Tony Abbott on #qanda

Posted in #atheism,#qanda by skepdadblog on April 6, 2010
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I enjoyed seeing Tony Abbott mano a mano with the crowd last night on Q&A.  Aside from his frankly disturbing donkey laugh, he came across fairly knowledgeable, straightforward (almost to the point of gormlessness) and inoffensive.   I disagreed with him on gay marriage, nodded at his position on border protection and generally enjoyed the program.

My one major concern was his comment about the pope (paraphrased pending the transcript):

“I won’t criticise the Pope… he is my Pope…”

Now leaving aside the fact that the catholic pope is, as is increasingly evident, a criminal accessory to child rape; and leaving aside Chairman Rudd’s alleged closeted bible-thumping; how should I feel about a Prime Ministerial candidate who is subjugated to a foreign head of state?

According to 2006 census data, 74.2% of Australians do not recognise the catholic pope as their spiritual leader.  This is probably on the low side, as anecdotally many who categorise themselves RC on the census do not recognise the authority of the Vatican over their daily lives.

Should I be concerned that Tony holds his pope, who the majority of Australians do not recognise, above criticism?  In the case of a conflict of interest, where his country demanded (for example) cutting diplomatic ties with the Vatican over its crimes against humanity, would he do it?  Could he put the people of Australia before his pope?

If Abbott had said the same about Brown, Obama and Mugabe – “I will not criticise them, they are my mentors” – would we feel differently?  What about the British royal family?

To ask Abbott to embrace true secularism is probably a bit too much of a stretch, but as the Australian Prime Minister his loyalty must be to his country and to the people of Australia first.  His own faith, and deference to his spiritual leader, must be a very distant second.



Posted in #atheism,#badreligion by skepdadblog on February 18, 2010
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I have a splendid pair of kids.  They’re happy, well balanced, sharp as tacks and perfect.  They also have no idea about religion.  Like I said: perfect.

My wife and I debated a lot about what sort of school the eldest, four, who started prep this year, should go to.  We evaluated all of the local options, including private religious schools, long and hard.  I was schooled entirely at private catholic schools, my wife at public state schools.  I’m a card-carrying atheist, leaning antitheist, she agnostic.  Spreadsheets were involved.  No, I’m not kidding.

In the end the local public state school won out.  It has an excellent reputation, but I’m not going to lie to you, internets – being nondenominational was a big factor in our choice.  However, we agreed that we wouldn’t exclude him from the optional religious education; partly because of our desire for him to fit in, but also because we both believe education about, rather than indoctrination in, religion is important to understanding it.

At the first parent information night, we sat listening and nodding as the very impressive principal and deputy told us about their vision.  It’s progressive, inclusive, compassionate and no-nonsense.  Until the deputy mentioned the school creed and prayer, we were sold.

Wait, what?

School prayer? We cornered the deputy afterwards and asked what she meant by that.  She replied that it was “just a little tradition” that the school followed.  Still not wanting our boy to be labelled the “poor child of the atheists” we let it be.  It was one fly in the ointment, but the ointment was good.

Cut to the first day of prep, as we sat with wee man in his new classroom.  His teacher spoke purposefully about her curriculum, the importance of parental involvement, allergies and pickup times and whshhhhwhshhhwshhhh what the hell is that in large print on the wall?

Our School Creed
This is our school
Let peace be here
Let the rooms be full of contentment
Let love abide here
Love of God
Love of mankind
Love of life itself
Let us remember
That as many hands make a house
So many hearts make a school.

I’m sitting in my son’s new classroom.  The place he will spend the next year.  And there it is – a word I believe he is not equipped to deal with yet.  The eyes slide right, and in equally large print, prominently on the wall near the drink bottle table:

Our School Prayer
We pray for your blessing Lord on the work we are doing today,
That we may do it well, both in school and out.
And may be good to each other and try to do well in all things.
Teach us to be honest, truthful, kind and obedient.
Through Christ our Lord.

In case you missed it earlier, I’ll remind you that this is a public state school.  It accommodates children with parents of christian, muslim, hindi, baha’i, and I presume many other faiths; as well as at least one set of parents with no religious beliefs.  Christian pledges of supernatural subservience are not what I expected to see on the walls of the classrooms; I was thinking more bunny rabbits and primary coloured alphabets.

I could barely contain myself.  As soon as I got home, I started researching secularism in my country, because it’s clearly not what I thought it was.   Australia’s constitution mandates a separation of church and state right?  Not according to Max Wallace. He makes a strong case.  A frightening one.  There is, if you follow his argument, no constitutional reason why my state cannot nominate the Anglican faith as the state religion.

Even then, we tried to chill.  We could deal with this.  We could wait for him to come home, drop his bag and ask “mummy, who’s Christ our Lord?” and handle it in the spirit of education.  He sees that prayer every time he gets thirsty, and he can read.

We weren’t, however, prepared for what he said last week when he came home, dropped his bag and engaged me in a conversation about dinosaurs.  He’s been crazy about dinosaurs ever since he was two, has met and impressed the staff paleontologist at the Queensland Museum and knows more about them than his mum and dad combined.  We’ve even talked about him podcasting about dinosaurs.  Then, this:

“Daddy, Mrs [teacher] says dinosaurs were never real, and their bones were put in the ground as a joke.”



The dagger in my heart, it burns.