Congratulations to Tory Shepherd on her article in the Advertiser Saturday 21 July 2018, which had a cross – the symbol of the generosity, humility and forgiveness of Jesus Christ front and centre. It is the best argument for religious instruction in our state schools.
However, Tory’s article quotes heavily from Dr Paul Willis of the National Secular Lobby who says the proposed opt out system in the new Education and Children's Services Bill is a gross abuse of religious freedom "…because freedom of religion means freedom from religion,” and so leaves us with a sense that religious instruction is bad.
Is that correct?
It is interesting that Willis is identified by Tory as a former head of the Royal Institute (properly Institution) of Australia and that one of the founders of the progenitor of RIA – the Royal Institution of Great Britain- was the brilliant Michael Faraday, the father of the study of electro-magnetism, a committed Christian who said,"for the book of nature, which we have to read is written by the finger of God".
As we test the proposition that religious instruction is bad, let's consider first what students will be taught in religious instruction.
Perhaps the 10 Commandments. They teach us to honour God to whom we will all have to give an account one day (not bad to be told there is someone who is above us and that we are not the centre of the world), respect parents (a good thing I hear many say), not kill, commit adultery, steal or even envy (perhaps this could help with school bullying).
Further, students might learn lessons from Jesus’ manifesto called the Sermon on the Mount which teaches that humility, righteousness (right living) and mercy are the qualities to be sought with all our hearts. They may even be taught the story of the Good Samaritan-where a stranger helped a man attacked by thieves at this own cost. And the Golden Rule: to do to others as you would that they do to you.
They would also be taught the story of the Cross, the generosity, humility and forgiveness of Jesus Christ. Radical? Yes! Harmful? Why?
Let's test the proposition this way: has taking RI out of state schools had a beneficial effect?
We haven't had organized religious instruction in SA state schools since the 1970s. Has taking out the teaching of the 10 commandments, the Sermon on the Mount, the Golden Rule, and the Cross helped our kids? The constant reports of school bullying in SA schools reveals a resounding no.
Perhaps it’s time to rethink things. Perhaps the evidence suggests the proposition that RI is bad, is wrong.
Further, is Paul Willis right when he says freedom of religion is freedom from religion? I think not, because at its core secularism is now just another word for atheism, which is itself a belief or religion. The secular agenda seeks to impose an atheistic view on us all. If we look at history, has freedom from religion ever brought good? The peasants of the Vendee region in France (300,000 of whom were massacred by the secular regime of the Revolution), the millions who died in the Gulags and in the Cultural Revolution, the victims of the Third Reich (essentially a secular regime) and the millions lost in the killing fields of Cambodia, all say "No."
So perhaps an opt out system as the SA Government if proposing is good. Perhaps rather than leaving RI up to a principal's discretion, there should be some mandatory curriculum component.
Perhaps we should give religious instruction another try.