Worthless Religions

Why do so many people get so irrational when discussing religion? I realise, of course, that religion itself is completely irrational, but there’s no excuse for not discussing it rationally.

There’s a story on the BBC News site today about an Islamic school in West London. People are complaining because it uses textbooks that are offensive to other religions.

Let’s look at a couple of the supposedly offensive passages:

give examples of worthless religions… such as Judaism, Christianity, idol worship and others

Nothing wrong with that is there? Well, they’ve missed Islam off the list. All religion is worthless.

But anyone objecting to it is misunderstanding the way that religion works. At most one religion can be true (sane people know it’s fewer than that). Believers in any given religion will, of course, fervantly want to believe that it’s their chosen fairy story that is correct. Therefore they must believe that all other religions are worthless.

Here’s another “objectionable” quotation:

explain that those who die without adhering to Islam will go to hellfire

Once more, that’s just an obvious consequence of picking one supernatural explanation of the universe over the others. If someone doesn’t believe in the “one true” fairy tale then they obviously won’t be entitled to the benefits of that belief. And for both muslims and christians one of the benefits of their beliefs is that they’ll be in heaven when they die. Non-believers will be suffering in hell.

The textbook is only saying what all muslims must believe. And it’s exactly the same as (although a mirror image of) what all christians must believe. Maybe in polite society they don’t go round telling people that they’re going to hell, but it’s what they believe.

Yes, I agree that children should be taught to treat everyone with respect. And yes, it would seem that these children aren’t being taught that. But this isn’t because they are at a muslim school. It’s because they are at a religious school.

Religions teach their followers that they are better than non-believers (or, at least, that they will have a more comfortable afterlife than non-believers). That is divisive and is yet another good reason why religion should be kept out of school.


  1. Surely you’re missing the point here… telling children that other religions are worthless is contributing towards a mindset of “i’m right and you’re wrong”. That increases the risk of them growing up with an arrogance about them and almost a resentment towards other religions.OK, admittedly the very first of the 10 commandments is essentially “worship no other god”, but thats a lot better phrased than “All other gods are a lie”.You hit it on the head when you said “And it’s exactly the same as (although a mirror image of) what all christians must believe. Maybe in polite society they don’t go round telling people that they’re going to hell, but it’s what they believe.“. Thats a huge difference. Its one thing believing something and keeping it to yourself, its another thing believing it and pushing it on other people – especially children!!In case you were wondering I don’t believe in any god – I actually agree with you that believing in god is like having an invisible friend, but I wouldnt say religion was a bad thing necessarily… Theres nothing wrong with teaching people good morals and values… its just a shame that it hand in hand with believing in an omnipotent super-being that lives in the clouds!!!

  2. I think we’re in pretty broad agreement here. We both think that it’s a bad idea to teach children that their religion is the best and that other religions are worthless.Where we disagree seems to be that I think that if you teach children the facts about their religion then you are bound to get into discussions where these topics are brought up. I don’t think that you can escape it and therefore I think that you just shouldn’t teach religion to children (well, unless you’re teaching comparative religion and not implying that any religion is true).(As an aside, I’ve just reread what I’ve written above and realised that I’ve fallen into a trap that Richard Dawkins talks about in The God Delusion. I’ve talked about children having “their religion”. That’s nonsense, of course. Children don’t have a religion. What I mean is “the religion of their parents which is being forced onto them”)Also, it’s not just muslims who do this. There were recently reports of a christian teacher in the US who told muslims in his class that they were going to hell. So some christians aren’t quite as polite about it :)Of course I don’t object to people being taught morals and values. But there is no reason at all why that has to be tied up with supernatural nonsense.

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