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Thursday, February 26, 2009


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A little empirical information goes a long way: http://www.breakpoint.org/listingarticle.asp?ID=6192

While I was sympathetic to the other argument, I see very little that is philosophical here

>> . . . in schools all over the country these antipathetic 'truths' are being force-fed to different groups of pupils, none of whom is in a position to assess their credibility or worth.

None of them is likely to be in a position to assess the 'credibility or worth' of Shakespeare either. This statement is likely to appeal only to those who already accept the conclusion, and so is not logical.

>>This is a serious form of child abuse. It sows the seeds of apartheids capable of resulting, in their logical conclusion, in murder and war, as history sickeningly and ceaselessly proves.

'Citation needed'. The statement that it is 'a serious form of child abuse' is just ranting.

>>There is no greater social evil than religion. It is the cancer in the body of humanity.

More ranting.

>>Human credulity and superstition, and the need for comforting fables, will never be extirpated, so religion will always exist, at least among the uneducated.

My experience is that it is mostly among the educated that religion exists.

>>For whenever and wherever religion manifests itself in the public arena as an organised phenomenon, it is the most Satanic of all things. (A. C. Grayling, Life, Sex, and Ideas: The Good Life Without God, Oxford 2003, 34-35, emphasis added.)


It seems as if atheists today, because of their purely scientific and materialistic worldview, have an overconfidence about their particular opinions. In other words, both theism and atheism accept the existence of the material world, so atheists attempt to place the burden of proof upon theists because they are asserting the existence of another, immaterial reality that is not sensibly apparent. Once the case is stated in this way, atheism seems to become, by default, the more reasonable and apparent position to take.

Nice post. Militant atheists strike me as reverse dopplegangers of the militant religious types they supposedly oppose, with both being equally absurd.

In an ideal world, schools wouldn't teach any ideology at all - that would be the job of parents. But given that it's not, schools have to teach some form of "ideology". My proposal for the US would be that public schools stick to what's in the Constitution - and that would definitely exclude religion.

However, that's a fine line when it comes to teaching history - how to teach history without delving into the religious ideology that has played such a role in it?

For myself as a parent, I don't object to religious ideology being in schools to some extent (excluding outright indoctrination). My daughter will have been vaccinated against superstition long before any teacher gets a hold of her.


"Reverse doppelgangers" is a nice way to put it.

A lot depends on what exactly we take ideology to be. I should post my definition. One thing is clear to me: there cannot such a thing as value-free education. After all, educational institutions by their very existence rest on the presupposition that knowledge is a value and ignorance a disvalue.

It would be interesting to hear your defense of the equation of religion with superstition.

Oh, my. Well, since I'm going to be indoctrinating (as it were) my daughter with it, I might as well put my views to the test. I'll be brief.

Since we're talking about education / child-rearing here, I'll stick with the practical. In my view organized religion is the perpetuation of superstition; its adherents have no transmittable knowledge of what they believe, nor can they arrive at reasoned conclusions of such, or empirical ones. This does not address the truth-value of religious propositions (though I consider them dubious at best) nor the phenomenological status of believers (which is irrelevant here).

My Thai in-laws propitiate various tree and soil deities on a designated weekly day at the spirit house with incense and rice wine. We can readily see this as superstition. Not that big of a leap from there to a Catholic priest scenting his altar with incense. From tribal beliefs to the God of Aquinas, it's one long continuum, to be filed under "Interesting Legends."

Though evidently new discoveries indicate we may have a genetic predisposition to religious belief, my daughter at 18 months is more or less a tabula rasa. So while I'm all for filling her head with wonderful fanciful stories, tales of the Buddha and Christ and and Santa Claus and Cinderella and Momotaro and Phra Apai-manee, I'll not be teaching her that they're true. My hope is that by the time she hits kindergarten, she'll know the difference. Maybe too much to hope for. Guess we'll see.

I usually agree with Grayling, but here I have to part ways. The issue is the rights of the child and the current practice of indoctrinating unwitting children is a serious travesty. To take advantage of a vulnerable person is universally seen as unethical in all our laws and ethics. We especially abhor men who club baby seals, because baby seals are innocent, vulnerable and endearingly trusting. Likewise shooting fish in a barrel or coercing sex with a minor are seen as reprehensible. The reason is that children cannot form desire or consent at the early age they are traditionally forced into faith. I will agree with A. C. that putting children in faith schools is asking for trouble in society down the road because of the inherently divisive nature of religious dogma. Furthermore, allowing children to be sequestered in sham home schools is an even bigger danger. In such a situation there is no counter balance to the insidious ideas they are force fed.

Parents make the absurd argument that they have to decide for their children because the children cannot form consent. This merely sidesteps without answering the open question we are trying to resolve: why is it ethical to force a child into a faith when they cannot consent?

Or they say, my bible tells me to raise my child in my religion. Well, yes, but don't you have to establish the bible is a valid guide to child raising first? There is a lot of hateful gruesome ideas in this book. Why should an objective observer just accept your claim?

The other point they raise is that they know in their heart that their religion is true and they believe it deeply so why wouldn't they "share" it with their children? Obviously it goes a lot deeper than just sharing. Leave aside the literally billions of other people on the planet that would take issue with their claim.

Child abuse? If I am reading this correctly, when Messrs. Collins and Grayling state that they believe that teaching children religion is child abuse, they appear to be claiming that the state should take action to prevent it. Such a point of view is fundamentally illiberal, authoritarian, and ultimately tyrannical.

Collins and Grayling's justification for such a radical point of view essentially comes down to their belief that religion is not true, and that therefore parents who teach their children religion are doing real and tangible harm to the intellect of their children. But what is truth, and who is to judge what is true? Collins and Grayling think that they believe in the Truth, and are fully qualified to judge what is and is not True. This is a perfectly natural state of affairs. What is disturbing in men of such evident intellect is that they are so certain in the innate Truth of their beliefs that they have come to the conclusion that to spread opinions contrary to their beliefs poses a threat to society, and must therefore be stopped.

Messrs. Collins and Grayling obsess about the Truth and about rooting out its opponents, heretics, infidels and child abusers all. Opposing the Truth is unjustifiable and unacceptable; to spread ideas contrary to it is a threat to society; to teach one's children something different is child abuse; to champion a different Truth is fraud. They appear to believe, in short, that spreading false beliefs is so dangerous that it must be criminalized by the State. Theirs is a certainty that brooks no dissent. Deviation from or opposition to the Gospel according to Grayling or the Second Epistle of Collins is thus no longer an innocent difference of opinion but an evil that must be stamped out.

In their certainty Grayling and Collins thus reconceive the role of the State not as the guardian of liberty but as the guardian of Truth. Because spreading false beliefs is so dangerous to society, state intervention is necessary to prevent it. But then the State must decide what Truth to defend. Who is to make such momentous decisions? Why, Messrs. Grayling and Collins, of course!

Their arguments for tyranny is justified, as such arguments typically are, in the name of the children. The religious must be stopped from corrupting the youth, they cry! Bring forth the hemlock! To Messrs. Grayling and Collins, we are all children, in need of guidance by wise, benevolent adults--in short, by themselves.

Grayling and Collins do not believe in liberty. They believe in Truth. They are so certain in their Truth that they will do anything to preserve and extend it. It is their god, and they will not rest until it is a state religion protected by its very own Inquisition. All who truly believe in freedom and liberty, be they atheist or theist, Christian or Jew, Muslim or Hindu, rationalist or empiricist, conservative or liberal, have a duty to oppose such tyrannical, all-consuming Leviathan Truths, lest both truth and liberty perish.

[Grayling said] Human credulity and superstition, and the need for comforting fables, will never be extirpated, so religion will always exist

How would Grayling explain the "human credulity", "superstition" and malice behind the decades-long Eugenics movement, which was supported by biologists (mostly atheistic Darwinians) of the supposedly highest caliber? That wasn't a brainchild of religion, but of science, and explicitly naturalistic science at that. Isn't natualistic science the best kind of science, the kind that liberates from illusions? See here: http://www.inbredscience.co.cc/

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