Monday, November 09, 2015

Looking for equality

I've been reading about an interesting test case today. The case is being brought by a group of parents against the UK Government and specifically about the decision to exclude non-religious world views such as Humanism from the new GCSE religious education syllabus. Under new rules (which I generally approve of) students are required to study two world views in depth (for example Hinduism and Christianity) but there are no non-religious world-views on the list. I can see both sides of this, i.e. being pedantic Atheism, Humanism, Deism etc. are not religions, they are mostly, simply the lack of one, therefore you could argue don't belong in a religious education lesson.

But, then again, there is a rich, intellectual history of struggle among past atheists, deists, religious moderates and humanists against the often oppressive and authoritarian religious regimes of the past; studying religion without opposition or non-religion seems to me like studying the old masters without impressionism, Einstein without Newton, Jekyll without Hyde. From Epicurus to Spinoza, Hume, Paine, Jefferson and Shelly through Nietzsche, Marx, Russell and even Dawkins every age has had a world-view sitting in opposition to the popular religious systems of the time. Any balanced study of human history and development illuminates a deep tradition of intellectual rigour and equality campaigning, opposition which is embodied in world-views like Humanism. They are IMO certainly as rich and interesting as any dusty old myths about elephant men, giant man-eating fish or flying horses.

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