iDigress

Musings of an antipodean contrarian

Archive for the category “atheism”

Don’t white-ant school chaplaincy

If you listen to the loudest voices, you could be forgiven for thinking that school chaplaincy these days is nothing more than a blatant attempt at spiritual salesmanship or religious recruitment.

But you’d be wrong. Chaplaincy is a vital and well established part of the life of hundreds of schools around Australia, serving student needs alongside the support available from teachers and school counsellors, and is widely respected by parents. The only ones opposing school chaplaincy seem to be the militant atheists and secularists committed to attacking all things religious.

Federal School Education Minister Peter Garrett’s recent announcement that the government will move to introduce secular welfare workers to complement the work of school chaplains looks like a sop to the atheists, but it has the potential to undermine chaplaincy funding.

Chaplaincy works, and enjoys favour with an overwhelming majority of students, teachers and parents. Introducing a new stream of secular welfare workers in schools is fine, but not at the expense of the excellent school chaplaincy program.

Broadcast on 2CH Sydney, Sunday 18 September 2011.

Religious affiliation and Tuesday’s census

Mufti of Australia, Sheik Taj Aldin Alhilali, left, inspects census forms

On Tuesday, millions of Australians will be asked more than 60 questions about their employment, income, family and religion.

It’s the centenary of the Australian census, providing a wealth of information that informs government policy and investment in health, education and infrastructure, and offering important insights into social trends and public sentiment.

Question 19 asks, “What is the person’s religion”, and options are given for major world faiths and Christian denominations. You can also write in your own religious preference, and there have been thousands of variations. In 2006, for example, about 55,000 people said they followed the Jedi order from Star Wars.

The Atheist Foundation is urging people to tick the box marked “No religion”, with a view to winding back public support for faith-based initiatives. So if you’re a person of faith, and you care about Australian values shaped by your religious tradition, be sure to record your religion accurately on the census form this Tuesday.

Broadcast on 2CH Sydney, Sunday 7 August 2011.

An Anglican response to atheism

The stories of disaster, and loss of life and material possessions arising from the recent floods will prompt some of us to ask: “How can there be a God when there is such suffering in the world?” “How can God sit back and allow bad things to happen to good people?”

A new online resource from the Anglican Diocese of Melbourne offers answers to these and other difficult questions as Christians seek to engage with the recent popularity of atheism, and the ideas and arguments of prominent atheists like Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens.

On the website, which I’ll mention in a moment, you can submit questions for experts to answer, and read summaries of dozens of books about atheism, and download a brochure assisting Christians in responding to difficult questions about faith.

As a confident believer in God, I feel sad when Christians retreat in fear or confusion at serious intellectual challenges to faith.  This website, www.melbourne.anglican.com.au/atheism, may be just what you need.

Broadcast on 2CH Sydney, 23 Jan 2011.

History curriculum ignores faith

Image by Eric Lobbecke. Source: http://bit.ly/dFhoil

In the lull between Christmas Day and New Year’s Day, I learned a new word: oikophobia.

Oikophobia literally means “fear of one’s own home,” but English philosopher Roger Scruton has adapted the term to mean “rejection of everything one’s parents and grandparents respected.”

And President of Campion College, David Daintree, sees oikophobia behind the efforts of drafters of the new national curriculum for history to expunge all references to Christianity from the nation’s teaching in schools.

The draft curriculum in history certainly ignores the role of religion in general, and is silent about Christianity, despite the profound influence of Christian faith, morality and compassion on Australian history and that of most other countries.

A secularist or atheist conspiracy?  It would appear so, and it is time for people of faith, and Christians in particular, to stand up and be heard.

Broadcast on 2CH Sydney, 9 January 2011.

Philip Pullman mythologises Jesus

You might remember Philip Pullman as the author of the children’s fantasy books titled, His Dark Materials, the first of which was made into the 2007 film The Golden Compass.

Pullman opposes organised religion, but he has just written a book on Jesus, one of a series inviting writers to retell what the publisher regards as “famous imaginary tales.”

Pullman’s tale has twin brothers born in Bethlehem – one named Jesus, who becomes an evangelical preacher and social reformer similar to the biblical Jesus; and the other, unnamed, brother who acts rather like a biblical Pharisee and who edits the gospel story to suit his own ends.

In Pullman’s imagination, the good angels are evil, God is the ultimate villain, and Christianity is a devilish conspiracy.  It’s a blasphemous fiction, but Pullman can be thankful that followers of the genuine Jesus will be praying for his enlightenment rather than baying for his blood. 

Broadcast on 2CH Sydney, Sunday 18 April 2010.

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