In Scotland, where denominational schools segregate protestant and catholic children, where the football is so twisted by religious sectarianism that new laws have been imposed upon what songs can be sung at matches, we now have an academic high-lighting the "threat" of atheism of being espoused in the educational system. Glasgow University's school of education and professor of religious and cultural education, Professor Robert Davis, has called on teachers to ensure faith continues to be given its rightful place in the school curriculum. He said there is evidence the views of high-profile atheist authors that religion is akin to "ghost-hunting or astrology" is now taking root in the education system.
Davis said: "The new atheism is campaigning and polemical and, through its high-profile spokesmen, it lobbies very powerfully for a particular version of the science curriculum, the study of biology, the understanding of human behaviour and human nature and the promotion of neuroscientific explanations of human emotional interaction. There is abundance of evidence the new atheism has very clear designs on the role of education in a democratic society and I think it has made a strong impact on schools and teachers and I think that has to be questioned."
Davis said it was becoming "the norm" for teachers to see scientific study as the "standard method" by which to investigate all human phenomena. "They want to exclude other perspectives and suggest they are not only wrong, but are invalid and should not be given any kind of space in learning and teaching and that is where those attitudes become damaging."
We now have the co-chairperson of the Conservative Party Baroness Warsi argue that Britain is under threat from a rising tide of "militant secularisation", that religion must be given a greater role in public life and call for Europe to become more "confident in its Christianity". She is on an official visit to the Vatican to mark the 30th anniversary of the re-establishment of full diplomatic ties between Britain and the Vatican and her speech will the first to the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy by an outside minister.
In December, David Cameron said the UK was a Christian country and "should not be afraid to say so"
Yet new research suggests Britons who declare themselves Christian display low levels of belief and practice. Almost three quarters of the 1,136 people polled agreed that religion should not influence public policy, and 92% agreed the law should apply to everyone equally, regardless of their personal beliefs. It also found that 61% of Christians agreed homosexuals should have the same legal rights in all aspects of their lives as heterosexuals. And a further 62% were in favour of a woman's right to have an abortion within the legal time limit.
Those defenders of the faith such as Davis and Barsi and Cameron wish for us to view atheists as the new fundamentalists and see atheism itself as an act of religious faith.
SOYMB holds no brief for religion and is unashamed in declaring so. In order to survive, the churches has had to change in line with how secular society changes. But there are some unchanging tenets of their practice however – their unfaltering support of private property and the collecting dishes at their church services. The Lord may provide for the gullible faithful but the clergy rely on something more tangible for their income!
Religions are not deserving of respect just because they are religions; they must be subject to the same scrutiny as any other belief and cannot hide behind the notion that they are personal beliefs. For socialists the struggle against religion cannot be separated from the struggle for socialism. Socialists share a certain amount of common ground with non-socialists concerned to defend science. Both, for example, seek to debunk “creationism” and explain current scientific thinking about evolution. Belief in religion – any religion – warps and hampers the ability to think objectively, particularly about social and political issues such as those now filling the newspapers (Islam, immigration, cultural clashes, etc.). In order to grasp the urgent need for and the possibility of achieving major social change one must first be able to think clearly and to understand just how capitalism works – or, quite often, doesn't. This is something men and women are much less able to do if their heads are full of religious fantasy and their thinking is correspondingly irrational.
The disappearance of all religious beliefs, whether it is “We poor sinners here below” kind or the “Allah's will be done!” sort should be seen as an essential part of our struggle for socialism and not just as a fringe irrelevance. A difference in religion has offered the opportunity for capitalism to find scapegoats and to drive a wedge of suspicion and distrust between workers - an example of the age-old imperial dodge of “divide and rule”