If you believe in fairies, stay the f*ck away from children

Like the river that bears his name, Fred Nile is ancient, salty, shallow, full of sediment, has dubious sources, causes conflicts between every country he passes through, and takes a very long time to reach a conclusion.

He also terminates in a large estuarine delta, was used as a means of transport by ancient kings, and is implicated in the drowning deaths of many thousands of Egyptians. But what he does in his downtime is none of our concern.

What he does in Australian schools definitely is.

And what he’s doing in New South Welsh schools – attempting to banish alternatives to Christian theological classes – is just one part of a deeply worrying trend of hardline Christian activists getting access to young children, and doing so on the government dollar.

In my home state, Access Ministries – an organisation more chock-full of nuts than a gay porn shoot in a Snickers factory – received $800,000  from Education Minister Martin Dixon to push deeper into Victorian schools. Dixon, surprise surprise, once held a high-up position at the Catholic Education Office Melbourne.

The Australian Christian Lobby, meanwhile, announced their annual conference, “again focussing on the best interests of children”, with its aim being “to influence public policy”.

Hey freakazoids. Get your fucking half-formed squid flippers off the children.

Yeah, I said it. But you can leave the high horse in the barn. See, any criticism of this agenda is met with the cover-all accusation of “Christian-bashing”, when these groups only represent a Christian fringe more ridiculous than anything in Saviour-rap music videos.

Not to mention that for over a century – 140 years in Victoria – the legislated charter of Australian schools has been to offer free, compulsory, and secular education. At 3.333 times shorter than the Ten Commandments, that list shouldn’t be so easy for good wholesome Christians to forget or disregard.

You’d struggle to write me off as a Christian-basher. I’ve studied theology, read my Bible, sung in a church choir for several years. I go to midnight Mass on a Christmas Eve, smash some carols, and feel calm and at ease. This isn’t because of the warm sticky love of God seeping out of me. It’s down to the power of mnemonic association, and the good folks at Mass filtering out all the batshit-insane parts that they could be reading out of that book instead.

Therein lies the problem. I might actually be comfortable participating in more rituals if people understood their role as metaphor, a structure for reflection and contemplation, not as a literal History of the World as Made and Unmade By Large and Angry (and It Is Popularly Assumed, Bearded) Male Divinities.

Instead my relationship with those true believers goes something like this:

“Cheese makes you fly!”

“Why do you say that?”

“Because there is cheese, and there is flying! Whee!”

“That doesn’t logically follow.”

“Cheese makes you fly.”

“You have no evidence for that.”

“The evidence is in the absence of evidence. That means it depends on belief, and believing is a precious and fragile and beautiful thing, like a crystal butterfly frozen in nitrogen!”

“You’re a fucking idiot.”

If you believe that a Magic Man made the world, then that’s your lookout. No, I haven’t formulated my own explanation. That doesn’t mean that your effort doesn’t suck a bucket of balls.

Of course people should be able to believe what they want. Christians don’t need my blessing. But for Biblical literalists, their faith’s requirements involve hassling others to join up. That’s where it starts to get tricky.

Our societal rule of thumb is that people can do what they like as long as it doesn’t impinge on the rights of others. Accordingly, there are clashes. You want to party, I want to sleep. My wish to masturbate in the cinema clashes with your wish to watch Apollo 13 without bringing a Chux cloth.

So we make rules one way or another, and try to favour whoever is disadvantaged more. Meaning in fact you shouldn’t be allowed to freely practice your religion, if that practice involves impressing your beliefs on children too young to have formed their own. Sorry. Take it out on the rosaries.

And for all that no-one wants to say it, converting kids is exactly what Access Ministries and their ilk aim to do.

Of course, people like CEO Evonne Paddison try to package their efforts otherwise. “”We instruct our people not to proselytise, we’re not there to convert children,” she said this year.

On legal grounds, I’ve been advised not to suggest that Evonne Paddison is a righteous, Jesus-praising liar. On a side note, some evangelist ministers believe you can find hidden Satanic messages in my articles by deleting the first ten words of each sentence.

AM’s website reads “Our vision is to reach every student in Victoria with the Gospel” (a pretty elementary evangelisation reference), and that Access “teachers and chaplains are sharing God’s love with over 200,000 young Victorians.”

Meaning students are told that God exists, not that Christians believe God exists.

But the real meat is in Paddison’s 2008 speech to an evangelical conference. “[M]uch of our thinking about ministry and schools has had the goal that our students will be contacted, converted, and discipled,” she says.

I’m not quote-picking. In a 50-minute address, Paddison makes at least 35 mentions (count ‘em) of making students into disciples, establishing student congregations, or of schools as a “mission field” from which to attract converts.

The closing paragraph is a cracker. “3.5 million [Australian students]. Our churches in the West are on a slow death march. We have the opportunity to create life. It may be uncomfortable but so what? What a commandment, make disciples. What a responsibility. What a privilege we have been given. Let’s go for it.”

Now might be a good time for Evonne Paddison to check her pants for any smoulder-related damage.

Her defence was that “her talk was not intended for a broad audience”. So if we weren’t going to know about it, then everything’s fine. Right. Good to know. As for “taken out of context” – get bent, Evonne. I’ve read all 7000 words. Show me how to misquote that.

Let’s also note that both Paddison and her chairman, Bishop Stephen Hale, are board members of Arrow Leadership, a training group whose proud slogan is “Helping tomorrow’s Christian leaders to lead more to Jesus.” Arrow is an adherent to the Lausanne Covenant, a self-described “movement that mobilizes evangelical leaders to collaborate for world evangelization.”

Essentially it comes down to one point. Anyone who believes in the literal truth of the Bible believes that the ship is going down and they’re in the lifeboat. They believe that you are wrong for not believing this. And whether it’s notch-on-the-pulpit stuff, or cynical brainwashing, or a genuine concern for the state of your eternal tan, they believe they need to convince you.  

As for kids – well, who’s more suggestible? Sign them early and keep them for life. To throw again to the pithiness of Doug Stanhope, “You switch the threat of lumps of coal in your stocking with an eternity in a fiery burning hell, well – you still believe in Santa Claus too […] They jam that shit in there while your head is still soft, and then cake it up with a lifetime of guilt and shame and fear.”

Now, as I’ve said, I don’t hate Christians. I do hate Christians who try to make other people into Christians. Guys, it’s just fucking creepy.  Like hanging out with someone who’s waiting for a chance to feel you up. Like The Invasion of the Body Snatchers, where one by one everyone is turned part-vegetable by the pod people. Faith is like donkey porn – if you dig it, good for you. Just don’t post it on my Facebook.

The Lausanne Covenant “affirm[s] the divine inspiration, truthfulness and authority of both Old and New Testament Scriptures in their entirety as the only written word of God, without error in all that it affirms, and the only infallible rule of faith and practice.”

The question that cultural sensitivity smothers is how and why Biblical literalists are considered fair, sane, and reasonable people to take charge of impressionable children, or to teach anything at all. If I tell you that the Jews are lizards who are controlling the banks, you would keep me at the length of the longest arm available. If I tell you that the creator of the universe is a jealous tantrum-thrower who speaks to us through shrubbery, you nod graciously and respect my right to share this with your children. 

Harold Camping led up to his Doomsday prediction in May saying that earthquakes would rend open all nations, and the dead would rise into the air, and beasts and famines would stalk the survivors for five months until the world was destroyed as God sent us all to our fates.

Various other Christian organisations said, “Oh, that guy is crazy! Oh, what a crank! I mean … … you can’t predict when all that’s going to happen. The book says it could happen any time. I mean, it’s right there on the page!”

Fire, brimstone, and an earthly meat-chandelier of levitating corpses ripped from the ground, and this guy’s crazy because he picked a date?

That this kind of superstitious, irrational literalism could be even tacitly approved by governmental education systems is beyond my vocabulary to condemn. It has no more place in schools than astrology or crystal healing or some sweaty dude in a tracksuit saying he has a hunch at the greyhounds.

None of which means that schools should teach anti-religion instead. A Godless school system is not the same as an atheist one. I don’t expect atheist views to be included in the curriculum any more than I think Fred Nile’s should be. I expect there to be an absence of any ‘teaching’ from any prick with an agenda. 

That said, if Fred is allowed in after recess to spin his fairy tales in the name of secular education, then I demand the first class after lunch to shoot the fucker down.

If religion is to feature in the curriculum at all, it belongs in comparative classes covering all belief systems, run by staff with no conflict of interest. The fact that Access Ministries seek Christians as staff only further devalues their claims. Why would you need to be a Christian to teach about Christianity? It’s like doing a class on farm machinery run by the John Deere rep.

If you want those comparative classes, then yes, include atheism, whatever the school’s religion. If you’re so convinced you’re right, then your precious faith should be able to withstand a pretty rigorous cavity search. (Hell, if you truly believe that the one and only all-powerful creator of all existence is backing your side, you should be lubing up a Mag-Lite).

And please don’t bring in some bullshit qualification criteria to permit entry to the debate. No, I don’t have kids. But I was one, and I remember it well. Neither the younger me or the present me would stand for having a pile of meat-waste like Martin Dixon allowing his lobby groups and personal delusions decide what’s best for me. Get the fuck away from my fontanel.

Religious instruction has no place in schools. More than that, it has no place around children. Let kids make their own decisions in their own time. Otherwise you’re just taking advantage of their suggestible age to impress your own beliefs.

And if you truly believe that your path is the one, and your light is the brightest, and your truth is the truth of the universe, then I challenge you: have the courage of your convictions. Leave it alone, trust in its inherent rightness and strength, and let people find out for themselves. If an omnipotent God can’t get them there, then I fail to see how Fred Nile can carry them home.





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271 Responses to If you believe in fairies, stay the f*ck away from children

  1. Swampy says:

    “The evidence is in the absence of evidence. That means it depends on belief, and believing is a precious and fragile and beautiful thing, like a crystal butterfly frozen in nitrogen!”
    I was educated, if you could call it that, in the 50’s and 60’s by the Sisters of Mercy and then The Christian Brothers. Being a child in possession of an enquiring mind I questioned faith and belief as concepts, not out of maliciousness but because I wanted to KNOW. I wanted to understand, to grasp the concept. The response? “Just believe!” Further questioning would be met by being sent from the class for being a nuisance and often this was accompanied by a beating. Gotta love those faith teachers. Fred Nile is a nuisance and should be sent from the class. Organised religion has no place in our Government schools. My tax dollars should never be spent furthering the cause of any religion. And just for argument’s sake – how would all those Christian teachers wanting access to our children’s minds feel if the followers of L. Ron Hubbard wanted to go in and teach that the we all come from Aliens? I bet they’d jump up and down and demand those people not be given access. No difference.

  2. Awesome commentary on an issue that drives me bonkers. These evangelists will not get their claws into my 6yo prep student – he wouldn’t let them anyway – we need Access out of our schools.

    • Chris says:

      Wonder if the optional nature of the census Q could enable Christian people to distance themselves from these strident evangelicals and their mission to expand by double and enter private schools.. It’s certainly one survey that pollies might need to respect a dip in, despite their (and the bureaucracies’) proficiency at ducking these issues, so maybe no more stupidity like funding for ACCESS to setup their own chaplaincy training institute despite the tertiary education options in a city like Melbourne.

  3. Adam says:

    You hate Christians for trying to share what they believe ? Do you hate the man at the shop for trying to sell you a panasonic plasma?
    No you make up your own mind and either buy it or walk.
    Any evangelist worth his salt will know that he has no ability to convert outside of divine activity so to suggest they brainwash children only represents those who distort orthodox Christianity much like your catholic upbringing. We’ve all got bad eggs on our team – we have camping you have Dawkins.. But I dont get to choose the teams
    Thanks for the read though..

    • geoff lemon says:

      And thanks for the civil response, Adam.

      Re your point, well, I have to walk into the man’s shop before he can try to sell me a TV. He doesn’t show up at my house at 8 a.m. on a Saturday. And he doesn’t get to go to my kid’s school and talk about the wonders of electronics. Equally, I hate telemarketers who call me at home. But at least they’re just trying to lock me into a 24-month phone contract, not a lifetime of obedience to ancient fable.

      I actually agree with you about teams, but anyone petitioning for access to kids too young to make a fair judgement on these things is precisely one of the bad eggs you describe. There are many, and they are currently heavily funded by taxpayer dollars. That is a tremendous problem.

      • Peter Aylett says:

        “If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith … we are of all people most to be pitied.” [1Cor15,NIV]

        As a Christian, I’m well aware that many things I do make no sense if the basis of my belief is not actually true. But, as an intellectual exercise, consider accepting the God hypothesis as true and follow it to its logical conclusions. (Don’t be tempted to debate the hypothesis at this point, just follow the consequences). In this scenario, the most rational and compassionate thing that one can do is to tirelessly share it with everyone around you; and to campaign for the best opportunity to share it to children. This is where Christians find themselves. They knowingly risk ridicule and ostracism. But even if you reject their proselytizing, you should at least be thankful that they cared enough about the wellbeing of you and children to even try.

        You know what it reminds me of: some people refuse to believe that vaccines help children. Yet other people tirelessly keep persuing them out of a care for those children. Now many of us accept the God hypothesis as fact, for a variety of reasons (which are worth investigating, but not in a 200 word reply), so rightly seek to help children (and everyone). Others don’t. The problem is only that we both feverently believe different things.

        • geoff lemon says:

          Well stated, Peter (and thanks). This is exactly the problem I’m raising in the article. Literalist Christians genuinely do believe this stuff is true, and so they’re genuinely obliged to ‘save’ people. My point is, why should this viewpoint (which relies entirely on ‘faith’ and has no evidence to support it) be permitted such access to children when a thousand other beliefs or delusions are not? What is the difference between an evangelist who believes in eternal hellfire, and a crazy guy on the train who thinks the government is reading his brainwaves? Both are utterly baseless yet passionately ‘believed’.

          Some people refuse to believe that vaccines help children, while there is a massive body of medical evidence that shows that they do. There is zero such evidence for the truth of Biblical scripture, and a thousand competing religious theories. Even if there is a God, why would the Christians be right? And which sect is most right?

          Targeting children is simply unfair – they’re far more likely to believe whatever they’re told. That’s not faith, that’s obedience. And your argument doesn’t answer my closing point: if you’re so sure you’re right, why not trust that people will come to realise this, and let them find out for themselves?

          • Peter Aylett says:

            Faith is a tricky word, and means different things to different people. Many people use ‘faith’ to mean ‘blind faith’, but faith need not be blind. Faith is acting on trust. I have faith that my chair will hold me up. But that faith is well founded both in an examination of its structure, as well as the experience that it has not failed me so far.

            There is much evidence presented to support the Christian claim. (Historicity of the Bible, argument for the resurrection, fine tuning of the universe to name a few). The issue is not lack of evidence, so much as that many do not accept the evidence that is presented.

            Therefore the question becomes whether the belief of one group of people, backed by the evidence they accept, is more or less important than the belief of another group of people, backed by the evidence that they in turn accept. In resolving this impasse, democracy isn’t perfect, but it’s probably better than any of the alternatives.

            (P.S. I have been enjoying your blog!)

          • Jen says:

            Sorry Peter but Geoff has one really good point that you just cant seem to answer to any acceptable degree….nor can anyone else I ask. Which religion. Why should the christian religion get a look in and not Jewish or Muslim or Buddism or any of the other widely practised and long lived (yes some are MUCH older than christianity) religions. And if you are going to let them all have a go then why not scientology or any of the other newer ones who have gained popularity and who gets to decide which ones and not others. So by the time the kids learn about all these religions when do they have the time to learn about the stuff they SHOULD be learning in school…you know math, science and oh the important stuff that they cannot do without…..Imaginary friends are for playtime not classtime.

          • jabba says:

            … My god has a hammer. Yours was nailed to a cross. Any more questions?

          • Peter Aylett says:

            For anyone earnestly seeking an answer to the ‘which religion’ question, I recommend reading “If I were God, I’d make myself clearer” by John Dickson, which is written to this question.

          • Chris says:

            Ed Dept rules are parents/kids should (though some schools haven’t been keen) be able to opt-out of Christian RE, or choose any other RE option available in that school.
            Starting this year and growing, in some NSW primary schools, those that opt-out have the option of a PrimaryEthics.org.au class being available. A pastafarian church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster may have to be registered for this to happen in Vic?!!
            Comparative or ‘General Religious Education’ is different (perhaps non-existent?).

        • Jac says:

          I’m not a bigot. Some of my best friends sell Amway. Still, I cannot tolerate may forms of evangelism. It brings me out in hives. Whether it is someone enthusiastically trying to tell me about the wonders of homeopathy, pyramid marketing, a tea for weight-loss or some deity or another, I shudder and twitch and feel compelled to get away from the shiny eyed delusional person.

          I understand the brain regions which light up when someone is possessed by the euphoric conviction of belief, be it their joy at finally understanding “The Secret” or of being convinced that they, too, can be RICH! or their joy and relief at having been cleansed of their sin in the blood of their saviour Jesus; the “Faith” modules in their brains are firing up, endorphins are flowing and they are so keen to share the joy and enlightenment of their Faith.

          Pascal’s Wager (which is what you describe up there) presumes that merely complying with the requirements of a religion is enough to bring about salvation should said religion turn out to be true (of the many possible religions available). It does not take into account that some people cannot believe in things of which they are not genuinely convinced. I have tried to believe. I tried for years. But I cannot believe in metaphysical concepts like god any more than I can spontaneously and genuinely believe that I have two heads. From the perspective of a genuine believer, am I somehow failing? Am I doomed by my lack of faith? Why can I not believe? Am I not trying hard enough? And where is my incentive to try to believe when I have a perfectly good meta-model which explains the whole weird human phenomenon of religious and spiritual belief?

          What evangelists need to spread their Faith (of whatever form) are gullible people who are either not skeptical enough to fact-check and comparison shop or whose access to a broader pool of information is limited. They can find that in schools, but I would rather they did not. I am certain that Christians who minister to the schools believe that they are doing the right thing, but I can also say with confidence that Amway salespeople would love, love, love to be in there helping those kids set up marketing networks that would see them reach financial independence before they turn 17. And the homeopathic dietary supplement people would love to see all those children getting optimal nutrition by taking sixteen different products per day. It’s only right to see to their health. And I know that people who believe in the power of positive thinking are at this very moment visualising themselves standing in front of rooms full of children, telling them that they can have whatever they want, just by wanting it and expecting it. It’s The Secret, and that’s how it works; you just have to Believe. Like religion!

        • Tom says:

          Peter, your opinion is all well and good, but the fact of the matter remains that state schools are meant to provide a secular education, and that should not include having religions of whatever colour proselytise young children. If you want your children to have exposure to Christian teachings, send them to a Christian school or take them to Sunday school. Children by and large do not possess sufficient reasoning skills to make a judgement as to the veracity of religious claims, and herein lies the problem with proselytising to them.

          As for your claim that “In this [Christianity being correct] scenario, the most rational and compassionate thing that one can do is to tirelessly share it with everyone around you”, again, that is all well and good, but like Geoff, I believe that people have the right to live their life as they please, so long as they do not impinge upon others unnecessarily. Your beliefs are your business, and no concern of mine, and neither should my beliefs be any concern of yours. As such, parents should be able to choose whether their children are exposed to such material.

          I will say in mitigation though, that in spite of receiving scripture at a state primary school and at an Anglican high school, I am still as heathen as they come.

        • Reversed Concave Spoon says:

          “There is much evidence presented to support the Christian claim. (Historicity of the Bible, argument for the resurrection, fine tuning of the universe to name a few). The issue is not lack of evidence, so much as that many do not accept the evidence that is presented.”

          There is actually a huge amount of historically inaccurate information contained within the bible. For example, where is Nazareth? There are no independent historical verifications for the existence of Christ at the the time he was supposedly alive. Geographical and political errors in Matthew… and so on. I’m guessing you won’t want to touch the old testament, the book which inspired Christianity to begin with.

          The argument for resurrection is just another appeal to scripture without offering anything more than… scripture, as evidence. Circular reasoning in “the bible is true because the bible says it is true” seems to catch so many people in it’s perfect circliness.

          As for the argument of a fine tuned universe, that one seems to catch a lot of people too. Seem highly improbable that the conditions just happened to allow us… to adapt from the conditions that were there to be adapted from? Probability is a funny thing. Take the game of bridge for example. If I deal you a 13 card hand from a deck of 52 the probability of you getting the hand (any hand. Any old random hand) is less than 1 in 635 billion. Surely god’s very own work! Couldn’t have happened by chance! Of course once you have the hand it is 1:1. That’s probability for you.

          The fine tuned universe thing was probably best summed up by the late, great Douglas Adams though in this piece:

          “This is rather as if you imagine a puddle waking up one morning and thinking, ‘This is an interesting world I find myself in – an interesting hole I find myself in – fits me rather neatly, doesn’t it? In fact it fits me staggeringly well, must have been made to have me in it!”

          • Peter Aylett says:

            The Bible is a collection of ancient documents. Therefore with respect to historical analysis it’s probably more appropriate to say that 27 separate historical documents by several authors refer to Christ. That aside, the following non-Christian documents/authors also refer to Christ to varying degrees: Tacitus, Pliny the Younger, Celsus, Josephus, Suetonius, Lucian, Thallus, Mara Bar-Serapion.

            If you’re genuinely curious to hear the various arguments for the resurrection beyond “its true because the Bible says so”, I suggest “The Case for Christ” by Lee Strobel (an atheist who set out to disprove the resurrection but through his investigation became a Christian).

            Fine tuning is a real problem accepted by the scientific community. Ironically it typically gets explained away by invoking a multiverse, which is at least as closed to experimental evaluation as God is. (Sorry for the brief answers – feels like I’m already hijacking Geoff’s blog here)

            As in my other post: The issue is not lack of evidence, so much as that many do not accept the evidence that is presented. Forgive a possibly unwarranted generalization, but it might be worth noting that one doesn’t find well articulated arguments for Christianity by exclusively reading Dawkins, Hitchins and the Da Vinci Code 🙂 (and indeed this applies both ways). Personally I’ve been able to find fulfilling answers to many of the ‘tough’ questions.

          • Reversed Concave Spoon. says:

            I’ve read The Case for Christ. It’s full of appeals to ignorance and authority.

    • According to your comment, Adam, Christianity = a plasma TV… THAT is hilarious!

    • nIkki says:

      Please, please , please tell me that you don’t seriously think that being forcibly taught religion as a child and going into a shop to buy a television as an adult is even remotely the same universe of ballparks !

    • tafari says:

      “You hate Christians for trying to share what they believe ? Do you hate the man at the shop for trying to sell you a panasonic plasma?”

      the problem is a panasonic plasma exists. i can buy a tv it’s a real physical thing. god, jesus, the bible, it’s all made up to control people and let sickos abuse children

    • JohnD says:

      I don’t hate the man in the shop for trying to sell me a plasma TV, just as I don’t hate a Christian in a church talking about God.
      I do however hate the Harvey Norman “shouty” ads for throwing plasma TVs in my face whenever there’s an ad break, and press the mute button very quickly when he starts shouting.
      Can I get a mute button for anyone that tries to force ANY faith down my throat?

    • old gregg says:

      Nobody is coming into our children’s schools trying to sell them a plasma – that’s the difference

    • But Panasonic don’t get to go into the school system to ‘teach’ in our schools. Children have yet to learn how to filter advertising from knowledge. It’s the reason we take what is taught and by whom in schools

    • Kay Ritson says:

      I think the point being made is that it is NOT ok to try and sell to someone who does not yet have the thought process in place to decide whether they want that brand or model. children are easily swayed BECAUSE they have not got fully formed mental processes, abstract thought does not develop until High School. It is because it is so easy to convince children that they are being targeted and it is not just the evangelists, why do you think the catholic church requires parents, even if one is not catholic, to raise the children in the catholic faith and why do they welcome non-catholic families to enrol their children in Catholic schools?

      • Glen P says:

        The reason they allow non-catholic families to enrol their children in Catholic Schools is because it is a Government requirement to have a certain percentage of non-catholics enrolled in their schools. The better question is, is why would someone send their child or children to a Catholic school if they do not believe or want to be taught what the Catholic schools believe in their opinion is right?

        • yazl says:

          Many Catholic schools are the cheapest of the private school options available. My parents had a choice between public, Catholic for 3k a year or independent (Anglican, Presbyterian, Methodist…) for 15k. They wanted me in a single sex school (and back in Perth, there were no single sex public schools available), so Catholic it was. That’s one reason.
          And why do non presbyterians send kids to presbyterian schools? Sometimes, the school has a brilliant academic/sporting/music program, or is close by.
          I agree parents have to weigh it all up, but the issue here is still STATE schools.

  4. Louella H says:


  5. Matthew Reid says:

    Oh hail, the one and only speaker of truth!

  6. Annie says:

    BRILLIANT! I am a special education teacher and the presence of a chaplain in the special school I work at does nothing but give me the creeps… how can anyone justify exposing vulnerable children who can’t distinguish between theory and reality to the views of a christian minority who want to convert them?

    • Debra Duncan says:

      Chaplains are in special schools? Spare me. Even worse.

      • kurt says:

        surely the chaplain is there just as a facilitator, not as an evangelist…?

        • geoff lemon says:

          So why not just have an unbiased facilitator?

          • ebnt says:

            A Chaplain needn’t be biased… Just as an atheistic counsellor shouldn’t be biased against religion. Our’s genuinely has kids’ interests at heart, I’m pretty sure his faith doesn’t dictate interactions he has with kids. He’s not going to try to convert anyone to his way, or even out of being gay or listening to Elvis. His role is more to provide a service to those kids (bless ’em) who are already that way inclined.
            I would like to see a Buddhist shacked up in the office next to his, for second opinions.

        • Anfalicious says:

          The federal government wont fund a school counsellor unless that person comes from a religious organisation.

          We won’t pay to have a trained professional talk to a teenage boy about those funny feelings he’s having about other boys, but paying a priest to do so is A-OK.

          The suicide rate for GLBT teens is about 10 times that of hetero teens.

          • Charlie says:

            And telling GLBT people, particularly those already (probably – at least, that is how it was in my town) traumatised by a culture of shame, that God himself thinks that the way they are is evil is incredibly damaging. This is a huge issue.

          • I’m studying at the moment to bring my qualifications up to Dept. Ed standards with the aim of being a high school Youth Worker. I’m not religous but have a great deal of experience working with traumatised kids and I currently have no chance of getting a job in WA high schools as Youth Worker, funding has been cut. All high schools still have a Chaplain though. Does that make any sense?

    • Kris says:

      Annie, that is sick. Even more reason to tell these idiots where to go.

  7. Scenic route to hell says:

    I agree with all you say, however the real culprit is the State for allowing this shit to happen in first place. Being a deluded freakazoid is one thing, but inviting hordes of deluded freakazoids to groom impressionable children is quite another.

  8. Brett says:

    Well said. Again.
    Evolutionary biologists will tell you that young children are soft-wired to believe everything an adult tells them, because in the not too distant past it could have meant the difference between life and death. That’s the only reason why the church is insisting on getting them as young as possible.
    Well I hope it’s the only reason.

  9. Machiavelli says:

    If schools have to offer ‘religious instruction’ in Vic, is there anything to stop a group of atheists and/or non-fucktard religious people offering a ‘religions of the world’ alternative. As in something with actual scholarship behind it, not a thinly disguised propaganda march. Like it or not, peoples imaginary friends play a large role in global and internal politics, and some awareness could go a long way. And in more progressive schools I imagine a course like this would be a shoe-in over those Access nuts. Two birds, one stone.

    • Machiavelli says:

      Must finish article before commenting. Agreed.

    • Lulu says:

      The ethics curriculum that Fred Nile is working hard to remove from state schools in NSW is exactly that, a scholarship based program that discusses moral and ethical issues in our society.

    • JDM says:

      The Humanist Society of Vic tried to offer an “Ethics” alternative for kids opted out of SRE.. No Dice! Only religions can offer SRE and kids are banned from learning anything else in the time.

      • Chris says:

        Will they try again now that the NSW Anglicans and Catholics have accepted it as not being the thin end of the wedge? Or get the strong Vic Pastafarians to register for RE?

  10. rebecca cassel says:

    Could not have said it better myself!!
    I went to an all girls catholic school, and while I was happy to be educated in religion I was also able to make the decision for myself. Not many other have the courage to question the beliefs that are thrown down their necks as an early age. If children are going to be educated in one religion then they should be educated in ALL, giving them the chance to decide for themselves.

  11. Parsley Victorious says:

    So much love for this. Well written, excellent points, and hilarious to boot. You have a new subscriber.

  12. Gav says:

    As a kid brought up in the UK, as well as all the carols and occasional bits of the bible in assembly, what you describe as religious education (“If religion is to feature in the curriculum at all, it belongs in comparative classes covering all belief systems, run by staff with no conflict of interest.”) was pretty much what we got. I actually remember speculating and asking our RE teacher what religion he was. We weren’t sure if he was Jewish, Anglican, Catholic or an Atheist. I’m still not.

    Indeed only this year, my very qualified religious teacher friend applied for a job in Victoria. The feedback from her interviews “You’re more than qualified for the position, very good, and whilst we give you credit for the courage of your convictions in giving such a brave[!!!] answer as to your own personal beliefs, we do not feel that it would be acceptable to parents to have someone of your faith teaching scripture.” Of course, she answered that she’s an atheist.

    And I can’t FUCKING believe that you still have *scripture* classes in Australia, what is it? 1890? (Mind, I can’t believe that my girlfriend who is doing a bachelor of dance in Sydney also has to do scripture classes, that have absolutely nothing to do with the rest of the course). The lack of knowledge of Australians about other faiths is absolutely gobsmacking at times. I know this, as I run a trivia night, it’s a good way to get a feel.

    • Steph says:

      Actually, Victoria DIDN’T have religious classes from the 1860s (when state education kicked off) til about 1955? Can’t remember the exact date. Then in the heat of ‘Reds under the bed’ blah blah we got it. And haven’t got rid of it yet.

      I remember the one religious instruction class I attended. She tried to leave out the dinosaurs in the history of the world. I asked her about it, she ignored me. Try telling a bunch of 10 year olds who had just spent all term learning about dinosaurs that they don’t exist.

  13. Jason says:

    Good read. I am a little worried about the money they are getting for school chaplains. but as you say, anyone with direct access to children can have an effect. counsellors of all persuasions can be just as persuasive.

    Though I have to admit, I grew up at a primary school where we had religious education once a week, and I turned out to be a scientist who has no interest in religion. I also know plenty of people who went to very expensive private religious schools for 12 years who are more atheist than I. So perhaps children arent as maleable and gullible as we make out? I know everyone bangs on about “wont you think of the children”, but why not just let them be children and they will make their own way in life…

    • Joanna says:

      “why not just let them be children and they will make their own way in life…”

      Kinda the point of the whole argument – leave the kids to make up their own minds, later, when they are more aware of all choices. And saying you know people with religious educational backgrounds who have grown up to be atheists is the same specious argument as “I never wore a seatbelt when I was a kid and I didn’t die”.

  14. Jim says:

    Thanks brother, keep the humanist faith going amen!

  15. JohnD says:

    “The evidence is in the absence of evidence. That means it depends on belief, and believing is a precious and fragile and beautiful thing, like a crystal butterfly frozen in nitrogen!”
    Love it!
    God is an imaginary friend for grown-ups..

  16. Dee says:

    Can work both ways… Part of the reason for my strident atheism is the view from the inside of the system courtesy of a so-called Christian upbringing. Even kids recognise the appalling hypocrisy at play when one god brand tries to promote itself above another god brand by denigrating the value system of the opposing brand. Even more so when any of the followers of these religious memes react in defence by branding anyone who tries to look behind the curtain a heretic.

    I have a strong love of my community and am deeply protective of it and ALL within it so it really lights the fire when some contemptible pratt like Nile, or that other plonker in budgie smugglers, suggests that a lack of belief in the fairies at the bottom of the garden somehow makes my family a lesser member of that community.

    There is no place for these fundamentalist groups in our education system and definitely no justification for funding them to bring this crap into our schools. You only have to look at the poor excuse for a society that had developed in the US where States have got behind the “literal interpretation of the bible” lunatics. I’m off to go participate in another pesky scientific conspiracy to create some more false rocks to add to the dodgy body of evidence to try and add to the fiction which disproves creationism… Kansas creationists are living proof that if there was a God then he sure had a hell of a pythonesque sense of humour.

    Scary stuff Geoff, your ability to hit all the right buttons suggests that you could be a focus group for a new middle of the road political party. If so beware you could be crushed in the ensuing deluge of votes 😉

  17. MsD says:

    You are as offensively on the money as always. As one who made a succesful escape from an evangelical upbringing, but who still has sympathy with the Christian camp, your piece made me nod and feel anxious all at the same time.

    I’m a rational, literate, intelligent woman of 39. But still, after all these years (24) – and even though I know there is no such thing as the boogeyman, Santa or the Tooth Fairy – I still worry that I might burn in Hell if I don’t have a chance to cast the right spell or make a particular incantation on my deathbed. It’s a visceral, irrational fear that no exercise of reason or intellect can dull, and speaks to the well-documented impressionablility of children. Now fair enough, I got more of the God-bothering during childhood than most would have been subjected to, but religious instruction at school was a part of it, weekly reinforcing all that nuttery I endured in my home life and on the weekends. I would have enjoyed a course in comparative religion that raised my growing awareness to other expressions of faith and culture at such a formative time; of course, had the State attempted to subject me to such brainwashing it would have been seen as the work of the Devil. As an interesting aside, I also remember attacks made in the late 70s/early 80s by the evangelical right on the ‘developing field of psychology’ – presumably, insight into the way people think, reason and feel is also Satan’s tool.

    So yes, please: as an understanding of religions is critical to an understanding of culture and politics, more comparative religion in schools. Not being an ignorant knucklehead is part of being a good global citizen. But our government schools are not the place for fundamentalists of any denomination to be ‘fishers of men’.

    • Anfalicious says:

      “Not being an ignorant knucklehead is part of being a good global citizen.”

      Not to mention that it’s probably good for Christians to be aware of some of the beliefs of the other third (and growing) of the country.

  18. Damien says:

    If a child was not taught about any religion at all would they grow up to be a believer? I.e. would they come to the conclusion that there is a god and a bible and Jesus on their own?

    Teaching children to question everything is the most important gift you can give to a child. Religion is the opposite.

  19. TheMan says:

    The only thing more annoying than born again Christians is the bevy of born again Atheists who feel the need to impose their opinions on everyone else. It essentially a group of people walking around trying to convert people into believing in nothing. Ironically, they’ve become a religion unto themselves. I regularly see people walking the streets with Atheist shirts proudly touting their religion, or lack thereof. This article provides good reading into exactly this:


    At the end of the day, if you don’t like religion, don’t do it. If you don’t want your child to go to a religious school, don’t send them to one. Religious schools, like any other (there are plenty of culture based schooling, be it German, chinese etc) are entitled to their funding just as any other schools are.

    I used to be annoyed by religious people, now the atheists bug me even more. I can’t remember the last time I was bugged by some religious person trying to convert me but I can remember the last time atheists imposts their opinions on me. Leave me along, I don’t *$% care what you don’t believe in.

    • geoff lemon says:

      Access Ministries are not going to religious schools. They’re going to secular state schools, who are obliged legally to let them offer their classes, and those classes are funded by the taxpayer, including any taxpayers who are non-religious or non-Christian. Is protesting against that the same as “imposing their opinions on everyone”?

      Couldn’t work out if this comment is directed at the article, or just a general rant. I never claimed to be an atheist, by the by.

      • Married to Christ says:

        I couldn’t work out if the above comment was sarcastic or not.

        Another great composition Geoff,

      • Seems “The Man” has no response to that…just like he didn’t have any understanding of the issue you were referring to. However…religious schools…why should taxpayers fund them? Discuss.


      • Anfalicious says:

        Why is it that people assume that because I don’t want evangelicals preaching to my kids that I’m an atheist?

    • reelpolitik1 says:

      I have never had an atheist knock on my door to convert me but I have had literally dozens of religious people do exactly that over the years.
      There are some strident atheists about but you generally have to buy their books or google them to be confronted by their zealotry. You certainly won’t find them in state schools selling fairy tales as fact.
      I am an atheist and nobody led me to it. As far as I am concerned, atheism is the natural state of an enquiring mind.

  20. Belinda says:

    Brilliant! Love it!

    I’m slightly concerned about the implication that atheism is another “belief set” or “agenda” touted by Richard Dawkins as if he was somehow the atheist equivalent of Fred Nile, though. Someone said once that claiming atheism is an alternative religion is a bit like claiming not stamp collecting is a hobby, and while this is cute and irritating it is also true. Likewise, Dawkins is a scientist. As far as he is concerned, he is simply correcting a bunch of uncorroborated theories about religion, in the same way that he would if people were running around saying the earth is flat. It’s therefore not appropriate to call atheism a religion any more than it is to call round-earthism one.

    I think it’s interesting that the census people can’t have “atheist” rather than “no religion” on the census form, when they literally mean the same thing. I’m guessing this is partly due to this very idea that an atheist has an agenda, whereas someone with no religion just has no religion. I didn’t think being an atheist meant that you were actively anti-religion, I thought it simply meant that you don’t have one. Is this all due to Dawkins being a bit too keen?

    • Miss J says:

      I don’t think atheist and no religion are exactly the same thing. One is about not believing in god, the other is not following a particular religion. They probably overlap; but personally, I wouldn’t describe myself as an atheist, but I definitely do not subscribe to any form of religion (organised or otherwise!)

      • geoff lemon says:

        Spot on. Also, atheism implies a direct and active belief in the lack of divinity. Scientific reasoning would state that there is currently zero evidence for a god, therefore it’s not a valuable hypothesis, but no hypothesis can ever be entirely disregarded.

        • Belinda says:

          Ok, so now I am getting confused. Atheism literally *means* without a god. I’m not sure how you can follow a religion without having a god or equivalent being involved somewhere; so I’m not clear how not having a god and not having a religion are significantly different situations. Coud you give me some examples? It sounds very much as though the term “atheism” has gone down the path of “feminism”, in that most people do agree with all or most of its major tenets but don’t want to identify with the term itself.

          • Belinda says:

            I’ve just looked it up on Wikipedia (as you do)…. is this what you mean?

            “In Western culture, some atheists are frequently assumed to be irreligious, although other atheists are spiritual. Moreover, atheism also figures in certain religious and spiritual belief systems, such as Jainism, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Neopagan movements such as Wicca. Jainism and some forms of Buddhism do not advocate belief in gods, whereas Hinduism holds atheism to be valid, but difficult to follow spiritually.”

            In that case, I do understand but I reserve the right to find it seriously inconsistent! I’m very surprised to find that it’s ok for atheists to follow a religion as long as there aren’t any gods involved because it seems that many of the same assumptions are made in both cases (ie non-evidence based) on “spiritual” matters. But, there you go, I’ve learnt something 🙂

          • geoff lemon says:

            What I’m getting at is, to my understanding, a true atheist has to actively believe that no deity or spiritual plane exists. And that, to me, is tantamount to having ‘faith’ in the lack of such entities. Personally, I don’t believe in gods based on the lack of evidence, but I’d be willing to revise my beliefs if new evidence came to light. That’s following the scientific method, whereby nothing is ever categorically known, we just make the best hypothesis we can on the available evidence. My hypothesis: gods are fables we’ve inherited from societies that had less information available to them. But I’m willing, in theory, to update that if need be. So you could say I accept that a god is a possibility, therefore I wouldn’t say I’m an atheist.

          • Anfalicious says:

            ” I’m not sure how you can follow a religion without having a god or equivalent being involved somewhere; ”

            Buddhists and Confucians do just fine.

            A religion is an organised group of believers; definitely not necessary for a relationship with the god of your choice. As Jesus says, God does not live in temples made of hands. For example, I’m not a Christian, but Uncle JC is my homeboy. I have too many beliefs that mean the Atheists wouldn’t let me in their club, but because my beliefs are something personal between me and the universe it’s impossible for there to be a religion for me (it’s also why evangelising my beliefs is pointless).

            Soren Kierkegaard taught us to leave the churches and to have our own private conversation with God; sure, he advised using the Bible as a guide, but he was also living in a time and a place where he would have been unlikely to have been exposed to much beyond his native Lutherism. The manifold traditions around the world have much to teach us, and I certainly don’t advocate throwing out that wisdom. I do have issues with the likes of Access Ministries telling very young children that if their parents don’t take them to Church on the weekend they will go to hell (yes, this actually happened).

          • Jac says:

            I believe that there is as much possibility that there is a ‘god’ as there is that Russel’s Teapot really is out there, orbiting the Sun. I have come to this conclusion based on fairly sound scientific principles; if there is no evidence, and there is no way to test the hypothesis, then there is no cause to have a positive faith in the truth of the hypothesis.

            I have no religion. I believe in the tangible, the plausible, the deducible, the testable. I give weight to truths which have predictive value, and not to theories which by their nature can never be tested.

            In short, whether or not there is a God, in itself, has as little bearing on my life and concerns as the question of whether there really is a teapot out there, circling the Sun. None. I am functionally atheistic, whatever you call me. I went under the label “apatheist” for a while: “I don’t care if there is a god”. But I find that I do have to care, because the behaviour of people who do believe there is a god impacts me and mine. People I know are hurt and harmed every moment by loopy, groundless religious ideas, and I cannot “not care” about that.

            I am exasperated that the term ‘atheist’ is being equated with a “faith” that there is no god. What can I call myself if I have neither positive belief that there is a god, nor positive belief (based in impossible proof) that there is not?

            I cannot use the term “agnostic” because religious types will insist on claiming that agnostics concede that it is possible that god exists, which means that they “don’t not” believe in god, therefore do. (Yes, really!)

            I’m an atheist. Not believing in God requires no more faith than not believing any other obvious, egregious, self-serving utter bullshit.

          • Obese andy says:

            The vast majority of atheists base their non-belief in god on evidence. It is not a matter of faith, and it is certainly not a religion. They would very likely also not believe in the tooth faery, Santa Claus or the Easter bunny. If religion wasn’t such an issue many atheists wouldn’t bother with the label. I label myself as a (compassionate) Secular Humanist….as I (and many other ‘atheists’) think it is a bit silly to define oneself through something that doesn’t exist. Some atheists shout it loud and proud on occasion, I reckon this is in reaction to the gradual, American style theocratic tendencies that are seeping into our politics. Dawkins himself doesn’t completely discount the idea of the existence of god, he just thinks (like me) that it’s monumentally and absurdly improbable.

          • Think of it this way, how many people would remain atheists if some sort of god came down and shook their hand? Most people who identify as atheist are actually agnostic.

        • Oxspit says:

          ‘Of no religion’ and ‘atheist’ are certainly not equivalent, but that “no hypothesis can ever be entirely disregarded” is at least a little contentious.

          I mean, if all a theist is really shooting for is the admission that we cannot entirely disregard the god hypothesis in much the same way as we cannot *entirely* disregard the ‘the Earth is flat’ hypothesis, well …. cool, I guess. Good luck to you and all, but if that’s your *only* reason/defense for actively believing in a god – or even for being noncommittal on the subject, well, let’s just say I think it’s eminently fair to question the rationality (and actually, I think, intellectual honesty) of this position…. and I do.

          I, too, take strong exception to Dawkins (and others) being touted as the atheist equivalent of Fred Nile. His position isn’t ‘no evidence, non-valuable hypothesis, disregard’ … it’s more like ‘no evidence for, strong arguments and evidence against, therefore almost certainly no god – moreover, evidence for hypothesis being actively harmful – best to disregard.’ And it’s really not as though he’s not willing to defend his position, or sees it as one which should be a-priori above criticism. Is his tone abrasive and condescending? Absolutely.. and while that’s probably a little unfortunate, drawing an equivalence between that position and religious fundamentalism is completely absurd.

          • Belinda says:

            Thanks Oxspit, that’s pretty much where I was headed with this. I would also suggest that there *are* some scientific hypotheses, like the flat earth idea, that are so far from likely to ever find support again that they are pretty much dead in the water (though I agree that this can be hard to determine). So, if you are not an atheist because of the possibility that the hypothesis that god exists may be supported in future, does that mean that you do not openly hold that the earth is round just in case it turns out to be flat in future? I can understand where your motivation is coming from here – staying open minded – but it does get difficult to stay consistent at the same time. That’s it from me. Thanks for a great discussion on this topic!

          • geoff lemon says:

            Belinda, this is all stuff I intend to hook into in a later post, so I won’t go chapter and verse. I’m referring to the approach whereby you accept that nothing can be known, for certain, we can only presume based on evidence. All evidence indicates that the flat-earth theory is wrong, so we go about our lives under that assumption, and rightly so. That doesn’t mean (somewhere in the distant bounds of chance) that it might not be possible that we were wrong all along, and we might realise that when some unforeseen information comes to light. We never have actual ‘fact’, we just have the best-supported hypothesis of the time.

          • Totally agree Oxspit, unfortunately the word “atheist” has become loaded with diverse meanings in the last few years, and it seems a common theme is to claim that atheism is just another religion/faith. IMO, it is the absence of belief in a God, simple as that. If good evidence comes to light that there is a God/the earth is flat/unicorns exist, I will happily change my opinions on such things. But just as I do not “actively believe” that unicorns don’t exist and the earth is not flat, I don’t feel atheism is any sort of “active” belief.

        • That’s not how atheism is usually understood. Most people who identify as atheists don’t have an “active belief” in the absence of a deity — most atheists are also agnostics. This includes the infamously outspoken ones such as Dawkins. The word might “imply” a direct and active belief, but that’s not what it actually means. Most atheists have nothing like the “faith” you mention below, for much the same reason that you don’t have it. Atheism simply means nonbelief, nothing more.

        • Lewis says:

          I believe the term your looking for and a point that people are getting confused on is the difference between Agnostic and Atheist.

          Cheers Lewis

        • Greg says:

          Actually Geoff I think are confusing the term atheism with gnosticism.

          Atheism is simply the lack of belief in deities.

          Gnostic atheism is the belief that there are no deities at all.

          Agnostic atheism is the lack of belief in deities due to the fact they are unknown and unknowable.

          While atheism does contain gnostic and agnostic camps there are plenty of us who simply feel that there is no need for us to profess theistic beliefs as there is no compelling evidence of deities existence.

          Typically when people call themselves agnostic they mean agnostic atheist but it is quite possible to be an agnostic theist (as in believe in Gods but accept that most religions are probably wrong about them and that deities are unknown and unknowable).

          I don’t fall into the gnostic or agnostic camps but I find myself arguing the gnostic argument to religious people now so they will shut up and stop trying to proslytise me.

          • geoff lemon says:

            Yep, spot on. What I was talking about earlier is less the actual meanings of these terms, but the way they’re perceived in general discourse. Words get corrupted very easily. I’m hesitant to use the word ‘atheist’, because it has developed an implication of something militant or activist (however false that is) which I don’t want to invoke.

          • Greg says:

            I do agree that there is some baggage attached to the term atheism but that is pretty much the fault of atheists.

            Because most of us simply don’t care whether or not deities exist because they probably don’t, we let the theists push their views and typically don’t point out the weakness of their opinion.

            Most theists don’t understand that simply because there is a debate between two perspectives this does not make the two philosphies equivalent – and by implication impossible to discern between.

            It’s our own fault for letting them get away with equating their right to hold an opinion with validating their opinion.

          • Mick says:

            I have decided to call myself a humanist – god (be it an entity, or the laws of the universe), is to me irrelevant. I do however, have a firm faith in the essential goodness of people (Fred Nile does rattle this), and that whatever greater purpose there may be, the most important rule is to be kind. Humanism seems a concept that everyone could/should gel with.

        • simulacrum says:

          Geoff, most broadly atheism is a lack of theistic belief (the a- prefix merely denotes a lack, not an opposition.. as in a-sexual or a-political). “Weak atheists” leave it at that. “Strong atheists” positively assert that there is no god. Both are subsets of atheism, and only have in common their shared lack of belief in gods. Weak atheism can be further classified as explicit or implicit. Even Dawkins subscribes to your (and my) form of atheism. I’ve seen him say something along the lines of he can’t disprove the existance of fairies but given the lack of evidence he can’t believe in them. He’s 99% sure they don’t exist but allows for the possibility that they might and therefore can’t say he has a positive belief in their non-existance either.
          Basically if someone does not believe that the statement “at least one god exists” is true, they can be categorised as some variety of atheist.

      • Scenic route to hell says:

        Atheists simply don’t buy a particular religions inevitable plot holes and logic errors in their marketing copy when they use fables involving deities to sell their product. Most atheists have no problem with the moral code (the product) of any given religious brand.

        • simulacrum says:

          I guess that depends on whether you mean the moral code actually contained in scripture or the humanist interpretation most normal, religious people end up “reading into” the scriptures, by ignoring all the parts they now find distasteful and generalising the pleasant parts to include things like prohibition of slavery, gender equality and being nice to gay people (which clearly weren’t intended in the originals).

  21. Nice article, Geoff. One point which you don’t explicitly make (though you imply it a few times) is that this is primarily an issue of public funding—that there’s a distinction between private faith-based schools and public schools. If you want your child to receive a Christian education or a Jewish education (or a Steiner or a Montessori education for that matter) then that’s your right. Or, at least, parents indoctrinating their own children is a separate issue to the problem of state-funded religious educators indoctrinating other people’s children.

    • Anfalicious says:

      The federal government gives around $4 to private schools for every $1 it gives state schools.

      Thanks Howard.

  22. Obese Andy says:

    Here in Qld. There are complete nutbags trying to terrify kids in some RE classes, in public, secular schools….telling them that they (and their friends and family) will literally die and burn in hell forever…if they don’t “accept Jesus into their hearts”. It happened to my own kids, one of whom (very young at the time) came home really distraught. I know of a teacher who had to leave the class room whilst a fundamentalist lunatic was attempting to scare kids to death, to avoid a conflict…she felt she had little other recourse, as the headmaster of the school is a fundamentalist fruitcake himself. The RE system is opt-out instead of opt-in, and many parents don’t even realize that their kids are receiving RE (or to what degree they are receiving it)…..I can barely imagine the outrage that would occur if sex (and/or drug) education classes were opt-out instead of opt-in.

    • Obese Andy says:

      …..and I forgot to mention that kids who do opt-out are singled out, embarrassed and sent to a virtual detention that is, without a doubt, designed to be punitive.

      • Miss J says:

        At least in Victoria the kids aren’t singled out or sent to virtual detention (speaking of course from my very limited experience of sitting in the library as a kid myself, and my elder child sits it out and happily reads his Harry Potter books for the duration. The kid sits it out with about 5-6 other kids; I think I was on my own – but the library wasn’t exactly a hardship!)

        The ‘quality’ of RE provided leaves a lot to be desired though, going by some of the strange things the younger child comes home with. How much of it is verbatim and how much is misinterpretation by a vague five year old, I have no idea. But I am prepared to let him decide for himself.

        • My daughter was in Victorian schools, and she had to sit in the corridor during RE. Whilst she had fun playing cards with the Buddhist and Hindu kids, I regard this as being singled out. I would have kicked up a big fuss, but she enjoyed sharing food with the kids.

          • melgardener says:

            Yep, at our school the non-scripture kids are taken to an old hall and they can draw or read a book. When we complained that, at least, the teacher on duty could do some sort of lessons with them, it was explained to us that the kids are specifically not allowed to be ‘taught’ anything by the teacher as this would apparently be giving them an ‘unfair advantage’ over the scripture kids.

          • I had the unfortunate experience of 10 years of catholic schooling. Gues what? I’m an atheist in the scientific, no evidence, so no point wasting energy sense of the word. But I did pay a price for it. Being told that you are guilty, just for being for being born, is child abuse. Ten years of that sh*t is enough to break the resolve of strong minds.

            It took me years to get over it and recover.

            In year 9 I decided that I would play along. I had always got Cs in RE and As and Bs in other subjects (science and maths being my favourites). So I played along, and wrote exaclty what the RE teacher wanted to hear in my essays. One day she stopped me in the school hall and said “God is going to do great things with you”. Yeah, right. Blow it out the other one. The thing is that as these religious people will believe any half baked idea you can throw at them.

            I really enjoyed this article, it kept a good balance between humour and insightful logic. I opt my 5 year old daughter out of Access ministries conversion program. There is no way that I want her to be programmed into believing in hell and damnation. I’m happy with her believing in dragons and flying on broomsticks. But she’s only 5, and so that’s excusable. Grown ups believing in sky fairies and the end of the world, damnation and brimstone. That’s just sad.

            My daughter will grow up and hopefully engage her logical faculties to her fullest and she can make up her own mind. Without the baggage of sin on her shoulders, pushed by evangelical kiddy-fiddling do-gooders.

      • Jayel says:

        Don’t know if you will see this now, but just in case. In Qld it _is_opt-in, they just want you to think it’s opt-out. The school is supposed to use the information from the optional question about your religion on the enrollment form to assign kids to RI or an alternative activity. If you put ‘none,’ leave the question blank, or put a religion for which the school does not offer RI, then the school is required to automatically assign that child to an alternative activity in a separate space during RI time. RI is _not_part of the curriculum and is voluntary although it is conducted during teaching time (and non-participating children are expressly prohibited from doing curriculum work!!!!!). The school is _not_ allowed to automatically put all children in the RI class, although they will try and make you think it’s okay. Check out the Education Queensland website and write a complaint to Student Services. I did this just this year and EQ obviously put the pressure on the school, which now complies with the regulations. As a result, where my kids used to be the only ones in the class that didn’t do RI, there are about 8-9 kids in each class now not participating. People’s choices are finally being respected – albeit, under duress!

    • Chris says:

      Actually in QLD they removed “secular” from the Education Act in 1910.
      Not that I know of difference with the Victorian situation (e.g. http://www.abc.net.au/religion/articles/2010/11/12/3064959.htm ), except chaplains shouldn’t be able to get in assembly prayers there.
      I think it was a Vic anecdote where agnostic child was ostracised by peers after RE lady individually asked if you believed in God, with a lolly-pop to reward the affirmative.

  23. Matt says:

    It’s one thing to argue that the Ministry of Flying Cheese shouldn’t be allowed to teach kids about how they’re going to Hell if they don’t repeat a bunch of random words in a made-up language six times a day. But obviously grossly absurd arguments can make it easier to discard your point (although it’s not any less wrong to do so because of it).

    Imagine the hue & cry if a different “mainstream” religion (say, for example, oh I don’t know, Islam) got money from the government to go into schools and try to convert children. Imagine how fast the politician who signed up to give them money would be cast down. Imagine the outrage!

    Why, then, is it okay for extremist (or any) Christians to do it?

  24. As an atheist who sends his kid to a Catholic school, what’s been surprising is that they teach religion on a more or less comparative basis, with a heavy dose of secular ethics and encouragement of critical thinking amongst the kids.

    Sure, there’s a religious basis for their classes (you’d expect that in a Catholic school), but it’s far from the thickly laid on fear of God stuff Access and its ilk does.

    • Kathy says:

      That was my experience when I attended a Christian school, too. I don’t remember any ‘scare tactics’ being used at all. In terms of religious education, the lesson I remember most was one in which the three major world religions where compared and constrasted.

  25. Real Live Actual Free-Thinking Human Being says:

    This world will only improve when the last president is strangled with the entrails of the last priest.

  26. RealChristiansStayOutOfSecularSociety says:

    “Anyone who believes in the literal truth of the Bible believes… they need to convince you.” Disagree.

    I believe in the literal truth of the bible where Christians to stay out of politics and secular society and I don’t believe I need to convince you of anything.

    • geoff lemon says:

      Then you’re a good egg. But generally literalists read the passages about testifying, spreading the word, and so on, and take that as an instruction. You’d have to admit the missionary urge has been a defining characteristic of Christianity.

      • Married to Christ says:

        Didn’t European Xians conquer the world for Jesus since the 16th Century? At least that was the excuse for killing and enslaving all the natives for a handsome profit.

        Now that the world has been divided up they want to take our children for Christ.

      • RealChristiansStayOutOfSecularSociety says:

        It’s a free country – you can spread the word if you want. You shouldn’t get tax-payer funding for it. You shouldn’t be teaching it in schools. But if someone wants to knock on your door or a parent wants to take their child to church, I’m not going to stop them or criticise them.

        • Bare and Phalanxed says:


          If they aren’t taxpayer-funded, no one needs to slam them. That’s what the front door’s for. Personally I find Jehovah’s Witnesses far less pushy than the gas and electricity salesmen. Funny how they give you doomsday-themed pamphlets with that benign grin of theirs though. Um, that’s the JWs, not the energy salesmen.

  27. Dimentagon says:

    Hey Geoff wanna join my church of the poisoned mind? We dont bugger anyone under 18 and its voluntary. Your free to make up your own mind unless you pass out at which point we inflict the ancient ritual of facial texta adornment….We do one recrutement drive a year during schoolies….Again Pal you nailed it…Fred Vile is neither Christian nor democratic.

  28. Really, a lot of the sheer batshit madness in the world would be solved by a simple class called ‘Comforting Lies You Might Choose to Believe In’.

  29. Omar says:

    Geoff, make love to me. Right now. Please?

    Or if that’s too creepy, convert your essence to some kind of mass-produced energy drink so that I might consume you on a more regular basis.

    Yeah, that was much less creepy…

  30. cam says:

    The bit that always gets me is; If someone put forward that we should be teaching Islamic studies, they’d be laughed at. I don’t see a difference… I guess ignorance really is bliss.

  31. Lulu says:

    I am a Christian. There, I’ve said it. However, I have some issue with religion, so I am not a member of a church. I believe strongly that there is no place for religion in politics or schools. The politics part there isn’t much I can do, but the schools part I can. I contend that religious education is the responsibility of the church and family. So, my children go to state school and are opted out of scripture and attend ethics class instead. I realize that those of you outside NSW do not have this option, but nor will we if Fred Nile gets his way.

  32. Classic. Thanks for the laugh. It’s rare that I read a blog where I agree with every single word, but this was one of them.

  33. Pingback: There’s a new Heathen Scripture | 2000faces

  34. james morrison says:

    and think about how much better off we’d be if that money was spent on grammar and punctuation…

    • Anfalicious says:

      You should have either started your sentence with an ellipsis or a capital T at the beginning of “think”.


  35. Ted says:

    Geoff, I think this is a fucking cracking article. Alot of it resonates with me very strongly, in particular your references to yourself not being a Christian basher (although I did manage to offend a group of them on the weekend playing a particualrly angry song by a System of A Down too loudly on my car stereo) and your fetish for masturbating in the cinema. Like yourself, I do get highly offended when Christians, or a person of any religious belief for that matter, feels obliged to ram their point of view down other people’s throats. So not cool. It’s a sad indictment on our society that the likes of Fred Nile and his ilk get this sort of airplay. Someone just needs to declare large amounts of bullshit on him once and for all and get rid of him. Speaking of which, I know some people so all I need is the word…..

  36. 2000faces says:

    Once again Geoff, outstanding article, prescient, well written, funny and a healthy, intelligent discussion in the comments. Keep ’em coming!

  37. Nic says:

    perfect. just perfect.

  38. Amy Edwards says:

    Well said, except for one point which deeply disturbs me…. Apollo 13? Who’s whacking off to Apollo 13?
    I’m all about tolerating other religions and points of view, but asking me to tolerate the viewpoint that Apollo 13 is wank worthy is asking too much of my accepting nature!

    • geoff lemon says:

      Gary Sinise sweating in space? ASTEROID HARD.

      • Wil says:

        Gary Sinise didn’t go into space – it was Tom Hanks. Had it been the former, I might have gone there with you. But Tom Hanks? Seriously. Tom Hanks and cinematic masturbation go together about as well as RE and a secular education system….

  39. Marian Wright says:

    Once again a brilliant read – and so relevant given the recent events in Oslo. If I ever have to send my child to a school where Religion is taught on a mandatory basis – I will home-school her. Fred Nile is an oxygen thief and so are the people that give him a platform.

  40. Jesse Archer says:

    I’m with you – teaching religion to children is tantamount to child abuse. It should be outlawed and marched and protested against. Of course, all religions know – give them the child until he/she’s 7, and they’ll have the adult. Those tentacles of which you speak should be outlawed until an age of consent – like cigarettes. Then we’ll see how many hateful addicts we’d have.
    As Jonathan Swift said, ““We have just enough religion to make us hate, but not enough to make us love one another.”

    • RealChristiansStayOutOfSecularSociety says:

      I take umbrage with your view – if a parent wishes to teach their child religion, they have that right.

      • geoff lemon says:

        Legally, yes they do. Morally, I very strongly disagree. It’s a choice individuals should be able to make on a well-informed basis.

        • RealChristiansStayOutOfSecularSociety says:

          Do you, like Jesse here, consider it child abuse? It’s a claim you would make to 70-90% of parents on this planet.

          • Ben says:

            What’s the critical mass of parents that would need to be abusing their children before it would stop being child abuse?

          • Chris says:

            I think it depends on what & how you teach and how it develops with age, and whether you’re suppressing their thinking/critical faculties and imagination, or teaching them a superiority complex or judgmentalism, or making it (or scripture) fundamental to their identity, or to be inauthentic, and whether they learn ethical/loving thinking beyond morality by divine fiat. As an atheist+humanist, I still believe an ingrained(unconscious) & reflective philosophy+praxy is important (“if you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything”), and agree with Gandhi-ji that every individual has a religion (praxy). No parent’s been accused of child abuse with regard to Santa! Positive Psychology suggests to me that good religion may offer much that helps a child, would be better than an insecure and reactive kid, and will help them be spirited even if they decide later they don’t believe (at which point I hope they understand/learn without too much pain about consciousness and enlightenment).

  41. marksmum says:

    Thank you for making me laugh about an issue that has, of late, caused me nothing but anger, which – as you know – is not good for the soul (if such a thing exists). Your writing is intelligent as well as funny – and puts perspective back into the debate. Fred Nile has somehow crawled out from under the lunatic fringe and needs to be put back there.

  42. Nick says:

    Absolute Gold !…. I always have a ball with the Jehovah’s when they come door knocking in my neighbourhood. and stand on the front deck arguing with them for 3-4 hours some times, even to the point that they seem to be trying to exit the discussion in what seems to be a sign of retreat… they do not come after doing this 2 times. I always think back to that John Safron Doco, where he door knocks in Mormon capital, “Salt Lake City – Utah”, trying to push atheism onto them early on a Sunday morning.
    I sometimes wonder about the debate of PC going overboard is just a veiled attempt by some of these groups to take away the legal processes in place to protect parents out there from this shit being taught in a secular school system ? do you follow where I’m going ?
    Some lady on my FB, whom I hardly know…. started posting some defamatory comments about an article of Stephen Hawking in which he said that God does not exist and heaven is a fairy tale, I briefly read the link she posted and it was an extract from a speech he gave at some cosmology convention in the UK somewhere…. Now, realising who Stephen Hawking is, the press love somethings that stirs the pot…. and they know what his views are, so its not surprising they publish this in a mainstream rag, probably laughing to themselves at the ensuing kafuffle between conservative church leaders and conservative atheists. The bit that kinda made me laugh was… Hang on a second…. He was at a cosmological convention…. Ummm, isn’t that what they talk about there ??…. I don’t get outraged and offended when I turn on the TV on Sunday morning and see more and more of these US tele-evangelists that tell me its the end days, and where all goin to hell if I don’t subscribe to there thought processes… (speaking of offensive How bout the one with the name “Creflow Dollar”) Anyway my point is, I expect to hear that… because thats the premise of the show…. surely she could of applied the same logic to Stephen Hawking ? I’d love to see how her faith holds up if she had to spend most of her life debilitated in a wheelchair !
    Anyway, as always you’ve made me think and laugh today, thanks !

    • Anfalicious says:

      I’ve successully converted a mormon one sunny Saturday afternoon. He came armed with the bible, whilst I was surrounded with all of my texts for my Historical Jesus class.

  43. uprightaussiegurl16 says:

    This is just Joo-liar and her Labour stooges allowing more middle eastern nonsense to be peddled to our unsuspecting youth on the taxpayer dollar.

  44. Harley says:

    Yes, very good 🙂

  45. hools says:

    Another excellent article. Thank you for your humorous but logical and articulate rants Geoff.

  46. Religion is the exercise of power. Faith is a personal believe in something intangible. says:

    Completely agreeing with you (I’m a secondary teacher in a NSW government high school). Mind you, have you come across the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster? It started as a protest to the idea of Intelligent Design being taught alongside Science in Kansas. Some of the arguments you make about all religions or none are similar. Here’s a link: http://www.venganza.org/about/open-letter/

  47. Anfalicious says:

    “Meaning students are told that God exists, not that Christians believe God exists.”

    If anyone can’t read around Lemon’s hyperbole to get to the point, that’s it right there. I’m a History and Philosophy teacher, and I have a minor in Religious and Spirituality studies. I’ve studied in an academic context the wide swath of Christianity (down to the Gnostics, Mystics and Coptics etc.), Judaism, Hinduism, Islam, Jainism, Buddhism, Transcendentalism, Sikhism… You get the point, I know my shit. I have a Masters degree in teaching; I not only know my shit, I know how to teach shit.

    Tell me again how access ministries are more qualified than me to be doing this? There are thousands of qualified teachers throughout the land with the skills to pay the comparative religion bills. I’m all for teaching comparative religion, but let’s make it comparative and taught by teachers.

    • stacy says:

      Sorry Anth, I have to disagree with you in part on this. While I firmly agree that religion of all types (at the very least the majority ones) should be taught in a fair and balanced manner and the best way to give a historical and philosophical understanding would be to have this taught by someone like yourself. I don’t agree that this should be the only picture painted of a religion because practice and theory are very different and culture and tradition weigh heavily on religious beliefs. My concern would be that the moderates would be overshadowed by the extremists.

      My only desire for the teaching of religious education in schools is to promote tolerance between people of different faiths (sorry atheists, you do a terrible job at this too). I don’t believe this is ever going to be possible world-wide but should be encouraged in a multicultural, supposedly secular society like Australia. The majority of Christians are good people who keep to themselves and try and put their beliefs into practice (be good to others, give to the poor, practice love over hate) and so are the Muslims and Hindus and Buddhists and Jews, who’s basic theology is exactly the same. I bet a number of Australians don’t even realise that the Jews, Christians and Muslims worship the same God. That is what we should be teaching our kids.

      What happens after death is the big difference and that discussion should remain between you and your religious authority.

      • Anfalicious says:

        I’m unsure what you’re disagreeing about… 😛

        I think it’s important to teach both theory and practice, but it should be taught as “this is what X religion believes/does” not “this is what is true”. I’ve also mellowed a lot in the last few years and realise that my previous flights of hyperbolic ranting do not translate appropriately to the classroom 😛 I had a few Christians in my Philosophy class last year and Nietzsche was prescribed (you *have* to cover him, he is that important) and I was very careful to explain that Nietzsche said “God Is Dead”, not that I am saying God Is Dead, and that that was a metaphor etc. Then I put them on to Soren Kierkegaard who is, without a doubt, my favourite Christian scholar. As I’ve mentioned elsewhere he believed that spirituality is a personal relationship with God that can’t be mediated through a Church; something I am in furious agreement with.

        I’ve now lived long enough to see faith and spirituality do some great things, and to learn that it is something that is fundamental and essential to the human existence. I think religion is, by and large, a roadblock to that.

        • stacy says:

          That’s the thing, you can take on religion in a very ‘clinical’ way and it will not promote either tolerance or understanding. Children shouldn’t be taught about other religions so they know better ways to criticize them. I think interaction is the key in whatever way that would be possible. Putting a real face to a religion can teach a lot about how similar everyone really is. I really wish the government would favour this form of curriculum.

          There is always going to be religion in this world. Athiesm doesn’t give the starving and poverty stricken a reason to get up in the morning. It is a belief that there is a higher being that has a purpose for them and gives them hope. Only people who live a comfortable life have the luxury of questioning the existence of God.

          • geoff lemon says:

            I think that’s a pretty rash generalisation. You’re basically saying there have never been any atheists among the poor and downtrodden. The hard parts of life inspire some to faith for reassurance, and instil in some the complete confidence in an absence of any divinity. My studies into WWII POW camps showed fascinating examples of how terrific hardship affected people in different ways.

          • Anfalicious says:

            I don’t see why there’s any problem with saying “this is what people do”. I don’t understand why you think there is some moral action in that. If people choose to use knowledge to be critical, well, then, I consider that to be the job of education. I think your insinuation that attacks on religious people happen because people know about what they do is erroneous.

            The second paragraph is absurd. I’ll bet dollars to donuts that what motivates the poverty stricken to get up in the morning is hunger, not religion. After all, giving the hungry food has been one of the primary sales techniques of religion. I think depending on a transcendental being to take care of your earthly needs is the luxury of the rich, not atheism.

          • simulacrum says:

            “There is always going to be religion in this world. Athiesm doesn’t give the starving and poverty stricken a reason to get up in the morning. It is a belief that there is a higher being that has a purpose for them and gives them hope. Only people who live a comfortable life have the luxury of questioning the existence of God.”

            – Not only patronising but presumptuous. What would they need to be questioning if they were never taught that there was a god in the first place? Atheism isn’t necessarily “a questioning” of something, it’s remaining in the default state in which you were born… even the pope was born an atheist.

    • MsD says:

      And now you’re just making me hot, anafalacious.

      • Anfalicious says:

        My arts degrees bring all the boys to the yard
        And they’re like, it’s better than yours
        Damn right it’s better than yours,
        I can teach you, read some Kierkegaard

        LTU represent 😛

        • liam says:

          Anfalicious, I mostly agree with you, but I don’t think we need to bring out the big guns here. I could teach religion, here is my Curriculum.
          Lesson #1 “What we know for sure”
          Make class sit in silence for 30 minutes. Eventually kid raises hand.
          Student: “Sir, Are you going to say anything?”
          Me: “What’s the title of the class?”
          Student:”What we know for sure?”
          Me: “Yes. And this silence is the best way for me to demonstrate what we know for sure. For the next class, please believe what you WANT.”

          Bell Rings

          • Anfalicious says:

            Heh. You’d have a riot on your hands 😛 The UK is showing us what bored teenagers are capable of 😛

            I think it’s important that kids know things like Hindus don’t eat meat and Muslims have Friday as a holy day. We have to interact with these people in our daily lives and not only does knowledge breed trust and tolerance, but it also avoids the Faux Pas of serving sausage rolls and wine to your Muslims work mates.

  48. cheryl nekvapil says:

    What should education in a democracy look like?? Whose view does it represent? Who are we as human beings? From where are ethics derived? Imagine: IF there was a religious lesson taught in school, that every religious practitioner around could offer lessons, parents or students themselves could choose which one or ones (change over time) they participated in, then the school could be a society which reflects more truly the society we live in; maybe it’s the lack of education in this sphere which makes the subject so fraught? It would be an interesting idea to have those teachers teach the other one’s religion, and not teach their own!

  49. moz says:

    As far as I know the claim is not that any particular religion is correct, merely that knowlege of a particular religion improves outcomes for children. I say let them produce it. There’s no need to be rude or unpleasant about this, let’s just examine the evidence the same way we do for any other educational intervention.

    Then, of course, we decide based on short-term political considerations, but at least let’s go through the pretence of looking at the evidence.

    • Anfalicious says:

      The problem is that Access Ministries here in Vic (similar things are happening elsewhere I’m sure) are actively and openly evangelising to children and they provide 90% of the RE classes in public schools.

      There is definitely a place for religious education in schools, just no place for evangelism.

      • geoff lemon says:

        If that means being educated about religions, yes. If it means being educated in the ways of a religion, no.

        • Anfalicious says:

          That’s what I’m saying. Chucking the comparative baby out with the evangelistic bathwater is like letting kids go through school without teaching them where China is.

  50. Tim says:

    I have to admit, the acl has done what a hardcore atheist professor, a bunch of atheist friends and an upbringing in a bible cult has not been able to do. Make me ashamed to call myself a christian.

    • Anfalicious says:

      I feel for ya Tim. So often I am reminded of the saying “Jesus, please save me from your followers”. Also, I know I’m guilty of putting blanket condemnation on Christianity and religion in general, but I know that for me, and many others I’m assuming, it’s not you I’m targeting and it’s really great to hear your voice in this argument to remind me to not generalise so much and that there are plenty of great and awesome people out there who also happen to be Christian.

  51. Neil RAYN says:

    Having been brought up in the Catholic system which to me meant being beaten by the nuns and the brothers,I never blamed them for giving me a belting because I worked out that it was mostly my own fault for being a little shit and well deserved.The only time I ever got pissed with them was when I was asked by the bishop if I understood what the catechism meant and I answered no,therefore I was the only 10 year old who didn’t become confirmed that year. The bloody penguins belted me again and informed me that I did know because they had told me they seemed to get a little upset when I protested about being thumped for telling the truth since then I have taken the attitude we can do without most if not all religions and definately without tossers like Nile and Phoney Tony Neil Ryan

  52. gruber12 says:

    Leanr the meaning of Atheist people, here ill help you

    Greek word: A-theos A= No, Theos= god/s. Now lets put the two together and still watch the idiots call it a religion that has a strict dogma and all the other fun things about what we have to believe or having nothing in our lives

    • Anfalicious says:

      Ugh. That is such a pointless exercise. Sure, etymology can help guide us, but the roots of a word are not the final arbiter; you can shout all you like about what words *should* mean, but if you don’t pay attention to how they are used you’re going to be often and commonly misunderstood. Using your method if I were to call you a “nice person” I would be saying that you are ignorant (nice originally meaning “not to know”); or I could call you an awful person, of course meaning that you are a wonderful, delightful, amazing person.

      If you’ve ever tried to convince a religious person they are wrong, you are evangelising your belief system.

  53. Tom says:

    You had me at “push deeper”. Awesome work.

  54. clarencegirl says:

    Enjoyed every word – starting at “Like” and ending with “home”. Keep up the good work!

  55. PW says:

    It seems that many people here believe that being a salesman for ‘no god’ defines atheism. This in my view is far from correct, as is the criticism of Dawkins… which is related, as he is most certainly the populist figurehead of atheism.

    Dawkins, like most atheists I know, is a salesman for science and the scientific method. He preaches rational thinking, thinking for yourself, and weighing the available evidence before making decisions based on the balance of probability. I have never understood why he has been demonised (pun intended) for encouraging people to think rationally, to question what they are told, and to make decisions based on the best available evidence.

    He does argue strongly that religion teaches people, especially children, to rely on ‘faith’ and what they are told, instead of their own intellects and critical thinking (I find this very hard to disagree with). This worldview is always going to leave you with enemies in the religious sector… but thank god for people like him throughout history – else we would all still believe the Earth was the centre of the universe.

    Most importantly, Dawkins never claims absolutes and always concedes his current worldview might be shifted by new evidence and explanations (that meet scientific criteria). I am quite proud to be classed a scientist and atheist – and believe these terms almost interchangeable.

    • David Lowery says:

      As a scientist I’m going to disagree. Real scientists can actually admit that they are wrong. They should not believe in absolutes, only infinitesimally small probabilities of it being otherwise. They are taught that the path to knowledge and understanding of that which is around and within us is through observation, questioning and experimentation. Most importantly they are taught not to overreach. That what we see, what we know, may not be all, and that there will almost inevitably come a day when much of what we think we know is no longer certain.

      Dawkins may have started out this way, advocating healthy skepticism and the quest for scientific knowledge and understanding rather than unquestioning belief in potentially dangerous myths, however somewhere along the way he seems to have fallen backwards onto a runaway train to Angryville, Absolutism.

      Science can provide you with a theory of the creation of the universe that does not require divine intervention, it can provide you with understanding of mechanisms responsible for evolution that do not require and indeed do away with notions of intelligent predesign and irreducible complexity. Science can do much, but it cannot test for the existence or non existence of a God or gods. There is a profound difference between saying, I see no reason why God must exist and saying, God does not exist.

    • Anfalicious says:

      Sorry, Dawkins may be a great scientist, but he is a terrible philosopher. I won’t use up Lemon’s blog to tell you the problems with The God Delusion, but most of them are covered well here: http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2007/jan/11/a-mission-to-convert/

      • liam says:

        Also, every time I see Dawkins talking to religious people, he’s always so condescending. I like Dawkins, and have read most of his books and watched many of his shows, but he is a really smarmy bastard. I’d punch him in the face, and I tend to agree with him!

        • Anfalicious says:

          Any lingering thoughts I had of being an Atheist were completely destroyed by Dawkins. I thought “if this is the best argument the Atheists have, I’m going to stick with I have NFI”.

          • simulacrum says:

            Being an atheist doesn’t mean you follow Dawkins or you positively assert that there is no God. The one and only thing all atheists have in common is that they don’t hold a belief in any gods.

      • PW says:

        All great pieces of writing connect with their intended audience, and the intended audience for the God Delusion was not theologians, philosophers or scientists (or any other dabbler in mental masturbation for that matter). Academics (of whom I am one) who pick it apart on scholarly grounds are judging the work on entirely the wrong basis.

        • Anfalicious says:

          Sorry, you don’t get to say “you’re argument is wrong because of these logical fallacies, here, let me show how my argument is right using the same logical fallacies”. If his intended audience was not theologians, philosophers or scientists then that’s an admission that he isn’t attempting a vigorous defence of his belief system, but a piece of evangelising propaganda. Why does religion have to stand up to scrutiny, but Dawkins doesn’t?

  56. elleandsam says:

    Religion doesn’t belong in schools, full stop. My children attend a religious program once a fortnight by my choice, at a church, nothing to do with a school. Any religious studies should be extra-curricula and on an opt-in basis.

    • David Lowery says:

      I’ll preface this by saying I don’t have kids la de da de da so if anyone chooses to they can discount anything I have to say about education and how to bring up children based on that. etc and so forth…

      Religion is part of society whether one likes it or not. The ability to belong to a religion of one’s choosing, or not belong by choice, is something our society takes for granted. Its something protected in the constitution (Section 116) and is definitely reflected in public policy “Australia has no official state religion and people are free to practise any religion they choose, as long they obey the law. Australians are also free not to have a religion……The Australian Government is also committed to encouraging mutual respect, understanding and tolerance among different religions and cultures in Australia and across the region.” (commonwealth) “All individuals and public institutions should respect and accommodate the culture, language and religion of others…” (nsw) etc.

      I would like to see education about religion and belief at schools, as part of a comprehensive curriculum reflecting this. Encouraging mutual respect and understanding seems to say non judgemental education about religious diversity to me. What better place than school for this education…..get em while they are young and their minds are still impressionable…one might say :). Get em while they are captive and before they stop listening I say. Teach ’em what religions, and other belief systems, there are in our country, what they believe, how everyone is free to make their own choice, advocate tolerance….When the overwhelming majority of people in this country affiliated themselves with one religion, maybe it was appropriate to teach one religion in school, but not now, and we’re only going to get more ethnically and religiously diverse in the future.

  57. James Cook says:

    The comparison of the plasma TV/God has been made above but I thought I would share my two cents.
    The idea that the sales rep “encouraging” you to purchase a Sharp plasma [my current “choice”], for instance, on the basis that it will allow to see all the vibrant colour, hear the crisp audio and that all other brands are somehow inferior and should have derision heaped upon them is no different than someone trying to sell you on a religion.
    EXCEPT that a TV is a consumable item, albeit an expensive one, but a consumable none the less. In a couple of years when I grow tired on my current choice, I will shop around and find a different brand to grace them space in front of my couch.
    Will people who grow tired of Christianity, because the words of the bible don’t sound as crisp as they once did, don’t conjure up the vibrant mental images as previous, shop around for something that now appeals to them, like Buddhism or Islam?
    As an adult, we have sufficient reasoning to look objectively at all the options [TV’s and religions] and pick the ones that appeal to us the most. Children just want something that makes Spongebob Squarepants look good and don’t really care about the label on the screen.
    So just let them watch cartoons until they can pick the TV that they want.

  58. MichaelEdits says:

    This post is truly a thing of beauty, which is exactly why the bastards will ignore it.

  59. Mark says:

    The only way New South Wales is going to seperate church from state now is to pull Fred’s head out of Barry’s formidible arse. Even then, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Fred licking his lips.

    • Anfalicious says:

      He has the gall to call Penny Wong “unnatural”… He’s the freak.

      • Charlie says:

        He called her that? Where can I read/rage about this?

        • Anfalicious says:

          He was quoted in the Herald-Sun today (I assure that I only read the Hun in public places to edit Andrew Bolt’s articles, today’s was a corker).

        • geoff lemon says:

          Just in the last day or two, re her baby announcement. A child having two mothers, he says, is a violation of its human rights. Yes, how terrible such a life must be. (Check Google News for articles…)

          • David Lowery says:

            Indeed. Unquestionably better for a child to grow up in an abusive or dysfunctional but ‘natural’ family rather than growing up in a loving family that breaks someone’s idea of what ideal and natural are.

  60. Bare and Phalanxed says:


    After reading the first paragraph I thought, Nah, there’s no way he can keep up this cracking quality throughout. The fool and his cynicism were soon parted. If I blindly threw one of those suction-cupped darts at my computer screen I’d have no doubt hit a quotable!

    Your gift for metaphor is unmatched.

    And thanks for not (directly) referencing Christian Brother Robert Best for a cheap laugh in reference to “easy access to children” and such…

    Spent thirteen years receiving a surprisingly liberal Catholic education, and although I had some pretty decent teachers, the only instance I was ever proud of being Catholic was when I first saw The Blues Brothers.

    Shit. Googled “blues brothers catholic” and it seems last year a Vatican newspaper endorsed the movie, deeming (dooming?) it a “Catholic Classic”…

    Farken Vatican. Ruins everything.

    • Anfalicious says:

      Got to give the Catholics some credit, it was a Catholic priest who came up with the Big Bang Theory… (no, not the tv show :P)

  61. wanetta says:

    Ive opted to send my children to a non religious school because i dont believe anybody else has the right to teach them about spirituality but me. at least then i know what they are learning and we can talk about it. I do agree with them studying belief systems, but not have to choose one until they are ready to do so, if ever. I teach them and show them different belief systems so they understand that there are many and everyone of them thinks that theirs is the right way or the way to live. I do try to encourage compassion to all human beings no matter what their age, race, or religion is because I believe we need more of this in a humanity..

    • Charlie says:

      Compassion – what a beautiful focus for spiritual education. Thank you for making a positive contribution. I am sure your children will be well-balanced, lovely people regardless of their eventual belief system.

  62. Gavin Bland says:

    Hey, hands off the crystal healers. I hadn’t realised crystals got sick!

  63. Mon says:

    Schools are for education. Homes are for teaching moral and ethics, no matter in which way you want to explain it.

    Parents should stop flaking off their responsibility to schools.
    end of story.

    • Anfalicious says:

      I disagree. As an educator, I believe that my role is train adults, not workers, giving them a grounding on how to deal with ethics and morals is essential to that (I teach comparative ethics, I do tell them I have a preference for Virtue Ethics, but that isn’t because other systems are wrong, just what I’ve found works for me).

  64. Sam says:

    Too true, every point you make, I remember first class of RI in school, the teacher told us the world is gonna end soon, nice way to traumatized 30 6 year olds..

  65. Cameron says:

    I read the first 50ish responses and jumped to the bottom to comment, so apologies if I am going over something someone has already said.
    Historically my family is working class North Shore of Sydney. We have hugely close connections to the local church there (Roman Catholic), my Grandmother was the head of the Catholic Womens Association for 30ish years and her 2 brother are Jesuits and the rest of that side of the family is very faithful – from my connection with them I know most of the local clergy by first name. So I had a pretty religious influence in my life as a child.
    At primary school I attended scripture (there was no other choice) at the public school I attended. Every lesson, every passage, every message I was told was true and all of it I believed. I was told by an adult that this was not a belief or one of many possible thoughts on life, I was taught that this was. I honestly believed thanks to the scripture lessons (and my own dose of behavioural quirks) that the only real option in life was to become a priest, following the logic that all that I was taught was true – being a priest was the only real employment that god could approve of and therefore should be done (opinions/beliefs have always being very black and white for me, thought this does show what a completely trusting interpretation of scripture classes says to a child). I firmly believed this all to be true, why would an adult at school say anything that wasn’t? its at school were you learn actual things, so why would this class be any different?

    It was not till several years later after the death of my dog which was hit by a car at 9 months that I learnt loss and could not find any answers in scripture that I started to see the flaws. Also assisted by reaching the age where I questioned more thoroughly – though this whole process of realisation is a side note to my point.

    Back to point – I firmly believed what I was told, as to challenge or even consider otherwise was contrary to everything your told to do at that age at school. This is indoctrination/grooming/manipulation/mind washing just to use a couple terms that are applied in other situations to exactly the same practice though sometimes for different purposes.

    Get religion out of our schools – children are still learning, if they are going to find ‘the way’ let them find it and don’t stick it down their throats!

  66. Thank you for this article. I attended private schools run by various religions (Presbyterian and Anglican) and my children attend a Catholic school, although they have attended public schools for most of their primary schooling. What I valued most about my schools was their ability to give me the option to believe in what I wanted – we had compulsory services to attend, but if you were not of the religion of the school you did not have to, and I appreciated that, even though I attended as I was part of the choir. I also valued the attention that went on religion other than Christianity in RE classes – particularly in high school. By no means do I agree with a one denominational religious education system in the public schools. That is massively wrong.
    Surely Christianity is strong enough that those who practice know they can teach their children at home and at church and if parents want them to be a part of it they will organise it- if the parents don’t choose this path for their kids does an organisation really have the right to choose it for them?

  67. Renee says:

    This was such a great read. Thank you. Very funny. I know some lovely, lovely Christians who lead by example. They would never ram their faith down my throat. They’re not hypocrites like Fred Nile. I really don’t understand what all this debate is about. I went to a Catholic High School (but am not a practicing Catholic now) and we learned about Christianity and Catholicism – but we also learned about all other religions AND atheism. Plus we studied ethics. And guess what? The sky didn’t fall down. Jesus didn’t weep. It IS possible to incorporate all those studies together. My school was not even that progressive. Thanks again!

    • liam says:

      I know some Muslims who lead by example, and some Jews, actually if you go far enough back, you’ll certainly find some Picts, Mesopotamians and even Neanderthals leading from the front. I think leading by example is more a rare human condition rather than a (rare) Christian one.

  68. liam says:

    I am still reading through the responses before I post my own full length refutation as I don’t want to offend anyone unduly, I do have one question for the Christians on here, who may be able to answer one question I have from the article

    “affirm[s] the divine inspiration, truthfulness and authority of both Old and New Testament Scriptures in their entirety as the only written word of God, without error in all that it affirms, and the only infallible rule of faith and practice.”

    If this is true, then why of the 12 disciples are there not 12 books of disciples in the present bible? Surely that is evidence that while some of the book MAY be the Word of God, (A big IF, but I’ll grant it for the sake of the discussion) it has been through the Editorial Process of Man. Reason enough to doubt no?

    • Anfalicious says:

      The disciples were illiterate. There is nothing contemporary of Jesus in the bible; the first (chronologically) gospel is Mark, written about 40 years after the death of Jesus. There is a general consensus amongst Historians that there is an earlier gospel (referred to in academia as the Q gospel), which may be more contemporary. There are also many other gospels that didn’t survive the cut when the canonical gospels were decided (about 185 c.e.). Christianity is better understood as a Pauline religion, as it was St. Paul (and later Augustine) who really formulated most of the doctrine (around 100 years after the death of Jesus). The editorial process has a long and disputed history, which is why there is not one church of Jesus.

      • liam says:

        Actually, I’ll have to jump in, I think they edited in 325 A.D. at the 1st Council of Nicea when the Emperor Constantine got them all together to make Christianity the state religion of the then Roman (but actually Byzantine) Empire. That’s when they set the date of Easter too. Before that, Christ’s death moved yearly!

        • geoff lemon says:

          Does is not still move yearly?

        • Anfalicious says:

          Nicea was about a range of issues to do with homogenising the Church; I was referring to the development of the tetramorph about a century and a half earlier. The two things are very linked, 150 years was a much shorter time in terms of intellectual development 2000 years ago, the council of Nicea is the end, the tetramorph is the beginning.

    • stacy says:

      I was brought up a Christian (a literal interpretation Christian too! *gasp*) I was never once taught that the Bible was the infallible word of God. In fact it was often discussed that the difficulties in translation of ancient texts and the humanity of the authors was the reason for the different accounts of the story of Jesus. I am sure there are some people who believe in the infallibility of the Bible, but I’ve never met one.

      Islam, on the other hand, is based on the fact that the Qur’an is the only religious text that is the direct and infallible word of God (Allah) and one must take an oath that they believe this is true in order to become a Muslim. Not believing this is a grave sin. This is the only religion I know which claims true infallibility of their scripture.

      • geoff lemon says:

        Totally disagree. It’s treated exactly the same way as the Bible is. There are leaders who say it is infallible (and they tend to be loudest). There are people who see it as such. These people are fundamentalist. But there are millions and millions of other Muslims who see it as a guide to how to live their lives that can be followed in spirit, rather than to the letter.

        You’re living in Saudi Arabia, which has the strictest state-enforced Islamic law in the world now the Taliban is gone. That’s not representative of Islam per se. I’ve lived in Malaysia, a Muslim country, and met hundreds of Muslims there and elsewhere who are permissive about the generally-quoted ‘forbidden’ acts, like drinking, eating pork, having pre-marital sex. These are things, they contend, that have no bearing on whether they are good Muslims. That depends on the bigger questions, like compassion and behaviour towards others. Just like most not-so-literalist Christians. Your Honour, it’s the constitution, it’s Mabo, it’s the vibe.

      • liam says:

        One word…Mormons

    • Adam says:

      Why does having 12 disciples require 12 biographies ? and flowing from that why would it mean That if there is not 12 it must have been edited?
      And if ST Paul knowingly made up his own religion why did he get his head cut off for it? Also anafal.. Paul- 100 years after Jesus? He hung out with Peter, Matthew John etc so he wa a little earlier than that an Augustine formulated his theology from the canon we have.

      • Anfalicious says:

        Mea Culpa, my dates are off. My point was that most of what we think of as “Christianity” is the writings of Paul, not the words of Jesus. If it weren’t for Paul Christianity would probably be about as popular as Zoroastrianism. I’m not trying to dis on Christianity here, just trying to respond to Liam’s question as to why there aren’t 12 accounts (even the idea of 12 apostles has to be taken with a grain of salt, it’s one of those numbers like 7 and 40 that have mystical meanings).

        Also, there is no credible evidence for Paul’s death; but even if we are to take the stories as true the reason he was killed is because he refused to acknowledge Nero as a God.

      • liam says:

        My point was that why are not 12 books? If he had twelve disciples, did they not have things to say? It is clear at least ONE book was left out (Thomas) as we know that it exists and was removed because parts of it were not “in line” with the chosen direction of the Faith. Therefore, it is clear that there has been at least SOME editing, making the Bible not the undiluted Word of God. I have no evidence that there were 12 books, only evidence that there are more than the commonly accepted ones. hence, editorializing.

  69. Ben Smash says:

    great article. i attended an anglican school in melbourne, and yeah there was chapel once a week, but aside from a few teachers, there wasn’t much pushing of religion. even the chaplains kept the preaching to chapel, and prayers to official events.

    the thought of kids actually being taught a fundamentalist view of the bible disturbs me, not just because i’m an atheist (how active one is in their disbelief changes nothing, all that is required to be an atheist is to lack belief), but because school already fucks kids up enough as it is. to actively and intentionally lie to kids you’re supposed to be teaching, is, to me at least, a failure in the duty of care that every school has for every kid within its prison fence.

    • Anfalicious says:

      A lie requires an act of bad faith; it has to be intentional. These people aren’t lying to children, but that doesn’t make what they are saying any more correct or any less insidious.

      • geoff lemon says:

        But they are lying about not trying to convert kids. Their true hope, however directly or indirectly they pursue it, is to win over more believers.

      • Ben Smash says:

        i have no doubt the people actually teaching the kids ken ham style creationism believe what they teach, it’s the employees of the school that are lying. the principles that believe this shit as much as most of us here, but don’t do anything to stop it. if a principle were to stand up, and tell these people exactly where they should shove the shit they’re peddling…to the point it would take a court hearing to get him to comply, that’s all we’d need. can you imagine how apeshit the media would go if they had their very own scopes trial to cover?

  70. mangofiend says:

    You raise some really relevant points in this article, that I’ve actually been thinking about a lot over the past few weeks.
    I’m currently seventeen, and I don’t pretend to know everything; I’m still learning about my faith. However, I have attended Catholic schooling all of my life, and only recently has it dawned on me that the way religion is fed to kids in schools is kind of… wrong. Growing up in such an environment, I was always encouraged to believe in God without questioning his existence at all; it was always presented as a fact, and I believe this is what is really dangerous. Kids at a young age in primary school rely so much on teachers for knowledge; they accept everything said to be true, because they are not taught to question (generally). Presenting God as fact in the same way you would the alphabet can have a dramatic impact on the way a child will grow and develop… but at the same time, encouraging a disbelief in God can have an equally dramatic impact. Discussing this with my friends, we pondered whether the acceptance/rejection of a God in these early years actually impedes on your ability to believe/disbelieve later in life, as you begin to form certain thinking habits that become quite concrete over time. What worries me is that having an open mind really does not seem to be encouraged, and to me that’s the best thing you can teach kids.
    True, my parent’s decided to send me to a Catholic school, and being taught about God counts for a percentage of the hefty fees. But that wasn’t my choice. And now I feel slightly… dissatisfied. That I had my faith unquestioningly fed to me from such an early age, without room for other opinion. I mean, I’ve grown a brain and learnt now to think for myself and make my own choices, but not everyone else has. I don’t think that such a biased religious education should even be offered to children who attend specialised relgious schools, let alone state schools. As you so fittingly suggested – “if you truly believe that your path is the one, and your light is the brightest, and your truth is the truth of the universe, then I challenge you: have the courage of your convictions. Leave it alone, trust in its inherent rightness and strength, and let people find out for themselves.” I think that’s the light right there, I just wish people could see it.

    • Well mangofiend, you are clearly thinking for yourself. Sretch out and grow. You need to question everything. Rely on reproducible evidence.

      Many of the previous comenters deride Dawkins for lambasting religion. But he and Hawking don’t completely rule out a god or gods. They just point out that evidence for such beings is so scant that the probability for their existence is so infinitesimally small, that there really is no penalty for not believing in them.

      And that they would, like any scientist, adjust their world view if enough reproducible evidence was presented to argue a better case. The key points being that there must be evidence and it can be independently reproduced. A good argument is implied in any scientific debate and scientists will concede their point when the evidence is against their hypothesis.

    • geoff lemon says:

      Great comment, mangofiend, and thanks for joining in.

      You’ve summed up exactly the problem as I see it. Arguing against God based on logic is dismissed with the assertion that God is a matter of faith. Yet God is presented by religious organisations to students as a matter of fact. They can’t argue as fact something which they require faith to believe. And trying to herd others into sharing that faith is, in my view, wrong. (Note how ‘herd’ has such a negative connotation, yet ‘shepherd’ is such a recurring scriptural motif…)

      That’s why I’d argue no-one should encourage a belief or a disbelief in God. Learning about religions is fine, just as you learn about countries and cultures and languages. They’re part of the human story. That’s very different to being encouraged to subscribe. Which leads to where you are now – a place of some confusion about what is real. At least you’re reaching a point where you’re questioning and seeking your own answers, which some others might find harder to start to do.

      • mangofiend says:

        That’s really how I see it. Not to mention I feel pretty angry about actually being taught creationism in primary school as well, which just led to more confusion as I began to learn about science and evolution. Questioning God, and the nature of God (‘How can he be three things but one thing at the same time?’ was a question I often pondered as a child) was frowned upon, as we were simply encouraged to accept. Its so wrong that such a narrow-minded worldview can be forced upon such malleable minds.

        I completely agree. I think children should be well informed in the history and nature of various religions, but in a way that simply shows they are common beliefs held by different groups of people, and by no account true. It’s only now in my twelfth year of schooling that I am being taught a completely objective view of religions, including Christianity, and you know… it’s great. Religion is such an important aspect of human nature and I feel everyone needs to be educated in order to understand our history, present and future. Only when you are properly educated can you really commit to a faith, and that makes the connection you have with that faith all the more special, because you truly believe it is worth it, and it’s not just a handed-down habit or title.

        And while I’m here, can I just say how much I enjoy your blog – it’s entertaining and yet thought provoking, and you voice many of my own opinions. Thanks!

  71. Dave says:

    What a great article! The amount and quality response being testament. I’ve read halfway through them, but I’ve yet to read any views on the “Alien Intervention theories”. I do believe in God by the way. I liken it/him/her to an energy, a force. Both alpha & omega, positive and negative. You choose which side, Luke!

    However, being a child who was brought up wondering, after reading “Chariots of the Gods”.
    I began searching and reading the literal translations of the bible, taken from the Greek “Dead Sea Scrolls”.

    Mentions of mercy seats, flying machines, jacob’s ladder, the ark of the covenant, the levite’s in leveticus. Man! Even the angels who visited the father of Samson and passed a light over the uncooked feast, prior to his barren wife being impregnated (yes, there’s a few of these miracle births mentioned.) I felt compelled to write about it and then after 6 chapters, I found this book:
    http://www.bibleufo.com/ They covered most of it pretty aptly.

    Hey why not? If you except God was/is supernatural, why not alien?

  72. Magda says:

    This is a slight departure from the article (which I enjoyed immensely — thank you) but I would like to say that I am as offended by some atheists telling me what NOT to believe as I am by some religious people telling me what TO believe — lay off, the lot of you.

    • PW says:

      I think sometimes people confuse atheist campaigns against the influence of religious groups (i.e., tax exemptions, and the influence of religion in schools and politics), with attempts to push atheistic beliefs onto individuals.

      I am a member of an atheist organisation, so know a few… and my perception is that when it comes to individuals, our mandate stops at encouraging people to think for themselves and engage in critical thinking (i.e., the scientific method) . If individuals take this approach they generally come to the same (broad) conclusions re organised religion – but for it to stick it is best people reach that conclusion of their own accord.

      We (as atheists) are certainly mobilising in terms of lobbying to end government assisted religious recruitment and propaganda – and will continue to do so!! But this should not be confused with promoting anti-god beliefs on an individual level (and apologies from my lot if this has happened to you – bad form).

  73. Richard says:

    Such a great post. I am also incedibly impressed by the majority of the responses in the comments and that a discussion such as this has remained so civil. Please don’t stop writing!

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  75. Daniel says:

    I always see people try to seperate what it is to be an atheist and what it is to be agnostic, you aren’t one or the other, if you’re asked the question ‘do you believe in god?’ and you cannot truthfully answer with a ‘yes, i do’ then you are an atheist, in this case any answer other than yes, is as good as a no. Most people who say ‘oh I’m not an atheist, I’m an agnostic’ are actually agnostic atheists, by taking the stance ‘I don’t know’, which is essentially what agnosticism is, you’re admitting you aren’t convinced by the religious argument, so you cannot answer that all important question with a yes, ergo, atheist.

    • Bridey Sabin says:

      I am an athiest but i do try to apply some of the teachings ascribed to Jesus to my life, but as my wise daughter pointed out, that just means I’m an rational ethical humanist. Wow, that a lot of things to be, and it would be nice to bundle it into one system of thought with logic as the guiding principle.

  76. john bliss says:

    i love this blog……. finally…. a rational human being…

  77. Clemenceau says:

    In the part of France I’m from, catholic religion is included in the school program. You can opt-out, but few people do.
    At some point it gave me a quite genuine faith in God, but after several years of thinking and talking with (drunk) people, I changed my mind.

    Sadly we can’t trust governments, teachers, policemen or even hippies to educate our children, they’re too likely to be selfish jerks, only trying to persuade others to agree with their ideas (or with profitable ideas, I’m not sure this deaf-and-dumb-cleaning-lady-fucker priest of my village has any faith at all).

    If you don’t want your kids to be impressionable, educate them well, make them think, question them.
    I don’t have any mercy for people who’s kids join sects, they could have helped them to think. It’s sad for the kids though, but with such parents, they’re pretty much sentenced from the beginning…



  78. Zoe says:

    I got sucked in by religion classes at my secular primary school. Seriously. Mrs Trail or Snail. They leashed her upon our fragile 6 and 7 year old minds. She brought lollies and was really old and sweet. We did fun stuff like colouring in pictures of Jesus and went to visit the local Church where she mapped out of futures of choir singing church goers and I was head over heels in love with God and Jesus and my future as a singer. I went home and told my atheist mother that I was going to be a nun so could I be baptised ASAP please- how dare she put my place in Heaven in jeopardy?
    Thankfully my critical thinking self eventually emerged, and my ideas around Christianity have evolved and continue to do so. Unfortunately, it was a little too late. Now my family have a whole heaps of “When Zoe was a Christian” stories they like to bring out at key moments- when there is someone new around; someone to impress around; when I am engaging in a rant similar, but less eloquent, than the one above. Family and company laugh. I cringe. Still. 21 years later (although that number is slightly inaccurate as my Christian episode latest a number of years). And in those moments I curse Mrs S/Trail.

  79. Eleanor says:

    An excellent article. It’s just a shame about the title because it means I won’t share it on Facebook.

  80. Jacksstar says:

    I grew up a Catholic and went to Catholic schools, I then went on to teach religion in one of those Catholic Schools. I dont know what I believe except that I believe there is more than just us in this world. What I took from Catholic classes at school was no matter what is out there life is about being a kind and thoughtful person and this is what I have taken away from them. I appreciated learning about religion in school because as we can see with the comments above, religion is something that gets people passionate, it is something that exists and isnt going anywhere so I am glad that I understand aspects of religion and religious talk whilch i wouldnt have been as exposed to in other schools, I have met many angry people in my lifetime so far who get so worked up and desperate to prove religion doesnt exist but they dont really have a reason why they are so desperate to prove this, apart from the fear that they will be seen as a ‘sucker’. Sure I dont agree that religion should be pushed down kids throats in school but I think its good for them to know what people believe so that one day they can make up their own mind in an informed manner. (my schools were Catholic schools but we learnt about belief systems of all religions)

  81. Crusader Rabid says:

    You want to masturbate in a cinema … to Apollo 13? Why don’t YOU stay the f*ck away from children?

    • Chris says:

      Geoff didn’t say he was going to schools – as long as Fred Nile isn’t.
      Do you reckon every-think in those scriptures is true?!

  82. michael says:

    I was at a catholic wedding on the weekend, bored off my tits while they traipsed through that stodgy old liturgy of mumbo jumbo they wrap around weddings and funerals and suddenly WHAM!! I saw the light!
    The groom’s niece got up to make a reading. She was 9, all bright eyed and so mind-bogglingly certain about the gospel she was intoning. I felt so sad for her and started to wonder whether she’d ever get to think for herself. Then she came out with the line of the year, straight from John 1.18…
    “no one has ever seen god”
    Well, fuck me with a feather duster and call me susan. There it was, hiding in plain sight, the immortal truth came out, it;s all smoke and mirrors, there’s not even a wizard behind the curtain… and all the whole damn congregation could manage was to mindlessly cross themselves and start up their catholic aerobic-lite routine again…kneel, pray, stand, genuflect, sing, bow your head. My head was spinning. I was back at school, it was “Simon says” all over again. Talk about denial…
    So here’s the question. If John can’t get a look in and see the big dog, then what chance do the rest of you have?
    Reminds me of when the 7th Day Adventists came knocking and told me there was room in Heaven for 12,000 from each of the 12 lost tribes of Israel. I pointed out that mathematically speaking, with 7 billion souls on the planet the odds of getting a look in was 9.9 to the minus 13. With only a religious education, no background in mathematics and a mind closed to the concept of debate than he was off the doorstep faster than you can say hellfire and damnation. Next day, another knock, another 7th day adventist. It was up-sell time. Apparently there was way more room in Heaven now, it had been expanded and I was now welcome (provided I tithed to the church). Sensing the opportunity for a little fun I made an offer in return. “Join us” I said “we’re worshippers too, right this minute we’re sacrificing a vestal virgin to the devil beelzebub himself on the back lawn and, you’re a virgin, right?”
    He never came back for his clipboard, dropped as it was in devilish haste as he fled. No sense of humour these god botherers, just a god-given immunity, sponsored by our vote-chasing pollies to imprint trauma and guilt on young minds. Didn’t work on me, thank God. At seven I spat god’s dummy once and for all. One spiritual “lesson” with a nonce in a Sunday School basement (thanks for that Mum, fortunately she kicked the religion habit soon after) was all it took for me to fly the coop. I remember sitting there thinking “you can’t be serious” and when I made that observation I was told I was too young to think for myself and Jesus knew what was good for me. So I walked out.
    So here’s the deal. You don’t pray in my schools and I won’t think in your church.

    • Scenic route to hell says:

      I like it, great post Michael 🙂
      When I was 8 or 9 I remember walking home with my brother one day and having an out of the blue revelation: There is no God!! Simple.
      I felt a little disappointed. When I told my little brother the news he said: “I didn’t think there was…”

      And that… was that.

      • michael says:

        Back in 1979 in year 12 at our state school in NZ I was in the school play, a black comedy about a hanging judge who accidentally hangs himself while dressed in a tutu. Kinky start I know…The estate is left to his nephew who when he prays he hears himself, and ipso facto, declares therefore he must be God.
        The headmaster had a fit when he saw it, the 2nd and 3rd nights got cancelled, the students and our english teacher were threatened with suspension. “How dare we blaspheme?!” I told the headmaster, one it was art, two the school did not have a religious mandate and I therefore objected to having to sing a hymn in assembly and three, surely education was about learning to evaluate information and points of view. He then threatened to cane me for insubordination, to which I replied that would show he had lost control of his rationality.
        The year after I left he got caught out. He’d been filming schoolboys he caned with their buttocks bared. He claimed he was “researching” the effects of caning with regards to breaking the skin and bruising, but in reality he was another god-bothering pervert who deservedly lost his job.
        The point of that history expose was to note that yet again the god bothering whack jobs are the ones we need to protect our children from, no more so than those crazies at a conference yesterday (also attended by the two queensland muppets Barnaby Joyce and Bob Katter) who denounced Penny Wong and said that fatherless children raised by lesbian parents all become drug addicts and kill themselves. Unbelievable…but true.

  83. mellie says:

    As usual, a wonderful article Geoff, is people had an inkling of ethics they would take your column on board. I too believe religion should only be taught as a general year 11+12 subject where all religions are closely studied. Private school religion classes and public classes should not exist and be mandatory from years 7-10. It is up to the more elder and more mature students to choose study such a controversial aspect of life.

  84. John Jacobs says:

    Religion is not education. Religion is a delusion. Adults have no place sharing their delusions with other people’s children, particularly when they’re presenting their delusion as factual in a setting where they can be mistaken for, and given validity as, ‘actual’ educators. Adults who believe in Gods, are in my view, cognitively impaired and incapable of progressing critical thoughts to a logical conclusion.

    As a safety precaution I teach my children to be very wary of religious people and not to be alone in a room with them or aggravate them. I apply the same precautions to climate change activists and politicians of any persuasion, they’re all trying to blow smoke up your arse and take your wallet with their doomsday predictions.

    Let’s face it, we’re talking about people who believe that every species of animal on earth lived with walking distance of Noah’s house.

    Another smashing article BTW

  85. Sorana says:

    Love your work!!!

  86. oldchook says:

    Another fantastic article from the ace of analogies!! So encouraging to see so many thoughtful and civilised contributions to the EPIC ensuing dialogue. Thanks for the entertaining read 🙂 If we all learnt and practiced the core virtues of love and respect for our fellow human beings perhaps the world would be a much better place.

  87. looweez1969 says:

    As a student banned from religious education classes by the head nun at my catholic high school, I concur with the sentiments in this article. My crime – the one that saw me ousted – was that of reading the bible and asking questions. I really wanted to know how those who believed saw the contradictions in the bible – how they reconciled them. Hey, I thought it might be nice to believe if only I could get past the logical flaws in the way all these genuine believers could. But no, it was basically, believe or be damned. I’d rather be damned on logic than illogical belief.

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