In the delightful story of the Tower of Babel in the Book of Genesis, it is God who confuses the speech and language of the nations. These days we are more than capable of doing this all by ourselves. The most efficient way to do it is to start by destroying our traditional religion, a project in which we are assured of the enthusiastic support of the government.
There is a new Commission on Religious Education chaired by the Very Rev’d Dr John Hall, Dean of Westminster. The Commission recommends that the current style of teaching RE in schools is a failure and should be replaced by something called Religion and World Views – the syllabus to include all the world faiths but also “humanism, secularism, atheism and agnosticism.” This, enthuses Dr Hall, is to reflect “Our wonderfully diverse society in which day by day children can encounter different cultures and world views.”
And end up totally bewildered. For the fact is that I can begin to understand the beliefs of others only when I have some specific and firm beliefs of my own.
Let me start by agreeing with the Commission that the way we teach RE today should be scrapped. Our present practice is a vicious shambles. Under the rules now in place, a teacher may teach about Christianity but he is not allowed to teach Christianity as something that is true. This implies that there is some neutral position from which Christianity – and indeed all the other world religions – can be judged. As if the teacher were able to withdraw to some lofty perspective and evaluate all the great faiths.
There is such a position, of course, and it is unbelief. So the rules on religious education are already a licence for state atheism. The government has, very late in the day, woken up to the fact that multiculturalism is undesirable, leading as it does to the separation among the faith communities and the creation of ghettoes, breeding grounds for terrorism. How things move on: the truth spoken by Enoch Powell in 1968 and which lost him his job is now declared openly by the Chairman of the Commission for Racial Equality.
But Dr Hall’s Commission’s proposals will only make matters much worse.
If we are sincere in our desire to promote integration by expressing British cultural values, then we should restore the teaching of Christianity in all state schools. This would simply be to return to the provisions of the 1944 Education Act which prescribed Christian teaching with the right of dissenters to withdraw their children from RE classes. The 1944 Act provided for non-denominational Christian teaching: thus basic Christianity was taught – the Old and New Testaments and Christian ethics. But state schools were not permitted to teach, say Anglicanism, Methodism or Roman Catholicism.
Current RE lessons are a travesty, a politically-loaded parody of religion: the slave trade, the Holocaust, AIDS, third worldism and Green dogmatising – throw in a few cult figures of the Left such as Mary Seacoal and Martin Luther King Jr and you’ve got complete political hegemony.
Besides, the new proposals won’t work out in practice. The standards which govern the current theological-philosophical training of RE teachers are abysmal. Under the new syllabus, teachers will merely exhibit the same level of ignorance about humanism, secularism, atheism and agnosticism as they currently display in their meagre understanding of Christianity, Judaism, Islam and the other world faiths. Dr Hall and his Commissioners fail to understand that in order to teach atheism you need a thorough understanding of theism. In order to understand agnosticism – a position in which one can’t make up one’s mind – you need some experience of what it is to have your mind made up and firmly settled.
Who will teach all the new goodies to the teachers, given the intellectual abyss which presently constitutes university education?
Even more seriously there is a moral deficit. Traditionally RE teachers in junior and secondary schools were not required to be fully subscribed Bible-bashers, but it was taken for granted that they believed the basics of the Christian faith they were teaching. Nowadays there is the pretence of some abstracted, neutral position from which one can teach religion. This is as absurd as the notion that doctors and nurses can go about their surgeries and hospitals while not believing there is such a thing as health.