Freedom, Pluralism and Deception (II)
(This article was first published on my blog in January 2007).
In two articles so far (one, two), we have been looking at the BCSE's discovery of the secret Theocratic Masterplan being pursued by British Christians. So far, we have learnt a lot about the BCSE and its religious views, but not a great deal about these purported plans. Ho hum.
Seeing as Dr. Jordan has raised this subject, today we will have a little look at Dr. Jordan's own views on the use of the law to enforce religious views.
Let's get a little background. Maybe you remember this quote from the front page of the BCSE's website:
BCSE believes in the tools for everyone to think for themselves - Science, Education and Reason - and the outcome – Democracy, Pluralism, Freedom and Righteousness.
In late 2006, an individual called Jamie Wallis created a petition on the Prime Minister's website.
There were already a few other existing petitions calling for new coercive policies from the government to enforce secular thinking. However, these were apparently not extreme enough for Mr. Wallis, so he decided to start his own. In this new petition, he called upon the Prime Minister to make all regular religious instruction of children illegal.
According to Mr. Wallis, "free thinking" is incompatible with religious instruction, and the only way to protect our children is to ensure that the first 16 years of their life are approached from an atheistic point of view, where all regular religious instruction is disallowed.
Here is Mr. Wallis' motion in his own words:
We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to Make it illegal to indoctrinate or define children by religion before the age of 16. In order to encourage free thinking, children should not be subjected to any regular religious teaching or be allowed to be defined as belonging to a particular religious group based on the views of their parents or guardians. At the age of 16, as with other laws, they would then be considered old enough and educated enough to form their own opinion and follow any particular religion (or none at all) through free thought.
Subtle, it isn't. Mr. Wallis doesn't specify exactly what penalties should be inflicted upon parents who refuse to follow his secular way of life. I suppose though, if the parents don't repent of their wicked ways, then they shall eventually have to have their children taken away. And those children will have to end up in the much safer and more beneficial environment of the council children's home, away from their dangerous and crazed non-secularist parents.
Ah, what a utopia that would be! Just as long as every person who takes religion seriously changes their mind and conforms to Mr. Wallis' way of thinking, that is.
(The other part of Wallis' idea, that children shouldn't be "labelled" I don't care to discuss. As a Christian, I do not care for labels - I care for the reality of a relationship with God through the Lord Jesus Christ. You can't give that to your children or to anyone else by applying a label to them).
Richard Dawkins... Surprise!
You may not be completely surprised to learn which was one of the first signatures to go down on this petition. Yes, it's Britain's most famous atheist activist:
Not only that, but Dawkins put up a prominent link on the front-page of his website at http://richarddawkins.net/home, encouraging others to do likewise.
However, a little later, the mad professor claimed that he hadn't read the petition properly, and that signing it had been a mistake. He contacted the administrator of the petition, and asked to have his name removed. We wonder what all of the minions at richarddawkins.net who had dutifully followed their master and added their names made of that?
Apparently, though it was a good exercise in (to use Dawkins' words), "consciousness raising".
I don't know about you, but my consciousness of what an intolerant and foolish bunch Dawkins and his cohorts can be didn't need a great deal of raising. But I suppose it's brought it onto someone's radar somewhere.
Get On With It!
Where was I? Oh yes. The relevance of all this is that the petition seeks state enforcement of a particular view of religion. Mr. Wallis' aim is to have all children raised in a secular manner. The first 16 years of every little one's life must be carried out under the presumption that there is no god who requires them to learn anything about him until they are adults. This isn't just Mr. Wallis' preference for his own children - he'd like it enshrined in law for every family throughout the nation.
As I have remarked before, Mr. Wallis is behaving like a consistent atheist. Whilst a Christian like myself can believe that God has made us as rational beings, and that God is active in the world to restrain evil and promote good, and that in particular the power of the Holy Spirit is at work to advance the cause of truth - the atheist can believe none of that. The idea of using persuasion with prayer means nothing to him. The tool that the atheist commonly resorts to in his thinking is coercion - the long arm of the law, and criminal penalties for disobedience.
Plenty of Historical Precedent
The track record of those who have thought like Wallis isn't, um, great. The 20th century saw anti-religious and statist coercion attempted on a scale never tried before. Albania under dictator Enver Hoxha, the USSR under Stalin, China under Mao Tsetung, Cambodia under Pol Pot - they all tried to create better societies by removing religion. And butchered millions in the process.
Dawkins and his supporters devote long sections of their writings to arguing that the atheism and evolutionary beliefs of such dictators was merely incidental to the abysmal regimes that resulted. And then they merrily set to work in petitioning the government to re-create them.
If this is rational and scientific thought, then I'd prefer something else.
A Winning World-View?
If atheism is the view backed by reason and science, as some of its proponents claim, then I wonder why the only way that it can apparently find for its views to win out is for the state to make others illegal. If the arguments are so strong - then why do we need to ban the alternatives? Why can't atheism just win by strength of argument?
I suppose you know where this is going. Guess who else signed the petition?
That's right, it's that noted opponent of theocracies, Dr. Brian Jordan...
Apparently, the only reason why Dr. Jordan opposes theocracies... is because he himself is campaigning for an a-theocracy!
What's Wrong With This Picture?
So, let me see if I've got this straight. Because there are non-Darwinists who want the evidence against as well as for Darwinism to be presented in state schools, Dr. Jordan and the BCSE start losing their heads and talking about theocracy and "fundamentalists in politics". Despite not having a scrap of evidence for any such thing.
On the other hand, though, Jordan himself is petitioning the prime minister to pass new laws to make non-secularist upbringings illegal.
Well, I suppose we can say that Jordan ought to know religious bigotry and plans for religious coercion when he sees them.
But blow me down - whose name is that on the petition just three up from Jordan? Yes - it is! It's Ian "Calamity" Lowe!
If there is any opportunity available to make the BCSE look bigoted, incompetent, deceitful or just plain daft then Lowe normally ends up being involved somewhere (e.g. here). And here the fellow is again! Sometimes I wonder if Lowe is an anti-Darwinist stooge on a mission to make sure that nobody takes the BCSE too seriously.
So, How Do You Explain That?
The BCSE claim officially that they are opposed to religious coercion and the use of the state's resources to enforce one religious view.
On the other hand, though, two of the BCSE's committee are publicly campaigning for just the opposite.
Maybe there are two Brian Jordans, and two Ian Lowes? Or maybe they each have advanced schizophrenia? One does wonder how one can be both opposed to the idea of religious coercion, and on the other hand petitioning the PM for it.
I can well understand how anti-Darwinists can both oppose Darwinism and at the same time not wish religion to be taught in science lessons. The criticisms of Darwinism with its missing fossil evidence and the like can be made quite simply without any appeals to religion. Evidence of intelligence and design in nature which can't be explained by natural selection can be presented without bringing in the question of who any designer might be. As such, I find the BCSE's criticisms of groups such as Truth in Science for wanting state schools to handle this debate fairly quite incoherent. Whether or not any of Truth in Science's backers have religious motives, there is no evidence of any agenda from anti-Darwinists to use coercion or any other tool than proper scientific debate to advance their case.
On the other hand, the BCSE are simply hypocritical. Their leaders are both anti-religious, and they are using political campaigning to advance their anti-religious agenda - whilst at the same time wrongly condemning others for just that.
Let's once again remember that quote from the BCSE's front page:
BCSE believes in the tools for everyone to think for themselves - Science, Education and Reason - and the outcome - Democracy, Pluralism, Freedom and Righteousness.
It's just not true, is it? Unless "pluralism" and "freedom" now mean the same thing as "making religion that we don't agree with illegal". This is taking cognitive dissonance to whole new levels.
The BCSE believe in pluralism and freedom... ...apart from the committee who run it, who believe in exactly the opposite. Confused? You will be... until you work out what's actually going on.
The petition was also signed by Mr. Mark Edon, another campaigning atheist with no qualifications in science or education. Some months after I had written this article, the BCSE invited Mr. Edon to join their committee.
In late 2007, the BCSE committee was joined by Dr. Jeremy Hodge. Hodge is a militant atheist who, whilst he did not sign the petition himself, he actually made the argument that the "UN Convention on the Rights of the Child" justified such state-enforcement of atheism!