Ethics Classes as an Alternative to Scripture in NSW Schools

The St James Ethics Centre has been trialing a moral class alternative to scripture in NSW schools for some months now. Until now, whenever a school runs a scripture class for its students, the students are free to choose which denomination they are, or whether they want to sit out of the class entirely. There has been no alternative for students. Now there is a chance that moral education might be introduced as an alternative.

This has stirred up the religious leaders in NSW no end. They are very upset about this.

In the past couple of weeks numerous public announcements have come out from the various Christian denominational leaders, as well as news stories about the reaction to this idea by the religious teachers themselves, for example:

  1. Catholics are concerned that the ethics class will be competing with them for scripture student numbers. (Sydney Catholic Website)
  2. Scripture teachers attending P&C meetings to protest the secular ethics classes. (SMH)
  3. Jim Wallace thinks you cannot teach ethics without Christianity. (SMH)
  4. Archbishop Jenson lists 10 reasons why the ethics course is not a good idea. Most importantly, he references an agreement with the government from 1880 which guarantees SRE education in schools. (Youthworks website)

And more. I’m not going to list every article and publication that has come out about the class, but you can get the idea from those ones.

I have 2 main thoughts on this. Firstly, nowhere in our society is a monopoly acceptable except where it is a government basic service. I find this incredibly offensive that CHRISTIANITY specifically thinks that it deserves to have this 30 minute monopoly over every other belief system available, where you either learn their system, or you learn nothing. At this point in time we are talking about the opportunity to bring in a secular moral education as an alternative to Christian education, but I see no reason why Judaism, Islamic, Hindu, or Budhist education should not also be available… Why does Christianity deserve a government enforced monopoloy? It does not.

What is important about this being a SECULAR education, is not that it is against christianity, as the anglicans and catholics want their followers to believe, but rather that it is open to everybody equally. Christianity is exlcusionary – if you do not believe what they believe, then you are not one of them. A Secular education can be attended by christians, jews, muslims, hindus, budhists and atheists equally. Your religious beliefe is irrelevent to the education itself. That is what makes it so damn fair and good.

This does however bring me to my second point, which is that they have good reason to be terrified by this prospect. I want to be able to say that they are reacting unjustly, but I think their fears are real. The dominant christian denominations have had the exclusive monopoly where I have no doubt parents for for years been given the option “Catholic or Anglican or Nothing” (I feel confident that the nothing would have often not even been mentioned), and then the parents have jsut selected the most appropriate choice for their children, even if they themselves never went to church, and didn’t actually believe in God. And thus, another generation of children were planted with the seeds of religion as truth as part of their public school education.

What is going to happen now though, is that parents will be given a real alternative, and all of those parents who for so long haven’t cared about religion, but simply wanted their child to learn something about morality, will no longer stick their religion free children into scripture, but will without doubt opt for the “Moral Education” option. How could you not? It isn’t a religion you don’t believe in, and it must be good, it is about morality!

So yes, student numbers in Scripture classes will fall. And yes, long term result of this is that belief in God will decline (because future generations of adults won’t have early childhood influences to direct their thinking in times of struggle towards a mythical saviour concept). And that is why the religious leaders are scared.

They know that when children and parents are given real OPTIONS, they will choose the more reasonable one. The BETTER option.

Christianity cannot survive real competition, nor can it survive real inspection. And they know it. Which is why they need their early childhood indocrination periods; they need to get in there before analytic skills and the ability to discerne a good argument from a bad argument is developed.

What I find sad though, is that these people think they are the moral compass of our society. They think they are the saviours of everyone around them – but they are the cancer that is stopping progress and improvement. They are tying us down to an ancient story, and an ancient way of thinking. And they are doing it with absolute unrelenting force; God forbid any alternatives should be given a chance!

True believers really do think that their religion is the only option for morality. And that should be terrifying to everyone who isn’t part of that religion. It is because of that absolute belief system, that they would rather FORCE everyone else to not be able to find morality, and goodness in their own way, but instead just wander aimlessly through life. I guess it makes the structured rule book of the bible slightly more appealing when you have no alternative system to compare it against. Again. (Always coming back to the monopoly!) Too bad that the rest of society has to deal with the consequence of people having no tools for assessing moral actions though. Worse yet, too bad society has to deal with people who were also given no tools to assess moral actions, but were instead given a RULEBOOK which says what they can and cannot do, and they think that this rulebook constitutes moral education.

If only Christians got some secular moral education, maybe they would understand that following rules out of fear of punishment does not constitute being moral.

To show your support for the St James Ethics Centre’s Secular Moral education, go have a look at their facebook fan page.

Please Support this most important cause. And help our future generations be free of religious tyranny, and free to learn about morality and ethics in an unencumbered way.

This is important.

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