The ethics class trial has taken an interesting turn with media announcements this week revealing that, "The long-term viability of ethics classes in NSW schools is at risk following a departmental ruling that prevents full-time teachers taking the classes ... This ruling would bring the ethics classes into line with the rules governing teacher involvement in scripture classes. It would also place the burden on parents or other groups supporting the ethics classes to finance the teaching of them statewide."
Well, the ethics class controversy that is raging in New South Wales just got more interesting. The Sydney Morning Herald reports that,
The Catholic Church has joined the chorus of religious voices opposing the trial of ethics classes in schools.
It has organised a petition arguing that the classes should not be held "in competition" with scripture because it means religious children miss out on ethics.
This latest protest, which the Baptist and Uniting churches have also joined, takes a different tack to previous objections.
Whereas the Anglican church has argued children absorb ethics through
the school curriculum and do not need the subject to be taught
separately, the Catholics say their children should be able to take
ethics classes too.
Finally! Some leaders are starting to think. The weakness of the Anglican argument was that it was essentially an argument for maintaining state sponsored Christian privilege. That is, it was an argument that ignored the pluralistic realities of contemporary Australian cities while pining after a 1950s style Christendom.
This latest response is a bit more cagey. It's couched more in the language of inclusion and seems more carefully crafted to draw out the fact these ethics classes are not religiously neutral. For if they were genuinely neutral they'd include an exploration of religious based perspectives along with irreligious based perspectives. But they don't, so they're not. They're actively atheist and need to be honestly identified as such.
This latest tack is still going to get some people off side of course. The article also quoted one parent saying, "They are demonstrating they are out of touch and out of date, and it's none of their business." But this in itself reveals the sort of society we live in. Ethics is not church business?
Beyond this though, however it pans out, it reinforces my conviction that Christians need discipling in ethics through their churches. The disconnect between theology and ethics in conventional church teaching is saddening.
The commonly held notion that we are in the midst of a great public debate between atheists like Pullman and so-called believers like me is a fine construction for radio talk shows but a rather sloppy way of cutting the ideological cake. At least in the industrialized world, the more profound polarity is between those who care deeply about religious issues and those who couldn't give a damn about them one way or the other.
I've often said I find it easier to talk to a Pagan than to a nominal Christian, because, whatever the other differences, at least Pagans see spirituality as an important issue. The same cannot be said for your average nominal Christian.
They write "THE Bishop of North Sydney has urged Anglican priests to collect information from principals of public schools to stop the spread of the secular ethics classes the Sydney Anglicans believe may threaten religious education."
I have to question the Bishop's approach on multiple fronts.
Firstly, is it really so hard to believe there are large numbers of students not enrolled in Special Religious Education (SRE)? Ha, he should drive out here to western Sydney where Hindu scipture classes are sometimes the more popular.
Secondly, does the Bishop realise how defensive and panicked he sounds? Surely a negative media response to this action wasn't too hard to imagine or anticipate?
Thirdly, explain to me why non-Christians should be denied alternatives to Christian scripture classes? Our churches do support freedom of religion (and irreligion) do they not? You think forcing them is going to improve the situation?
Christendom is dead guys. Lament and get over it. The future is mission. Try thinking of a more missional approach.
Last Supper of the Scientists. Features Galileo, Curie, Oppenheimer, Newton, Pasteur, Hawking, Einstein, Sagan, Edison, Aristotle, Tyson, Dawkins, Darwin. Seems like an Atheist's religious dream, except Einstein was no Atheist. Now, was that an oops?
Religions of the world spontaneously combusted yesterday after Richard Dawkins’ eloquent deconstruction of God, spirituality and everything at the Atheist synod in Melbourne, Australia.
Buddhists were seen running screaming from the room, Catholic nuns fainted enmass, Hindus renounced yoga in favour of cigarettes, porno and British accents and Muslim imams were heard muttering, “There is no God but Nature and Dawkins is the Messenger of Nature.” Wars have ceased, torture is a distant memory (cough, cough, Sam Harris), and everyone, everywhere is now basking in intellectual supremacy. Overnight, it seems, Atheists have achieved a Godless nirvana and all is now right with the world.
What precipitated this astounding turn of events you may ask? Well the switch from reason and logic to personal abuse and hyperbole of course. The Pope is a Nazi, Steve Fielding is less intelligent than an earthworm and sophisticated theologians are no better than fundamentalist wingnuts. Of course [90% of world population collectively slaps their foreheads]! How could we have been so blind all these years! We must bow to this superior wisdom!
Unfortunately, on io9 about 95% of all religious conversation is "religion is creationists, the only smart people are atheists". It rubs me the wrong way.
Such simplistic polarizations rub me the wrong way too, but I find myself now pausing and asking, how representative are creationists of religion? I mean globally? I mean, beyond the American bible belt? What about in Australia? What about in Europe? What about in Asian and Africa and beyond? Does anyone have any statistics?
I seem to recall past surveys in Australia indicating a 70-80% belief in God but only a 30-40% belief in hell, which suggests more than half of religious Australians, perhaps considerably more, could perhaps object to a "religion is creationists" stereotype. It would be interesting to dig deeper don't you think?
Times Online has reported that the children chosen to front the latest Atheist Bus campaign as icons of humanism are actually from a Christian family, evangelical in fact.
Their former pastor says, “I think it is hilarious that the happy and liberated children on the atheist poster are in fact Christian.” Given the campaign slogan of "Please don't label me", their bemused father says he finds the atheist labelling "ironic". Ooops!