“Post-secular”?

7. Australia is a post-secular, pluralist society. Religion plays an important role in our nation and should be included in the education curriculum.
Australian Christian Lobby National Curriculum Survey

Screencap of Inigo Montoya from the movie *The Princess Bride* with overlaid text

You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

Secular is one of those words that theocratic propagandists have shifted the Overton Window on, to make it seem like secular is the opposite of pluralist when in fact it is only a secular stance that makes pluralism possible. Post-secular? Hm.

Going through the survey it becomes clear that the ACL wants schools to teach that our system of law and philosophy owes more to Christianity than to the Romans and Greeks of classical antiquity, to teach that the Enlightenment era of social reforms owes more to Christianity than it does to Freethinkers asserting the independence of the State from the Church, and to teach creationism in the science curriculum.

6. Our dating system hinges on the life of Jesus Christ. The terms Before Christ (BC) and Anno Domini (AD) recognise this fact and should be retained.
[…]
8. Faith-based school communities and families who homeschool should have the flexibility to teach creation alongside evolution and the big bang theory.

The weasel wording in Q8 is particularly impressive. Evolution and the big bang theory are relatively advanced topics in the science curriculum, whereas creation is a fundamental religious narrative that is taught to children in faith-based families and communities from pre-school onwards. Why should a religious narrative need to be revisited years later as a special part of the science curriculum when the regular religious education classes have been keeping it front and centre throughout a child’s school years anyway? Unless perhaps what they are actually pushing for is that if a child from a faith-based schooling background answers a science question with a creation answer then they will not be marked down in the standard tests.

I know a reasonable number of religious families. They teach their children about their religion at home and in their houses of worship as part of their daily routine before and after school. Adding extra religious-based education to the school curriculum will not teach their children anything that they are not already being taught outside school hours. So who is this push for more Christian content in the national curriculum really meant for? It can only be meant for children in families who are not already part of their faith community, and that is proselytisation pure and simple, and should not be part of taxpayer-supported education.

Keeping religion and the state separated (secularism) protects believers, by the way – because no believer wants to live in a state which actively supports a religion that is not their own. You’d think that centuries and millennia of recorded persecution and bloodshed due to religious conflicts (within and between all the major faiths around the globe) might have highlighted the dangers of states preferencing one religion over others, but that doesn’t seem to be the history of religion that the ACL wants to promote.

via PZ

P.S. I really wish I had noticed that it was Darwin Day yesterday when I published this. Sorry about that, Charlie!



Categories: culture wars, education, ethics & philosophy, parenting, religion, Science

Tags: , ,

12 replies

  1. this creeps me out. i went to catholic school, for heaven’s sake, and we learned actual science. even in theology classes we were never taught this kind of tripe.

  2. I filled out the survey. I think everyone needs to.

  3. I had a quick look at the survey, and found the way in which the questions are asked to be very problematic. They’re all phrased in a way that make you want to say yes, even as an atheist – because sure, I think that schools can talk about Christianity and its contribution to history and stuff like that, but not any more or any less than the contribution of Islam or Hinduism or atheism. And that is exactly what the questions aren’t talking about. It’s so frustrating.

  4. Jo: I disagree. I wanted to answer no to pretty much everything. Then again, I flick through parts of the atheosphere daily, so what weasel-wording seems obvious to me might be much harder to penetrate for others.
    Even the parts that are technically true (the AD/BC thing, for instance) are badly misleading. Many historians who think that Jesus was an actual historical figure agree that his likely birth date is 4BC ± 5 years. It’s for that reason as much as for anti-colonialism that we’ve switched to calling them BCE/CE.

  5. Medivh: the BC/AD thing was devised in what became known as 525AD (approximately) but wasn’t widely used until approximately 800AD (more or less). It was thought up by a monk who was re-writing the tables of when Easter was going to be, and he re-numbered the years because at the time they were using the Diocletian era (dating from the year of the beginning of the rule of the Roman emperor Diocletian) and he didn’t want to use the Diocletian era for calculating years because Diocletian hadn’t been fond of Christians. Or, alternatively, he was trying to prevent people getting all hysterical about the End of the World having not turned up on schedule.
    The old calendar (Anno Mundi) had apparently commenced with the creation of the world (as per the Old Testament), and it was believed at the time the end of the world would occur approximately 500 years after the birth of Christ (in AM 6000). Unfortunately, this prediction had proved about as accurate as all the other predictions (before and since that date) of the End Of The World as based on Judeo-Christian mythology (i.e. “not at all accurate”) and by the time this monk was rewriting things, they were already about 25 years into borrowed time. The monk in question (Dionysius Exiguus) decided to actually figure out when the world would really end, and through a lot of complicated astronomical calculations (let’s not forget, he was also figuring out when Easter would fall for the next few centuries, so he had the calculations and star charts handy) he figured out there was going to be a really big conjunction of all the planets approximately 1500 years in the future (what we now think of as May 2000 – another “accurate” projection of the end of the world, it seems), and he theorised a cosmic event of such quality would be sure to bring about the end of the world. Since this particular cosmic event only happened very rarely, clearly the previous iteration had to have been interesting – and it happened about once every 2000 years or so… so the last one was about 500 years prior to his lifetime.
    He did a bit of quick arithmetic, figured out the date of the last such conjunction, and decided this must have been the birth of Christ and decreed 23rd March (northern hemisphere Vernal Equinox) of the year of the last such conjunction marked the beginning of the year 1 AD.
    Or in other words, unless you’re willing to accept the doctrine of divine inspiration for calendars as well as for biblical translations, the dating of the birth of Christ was a combination of guesswork and astronomy.
    Later Biblical scholars have proposed birthdates for Christ which range roughly in the 23 year range between approximately 18BC right the way through to 7AD (the most flexible of the gospels is the gospel of Luke, which states Christ was conceived during the reign of Herod the Great, which ended in approximately 4BC, but that he was born when Cyrenius was governor of Syria and carried out a census in 6 – 7AD – a combination of dates which condemns the Virgin Mary to an eleven year pregnancy. No wonder she’s considered a saint!).
    Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anno_Domini

  6. Medivh: I should probably have said that I wanted to answer yes to some of the questions. Others… were a more emphatic no. But the phrasing really is out to get you if you’re not paying attention and able to realise what the data is going to be used for!

  7. I really wish I had noticed that it was Darwin Day yesterday when I published this. Sorry about that, Charlie!

  8. “our system of law and philosophy owes more to Christianity than to the Romans and Greeks of classical antiquity, to teach that the Enlightenment era of social reforms owes more to Christianity than it does to Freethinkers asserting the independence of the State from the Church”
    These two points are topics of continued and genuine debate amongst historians. You can’t deny that Christianity has been fairly central to our systems of law and philosophy, nor can you deny the role that Christians played in Enlightenment. Indeed, some of the most interesting Enlightenment ‘freethinking’ came out of the more radical (and in many other respects conservative) protestant sects. Exactly how this dynamic played out is what we argue about. As a historian, I think that Christianity is a really important part of our history and it should be taught because it explains why we do certain things and think about the world in the ways we do. There is a lot of ‘hidden’ Christian thinking that continues in our everyday decision-making processes, because we have naturalised it to the point we don’t see it. And, ultimately, if we want to deconstruct our society to make it new, we need to what actually went into the making of it.

    • If it was actually going to be taught like that, with emphasis on the tension between the classical jurisprudence that the Christians inherited/coopted and the Christian adaptations they grafted on to it, and if there was some detailed teasing out of the various stances and influence on political debates about reshaping society of the wide range of Enlightenment schismatic/anticlerical movements (not sure you can really call avowed sola scriptura Protestants “Freethinkers”), then I’d be quite intrigued and possibly delighted by such a curriculum. Surely we all know though that such a deep scholarly analysis isn’t at all what the ACL is proposing for primary and high school students?

  9. That is true to an extent FA, but there is also a fair bit of stuff claimed by the Christians that pre-existed them. Not that this is something that only Christianity is done, everyone builds on what came before. I just can’t see the ACL supporting kids being taught the actual origins of some of that stuff.

  10. Tigtog- you are likely right of course, but I think it’s actually highlights how clever the ACL are being and is really what Jo was getting at – it is difficult to say no to children have a well-rounded education, it’s just whether that’s what they’d get. On the other hand, this would really be down to the teachers, as the curriculum gives the shape of what is taught, but the content itself is usually up to the teacher in the classroom.
    I’m not sure you’d call sola scriptura protestants freethinkers either, but it’s remarkable how much of the ‘truth is in nature/science’ theology types were working from within these sects and believed that the evidence supported their Christian beliefs. Atheists, and even agnostics, are pretty rare on the ground until the 19thC.

  11. On point column on SBS: We don’t need scripture in public schools

    Religion should not be used as an excuse to inadvertently teach children that the person they sit next to in class is different and not really like them because once a week they get segregated into another room. Impressionable children should not be taught that it is ok to be divided or excluded. Many of the problems we face in our world today are due to this very factor.

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