On Twitter, Milly Majich made a very astute observation: “Why is it that the people who calmly misrepresent ‘Religious Instruction’ as being ‘Religious Education’ are the same ones who hysterically misrepresent ‘Sex Education’ as being ‘Sex Instruction’?”1 This observation says much about the way the religious think, about how disingenuous they are, and also about their obsession with sex.
A couple of days ago, on the ABC’s The Drum2, in a discussion concerning the Victorian Opposition leader’s promise to bring back religious instruction into state schools if he wins November’s election, Murdoch ‘ruperter’ Caroline Overington stated:“It’s terrifically important to teach religion in state schools. I think one of the problems sometimes with attending a state school is that you don’t get religious education. You should be able to opt out if you’re opposed but, definitely, I think there are children who come out of schools these days who don’t know what’s in the Bible and what’s Star Wars. They’re confused about the greatest contribution to civilisation ever, which is religion, in particular the Judeo-Christian religions. And it’s a great shame that they come out of school not questioning them, not knowing about them, not being able to interrogate them, not being able to debate the issues, not knowing some of the most important influences behind music, behind art, behind beauty [?], behind creativity [?], behind the soulfulness [?] of the human race, the things that bind us together. It’s a terrible shame that in Australia today, if you want your children to be exposed to that enormous and wonderful landscape, you have to send them private and you have to pay. Well, why should that be?”
Jenna Price, who was also on the panel, came in: “So, one of the things we could do is to make sure that religions are taught by teachers. So, it would be a kind of interdisciplinary process of learning about comparative religions. I think one of the big problems with religious education is that it has been taught by evangelists in the classroom. So, they’re handing out little holy cards, they’re handing out bibles, they’re marking the, turn the other cheek instead of thinking about it theoretically and critically”.
Host, Craig Reucassel then jumped in: “I think that’s the difference. There’s a very big difference between teaching about religion as an academic study or trying to proselytise or convert people. I think the background for this….”
Overington interrupted: “How can you learn about civilisation without learning about religion? It’s a key plank of civilisation; it’s the key plank of civilisation.”
Then we got down to the nitty-gritty: Overington said: This is a Christian country, whether we like it or not it is a Christian country. The head of state is a representative of the Queen, who’s the head of the Church of England. This is a Christian country; and so it does seem crazy to deny that, by not offering 75% of children, who attend public schools, religious education”.
Jenna Price then jumped in: “If it’s properly taught. I mean, it’s really important that we teachers [are] teaching as opposed to people who are just trying to recruit.”
Overington writes for Murdoch’s The Australian (aka the Catholic daily) so tends to be economical with the truth; it is probably appropriate that she also writes fiction. She waxes lyrical about the influence of the generic ‘religion’ on art, et cetera, then narrows this down to the Judeo-Christian religions, then to Christianity alone. This is all about trying to increase the number of bums on pews just as religion is declining across the nation. Similarly, the school chaplaincy programme is also an attempt to insinuate religion into state schools, simply as a way of again increasing the number of bums on pews. The power of the religious is waning in Australian society and the religious hate this, so they will do all in their power to reverse this trend.
Overington asserted, when she got to what really concerned her (i.e. bums on pews), was that Australia is a Christian country, seemingly because Queen Elizabeth is the head of the Church of England. A sillier reason to make this assertion I have yet to hear. Using Overington’s logic, I could just as easily say that Australia is an Anglican country. But like Overington’s assertion, that is tripe too. Currently 52.1% of the Australian population identify themselves as Christian, with the largest and most rapidly growing group being those with ‘no religion’, which is currently at 30.1%, having risen from negligible over the last 50 years. The next biggest group are Catholics at 22.6%, followed by Anglicans at 13.3%3.
This exchange epitomises what the religious are trying to do, as Milly Majich observed. They disingenuously conflate education and instruction so that they can attempt to insinuate proselytising into state schools under the banner of ‘religious education’.
The religious hate the teaching of comparative religion, which is what Jenna Price was talking about, because it demonstrates there are others, and that all are equally ludicrous. They also prefer a filtered view, like Overington’s, that religion is good for people, and that it is all sweetness, butterflies, puppies and kittens, whereas the story of religion is very much one of murderous madmen, pogroms, torture, bigotry, hatred and the abuse, sexual and otherwise, of children. The religious also hate the study of ethics, because they hijacked morality4, and they pretend that there is no morality without religion. They want to maintain that monopoly.
While many religious people are accepting of other belief systems and even lack of belief, you should never be fooled by the stridently religious. They will not be happy until we live in a theocracy, where we all have to live under their rules and no debate will be tolerated. We must never allow that to happen.