Monthly Archives: March 2014
Big news! I’ve just been announced as a speaker at this year’s QED conference in Manchester. I’ll be on a panel with Nate Phelps, son of Fred Phelps, the infamous Westboro Baptist Church leader, and Sanal Edamaruku, president of the Indian Rationalist Association. More info on the panel here, and get your tickets here.
Now, today’s post:
ACE has tirelessly campaigned since its inception that its schools should not require state licences or qualified teachers. By 1993, it has been in more than 150 lawsuits. Today’s guest post is from JP, whose post shows what a school can be like when it’s totally unregulated. It’s the opposite of the rigid discipline I remember from my ACE days, but a whole other world of horrible. Read on to learn what happens when you use an ACE school as a place to sleep off a hangover…
After 8th grade my anxiety disorder had made itself apparent. I was thrown into the grips of not one, but two mental illnesses. I hated my life and was scared of everything. My situation got bad enough that it prevented me from attending public high school. My parents, unknowing about ACE, found New Haven Christian Academy. My dad explained to me what the school was like and took me in for a meeting. It seemed fine at first. I saw the uniforms we had to wear, long skirts and oversized polo shirts with the school emblem on the breast. I was going through a very gothy/emo-y phase at the time so I detested the clothing restrictions, but I was out of options. I began going to this school and everything went fairly well. I was a declared atheist before attending this school, and probably for the wrong reasons considering I decided to be one out of teenage angst and anger at my situation. This school scared me into religion and taught me nothing of value.
So the British Humanist Association has declared war on publicly-funded creationist nurseries in the UK. They’ve identified 67 nurseries of concern, of which nine are using the ACE curriculum. Of course, I first told you this was happening a year ago, so it’s nice to see something happening at last.
In a stupendous feat of good timing, two weeks ago a friend purchased the entire ACE kindergarten curriculum for me, so I can show you where your tax money is going if you live near one of these august institutions. Of course, we knew about the creationism already. What has shocked me (and angered me, since I went to an ACE nursery and I’d forgotten most of this) is the sexism. It turns out the rigid gender roles and wives-submit-to-your-husbands indoctrination that characterises ACE in later years begins when the pupils are aged three.
And in Britain, public funds are being used to pay for this.
As you’re no doubt bored of hearing, I was on BBC1’s The Big Questions last week, debating the question “Can children be damaged in fundamentalist religions?”.
While Twitter was busy talking about my hair, something fairly historic took place. On British television, for the first time to my knowledge, two Christians (of very different sorts) publicly denounced Accelerated Christian Education.
In the battle to save children from indoctrination and poor education, my contribution was probably the least important in the whole segment. By the end of the show, even the person they’d invited to defend fundamentalism agreed that she condemned Accelerated Christian Education. Here’s what happened.
Fundamentalists: you have not been trying very hard to save me. Either you do not really believe I am going to hell, or you do not care. Which is it?
I wasn’t going to post this until next week, but I needed to get it online while the relevant Big Questions episode is still on BBC iPlayer so you can see what I’m talking about.
Liz Weston is a member of Christ Church Southampton. She was on The Big Questions this week to defend fundamental Christianity against the charge that it is harmful to children.
Let me say this first: I like her. She got a lot of bile from Twitter atheists when the episode aired, but I chatted to her after the show and she was genuinely nice. I got the feeling that we could have spoken for a long time and found many areas of common ground. Liz was shocked by my experiences of fundamentalism and expressed genuine regret. She was also far more tolerant than I was in my fundamentalist days. I got the feeling that where we disagreed, we could have done so without it being a source of animosity.
So yes, I think Liz Weston is a good person, and that’s important to remember in light of what I’m about to say.
If I’d designed the atheist bus campaign, it would have said:
“There is definitely no hell. Now stop bothering me and enjoy your life.”
The doctrine of hell is the cause of about 95% of what’s wrong with fundamentalism. I admit that I do not know whether any gods exist, but I am certain there is no hell. And if everyone would just realise that hell is imaginary, religious conflict would mostly go away.
There’s a lot of swearing in this post. That means the people who need to hear this most will ignore me. That’s fine. There will be other posts on other days to engage sympathetically. And at this point, the bridges between me and those I criticise are mostly in flames anyway.
When Reverend Oliver Harrison spoke out against ACE in January, he wrote “I was in my twenties before anyone told me the first and most foundational truth of Christianity: namely, that God is love”. To which AislingNB replied:
‘God is love’ is an underlying basic principle which is often stated in the PACES. Perhaps your experience of ACE was negative because of the people that administered it. Don’t blame the actual curriculum for this.
Then Kara Deacon piled in:
I am an ex-pupil of the school you are criticizing… I don’t quite understand how you can say that you were not taught about the love of God because it was taught in every assembly and it was a huge part of school life.
So who’s telling the truth?
I believe all of them. I’m sure the King’s School, like all ACE schools, talked about love all the time. I’m equally sure that Oliver didn’t learn anything about real love while he was there.
It’s because when ACE talk about love, they mean something different from the rest of us. The trouble is that fundamentalism poisons the meaning of love. Yes, they talk about love all the time, but love is a stick to beat you with.