anywhere.

          • Ah, I see. So (if that were largely true…of which I am unconvinced), that would invalidate their opinions would it. Presumably the infinitely larger funding supplied to the likes of NASA and the universities by the governments is untainted though?

            There are many aspects of the greenies’ response to the pretend bogeyman that shows all the hallmarks of a religion. Pointless self sacrifice in reparation for sins against the planet. Great useless altars covering the landscape.

          • “”Anything touched by politicians tends to be tainted but you are laboring under the illusion that directing funds away from re-investment, from healthcare, from education etc. etc……….is popular”

            What ARE you on about?

            I said I am not going to re-run the arguments it is a waste of time. Just suffice it to say that 30 years ago when the few climate scientists were predicting a new ice age, it attracted very little money. Since the great AGW scare it has become a great living and an expanding field with many, many more people relying on it for their livelihoods. This of course, is dependent on them claiming catastrophe is looming. It is also self perpetuating….who becomes a climatologist today? Those who have already been indoctrinated into believing AGW, the zealots.

          • One imagines you know nothing of the disgraceful perversion and hijacking of the peer review system?

            As to scientific method? A true scientists releases ALL the data…they don’t refuse because people might criticise it and they don’t make foolish comments like “the science is settled”.

            They don’t “hide declines” or suppress inconvenient data either…..but the AGW brigade are guilty of all the above.

          • “”For someone who has “no intention of again running the whole AGW debate” you have made a good job of re-running a good deal of the much repeated tripe.””

            Alas I have been dragged into it more than I wanted. For my part can I say that you have, from my side, repeated a good deal of oft repeated tripe.

            The assertion about Obama was a little frivolous. He certainly is sympathetic to Islam.

            I have said nothing that is not moderate – I am moderate. I just do not accept the lysenkoism that is AGW. There are a lot of us out there too!

          • The avatar…it is a shame you cannot see the writing. It was the winner of a competition held after the Charlie Hebdo massacre. It features an angry Mohammed with a sword running at the cartoonist shouting “You cannot draw me!”

            To which he replies “That is why I draw you.”

            Obama, Muslim or not, is the most left wing president, certainly of my lifetime, He has also been the weakest and the most ineffectual.

            I will try ascribe political views to Jesus, but He was very big on personal responsibility and not that bothered about the State at all.

            So I think a case can be made that He certainly had right wing aspects to Him.

          • “”Anything touched by politicians tends to be tainted but you are laboring under the illusion that directing funds away from re-investment, from healthcare, from education etc. etc……….is popular”

            What ARE you on about?

            I said I am not going to re-run the arguments it is a waste of time. Just suffice it to say that 30 years ago when the few climate scientists were predicting a new ice age, it attracted very little money. Since the great AGW scare it has become a great living and an expanding field with many, many more people relying on it for their livelihoods. This of course, is dependent on them claiming catastrophe is looming. It is also self perpetuating….who becomes a climatologist today? Those who have already been indoctrinated into believing AGW, the zealots.

  17. Yeah!!! At least I’m success to EARN $9767/MONTH .I heard about it last 2 months and I have made such a great cash. It is very beneficial for me and my family.My relatives wondered to see how i settle my Life in few days thank GOD to you for this…You can also make cash.. I’m Loving it!!!! ☻ ▼ ▼ ▼

    ============> Go to my account for WEB ADDRESS======

  18. Lefties love State education. Lefties love diversity. So instead of thousands of schools and teachers across the land teaching thousands of different perspectives, we have a single perspective decided by a few unelected judges.

    • It’s not ridiculous though. I’m in no way suggesting that all atheists are that way, or even the majority (and I would like to emphasize that I am no man of devotion and faith myself). But there certainly is a vocal proportion of atheists who have their gurus, like Richard Dawkins or Christopher Hitchens (I’m sure Hitchens wouldn’t appreciate that sort of veneration; not so sure about Dawkins), they have their “holy” texts — The God Delusion, perhaps. Who was is a few years ago even compiled a Twelve Commandments for atheists? Humanists, in particular, like to gather in special buildings that might be compared to churches, for regular meetings. They don’t have baptisms, but “baby-naming ceremonies” They have their mantras, such as “I believe in science, not religion” (in my experience, as a Master of Science, they rarely seem to know an awful lot about either.. In America, they’ve even setting up memorials to atheist war dead. I know they’ll deny it, ironically, but they have all the trappings of religion in their non religion.

      As for your attack on Abrahamic religions, I think that’s both uneducated and beside the point. Are you one of those atheists who just can’t resist the urge to have a pop at Christianity? Did you ever watch that 1990’s series “Cracker,” with Robbie Coltrane? I’ve always remembered a line from that that I’ve thought was extraordinarily insightful:

      “I see you’re anti-religion. People like you don’t worry me at all, because it means religion is very important to you. The ones who just don’t care, they worry me. But you’ll be back, one day. Perhaps when you wake up realising that you’ve lived most of your life, and you wonder what the point of it all was. Or when your doctor diagnoses a tumour. You’ll be back.”

Comments are closed.