AC Grayling’s call to abolish RE in schools is dangerously ignorant

No REA couple of weeks ago I was in a conversation with a BBC producer discussing faith schools and their admissions policies. We talked about the possibility of my appearance on BBC1’s Sunday Morning Live to debate the subject.

In the end it didn’t happen, but I wish I’d had the chance to take on the British Humanist Association’s chief executive, Andrew Copson as he repeatedly made claims that there was factual evidence that faith schools select wealthy pupils by the backdoor, are divisive and basically have nothing good to offer. He didn’t mention that the ‘factual evidence’ was drawn from the BHA’s own research which only suggests that these might be the case if you join a few dots and squint a bit.

Faith school bashing continues to be a popular pastime for the BHA and their friends but given that they employ someone full-time to campaign for their abolition,  it’s not entirely surprising; they’ve got to do something to keep themselves busy after all. It also doesn’t help that the Accord Coalition, which includes the BHA alongside the NUT and ATL teachers’ unions campaigns against faith school admission policies with the support of an eclectic bunch of religious individuals.

‘Look!’ they say, ‘It’s not just humanists who don’t like faith schools there are plenty of religious  leaders who have a problem with them too,’ even though the majority of these ‘leaders’ represent a miniscule number of people. Still it adds enough credence to their message for the media to take notice.and sow a few more seeds of doubt as to whether faith schools should be allowed to carry on as they are despite their continued success and popularity.

The Accord coalition might want to dump admission policies based on belief and collective worship, but they do at least admit that Religious Education serves a useful purpose. Apparently not all of their public supporters agree with this though. The Philosopher, AC Grayling who has been referred to as the ‘Fifth Horseman of New Atheism’ may have his face on the Accord website, but has written a stinging attack in this week’s Times Education Supplement on not just faith schools but the entire subject of RE, which he sees as being no more than a sad and pathetic branch of philosophy.

AC Grayling is a clever man who has held a number of high profile positions and now appears to want to take over the role of arch-antagonist towards all things religious from Richard Dawkins. He has plenty of form when it comes to this matter, having described religious indoctrination of small children as “child abuse” in the past. In his five-page feature that will be sitting on the coffee tables of staff rooms across the country right now, he continues the dogged bombardment , setting out to undermine Religious Education legitimacy as a subject within the school curriculum. He writes:

‘Suppose that instead of RE, schools taught the history of humanity’s attempts to make sense of itself and the world around it. In this system, it would be seen that religions are just part – and truth be told, a rather primitive part – of a much larger and more complex adventure of thought…

‘Placing religion in this much larger context dramatically changes how it is viewed by students. How would our schoolchildren react to the Christian story, for example, if they knew that it was an iteration of commonplace tales abounding in Egyptian and Greek mythology? One could show how every feature of the Christian story is lifted from earlier mythologies.

‘Moreover, the “answers to the deepest questions in life” offered by religions are often very bad ones, and it needs to be made clear that much better answers exist in the secular traditions of thought.

‘RE should be replaced with a far more general history of ideas, in which the various beliefs of the world are merely one strand. Knowing something about religions is good; it is often remarked that otherwise one could not make sense of paintings in a public art gallery, and this is true.

‘Religion is organised superstition, and setting an example for children to respect superstition is wrong… The stories are silly, the promises vague and the concepts largely undefined.’

Grayling is right when he says that philosophy should be an established part of children’s education, but his view of religion as a feeble-minded strand of it exposes how little he understands about the nature of religion. If all religions were like Buddhism, which requires no belief the supernatural, then he might have a point, but reducing religious faith to a set of ideas and fairy tales that can be fully explained away at a purely rational level, completely misunderstands what it means to believe in the existence of a God or gods. Grayling reveals that his atheistic mind is unable to make sense of this and it leaves him little option but to dismiss it all lock, stock and barrel. To him, religion is little more than an outdated curiosity.

Perhaps AC Grayling could do with a gentle reminder that as an atheist he is in a small minority in this country and even more so globally. Atheists make up 2 per cent of the world’s population and the non-religious another 16 per cent. That leaves 5.9 billion supposedly deluded people he and his comrades in atheism have to convince that religion is of no real significance.

It would be an interesting experiment to put Grayling’s proposals into practice and allow him to do the teaching. Would he be able to teach all aspects of philosophy and a neutered version of religion in a way that genuinely allowed pupils to make up their own minds entirely without prejudice? Given his inability to give the New Testament account of Jesus’ life a fair hearing, would he be able to find a way to impart in his students what he has been unable to do himself?

Grayling is his own disgust appears to have missed a basic truth.  As soon as you begin to teach children, you start to impart your values and understanding of the world on to them. Encouraging independent thinking is not the same as passing on knowledge and this is always under the control of the teacher.  If the whole concept of God is a load of rubbish then Grayling may potentially have a point about child abuse, but if God is real in any form then surely Grayling’s staunch atheistic approach is actually the one that is potentially more abusive to children.

We are painfully aware in these times that religious belief can lead to suffering, division and bloodshed. But it also capable of producing far more good than evil. Deliberately reducing a generation’s already slender grasp of religion and belief is not going to do anything to increase community cohesion in our multicultural society nor make sense of the role of religion in the politics and conflicts we are witnessing daily further afield. Ignorance is certainly not bliss in this case.

Religious education is far from perfect as it stands. The Church of England revealed last week that more than half of its primary schools are delivering poor quality RE lessons that give pupils little more than a “superficial” grounding in the subject. This serious failure to deliver acceptable levels of understanding is not going to be fixed by abandonment. Instead there needs to be a move away from the observation and study of religious paraphernalia to the understanding of core theologies and the impact of faith on the lives of individuals and groups.

AC Grayling’s views on this matter are both blinkered and dangerously ignorant. Those who oversee the delivery of religious education would do well to look elsewhere for wise advice on the subject’s future.


This article was originally published at Archbishop Cranmer. God and Politics is in the process of merging with Cranmer. Articles by Gillan will continue to be cross-posted on both sites for a short while during the transition phase.

Categories: Atheism, Campaigning, Economy, Morals & ethics

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40 replies

  1. In the land of the blind the one eyed man is king. We know that ac grayling is ignorant but many people believe him because they assume that he has done some research. Perhaps the best way forward is to teach the faith and expose his mythology.

  2. Your claim that “Atheists make up 2 per cent of the world’s population and the non-religious another 16 per cent” quotes no source. The WIN/Gallup International Global Index of Religiosity and Atheism 2012 found that 13% of the world’s population self-described as atheists, an additional 23% as not religious and only 59% as religious.

  3. This is just another part of the constant campaign by the Godless Ones, who can think of nothing better than destroying in others, the faith which they themselves lack. My ‘old-fashioned’ Faith includes acknowledgement OF THE AWFUL POWER OF EVIL! Quote: “MY NAME IS LEGION!” Evil is everywhere, tireless in its’ efforts to counter goodness and LOVE, WHICH IS FROM GOD, AND IS GOD!.

  4. I read A.C. Graylings ”The God argument” which includes the case against Religion and for humanism. I think he genuinely believes that humanity can be improved by civil conversations around a dinner table to agree a shared path to the benefit of humanity. We only need look to the Greek classics for our inspiration he thinks. The book romanticises humanism though and ignores the immorality even of the classical period. The most divisive thing in the world today is not religion but rather human sin manifest in millions of encounters across the world each and every day most notably power and control through the use of capital. Religion is not immune from either but the two biggest killing regimes in history were part built on scientific, naturalistic, atheistic mind sets. Jesus goes beyond mere ethics because some of the people around A.C Graylings table are uninterested, hurt, damaged or evil. We already know in general terms the difference between good and ill but many struggle to attain this ethical utopia of which the Professor talks. There is countless testimony of people who are healed and transformed through following Jesus. Denying children the opportunity to learn about his teaching limits their education and wellbeing. They should be allowed to seek and explore. I respect A.C.Graylings right not to seek faith but i object to him denying it to others. But it also exposes the weakness of his secular thinking in that it is quite possible to agree to differ. Difference only becomes divisive when we devalue the other person. Jesus teaches us to care for the ”other” This liberal orthodoxy concerns many in that it wants to limit the things we are allowed to talk about and devalues entire people groups.

    • Humanism ~commenced~ as a debating society. In the 18th century ladies & gentlemen would debate the rights of man around the drawing room table; but only after the servants had gone to bed as they did not want to give them ideas above their station in life.
      There has always been a ~surreal~ element to a humanism which finds it necessary to ~exclude~ the bulk of humanity from its considerations.
      On law & ethics these are necessary to bring order & seemliness to human affairs, which is why society invests so much in them.
      Yet they are NOT an effective counter to sin; ethics is well able to ~due-process~ the body of sin into a body of civil or humanistic virtues. The people then have no sense of sin & repent not; rather they determine to fight all comers in defense of their delusions of virtue.
      Which is why Christianity goes beyond ethics, holding the virtuous & non-virtuous alike can only be saved in the act of God’s Grace which is the atonement Christ made on our behalf.

      Ken Maynard….

  5. Lets not sugar coat this, for Christianity in the uk, it’s about survival. Despite all your talk of wellbeing and limited education, the bottom line is that of you don’t get kids in through the doors of your churches, you will be all but gone within a generation. Schools are now your battle ground because you know you have a captive, young and impressionable audience. Adults are no longer conned by religion and children are your last hope.
    You have to realise that the only people who want christianity in schools are christians. Why should 4% of the population dictate what my child learns? ??

  6. R.E in schools probably takes up about 4% of the timetable so that would appear representative considering also that other religions are covered and besides the curriculum is not set by christians. In our own church we have a youth club, a parent and toddler group, messy church that is frequented by up to 20 young families, a christian youth group, lads and dads football. Boys brigade and various one off events have attracted young families and the church supports activities in the local school. Its engaged with the community and you can replicate that in hundreds of churches up and down the country. Its logical that if you take something off the school curriculum and children do not have the opportunity to know about it will of course fail to thrive which is why A.C Grayling wants it off. but so would our understanding of science diminish if we took that off the school programme.

  7. Hi Graham, you have confirmed my point haven’t you?? For churches this IS about survival.
    Targeting children to boost your numbers though??? This doesnt sit easy with me. Your talking about a demographic that still believes In Santa and will pretty much believe anything an adult tells them. Is this why churches don’t target adults?? We are not quite so gullible??
    As for your last comment, thats a bit ridiculous. The truth is if re did disappear it wouldnt make any difference to anyone and wouldnt be missed. I have a child in primary school and one in high school and they both hate re (nothing to do with my views, before you say it) they dont see why they should do it and its meaninglesa to them. I would rather they spent the time on science, maths or english and learned something that WILL help them in life.
    I just dont think children should be collateral damage in your battle for souls!!!!!!!!

    • There is a stench of impending death in the air, let us discuss just what is & is not dying.

      Secular society became the primary driver of human progress over the recent era; to its credit it delivered the greatest single technical advance of man in all history. About which this Protestant derives some satisfaction, after all the Reformation was the PRIMARY sponsor of the WASP democracies; which were called into being for that specific purpose.

      Yet as we now approach the limits of growth, materialism is running out of supply. Religions are resurgent all over the world, & confident of their future; except in the now secular west who erroneously believe materialism can beat the limits of growth, which it can’t.

      Thus you are correct in saying there is a smell of imminent death in the air. The terms & conditions of human existence are a GIVEN. Man’s puny writ can work with them intelligently & cooperatively to optimize opportunity if he keeps his head, but cannot negate them or over-come them.

      Current limits to growth imposed by this biosphere, dictate the fall or death of the secular & the restoration of religions. This is GIVEN by mounting & multiple existential crises & the looming limits of material growth.

      There is a stench of imminent death in the air, but what the secular can smell is it’s own decaying corpse; the secular is pretty much DEAD MAN WALKING at this time.

      The western democracies were once Christian democracies, & were ~sanctified~ to serve a progressive purpose in God. But as the secular has abandoned service to God in favour of service to mammon, God for his part has abandoned the purely secular-humanist society.

      As a Christian & a Protestant I thank the secular for its contributions to progress over the recent era. Yet if ~unto all things there is a season~ the secular has served its season & the incoming era belongs to the religions.

      Ken Maynard….

  8. I agree that the things we feel passionate about we would like to see survive and thrive and children in the fullness of time make up their own minds. Despite R.E I and many others came out of secondary modern school as Atheists.Its not really the indoctrination, child abuse or ”collateral damage” that many claim. I remembered the teaching though and have found it beneficial later in life. Whats useful is not always immediately apparent particularly when we are young and besides its often in the eye of the beholder. Some children left to choose lessons would choose differently. My son hated science despite the fact that i am very interested in it.

  9. I agree, in the fullness of time children should make up their own minds. However, teaching them something as ‘true’ at an impressionable age, when they sre incapable of critical thinking, is not ok.
    Its quite a selfish attitude to want to force your passions onto those who dont want it and lets be honest most don’t.
    I don’t force my views on my children, if when they are older they decide to explore religion, thats fine, but at least they will be old enough to make that decision themselves.

  10. Just one further point regarding abuse. If I was to tell my children repeatedly that they would be stabbed if they misbehaved, it wouldnt be long before social services were knocking at my door. However, in christianity its ok to repeatedly tell a child they will burn in hell if they sin??
    If you read testimonies from ex christians they will tell you that it was the fear of hell and not the love of god that stopped them leaving sooner.
    lets be clear, this is psychological abuse and is something that can stay with a child long Into adulthood and long after they have left the religion of their parents.

    • Are you suggestion that religious education teaches children that they will ‘burn in hell if they sin?’ This would certainly be a good reason for revising the curriculum, but is not the experience that my children have had of religious education.

      I would remind you though that the Bible teaches that ‘perfect love drives out fear’, and that because of Jesus we can have absolute confidence that His presence is with us now and will be for eternity. I would say that your comment suggests that religious education is very important as it may prevent people from having the wrong understanding of faith that you describe.

      Because you are right – this is the understanding that many people have grown up with. Humans have always had a tendency to take something that is good, to make rules around it and use these rules to put themselves at the top whilst oppressing others. This is not just true of religions – we see it everywhere, but it is prevalent in many religions. This is why the harshest criticisms that Jesus makes in the Bible are directed at the self-righteous religious leaders who do exactly that, and is of course why they killed Him.

      Christianity teaches that there is nothing we can do to earn our salvation- that even the best we have to offer in our own strength does not come close to the standard of perfection and glory that we would need in order to stand before a holy God. It teaches that Jesus has bridged this gap and that our confidence is based on Him and His righteousness and not our own. So we all stand on a level playing field before Him, all needing His grace which is freely given to anyone who trusts in Jesus. Within this there is no place for arrogance, pride, self-satisfaction, control and manipulation, or fear of hell. We are told that we can ‘tell a good tree by its fruit’- and the fruits of those things speak for themselves as you have demonstrated.

      A good religious education curriculum informs students of the beliefs and practices of their fellow citizens, and enables thoughtful discussion of the implications of these. It also empowers students to engage their critical thinking and base their opinions upon what each faith teaches. This leaves them more free, not less, to make their own choices in life.

  11. So what your teaching kids is that they can be mass murderers but that as long as they accept jesus at some point, they will go to heaven. However if they work hard and lead a good life, but dont accept jesus, then they go to hell??
    what I describe is christisnity. You can give kids all the “fluffy bunny” stories and teaching you want, but the basis of christianity is that If you reject god you go to hell. This is inescapable, despite all the talk of love.
    The problem with re is it only tells you the good bits. Ive yet to hear of an re lesson that talks about the persecution of gay people or women or that even mentions the more distasteful aspects of the bible. How can kids make informed choices I f they are only given half the story??

    • Well I would be surprised if your first paragraph formed the basis of an RE lesson, but you have effectively hit on what is referred to as ‘the offence of the Gospel’. And that feeling of indignation is both natural and has been around for a long time: Matthew 9:10-13 – ‘While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. 11 When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”

      12 On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 13 But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”’

      Far from having a ‘fluffy bunny’ ministry, Jesus stirred things up, spoke and acted in very counter-cultural ways and created controversy wherever he went. Those ‘sinners’ that the self-righteous leaders condemned so easily were the ones who were transformed by Him. By and large, the religious leaders remained unmoved and of course plotted to kill him.

      However, I would also draw your attention to the prayer of Jesus as he was dying on the cross, regarding those who had put him there: ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing’. He does not generally fit into any mould that Christians, or non-Christians want to put him in.

  12. Amen Ali Jesus brings us a new covenant giving us a new perspective on the old testament. We dont need to look to the old testament to read about the reality of the worse side of human nature. Let your children watch the news or a film or delve a little into the internet. History as portrayed in the old testament is horrible but the same problems remain. What is God asking of the israelites in the old testament.? In the Jewish tradition these are seen as inspirational stories which are to be discussed and debated for their meaning. Bible study in this way is really interesting and is alive and well in the christian community today. I agree Ali Jesus provokes us to think very deeply about things and challenges who we are.

  13. Sorry but you don’t need jesus to think deeply about things and challenge who you are. This is done better without the constraints of religion. Going back to the original post, this is what Grayling is suggesting. Religion limits our thinking and understanding, and with children at a time when their imaginations should be soaring.
    Ali, with regards to jesus prayer, again you have picked out the good bit. Im pretty sure jesus asked his father why he had forsaken him, like he has forsaken the world since.

  14. People use a variety of sources to obtain wisdom, ethics, healing or spiritual experience. Many people are liberated rather than constrained by their faith in him and have their thinking and experience expanded rather than limited. Nobody is living in a Christian bubble and children are exposed to so many different ideas in our diverse culture. Give children Religious education and let them decide for themselves they are always going to ask those ”where do we come from” questions anyway. Because we cannot answer that question scientifically for sure the child will use its imagination anyway. Its extraordinary when a self confessed liberal is advocating educational censorship on a subject that everybody thinks about at some point and is believed and practiced by billions of people across the world. Surely its better to discuss and explore.

    • Graham, because there is not a scientific answer YET!!! Doesn’t mean that ‘god did it’ is a satisfactory answer. I am really not happy about children getting their understanding of the modern world from a 2000 year old story book. You wouldnt teach medicine from bronze age ideas would you?? Bottom line is education should be about facts not superstition. In my experience kids just aren’t that interested in RE (and to be fair neither are the teachers) so why bother?? This time would be better off spent on something relevant! !!

  15. Religious society is always concerned for ultimate consequence, so its efforts in the field of progress & development are always cautious & restrained.
    The secular has no concern for ultimate consequence & denies human fallibility. It thus drives progress forward at a cracking rate, yet it’s lack of restraint has driven civilization of the top of a very high cliff, again & again throughout history. The serial & cyclic collapse of secular civilizations is a verifiable fact of history.
    At this time, as global warming & multiple other existential crises ~converge~ to gravely imperil us, the secular wishes to ~extinguish~ religious restraint altogether, in it’s misguided belief it can somehow ~bulldoze~ it’s way through the problems. This assumption is not only wrong & contrary to all the mounting evidence of existential crises, but willfully & CRIMINALLY delinquent.
    On humanism; where Christianity seeks to do right by God (an all-encompassing ~w/holistic~ paradigm) humanism seeks to do right by humanity. An introverted, self-seeking & small-minded paradigm; that separates the well-being of humanity from the well-being of all the other things humanities well-being is dependent on.
    Yet as humanities appetites & desires always exceed the material means available to fulfill them; humanity, in isolation from all other things, is an entity WE CAN BY NO MEANS do right by. At base, humanism is not a ~possible~ proposition.

    Ken Maynard….

    • Sorry Ken but I don’t agree. It is true that we are degrading our material means at a rapid rate. However, the absolute beauty is that as one door closes another opens, mankind always finds a way. In fact it is these doors closing that drive technical advancement.
      Humanism as not a possible proposition is far to simplistic. It could also be argued that a resurgence of religion is not a possible proposition either. Religion stifles advancement out of fear (just ask Gallileo) we see it now in the states with regards to stem cell research. I personally do not want to return to the dark ages, and like I have already stated, no matter what the problem,mankind and science will find a way without the hinderence of religion.

      • Sarky, at base you seem to be ~cherry-picking~ your science, in saying all the futuristic science is valid & all the existential crises science is invalid. To me; either all science is valid or none of it is; we are certainly in a tight race between positives & negatives. I doubt we can close our eyes to the validated science on existential crises; & blindly gamble the whole human future as you seem to believe.

        You say religions stifle advancement out of ~fear~ I say they restrict advancement out of ~prudence~ I can make a better case for my position, than you make for yours.

        You cite Galileo, the pin up poster boy of your cause. In reality during the 10th – 18th centuries most scientists worked in religious orders as the Church was prepared to pay a living to seekers of ~truth~ There were also a number of privately sponsored scientifically minded people out-side the Church, from whom we inherit the caricature of the eccentric Professor.

        The state is always a ~for-profit~ organization so would not sponsor scientific enquiry or the pursuit of knowledge, because there was no money it.

        Off the thousands of scientists working in religious orders & outside of them, most were adulated as men of knowledge, few were persecuted. Galileo & a few others went out of their way to buy a fight with authorities & paid the price that sedition commands in any society. Most scientists worked both inside & outside the Church undisturbed & often encouraged by the Church. If you want to make a case for rule of fear & persecution, you need more than just a few exceptions to the general rule.

        On Humanism, not being a possible proposition…

        At base, humanism has always comprised an exclusive club of the fortunate; who have used their fortunate positions to obtain preferment in the mediums of public debate; so exercising ~insider trading~ influence out of all proportion to their numbers. Yet this exclusive club of fortunate insiders, who enjoy security & comfort; have always found it necessary to exclude the bulk of humanity from their club. They thus exclude the very humanity they profess to champion. It seems ~the actual condition~ of the MAJORITY of misfortunate outsiders, cannot be reconciled with the lofty nobility of their ideology.

        The other issue is being people of at least a little means plus respectability, they wish to disassociate themselves from the burden that all are sinners, as they find such demeaning of their dignity.

        Humanism allows them to exercise their own writ to exonerate & absolve themselves of sin, due-processing their sins into pretensions of lofty virtue. The problem with using a closed loop to utilize your own authority to absolve yourself of sin; is it does not work. Sin is structural to the ENDOWED NATURE OF MAN; so cannot be self-absolved on one’s own authority. The humanly flawed, cannot off itself & on its own authority, absolve the humanly flawed.

  16. Sorry but I am yet to meet a humanist who’s sole reason for humanism is absolvement of sin. To be honest sin is an irrelevance and I am afraid that you are trotting out the same old argument for lack of faith. Ken we are the same as you and live by the same moral framework. We behave because its the right thing to do, not through fear of eternal judgement.
    As for humanism being an exclusive club, again not true (otherwise they wouldnt have me as a member) humanism is open to everyone who has the guts to open their mind.
    Reading your comments and your site, you seem to have a very black and white view of the world and also seem to be, dare I say it, a bit repressed. Take a look outside christianity, there’s a big world out there! !!!!

    • You are correct in saying you & I share the same moral perspective, further we would share it with most if not all of humanity, so are hardly exclusive.

      You are in error to assume sin is a moral problem.

      Crime, willful wrongdoing, is a moral problem.

      There is a strong moral case to pass laws, thou shall not murder, thou shall not rape, thou shall not steal.

      Sin is not man lusting after evil (willful wrongdoing) but mans hunger for more good than he can have. There is no moral or ethical case to pass a law ~thou shall not seek to know or do anything which is good~

      Thus there is no moral, legal or ethical solution to the challenge of sin; we have to look outside the ethical order for solutions.

      You claim sin is irrelevant; yet individual failure through drink, drugs & general excesses is hardly irrelevant. Collective failure through the collapse of civilizations through-out history is hardly irrelevant. In the minds of many of us, this failure of our common humanity in all matters great & small seems highly relevant.

      On the matter of my supposedly being repressed, a healthy dose of realism is not repression. Perhaps you should stop branding prudence as fear & ignorance, & stop branding realism as repression.

  17. Its very rare for Christians to be motivated by the fear of eternal punishment and is something which is not uppermost in the mind. The Jesus life feels rather more positive than that. Its a bit disingenuous to say that religious minds are closed as if we do not understand science humanism or the world at large. It just that we take a different view of truth. Many scientists are Christians, some of us have been humanists and found it lacking and we do read the newspapers as well as the bible. Its good to read them side by side.

  18. Graham, I’m not saying all religious minds are closed (apart from creationists, whom I have no time for) however, even the most open regious mind has a tendancy to ignore what is before them. I have noticed that if something challenges their faith, they will just ignore it or twist it to fit their worldview. There is an interesting article today that states jesus can only have been a fictional character because 126 texts written at the time make no mention of him. It also points to the bible to evidence this aswell. The comments on the article from christians did exactly what I have just said and totally ignored the research.
    I understand yours is a religion of faith, but to ignore facts because they make uncomfortable reading is just ignorant.

  19. Thats interesting could you reference that for me please. Matthew Mark luke and John include eye witness accounts and Luke in particular was said to be particularly forensic in collating information. Jewish Roman and other historians make reference to Jesus Josephus Tacitus Africanus and Moa bar Serarin. Later writings in the Talmud and others also make reference to him but in a hostile ways as you might expect in a Jewish commentary. Richard Dawkins early in his polemic used to say that there was no evidence that Jesus ever existed but he has now conceded that this is highly unlikely. When we pray with Jesus as our focus something happens that cannot easily be explained and i know from our discussions that you do not believe in any supernatural entity. Embracing what seems improbable or impossible opens up a new dimension and understanding. Without the experience of the Holy spirit i believe Christianity would not have survived this long and Jesus would have been just another good ethical teacher in the stoic tradition that hardly anybody would have heard of. Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens in their critiques of Christianity put forward scientific explanations in terms of brain chemistry and psychological phenomena with regard to transcendent experience but i am unconvinced. When you earnestly call on Gods name it is truly much more personal. Richard Dawkins would say that Atheists who become Christians like myself are just seeking credibility in order to fit in. Affirming experience is important though including those who have had bad Christian experiences such as exercising power and control in the teaching of Hell in school for example without balance and true perspective. The bad behaviour of Christians currently or in history does not alter the impressive teachings of Jesus, they remain unchanged and a source of fulfilment for many. Caricature and stereotype abound when talking about people of faith and whilst there are always elements of truth quite honestly a lot of it is rubbish. With people like Adrian Plass in the Christian community we are never going to take ourselves too seriously anyway. Thank you for these discussions which i value and although we do not seem to agree too much , expressing ourselves honestly and respectfully i believe is very important, hopefully toward greater understanding.

    • The problem with debating Christianity with ~civil-society~ is they reduce all questions to a matter of ethics.

      Yet only some men are criminals, ALL are sinners.

      Which informs us sin & crime are not one & the same condition, nor are they mutually interchangeable with each other. (They may sometimes be, but far from always)

      We are informed the most virtuous amongst us is co-equally sinful with most non-virtuous amongst us; which challenges & seems to over-turn most of our moral codes.

      We are also informed the virtuous are stiff-necked & harder to redeem than the non-virtuous; not least because the virtuous are confident in their delusions of self-righteousness.

      All of which informs us, sin is not a moral problem but an excess of human appetites problem; a hunger for more good than we can have, being the only condition common to virtuous & non-virtuous alike.

    • Sorry Graham but I don’t believe chritianity spread through the holy spirit, christianity spread through fear, then indoctrination. If you look back at history, it spread by the sword not by the book. isis are doinga similar thing by conquering then Imposing an ideology, just look how quick this is spreading round the globe!! Unfortunately these ideologies are then passed on to the children and the whole thing takes on a life of its own. Fortunately in the west we appear to have broken this cycle (with regards to christianity)
      but unfortunately muslims are keeping the tradition alive and well.

  20. Ken, a hunger for more good than we can have is what got us out of the stoneage and is why you seek eternity with your god.

    • I agree the hunger for good is what drives all human development; yet our problem both historic & contemporaneous is over-doing it.

      Sin is held sin is part of the ENDOWED NATURE OF MAN; a bye-product of the balance of compromises necessary to human function, the way humans uniquely function; so we cannot off ourselves redeem ourselves.

      Sin is not a moral problem, but a CONDITION. Conditions like diabetes for instance, are not altered by whether we live morally or immorally. The hunger for more good than we can have bears the some consequence, whether we live immorally in drink, excesses & thievery; or live moral lives which build an excess of civil development so bringing down civilization.

      Thus sin remains a matter of consequence, regardless of morality & ethics, so can never be dismissed as irrelevant.

      Lastly, you cannot revoke the law of consequence, by citing future sciences which we not only do not have, but many scientists hold CANNOT HAVE, as such science would be contrary to the laws of science as we know them now.

      The problem with modern secular-atheism is it is not asking humanity to vest its faith in proven science, in which we can have some confidence. But to GAMBLE the whole human future on science fictions, in which we can have no faith whatsoever.

  21. As per my Webb-site item ~PROOF of Christ~ There is no independently verifiable evidence of Christ, & no independently verifiable historical records. Thus there is NO evidentially verifiable Christ, & NO Jesus of history. (Those who appeal to the Jesus of history, take note)

    There is only the Christ of the GOSPELS, who is a Christ of TESTIMONY.

    Faith is a matter of FAITH; not a matter of proven facts.

    The Apostles cred commences ~I BELIEVE~ not,,, ~it is a proven fact~

    Thus we are in a contest of ~testimony~ testing the INTEGRITY of those who give testimony, & also testing the INTEGRITY of those who accept or reject testimony.

    On the one hand I have those who give testimony on the existence of Christ as redeemer & saviour; even though they have no evidential support of their claim & this belief almost invariably costs them something.

    On the other hand I have western fat=cats ensconced in a material comfort zone. One they are prepared to destroy the biosphere, exploit & perhaps extinguish humanity in order to keep. These claim there is no Christ, sin is irrelevant, greed is not only good, but the only thing that has ever done humanity any good. These further hold where hard science fails to rescue us from existential crises; their science fiction fallacies will rescue us instead.

    On these ~self-serving~ unsubstantiated beliefs do they wish us GAMBLE the whole human future.
    Given lack of evidence in both cases, it comes down to the ~integrity~ of testimony.

    The test for society; which of these two ~unsubstantiated~ testimonies has integrity? Which is credit-worthy enough for us to vest our faith in it, entrusting it with the future of humanity?

    On this test of integrity, does God sort wheat from chaff.

  22. Ken, again you are seeing things as black and white, christ vs capitalism. Things are not that clear cut. You can turn on any christian tv channel and see the greedy snakeoil salesmen trying to extort ‘seeds’ from the poor and gullible.But then look to the poster boys of capitalism, Bill Gates and Warren Buffet and you can see two men giving billions of dollars to foundations to aid humanity. Your concept of sin does not exist. We are not sinners, we are human. Yes we may get it wrong, but we also get it very right. Man has been talking of impending apocalypse since time began, prophesies have come and gone but we are still here.
    As for christ existing only through testimony, that is not enough to justify the things done in his name. It is often said extrordinary claims require extrordinary evidence. Testimony is not that evidence. If that is the case then I look forward to dinner with elvis, bigfoot and a few aliens, as there are many many people who testify to their existence. You talk of integrity but how do you prove this?? Usually by evidence, evidence that you state does not exist.
    The christianity you believe in cannot exist. In fact you seem to have made a pretty good case for atheism.

  23. @ Gillan:

    ‘… increase community cohesion…’ Like in Northern Ireland, you mean?

    ‘… reducing religious faith to a set of ideas and fairy tales that can be fully explained away at a purely rational level, completely misunderstands what it means to believe in the existence of a God or gods.’

    Is this your reaction to Grayling’s second quoted paragraph? You confuse me, in that I’m not clear whether or not you accept that Christianity is founded on reiterated myths; if you do (though ‘Given his inability to give the New Testament account of Jesus’ life a fair hearing… suggests you do not), then how would you teach it in RE classes?

    You consider Grayling ‘ignorant’, but why ‘dangerously’ so?

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