Saturday, 10 December 2011

Leave God out of it please! He's 4!

I am a devout atheist. I don't believe in a higher power and I don't believe that morality is exclusively the preserve of the religious. I would vastly prefer not to be having conversations like this with my 4 year old.
"Why don't we go to the church and see Jesus?"
"Jesus isn't in the church. He's just a man who died a long long time ago that some people think was magical. We don't go because I don't believe that a magical man made the world. We have visited churches, because they are beautiful, but I don't want to go to listen to the vicar talk."
"But the baby was magic and they all worship him. Mrs (blank ) said."
"Well, the baby probably did actually exist, and some people might have worshipped him, but most probably he was just ordinary and then people just started to believe he was magic, and that's why they built the churches."
"What will happen if we can't go to the church?"
"But everyone else is! I'll be the only one!"
"No, you won't"
"Yes, it's on Friday!"

And lo, I had not read the letter in the bottom of the book bag which informed me that the whole class is attending church on Friday. Just an assumption there, that we all won't mind. Well, I do mind, I mind a fair bit. I mind enormously that the story of Christmas is taught as real, to a bunch of 4 year olds who don't have the ability to understand metaphor. I mind enormously that they'll be taken to church, which will also tell them it's real and really happened, and that a baby is the only thing that can "save" you from an unspecified state. I mind enormously that the link between church and state is such that schools are still obliged to peddle religion. I mind that schooling is not secular, as it is in France. I mind that we still have unelected Lords in the House just because they are Bishops. I mind that these people can pass or deny laws that might affect me on the basis of a faith that now only a small percent of the population actually adheres to. I mind that i'll look mean and he'll stand out of I choose to withdraw him. So he'll have to go and i'll have to spend weeks answering questions about a largely imagined God dreamt up by Church, and end up drawing a diagram of the Big Bang and having to read the bit of the Bill Bryson book that explains it to me in response.4 is, I think, a little young for me to be explaining that Christmas is a midwinter celebration, that we celebrate it for other reasons too, and that the church merely hijacked it at this point to stamp out any last remaining vestiges of paganism and con people into going to church instead, in much the same way they allowed Sheela-Na-Gigs and Green Men to be carved into roof beams. I've just told him that it's a story, just a story. And now both kids are playing their own version, in which Mary has a lot of Disney Princess dress up shoes and Jesus is a sort of super baby that can fly. Mixed in with a reprise of his performance as an Innkeeper, which was Niro-esque in brevity and scowling. To me, this isn't a lot more far fetched that telling children that they are born in sin and need to be saved. School, butt out of my (non) religious life.


Jacqui said...

Ooo I can't imagine them getting away with that here, although they do all the non-religious stuff in school which I'm fine with. I think I'd be happy for my daughter to go to church though, I'd see it more as a learning experience in terms of a cultural experience. I try to talk to her about God as much as she wants to, although she knows both my husband and I are atheists, because I figure that like it of not, so many of our cultural references are based around religion and if she doesn't understand what a saint is then I can't answer her question about why there is a neighborhood named after her friend Luke and what is the St. before it. My husband says I don't need to go into such detail for a 6 year old but I can't help it! But on boy I'd be pissed if the school were trying to teach this stuff from a religious aspect!

Fenwitters said...

I think it's because it's so vanilla in Fenland that they get away with it. No other ethnicities to speak of, no other religions, nearest Mosque or owt is miles away. When I was teaching i'd always preface any foray into religion with "Some people believe...." because London was so vastly mixed, but I suppose here in the sticks, CofE IS the only way. I live next door to possibly the only Asian family in the area and even they are are Christian!