Black Jesus cartoon too discriminatory

June 8, 2012

Poke fun at Christian beliefs all you want, but cut the racism. That’s what I say.

Times Live reports on a short cartoon that featured a black Jesus:

The two-minute animation, created by Johannesburg company Mdu Comics, depicts a “black Jesus” attempting to commit suicide after his doctor “diagnoses” him as a Shangaan.

In the clip, which has had 49000 hits on YouTube, “Jesus”, who speaks Zulu, consults a doctor after breaking his toe. After a DNA test, the doctor says: “Jesus, there is no easy way of telling you this … You are Shangaan.”

The character then scrubs himself with bags of oranges to rid himself of his “shangaan-ness” before leaving a suicide note.

Shangaan part of an ethnic group in South Africa, the Tsonga people.

According to the Tsonga, there exists a strong relationship between the creation (ntumbuloko) and a supernatural power called Tilo. Tilo refers to a vaguely described superior being, who created mankind, but it also refers to the heavens, being the home of this creature.

The Tsonga believed that man had a physical (mmiri) and a spiritual body with two added attributes, the moya and the ndzuti. The moya is associated with the spirit, enters the body at birth, and leaves at death to join the ancestors.

The ndzuti was associated with the person’s shadow and reflected human characteristics. At death, in the spirit world, it left the body. This meant that the spirit was attached with the individual and human characteristics of that person. Inherent in this concept is not only the belief in life after death but also that the dead retain very strong links with the living. Passing over into the spirit world is an important stage in the life of a Tsonga.

The country is rife with racist notions of certain tribes being better than others and the woman who initially lodged the complaint has heard many a slur against her Shangaan roots. Caroline Sithole thought this particular cartoon was worth taking to the Human Rights Commission after an acquaintance sent her to look at it.

“The [animation] came from a colleague and friend who said: ‘I am happy you will be Zulu soon’, referring to the fact that I will be getting married to a Zulu man.

“Well, it is sad that in this democratic South Africa you still have people who really believe Zulus or other tribes are more superior than Shangaans and that Shangaans are non-human or sub-human,” Sithole wrote in her complaint.

She said the animation carried many upsetting stereotypes.

“No wonder my son refuses to be Shangaan. I grew up being ridiculed by schoolmates for being Shangaan and I was not sure where this hatred was coming from.

Nowhere logical or scientifically factual, I’m sure.

Mdu Comics founder Mdu Ntuli denied the cartoon was offensive.

“It is purely fictional . Every nationality has a joke on each other and that’s just how it is. For me, it is just ridiculous for any Tsonga person to take this personally,” Ntuli said.

“Just how it is” is just what the problem is. So long as people refuse to see the problem with that kind of attitude, the longer the attitude will persist.


Linkskrieg! (First pass)

June 7, 2012

It’s occurred to me that I’ve collected far more links than I have time to write about, so here’s a batch of things I did want to bring up at some point but never did. I may flesh out some of these at some point, though. Time will tell.

1. The Codex Gigas:

Lore behind the codex suggests the book was the effort of one monk’s labor in a single night. After breaking the rules of the monastery, he’d been sentenced to a slow death – he’d be walled up in a room of bricks. The night before his sentence would be executed, the monk decided to write his last work, an evil book written on animal skins. He realized that finishing the book before imprisonment would be impossible, so he made a Faustian deal at midnight with Lucifer to finish the book, with the devil signing the document by painting a portrait of himself on the 290th leaf.

2. A pastor’s controversial book on sex:

The book was written by Driscoll and his wife, Grace, to, in Mark’s words, “compel married couples to have important conversations about important things.”

In the first half of the book, the Driscolls discuss their own sexual issues using the lessons they learned to discuss how to reignite a marriage whose flame may have gone out. The book’s second half, which is getting most of the negative attention, discusses sex in detail.

In response, religious scholars and writers have blasted the Driscolls’ work on a number of grounds ranging from the logistical to the biblical.

3. Apocalypse tourism:

The Mexican government is expecting 52 million tourists to visit the five regions — Chiapas, Yucatan, Quintana Roo, Tabasco and Campeche, over the next 12 months, says the Latin American Herald Tribune.

According to goverment reports, the boom is part of Mexican President Felipe Calderon’s tourism campaign: “Mundo Maya 2012,” to promote Mexico as a unique destination.

4. Ancient document claims dozens visited Jesus, not just three:

The translation of the mysterious ‘Revelation of the Magi’ describes how the three wise men actually numbered over a dozen and came from a faraway land, possibly China.

(Since the bible never specifies how many wise men visited, I don’t see this as news, personally. Straight Dope dealt with this years ago.)

5. “Miracle” survival of a kid with flesh eating disease:

The pope on Monday signed a decree authenticating the miracle, clearing the way for Tekakwitha to be canonized as America’s first Roman Catholic indigenous saint.

“There is no doubt in me or my husband’s mind that a miracle definitely took place,” Jake’s mother, Elsa Finkbonner, told msnbc.com on Tuesday. “There were far too many things that could have and should have gone wrong with his illness. The doctors went through every avenue they could to save his life and he survived. It’s a miracle that all of the other things that could have gone wrong, didn’t.”

6. Utah’s festive season vs atheist billboards:

“We’re glad to share the Christmas season with Christians, but they have stolen Christmas, and it is not the birthday of Jesus,” said Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-president of the Wisconsin-based organization. “It’s a natural event, the winter solstice. … The shortest day of the year has been celebrated for millennia in the Northern Hemisphere with decorations and lights and celebrations. We just think it’s important to celebrate reason and celebrate reality.”

She added that the foundation has heard there’s a feeling of claustrophobia among non-Mormons and nonbelievers in Salt Lake City. “There’s a great dominance there, so we want to be there, too.”

7. Evidence from Dead Sea dirt may verify some bible tales:

Ben-Avraham, head of the Minerva Dead Sea Research Center at Tel Aviv University in Israel, noted that this is important because, when it comes to earthquakes, the last century in the Middle East was unusually quiet.

“People don’t take this into consideration,” Ben-Avraham said, “but we have mighty earthquakes.”

Looking farther back, one of the seismically active eras revealed by the core samples appears to have been about 4,000 years ago, he said.

“If you believe the biblical chronology, this is roughly [the time of] Sodom and Gomorrah,” he said. During this period, according to the Book of Genesis, God “rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed all.”

8. British PM and Dawkins disagree on need for faith schools:

David Cameron has said atheist campaigner Richard Dawkins “just doesn’t really get it” on the issue of faith schools.

The Prime Minister made the comments as he answered questions from well-known figures for a Guardian newspaper article. Mr Cameron said he thinks faith schools are “very often good schools” and he noted that the church had provided “good schools long before the state got involved”.

Dawkins would rather see more schools promoting secularism and critical thinking instead of traditions and indoctrination.


Prom season is open season on gay relationships

May 14, 2012

A Catholic school in Kentucky banned a lesbian couple from attending theirs. The trouble is, Hope Decker and Tiffany Wright found out they couldn’t go as a couple when they arrived at the gym on Saturday night and were immediately turned away. No warnings ahead of time. Just found out on the day.

“I would understand and respect the school’s decision if they truly upheld church teachings,” Wright said Sunday night. “They didn’t forbid the entrance of all the couples who’ve had premarital sex and all the kids who planned to get drunk after the prom.”

Sounds like hypocrisy in action. I’d say they truly are upholding church teachings… The kids opted to party in the parking lot after that.

Wright said the couple’s parking-lot prom was great.

“We had a wonderful night, and we were surrounded by true friends,” Wright said. “I’ll remember it for the rest of my life.”

Among the other students outside with them were Lexington Catholic senior Suzie Napier, who said she wrote a letter to school administrators expressing displeasure at their decision. Napier said 107 fellow students signed it.

Puts me in mind of anther school a couple years ago in Mississippi that actually cancelled their prom to stop lesbians from dancing together. The school got a hell of a lot of bad press and the girls got a hell of a lot of support from many circles.

Napier said the students played music from their parked cars at the outside prom and set up a table for refreshments.

“I definitely think this prom will be much more memorable than any prom the school hosted,” Napier said.

Megan Carter-Stone, a senior, also attended the outside prom.

“It was a wonderful time, and I think we got our point across,” Carter-Stone said. “At least I hope we did.”

It’s good that these girls and their friends made the best of a stupid situation and hosted their own party instead of let the school officials ruin a night that’s supposed to be memorable for better reasons.

If the school had always planned on keeping them out of the gym, they should have been told sooner. It was mean spirited to let them think they could come to prom and then leave them out of it entirely. Would Jesus treat people like that? If he really was the caring equalizer Christians want to claim he was, then the only obvious answer is no. Decker graduates this year but Wright still has a couple years left at this school. How’s she going to be treated after this? Catholics praise their martyrs for standing up for what they believed in in the face of adversity. Will they praise her, too, or make the rest of her time there a living hell?


Not old news: old Billy Graham advice column

May 11, 2012

I look up Billy Graham’s advice once in a while and I liked the question posed on March 15th, 2012. High time I do a write-up about it.

DEAR BILLY GRAHAM: I’ve had a lot of emotional problems, and recently I started going to a psychologist someone recommended. I like her, but she’s very opposed to religion and thinks people must solve their own problems instead of turning to God for help. My faith is very important to me, so should I look elsewhere? — M.F.

People should be trying to find solutions to their problems and a psychologist can be a good start. It’s certainly better than diving into an Eckhart Tolle/Deepak Chopra style “self-help” guide, although nowhere near as cheap. If M.F. is going through depression or anxiety issues or OCD or whatever might be the issue, he or she should pursue the help of professionals in that particular field. If the issue is that this psychologist is not also an armchair theologian, why not ask to be referred to someone who will include the spiritual approach? At least s/he would still get the benefit of educated training. Graham agrees with me, but:

This person has already let you know that she has no sympathy for people who look to God for help, and almost inevitably she will try to impose her views on you.

That is not the role of a psychologist.

Psychologists help individuals focus on what is causing the symptoms to manifest or intensify. Once the source of the condition is identified, psychologists work with patients to develop coping skills. Psychologists provide a safe environment to express one’s feelings.

If she’s being professional, she won’t push her own beliefs (or lack of) onto the patient. If this patient wants God to be a part of the process, she’ll have to work it in. I’m assuming this isn’t a situation where a cult member needs to be deprogrammed. If she’s unable or unwilling to use God as part of the therapy process then she should be the one referring this person to someone else. Yes? Maybe someone who knows more about this can pipe up in the comments.

Back to Billy.

But God loves you and wants to help you deal with these problems. One way he may do this is by leading you to someone who has the training to understand your problems — but who also shares your faith. After all, God knows all about you; he understands what you’re going through, and he also knows the reasons for it. More than that, he knows the answer to your problems. The Bible says, “To God belong wisdom and power; counsel and understanding are his” (Job 12:13).

Maybe it’s just me, but I find it amusing that people decide to fix something about themselves, be it their health or their outlook on life or what have you, and when they succeed they refuse to take the credit for the hard work and give it all to their God instead. God’s the reason I lost 20 pounds. God’s the reason I reunited with my estranged father. God’s the reason. God’s the reason. What can’t one’s own desire and determination be the reason? There’s no need to go overboard with the pride or arrogance or anything, but isn’t it something of a confidence booster to realize that you’re capable of solving your own problems? Be the success story. “I went through this and I made it through. It was tough and it was shitty and more than once I wanted to (insert quitter talk here) but I persevered and now I’m better…”

Thank God?

Why?

There can be enough strength in the self. Often there is enough strength in the self, but people aren’t always willing to put faith in that and instead put it into some external, invisible, ephemeral source and think that when they succeed, that’s the root cause. Everyday people behave like Dumbo did toward his “magical” feather. At least Dumbo saw the error of his ways eventually…


Old news: faith healing event ends in tragedy, death

May 11, 2012

It wasn’t directly the fault of Pastor Chris Oyakhilome of Nigeria, but he was the person 150,000 people had traveled to see in Cape Town back in March. He has a reputation as a miraculous faith healer so people who should be going to doctors – or have but don’t like their diagnoses or prognoses – are putting their faith in his ability to heal. One man in the audience during the three day Pentecostal show died, another pastor by the name of Simon Williams. The fifty-six year old

was taken from hospital intensive care to the event by his family. He collapsed and died from renal failure inside the stadium.

Dr Wayne Smith, head of disaster medicine for Cape Town, said he treated about 30 patients in the stadium’s medical centre and sent 16 to hospital.

“Some of them had travelled long distances to get there, they had ongoing medical issues and were in a lot of pain,” he said.

Pastor Chris has a few black marks on him already. In 2008, he was accused of protecting another pastor from his church who might have murdered a girl. He’s been suspected of money laundering to the tune of 35 million dollars and charges exorbitant attendance fees for special events at his Christ Embassy church. He, along with a lot of other evangelicals in the country, preach the prosperity gospel, and the poor are giving him upwards of 30% of their available money in the hopes that God will turn things around for them. Of course, the truth is that only Christ Embassy and the pastors in it get to prosper and enjoy a windfall.

So, back to this faith healing business. It’s understandable why people with little hope of improvement (in health or finances) would try something like this but this shit doesn’t work. James Randi helped expose Peter Popoff as a fraud back in 1987 but he’s still kicking around and still fleecing otherwise intelligent people on a weekly basis. “Desperation changes the balance.”

If you would tell them not to give their money to Peter Popoff, what would you tell them to do instead? Would they be better off giving that $100 to the bank that’s about to foreclose on their house anyway, or to the landlord about to evict them? If we have no alternative solution to offer, then our best arguments may boil down to this: false hope is expensive, and hopelessness is free. That’s not a strong selling point.

People need hope. We have a powerful need to feel like we have some control over our fate, even if it is an illusion. That’s why those with the most serious illnesses spend the most money on quack therapies. And it’s why we can’t save desperate people from the likes of Peter Popoff through debunking alone—we need to offer a positive alternative that meets their needs.

When people really don’t know which way to turn, any wrong direction can feel like the right one. Maybe it seems like there isn’t time to look into alternatives, or it doesn’t occur to them to look for different kind of aid or support, or they think there won’t be anything even remotely close to what they need, save a miracle. I don’t know. I just hope that if I’m ever in dire straits I’ll look for real help rather than put faith in something ultimately useless.


Pride week is not far away

May 7, 2012

But I found this now and don’t want to forget to post it. I found out about it via recordnet.com and their article about North Carolina’s gay marriage issue.

One hopes that plea is heeded. Vines’ speech is long – a little over an hour – but well worth the time, particularly for those seeking to reconcile first-century faith with 21st-century social concerns.

Many in North Carolina – many around the country – are swimming against the tide of human freedom and blaming God for it. Again, this is not a new thing. We saw it back when God was for segregation and against women’s suffrage.

How convenient it must be to lay your own narrowness and smallness off on God, to accept no responsibility for the niggardly nature of your own soul. Vines’ video is a welcome, overdue and eloquent rebuke of the moral and intellectual laziness of throwing rocks, then hiding inside Scripture. It is a reminder, too.


Student willing to ruin school career over Jesus T-shirt

May 5, 2012

From CBC:

A Christian student suspended from a high school in Nova Scotia for sporting a T-shirt with the slogan “Life is wasted without Jesus” vows to wear it when he returns to class next week.

William Swinimer, who’s in Grade 12, was suspended from Forest Heights Community School in Chester Basin in Lunenburg County for five days. He’s due to return to class on Monday.

The devout Christian says the T-shirt is an expression of his beliefs, and he won’t stop wearing it.

“I believe there are things that are bigger than me. And I think that I need to stand up for the rights of people in this country, and religious rights and freedom of speech,” he told CBC.

Swinimer wore the same shirt to class for weeks on end, the article goes on, but teachers and students were starting to feel like it was less a message about personal beliefs and more like a passive attempt to convert the entire student body. As Nancy Pynch-Worthylake, board superintendent, put it –

“When one is able or others are able to interpret it as, ‘If you don’t share my belief then your life is wasted,’ that can be interpreted by some as being inappropriate,” she said.

Swinimer was too wrapped up in his own feelings of persecution to see it that way, though, and was willing to risk losing the rest of his school year over his shirt. I was curious about what other coverage this story had and found CBC’s update. The school board has reconsidered.

Swinimer called the board’s decision “awesome” and said he will be wearing his T-shirt to school on Monday.

“Some people say you’re not supposed to have religion in school. Well, every other religion is in that school and they constantly put Christianity down,” he said.

I don’t know what he means by that. Is he saying his school looks the other way while kids from other religious backgrounds blatantly insult the Christian kids, or did the school make the decision to be less Christian-centric and open things up to more secular events like winter festivals instead of Christmas parties?

Pinch-Worthylake said the board will use this incident as a learning moment for everyone, adding that it is time to move on.

“We’re going to be working with students around how they can express their religious views and other views appropriately, and how we work together when those views may be interpreted or misinterupted by others,” she said.

“So, the focus is off the T-shirt. Whatever T-shirts come to school on Monday with personal beliefs will not be an issue for us.”

And that might help with whatever perceived slurs Swinimer claims are hurting li’l Christian feelings, too. Personally, I think he still needs to be taken aside and reminded that school hours are for class work, not proselytizing. He’s going to waste his life if he doesn’t care more about getting a good education and it won’t matter how much love for Jesus he has if he can’t get a good job as well. I expect this story will follow him for years and there will be places that will not hire him – not because he’s Christian, but because he comes across as arrogant, self-centered and willfully ignorant of the fact it’s perfectly acceptable to not be Christian.


The moral: be careful what you preach because the internet can quote you…

May 3, 2012

…verbatim via video.

Pastor Sean Harris spoke recently at an event in North Carolina meant to promote the ban on same sex marriage. It was recorded for posterity, of course, and he is caught on video suggesting more than a few questionable behaviours parents should be willing to engage in in order to save their children from a sinful gay life. Not surprisingly, the video turned up on at least one site promoting LGBTQ etc. rights. Good as You and Pink News quote it. I’ll pick a bit of it, too:

Can I make it any clearer? Dads, the second you see your son dropping the limp wrist, you walk over there and crack that wrist. Man up. Give him a good punch. Ok? You are not going to act like that. You were made by God to be a male and you are going to be a male.

Pink News reports that Harris later claimed the LGBT community had taken his words out of context and twisted the meaning,

saying he “would never advocate for such discipline or actions on behalf of a father or mother”.

In a blog post addressed to members of his church he wrote: “I would never advocate for such discipline or actions on behalf of a father or mother. I misspoke. Hopefully, you understood that I was speaking in a forceful manner to emphasize the degree to which gender distinctions matter to God; and therefore, must matter to each of us and especially parents [...]

He stands by his belief that God’s avidly against homosexuality but has since retracted his comments and apologized for causing offense.

“I recognize that there are those in the LGBT community who believe that their sexual behavior is not sin. I do not agree with them and this official retraction should not be misunderstood as an apology for the gospel of Jesus Christ or the Word of God.”

Alternet ran a short article back in April suggesting that Jesus might have been gay.

Had he been devoid of sexuality, he would not have been truly human. To believe that would be heretical.

Heterosexual, bisexual, homosexual: Jesus could have been any of these. There can be no certainty which. The homosexual option simply seems the most likely. The intimate relationship with the beloved disciple points in that direction. It would be so interpreted in any person today. Although there is no rabbinic tradition of celibacy, Jesus could well have chosen to refrain from sexual activity, whether he was gay or not. Many Christians will wish to assume it, but I see no theological need to. The physical expression of faithful love is godly. To suggest otherwise is to buy into a kind of puritanism that has long tainted the churches.

Harris would never buy that, of course. It doesn’t fit in with his specific world view.

The bible isn’t a straightforward book. It’s filled with analogy and metaphor and glaring inaccuracies. It’s not a history book set out to record events as they actually happened. It’s a never-out-of-print relic of a bygone age, the collected stories of people who lived over two thousand years ago and how they thought, believed and ruled themselves. There’s no denying that some of the rules set down back then were socially and culturally valuable and still worth setting into law (laws against theft and murder come to mind). Other things were very time-specific and very detrimental to the rights of all human beings – like slavery and homosexuality as abomination – and are nothing current educated societies should promote as valid now.

But people like Harris still will. At least he apologized for the way he attempted to preach his message. That was good of him. Negative press does wonders.


A job where being an atheist can be something of a struggle: the ministry

May 1, 2012

Teresa MacBain has a secret, one she’s terrified to reveal.

I’ve taken away the need to guess what it is. NPR is starting a series on the loss of faith and how this change affects those who go through it. Hers is the first story they’re featuring.

MacBain, 44, was raised a conservative Southern Baptist. Her dad was a pastor and she felt the call of God when she was 6. She had questions, of course, about conflicts in the Bible, for example, or the role of women. She says she sometimes felt she was serving a taskmaster of a God, whose standards she never quite met.

For years, MacBain set her concerns aside. But when she became a United Methodist pastor nine years ago, she started asking sharper questions. She thought they’d make her faith stronger.

“In reality,” she says, “as I worked through them, I found that religion had so many holes in it, that I just progressed through stages where I couldn’t believe it.”

She found some online support in a group called The Clergy Project, an anonymous haven for others like her, and eventually found the courage to come clean, announcing her atheism during the American Atheists’ convention in Bethesda in March. Back home in Tallahassee, though, she didn’t face applause and adulation. She was shocked at the vitriol comments writers left on the local TV station’s site about the news and lost friends and potential employment. Her family supports her decision, though her husband still prays for her. He doesn’t elaborate on exactly what he’s asking for when he does. Strength to cope perhaps. To persevere beyond the critics and the hypocrites and be comfortable with who she’s finally realized she is, maybe.

Back at home, MacBain doesn’t hesitate when she’s asked what she misses most about her old life.

“I miss the music,” she says. MacBain sang in church choirs and worship bands most of her life, and even though she no longer believes the words, she still catches herself singing praise songs.

Well, it’s possible to appreciate the music without focusing on the content. Some of them are very beautiful. I like Handel’s Messiah and still remember a few verses from songs I’d sung in choir, myself. If singing is something she adores, maybe there’s a chance of finding a secular choir in town, or hell, even start one herself.

She says she also misses the relationships — she’ll often pick up the phone to call someone, then realize she can’t.

That’s what kills me about stories like this. The kindness of Christianity that is only extended toward those who are still Christian or those you’re convinced you can make Christian. Once you’ve renounced, then to hell with you. Literally.

Maybe she should check out a Unitarian service. Apparently they’re nearly atheists as it is…

And she misses the ritual and regularity of church life.

“It’s what I know. It’s what I knew. And I still struggle with it. Life is just different,” she says.

When it’s pointed out that she hasn’t said whether or not she misses God, MacBain pauses.

“No, no,” she says. “I can’t say that I do.”

While there’s no denying there’s a comfort in thinking someone’s out there looking out for you, she has family in the same room with her looking out for her. She can find community in volunteer organizations or by joining a club or, like I mentioned earlier, starting one of her own. Maybe her story will draw others out who are facing the same difficult choice and don’t know where to turn and she can run an atheist group. It’d be neat if NPR did a follow up down the road to see how things go for her.


In terms of comparative religion, why not include paganism?

April 15, 2012

I watched The Wicker Man recently; the 1973 release, not the Nicholas Cage remake that’s only good to watch for a laugh. Mind you, as an atheist I found humour in the original where I’m sure none was intended at the time it was made. I caught myself sniggering as the righteous Christian Sergeant Howie (played by Edward Woodward) gets more and more distressed at the education, habits and traditions of the people living on Summerisle. A very young Christopher Lee plays Lord Summerisle who explains to him how the paganist roots of the community got started. His grandfather had to engineer and modify the crops he brought to the island because they wouldn’t grow well in the soil otherwise. In order to make sure the locals had faith in his new apple trees etc., he had them pray to the Goddess of the Harvest and follow other ancient rites (a lot of which required naked women and outdoor orgies) and when they were rewarded with an excellent harvest, they were led to believe their new religion was the reason, thus encouraging them to keep it up year after year. But now it looks like the crops are starting to fail and Howie is easily led to believe that a young girl is going to be sacrificed on May Day to ensure a good crop next year. He realizes, a bit belatedly, that he’s a bit wrong about that…

But anyway, a friend of mine added a link to her Facebook page that I simply had to click on. It’s from the Daily Mail’s coverage of the news that Cornwall schools must add paganism into their religion courses, even down to the early childhood levels. Cornwall Council is clearly catering to a fringe movement in the area (the upper estimate puts 750 pagans in a population of 537,400 so .001 percent) but its inclusion gives it the practice a legitimacy that was otherwise lacking. This alarms the Christian campaigners who are against the move, of course. They’re claiming it’s a time issue, that the course can’t devote enough time to the majors let alone a fringe religion, thus it’s a waste of time including it.

‘Introducing paganism is just faddish and has more to do with the political correctness of teachers than the educational needs of children.’

Is it a fad to include Buddhism, Judaism and Islam, as well? Did anyone ever try to claim that those are only included because of political correctness instead of educational value? It’s too much of a straw man argument to extend this toward them wanting all Christianity all the time in that class and nothing else, but deep down it wouldn’t surprise me if that was the way a few of them think. It tops the list of commandments, doesn’t it? No other gods but me? (Commandments aimed very specifically at the Israelites and their YHWH, but neveryoumind…)

This, too, is something of a stretch, but I wonder if their attitude might have a bit to do with concerns over what might get taught in terms of how early Christians behaved toward pagans. They moved into the area and usurped a belief system that had flourished for hundreds of years and what beliefs they didn’t ban they stole and repurposed toward their own ends. Glory glory hallelujah.

Paganism is historically relevant in Cornwall so the fact that a minority of people have chosen to retain the traditions is a fact kids should be allowed to learn in school.

Neil Burden, the council’s cabinet member for children’s services, said that the move would give children ‘access to the broad spectrum of religious beliefs’.

The council said the teaching of Christianity still accounted for nearly two-thirds of religious education in its schools.

Clearly they don’t like things to be fair, with equal time devoted to all the religions included in the syllabus but maybe they’d make the argument that .001 percent worth of pagans suggests a mere .001 percent of class time should be given over to them. And I don’t think I’d disagree with using a rationing approach of some kind. If the intent is to expose students to all available religious lifestyles in their geographical area then it’s probably logical to spend more time on the ones they’re most likely to run into in their day to day lives and just touch on the others out there that aren’t so in-the-face all the time.

I wonder what their approach is in terms of validity of religions overall; if the teachers promote Christianity above all other faiths as if it’s the right and only one worth having, or if they teach this so kids will come away from the course understanding that every religion is essentially the same in terms of purpose; they all exist to impose some kind of order on an otherwise chaotic world.

Bottom line, I don’t see the harm in including paganism in this course. I don’t remember much about my school days but I know I learned nothing about whatever beliefs would have been held by the aboriginal population of my province before the Christians ran ripshod over their culture and decimated it. It would have been interesting but my religion class was aimed only at getting the kids ready to be proper Catholics, whatever the hell that might mean. I never had a religion class like this Cornwall one until I hit university and it was quite the eye opener, to say the least. It’s good that these kids don’t have to wait until university to get the same experience.


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