Is your child an atheist?
Keeping the faith ... are scripture classes "clever short-term recruitment drives"?
Without getting too personal, I need to reveal my daughter was conceived in India. My pregnancy was revealed on the last page of ‘Holy Cow’, my book about transforming from a fundamentalist atheist to an accepting agnostic. Moments after she was born she looked up at me with eyes that held such a depth of knowing that I joked that she was a reincarnated Sadhu.
When she was two we took her to a playgroup in a church. Looking up at Jesus hanging bloody and broken from the cross, she asked the Anglican minister -
I know kids are spiritual but I’d never mentioned Krishna to her and her Buddha experience was confined to a statue in our garden.
“Who is that?”
“That’s Jesus, sweetie. Do you have Jesus in your life?”
Now, as God as my witness, believe me when I say she answered:
“Oh Yes, he came around to afternoon tea with Krishna and Buddha”
I nearly died with shock. I know kids are spiritual but I’d never mentioned Krishna to her and her Buddha experience was confined to a statue in our garden.
Weeks later, she asked me at bedtime what happened after we died. I told her no one knew for sure but some believe you become an angel while others believe you are reborn in a new body. She awoke to declare
“I’m not going to be a flying angel. I want to come back in lots of different bodies and learn to crawl and walk all over again.”
Since then, the practicality of daily life has somewhat smothered her spiritual side. But when we were offered a choice of scriptures at school we decided to let her learn about all faiths and planned to move her to different classes over the years. We chose Baha’i as a starting point because it accepts all religions come from one divine source and Bahá’ulláh was the latest prophet.
Within weeks she was humming little prayers and talking about unity, equality, goodness and compassion. But when I tried to move her to Hinduism, she refused. Now, she’s put the kibosh on trying ethics classes. “No, Mum, I belong to Bahá’ulláh. I can’t move.”
My son, meanwhile, chose Jesus and has just begun Anglican classes. Last week, he met me at the school gates screaming “Mum you didn’t tell me I had two fathers!”
It was only after shocked parents had parted like the Red Sea did he finish the sentence.
“I’ve got Daddy at home and Daddy the God man in the sky!”
Now that he’s the son of the school harlot, he probably needs his faith more than ever. So I doubt he’ll do ethics either.
My kids’ experiences illustrate that scripture classes are clever short-term recruitment drives. And, I believe, this is why some churches are against ethics classes.
The current rather ridiculous investigation about repealing NSW ethics education should admit this straight up. It’s an O’Farrell government effort to keep Fred Nile on side and its committee contains his fellow Christian Democrat Paul Green (whose maiden speech revealed how he was reborn to God, of his passion for special religious education in public schools and of being burnt at the stake in a childhood accident). Liberal MP David Clarke is also on board; a Fred Nile fan who promised in his maiden speech to “uphold and advocate the conservative, mainstream and Christian-based truths and values … with missionary zeal".
That zeal showed in the committee early on with David Clarke coming close to bullying a Parents4Ethics volunteer by badgering her about bioethicist Peter Singer’s views about sex with animals. It was as irrelevant as later talk about euthanising disabled children and cannibalism. Green committee member John Kayne called it McCarthyism and soon after they did indeed discuss communism. Tax payers dollars at work here people!
The committee will soon attend an ethics class to witness wonderful discussions that are taking place. A volunteer told me she gets goose bumps at times at the beauty, insight and thoughtfulness on display. I doubt all of the committee members will have the same reaction.
A Sydney Morning Herald poll found that 92 per cent of people believe in ethics classes. That’s many more than believe in God. But be prepared for a call for the classes to be abolished or absorbed into scripture. If the NSW Government acquiesces to such zealotry, I will take my children out of scripture and march in the street to demand that scripture gets the hell out of public schools.
Until then I’ll let my children learn about different faiths and hope in this household we can practice acceptance, love and a belief in goodness. I owe it to India - the land that accepts faith in millions of fabulous forms - and to my daughter, who was made there.