Sunday, 14 December 2008

Humanism in schools. Hooray.

The Humanist Society of Victoria has developed a curriculum for primary school students based on humanist ethics.

Their focus is the wonderful idea that ethics can be derived without reference to any religion; that you don’t need to defer to some magical God or ancient book or (more often) the authority of the clergy to know what’s right.

This is a really important idea, and absolutely the sort of thing we should be instilling in our children.

But of course that’s not the way it’s being reported.

Instead, we get headlines like this:

Religion in schools to go God-free

Students to be taught there's no God

This angle completely misses the point. But that’s to be expected in a culture with such an entrenched religious tradition.

And the predictable backlash from religious, particularly Christian, vested interests has begun.

This is my favourite quote, from fundamentalist godbot Jenny Stoker of Christian lobby group Salt Shakers:

"If you go there, where do you stop? What about witchcraft or Satanism? If you accredit humanism, then those things would have an equal claim to be taught in schools."

Wrong, Jenny. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

If you teach Christianity in schools then all those things have an equal claim. They’ve all got precisely as much evidence as each other to support them.

Our government should never promote any one religion over another, and certainly not in our government schools.

So, Jenny, unless equal time is given to all religions (and that includes Wicca and Satanism and Scientology and The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster) then no time should be given to any of them.


Anthony Venn-Brown said...

the salt shaker just don't think things through do they.

ZAROVE said...

You make two errors.

THe firts is assumign that teachign that ethics can be "Religion free" is the same as teachign Humanism. Its not. One can be an Atheist and still disagree with Humanist principles.

The opther problem is that Humanism is a Religion in its own right. Yes I know, it doesnt require beleif in a god, and focuses on our wold, and is compatbale wiht Sicnece, and all that rot, but really, Religion is simply the worldview you hold to.

Religion is what you htink anoyt the world, it is a framework of understanding the world around you. A Philosophical modle you use ot interpret it.

Humanism provides this in exaclty the same way CHristianity or Buddhism does. Its not a Religion, though? Harldy, and evem the earliest Humanists like T X Huxley and Octavious Brooks said it was a Religion.

What you relaly eman is, yours int eh oen true religin and everyoen shoudl fall in line with it.

Matt said...


Humanism is not a religion, except in the very broadest sense in which you could also define football as a religion.

The value of humanistic ethics is that although it is consistent some of the facets of Christianity ("do unto others" for example) it can be derived without reference to an ancient book or claiming that ethics are somehow God-given.

This latter claim is all-too-often used by church authorities to dictate behaviour and to claim that it's how God wants us to act.

Humanism is outside of religion, and thinking of ethics in this way removes religion's power to claim authority on matters of morality and ethics.

ZAROVE said...

Matt, maybe I didnt make myself clear elsewhere, but your sppouting the usual gibberish.

Humanism isnt a Religion because it doens't beelive in God. Basiclaly Ahtiesm is a lack of Religion because Religion is beleif about God.

Do you understand how idiotic and outright stupid comments liek this actulaly are?

Religion isn't about beleif in gods at all, and there are blatantly Ahtiestic Religions. By what you said above, Zen Buddhism isn't a Religion. ( I bet your the type who'd try to argue it snot.)

Zen Buddhism has no beleif in gods either, yet it is studied as a Religion.

And no, Im not beign road enough withthe definition o f Religion as ot include Football, but Humanism is a Religion because it acts exaclty like a Religion.

Humanism dictsates how the Humanist understands his world, in the same way CHristianity dictates how the Christian sees his world, or how the Hindu sees his. Humanism acts as a Framework from which all that is exoeurnced in lie is contextualised and understood, jut like Christianiy or Hinduism. Humanism acts as a basis for understanding oens relationship to said world and the peope in it, and the framework form which morals and ehtics are developed, in exaclty the same way that Hinduism or CHristianity do.

So in what way is it not a Religion?

This isn't the same as making Religion broad enough to include football at all, its tellign you Religion need not be theistic.

Even the Earliest Humanists undertsood Humanism as a Religion. If you'd bother to read the Humanist Manifesto for example, it cldarly sys Humanism is a Religion.

As to your bit abotu Ancient texts, all Ancient texts where once new. When the NEw Testament was written it was a Religious text,even when the ink was still wet.

Humanism has its own Sacred texts, the Manifestos ( At leats two, others exist but some do not recognise them), and the writtings of the ENightenment Era thinkers and the 19th century huanists, right up to modern humanist thought.

THis may not be just like the Bibel in that hey arnet seen as infallable or set in stone, butthen, neother is Buddhisms scripture seen in that way, nor ar emany other Religiosu traditions.

The truth is, Humanism is a Religion because it act sjust liek a Religion in the thought proccesses that embody it, and attemptuing to say it snot a Religion is just daft.

Though I undrstamd why you woudl, fgiven that you ant to pretend its the alternative to religion. Of corusenot all Atheits ar ehUmansist, but you'd liek to pretend they are. Just as you'd pretend that all Religions are at each others throats and this chaos and confusioncnabe ended if we droped Religion in favour of Humanism.

Religion is bad, but Hmanism, the alternative to Religion, is good.

If you admit its a Religion it just becomes ne option out of many, and you want it set apart.

But that doens't fly.

ZAROVE said...

Incidentlaly the claim of how much more freedom we get in a Humanistic ethos is a lie.

I've dealt with Humanists, they tens to be very dogmatic.

If you do not agree wiht them, you are labled irrational, called all manner of vile names , and refered to as an enemy of reason and humaniry. Much liek your profanity-lined attacks ont he Pope. its onconceivable to a Humanist that someone would disagree iwhthtem other than if their mind is diluded by the evls of religion.

Yet this is freedom?

If I cannot sincerley disagree and must arrive at their conclusions how is this free?

As to the bit about God will, humanists are just as bad by invikign the name of reason and dictating moral codes n the name of reason and logic and critical thinking, or im the lofty name of Humanity, as if somehow to disagree with them is to stand opposed to all reason, and the good of humanity as a whole.

I'd much rather follow the will of God than someone elses opinion on whats best ofr humanity base do their own shallow thinking.

Matt said...


You've started misquoting me now, which makes me think you're running out of ideas. Or you're not even bothering to read what I write.

I didn't say that religion required belief in a God.

You nailed it yourself when you said this:

"[Humanist texts] may not be just like the Bible in that they aren't seen as infallible or set in stone . . ."

That's the difference right there.

Humanism is a philosophy, not a religion, because it does not include an immovable, supposedly infallible doctrine. That is the hallmark of a religion.

ZAROVE said...

Matt, you clealry haven't studied Religion.

Religion doesn't actually require immovable, supposedly infallable doctrines either. If it did, Buddhism woudln't be a Religion. For that matter neither woudl several Branches of Christianity. ( Liberal Christianity for instance is rife with examples of the claim that Doctirnes arent infallable or imovable.)

Accoridng to you, Liberal Christianity, Buddhism, and many forms of Nondenominaitonal Christendom, soem branches of Sufi or Bahai, Raelianism, and several other thigns usually refered ot as Religion arne't.

No, Matt, I'll repeat it.

Religion is a Framework from which we contextualise our lives. It is a Philosophical system we use to udnerstand the world aroidn us and our palce in it. All Religin is Philosophy, and all peopel have a Religion. Religion is in fact a nessisary componant to Human thinkign ebcause we need a framework form which our world is understood.

That is what Religion actulaly is.

Just pretendign Huamnism isnt a Religion and findign an excuse for it not to be doens't make it not a Religion.

Thoguh I udnertsand why you need it to not be. You want to posit that Rleigion is dangeorus and absurd and that the world is better of withotu it. By makign Religion bad ou hope to create a visceral reactiont o it. Of ocrus you posit Humanism as the alternative to Relgiion, and that makes it OK, and in fact ideal.

You also pretend all nonreligisu peopel wil be Humanists.

But the truth is, there is no difference in how Humanism funcitons and how any other Relgiion functions, only in what it teaches, and when dealign with Religion we are dealign with how peopl udnerstand the world works.

Its not relaly an alternative to Relgiion, as just one option amongst the Choir that likes ot bully the ther vices, exspecially Christianity.

Matt said...

Okay, let's take your definition of religion.

Let's change that sentence in the original post to "Their focus is the wonderful idea that ethics can be derived without reference to any religions that include an immovable and supposedly infallible doctrine."

Does that make it clearer for you?

ZAROVE said...

No, because your still basiclaly tyign to make an artificial distinction for Humanism ti wiggle out of.

Again, th only reaosn tyou dont' see Humanism as a Religiomn is because you have loaded the word Religion with a lot of Negative baggage, and you ewant ot pretend its a problem and Hmanism is the solution.

But Huimanists can be just as dogmatic and infelexable, and act as if their dictrines ar einfallable.

Thats one of the biggest problems with Humanists liek you, in that you refuse to even consider you coudl be wrong on anything.

So really your just trying ot present yoyr infallable and perfect religion to the world as a nonreligion thats just obviouly true that any rational and clear thinkign person woudl agree with, and then have the audacity to critisie other religions because they claim to have infallable doctriens.

Matt said...


You're right, it is an artificial distinction. But you forced it on me with your defining religion as a "framework from which we contextualise our lives".

That's a definition of philosophy, not religion.

But we've gone off on a tangent. Let's get back to the point I was making in the original post.

The problem with with ethical studies in schools (particularly in Australia) is that it's been dominated by Christianity, which is a rather narrow and singular way of looking at the world. What's more, it's wrapped up with an assumed authority of clergy.

That's the aspect that I find most distasteful. When you get down to the details, humanism is about recognising the equality of all humans and treating others well. It's not so different from the core ethics supposedly attributable to Christianity.

ZAROVE said...


You're right, it is an artificial distinction. But you forced it on me with your defining religion as a "framework from which we contextualise our lives".

I didnt force anythign on you, Matt, and what your doing now is called Projection. You refuse to admit your wrong ebcause your heavily invested in making a distinction ebtween Humanism and Relgiion, because you have loaded the word Relgiion with a lot of Negative baggage, and have already set people who read yor blog up to accept Relgiion as a bad hting. You need Humanism to not be a Relgiion, in order to make it legitimate.

That said, my Unique and novel definition of Reliion is exaclty hwo Relgiion is understood. THats what Relgiion is. THat how its udnerstood in PSycology. Thats how its understood in Philosophy. In fact, thats ewhat Relgiion acutlaly is when you stop and thingk abotu it.

Do you realy think that Christians don't think their Relgiion is acutlaly true? Or dont use it to udnerstand their world? Come off it Matt, when you stop and htink thigns through you realise Relgiion is, in the end, just how peopel understand the world around them.

That's a definition of philosophy, not religion.

Matt, Religin is a kind of Philosophy, thats why many Universities study them togather, and why many Universities have a Relgiion and Philosophy department, rahte rhtan makign them seperate.

Philosophy and Religion are, in fact, overlappign disiplines.

Thats somethiny ou may not like. but it is int he end true.

But we've gone off on a tangent. Let's get back to the point I was making in the original post.

No, we haven't. We've discussed hte point. You do not ant them to learn ethics canbe free form Relgiion, you want htem to learn your religion.

It snot like alL Atists ar eHumanists, but the eay you and others present it, Humanism is not a Religion, and if you have no relgiion you are a Humanist. COmbien this with your VIllinisaiton of Relgiion, and you get the result that the hapless reader who is nieve enough tobeelive you htinks theysoudl be a Humanist to escape the evil and irraitonality of Relgiion.

That is flsagrantly dishenst.

Much liej the rest of your antigns here.

The problem with with ethical studies in schools (particularly in Australia) is that it's been dominated by Christianity, which is a rather narrow and singular way of looking at the world. What's more, it's wrapped up with an assumed authority of clergy.

WHich is wrong only in your mind. Givin the lengty hisoty of CHristianity and the fact that it forms the basis of the enturety of Western culture, includign Australian, and considring thts even your Humanism emerged from Christianity (Read the founding documents, they amdit this) woudln't it stand to reasn that this woudl be the case?

Modern Humanisst, like you, may want to pretend you can just up and create an ehtical system free form CHristainity (Religion to you, as your OK with Paganism) but where did he Humanist ideals themselves coem from? Did they rellay jst come up withthem all on their own? No, not really.

THen consider just how much a Failure Humanism has been in solvign societal woes in Europe, the SOviet Union, or COmmunist CHina, and you find that perhaps its best to leave well enugh alone.

That's the aspect that I find most distasteful.

Only to you.

When you get down to the details, humanism is about recognising the equality of all humans and treating others well.
Unless they disagree withthe tenets of Humanism, in which case they are decried as irraitonal, called idiots, or branded as Dangerous lunatics, mocked cruelly, and dissasocated form.

Sorry, Matt, the inherant Equality of man doens't exist in Humanism in practical reality, sicne it asusmes thigns that arne' true abut nature, whilst assuming that everyoen agrees with Humanism.

You don't treat others with respect, why shoudl I think Humanism teaches this?

It's not so different from the core ethics supposedly attributable to Christianity.

I liek hwo you use the ord "SUpposedly". Every unbiased reader, even non-Christains, say CHristainity traches compassion.

But maybe your refrign back to that Quixzz you took, or perhaps Skeptics Annotated Bible.

Nice little Jab there MAtt.

We all know your tyue sentiments are that CHrisianity is dangeorus and dstructive, and Humansim vaslty superior, but the truth is, CHristainity has acuglaly mtoivated good, Humanism has not.