Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Healthiness is not next to Godliness

The head of the Atheist Foundation of Australia says that raising children on what it brands ‘a diet of strict religion’ is a form of child abuse. The President of the Atheist Foundation of Australia, David Nicholls also critcises church groups and the Federal Government for forcing religious beliefs onto teenagers.

Nicholls says that it was time to ‘rip religion out of schools, saying that

“Anybody who tells a child ‘you will go to hell or heaven’ and says that’s t he truth...that’s child abuse.”

Misunderstanding the role of religious chaplains in schools, Nicholls claims that the presence of chaplains influenced children to believe in God. I do realise that given the short, two column article in the right corner of page 38 of the paper, Nicholls comments may not have been printed in full.

The chaplains I know of in no way put pressure on young people to believe in God. Instead, their role is more in student welfare. Chaplains see themselves as a confidante, and someone young people can go to for a chat, or for advice on issues that they are facing. What issue does the Atheist Foundation of Australia have with this?

Chaplains do not talk about God or Christianity unless a student asks them a question about this first.

I also have an issue with the advertising campaign for the Atheist Convention being held in Melbourne this month.

There are posters on the sides of trams and buses, saying

“Atheism- Celebrate Reason”

As I sat in my car during the drive home from church last night, I happened to be behind a bus with one of these advertisements for part of my journey.

A Senior Minister at one church in my city said that Nicholls, like Richard Dawkins, author of the controversial book, The God Delusion’, is “making general statements based on extreme examples.”

I can only write from the standpoint of someone who has been a Christian for twenty years.

It is rather simplistic, and dare I say, a little patronising to assume that those who believe in God, have not given thought to why they do believe. Faith, believing what cannot be seen, is important, but only part of what being a Christian is about.

My experience of church has been one where we continually wrestle wth complex questions about God, and how one should strive to live in an uncertain world. This is so far removed from t he simplistic caricature that Nicholls has described.

Yet , how does one express what faith means to the sceptical minds of those like Dawkins, who have already decided that there is nothing about God that is worth them investigating further before making a judgment?

The Oxford dictionary defines reason as 'to think out.' Do people like Dawkins realise that Christians ask themselves constantly why they believe. Faith, as defined by the Oxford dictionary, is 'spiritual apprehension of divine truth apart from proof.' Faith and reason are very much compatible. It is rather patronizing to assume that Christians close their minds.

Dawkins says that his concern is for the truth. The fact is that truth is much broader in its scope than what scientific inquiry reveals to us.

I can’t speak for people of other faiths, but as a Christian, believing in God is perfectly rational. Yet, how does one explain this to people who have already decided that believing in the existence of God is like believing that the Tooth Fairy is real?