August 10, 2022 08:31 +0100  |  Education Religion United Kingdom 2

Anna is will be four years old next year, and they start kids into school early in this country, so Christina and I have begun the process of looking for a school for her.

Apparently, it's not as simple as "you go to the one closest to you" here, but rather there's an application process wherein you rank your preferences and you're awarded your first, second, or third choice based on a variety of factors, including (possibly?) any personal appeal letters you might submit to justify your choice. It all sounds terribly stressful and yet another way to enforce class structure.

The process is made additionally complicated by our preferences: we don't want to put her into a religious school and we want to avoid mandatory uniforms. OMG does that limit the field of options.

In the UK, school uniforms are touted as a virtue and in parent's circles people have a tendency to get completely irrational on the issue. As a result, it's often the case that when you're comparing schools on any sort of official list, uniform mandates aren't even mentioned, so you have to dig into each of the (poorly designed) school websites to find out for yourself. It's not been fun doing this digging. The number of sites that think it's ok to use comic sans is... unfortunate.

The religion question is murkier.

There are straight-up religious schools here, typically Anglican, but there's also Catholics, and presumably others I've not seen yet. There's also supposedly non-religious schools (ie, not funded/controlled by the church) with names like St. Matthew's (check out the font choices on that one) that make figuring this out based on name alone difficult.

It gets even more complicated though. There's an official policy here called "The Cambridgeshire Agreed Syllabus for Religious Education" which sounds like some progressive guidelines to expand kid's understanding of religion in general... that is, until you read it (emphasis mine):

Teachers should consider the religious experience of the pupils in the classroom and the whole school when planning which religions to look at and in which order. * Christianity will be studied in all Key Stages.

  • The choice of which other religion(s) to study in KS1 should be relevant to the experience of the pupils in the class and local demographic. Where Christianity is the only religion present the school will choose the other religion to be studied.
  • However, by the end of KS2 all major religions (Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism and Sikhism) and a secular world view (humanism) must have been studied.
  • In KS3, building on KS2, all major religions and a secular world view must have been studied in greater depth.

It is desirable that all pupils visit a church or other Christian place of worship and the school should make all efforts to plan visits to religious buildings of other faiths. Visitors from different faiths and world views should be encouraged to visit all schools. When neither visits nor visitors are possible then the use of virtual tours and resources are recommended.

I'm reasonably certain that something like this wouldn't be ok in Canada, but apparently this is normal here.

Annoyingly, the above (and the rest of the guidelines) are clearly written to be very flexible, so the guidelines themselves aren't enough to tell you what kind of education you're signing your kid up for. You could have teachers that discuss Christianity in the same way most people talk about Greek Myth and do a field trip to a local church cemetery as part of a local history unit. You could also interpret the above to teach Christianity as the default, and other religions as adorable savages.

It's so hard to tell if I'm signing my kid up to be indoctrinated and the state is clearly not on my side here.

February 11, 2009 07:49 +0000  |  Religion 2

The Lord bless you and keep you;
the Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you;
the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.

I know that it's all just mythology, but it's still damned pretty. Especially when read by Leonard Nimoy.

January 15, 2009 17:14 +0000  |  Atheism Religion 16

Some time ago, something rather big happened in my life and I didn't blog about it. It's kind of odd really: one's blog is not necessarily an accurate record of his/her life, but rather a record of events which are both worthy of account and have passed the author's personal filters for "shareability". I'd never really thought this topic suited for a public sphere, but since a considerable percentage of my family and friends follow my life in part by reading this blog, it seems appropriate that I share this element on it.

A few months ago, I took off my silver pentagram necklace and put it in a box. I've not replaced it since.

To understand the significance of all this, you have to understand how I came to call myself a witch in the first place. I'd always had a personal understanding of how the Universe worked -- understanding in the sense that I make assumptions of how things "are" based on a mixture of what I observe in my life and a healthy dose of intuition.

I've come to believe that the Universe is conscious in a way we cannot yet understand, that it is alive, and that all elements within it are connected. I believe that these elements can be explored and even manipulated in a variety of ways including chemistry, physics and math, but that we must acknowledge that these are all simply understood representations of a field our ancestors would have considered to be "magick".

I've held these beliefs for as long as I can remember, and when I discovered what witchcraft was, I felt that I'd finally found the label for me. I was never comfortable practising with other pagans -- in fact, I was rarely comfortable practising at all. To me, my faith was always more of an understanding than anything else.

But that's just the problem really. Faith, as Dawkins puts it, is a "process of non-thinking". By definition, faith removes all possibility of contradictory thought, even in the face of quantifiable evidence. How then, could I claim to be both a rational person and one of faith? I couldn't, and so I cannot walk that path anymore.

It's important to stress though that calling myself an Atheist does not negate my belief that the Universe is conscious and that everything is connected, but I feel that it's important to stress that this is theory and not faith. I honestly feel that blind faith is too dangerous a mentality to be encouraged and will place my bet with my friend Galileo when he says:

I do not feel obliged to believe that the same god who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use.

September 28, 2008 07:22 +0100  |  Movies Religion 7

After Barcamp today, K-dot, Cas, Greg and I went out for food at The Cat's Meow for dinner (absolutely horrible pizza... I mean, their sauce stated like ketchup!). The conversation was good, and I finally got to meet Cas, which was pretty damn cool too. When the fooding was over however (thanks be to Cas and Greg who helped me with my ketchup-pizza), K-dot and Cas offered Greg and I free tickets to see Bill Maher's new flick: Religulous.

After a hurried commute (we had 30min to get from Granville Island to the Granville Cinema... further than it sounds) and a few wrong turns (I'm an idiot) we got there with 5min to spare and practically no seating available. Greg and I caught a pair of seats in the forward left corner and settled down for roughly two hours of hilarious flickage.

The gist of the movie is Maher's going from religious nut to religious nut, asking them rational questions about their irrational faith and then trying to get them to justify themselves. Peppered between funny stuff like comparing Santa Claus to Jesus, and the talking snake to Jack and the Beanstalk, he also interviews some rational believers (can you imagine a Vatican astronomer mocking fundamentalist Evangelicals? It's good stuff.) He then bookended his movie with serious notes about how the people who believe this stuff are the same people with access to very dangerous things and that it's about time that the rational among us stand up to this kind of sanctioned non-thinking, or we risk serious environmental and political repercussions... you know, that "end times" stuff the religious nuts are all excited about.

Great movie. I muchly recommend.

February 21, 2008 00:11 +0000  |  Christians Religion Science and Nature 3

In the category of "our species is doomed", I offer the results of a science fair sponsored by a Baptist Church. This anti-science fair had a series of winners, among which was this gem:

2nd Place: "Women Were Designed For Homemaking"

Jonathan Goode (grade 7) applied findings from many fields of science to support his conclusion that God designed women for homemaking: physics shows that women have a lower center of gravity than men, making them more suited to carrying groceries and laundry baskets; biology shows that women were designed to carry un-born babies in their wombs and to feed born babies milk, making them the natural choice for child rearing; social sciences show that the wages for women workers are lower than for normal workers, meaning that they are unable to work as well and thus earn equal pay; and exegetics shows that God created Eve as a companion for Adam, not as a co-worker.

January 23, 2008 21:27 +0000  |  Blasphemy Religion 0

Once again, Bill has sent me a link to something awesome. Faith Fighter is a Street-Fighter II style Flash game in which you choose your holy figure and work your way through the pantheon of the world's gods, kicking ass and taking names.

I picked Buddha and beat the hell out of God, Jesus, Muhammad, Budai, Ganesha and made my way to the top... a mystery opponent -- you'll just have to play to find out who it is.

As Bill said, "Play it now, before someone burns the server down".

January 10, 2008 22:34 +0000  |  Blasphemy Religion 0

A couple guys at work introduced me to this yesterday and I can't stop grinning at the pure blasphemy of it all. The LOLCat Bible is a wiki-based bible written entirely in the Lolcat language. Here's a sample of the first few versus that inspired the work:

In teh beginning, Invisible Man make univerz. Invisible Earth wuz invisible. Invisible Man say, "I can has light" Gots light. Light iz good, iz not dark. Invisible Man can has day and night. It be furst.

Invisible Man can has expanz. Below expanz iz water. It happen. Above expanz he call "sky". It get dark, then lite. nex day.

Invisible man can has water over here, no water over ther. It happen. Not water iz "land". Water iz "seas". Iz good.

Obviously, who has the time to rewrite the entire bible into something so befitting the obvious sense of humour meant for the book? Well nobody really, that's why it's a wiki. :-)