The number of faith schools in Britain is rising. Around 7,000 publicly-funded schools - one in three - now has a religious affiliation. As the coalition government paves the way for more faith-based education by promoting 'free schools', the renowned atheist and evolutionary biologist Professor Richard Dawkins says enough is enough. In this passionately argued film, Dawkins calls on us to reconsider the consequences of faith education, which, he argues, bamboozles parents and indoctrinates and divides children.
Now I look at the net effect of all this religious “indoctrination” and see that the fastest growing viewpoint on religion is…atheism! Or more precisely not professing any religion.
According to the 2001 UK Census, those of no religion are the second largest belief group, about 2 and a half times as many as all the other (non-Christian) religions altogether – at 15.5% of the population.
And more recently – seems those faith schools ain’t doing a great job! And yet thousands of essentially agnostic patents pretend to be good churchgoing folk so as to get their offspring into church schools. Perhaps those schools aren’t doing a bad job at delivering what parents want – a good education for their children.
I make no secret of my disagreement with Dawkins – his spiritless, dry, confrontational obsessions have created an atheism that is no longer fundamental but that requires a range of beliefs beyond the essence of atheism. That essence is, of course, very straightforward – that there is no god. What Dawkins has done has been to take upon himself a jihad directed at anyone who does not adhere to his obsessions – unreconstructed Darwinian evolution, a view that religion is a pathology and utter contempt for any promotion of a religious viewpoint.
If faith schools were bad schools – and some might be – then parents would reject them rather than queue up to get their sprogs in. If atheists wish to have secular schools then the case is simple – set them up and show how their soulless, sceptical, ethics-light ideology can produce a better education. Religious schools should not be the only choice but if parents want that choice they should have it.
And finally the “I don’t want my taxes to fund religious education” argument – if we believe in state-funded education and in parental choice we must respect that choice and fund it. Unless – as I suspect is the case with Dawkins and his acolytes – you don’t really believe in choice? Just like those other jihadi you want to impose your world view on those who - however stupidly - don't share it.