NI report shines religion in a poor educational light

I’ve come to regard religion as something that individuals should choose to either follow or not. It’s not something to be handed down from one generation to another just as it should not be the norm to follow the same politics as your parents. Individuals can grow into much more rounded citizens if they make such choices themselves.

The report, linked below, on the effect of religious governance of schools therefore interested me:-

www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-54063908

I was brought up in my Dad’s religion, baptised and confirmed into his religion and I went along with it not thinking or knowing of any alternatives until I was about 15. Around that time I recall looking at my religious world which, whilst not being a big part of my life, did mean I was in a church choir and I wondered why I was doing it. I talked to a friend who was to a lesser degree following his parents religion and we both wondered why we were following a similar path.

Me sat in my old choir stall at Sefton Church. I recall sitting in this very seat – if memory serves me well of course – it was 47 years ago!

This thinking led us both to walk away from religion as being something which was not for us, although we removed religion from our lives politely and certainly not in away to offend others who held strong religious beliefs.*

I can’t say I’ve ever looked back and regretted that move indeed the older I get the more I feel I did the right thing for me.

I got married in a church, of my (former) and my wife’s religion, because that was what my wife wanted and we had our daughter baptised for a similar reason. However, that’s where any religious direction for our youngster ceased. The religious, political and pretty much everything else direction she then took in her life has been her decision and hers alone. As far as I’m concerned such is her business and not mine.

Having read this far you won’t be surprised to hear that I’m not at all keen on religious schools** being used by parents to reinforce their own religious beliefs upon their children. Education is all about bringing well rounded citizens to adulthood with the skills to be able to be a part of society and the knowledge to be able to gain and hold onto jobs, it’s not about religion. Having said that I’ve no problem whatsoever with youngsters being taught about world religions, what they each believe in and why some people choose to follow them, indeed to understand how society works such knowledge is vital.

All these thoughts came to me having read the article linked above about how schools are governed in Northern Ireland. Whilst the situation there is unique in the UK due to historic religious/political intolerance it’s nice to see that calm and sober assessment of how the mainly religious NI schools are run will probably lead to change for the better, although such change will sadly take far too long to come about.

* Ludovic Kennedy’s book published in 1999 ‘All in the mind – A Farewell to God’ is an excellent read about losing your religion.

** I think my first primary school may have been a religious one although it may well have been chosen because it was within easy walking distance of our family home. I was only there about 18 months though and the 2 subsequent primary schools I attended were not religious based, neither was the high school I went to.

Farron, religion and Liberalism

That a thoroughly decent man has been forced from public office is a given and I say that as an atheist.

Yes I was very uncomfortable watching Tim contort himself into knots when asked about his religious views and yes the media were out to do him harm over his religion. Just think about it, how many other leading politicians have strong religious views and how many of them have been hounded out of office for holding them? Blair got some stick because he was Roman Catholic but I struggle to think of many others in recent times.

Did Tim bring trouble upon himself? Well yes to some extent because of this contorted answers that had us all scratching our heads. And you know despite his odd answers he actually did a lot to back minority rights and the LGBT community have acknowledged that apart from what I will call their more militant fringe.

Can you be a Liberal hold religious views? Well you must be able to as there seem to be many people out there who do. Anyway one of the significant strands of liberalism comes from ‘Chapel Liberals’ and Methodism. I am sure my dear old Mum was a Chapel Liberal and I personally know many Lib Dem’s who hold strong religious views and I count them as my friends.

The crunch issue as I see it is this. As a Liberal your guiding light is the rights of others and your being willing to stand up for those rights even when you personally do not subscribe to them. That’s what Tim Farron tried to do, that’s why he stood up for LGBT rights even though his religion was seemingly telling him otherwise. His problem was being unable to publicly reconcile his liberalism and religion when the contradictions were put to him by the media. And once he had shown weakness the first time he was asked about the matter it was always going to be where the media homed in.

Were the media involved in bullying and intimidation? Yes of course they were, indeed they were acting as though they were from the 1950’s and steeped in intolerance with more than a hint of the Spanish Inquisition thrown in for good (or is that bad) measure. It’s as though Farron were being treated as a criminal for holding religious and political views, it’s a sad reflection on our reactionary media and the intolerant times we live in.

Yes of course opposition politicians also exploited Tim’s inability to answer straight forward questions on the potential conflict between his religion and his liberalism. I picked up what I viewed to be political trolling comments on this very matter.

Brexit has split us very deeply because it has brought back into focus views that people used to be ashamed of talking about – racism, intolerance, homophobia, etc. Farron in my view became a victim of that new intolerant culture and it shames our society greatly.

One last thing, the schism on the left of British politics is not actually so much about policy but about libertarian versus authoritarian approaches. In general terms socialism is more authoritarian and liberalism is obviously libertarian. Tell you what is good for you as opposed to giving you the facts to make your own mind up you could say. Quite obviously our society is by its nature these days far more authoritarian and less libertarian. I hope it goes without saying that Conservatism is also authoritarian.

Authoritarian societies don’t tolerate differences from the norm and the norm is usually set by the ruling classes. Farron is, like many Liberals before him and those who will follow him, too libertarian to be tolerated by a media and a political establishment that see most things very black and white, right and wrong.

Don’t look upon Farron as someone you liked or disliked in party political terms, look upon him as someone our society showed the door to because he was not conforming to the norms as interpreted by the media and the establishmnet. Then look at other minorities and think about them too, who will be next?

Oh yes and Farron stood in 2017 General Election on a policy of tolerance!