Posts Tagged ‘Faith Schools’
The Test of Truth
What better test of truth do we have than the ablest men’s acceptance of it?
So asked the historian J A Froude in his 1851 essay, “The Philosophy of Christianity”. He was defending Christianity against the accusation of being intellectually absurd, practically an offence and generally a misfortune. In essence, he was arguing that the best minds could not have been wrong for 1800 years. Or, if they were, then we have no basis for believing anything, for whatever it is might turn out to be just as absurd, offensive and unfortunate.
Well, for good or ill, that is nevertheless what science does teach. Science has to be corrigible or it cannot make progress. So what is true today, may not be true tomorrow. Science determines what is true by testing its ideas against reality. If they can predict reality—if the ideas work—then they are considered true, but not otherwise. A Christian has the idea that there is a mighty personal power in the universe that can do what it likes. Science would want to know how that can be tested.
One way would be to say, God answers prayers and therefore changes reality. We can test that. Yet no such test of the effectiveness of prayer has ever produced a convincing result. When they have seemed to, a fault in the method has been found skewing the results. So the idea of God has not so far been confirmed by science, and consequently scientists cannot accept the idea of God. For the corollary of testing is that we do not believe what is not shown to be true. It is called skepticism. The Christian understands it for they are skeptical of all other claims of divinity other than those of their own gods.
So, by this process of incremental testing, science accumulates knowledge. The increments are most often small ones, but sometimes a basic idea might need to be changed and then a large step is necessary, called a paradigm shift. But rarely is any new truth far removed from an older one, and always it must be a better one, more precise or comprehensive.
Religions are not generally corrigible, but, on the contrary, claim to be permanently fixed by the all encompassing power of the universe called God. It is not strictly true, of course, authorities like the pope or some council somewhere do change religions, and, besides that, they evolve from generation to generation, therefore imperceptibly to each in its day. As it is fixed by God, at least notionally, it needs no criterion of truth. A religion is accepted by a child or convert as being true—they are assured it is the only truth—and thereafter there can be no basis for questioning the truth of it.
Even so, Christians are allowed and perhaps encouraged to doubt, as long as the doubt is not itself allowed to change belief. It is not therefore a genuine doubt, for a real doubt can be resolved in one of at least two opposite ways. To be genuine, doubt must frequently lead to a loss of faith, something the local priest or pastor cannot allow to happen for that is to let a church member fall into sin and hell fire, a serious matter, they think. Consequently, the doubt of the Christian is to be countered by a firm application of faith bolstered by the assistance of the ablest of church men in accepting “the truth”. In short, Christian doubt is spurious. It is a mere test of a faith which once applied generously should cure the patient.
Knowing No Better
As churches have no criterion of truth other than faith, Froude’s criterion is the one they always have used. It is the reason why religions base themselves on authority—the judgement of the ablest of the men among them. It is not therefore an objective criterion of truth, but the opposite—these able men accept the truth they have been taught, and have no other criterion than what they have been told. It is biased, and there is no way of rebutting the bias in it except by contradiction. Yet throughout that 1800 years, it was the only “truth” available, so even the ablest did not notice the bias or felt unwilling to contradict it, probably for love of their mortal lives, the lure of heavenly bliss notwithstanding. Had we been in the same situation, with no alternative to the “truth” offered us besides death, we would have been the same.
So, the modern skeptic ought not to scoff at the Sumerians “feeding” their gods because it was their duty as god’s slaves to do so, and if the priests always looked well fed, it was because the gods looked upon them favorably! They ought not to scoff at Abraham being willing to sacrifice a child to his god because that is what Canaanites did, according to their beliefs, and as many were poor and could not afford to support large families, they might have been grateful that their gods were pleased to take back a child. Nor ought we to scoff at a medieval Catholic peasant brought up to the “absurdities” of Christianity for those were all they were allowed to know, for they could not read their bibles for themselves, unlike the modern Protestant who chooses not to and therefore believes everything except what Christ taught them. We are entitled to scoff at them.
The modern skeptic scoffs at those who now should know better, but prefer to put their heads in a bucket because Christ sounds more like a liberal than a libertarian. These people do not want to know the truth but still want to profess “the truth” as they define it. Today we have proven methods of investigating the truth of things, and we have criteria for truth so as to test that it indeed is. It is those who are perverse and refuse to consider the progress we have made in investigating reality who deserve the disdain of the scoffers. Whatever the ablest once thought, though wrong, was excusable then, but it is inexcusable now.
Possibly primitive people took it for granted that the earth was flat, but by the time of the Greeks of Alexandria, it had been proven to be a sphere. We are justified perhaps in scoffing at those after then who still believed in the flatness of the earth, depending on their level of education, but we are led to believe that many even of the ablest men still believed it. Of course, a reason for the lamentable education of everyone except the very rich, and even some of them, was that the Church had refused to copy any books it deemed superfluous—most of them except Latin and Greek grammar books for priestly education, bibles and devotional books. It suggests how dangerous and destructive mere faith is.
Contrary to Froude therefore, the ablest men are not necessarily right and can be utterly wrong en masse when alternatives are forbidden and scholarship is considered subversive. It is those who were willing to speak up for alternatives to “the truth” whom we can thank for the modern world’s achievements.
Good and Evil
Yet “the truth” persists in the face of truth, and we are held back by a large number of people who will not let go of medieval religion, even in the knowledge of the technological sophistication achieved in our world. Matter was the source of evil. The Persians had solved the problem of theodicy by conceiving a wicked god whose aim was to spoil everything the good God did. These were metaphors for the bad and good behavior that humans could choose between—we were meant to choose good and reject wickedness. We ourselves had to choose with every decision we made and act accordingly. Given sufficient people choosing “good”, the world would be good.
Unsophisticated people cannot understand abstracts and have to think they are like real solid, perhaps living, beings, albeit supernatural—they are out there! So the metaphors always became actual entities for the simple. As is the inevitable rule dictated by opportunism and human selfishness, the simple creed, “good thoughts, good words, good deeds”, was changed. The individual was not directly to blame by making the wrong choices, instead the wicked entity had infected the material world, which was therefore contaminated with wickedness. Choices still had to be made, but the presumption was that worldwide pollution left everyone compromised. In Christianity, it became “Original Sin”.
The ablest men could now have little or nothing to do with the material world. They were safer withdrawing from it rather than trying to make the right choices while living in it. They had to be devout, had to exercise their minds with prayer and incessantly praising God, so as to leave no room for anything but God, and thereby cease to be a normal human to ensure entry into God’s angelic kingdom after death. Real life and the real world had no purpose, unless ceaseless other worldly devotions are considered it. Needless to say, if everyone did that, then we should all die. But many of the ablest did just that, albeit many with an utter lack of sincerity, paying lip service to piety while fully enjoying the temptations of the sinful world.
The crucifixion of the good God while visiting the earth as a man had saved all believing Christians from the wickedness around them, so they might as well seek high office, palaces, good food, fine wines, seraglios, and so on, while they were here, content in the knowledge they already had the key to the Pearly Gate. Though their own God while on earth had blessed poverty and damned the rich, they saw no incongruity, continuing to think they had been saved by their belief, even though they made no effort to act upon the moral instructions the incarnated God had issued from his own mouth.
The material world was a world of disease, decay and death, a world in which entropy inevitably increased, but another world free of entropy awaited simply for accepting “the truth”. Matter is the cause of evil, and Christianity is the cure. Mere belief in Christ, a savior, is the magic salvific thought. No choice of good deeds over evil ones was necessary, and so nothing in the wicked world could, in fact, change. There was no will to do it, as there had once been. Reward came after death. That was it.
Christ taught an admirably practical philosophy, but Christians sidelined it. Now, not only is Christianity intellectually absurd, practically an offence and generally a misfortune, it is the ultimate scam.
Two members of The Economics Society at Lehigh, Anjan Gupta and Dan Maryanovich, run a blog, Centives, a collection of interesting economics studies like the New York Times bestseller, Freakanomics. One post was entitled, How Much Does It Cost to Go to Hogwarts?, one of a series which include also whether law school is worth the price of admission, and the economics of movie theater popcorn.
The authors found that a year at Hogwarts costs approximately $42,752, assuming the price includes tuition, based upon the average cost of England’s top boarding schools (so called “public schools”!) as well as estimated costs for all the items detailed in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, such things as robes, a plain pointed hat, dragon hide gloves and a winter cloak.
After just a few short days online, the blog had more than 18,000 page views and more than 400 re-tweets.
From our point of view, it is interesting. Only very rich people can afford to send their kids to train as witches and wizards, and those people purport to be Fundamentalist or at least Evangelical Christians. But they are just the ones who have tried to use their money and media connexions to run down the Harry Potter series as the stuff of the Devil. If they really believe this, they will not be sending any of their kids to Hogwarts.
One has to conclude that Hogwarts has no chance of opening a branch in the USA. So all the Fundamentalists, Evangelicals and other Right Wing Authoritarians opposed to Harry Potter must be campaigning to stop other people from enjoying a little magic or witchcraft. It is what we can expect of them. They regard it as their right to tell others what to do.
On the other hand, maybe, as followers of Leon Strauss, the founder of Neoconservatism and called by some a “Nazi Jew”, the rich Republicans are only pretending to be Christians for the sake of the ones in the electorate they want to gull into supporting them. Really, they are paying for their kids to get into Hogwarts so that they will have the skills and powers to keep the unwashed masses under control when the revolution comes! Only they have the money to pay the fees so that there is no chance anyone from the working class, or even from the middle classes concerned about whether they will be able to keep their jobs—in other words, the upper working classes!—will ever be admitted into the posh school for wizards.
Hogwarts is a rich man’s exclusive school not a truly public school. So today’s witches and wizards must be rich Republicans. Why then don’t their Christians followers kick them out as the real Satanists instead of harping on about liberals, who are only trying their best to do what Christ would have done?
Scientifically, or any other way, we cannot prove anything that is imaginary or simply a thought. Centaurs, vampires, werewolves, philosophers’ stones, elixirs of life, fairies, demons, angels, gods, God—such things can be imagined, but cannot be proved because they are purely imaginary, figments, and so do not exist in reality to leave behind any evidence for them. The absence of evidence for them is evidence! It is evidence against them.
A basis of science, a feature without which it could not work, is skepticism, one does not postulate anything for which there is no evidence. Its opposite is credulity, the inclination to believe anything on the least of evidence or none! Related to skepticism is the principle of Ockham’s Razor, or Parsimony, which says that one postulates only what is necessary and feasible—one does not glibly invent things. Using these principles science has no need to hypothesize God. Nor does it have to disprove God, an entity for which it has no need, any more than it has to disprove centaurs or elixirs of life, etc, or needs them.
An agnostic is deliberately wavering, wavering out of choice and not reason. To claim there is no evidence either way, is simply to say there is no evidence, and so to be scientific and skeptical the postulate of God has to be rejected until convincing evidence forces a reassessment. It is impossible to be simultaneously a scientist and a believer in God, so long as science cannot accommodate credulity. Credulous science becomes religion!
Moreover, if God existed and has the effect on the material world that believers think He has, He is necessarily leaving evidence behind. Science ought to be able to detect it. As Victor Stenger shows, nothing so far suggests anywhere in the universe that we have checked out that requires a God to explain it. Science is highly successful at explaining things without the hypothesis of God. So, if God exists, He is not manifestly changing the world in any discernible way. Worship and prayer are having no effect.
Of course, a purely mental God, a purely imaginary or psychological phenomenon, can effect one. It is a form of autosuggestion. That is probably why people are able to convince themselves that God does answer prayers. It is the Placebo God.
An appeal from two Colorado Christian high schools that wanted the University of California (UC) to grant them credit for religious courses, has been rejected by the US Supreme Court for using textbooks, UC says, that replace science with the Bible.
UC requires certain high school courses for admission and it reviews their content to make sure they cover subjects that incoming students need. University officials said some of the Christian schools’ classes in biology, history, English and religion didn’t pass the test—a conclusion that the schools blamed on religious discrimination. The Association of Christian Schools International and co-plaintiff Calvary Chapel Christian School accused the university of violating freedom of speech and religion for refusing to honor the courses applicants take in high school when considering admissions eligibility. The justices, however, denied them a hearing without comment.
The association’s 800 high schools in California teach “standard course content” and “add a religious viewpoint in each subject… as an integral part of their reason for existence”, the group’s lawyers said in their Supreme Court appeal, but a federal judge said experts testifying for the university refuted those claims in reviewing their textbooks. They did not meet academic standards.
Biology texts teach students to reject any scientific evidence that contradicted the Bible. A history text declared the Bible to be the “unerring source for analysis” of past events, and gave short shrift to women, non-Christians and some ethnic groups. An English literature course did not require students to read novels or plays, but instead presented an anthology, Classics for Christians, that “insists on specific interpretations” of excerpted works.
The assessments showed that the university had rational grounds for denying college preparatory credit for the courses, US District Judge James Otero said in a 2008 ruling. Judge Ortero said the schools had failed to prove religious intolerance. The Ninth US Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco upheld his decision in January. A three judge panel said the evidence showed that UC has approved other high school courses with “religious content and viewpoints”, and classes that used religious textbooks, as long as they met academic standards.
Lawyers for the Christian schools denounced the ruling:
In the Ninth Circuit, religious speech in religious schools is less protected than commercial speech, flag burning and pornography.
While Calvary’s attorney, Robert H Tyler of the Murrieta firm Advocates for Faith and Freedom, said the ruling was a “green light to discriminate against Christian viewpoints”.
UC officials praised the court decisions and said the university has similar rates of approval for courses in religious and secular schools.
Richard Dawkins’s speech delivered in Whitehall at the London rally against the Pope, 18th Sept 2010, was shorter than the full text, mostly because the rally was so huge—an estimated 15,000—that the speeches started late and had to be curtailed. This is the original speech from Dawkins’s own website:
Should Joseph Ratzinger have been welcomed with all the pomp and ceremony due to a Head of State? No. As Geoffrey Robertson has shown in The Case of the Pope, the Holy See’s claim to statehood is founded on a Faustian deal in which Mussolini handed over 1.2 square miles of central Rome in exchange for Church support of his fascist regime. Our government chose the occasion of the pope’s visit to announce their intention to “do God”. As a friend has remarked to me, presumably we should expect the imminent hand over of Hyde Park to the Vatican, to clinch the deal?
Should Ratzinger, then, be welcomed as the head of a church? By all means, if individual Catholics wish to overlook his many transgressions and lay out the red carpet for his designer red shoes, let them do so. But don’t ask the rest of us to pay. Don’t ask the British taxpayer to subsidize the propaganda mission of an institution whose wealth is measured in the tens of billions: wealth for which the phrase “ill-gotten” might have been specifically coined. And spare us the nauseating spectacle of the Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh and assorted Lord Lieutenants and other dignitaries cringing and fawning sycophantically all over him as though he were somebody we should respect.
Benedict’s predecessor, John Paul II, was respected by some as a saintly man. But nobody could call Benedict XVI saintly and keep a straight face. Whatever this leering old fixer may be, he is not saintly. Is he intellectual? Scholarly? That is often claimed, although it is far from clear what there is in theology to be scholarly about. Surely nothing to respect.
The unfortunate little fact that Joseph Ratzinger joined the Hitler Youth has been the subject of a widely observed moratorium. I’ve respected it myself, hitherto. But after the Pope’s outrageous speech in Edinburgh, blaming atheism for Hitler, one can’t help feeling that the gloves are off. Did you hear what he said?
“Even in our own lifetime, we can recall how Britain and her leaders stood against a Nazi tyranny that wished to eradicate God from society and denied our common humanity to many, especially the Jews… As we reflect on the sobering lessons of the atheist extremism of the twentieth century…”
You have to wonder about the PR skills of the advisors who let that paragraph through. Oh but of course, I was forgetting, his senior advisor is that Cardinal who takes one look at the immigration officials at Heathrow and concludes that he must have landed in the Third World. The poor man was no doubt prescribed a bushel of Hail Marys, on top of his swift attack of diplomatic gout—and one can’t help wondering whether the afflicted foot was the one he puts in his mouth.
At first I was annoyed by the Pope’s disgraceful attack on atheists and secularists, but then I saw it as reassuring. It suggests that we have rattled them so much that they have to resort to insulting us, in a desperate attempt to divert attention from the child rape scandal.
It probably is too harsh to expect the 15-year-old Ratzinger to have seen through the Nazis. As a devout Catholic, he would have had dinned into him, along with the Catechism, the obnoxious idea that all Jews are to be held responsible for killing Jesus—the “Christ-killer” libel—not repudiated until the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965). The German Roman Catholic psyche of the time was still shot through with the anti-Semitism of centuries.
Adolf Hitler was a Roman Catholic. Or at least he was as much a Roman Catholic as the 5 million so-called Roman Catholics in this country today. For Hitler never renounced his baptismal Catholicism, which was doubtless the criterion for counting the 5 million alleged British Catholics today. You cannot have it both ways. Either you have 5 million British Catholics, in which case you have to have Hitler too. Or Hitler was not a Catholic, in which case you have to give us an honest figure for the number of genuine Catholics in Britain today—the number who really believe Jesus turns himself into a wafer, as the former Professor Ratzinger presumably does.
In any case, Hitler certainly was not an atheist. In 1933 he claimed to have “stamped atheism out”, having banned most of Germany’s atheist organizations, including the German Freethinkers League whose building was then turned into an information bureau for church affairs.
At very least, Hitler believed in a personified “Providence”, presumably akin to the Divine Providence invoked by the Cardinal Archbishop of Munich in 1939, when Hitler escaped assassination and the Cardinal ordered a special Te Deum in Munich Cathedral:
“To thank Divine Providence in the name of the Archdiocese for the Führer’s fortunate escape.”
We may never know whether Hitler identified his “Providence” with the Cardinal’s God. But he certainly knew his overwhelmingly Christian constituency, the millions of good Christian Germans with “Gott mit uns” on their belt buckles, who actually did his dirty work for him. He knew his support base. Hitler most certainly did “do God”. Here’s part of a speech he made in Munich, the heart of Catholic Bavaria, in 1922:
“My feeling as a Christian points me to my Lord and Saviour as a fighter. It points me to the man who once in loneliness, surrounded by a few followers, recognized these Jews for what they were and summoned men to fight against them and who—God’s truth!—was greatest not as a sufferer but as a fighter. In boundless love as a Christian and as a man I read through the passage which tells us how the Lord at last rose in His might and seized the scourge to drive out of the Temple the brood of vipers and adders. How terrific was his fight against the Jewish poison. Today, after two thousand years, with deepest emotion I recognize more profoundly than ever before the fact that it was for this that He had to shed his blood upon the Cross.”
That is just one of numerous speeches, and passages in Mein Kampf, where Hitler invoked his Christianity. No wonder he received such warm support from within the Catholic hierarchy of Germany. And Benedict’s predecessor, Pius XII, is not guiltless, as the Catholic writer John Cornwell devastatingly showed, in his book Hitler’s Pope.
It would be unkind to prolong this point, but Ratzinger’s speech in Edinburgh on Thursday was so disgraceful, so hypocritical, so redolent of the sound of stones hurled from within a glass house, I felt that I had to reply.
Even if Hitler had been an atheist—as Stalin more surely was—how dare Ratzinger suggest that atheism has any connection whatsoever with their horrific deeds? Any more than Hitler and Stalin’s non-belief in leprechauns or unicorns. Any more than their sporting of a moustache—along with Franco and Saddam Hussein. There is no logical pathway from atheism to wickedness.
Unless, that is, you are steeped in the vile obscenity at the heart of Catholic theology. I refer—and I am indebted to Paula Kirby for the point—to the doctrine of Original Sin. These people believe—and they teach this to tiny children, at the same time as they teach them the terrifying falsehood of hell—that every baby is “born in sin”. That would be Adam’s sin, by the way, Adam who, as they themselves now admit, never existed. Original sin means that, from the moment we are born, we are wicked, corrupt, damned. Unless we believe in their God. Or unless we fall for the carrot of heaven and the stick of hell. That, ladies and gentleman, is the disgusting theory that leads them to presume that it was godlessness that made Hitler and Stalin the monsters that they were. We are all monsters unless redeemed by Jesus. What a vile, depraved, inhuman theory to base your life on.
Joseph Ratzinger is an enemy of humanity
- He is an enemy of children, whose bodies he has allowed to be raped and whose minds he has encouraged to be infected with guilt. It is embarrassingly clear that the church is less concerned with saving child bodies from rapists than with saving priestly souls from hell—and most concerned with saving the long-term reputation of the church itself.
- He is an enemy of gay people, bestowing on them the sort of bigotry that his church used to reserve for Jews.
- He is an enemy of women—barring them from the priesthood as though a penis were an essential tool for pastoral duties. What other employer is allowed to discriminate on grounds of sex, when filling a job that manifestly doesn’t require physical strength or some other quality that only males might be thought to have?
- He is an enemy of truth, promoting barefaced lies about condoms not protecting against AIDS, especially in Africa.
- He is an enemy of the poorest people on the planet, condemning them to inflated families that they cannot feed, and so keeping them in the bondage of perpetual poverty. A poverty that sits ill with the obscene riches of the Vatican.
- He is an enemy of science, obstructing vital stem-cell research, on grounds not of morality but of pre-scientific superstition.
- Less seriously from my point of view, Ratzinger is even an enemy of the Queen’s own church, arrogantly endorsing a predecessor’s dissing of Anglican Orders as “absolutely null and utterly void”, while shamelessly trying to poach Anglican vicars to shore up his own pitifully declining priesthood.
- Finally, perhaps of most personal concern to me, he is an enemy of education. Quite apart from the lifelong psychological damage caused by the guilt and fear that have made catholic education infamous throughout the world, he and his church foster the educationally pernicious doctrine that evidence is a less reliable basis for belief than faith, tradition, revelation and authority—his authority.
Robert Stevens of this little old town, Frome, in Somerset noted in a letter that the pupils of Emmanuel College, Gateshead, were being taught biblical “young Earth creationism” and the Labour government was making no fuss about it at all. It might seem endearingly British to tolerate eccentrics and odd views, but in typical fashion the man responsible here, the headmaster, condemns “liberalism”, even though it is liberalism and not any form of fundamentalism that favours tolerance, even of bigots.
Mr Stevens points out that to make young Earth creationism seem plausible, much scientific knowledge—of biology, geology, astronomy and even nuclear physics, radiometric dating—has to be suppressed. Creationists seek to achieve this through the use of bogus claims of “scientific” evidence supposedly confirming creationism or contradicting evolution.
Should our children be taught complete nonsense as science? Those opposed to creationist lies have no way of communicating with the young people subject to this propaganda, which might make them fit to continue the lying succession, but will count them out of anything science based as a profession. Though Emmanuel College is a so-called City Technology College, tuition like this will render its pupils incapable of pursuing many careers in the sciences. Already, one pupil described evolution as an “atheist lie”, so he is already incapable of discriminating what is really a lie from what has so much evidence in its support, it would require a truckload of encyclopedias to contain it.
Though it should be prosecuted as fraudulent, creationism in the US is a multi million dollar industry. American fundamentalists, Christians and money makers have taken a great interest in the UK since pope Tony wore the tiara. Those ready to invest in British education include people for whom UFOs transport Satan’s lieutenants like Richard Dawkins to spread “evilutionism”. And, yes they think their pun is a sacred give away of the holy truth! God allowed science and terrorism to punish Americans for accepting homosexuality and multiculturalism. Blessed by pope Blair and now bishop Brown, US fundamentalists will be taking over British schools near you.
They say, it is to offer parents choice! Let us choose not to have choices like this.