Political Promise

The Faith of the Faithless

In Conor Campbell on March 18, 2011 at 11:13 am

Conor Campbell was intrigued by a debate on BBC’s ‘The Big Questions’ last week. He even missed the Sunday Supplement for it. What was the debate on? What was Conor’s response?

On Sunday mornings Nicky Campbell presents a show on the BBC called ‘The Big Questions.’ Now I am not going to try and promote the show, as I usually miss it for the Sunday Supplement. I prefer my football over my religion. However as the football discussion paused for a break I flipped through the stations to see Nicky Campbell and others debating the issue ‘Has separate Catholic education fuelled segregation?’ As a ‘Catholic’ I was intrigued so I stayed to see how the debate unfolded.

As always there were the usual arguments:

  • Catholic schools teach intolerance.
  • Children should be allowed to choose their own religion.
  • Children are not religious.
  • The schools cause segregation.
  • It is very difficult for non-Catholics to go into Catholic school.
  • Faith schools increase homophobia.

I am not what would be described as a’ good catholic,’ but I do not think that means that I cannot be a good person. However I have experience of Catholic schools in Northern Ireland and southern England. Both schools taught the same syllabus and taught in very similar manner; however in leafy Surrey they do not have the same problems as those in Northern Ireland. So maybe the religious schools are not the cause of tensions in societies, maybe there are other problems that need to be investigated.

Often those who blame faith schools, tend not to move to other fields of investigation, instead they chose to intensify the argument against religion. A favourite seems to be that religion is the cause of all wars. However while I reminded myself of some of the ‘wars’ over the last century or so it seems that religion has little to do with some of them:

  • World War One had far more to do with certain countries wishing to expand
  • World War Two was a result of racial tensions, ideological differences and Germany’s need to expand. Although many will point to the Holocaust as proof of religions tensions, the fact that many camps included Russians, Gypsies, Slavs and those that were handicapped, shows National Socialism was more about racial cleansing and not particularly against religion.
  • Vietnam – predominantly a war against the spread of Communism.
  • The Cold War – Capitalism vs. Communism
  • Northern Ireland ‘Troubles’ – NOT a religious war. The division is about two communities. One community, The Nationalist/Catholic, looks to unite with the rest of Ireland and the other, Unionist/Protestant, looks to remain part of the United Kingdom.
  • Iraq was supposedly about the removal of a merciless dictator, but even if it was about oil that is still not a religious reason.

Religion is far from perfect; however blaming religious schools is too simple an answer. The people who blame religion for divisions often seem to want to accept that there could be answers. Blaming religion seems to be a tidy little way to solve the problem, however they know no-one can disprove their argument as religion will always be part of our world.

I went to a Catholic school, which did teach me Catholic principles, however it also taught me about other wordy religions. No teacher ever taught me to discriminate against anyone due to their religious beliefs, the colour of their skin, sexual preference, gender or age. Even in Northern Ireland I spent as much time socialising with Protestants as I did with Catholics.

Although religion has caused wars and tensions throughout history, those that led the crusades would probably have found some other idea to fuel their anger. So banning religious schools will not solve all our problems, it may increase them, as one of our right as a free and independent nation is our right to choose how we educate our children.

Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Article 26

  1. Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.
  2. Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.
  3. Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.


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