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Be careful what you wish for

January 11th, 2014

So, Kevin Donnelly, newly installed as Pyne’s curriculum advisor wants more religion in Australian public schools. Donnelly bases his arguments on the claim that “Australia is a predominantly Christian country“. More generally, his argument is that we need to inculcate a commitment to the”institutions, values and way of life” of the Australian majority.

Before making arguments like this, Donnelly might want to take a look at the 2011 census data which shows that barely 50 per cent of those aged under 25 stated a Christian religious affiliation. In a dicussion of this last year, we found a combination of demographic effects and switching, which implied that Christians will probably be a minority of the population by the 2020s, as they already are in the UK.

Since around 30 per cent of young people attend private schools most of which state a Christian affilation, it’s a safe bet that the majority of public school students are non-Christian. Certainly, “no religion” is the biggest single denomination for the under 25 age group. So, if you accept Donnelly’s “majority rule” argument, there’s a strong case for saying there should be more explicit atheism in public schools.

More generally, Christians should think carefully before lining up for this kind of culture war. Australia has been mercifully free of the kind of “new atheism” represented by people like Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris. Atheists, agnostics and the religiously indifferent have been happy to live and let live, without feeling the need to engage in denunciation of religion. But if Christian activists like Abbott and Donnelly want to use their current bare majority to impose their religous views on the rest of us, they ought to expect the same when they become a minority, as is virtually inevitable.

Religion is currently favored in all sorts of ways in Australia, from tax deductions and exemptions to publicly funded chaplaincy programs. There hasn’t been much fuss about this, but if the right chooses to engage in a religious culture war, all that will change.

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  1. January 11th, 2014 at 18:47 | #1

    Beep.

    You’re comparing apples and oranges. Stipulating for the sake of argument, just for the moment, that the values in question may be discerned from census figures at all, those aren’t the right ones to use. Not only are few of the under 25s parents of children of school age (by comparison with older groups), and not only does that select out the even older groups who have traditionally been heavily involved in cultural transmission, that group itself contains many of those who do not determine the values but represent the target group to whom the values would be transmitted, i.e. children; they would inherently fail to show values that have not been transmitted.

    Whether there should be any effort to transmit values in a conscious and directed way is quite another question; here, I am only addressing this use of figures within the question raised.

    Over and above that, it is also entirely arguable that the values to be transmitted are to be found elsewhere, in founding ideas used to define what being Australian is, just as the idea of being Thai involves monarchism and Buddhism even though minorities are not like that, and the idea would not change even if the minorities became majorities but would rather mean that a new thing had displaced it, since it could not simply change the old without a “failure of substratum”. If so, census figures can only show how well the values have actually been transmitted and not what they are.

    I also consider it a considerable stretch to reckon failing to handicap religious instruction as conferring a positive benefit.

  2. John Quiggin
    January 11th, 2014 at 19:13 | #2

    I can’t follow this at all. Maybe you should rewrite.

  3. Moz of Yarramulla
    January 11th, 2014 at 19:37 | #3

    It’s starting to happen already, see the kerfuffle in NSW with non-religious ethics classes. The religious wrong were and are very upset about the mere existence of those classes. And there is occasional push-back against using state funds to enforce religion when “charities” are funded to deliver state services (homelessness especially, but also punishing the unemployed).

    I suspect we will see multiple trigger points for people who are not militant conservative Christians from the Abbott government. I’m hoping that the political media use the mentions of religion to hammer Abbott on his lack of enthusiasm for the current pope, and for any moves he makes that conflict with that. Not because I support that institution, but because the PM claims to.

    I suppose you’d have to count me as an over-40 who would love to see “spreading religion” removed as a charitable purpose as far as all government interaction is concerned. Definitely to the point of taking action when things like abortion is threatened.

  4. January 11th, 2014 at 19:41 | #4

    Maybe of more interest in schools would be the history of Australian values. Of course the whole of Australia doesn’t share the same values. So you’d need to look at the dominant values, and how they change over time.

    I’m sure modern school children would be horrified by some of the attitudes commonly held by earlier Australians.

    Despite being an atheist (and hence a member of the soon to be majority), I quite like some of Jesus’ teaching. I’m particularly keen getting the bit about the rich having a hard time entering the kingdom of heaven into some of the more well healed private schools. And the tale of the good Samaritan would be a good one. And could it turn out that the displaced peoples of the worlds trouble spots are actually our neighbours?

    It would also be interesting to look at how christianity has been integrated into our society – which bits we like and which bits we’ve rejected.

    What would not be at all interesting would be an uncritical teaching of the watered down christianity that co-exists with governments everywhere. The sort of christianity no doubt practised by Governor Christie’s office when they created 4 days of traffic jams for their own amusement. Jesus would not have been amused.

  5. Felix Alexander
    January 11th, 2014 at 20:05 | #5

    If it happens that you are in the majority, please remember that not all Christians support this kind of thing. The attempt to associate Christianity with the values and institutions of our society (whatever they happen to be) is surely offensive not only to humans and also to God.

    (Although, I don’t know who Governor Christie is or what his office did, but four days of traffic jams would be nice. Maybe people would realise how free-flowing the traffic was if they got out of their cars and were part of traffic on foot. You can build yourself out of traffic congestion because it’s entirely an artifact of poor town layouts.)

  6. paul walter
    January 11th, 2014 at 20:12 | #6

    I am sure people who people like Donnelly consider to be “Christian” (Bernardi, Morrison, Pell, etc) would be considered by many others to be little better than satanists as to underlying outlook by many other people in our society.
    Lipstick on the pig does not turn it into Angelina Jolie.

  7. SamB
    January 11th, 2014 at 20:32 | #7

    Not that I should defend the indefensible, but a “more religion” argument is open to the view that it is more of whatever religion the household has. Thus more Islam or Hinduism or Buddhism or Judaism or Tao (or for that matter Scientology) would comply.

    Not really clear whether this would conform with the policy being put forth (I suspect it is not what is intended), but one should always allow for a “best” interpretation.

  8. Alan
    January 11th, 2014 at 21:04 | #8

    One of the unexpected weirdnesses about this government is how oblivious they are to the contemporary world. Have these people, several of whom claim to be Roman Catholics, heard nothing said by Pope Francis?

  9. TerjeP
    January 11th, 2014 at 21:50 | #9

    More generally, his argument is that we need to inculcate a commitment to the ”institutions, values and way of life” of the Australian majority.

    The values he nominates are hardly objectionable. Whether they define us or are merely aspirational they are good values:-

    Tolerance, respect for others, equality before the law, individual liberty, honesty and truth-telling are values that define us as a nation …

    Of course I do share grave reservations about his fascination with the role of Christianity in all this. The key qualities we get from western civilisation are the rule of law (Roman), Democracy (Greek) and humanist ideals about rights and liberty (enlightenment). Pagan, pagan and atheist.

  10. January 11th, 2014 at 22:01 | #10

    The religion thing is why I didn’t like John Howard’s encouragement for the formation of small private schools. These often cater for a particular religious group. Thus children from these schools grow up with less exposure to children from families with different beliefs.

    I was at uni before I realised that I’d never really met a catholic.

    This cannot be good for our society. As anyone with kids knows, parents are brought together by the friendships their kids form. So if different ethnicities and faiths share the same school, their kids will form friendships and the parents will end up meeting and talking, and that has to be a good thing.

  11. Megan
    January 11th, 2014 at 22:04 | #11

    On a tangent – Their ABC’s ‘Drum’ has been giving Donnelly a steady platform to sprout this stuff (about 30 opinion pieces) since about 2011.

    He was attributed as representing some kind of ‘Ponds Institute’ of which he appears to be the only member, and which bears the ABN of his family trust.

    Great work ABC. Mark Scott (fundamentalist Christian) must be very pleased.

    And remember that Gillard shored up the ‘school chaplains’ program and extended it after the partially successful High Court challenge.

  12. Bobalot
    January 11th, 2014 at 22:13 | #12

    Our system of law doesn’t come from the Romans or Christian teachings.

    Our legal system is based on British Common Law.

  13. Mel
    January 11th, 2014 at 23:02 | #13

    PrQ, I’m not sure why you include the snark about Richard Dawkins. The major religions are all vile and discriminatory in various ways, for example the homophobia of the Abrahamic religions and the caste system in Hinduism. I had a Jehovah’s Witness knock on my door today, these being the creeps who would prefer to let their kids die than receive a blood transfusion. I’d save the snark for these guys.

    If Dawkins’ harmless and mild fire and brimstone brand of atheism wins over a few young and impressionable minds, I will not be shedding any tears.

    John Brookes- the nice Jesus bits are cancelled out by the naughty Jesus bits, like Luke 22:36

    And he said unto them, But now, he that hath a purse, let him take it, and likewise a wallet; and he that hath none, let him sell his cloak, and buy a sword.

  14. P Smith
    January 11th, 2014 at 23:35 | #14

    Whenever some idiot says:

    “I want religion in public schools!”

    what he really means is:

    “I want my religion in public schools!”

    Whoever demands religion in schools, find out his beliefs. Then allow every religion EXCEPT his. Odds are, he’ll shut up.

  15. P Smith
    January 11th, 2014 at 23:40 | #15

    @Bobalot

    Lying is par for the course with the rabidly religious. The ends (read: the cleansing of differing views) justifies the means.

    In that dolt’s fetid mind, it doesn’t matter that he is lying in violation of his own religion’s rules. He’s lying for his religion, so that “justifies it”.

  16. Megan
    January 11th, 2014 at 23:52 | #16

    It’s called the:

    “Education Standards Institute”

    And, thanks SBS, apparently he recently held some position at the Australian Catholic University.

  17. Megan
    January 12th, 2014 at 00:05 | #17

    From his website:

    ESI favours an education system based on standards, equity, diversity and choice and the values and institutions that promote liberty, democracy, an open and free society and a commitment to Christian beliefs and values.

    I’m cool with “equity, diversity and choice”, and of course democracy & liberty are good things along with “an open and free society” – but WTF with:

    “and a commitment to Christian beliefs”??

    This has no place whatsoever outside a Christian school’s RE class, or a church, or around the dinner table of a family so inclined.

    However, I’m calling this a massive ‘Bait’n'Switch’ exercise. This has nothing to do with ‘values’ and everything to do with furthering the “charter school” agenda put in place under Howard and pushed further by Gillard.

  18. Megan
    January 12th, 2014 at 00:30 | #18

    And:

    Why I lost faith in the Left

    by Kevin Donnelly

    News Weekly, November 14, 2009

    Similar to Labor luminaries Julia Gillard and John Sutton, I also had a working-class upbringing and our family home was dominated by left-wing values.

    We lived on a housing commission estate in the northern Melbourne suburb of Broadmeadows, Dad was a member of the Australian Communist Party and I was enrolled in the Eureka Youth Movement.

    I still remember Dad screaming in rage at Robert Menzies (aka “Pig Iron Bob”) on the black-and-white television, and glossy magazines with heroic pictures of Joseph Stalin, Vladimir Lenin and Mao Zedong glowing with paternal care and revolutionary zeal.

    Dad taught me that the cry of liberty, equality and fraternity promised a utopia, one where injustice, discrimination and poverty would disappear and all would live according to Karl Marx’s maxim: from each according to his ability, to each according to their need.

    Anti-war protests

    It was no surprise that I joined the Secondary Students for Democratic Action in my final year of school and marched in anti-war protests at university. On starting my career as a secondary school teacher it was only natural that I joined the left-wing Victorian Secondary Teachers Association and became the school’s branch president.

    Given my background and an interest in politics, the next step may have been to join the Australian Labor Party. I never did and, in fact, I turned my back on the Left and joined the Liberal Party.

    Why? Looking at my father I realised that the socialist dream, in part, was driven by class bitterness and the politics of envy. Following Edmund Burke, I also realised that the need to conserve was equally as important as the need to change and that evolution was preferable to revolution.

    As Burke predicted, the French Revolution descended into terror and brutality. Since then, history is littered with tyrants such as Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot who killed and enslaved billions in the name of socialism.

    Once society’s safeguards and institutions are destroyed, there is nowhere to hide.

    George Orwell was another reason I became a conservative. His 1945 classic Animal Farm not only presents an allegory of Communist Russia’s descent into totalitarianism and the gulag: it also tells us the Left’s romanticised view of human nature is misplaced. While Boxer the horse is worked to death, the pigs luxuriate and learn to walk on two legs.

    There is also something soulless and reductionist about a Marxist view of the world. As noted by American political and social activist George Weigel, “the deepest currents of history are spiritual and cultural, rather than political and economic”. To say that great literature, art and music are simply the results of power relationships denies the creative urge driven by moral and spiritual forces.

    The longer I taught in Melbourne’s working-class, multicultural western suburbs the more I also realised that the Left’s campaign to use education as a tool to enforce its ideologically-driven view of the world was wrong and counter-productive.

    In a speech to the Fabian Society in the mid-1980s Joan Kirner, one of Gillard’s mentors and soon to be minister for education, argued that instead of imparting knowledge, education had to be “part of a socialist struggle for equality, participation and social change, rather than an instrument of the capitalist system”.

    The academic, competitive curriculum, one that represented a ladder of opportunity for working-class kids like me, was condemned as elitist and guilty of reinforcing inequality. As teachers, we were taught that knowledge was simply a socio-cultural construct and left in no doubt as to which side of the class war we should be on.

    To gain promotion I had to show evidence of implementing the Kirner Labor Government’s left-wing policies on multiculturalism, gender equity, non-competitive assessment and overcoming disadvantage.

    Ironically, the flagship of Kirner’s education revolution, the Victorian Certificate of Education, had the opposite effect of what was intended. Working-class and migrant students, those who could not afford tutors and whose parents were not academically minded, were further disadvantaged.

    Fast forward to Kevin Rudd’s education revolution and it appears that education is no longer an ideological battleground. Not so. Gillard’s promise to positively discriminate and introduce quotas for disadvantaged students to enter university is straight out of Kirner’s Fabian manual.

    Under a raft of national partnership agreements, school funding, government and non-government, is also now tied to schools implementing the federal government’s cultural-left agenda in curriculum, teacher training and registration, overcoming disadvantage, the early years of childhood and promoting more equitable outcomes for so-called victim groups.

    Unfortunately, this is fairly boringly unremarkable stuff these days amongst our political class.

  19. Mel
    January 12th, 2014 at 00:44 | #19

    Hmmm, maybe the Left should get behind the idea of a Bill of Rights with the separation of church and state being one of the items.

  20. Fran Barlow
    January 12th, 2014 at 06:10 | #20

    When standing before classes, I avoid, as one would expect, given it’s not germane to any teaching area I’m delivering, all discussions of Christianity. I do however cover mythology and encourage an open discussion of the provenance of non-scientific accounts of the world.

    Occasionally, students ask whether I believe in “God” and on those occasions I respond with an unadorned “no” and move on. A child once asked “what do you hope will happen after you die?” I responded: Happiness for the living. Another persisted: But what do you hope will happen to you? I responded: That will be none of my business. I just hope there’s no mess.

  21. alfred venison
    January 12th, 2014 at 06:28 | #21

    we need protection *from* politicians not protection *by* politicians. we’re well past the time when being protected by our wise old lords & masters was sufficient. its the 21st century now! the arrangement we have now is not worthy of a great nation – it is worthy of a flock of sheep! and pace bob carr, we need the *courts* to do it. its called separation of powers. there must be a line in the sand beyond which government may *never* go. and as for puffed-up pretentious poppinjays like bob carr, just what part don’t people like bob carr like of we the people having rights specifically framed to protect us against depredations from the likes of him & enforced *for us* by the courts? eh? or does he just want to keep the power he has now to suspend our rights any time it suits him? it makes me sick to hear him drone on defending the woefully inadequate status quo. -a.v.

  22. Donald Oats
    January 12th, 2014 at 07:45 | #22

    In one or two small sentences, Kevin Donnelly has smashed through my complacency. School education has become too secular—pull the other one!

    Last time the Liberals were in power, they made quite an effort to see the “Intelligent Design” CDs get distributed to schools (circa 2005), arguing that students should get to see two sides to the evolution debate; well, the only “debate” they are referring to is a religiously motivated one by a particular section of Christianity, aka creationists. Rather than go down that rabbit hole again, could we just once stick to teaching the science in science class, and not some religiously-motivated idea? There are plenty of interesting scientific debates and discussions deep within the details of biology for instance, on evolutionary processes, natural selection, genetics and gene transfer mechanisms, for example; these are the debates that matter in a science class, but not a debate which is really proxy-war about the propaganda of God and His Dominion.

    Sadly, the door has been blasted wide open once again. Can’t we please just keep religion out of the education of what are meant to be subjects based on rational, scientific principles? If people are so concerned about teaching their kids what is a personal matter (religion), surely that is a choice for what extra-curricular activities they involve their children in (like going to church on Sunday)? Our society is one in which they are perfectly free to do this.

    Finally, who ever heard of a review where the principal investigator presents their conclusions before the review even kicks off? That is what Kevin Donnelly has done by stating what he believes needs putting into the national curriculum, immediately prior to starting the review. Goodness.

  23. Donald Oats
    January 12th, 2014 at 07:47 | #23

    Damn. Messed up a closing tag. Try again:

    In one or two small sentences, Kevin Donnelly has smashed through my complacency. School education has become too secular—pull the other one!

    Last time the Liberals were in power, they made quite an effort to see the “Intelligent Design” CDs get distributed to schools (circa 2005), arguing that students should get to see two sides to the evolution debate; well, the only “debate” they are referring to is a religiously motivated one by a particular section of Christianity, aka creationists. Rather than go down that rabbit hole again, could we just once stick to teaching the science in science class, and not some religiously-motivated idea? There are plenty of interesting scientific debates and discussions deep within the details of evolutionary processes, natural selection, genetics and gene transfer mechanisms, for example; these are the debates that matter in a science class, but not a debate which is really proxy-war about the propaganda of God and His Dominion.

    Sadly, the door has been blasted wide open once again. Can’t we please just keep religion out of the education of what are meant to be subjects based on rational, scientific principles? If people are so concerned about teaching their kids what is a personal matter (religion), surely that is a choice for what extra-curricular activities they involve their children in (like going to church on Sunday)? Our society is one in which they are perfectly free to do this.

    Finally, who ever heard of a review where the principal investigator presents their conclusions before the review even kicks off? That is what Kevin Donnelly has done by stating what he believes needs putting into the national curriculum, immediately prior to starting the review. Goodness.

  24. Donald Oats
    January 12th, 2014 at 08:36 | #24

    As for new atheism: yes, they can and do at times come across as strident. In defence of at least some of the new atheists though, their position is that instilling in children a belief in mythological figures as if they are part of reality, and employing the almost innate fear of death (and ensuing loss of enduring identity) kids have, as a means of coercing them to follow “God’s Laws” with the threat of not going to heaven if they disobey, is a morally wrong way to educate children.

    The new atheists don’t accept religion as a means of controlling a child’s intellectual development and moral development; the new atheists assert that it is actually harmful to the child to routinely use patently false statements about the world we live in, as a means of teaching. Whatever the intention of the adult, the child is the one who suffers the consequences, and some are quite frankly traumatised by it. I have met some such unlucky souls, but not once have I come across a person who was traumatised by learning how to use reason as an instrument in their education.

    New Atheists do not accept that Science, and Religion (usually Christianity in the Western World), form two magesteria, each providing a different “way of knowing”. The New Atheist, upon hearing this sort of statement, quite rightly says: “BOLLOCKS!”—and that is one reason why they can come across as strident and impolite. The New Atheist points out: “Either the Young Earth Creationists are right, or the paleontologists are right, concerning the age of dinosaur (and other) fossils, but both cannot be right.” Which, if either, of the two magesteria is right in this instance? For the New Atheist, being dismissive of the YEC is an entirely scientifically warranted position to take; for the YEC, no amount of scientific evidence is acceptable to them, or will sway their view; therefore, the New Atheist thinks, why waste further time being politely accommodating—under false pretences—of their religiously inspired rigid belief that the world was created (by God) a mere 6000 years ago?

    Personally, my view is slowly becoming one of being more willing to openly state my objection to someone else’s assertions concerning a religious myth about the way the world works, as I believe that what is considered to be true should be scientifically validated facts concerning the world in which we live. That will sometimes upset other people, something I don’t particularly like doing; on the other hand, the Liberals demonstrated last time what happens if we give in to being polite rather than being bluntly assertive about our resistance to their attempts to put religion into schoool education.

    I do not want to see this happen again.

  25. alfred venison
    January 12th, 2014 at 09:23 | #25

    the “two magesteria” are of course the product of the late great stephen jay gould, who worked assiduously, while dawkins was fiddling with memes, to keep creationism out of american schools. i guess that makes gould an old atheist. i find dawkins as pushy as the fundamentalists and as disagreeable. i agree with John Quiggen, we have a live and let live ethos in this country and it would be good to keep it that way. we don’t need a culture war on this front, we don’t need obnoxious polemicists ramming their beliefs down our throats. by the way i have been an atheists since 1970 so don’t come at me as an apologist for fundamentalists. -alfred venison

  26. January 12th, 2014 at 09:58 | #26

    “Finally, who ever heard of a review where the principal investigator presents their conclusions before the review even kicks off? ”

    Donald’s point #22 is worth emphasising. Donnelly and Wiltshire will clearly not be conducting a review at all. Their task is to embed ideologies they have been promoting for years into the curriculum and to rectify its perceived ‘leftist bias’ (i.e. aspects reflecting developments in pedagogy since the 1950s). The exercise smacks of the Libs’ infatuation with conservative think tanks in the USA and their obsessive resentment at the way “liberals” allegedly control education, media and popular culture.

  27. Donald Oats
    January 12th, 2014 at 10:29 | #27

    @alfred venison
    Indeed, it was SJ Gould who coined the expression “two great magesteria” and who worked on what is referred to as “accommodationism”. And fair enough, too.

    Dawkins is brash, and can certainly be abrasive. I was stating why I think some of the so-called New Atheists, of which Dawkins is among the most famous, believe they should be pushier than perhaps earlier atheists have been. That doesn’t make me an apologist for fundamentalist (atheists): indeed, New Atheists are more than capable of shouting out for themselves without me lending my voice to their clamour.

    In the past I have tended to the live and let live philosophy, but now we have a blatantly religious bias in the setting up of a review of the Australian education curriculum, a curriculum that is only just nearing the end of its initial roll-out. While there might be quite a few things that could be changed for the better, having a seriously biased approach to the review (process) itself won’t help anybody except those in agreement with the direction of the bias.

    We can ignore this and run the very real risk of yet another round of attempts to embed religion within inappropriate subjects, such as insertion of creationism under the guise of Intelligent Design, into the school curricula; or, we can consider this for the threat that it is, and be a little more active about asserting our disagreement. I wouldn’t want to see a “burn the place down” attitude as the way to resist this threat, for yes, it would be counter-productive and unlikely to succeed in any case. Live and let live is too passive though, as that is how these guys like Pyne get to change everything.

    There are plenty of ways in which people can practice the religion of their choice, or no religion at all, in the modern Australian society. As a rule, we don’t persecute or belittle people because of their religion, at home, school, or work. I’d guess that 30% of my work colleagues are actively religious, and it doesn’t bother me at all. If they started using religious texts as justification for conclusions reached in their work documents, on the other hand, that would be more than a little disturbing and totally unacceptable. Same goes for school education. Using the place of education as an opportunity to indoctrinate kids in religious “thought”, rather than to teach them how to think rationally and independently, that is what I don’t want to see happen (by stealth).

    PS: I too have been an atheist since the very early 1970s, although I wouldn’t have known it as atheism back then. Helps to have limestone fossils in your backyard and a big copy of “Tell Me Why”.

    PPS: As a front-line educator, Fran’s approach in dealing with questions from students is a good one. For dealing with the same questions from adults outside the class room, it depends a lot on context.

  28. John Quiggin
    January 12th, 2014 at 10:38 | #28

    @Donald Oats

    This is pretty much my point. I’d prefer “live and let live”, but if they want a culture war, they can have it.

  29. Doug
    January 12th, 2014 at 11:13 | #29

    Much of what Donnelly is about is politics in which “culture” is proxy to cover up the politics.

    Much of the debate about “religion” on both sides of the debate is ill informed anyway. There is no such thing as “religion’ in terms of an ahistorical, acultural, generic category. This is now not a matter of controversy in the religious studies field. Neither is the use of the category of “religion” as an artefact of colonialism.

    There are specific forms of belief, and practice that need to be dealt with in terms of their specificity and particularity and will obviously need to be studied in history, literature, philosophy etc if we are to understand our society and the world around us.

    We need to move to a post secularist stance but neither Donelly nor the evangelical atheists would be likely to accept such a position.

  30. Christine Smith
    January 12th, 2014 at 11:37 | #30

    The thing is, if ‘religion’ is enforced in education of children, there could very well be a turnaround in the numbers, as well as in the type of education in general kids get. Older friends have told me that in their religious schools they were given incorrect information about subjects including biology and science, so that they faced real difficulties with the Leaving Certificate and other state exams. However, all was not lost because they could get jobs within the religious school system or with one of the many workplaces which supported the religious organisation in various ways.

    Today, in 2014, there are whole universities in the US run by creationists who provide information which students accept as correct but which must provide a pretty poor basis for a career in science, history etc. But as graduates of such universities continue their careers within the ‘circle’ of schools and colleges which teach the same thing (an online friend of mine has gone this route, now teaching ‘history’ in a creationist based primary level school), so that students never hear anything different except as an example of the stupidity of the rest of the world.

    In Queensland, there are apparently already schools teaching ‘creationism’ as an alternative to actual science I guess, and our high schools are chock a block full of chaplains. The underfunded and poorly resourced public schools can’t cope with problems such as bullying, which is what sent some of my family members to a non-denominational christian school for their kids. The result is the kids have an active school and social life based around the school and its activities, many of which are faith based. So in a family of laid back non-religious types we have two youngsters who are very religious and become quite anxious and upset if challenged.

    And that’s just one way to push the religious barrow if you happen to own the system.

  31. Alphonse
    January 12th, 2014 at 11:37 | #31

    Not necessarily to elevate even the core principles common to all religion – the Dawkins’ are not wrong, just impolitic – I’d point out that we need a pincer movement on the merely culturally religious GOP-inspired culture warriors (e.g.. Howard, Pell, Abbott, Bernardi, Donnelly): on one flank, tolerant pluralistic secularists who draw the line only at State imposition and preferencing of unscientific magical thinking; one the other side, actual, not merely nominal, followers of Pope Francis and other truly religious leaders.

  32. Megan
    January 12th, 2014 at 11:39 | #32

    Two books pertinent to what’s happening here:

    Chris Hedges: “American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America”

    and

    Jeff Sharlet: “The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power”

    Very important reading, if one wishes to understand better where this comes from and where it’s heading.

  33. Vegetarian
    January 12th, 2014 at 11:43 | #33

    Apropos of Fran’s experience, I was once asked by a Vietnamese Catholic student of mine if I went to church. She was shocked when I said I didn’t. She told me that people who don’t go to church will be reborn as poor people.
    Maybe this is the kind of religious attitudewe need for the modern world – a blend of Buddhism, Christianity and economic rationalism.

  34. graham
    January 12th, 2014 at 11:45 | #34

    In the usa there is a much higher percentage of people attending church yet the situation is so silly that a group of students can’t have a prayer meeting or Bible study at a school with any adult even if they initiate everything. We have a fairly similar section of the constitution to the usa when it talks about the relationship between religion and government yet historically Australia have had laws that are constitutional that would be considered highly unconstitutional in the usa because the separation between church and state has been taken to a ridiculous extreme.

    Probably the reason why is because the Christians here have been so combative in mixing God with right wing politics and have been so aggressive in culture wars.

    I hope that doesn’t happen here. Tony abbot is a divisive figure amongst Christians (all politicians are) and I would hate to be dragged into a culture war against my will. I hope most people see this as political tactic rather reacting to the entire christian community.

    Oh and one final thing. People usually react to situations like this with a nuanced but still incorrect view that the problem is not with Christians but with fundamentalists. It is an ill informed view. If you define fundamentalism as the view that Christianity is the most important thing in your life and you believe that the Bible is infallible and you believe that “scripture interprets scripture” and you en devour to live your life Biblically, the most fundamentalist church in America (in my experience as a fundamentalist) is the african American church. They ironically tend to be left wing yet non political (in the sense its much more unusual to hear politics from the pulpit). On the other hand many of the hard core religious right aren’t necessarily fundamentalist. I guess you could say they use religion like a drunk man uses a lamp post. That’s not to say there aren’t fundamentalists on the religious right, just they are two groups of people and one might be one or the other or both (also a lot of fundamentalists aren’t creationists and a lot of not fundamentalists are). I do not recognize Tony Abbot as a fundamentalist anywhere in his writings. But fundamentalists tend to get tarred in this sort of culture war because nuance is the first causality in a culture war.

  35. graham
    January 12th, 2014 at 11:47 | #35

    sorry to clarify I spend some time in the usa and some time in australia so that’s why “here” in the previous comment sometimes means australia and other times means the usa lol

  36. Hermit
    January 12th, 2014 at 11:49 | #36

    Conservatives like to believe in Supreme Beings and their immaculately conceived offspring as it saves a lot of mental effort. No need to worry about climate change or limits to growth as the SB wouldn’t allow it. As insurance against falling out of favour it might be wise to do occasional observance. Therefore schoolkids should do more religious instruction and less science as that can’t save us in the end.

  37. Alphonse
    January 12th, 2014 at 11:53 | #37

    Gosh, Doug, I may stand corrected on my “core principles common to all religion”. But be that as it may, we still need the pincer movement from religion that is not the creature of the radical right – xenophobia harnessed by plutocracy.

  38. Mr Denmore
    January 12th, 2014 at 11:59 | #38

    We need to hear more from the Christian Left, whose members must be increasingly uncomfortable at the coopting of their faith by radicals of the Right. I was educated by the Marist brothers, many of whom I recall were social democrat in outlook. The Catholics now loudest in the media and close to political power seem to be almost uniformly of the Right. The hope (wishful thinking?) is that the appointment of Pope Francis marks a turning point and that Catholics and other Christians with social consciences and progressive mindsets will join secularlists against the culture/history warriors. As Prof Quiggin says, if they really insist on a war, let’s give them one.

  39. sunshine
    January 12th, 2014 at 12:07 | #39

    Abbott has no rigidly consistent economic outlook ,he just generally wants to wind things back to Howards dreamtime. The extremists within his party want no minimum wage and no red or green tape -apart from that I think they already have most of what they want as far as structural economic reform goes .

    Like Howard most of the action looks like being on the culture war front since they have had such success there in the past, – they can set up future election wins that way .No need to try to push reform on people who do not want it and get punished electorally ; -get them ready first , then introduce it later when they are meaner .60 % of Aussies want asylum seekers treated more harshly.

    Christians will probably be a minority of the population by the 2020s,

    Thats what has them worried . From memory (of an ABC radio report) “no religion’ was the fastest growing group in the census. They are worried that their angry old white man base is shrinking and the self-hating Leftist elites are winning .They are up against it -in my council area of Melb (Brimbank- out west) more than 50% of residents were born overseas.

  40. Megan
    January 12th, 2014 at 12:26 | #40

    @sunshine

    Slightly OT – I don’t accept that “60%” figure. Not that long ago the figure was more like 70% ‘pro’ refugee (obviously a lot depends on how the question is framed and precisely what it is the respondent says they support).

    To get a bit tin-foil, the poll was by “UMR” which is an ALP outfit. We don’t know who commissioned it, but to push the idea that a majority are ‘anti’ refugees would be politically advantageous to an ALP that is in lockstep with the LNP on the issue because it would take pressure off the ALP for its nasty policies (ie: “it’s what the majority want, we can’t go against the majority”)…just saying.

  41. alfred venison
    January 12th, 2014 at 12:41 | #41

    dear @Donald Oats
    thank you for the considered response, seeing as i was border-line rude in my last missive. only thing that riles me more than bob carr is richard dawkins and i shouldn’t post on an empty stomach & low blood sugar.

    i agree with what you say about the danger pyne presents. i think we are already in a new dark ages.

    with regard to what has been called gould’s “accommodation”. he took a chance and proposed a live & let live ethos by agreeing to disagree. maybe others don’t, but i applaud him for trying. he had a go. it didn’t work. they didn’t reciprocate. the dishonour is on them for not reciprocating and choosing instead to continue to subvert the constitution, not on him for trying.

    we shouldn’t encourage only the atheists, we should also encourage the sensible christians. it is the catholic ken miller’s biology text book they want off the school curriculum, or supplemented on the curriculum with their fantasies. and the plaintiffs in the kitzmiller -v- dover “panda” trial were simultaneously devout christians (science teachers, some) and conscientious opponents of intelligent design infiltrating their children’s schools.

    i don’t see this as atheists versus extremist fundamentalists but rather as secularists opposing extremist fundamentalists. my position in this is to barrack for secularism not for atheism.

    we can strive to forge a common cause alliance with sensible christians against extremist fundamentalism in schools, or just piss them off by pushing an argument that can’t be proven one way or the other. sincerely, venison.

  42. derrida derider
    January 12th, 2014 at 13:51 | #42

    Me, I want to see a narrow sectarian dogmatism forced on kids in school, preferably with the use of corporal discipline to enforce correct doctrine.

    That way we can be sure that every kid with any brains or even guts will thoroughly despise all authoritarians by their teens and be inoculated against all religion for their lifetime.

  43. paul walter
    January 12th, 2014 at 13:53 | #43

    I see it largely as Alphonse sees it. Dawkins has been a necessary phenomena, but if we are evolving we need to understand that complexity will intrude from the point Dawkins leaves behind as to origins, value and meaning, the role of metaphysics, etc.
    For example, I take Hermits point and largely agree with the trjectory comes from, but ultimate3ly , no one has been able to DISprove the existence of a god any more than the religious have demonstrated incontrovertibly, the opposite.
    Dont forget, the religious will suggest that we duck the issue raised by Xtianity because the of implications of the thinking and the demand for commitment to reform that would engender.
    History is littered with the mutilated corpses of activists who took on their eras imperialists, colonialists or local kleptocrats.

  44. W. Smith
    January 12th, 2014 at 14:14 | #44

    I applaud Kevin Donnelly. Thanks to all those godless pinkos poisoning our children’s minds, some students finish year 12 without ever having read the contents of Milton Friedman’s letter to Augusto Pinochet! No wonder they have no idea of the achievements of western civilisation.

    Re-education camps for ‘em all, I say.

  45. January 12th, 2014 at 14:16 | #45

    I find that people who knock on my door to talk to me about religion frequently have no idea of the actual tenents of their professed religion and can become visibly upset when I try to explain concepts such as Sola Fide to them. As a result of these experiences, I’ve concluded that religious education is probably a very cruel thing to do to the religious and they’d probably be much happier without it.

  46. Donald Oats
    January 12th, 2014 at 15:03 | #46

    Interesting to see Kevin Donnelly’s name and Donna Staunton’s name in the same place, an article on the infiltration of Tobacco money into Australian schools, running a campaign entitled “I’ve got the power”, the purpose of which is murky, but seems to be obstensibly about instilling in young teenagers the belief that they are entitled to do what they want, that is, to make their own choices. Now, who can argue with that? Er, why would Big Tobacco sponsor a program to help teenagers to see that they are free to make their own choices? Hmm.

    Donna Staunton, who was also involved with facilitating the Australian part of the Philip Morris Ltd “I’ve got the power” campaign, was the person selected for the PR communications role in CSIRO during the previous Liberal goverrnment under PM John Howard. To be clear: CSIRO made the call on who got the position…I won’t go into detail about the saga here (which happened in the early 2000′s), but by all means, let this recent news story, the news and Big Tobacco archives, and WKSE do the job for you. It wasn’t pretty.

    All professional people have professional backgrounds, and same is true for people put on review panels. The difference here is that perhaps the professional backgrounds in question could have been a bit more balanced on where the needle on the ideologimeter is pointing.

  47. January 12th, 2014 at 15:10 | #47

    Not to be out of place, or cause offense, it seems to me that a Christian must by definition be a follower of Jesus Christ. Then allowing for historical authenticity, myth, and the various influences, not the least Judaism, Roman Imperialism and Hellenism, as reported Jesus Christ was a radical bloke – although I appreciate the heresy.

    There was much to admire about the early Christians and the Christian mystics. So the pertinent question is: Which Christian values? The original ones or those of the false prophets? Alternatively, as is the democratic norm, we could disagree and discuss our disagreement. If the subject is of such importance to the school curriculum that should be the spirit in which it is undertaken in both public and private schools.

  48. Donald Oats
    January 12th, 2014 at 15:13 | #48

    Sweet Suzie, Gee I am slow sometimes!

    What on Earth is someone who organised for Big Tobacco money to flow into school education programs doing on a two person review panel for the entire national school curriculum? (Apologies for shouting.)

    Now, I am not feeling the love…

    PS:

    No problem.
    alfred venison :
    dear @Donald Oats
    thank you for the considered response, seeing as i was border-line rude in my last missive. only thing that riles me more than bob carr is richard dawkins and i shouldn’t post on an empty stomach & low blood sugar.
    i agree with what you say about the danger pyne presents. i think we are already in a new dark ages.
    with regard to what has been called gould’s “accommodation”. he took a chance and proposed a live & let live ethos by agreeing to disagree. maybe others don’t, but i applaud him for trying. he had a go. it didn’t work. they didn’t reciprocate. the dishonour is on them for not reciprocating and choosing instead to continue to subvert the constitution, not on him for trying.
    we shouldn’t encourage only the atheists, we should also encourage the sensible christians. it is the catholic ken miller’s biology text book they want off the school curriculum, or supplemented on the curriculum with their fantasies. and the plaintiffs in the kitzmiller -v- dover “panda” trial were simultaneously devout christians (science teachers, some) and conscientious opponents of intelligent design infiltrating their children’s schools.
    i don’t see this as atheists versus extremist fundamentalists but rather as secularists opposing extremist fundamentalists. my position in this is to barrack for secularism not for atheism.
    we can strive to forge a common cause alliance with sensible christians against extremist fundamentalism in schools, or just piss them off by pushing an argument that can’t be proven one way or the other. sincerely, venison.

  49. Donald Oats
    January 12th, 2014 at 15:19 | #49

    @alfred venison
    No problem.

    Drat: in my previous post, I hit the “Quote” button instead of “Reply”. Thin fingers but thick brain…might go away for a while now.

  50. Luke Elford
    January 12th, 2014 at 15:29 | #50

    They’re going to be some fairly interesting religion lessons if Kevin Donnelly is really interested in inculcating in school children the views, values and way of life of the Australian majority.

    Christians only make up a majority of Australians if you use a fairly loose definition of Christian. This 2009 Nielsen survey (http://www.smh.com.au/pdf/Nielsen%20Poll%20Faith%20Dec19.pdf) found that while 67% of respondents identified as Christian, only 50% were Christians who believed in God, a figure that is presumably below 50% now. Only 45% identified as Christian and only believed in God; the other 5% also believed in a “universal sprit”—as the survey report notes in an understated fashion, “[s]ome people may not regard such belief as strictly Christian”.

    To get to 67%, you need to further include 5% who identify as Christian and believe in a universal spirit only, 3% who identify as Christian but aren’t sure if God exists, and 8% who identify as Christian but don’t believe in God.

    So I look forward to religion lessons which explain that God, as represented by Christian teachings, does not exist, which is clearly the view of the majority. I also look forward to lessons which explain that the Bible (along with other religious texts) is not the word of God, the view of 61% of the adult population.

    Instructing children to rarely if ever attend religious services will also need to be an important part of the curriculum, to ensure that they fit in with the way of life of the overwhelming majority of Australians (85%+) who don’t attend services regularly. It will also be important to instruct children to ensure that religion is not an important part of their daily lives, so they fit in with the 67% of Australians who feel likewise. And it’ll be important to instruct children to keep religion out of their marriages, so their behaviour is in keeping with the strong majority of 72% who opt for civil ceremonies.

    Be careful what you wish for indeed.

  51. January 12th, 2014 at 16:25 | #51

    @Luke Elford
    Not to mention encouraging people to pretend to be catholic so that their kids can attend a catholic school.

  52. January 12th, 2014 at 16:30 | #52

    Luke #47 the flaw in your argument is that a curriculum’s purpose is to teach kids what they ought to know, not to mirror what their parents believe. Defining learning outcomes to be achieved through a curriculum is unavoidably elitist. That’s why I’ve always mistrusted the Liberal obsession with using schools to teach “values”. It’s an abuse of government power, no matter what values are meant to be taught, in the sense they use the word (e.g. Howard’s incessant preaching the superiority of “Western values” in the context of Australia’s role in Asia).

  53. rog
    January 12th, 2014 at 17:15 | #53

    Strangely enough, or maybe not, well known climate sceptic Richard Lindzen is supportive of this evangelical climate change denying group There could be a link between faith as in religion and faith as in modern business practices (eg follow our 5 step plan to personal wealth) however I also wonder if a little bit of proper religious instruction could assist students to be less susceptible to doubtful and dodgy marketing practices as employed by both (some) religious groups and business.

    But probably not, philosophy would be a better subject.

  54. TerjeP
    January 12th, 2014 at 17:16 | #54

    Bobalot :
    Our system of law doesn’t come from the Romans or Christian teachings.
    Our legal system is based on British Common Law.

    Bobalot — yes you right. However the pagan Romans did invent it first even if the Anglo Saxons reinvented it later. Of course law is everywhere like language but Roman law and English common law have some very commendable attributes.

  55. Luke Elford
    January 12th, 2014 at 17:58 | #55

    @Ken_L

    It’s Kevin Donnelly who plays the Australia is “inherently a Christian society” and therefore the education system should be based on “a commitment to Christian beliefs and values” card, and rejects the idea of Australia as a “secular nation with a multicultural and multi-faith society” as “politically correct”, “postmodern” and “relativistic”. I’m simply describing what an education system that reflected the actual religious beliefs and practices of the majority of the population (as opposed to what Donnelly thinks they are) would look like. I’m not seriously advocating that the government should tell children whether or not to go to church.

  56. faust
    January 12th, 2014 at 18:00 | #56

    I don’t mind proper teaching of religion in the classroom. When I was back in high school I quite enjoyed the classes as it gave me an excuse to point out the inconsistencies in the bible to my evangelical Christian teacher. One reason why he marked my essay down!

    That being said, over the past few years I have increasingly understood the importance of religion even though I have not changed my views about God or a “supreme deity”. Teaching religion is a good way of looking at how different societies saw good behaviour, and placing religious belief in a historical context may help us avoid the fractured societies of other countries where religious groups faced off against each other.

  57. faust
    January 12th, 2014 at 18:03 | #57

    @LukeElford

    I think he is looking at the reality that much of our culture and laws are based on a Christian background. Christianity has had a much larger impact on our national culture and ethos than, say, Judaism or Islam. If our institutions had derived from a certain background then it is a better idea that people understand how those institutions evolved.

  58. faust
    January 12th, 2014 at 18:06 | #58

    @Ken_L The Left want to teach “values” just as much as the Right. Look at the fact that National Sorry Day needs to be taught as well as a myriad of other public holidays. The people on the left believe that this is a necessary addition to teach children about Indigenous Australians and their suffering, while the right view it as the black-armband view of our nation. Pretending that only the right think in terms of “values” is incredibly blind.

  59. January 12th, 2014 at 18:21 | #59

    faust #5 I don’t recall suggesting that “only the right think in terms of values” and I have no idea what “teaching a myriad of public holidays” means. Framing comments as what the left does or what the right does, and the use of terms like “incredibly blind”, is the kind of thing that has brought the whole blogosphere into disrepute. Why John Q perseveres is a mystery, but good on him for trying.

  60. faust
    January 12th, 2014 at 18:27 | #60

    @Ken_L You wrote: “That’s why I’ve always mistrusted the Liberal obsession with using schools to teach “values”.” As though it was only a Liberal thing whereas the Left try to teach values just as much as the right. I brought up teaching public holidays to demonstrate this.

  61. Roxee
    January 12th, 2014 at 20:52 | #61

    Mr Quiggan the “new atheism” is here already, and growing, thank goodness. Over 50,000 Australian school children are being homeschooled without registering with the Ed Dep’t and predominantly being educated by the Ken Ham ACE system. The Ed Dep’t are so scared of the religious right in this state they won’t do anything about it. 
    http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/backgroundbriefing/home-schooling/3792578
    Creationism being taught in publically funded religious schools and some public schools. Chaplains in schools. The onslaught at the child level is horrendous. The fruits are beinging to be demonstrated as groups of young people hit our steets to preach to the public.
    Soldiers For Christ are being created through this organization, but they don’t call it that now. http://kidsinministry.org/about/
    The women who heads it is called Becky Fischer of Jesus Camp fame.
    http://vimeo.com/34473505
    The organization has now gone international and there’s a chapter in Australia headed by a woman in Qld.
    http://kimiaustralia.org/sscm/
    The following Australian site was originally called Answer in Genesis because Ken Ham started it here before moving to the US where he built The Creation Museum and is now trying to build The Ark theme park. This page talks about homeschooling and education materials, etc.
    http://creation.com/parents-corner
    Ken Hams American and British Answers in Genesis site where many religious parents get their educational materials from.
    http://www.answersingenesis.org/cec/curricula

    I don’t know how naive you are Mr Quiggan, but it would be helpful if you didn’t denigrate your fellow citizens who label themselves as atheist to push back against the rising tide of dogmatic fundamentalism in this country. It too the religious right in the US approx 30 years to capture congress. We are well on our way down the same road here. Either help or get out of the way.

  62. Roxee
    January 12th, 2014 at 21:00 | #62

    I’m a lefty and I along with every lefty I know would love a bill of rights. If you’ve been told otherwise you have been oropogandized to in order to further divide between the political left and right.@Mel

  63. January 12th, 2014 at 23:00 | #63

    Pr Q said:

    More generally, his argument is that we need to inculcate a commitment to the”institutions, values and way of life” of the Australian majority.

    From 1788 to the present moment, “the institutions, values and way of life of the Australian majority” have been of the generally liberal Christian form. Up until the early seventies that would have been the vast majority (+ 90%). Even nowadays, Christians make up more than 60% of the population. And of course Christian schools now enroll a growing fraction of the overall student population.

    Thus Donnellys statement is a simple re-iteration of anthropological arithmetic, the kind of banal majoritarianism that was unexceptional, even obligatory, up until a generation ago.

    Perhaps Christian majoritarianism was all a terrible mistake, as evinced by the awful history of Australia up until the early seventies. Oh…wait a minute, that interpretation holds sway in post-modern liberal bizarro world. In reality liberal Christianity provided the anthropological basis for a very free and fair society, one that was the envy of the civilized world.

    More importantly, every society needs some sort of institutionalised code to sanctify the altruism that underlies the provision of public goods, whether conducted by moral volition or legal compulsion. Christianity filled that bill. No secular agency has managed to come up with a better mousetrap.

    It is highly significant that the relative decline of Christian profession in the elite and dreg stratas of society over the past two generations has been associated with a relative decline of institutional morality. Hence the rise of psycho-babbling counselors, ambulance-chasing lawyers and thought-policing political correctors to fill the spiritual void.

    No doubt Christianity will eventually become a minority religion once society conforms to the a-religious values of today’s somewhat affectless < 25 year old youth. But until that cohort holds the whip hand I think it would be wise for all of us to pay heed to the accumulated wisdom of our elders.


    Tradition refuses to submit to the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about. Tradition is only democracy extended through time. … It is the democracy of the dead.

    Chesterton

  64. January 13th, 2014 at 00:41 | #64

    So the question is whether Christianity reflects the majority. This in turn calls in question as to whether there is a consensus among Christians, and what indeed that might be. A democracy is the living – and there can be no other kind (despite the occasional votes from the cemetery) – requires respect for all and for minorities.

    A cursory historical analysis will show that minorities, for example the Quakers, can have a influence greater than their numbers might suggest on social questions and outcomes. I am certainly hoping the Quakers will persist and prevail in terms of opposing war and structural violence as a means of “resolving conflicts”.

  65. BilB
    January 13th, 2014 at 03:59 | #65

    I expect that this will ultimately lead to an attempt to introduce into the science carriculum the notion of creationism and intelligent design
    Abbott himself calls evolution an “interesting theory” and will not de drawn on wether he believes evolution to be true.

    The fact is that there is boundless evidence for the natural creation of life, and absolutely zero evidence that there is a God, of any kind at all. But with a committee of two preparing the new carriculum the probability for an attempt to foist this psuedo science agenda onto the primary school and high school populous is high given the Abbott inner block groupthink, the amalgum of murdochism and this government, and the narrow ideological path that the Abbott government has launched itself down.

  66. roy
    January 13th, 2014 at 05:18 | #66

    Lately most people claiming to be Christian are taking up an inordinant amount of time in Royal Commissions and the Courts being refered to as the RESPONDENTS
    GEORGE PELL included

  67. Fran Barlow
    January 13th, 2014 at 06:41 | #67

    Tradition … is the democracy of the dead.

    Weighing like a nightmare on the brains of the living …

  68. alfred venison
    January 13th, 2014 at 07:04 | #68

    keep this in mind when abbott ummms about evolution and/or creationism.

    “today, more than a half-century after the appearance of that encyclical, some new findings lead us toward the recognition of evolution as more than a hypothesis. in fact it is remarkable that this theory has had progressively greater influence on the spirit of researchers, following a series of discoveries in different scholarly disciplines. the convergence in the results of these independent studies—which was neither planned nor sought—constitutes in itself a significant argument in favor of the theory.”

    john-paul #2, address to pontifical academy of sciences, 22 October 1996.

  69. Paul Norton
    January 13th, 2014 at 07:39 | #69

    The death of Ariel Sharon should give us cause to reflect on the seeds of ruin that were sowed for Lebanon by the attempt to entrench Christian ascendancy in its political institutions on the basis of a transient Christian majority at the time of its independence.

  70. Paul Norton
    January 13th, 2014 at 07:47 | #70

    Every tradition began as an innovation.

  71. Paul Norton
    January 13th, 2014 at 08:23 | #71

    IIRC the left hasn’t had any problem getting behind proposals for a Bill of Rights when the issue had come up. The problem has tended to be with the ALP raising the issue and then losing its bottle.

  72. Paul Norton
    January 13th, 2014 at 08:59 | #72

    Tradition refuses to submit to the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about. Tradition is only democracy extended through time. … It is the democracy of the dead.

    This line of argument has some interesting consequences if extended to take account of the views and interests of the future generations who will vastly outnumber the dead and the currently living.

  73. January 13th, 2014 at 09:18 | #73

    1) Bearing in mind that the decline of professed Christianity, of whatever description, from 90% to 60% took place in a much more explicitly christianised educational/legal/social system than we have today, there’s little reason to believe that what comparatively little Abbot & Pyne can do to the schools will do anything at all to reverse the trend. My school, for example, mandated compulsory church attendance eight times a week; the effect was a general conviction that we’d had enough of it, at the Australian average of 7 church visits a year, to last us for 222.85 years if we never went again, so in the main we didn’t.
    2) Pyne thinks that children are being led astray by Marxist teachers and we should go back to having them led astray by religious teachers; but as the marxist teachers were themselves taught by the religious teachers, this seems doomed to fail.
    3) The Australian drift away from religion isn’t a movement to atheism, it’s to Who Gives a Fuck, which is a much, much more attractive standard. Going to church is work; 8.8% of Australians do it once a week, 19% once a month, the rest weddings and funerals (and perhaps Christmas or Easter).
    4) Just about the least believing nation on earth is England, which still has an established church.
    5) Forty years ago Edna Everage was making jokes about catholic-protestant rivalry. That’s now a good deal deader than Sandy Stone. Fifty years in Australia and Sunni and Shia will have a hard time remembering which is which, or at least have a hard time thinking worse of the other sect than they do of Collingwood supporters.

    Abbot and Pyne’s views on this are certainly evidence that they’re malign clowns, but we already knew that, just as we have lots of evidence that their policies tend to fold catastrophically because they have a firm belief that firm beliefs matter more than lots of evidence. If militant atheists were smart, they’d be supporting daily compulsory religious instruction in schools run by young-earth creationists.

  74. conrad
    January 13th, 2014 at 09:35 | #74

    “It is highly significant that the relative decline of Christian profession in the elite and dreg stratas of society over the past two generations has been associated with a relative decline of institutional morality. Hence the rise of psycho-babbling counselors, ambulance-chasing lawyers and thought-policing political correctors to fill the spiritual void.”

    Apart from a small number of groups like conservative old white males, the majority of the population (e.g., females, gays, non-whites, people who arn’t conservative…) is vastly better off now than they were in the 70s on almost any measure, no matter what sort of hyperbole you can think of. Possibly even conservative old white males given many of them would have benefitted from all of the economic benefits that occurred from it.

  75. January 13th, 2014 at 09:47 | #75

    No doubt Christianity will eventually become a minority religion once society conforms to the a-religious values of today’s somewhat affectless < 25 year old youth. But until that cohort holds the whip hand I think it would be wise for all of us to pay heed to the accumulated wisdom of our elders.

    I would rather pay heed to the wisdom of the elders who went out and studied the world, what it’s made of and the people within it for what they are, rather than that of the elders who cling desperately to superstition and possess a pathetic need for imaginary friends.

  76. January 13th, 2014 at 09:54 | #76

    Mel:

    Hmmm, maybe the Left should get behind the idea of a Bill of Rights with the separation of church and state being one of the items.

    Ugh. Bernardi is bad enough. I’d really rather not have an Australia Westbro that can hide its antisocial behaviour behind the constitution.

  77. Alan
    January 13th, 2014 at 10:46 | #77

    @alfred venison

    Indeed, the political Christianism advocated, and sought to be privileged and entrenched, by the cultural right (sorry, Jack) has very little in commons with the actual Christianity practised by a majority of believers.

  78. Paul Norton
    January 13th, 2014 at 10:51 | #78

    I think Jack should explain whether he personally subscribes to Christianity or whether his comment @59 was promoting “traditional” Christian belief as a Straussian “noble lie”.

  79. Paul Norton
    January 13th, 2014 at 10:55 | #79

    Beyond that, the classical Burkean arguments for tradition and religion as a more reliable guide to social life than the unaided reason implicitly assumed a mono-traditional and mono-confessional society. For reasons that shouldn’t need too much elaboration the arguments don’t work as well when applied to multi-traditional and multi-confessional societies of the kind that Australia, and several other modern western democracies, have become. In such societies reason becomes the essential cultural currency and social lubricant.

  80. Tim Macknay
    January 13th, 2014 at 11:16 | #80

    @Mel

    Hmmm, maybe the Left should get behind the idea of a Bill of Rights with the separation of church and state being one of the items.

    Actually, this is one of the constitutional rights we do have. Section 116 is modeled closely on the US church-state separation provisions. of course, the High Court has read it down a bit, hence school chaplains, etc.

  81. TerjeP
    January 13th, 2014 at 12:28 | #81

    I’ll support a bill of rights if you let me write it. Until then I’ll reserve judgement and await more details.

  82. January 13th, 2014 at 12:54 | #82

    TerjeP, how would you handle religion in your bill of rights? Would you grant a right of freedom to exercise religion and thus weaken laws in respect of religious activities, or simply restrict the capacity of the state to actively support it?

  83. Mel
    January 13th, 2014 at 12:57 | #83

    A Bill of Rights might protect the offensive Westbro crowd but it might also rein in our more reptilian state governments and prevent people facing jail time for doing nothing more sinister than eating an ice-cream.

  84. may
    January 13th, 2014 at 13:00 | #84

    how dare they!

    was this in the policy mix at the last election?

    the assumption that respect must be shown to a claimed given authority and superior morality due to spiritual belief has a totalitarian miasma to it.

    even the most cursory examination of the claims shows items like

    a world wide pedophile network studiously ignored by devotees highly placed in our federal government.

    a religious teacher advising
    vulnerable youth that dress decides whether or not an individual can be considered “catmeat”.

    a few years ago in Tasmania a religious sect distributing posters accusing a political party of associating with drug addiction, and sending the bill to anothe political party.

    an ideology with enough sects that it could easily be called legion,with a record of tagging people with the labels äpostate”, “heretic”,”unbeliever”,”athiest”,”witch”,schismatic and having all of these labels constitute a death sentence.

    an ideology that has a record(and currently does) of inflicting maniacal torture in the name of it’s righteousness.

    an ideology that claims a divine right to be respected unconditionally while despising and relegating any who do not go along with it’s claims to an eternal torture chamber.

    an ideology that requires the indoctrination of children to maintain it’s political powers.
    (how many people do you know that have converted to various religions as an adult?)

    an ideology that has failed historically and currently failed miserably in it’s own right the claims of compassion,mercy and goodwill.

    an ideology that historically and currently has no compunction about religious war .

    that historically and currently is massively biased against science to the extent that in Australia we do not even have a science minister.

    we have an organisation receiving monies from the public purse for a huge number of schools,that if it were not a church,would be rounded up for crimes like forced labour,rampant hidden pedophilia,and irregularities that have been called money laundering.

    these schools are not called religious schools, the are paraded to the electorate under the guise of ” independent”schools.

    if anyone wants to teach or indoctrinate their own children in their own religion ,there is no reason why they cannot pay for such instruction themselves.

    the smoke machine is on full blast.

    they claim “family values”are owned by brand religion.

    how dare they!

  85. Uncle Milton
    January 13th, 2014 at 13:37 | #85

    It might well be that the majority of students in public schools are not Christian, but the premise that the majority of students in private schools, even those with a Christian affiliation, is not correct or at least not necessarily correct. In my observations, religious motivation is only a minor reason, if it exists at all, why parents send their children to private schools, apart from a subset of Catholic schools, schools rarely stipulate religious conformity from their students, and the attempts at religious education, let alone indoctrination, are desultory at best. Such is the competition between private schools for students that they take all kinds, provided they pay the fees, of course. Private schools are full of atheist students or students with a family background of a different.

    As for Donnelly, this is just a classic piece of trolling by Pyne, just as the selection of that IPA fellow to head up the Human rights Commission was trolling by Brandis. Donnelly will get to take an ideological dump on the national curriculum and that will be that.

  86. sunshine
    January 13th, 2014 at 14:03 | #86

    There is often a difference between truth and majority opinion , eg; public torture in the dark ages ,cultures which sanction sex between children and adults ,its ok to kill 800,000 (I think) male dairy calves (before they are 5 days old) per year in Aust (thats what veal is) (I think) ,and, greed is good – these are all (debatable) democratically supported truths at some time and place.

    No one is ideology free ,but crucially the Right often claim to be .Part of their claim is that it is the Left who think people need guidance ,but they (the Right) only want to leave people alone in their ‘natural’ state (as greedy Christians ?). A huge part of the Rights differentiation from the Left is that they are not into social engineering or mind control but those commies on the Left are.

  87. J-D
    January 13th, 2014 at 14:21 | #87

    If somebody said ‘We should paint it orange’ and when asked for a reason replied ‘Because it’s mostly orange now’, it wouldn’t sound like a good reason to me. Why do the orange parts need to be painted orange if they’re already orange? And why do the parts that aren’t orange need to have their colour changed? If the whole thing needs to be repainted because the current colour is fading away, why do we have to stick with the existing colour scheme? Yet Kevin Donnelly seems to be relying on an argument with the same logical structure.

  88. alfred venison
    January 13th, 2014 at 14:50 | #88

    oh for god sake, do these people not agree that god is ALL POWERFUL?

    in their wicked vanity & sinful presumptuous imaginings do they honestly think ALL POWERFUL GOD is SO STUPID he could not have created the universe with evolution, if he wanted to?

    are they then so consumed with their own vain & blasphemous fantasies as to PRESUME they know WHAT GOD THINKS?

    the purpose of the bible is to teach us that god is the creator, not how god, the son, and the holy spirit created.

    denis o. lamoureaux, “i love jesus and i accept evolution”, eugene, 2009.

    i reckon lamoureaux ought to know how to swing it for christians, he’s got phds in biology, theology and dentistry (evolution of the human jaw). he’s an evangelical who teaches “science & religion: an introduction” at a small catholic college in canada because no evangelical college in the usa will allow him to teach his “subversive” course on their campus without interference. but the catholics would, to which he said: “alleluia!”

    if you know a stubborn thinking christian you nevertheless love you could do worse then point them to his books. the textbook he wrote for his course is “evolutionary creation”. i have read it, it is thick, it is a textbook – and it is a bona fide introduction to evolution suitable for christians ; he holds their hands, but he hides nothing, he tells the truth about evolution, in full, and assures them that it is compatible with belief in salvation through jesus, and that they will not go to hell for knowing how it works. he denounces creationism. -a.v.

  89. Megan
    January 13th, 2014 at 15:37 | #89

    @alfred venison

    A good point.

    In fact, when you think about it – ‘god’ could have created the entire universe at lunchtime today complete with planet earth, fossils, cemeteries, churches, all our knowledge, science, wisdom, history, memories, assets & liabilities etc.. as if they’d been here forever and nobody would be able to prove otherwise.

    It’s not only possible, but would be consistent with a belief in such a god, being ‘all powerful’ and so on.

  90. Paul Norton
    January 13th, 2014 at 16:12 | #90

    Funnily enough, I find myself agreeing with Mel regarding a Bill of Rights.

    On the issue of what this would mean for religion, an important point is that protection of everyone’s freedom to believe, not believe or suspend judgement in religious matters requires limiting the prerogatives of any one religion, and establishing and maintaining a scrupulously secular state.

  91. paul walter
    January 13th, 2014 at 16:29 | #91

    It is true that students at state schools are heathen; has it e’re been different?
    Not so commonly acknowledged is that private school students are heathen also.
    Polite heathen, and the more destructive for it.
    Their “religion” is actually conservatism or neoliberalism, the texts for the middle class “religion”are actually Atlas Shrugged, Hayek and Plato’s “Republic”, despite their attack on the left for Platonist elitism.
    But furthest from god is the individual who thinks they have god their pocket? .a@Uncle Milton

  92. John Quiggin
    January 13th, 2014 at 16:30 | #92

    @ChrisB

    No fan of Islamic sectarianism, but surely comparing either side to Collingwood supporters is going a bit far.

  93. Roxee
    January 13th, 2014 at 16:48 | #93

    #40 That’s the problem, we don’t have a scrupulously secular state and the fact that most Australians don’t know this is why it’s an uphill battle to get one.
    A couple of examples: I went to Mater public while in the middle of a miscarriage and asked my OBGYN to go ahead and “tie my tubes” as we had discussed earlier. He couldn’t because it was a public hospital run by Catholics. Religious zealots run the after school program at the public school my grandkids attend. They’ve told them hell exists!!
    Too many of our politicans are congregating in parliament to share a prayer breakfast. The way it’s goung soon we’ll have them saying at the end if every speech: god bless you and god bless the commonwealth of Australia.

  94. alfred venison
    January 13th, 2014 at 16:56 | #94

    hi @Megan
    during the kitzmiller -v- dover trial in 2005 when i was right into this stuff, i read about a school of young earth creationism (i don’t know if it is still professed) which held that, during the biblical six day creation, god put dinosaur fossils in the mountains to test our faith when we’d advanced to the point where we could uncover them, the modern crisis as it were. the obvious riposte of course is that would be the act of a cruel god & that the god that created us is a loving god. so, fail.

    if anyone is interested, the finding of fact & judgement of judge john e. jones the third in the 2005 “panda” trial (kitzmiller et al. -v- dover school board), where a shifty attempt to infiltrate creationism into the local school curriculum was defeated for all states, can read it here:-

    http://web.archive.org/web/20051221144316/http://www.pamd.uscourts.gov/kitzmiller/kitzmiller_342.pdf

    i’ve read it, its good. its a 139 pages but it is at that a succinct summary of what was presented to the judge in court by both sides and his judgement on it and why. knowledge is power. -a.v.

  95. Uncle Milton
    January 13th, 2014 at 17:13 | #95

    @John Quiggin

    You obviously never ventured near the scoreboard at Victoria Park, back in the day.

  96. paul walter
    January 13th, 2014 at 17:17 | #96

    This worries me, with Quiggin.
    Only Collingwood supporters would stoop to defending other Collingwood supporters.
    Is it time for disclosures; for that painful moment when a person on an epiphany, finally recognises the breadth and depth of their intellectual and moral falling short?

  97. paul walter
    January 13th, 2014 at 17:24 | #97

    Roxee, “Death of Cultural Memory”..it is indeed as you say .

  98. Paul Norton
    January 13th, 2014 at 17:28 | #98

    I grew up in Reservoir which was a hotbed of Catholicism, Labor voting and Collingwood barracking, with a close association between the three.

  99. paul walter
    January 13th, 2014 at 17:45 | #99

    Yes, had rellies out Reservoir way, great, honest folk.

    My aunt, who lived at Thornbury, was red hot Melbourne.. during the Barrassi era.. only two things she loathed, Henry Bolte and “Dirty old Collingwood”.

  100. Donald Oats
    January 13th, 2014 at 18:09 | #100

    …and yet it orbits the sun.

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