Thursday, April 12, 2012

Censorship, science and religion

The recent news about the banning, by the Vatican, of commentary and opinion being published by a number of Catholic priests in Ireland initially invoked in your blogger the reaction that it was an internal matter for the Church, with which he wants nothing to do.

A moment’s reflection, of course, determined that the same church still impinges greatly on the lives even of those who would shun it completely, nowhere more than in the matter of the education of one’s children and eventual grandchildren. The Catholic Church still controls and manages over 90% of state funded primary schools in Ireland. Therefore citizens are often constrained to send their children to one of these schools as the only means of them getting a primary education, as was the case with our family when we lived in rural Ireland. You tend to take the view that it will be all right - sure everyone is in the same boat, and this is not exactly the middle ages.

But it wasn’t all right. Our daughter, who dearly loves her father, for all his faults, was made to suffer serious anguish in the belief that he was destined to hell because, as she was aware, he had decided that there was no god. Her mother seems to have eased her mind by getting her to agree that, even though Dad didn’t believe, he was still a good man, so he would avoid hell. The whole episode generates great anger, even now. Thinking about it, it’s lucky she wasn’t in a Lutheran school. Martin Luther taught that good works were not enough. The only way to he ‘saved’, for him, was to believe.

There are other reasons why religion in schools is pernicious. It has the capacity to undermine the teaching of scientific principles, for one. In the words of Richard Dawkins, in his book “The God Delusion”:

Fundamentalist religion is hell-bent on ruining the scientific education of countless thousands of innocent, well-meaning, eager young minds. Non-fundamentalist, ‘sensible’ religion may not be doing that. But it is making the world safe for fundamentalism by teaching children, from their earliest years, that unquestioning faith is a virtue”.

And how far away is the Catholic Church from fundamentalism when we are hearing that the Vatican has taken steps to curtail freedom of expression on the part of some of its priests? This has to mean that the same culture of repression will pervade the state schools that the Church manages. For someone who sees the ability to criticise and to bring forward new ideas as an essential part of living, this is bad news indeed.

Richard Dawkins’s book is well worth reading, for anyone. However, it is especially relevant to those priests that have been silenced by the Vatican. Dawkins is a world class intellectual. At the very least, priests, such as those who have been victims of Vatican authoritarianism, should be able to address the points he makes. It is available from, here

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