Not even wrong, Fatima !

The National Times features an opinion piece from Fatima Measham wrt the School Chaplaincy and SRE disaster, misleadingly titled “Students caught in the culture war crossfire”. Measham is trying to shift the goalposts and give the impression that this is some kind of clash of cultures, Secularism vs Christianity or somesuch :

The battle is an extension of the skirmishes during the Howard years around what constitutes Australian identity and history. Many supporters of Christianity-oriented Special Religious Instruction (SRI) would argue, for instance, that Australia has after all been peopled and shaped by Christians of various denominations.

This is not the point at all. What’s being discussed is the fact that the CEO of Access Ministries has been caught with her pants down, calling for her Christian soldiers to break government regulations by using their access to children to convert them to Christianity and make disciples. That’s not a culture clash, it’s an organisation that’s receiving funding from the government being caught breaking the law. It’s that simple.
The other thing that grates me is the sad ad populum argument about Australia (or any country X) being a predominantly [insert brand of monotheistic religion here] nation. The Australian and American prisons for the last 200 years have been full with predominantly Christian delinquents, so therefore Christianity must have some merits ? It’s just a complete non-sequitur to say “People who for the most part held a false belief into a supernatural being derived from one of the monotheistic faiths were among those who populated and shaped our country, therefore our society 200 years onwards has to hold these beliefs dear, or else HitlerStalinMao, moral decline and teh ghey buttsecks”.
I always find it interesting when religious apologists claim that secularism will be the end of morality, when their own holy book, in the Gospel of Luke, gives an example of someone who acted morally without being a Christian, and Jesus approved. Have those Christians actually ever read the story of the Good Samaritan ? But I digress. Back to Measham’s piffle :

Why is it that no one seems to be concerned, for example, by the prospect of a homeless man turning to God because of his encounters with the Salvation Army, which receives government grants?

Because a homeless man is an adult, who can make some kind of informed decision ? What a miserable analogy fail. And in fact, I do object to any scenario where proselytising Christians come to be in a position of power or authority towards people in need, and the Salvation Army (salvation from what, one feels obliged to ask ?) is no exeption.
What follows is a strawman :

More to the point, when secularists (humanists and atheists by another name) argue that religion has no place in schools, they make exactly the same mistake that Christian proselytisers do: they insult young people’s intelligence by doing their thinking for them.

This, in the end, is what evangelists and atheists have in common, the fear that young people will be lost if the other got hold. It is what underpins all culture wars – fear for the future.

This bit is the reason I decided to answer her article in the first place. It is a common misconception that the religious like to trot out, and we have to correct it whenever we encounter it.
By the way, secularist is not another name for humanist or atheist, one feels like humbly suggesting that maybe the author could do a Google search of words she doesn’t know the meaning of, next time she gets to write for a mass audience.

School children, in particular primary school children, have a right not to be lied to. They have a right to be protected from people who want to imprint religious dogma onto them. They should be taught how to think for themselves, not how to unquestioningly buy into Stone Age fables. As much as I don’t care what consenting adults do in their bedrooms, I don’t care about what they do in their places of worship. But leave children out of it. If society thinks a 7 or 12yo is too young to decide which political party to vote for, then they should also be too young to buy into one brand of religious dogma. This has nothing to do with insulting their intelligence, it’s respecting and protecting them until they are old enough to make up their own mind. Let’s teach the kids comparative religion and Ethics, I’m all for it, surely that’s the ideal solution for a multicultural and multifaith country like Australia !
Why are Christian lobbyists so afraid of Ethics and comparative religion ? Well, the answer is glaringly obvious. Because less and less of the kids would buy into their outdated dogma. That’s what this war is about, not culture.

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