It sounds controversial: The British Secretary of Education wants to give every state school a copy of the Bible:
Every state school in England is to receive a new copy of the King James Bible from the government — with a brief foreword by Michael Gove, the education secretary, to mark the 400th anniversary of its translation. In a move intended to help every pupil access Britain’s cultural heritage, every primary and secondary school will be sent a new copy of the 1611 translation by next Easter.
Right… for “cultural heritage.” Sure.
In any case, Richard Dawkins doesn’t know why he wasn’t asked to donate to make the initiative happen… because he fully supports it. In fact, he’s surprised all schools don’t have a copy already:
I am a little shocked at the implication that not every school library already possesses a copy. Can that be true? What do they have, then? Harry Potter? Vampires?…
His first reason for offering support is that, much like Shakespeare, there are allusions to it everywhere. You can’t really be an educated, learned citizen without understanding where those references are coming from.
Oh… and there’s that other reason:
I have an ulterior motive for wishing to contribute to Gove’s scheme. People who do not know the Bible well have been gulled into thinking it is a good guide to morality. This mistaken view may have motivated the “millionaire Conservative party donors”. I have even heard the cynically misanthropic opinion that, without the Bible as a moral compass, people would have no restraint against murder, theft and mayhem. The surest way to disabuse yourself of this pernicious falsehood is to read the Bible itself.
Whatever else the Bible might be –- and it really is a great work of literature -– it is not a moral book and young people need to learn that important fact because they are very frequently told the opposite.
Of course he’s right. There’s a reason so many churches and pastors ignore discussing the more immoral, disgusting, abhorrent parts of the book. They’d rather ignore it and pretend it’s not there. American Atheists’ Dave Silverman had this memorable line in a New York Times article a couple of years ago, making the same argument:
“I have heard many times that atheists know more about religion than religious people,” Mr. Silverman said. “Atheism is an effect of that knowledge, not a lack of knowledge. I gave a Bible to my daughter. That’s how you make atheists.”
Anyway, guess how the Daily Mail covered that story?
Look at our headline!!! (Oh and by the way here’s what he actually said…)
Even with the government’s intentions and Dawkins’ wishes, it’s likely neither is going to happen. Having one copy of the Bible in every school library isn’t going to allow all the students to read it from start to finish — and I find it hard to believe kids are just going to willingly come into the library to read a Bible they can find easily online.
But I love that the government’s ultimately-useless idea gives Dawkins a platform to talk about how awful the Bible actually is.