Atheist Family in Ontario Finally Puts an End to Public School Distribution of Holy Books

Last year, I wrote about how, in Toronto, the Gideons wanted to distribute Bibles to fifth grade students and how the District School Board of Niagara was letting them do it.

Rene and Anna Chouinard, who have three kids in the district, attempted to put a stop to that for years, beginning in 2009. They told the school board that if the Gideons could distribute Bibles to children, then they should be able to distribute copies of Dan Barker‘s Just Pretend: A Free Thought Book for Children and Losing Faith in Faith: From Preacher to Atheist. That year, the school board ended up saying no to both kinds of books.

The year after, the board changed their policy to allow for the distribution of all religious materials. The Chouinards said Fine! Let us distribute our atheist books!… and the school board said no.

Huh?! The Bibles were okay, but the atheist books were not? What gives?

Only last year did a court finally agree to look at the case.

Rene Chouinard

It took a year, but the Chouinards have finally prevailed! The Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario has said this is clearly an example of discrimination against atheists:

In this case, there is no question that the first version of the policy, permitting students to receive literature in the public schools from one creed, but not others, violated the norm of substantive equality. It promoted prejudice and stereotyping by suggesting that non-Christians, including atheists, are less worthy and valuable than others of having their creed included in the public school system. It perpetuated historical disadvantage of non-Christians, including atheists, in public institutions.

The school board has agreed to abide by the decision.

Hats off to the Chouinards for their work calling out unfair Christian privilege. It took years for victory to emerge, but they forced the change and we owe them a debt of gratitude.

(via My Secret Atheist Blog)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • Hugh Kramer

    It’s a victory, I suppose, but the fact of the matter is that neither religion or non-religion has any place in a public school classroom except perhaps in a comparative religions class. Do they really teach that in 5th grade?

  • Anna

    Good for them. It’s nice to see a positive story about schools for a change.

  • Anna

    I don’t know, but I think it would be great if they did. No secular school system should be promoting religion, but of course learning about various religions is perfectly appropriate. It’s included in social studies and history classes.

  • Sara

    things may have changed since I was in elementary school here in Ontario, but we did not have any religion classes. I actually don’t remember ever getting a bible either. But I agree, that stuff should be left to the parents and no religion related material should be distributed.

  • allein

    I got my bible in third grade…from my church, where it belongs. I don’t think I had a true comparative religion-type class until 9th grade social studies; we did a unit on the big 5 or 6 religions (Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Shinto, maybe one other, I forget)

  • JET

    Dear Louisiana – This is how it’s done. Love, Canada

  • Abbé Faria

    I remember the Gideon douches coming to my school when I was 15. We had to sit through a lecture about them and then take the bible. I got suspended for throwing it in the trash right in front of them and giving them the finger.

  • Mommabear23

    Thank you from parents of 3 students in the Thames Valley School District, Ontario, Canada. Now if only we can stop the church from running a “homework club” out of our schools during the day using only the bible as a reading resource.

  • Wolverine

    I used to get the Gideon Bibles and use them for rolling papers. Nothing better than smoking the “Word of God”. True Story! >:)

  • Abbé Faria

    We were supposed to learn about other religions. But while christianity had 3 ‘blocks’ one for the catholics and 1 for the protestants and then one for everyone else who called themselves christians. Islam didn’t make a difference between suni and shia and hinduism managed to cram all the gods into less time then we took going through greek mythology.

  • Mike Smith

    You are depriving the youth of a board base education. The Bible has a world of history in all it’s books, to say leave it to the parents is like saying let the parents teach them math or English. Certainly the children of Ontario will be disadvantaged.

  • Brian Westley

    The bible’s history is unreliable, as it’s mixed with myths. Also it hasn’t been updated for a while.

  • Mommabear23

    The bible contains fictional history and parents are entitled to enlighten their children at home. History continues to be taught at our schools and if you read into the issue of Gideon bibles being handed out, you would have realized that they were sent home with the child and not utilized in the classroom.
    Only those that continue to teach out of the bible will be disadvantaged!

  • RobMcCune

    The Bible has a world of history in all it’s books,

    So does The Lord of The Rings, doesn’t make it true though.

  • Michael W Busch

    The Bible has a world of history in all it’s books

    Except for the books that are mythology (Genesis, Exodus, among others), are forgeries (Daniel, many of the epistles, everything attributed to Solomon), are historical fiction rather than history (the gospels, Acts, a bunch of the other epistles and of the old testament), are collections of sayings and songs (the “wisdom literature”), focus on irrelevant and evil legal codes (Leviticus), or are transparent political tracts (Revelation).

    That history that is mentioned in the various Bibles is covered far more clearly, accurately, and comprehensively in actual history classes. Reading parts of assorted biblical texts should be one of many components of those classes – along with material from a few dozen other groups. Simply put: the Bible is something studied by historians, and must not be falsely advertised as a special source of historical knowledge.

    to say leave it to the parents is like saying let the parents teach them math or English.

    Your analogy is bad. Math and English instruction is not tied to a particular text that is being wrongly claimed to have special / supernatural authority.

  • Spuddie

    A baseboard education in the religious beliefs of Abrahamic religions. Not much else. Not something worthy of public funds and efforts.

  • Timmah

    Next you are going to tell me that the Harry Potter books are not a valid historical record of how a British man of the same name saved the world from an evil wizard back in the 90s.

  • rtanen

    We don’t use the Iliad or the Odyssey as textbooks when we are covering Greece, except maybe to discuss mythology and storytelling in English. Why should we treat the Christian Bible any differently just because a religion is devoted to it?

  • h2ocean

    I went to a public school in Niagara and religion was never taught in any class at all. We did, however, go to the church across the street for an otherwise secular (I think, but there might have been prayer) Remembrance Day event, and our principal had said a prayer to the school on at least one occasion, if not more :S

  • michael both

    I doubt these bibles were being given out for ‘education’ – more likely for indoctrination.
    Still, I daresay if kids or parents are concerned about not having access to a bible they can borrow one from the school or local library, or even actually buy one for (I’m guessing) less than 10 bucks.
    Also, giving someone a book does not equate to providing an education. At a fifth grade level, having a teacher assist students with understanding and interpreting a book would be necessary. And I really doubt many parents actually want their kids being exposed to the evil stories in the bible at that age.

  • JET

    Or you could use books written by, let’s say, actual historians.

  • JET

    On a positive note, when my kids were in middle school there was some group passing out mini-Bibles across the street (not on campus) as the kids got out of school. Administrators called the police and they were rousted. (California)

  • RobMcCune

    That’s just jingoistic propaganda, everyone knows Voldemort played little to no role in the day to day operations of the Death Eaters. Harry raided his compound in an illegal extrajudicial assassination.

  • Monika Jankun-Kelly

    Or how about we let them learn history without mythology in history class from history teachers and history textbooks?

  • Monika Jankun-Kelly

    And it’s focus is rather narrow, mostly Israelites and their neighbors. Where’s the history of the Australian, Inuit, and Slavic people, for example?

  • MumbleMumble

    The problem I have with this (as an atheist) is that I AGREE with the school board’s argument that atheism is not a religion and that those aren’t religious texts (I think that was their argument based on the court document I read). Also, this is a system that will never be fair. There will not be an equal distribution of texts for every religion, past or present (or future). In other words, some religions will clearly be promoted over others. Can we just give it a rest?

  • HQ


  • MumbleMumble

    It was worth a try.

  • Canadian Atheist, eh!

    I received a bible from the Gideons in a grade 5 classroom in New Brunswick — it might only have been the New Testament, come to think of it. Anyway, I started reading it and, well, y’all know the rest of the story . . . ;^)

  • Spuddie

    Voldemort was a patriot. His aim was destroying the hereditary absolute rulership centered in Hogwarts. To break the iron grip of the wizards held purely by virtue of their birth.

    Besides Neville Longbottom was really the hero of the series. =)

  • LiveLevity

    Every kid who smoked pot did this at some point it seems lol

  • SinginDiva721

    Neville Longbottom was one BAMF! :-)

  • Brian Westley

    If you read the ruling, that kind of interpretation leads to bigger problems:

    The difficulty with the respondent’s position is illustrated by the following example of its consequences. If an employer decided to dismiss all employees who did not share the religious faith of the president of the company, those who belonged to other religions would have a claim, but not those who are atheist, agnostic or who do not have a view on religion. It would allow the province, a service provider or an employer to enforce particular views and practices on those with atheist views or no clear views about such matters, but not on those who actively believe in a different religion. This is not a purposive interpretation of the [Human Rights] Code.

  • MumbleMumble

    That is true.
    Well, I still don’t think that anybody should be passing out religious materials to 5th graders at a public school.

  • Ryan Hite

    I can’t believe they got away with that for so long….

  • Jeff

    rtanen: Wow, thanks, that is a very appropriate analogy. Well done.

  • Michael W Busch

    Very few Canadians would need to buy a bible to have access to the material in it most of the time. It’s all online.

  • Michael W Busch

    See also the Eddas, the Vedas, the Qur’an, the Egyptian Book of the Dead, etc.

  • Mike Smith

    what a load of rubbish you have been fed

  • GodlessPoutine

    The problem is, it seems like the only way we can convince religious folk from distributing their material is to threaten to distribute our own.

  • Mike Smith

    I don’t know what world you live in, but why deprive other of the knowledge????

  • Brian Westley

    Yeah, I should, instead, believe in talking animals and that rape is moral.

  • Fred

    No we are denying the Gideons the opportunity to indoctrinate children into their particular brand of religious beliefs.

    You’re assuming that all parents want their children exposed to wacko religious beliefs. Don’t you think parents should be responsible for seeing to the religious instruction of their own children instead of some stranger who’s beliefs do not match your own. If you disagree I can arrange for your children to have a copy of the Book of Mormon delivered to them.

    In short you’re just a stupid twit, Good luck in writing an ebook for Amazon that nobody will read.

  • Mike Smith

    Their are many religions, each has their own book, you are depriving people of knowledge in this world. just like the olden days when people in power said lets burn these books, and with it went knowledge, history, education and in it’s place was ignorance.

  • JoseValdes

    I got a Gideon bible in high school. It was amazing… I mean, it really changed my life. Never before had I been able to just carry around my rolling papers out in the open and not get in trouble.

    Gideon Bibles – Smooth joint papers since 1899.

  • Mike Smith

    Where is the public funds? the Gideon do it for free!

  • Spuddie

    Public school officials are using the time paid for by the state to promote their visits.

  • Bitter Lizard

    So you agree with me that public schools should hand out pamphlets promoting Satanism? After all, if they don’t, they’re depriving the poor kids of knowledge about how great Satan is, and that would be just like burning books and blah blah blah…

  • Pepe

    Pastafarianism, I hope? No one wants to get the FSM angry.

  • Mike Smith

    I won’t play silly games

  • Pepe

    Did you even read what Michael wrote? Why bother with reading when you can just spout out the same shit, eh?

  • JohnnieCanuck

    Too late, you already are, from our perspective. The problem is going to be getting you to stop nattering silly stuff about burning bushes that talk and invisible sky people.

  • allein

    No, sadly. Methodist.

    Though I could really go for some spaghetti and meatballs right now.

  • Fred

    WOW its like you didn’t even read what you were replying to. You must be a bot.

    Next you’ll be telling us how you can make thousands!!!11!11 eleventy dollars by working from home.

  • RobMcCune

    Damn straight, all children must read this book:

    Behavioural Ecology of Siberian and European Roe Deer

  • Fred

    Wow you’re just putting together incoherent sentences now. Are you feeling well? Do you need someone to call a Dr for you?

  • Fred

    Then the Gideons can drop their books off during their own time and not when they have a captive audience in a school.

  • Michael W Busch

    As others have correctly explained, I did not say anything about depriving people of knowledge. In fact, I said quite the opposite.

    Again: the various bibles are not historical textbooks and treating them as though they were is a serious mistake, but knowing something about them and their effects on history should be one of the many parts of a good general history curriculum.

    If people then want to go and on their own time promote believing in their particular Bible as a supernatural authority, they are entirely free to do so – just like I’m free to explain that that belief is wrong. But promoting either religion or irreligion is not something that government-sponsored schools should do.

  • Michael W Busch

    None of what Brian has written here is rubbish. I have already noted some of the particulars of why the Bible is not generally a source of historical information. And, unless you are claiming some more recent material as part of the Bible – which no large group of people does – it hasn’t been updated for more than 1700 years.

  • dc1811

    You’re funny…really, you are. Keep this shit coming

  • Michael W Busch

    Nobody is saying “burn the Bibles”. All that is being said is “the government shall do nothing that promotes one religion over another, or religion over irreligion, or irreligion over religion”.

    Nor is anyone saying anything about “depriving people of knowledge”. As many people here have explained to you, students should learn something about the biblical texts and where they came from and what their influences on history have been – but only as one of the many topics in general history and comparative religious history classes.

    Stop lying.

  • MNb

    I agree. Why isn’t pastafarian theology taught on every single sunday school in the USA? You christians are depriving people of precious knowledge.

  • Michael W Busch

    Using the school environment, class time, and the positions of various school officials – all of which are paid for by public funds.

    If the school has an open forum where anyone (but not school employees who are on the clock) is allowed to say anything they want to, then that would be an appropriate time and place for people to hand out religious literature – and also an appropriate time and place for others to hand out irreligious literature.

    This was not such a forum, and therefore it was an abuse of public funds and was not acceptable.

  • Michael W Busch

    Off-topic: Your nym is quite cool.

  • Mike Smith

    wish that were true

  • Carmelita Spats

    You are right. Youth should never be deprived. I’m going to read to the entire class Genesis 19 where Lot is willing to shove his daughters out the door and into the wart-infested loins of a hairy, Bronze Age, mob so that they can be raped because Bible history tells us that angels should never, ever, be molested but virgin daughters are fair game. No one should mess with angels. It’s history. Hell, even the TV show, “Touched By An Angel” is an affront to God. I’ll pair the kids up with a buddy and have them do a think/pair/share, a skit and a commercial based on Lot’s daughters. We will present their finished products to parents during PTA night. I plan to use the kid-friendly “Brick Testament” unless you have another suggestion:

    Lot is willing to turn his daughters over to be raped:

    Lot’s daughters and incest:

  • lynne

    How much money was wasted by the school system in defending this that could have gone to teaching actual, I dunno, KIDS.

  • Anolu

    As an Ontario resident I say it’s about time. I recall being indoctrinated in christian ways in public school in the sixties. We said the lords prayer each morning and had actual bible instruction during class. The gideons showed up in grade 5 to distribute the red bibles – laughs – I still have mine and I’m 54 yrs old! I’m a lifelong atheist and am glad to see secularism prevailing in the school system. (never thought to use the pages for rolling papers – opportunity lost lol!)

  • Guest

    Who’s depriving them of anything? The atheist parents were just asking to give out their own literature as well. That means the kids would end up with more free books, not less.

  • Guest

    Most historians of the ancient middle east would agree that the Bible’s ‘history’ is unreliable and biased. The story of the Israelites being slaves in Egypt, for example? Never happened! The bible’s fine as a source of history, but not as your ONLY source.

  • Guest

    Mormons don’t count as a large group of people? How large is large? (Not that what passes for ‘history’ in the book of Mormon is much cop, but still)

  • Fred

    Great, he wishes he was a spam bot.

  • C.L. Honeycutt

    It’s funny that you’d be ignorant enough to make that comparison (apart from the fact that it’s such a hugely false equivalence as to be gibberish) when Christianity is responsible for the bulk of book-burning and destruction of knowledge.

  • C.L. Honeycutt

    You’re already playing a multi-thousand year-old game of Chinese Whispers by citing the Bible. The question now is: Given that you know how that game works, why in the world would you be so foolish as to fall for it?

  • Sweetredtele

    Don’t forget to compare to the similar story found at Judges 19:22. The concubine is given to the mob and basically raped to death, then chopped up into 12 pieces. Hallelujah!

  • Franklin Bacon

    In a way, no matter what kind of religious materials are presented, those of other faiths and none-are at a disadvantage to effectively counter the specific claims or traditions on an equal footing. Faith is not reason and religion is conferred via means that are less than transparent.

  • Franklin Bacon

    Some lawyer at some point will have to make the valid argument that protections are not to those with religion, but are afforded to everyone to have freedom in regard to religion. Inasmuch as a Hindu has freedom to totally disbelieve every tenet of Catholicism, the atheist has the right to disbelieve any or all religions, on a scale from 0%-100%.

  • Franklin Bacon

    History? It is almost entirely myth, legend and storytelling. Very little there is accurate or provable. In fact, much of its assertions are demonstrably false and contradictory.

  • Franklin Bacon

    Never hurts to throw in a Book of Mormon or a Koran. I doubt the kids have ever seen one of those and it would be depriving them to not offer them.

  • Wolverine

    A-men! XD

  • Franklin Bacon

    At church camp I found some scripture in Spanish in the trash. It was explained to me that it was garbage because it was the wrong version. I didn’t know the difference between Reina Valera and Nueva Version Internacional.

    Of this I am certain…the Catholics probably dislike the Gideons’ version for the same reasons my church disliked that Spanish one…it was felt it would confuse readers and contained heresy.

  • Jim Jones

    The bible is full of history, science and morality.

    History that is false. Science that is wrong. Morality that is vile.

    The English language alone has many books that are more accurate and more moral – and a damn sight easier to read.

  • Jim Jones

    > You Christians are depriving people of precious knowledge.

    And delicious dinners.

  • Jim Jones

    > I won’t play silly games

    Translation: You’re all meanies and if you won’t let me bully you I’ll tell my mommy.

  • Michael W Busch

    The Mormons hold that the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great price are part of the scriptural canon, along with the King James version of the Bible. But they do not claim that the first three are part of the latter.

  • Tainda

    You lost me at “their”

  • RobMcCune

    Children deserve books that have accurate knowlege. Why are you trying to confuse them?

  • Renshia


  • Pattrsn

    Or at least a different kind of spambot.

  • scipio1

    I autograph them in every hotel I stay. “All the best, God.”

  • newavocation

    So how much did the taxpayers have to pay to defend promoting religion by their school district?

  • Sinfanti

    I don’t think the goal here is to teach non-religion to 5th graders. Rather, by demanding equal treatment, it’s hoped that those who are working to push their faith on children would be brought to realize it’s a bad idea easily prone to backfire. The real victory will be if this results in nobody pushing anything on Niagara kids.

  • Sinfanti

    You wouldn’t like him when he’s angry.

  • GodlessPoutine

    Someone had already taken “Friendly Atheist”, so I had to come up with something else! Thanks!

  • Renshia

    A human rights tribunal in Canada is much different than a court of law. Not getting into the negative side of this design, costs are not necessarily that high. especially if you compare it to the American way of solving problems. There was probably lawyers, but in some of these it could be just the people involved telling there side and no lawyers at all.

  • Renshia

    let’s not forget the Satanic Bible. However, that may just have to much of a moral edge to it to be tolerated too.

  • Ella Warnock

    Now hold on, he’s not going to any doctor that didn’t get all her medical knowledge out of a bible!

  • Astreja

    Anolu, I experienced much the same in suburban Montreal in the ’60s. I learned to mutter along with the Lord’s Prayer every morning, sat daydreaming while the teacher read a Bible passage once a week, and got the little Gideons Bible in grade 5. The early-morning Lord’s Prayer and the Bible readings mysteriously stopped around the time I moved on to high school in the early ’70s.

  • Robster

    As a kid I got a free bible “the worlds best selling book” I was told after accepting a gratis copy, the confusion started there. A year later, the rice paper pages were great for use as cigarette paper. There was enough paper for a whole 18 months of godly puffing. Ashes to ashes…

  • EvolutionKills

    The Bible is not knowledge, it is hearsay and superstition. To treat it as anything other than the cultural mythology that it is would be a detriment to knowledge.

  • EvolutionKills

    You ARE a silly game…

  • Mario Strada

    Hironically, most of these book burning that deprived us of history and culture were organized and executed by christian, muslims and generally devotees of some faith or another.

    Your argument that stopping one particular christian sect from distributing their own book of myths is ludicrous and no one is advocating book burnings. Atheists happen to be among the most loyal readership for the bible and few would be opposed to studying the bible in class as long as it was studied along with other myths and put in the proper historical perspective.

    But since you are so worried about the lack of education our kids will suffer, you probably already know all this but choose to act stupid because it serves your purpose.

    I’ll bet you can care less about education and care a lot more about the kids being instructed in the “right” religion, don’t you?

  • wmdkitty


  • Intelligent Donkey

    Sometimes you have to teach the adults.

  • Anymouse

    He lost me at “it’s” in his first post (and repeated later).

  • Abbé Faria

    I’m from what americans miscast as ‘secular/atheist* Norway. Where I went to church in school time twice a year (christmas and easter) every year until I started to skip out on it when I was in 5th grade. We didn’t have people giving out bibles across the road, because that’s not really how religion works in Norway, but they didn’t really need to because they were already allowed full access to the schools. I’m really sorry for my rant, but in my defence I have a fever of 39*C right now.

  • Ibis3

    The only use a Bible has as a source of history is as a source of the cultural history of the people who wrote it–i.e. it tells us how the writers of this or that segment saw themselves and their world or how they wanted their audience to see them. A historiographical approach such as that is a little sophisticated for primary school children.

    (p.s. I have a graduate degree with a specialty in Christian religious history so I know whereof I speak.)

  • Amor DeCosmos


  • Ibis3

    I had homemade poutine for supper yesterday. It was also godless, AFAIK. Delish.

  • JA

    Even an AI can wish to be a real boy some day.

  • axelbeingcivil

    Inhaling burnt ink can’t have been good for your lungs…

  • MD

    But but but… facts are so confusing!

  • webbjj

    Ontario’s schools are not getting better as a result of secularization. I realize, the readers of this blog are atheists and applaud the removal of all religious material from schools. But let’s recall that when publicly funded education began in early 19th century Canada (Ontario specifically), there were two types of public schools – protestant and catholic. There were no such things as “secular” schools. Secularization is a relatively recent phenomenon, taking on full force since the 80′s. This secularization is merely a reflection of the growing atheistic mindset of the last few, and current, generations. People don’t seem to realize that atheists and secular folk were not the ones who founded education in Canada. It’s THANKS to religious folk – the christians – the ones who originally taught reading and writing using the Bible, who started education in our beloved country in the first place. I would suggest that it is a slow, unfortunate deterioration of our country’s christian foundation that has resulted in our secular schools. It’s disrespectful to read the comments on this blog – shameful to disregard such a rich and meaningful history. If you are an atheist and want your child to attend a secular school – I agree, you have that right. Maybe secularists should start funding their own secular schools. After all, that’s what christian protestants now have to do – fund their own private christian schools – since their religious freedom has been stripped from what once was their own school system. Yes, this is a victory for sure – for atheists, secularists, and anti-christians. But for protestant christians, it is blatant discrimination.

  • Chris

    Great idea!

  • webjj

    Did you delete my guest comment?

  • Astreja

    Webbjj, just because someone founded something doesn’t mean that they can control it in perpetuity. What if the Zoroastrians decided to reassert control over monotheism, for instance? (Not that that’s a bad thing, mind you — I rather like Ahura Mazda’s take on things.) A bit closer to the current era, if the Catholic Church had been able to enforce their traditions there would be no Protestant Christians.

    Tradition is only useful until it isn’t. If the last few generations do indeed have a “growing atheistic mindset,” as you say, then those generations have every right to cull things that are no longer of value to them.

  • George Affleck

    Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook, University of Texas, Columbine, Red Lake Senior High…

    Jesus said. “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.”

    Promote atheism in the schools and expect incidents like this to increase. Atheism has no inherent morality and must borrow it from somewhere. It is the hypocrisy of a morality with no basis, a conscience that cannot find a home, and the irrationality of ethics for ethics’ sake that produces psychological frustration and ultimately results in violence.

    Teach the love that Jesus actually taught and expect much different results as the history of the school system clearly shows. Webbjj is right; the Bible was the mainspring of the education system. The slipperiness and slope increases as it is removed.

  • Feminerd

    The same Jesus who said “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law— a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household. Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me”?

    The same Jesus who sends people to be tortured (torture is inherently immoral) for eternity for finite crimes (also crazily disproportionate)?

    I’m pretty sure teaching more Jesus isn’t going to fix the problem. Morality based on authority and fear is no morality at all, and that’s all Christianity of your sort has to offer.

  • webbjj

    Tradition is useful as long as its meaningful. I am not in favour of perpetuating a system of education that is traditional yet meaningless and useless. In fact the great flaw to secularism/atheism is the loss of meaning and usefulness. Christian education teaches – you are created in the image of God, with dignity, reason and purpose. This is a meaningful existence and inspires a life of learning, gratitude and respect for mankind. Show me this depth of meaning in atheistic and secular reasoning. Christians were the force behind the abolition of the slave trade and today have become the voice to end abortion. It is not a general feeling of goodwill that motivates Christians to fight human rights violations – but the undeniable truth that all people are created equal, and in God’s image. Therefore all people are worthy of respect and dignity. You say this value system is no longer useful?

    Also, the Catholics DID enforce their traditions toward protestant Christians which resulted in excommunications, burnings, tortures, imprisonment, deaths. Have you heard of Foxe’s Book of Martyrs? Beginning in the early days of the church, Christians have been persecuted, excommunicated, threatened and killed, with the hope of eradicating them. The Protestant church remains nonetheless.

    History and tradition are always useful. It may not be trendy or pragmatic to live by traditional standards, but there is a lot of wisdom in historical evaluation.

  • George Affleck

    “The same Jesus who said…”
    Did it ever occur to you that He wants to encourage a man to turn against a father who is violent and brutal and who does not exhibit His new commandment to “love one another”? Or that the sword is the sword of the Spirit?

    “The same Jesus who sends…”

    Ignorance of the Bible is no excuse for opting out. The Bible contends that “all” are condemned already for rejecting God. Jesus came to rescue those who will listen and respond. He absorbs the penalty of the already condemned.

    “I’m pretty sure…”
    You have no right being pretty sure of anything unless you can at least get the facts straight.

    “Morality based on authority and fear…”
    Then we should get rid of the justice system (authority) and all penalties (fear) and then, according to you, immoral behavior (murder, rape, theft, etc.) will disappear.

    Between your spiritual dumpster-diving and regurgitating whatever you are being fed, you have no time to think for yourself.

  • Astreja

    Yes, tradition is useful as long as it’s meaningful.

    I do not find Christianity meaningful, so I do not find Christian traditions useful. I am an agnostic atheist who finds meaning in the present moment and in My own actions, not in some divinely-ordained purpose.

    Oh, and Christianity doesn’t hold the copyright on respect, either. Read the Amsterdam Declaration of humanism for a much better ethos that requires no belief in the supernatural.

    I also question the “created in God’s image” mythos. How on earth do you reconcile that with the “Original Sin” fable and keep a straight face?

  • Feminerd

    1) Uh, no, your interpretation didn’t occur to me at all, actually. Since, you know, the words don’t actually say that. Language and words have meanings, but only the meanings we give them, so reading the plain text of things (especially translations) is really the only way to figure out what they mean. If you have to twist, stretch, and torture the meanings of words to make what they say not awful, that probably means you’re just rationalizing awful things.

    2) Really? The Bible says that we’re all condemned? Funny, I grew up Jewish, and it doesn’t say anything like that in the OT. That’s all NT. So Jesus said God, who can do anything, can’t forgive humanity unless you believe that Jesus is really God but also a person, born of a virgin impregnated by himself in order to sacrifice himself to force himself to forgive everyone the “crime” of their great-great-many-greats grandmother who ate a magic apple because a talking snake told her to. But if we don’t believe this totally not-a-myth story as the literal truth, we’re going to be tortured for eternity by the God of Love and Mercy. Yeah. Sure. I don’t know how your head doesn’t explode from the cognitive dissonance in all that.

    3) Laws are not designed to scare people off from doing things. Punitive models simply don’t work. Laws give moral and societal force to social norms, telling people what the rules are and how badly a person transgresses if ze breaks them. More punishment/penalty says that society views whatever crime as more transgressive. When the law and social norms don’t align (ie drug laws are seen as too harsh, or rape punishments too lenient), we adjust laws to conform to society’s current sense of just how transgressive, or “bad”, a crime really is.

    This means laws serve two valuable purposes. They both create and reinforce social norms, and they do punish those who transgress.

    As for your last bit of garbage, projecting much?

  • webbjj

    So you only find meaning in the present moment and your own actions? You find no meaning outside of yourself? Or in the past? Or in other cultures/religions/languages? The life around you – your neighbors, family, friends, partner, the animals and ecosystems and universe – none of them hold any meaning? If that’s the case then why do we study and learn and enjoy the life and world around us? Why not live alone on an island and give nothing to humankind, spending your life in your own simple existence. How do YOU reconcile such a self-centered worldview with your humanistic conscience? I also am a humanist (though not a secular one) in that I desire to live my life in peace and harmony with all those around me – and to help seek out the greater good in everyone. I support democracy and human rights, as well as personal liberty combined with social responsibility. But my foundation for this worldview is from outside of myself. I am accountable to God for my actions, and His love and grace has inspired me to live in this way, rather than thinking only of my own actions and my own present reality.

    The Amsterdam Declaration is also flawed with a contradiction. It outlines specific “rules” or “duties” of humanism such as “Humanists have a duty of care to all of humanity including future generations” and “Humanism insists that personal liberty must be combined with social responsibility”. Yet at the same time claims “Humanism is undogmatic, imposing no creed upon its adherents.”
    Well, that’s just not true. Humanists have certain duties – beliefs they must adhere to and follow through with their actions such as quoted above. Humanism is dogmatic. It does have a creed, and it does seek to impose this creed on others. It may be a very nice creed that proves beneficial for peaceful human interaction, but a creed nonetheless.

    Lastly, humanism is not new, it has evolved in thought and creed over time. Many of the great christian reformers were humanists, although not secular. Secular/modern humanism places strong value on ethics and morality, insisting morality is intrinsic to human nature. But if there is no supernatural reality, no Creator that designed us in a unique way, and we are a product of chance and naturalism, what is the source of our common “intrinsic” morality? What is this “human nature” that humanism supposes governs our existence? Secular science does not have a satisfactory answer for this. Secular science has rejected what is, in my opinion, the most obvious answer – that we have been created by a moral and ethical God.

  • webbjj

    I apologize if my replies are too lengthy. But I have greatly enjoyed this discussion with you.

  • Astreja

    Webbjj, there are many things that are important to Me — Family, friends, music, to name just a few — but they only really come alive when I’m directly experiencing them in the present. When viewed as past or future phenomena, they’re just mental ghosts and have almost an unreal quality about them.

    Point taken on the “no dogma” vs. “duty” contradiction in the Amsterdam Declaration. That is a bit oddly phrased. I can say that I’ve felt an internal drive towards humanist values, rather than being ordered to cultivate them, so if anything I’ve been imposing the values on Myself.

    As for the origins of morality, I think it’s something that naturally goes hand in hand with successful cultures. Inasmuch as we look out for one another, we live to see another day and pass on to our children a world improved by our hands and our ideas.

    Views on religion aside, I think we’d make a pretty decent team. Also enjoying this dialogue.

  • pogo

    Threw the bible in the trash and gave them the finger? Suuuuuuuuure, you did.

  • True Freethinker

    What a nice tolerant person you are….

  • True Freethinker

    What law was the group breaking?

    What right did the school administrators have to demand the police intervene and what right did the police have to get heavy handed?

    Whatever happened to freedom of speech and freedom of religion?

  • True Freethinker

    And what if the parents are atheist but the children would be interested in religion? How will the children find out about religion?

  • True Freethinker

    What terrible experiences for you both. I’m sure you would much rather have grown up being taught that all humans are mindless robots and human life is worthless as all atheists believe.

    Honestly, what harm does religion in school do???

    Its one thing to have a secular government rather than a theocracy, but why would you want secular schools?

  • True Freethinker

    Ontario is in Canada not America. Canada is a Christian country with no separation of church and state just like England. Stop imposing your American secularism on the rest of us!

    Every country in Europe and the Americas is a Christian country.

  • 3lemenope

    Now when you troll, what speed do you like to set the motor at? Which lures do you prefer? Me, I’ve always been partial to jitterbugs and crazy crawlers, but they necessitate a rather slow trolling speed.

  • True Freethinker

    Lord of the Rings is taught in schools as literature. Do the same with the Bible and let kids decide for themselves whether they believe it or not and how literally they want to take it.

  • True Freethinker

    Sorry, I don’t speak ‘atheist’. Enjoy your fantasy life…

  • 3lemenope

    Huh. That’s interesting. Personally, when I troll, I put real lures on the line because I find that it is much more effective than using imaginary ones. Bass and pickerel just don’t seem to go for aspirational lures; maybe it is a defect of their mental constitution, I don’t know.

  • Musicon HaidaGwaii

    These people are my heroes. Good work, it must have been tough. Way to persevere. May the invisible pink unicorns shine upon all of their days.

  • lancesackless

    Crybabies win again.

  • Shabock Smiles

    People do not have to accept these Bibles. They are simply offered. Now it seems that other types of books are offered as well. I would like to point out that even in this, it is actually the Christians – and many other religions- that seem to be the ones slightly discriminated against here. The public school systems have already changed all text books to being of an atheistic way of teaching. Kids are in essence, and in a very indirect way, encouraged to believe that there is no God or higher power and that all can be explained without Him. There are more religions that believe in a higher power than there are atheists. Even if Christians want to give out the Holy Bible, it still does not compare to the indoctrination and indirect but very evident proselytizing of atheism in the public school systems these days. Many Christian and religious affiliated people feel discriminated against due to the wide spread of atheism in public American schools. We ought to be considerate of such things and disturbances to their faith. I see no need to pry for more atheistic push when it seems to have taken over so much already. This prying simply seems a tad inconsiderate when viewing the situation from a religious affiliated perspective.

  • Gehennah

    I disagree. I’ve never seen a text book say that there is no god. What those textbooks show is what we have learned so far. So far, we’ve found no evidence of a god. Without evidence of a god, then no god should be taught in school outside a purely academic settings (IE This is what the Jews Believe, this is what the Christians believe, this is what Hindus believe, etc and their marks on the world).
    This isn’t discrimination at all. This is simply going over what we have discovered so far.

  • Gehennah

    Actually morality doesn’t need to be borrowed from elsewhere. From an evolutionary standpoint, a form of morality in a social species is highly beneficial to the species. And we are, a social species, and we rely on each other for survival. Morality actually makes perfect sense for our very survival.

    And there isn’t a whole lot of “morality” I’d even say is good in the Bible. The Golden Rule, a few of the commandments, sure. But those almost certainly did not originate in the Bible to begin with, as they were likely borrowed from other cultures around at the time (just like Moses, and Noah’s stories). But you seem to overlook the absolutely evil parts of the bible, your god supporting slavery, telling you how to beat your slaves, arguably endorsing rape, ordering genocides, and telling parents to kill their children. These things are highly immoral and we certainly did not borrow those morals from you, and I certainly hope you don’t use those “morals” either.

    And it would do our children a great injustice to actually teach the Bible in school, since the Bible is demonstrably wrong on so many things. The origin of mankind, the Exodus, and Noah’s flood. Now you can say those things aren’t to be taken literally, that’s fine but then you start on your own slippery slope of which parts of the Bible are actually real and which are not.

  • Gehennah

    The problem with teaching that you are made in god’s image, is that you have no evidence of it.

    You see, you don’t educate people in things that have no evidence to back them up. And why are we made in the Christian god’s image, why not the Zoroastrian’s god, or one of the Hindu gods? Because we have just as much evidence proving that your god exists as we have proving their god’s exist.

  • Shabock Smiles

    Indeed, in the secular science realm, the evidence of a God is missing just as well as the evidence of a missing link is missing. Yet missing links are taught to be the evidence of evolution – which is an idea that explains the origin of man with out a higher power. This is an indirect way of saying there is no God. If missing links – for example – were found and proven to be real evidence (factual evidence with/no doubt about it) – then the discussion on this section of the argument would be over, but because this is not so, the argument among many on this topic goes on. This is just one example of an indirect way public American schools advocate there being no such thing as a God. Concerning this particular topic, in all the public schools I have attended, not one science class has mentioned the possibility of a higher power as a theory. Though their evidence is still called a theory (“evolutionary theory”), they teach it as a fact with out ever mentioning the other side of the argument. I find this to be advocating for atheism in a very subtle way. If these schools truly wanted to relay knowledge, they would relay all the biggest theories: one being evolution, and the other being creationism (which speaks of the possible higher power). Neither have been completely proven or dis-proven in the science realm and both are called theories, yet only one is taught. These seem to be the biggest views on this matter according to my observation. Since only one is taught, it shows me that the tendency is not only to relay knowledge, but this also shows possible evidence that American public schools are actually more prone to atheism than any other belief on spiritual matters. If a religion can be considered one’s set of beliefs on spiritual matters, then Atheism can be considered a religion with the belief on spirituals matters that they do not exist. Thus, the schools would be discriminating against all other religions by teaching this one “religion” as factual with out substantial evidence to out way the varying views. I understand that schools are not outright saying that there is not God and thus causing for no freedom of religion in schools. I am really suggesting that schools are more prone to the atheistic ideals, and that I did not find it quite so necessary for the family spoken of in the article to go the the extent that they did. I feel as if religions in schools are the underdog to atheism and I just don’t see the necessity to go to the extent as read of above in the writing by Hemant Metah. I understand that their is much political controversy here, but It just seemed unfair to me because the atheists got to have their way with no God being mentioned as a possibility and now the freedom to give out such books to those who would like to receive one is gone for some. Referring
    to what I spoke of earlier, it seems the atheists got what they want and the religious have to listen to ideas contrary to their convictions.

    It simply seems a tad unfair to me. That’s all.

  • BigSofty

    Yeah, every country in Europe is xtian, which is why the EU just passed laws that state, “No religion or belief shall have the right to be free from criticism or ridicule.”

    Does your butt get jealous of the amount of crap that comes out of your mouth?

    Paragraph 31