This past week news broke about how a town in Lancashire, UK, has changed their Religion Education syllabus. I’m sure this kind of thing happens all the time but why has this instance gotten so much traction in the media and blogosphere? Well, in addition to learning about Christianity, students will also now learn about other faiths like Buddhism and Islam. What appears to be most disturbing to those in certain circles, students will also learn about humanism and — quick, hide the kids — atheism.
Certain circles are outraged that kids as young as four might be introduced to the concept that some people just don’t believe in gods.
I might be sympathetic if the argument was that issues related to religion are too complicated for primary school children. Four-year-old children should be working on motor skills and socialization, not complex studies of ontology and epistemology.
Of course, that’s not what the complaints are about. The complaints are that learning what atheism is might confuse the children about Christianity. I’ll let Fr Michael Lavin explain his position himself:
“I think that four years old is too young to be learning about atheism. At that age they hardly know what Christianity is.”
Because, naturally, Christianity should be taught first and used as the basis for any other instruction on religion, morality or philosophy. Duh.
“In primary schools it is difficult to get youngsters to understand theology and spiritual concepts. Children tend to struggle when you are making the first Holy Communion.”
Do they now? Maybe that is because they are too young to understand the indoctrination. If they are struggling with it, why are we teaching it to them at such a young age?
“And in order to teach atheism the child will have to understand who God is and what religion is first.”
Finally, a rational objection even if it wasn’t completely true. The same article includes what appears to be an Op-Ed from Canon David Meara, Rector of St Brides. He shares a similar sentiment:
” If atheism is non-belief, I don’t see how you can teach it.”
It is very easy actually. It’s all in how you teach religion. I’d suggest something like this…
“Some people believe there are magical invisible sky daddies who love us so much they made the entire universe just for us so we can hang out here for a while before going to live with them in their sky palace forever since clearly any all powerful being would surely love to hang with me, right? Oh, and here’s a list of things he (always a he) said we can and can’t do otherwise we can’t come to his party. Many people don’t believe that.”
On to geography and history classes where they kids can learn how things actually came to be this way.
I’ll let Meara close us off:
“You wouldn’t leave it up to a child to choose whether or not to learn French or maths.”
No, and you wouldn’t leave it up to a child to think Hogwarts was real either.