Tag Archives: Jesus

Are you qualified to discuss God, Heaven and Hell?

Loved this little story I picked up on Facebook. There’s a moral in it somewhere. Perhaps something to try on these God-botherers next time they come knocking on your door.


A Christian was seated next to a little girl on an airplane and he turned to her and said,

“Do you want to talk? Flights go quicker if you strike up a conversation with your fellow passenger.”

The little girl, who had just started to read her book, replied to the total stranger,

“What would you want to talk about?”

“Oh, I don’t know,” said the Christian. “How about why there is a God, Heaven and Hell, a magical life after death, and that evolution is a lie made up by the devil?” as he smiled smugly.

“Okay,” she said. “Those could be interesting topics but let me ask you a question first:

A horse, a cow, and a deer all eat the same stuff – grass. Yet a deer excretes little pellets, while a cow turns out a flat patty, but a horse produces clumps. Why do you suppose that is?”

The Christian, visibly surprised by the little girl’s intelligence, thinks about it and says,

“Hmmm, I have no idea.”

To which the little girl replies,

“Do you really feel qualified to discuss God, Heaven and Hell, or life after death, when you don’t know shit?”

And then she went back to reading her book!!

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Finish the sentence . . .

I like this idea from Jerry Coyne (see OMG: Jesus was married!)

Here’s the problem. This old scrap of papyrus refers to Jesus – Unfortunately bits are missing and the conversation is cut off at an intriguing point.

Apparently it goes:

“Jesus said to them, ‘My wife …’”

So here’s the question – what do you suggest comes after “wife?”

Jerry, having the one track mind of an evolutionary biologist, suggests:

“. . . is unable to bear children because, being haploid, I am unable to produce sperm.”

What do you reckon?

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Cynical evangelisation of children

All parents are concerned when they send their children out into the world. We all hope that our schools, and other places our children go, are going to be safe. We are rightfully shocked when we find adults entrusted with the care of children have actually been preying on them.

Sexual predators get the headlines. But children can also be subject to unhealthy interest of adults who interests are more political or ideological than sexual. I am beginning to think we should look at the way religious instruction operates in our public schools as an example of this unhealthy interest.

There has been a lot in the media lately about “bible in schools” and similar programmes. Simon Greening, the chief executive officer for the main provider of these religious instruction programmes (the Churches Education Commission),  has been assuring everybody that their interests are not evangelical. They are not trying to convert children – just educate them about values (see Their mission – values or advancement of religion?). It hasn’t helped him that other spokesmen for his organisation have presented a different story – admitting that they see religious instruction in public schools as a great opportunity for their religious mission. There has even been talk of creating disciples out of children in these religious instruction classes.

George Higinbotham (@streligionVIC) a recent commenter here pointed me to a document which is very relevant to this issue. Partly because one of the drafters of the document is Mitch Jordan who is currently Chairperson of the CEC board. But also, and more seriously, the document outlines a cynical programme for the evangelisation of children that seems to actually now be in place in New Zealand.

The document is Evangelisation of Children.” Prepared several years ago, it’s seen as part of a general plan of world evangelisation. I’ll present some extracts from the document and compare them with what is actually happening here.

Identifying children as a fruitful group for evangelisation

We are all aware of the importance dogmatic religions place on the early indoctrination of their own children. But this document describes the same approach to your children.

“Children represent arguably the largest unreached people group and the most receptive people group in the world. ”

“Children are more open and receptive to the gospel than at any other time in their lives.”

„ “Between the ages 5 and 12, lifelong habits, values, beliefs and attitudes are formed.  Whatever beliefs a person embraces when he is young are unlikely to change as the individual ages.”

„ “If a person does not embrace Jesus Christ as Saviour before they reach their teenage years, they most likely never will.”

“The data show that churches can have a very significant impact on the worldview of people, but they must start with an intentional process introduced to people at a very young age.  Waiting until someone is in their teens or young adult years misses the window of opportunity.”

“Unevangelised children generally become adults who see no relevance of Christian faith to real life, make no contact with a church, who live and die without knowing that Jesus offers eternal life.  Ineffectively-evangelised children in our churches become ‘well-intentioned, inadequately nurtured, minimally equipped secular people who dabble in religious thought and activity.”

The organisations currently operating religious instruction classes in public schools all seem to express the same belief in the importance of reaching young children.

Evangelisation of children, by children

The document cynically advocates to: “invite children to be active participants in the task of evangelization:”

“The focus of mission and the call to mission do not have any age limitations.”

“The work of mission can be shared by a generation of children equipped to be faithful witnesses for Jesus”

“peer evangelism among young children – one kid leading another kid to the foot of the Cross for a life-changing encounter with Jesus”

“Children bring unique gifts to the task of evangelization.  For example, they have access to thousands of children outside the church – and are often the only means of reaching these children.  They have a simple faith that is attractive.  They put their whole heart into reaching out.  Children will do the job of evangelism in simple obedience.  Even adults will listen to children because they are perceived to have no hidden agenda.”

“Challenge children to be witnesses and challenge them at an early age”

“Marketing companies have recognised that children have the power to enthuse others. Imagine if the church worldwide could harness the enthusiasm of children and encourage them to tell their friends and get them involved as well.”

“existing worldwide initiatives that focus on child evangelism could encourage children who are already churched to take ownership of the event – be trained to share their testimonies, invite their friends and do discipleship.”

What a horrible task to place on children – that their friendships be destroyed by the need to evangelise.

Action plans for influencing children

The action plans advocated in this document are very similar to what is occurring in New Zealand:

“ACTION PLAN for the local church: Think about how a values-based programme might give unexpected access to local non-Christian communities (e.g. schools) and become a vehicle for evangelization”

Provide “Quality interactive websites for children” and  Email, chat-rooms and ‘mailbox clubs’ which are tools to help children to follow Jesus.”

“Going to where the children are in their world.  In every continent, there are more children outside our churches than inside: we dare not be content with hoping that children will come to visit a strange place with strange rituals and unknown people.  Many children require stepping stones before they can cross the cultural barriers represented by church as it is now.”

It advocates “specific application to the evangelization of children in different social contexts.” And “Working within the web of relationships to which the child belongs – friends, gang, family.’

Church groups in New Zealand are forming special relationships with public schools as the document outlines. These also include web sites and email clubs for children who are initially contacted through the religious instruction classes. the Cool Bananas Kids Mailbox Club operated by the Cool Bananas group in Tauranga is one example. The same group offers an Annual 5 day Adventure Camp. Other local groups do the same.

There is a video in my post What really happens in religious instruction classes? describing how Pentecostals in Australia use such camps to further indoctrinate children attracted through religious instruction classes at school.

Tactics – winning the cooperation of care-givers

“For the local church to plan evangelism that minimises offence and maximises effectiveness, it must:  1. Commit to long-term effort, preferably involving a partnership of interested people such as teachers or health care workers”

“6. Be prepared to work within the limitations while taking the opportunities”

“1. Use the window of opportunity  Parents may well have an interest in introducing values, ethics or belief frameworks to their young children.  The church will be one option they may consider.  Make it an attractive one!”

„ “Church members join school boards, volunteer for sports coaching”

This is a cynical agenda for the infiltration of places our children attend with the sole purpose of evangelisation.

Confidence of their plans for your children

“We can bring about a transformational shift even through the timespan of a single generation if we seriously address the challenges and opportunities that face the evangelism of this generation of children.”

This document reads like a cynical action plan for a political/ideological group wishing to carry out a political/ideological change in society. And they are concentrating on our children because they see them as the group most easily captured or evangelised. And as a group which itself can further evangelise others.

When we send our children to public schools with a legally prescribed secular curriculum we do not expect they should be preyed on, evangelised, by such groups.

It’s time this was stopped.

Image credit: God Discussion

See also
Human values are secular


Mixing values and Jesus in secular education
What really happens in religious instruction classes?

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Human values are secular

As is public education in New Zealand – by law.

But some people are unhappy with this fact. They attempt to argue that values need religious belief – that you can’t be good without a god. And they work hard to create the illusion that religious instruction is required to instil values into our children. But if we are to believe today’s NZ Herald story – Schools drop Bible as interest falls – the influence of such attitudes is declining.

This reports that a number of Auckland schools are dropping the “bible in schools” programme run by the Churches Education Commission. And the opt-out, or withdrawal clause, is being used by a growing number of pupils and students – which creates problems for schools of providing supervision for the opt-outs. (The schools are theoretically closed while religious instruction takes place to get around the legal secular requirements).

Some parents are also complaining because schools have not kept them informed of the programme. Sometimes the first hint they get is when their child comes home talking about sin or creationism. One parent, who complained to his school board, managed to get the opt-out permission slip changed (see below). Last year there was no hint the programme was religious – now, at least, the school includes “bible-based” in their description.

The Churches Education Commission are being somewhat deceptive in the promotion of, and description of, their religious instruction programme. They are at least taking advantage of a popular illusion that there is some sort of inevitable link between religion and human values, and that religious organisations should have some sort of privilege in the teaching of values.

But that is a misconception, recognised as such by our educational authorities. After all, our public schools’ curriculum requires the teaching of values – and by law that curriculum must be secular.

And school boards who promote the illusion that the religious instruction programme (when schools by law are closed) is somehow fulfilling a curriculum requirement of teaching values are also being deceptive. It isn’t, and it should not be presented that way. The Churches Education Commission curriculum is aimed at promoting belief in supernatural beings – that is their interest, and they see values as simply a tool for promoting that belief. Have a look at how their own literature describes their teaching aims. For example:

Purpose Values
For the children to understand that God watches over and cares for His people Care and compassion; Love
For the children to understand that God made everything in the world and loves us Inquiry; Responsibility; Creativity
For students to understand that God raised Jesus to life, so people could be friends with Him Perseverance; Excellence; Love
For students to understand that God does not want us to be greedy Care and compassion; Integrity; Respect

Clearly they are simply using the human values part of the school curriculum to attach their real purpose – the promotion of supernatural beliefs in young children.

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Mixing values and Jesus in secular education

Daniel Dennett calls it the “last big fib.*” The claim that religion and human morality are intimately entwined – that you can’t be good without god. That does seem to be a widely held misconception, or should I say widely promoted.

The New Zealand educational curriculum provides for values education. And in public schools by law the education must be secular. But these  (the teaching of values and secular education) are threatened by the legal provision which allows religious (Christian) groups to come into public schools and provide religious instruction. The “trick” is that schools are legally “closed” during that time – and parents can “opt-out” their children (if they know what is going on).

I think that is bad enough but some groups, and schools, pull another trick. They tie in values and religion so that the intruding religious group provides the curriculum requirement for values education – or justifies their intrusion this way.

On the one hand children are taught a very biased form of values and in practice these groups are more interest in converts and talking about “Jesus” than they are in values). On the other, those children who are opted out miss even that form of values education.

Very unsatisfactory!

A newly formed New Zealand group, the Secular Education Network, is attempting to publicise and change this situation. If the issue interests you or you wish to participate in this work go and have a look at their website at http://reason.org.nz/.

Here’s an excellent, and short, video highlighting the problem in Auckland.

Religious recruiting in our schools.

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*Have a look at this excellent video of a recent discussion between Daniel Dennett and Richard Dawkins where Dennett uses this term:

Richard Dawkins & Daniel Dennett. Oxford, 9 May 2012

Jesus heals – but not cancer!

It’s really tough if you or a loved one has cancer – apparently even Jesus can’t heal you.

Glyn Carpenter poses in front of the offending billboard

Well that’s according to a survey of New Zealand “Christian leaders” by Glyn Carpenter, Director of the New Zealand Christian Network. He did this quick poll after widespread public condemnation of a sign posted by Equippers Church in Napier, “Jesus heals cancer.” There’s no indication of how many leaders were polled or what their religious affiliations were (I think Glyn Carpenter and the NZ Christian Network are “evangelical” – whatever that means).

Perhaps the bias of the pollster is shown by his declaration on the report of the poll results – “The message “Jesus Heals Cancer” is clearly true at face value!” It’s also interesting  that he has managed to see the problem of the offensive sign as an issue of freedom – for Christians to offend others (he describes his poll as a Freedom of speech survey.

So taking Glyn’s data at face value – apparently most (67%) of these Christian leaders were not happy about the offensive sign. And while 58% of them thought a billboard message “Jesus Heals Cancer” to be poor or impermissible, 91% thought so for the message “Jesus Heals All Cancer.”

I thought this was hopeful – but they went and ruined it by supporting the message “Jesus Heals” – 91% thought it OK or good!

Now where are all those theologians claiming there is no conflict between science and religion? Or that they operate in different spheres? What is their response to such a survey result?

Slaughtering some sacred seasonal cows

It’s about time for a bit of seasonal humour. And who better than Tim Minchin, who staunchly defends science and reason, to administer it. Here is a video which ITV cut from the Jonathan Ross show – apparently by direct orders from ITV’s director of television, Peter Fincham.

It’s called WoodyAllenJesus – and watch it while you can (or download a copy. Tim thinks he may be asked to take the video off line

Thanks to Tim Minchin: I’m NOT on the Jonathan Ross Show

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Is Keith Ward really that naive about science?

Credit: Jesus and Mo

I am really amazed by some of the rubbish theologians and philosophers of religion think they can get away with when talking about science.

The Guardian article Religion answers the factual questions science neglects is just one recent example. It’s written by Keith Ward, a professorial research fellow in the philosophy of religion at Heythrop College, London. With these qualifications I would have expected something much better.

He loosely bases his arguments on Stephen Jay Gould’s concept of Non-overlapping Magisteria (NOMA) (see my post Overlapping Magisteria? for a brief description of NOMA). Ward claims:

“Many religious statements are naturally construed as statements of fact – Jesus healed the sick, and rose from death, and these are factual claims. So Stephen Gould’s suggestion that religion only deals with value and meaning is incorrect, though it is correct that scientists do not usually deal with such questions.”

Here are some points

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Materialism

I like this from Jesus and Mo. Especially as I often get criticised for my “materialism” – which seems to be used interchangeably with “scientific naturalism.”

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The Dawkins Delusions

Actually, some people call them the “Dawkins Tantrums.”

There’s no doubt about it though – there is a controversy around Richard Dawkins. Just mention his name in the blogosphere and you get all sorts of extreme reactions. Almost always negative.

Sure, you will get some, usually milder and more reasonable, positive reactions. After all, he is a bit of a scientific rock star. His recent lectures in New Zealand and Australia were sold out. Many had to be shifted to larger venues. And his books certainly sell well.

I myself waited in a queue for 2 hours to get my copy of “The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution” signed by the author. As one wit said, this queue seemed to go right back to the “”Big Bang.” But I was in good company and enjoyed the conversations while waiting.

Personally I am always wary of personality cults. Elevate a person to sainthood and you will inevitably find they have feet of clay. I certainly don’t think it has come to this with Dawkins, despite the high regard many people have for him.

And he is a humble person. I heard a story of him seeing some young person wearing a “Dawkins is God” T-shirt. His rather embarrassed comment was “Does this mean I don’t exist?”

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