Comic Sans, British officialspeak, and the separation of church and state

At a state comphrehensive chool in the 80s RE often taught moral & social stuff that wouldn’t fit elsewhere - I remember being taught about Aztec ritual sacrifice one week, and doing a quiz on AIDS-related facts the next. A bit more on worldwide religions would have been nice.

Suddenly strikes me - that AIDS quiz might well have been a bit of govt data hoovering as we weren’t so much ‘taught’ as ‘tested for popular misconceptions’.

I just wanted to note that I liked having religious education. Religion is a major force in the world, no harm in having some knowledge about it.

I’m against the nazis too, but I don’t advocate removing them from education :slight_smile:

We don’t have state funded schools teaching creationism, THAT is an issue, and something that happens in the US, a country that supposedly separates church and state.


Which is probably why I was taught about those things in RE. The quality of religious education, like any education, is down to the teacher.

As an athiest I agree. People that treat atheism as a faith disturb me a little.


I did RE in the '80s at a state Grammar School. I don’t remember any moral stuff (that doesn’t mean there wasn’t any), just factual stuff about world religions. There was probably a focus on Christianity, but some of that included where Christianity borrowed some of its myths from - yet another contribution to my atheism.

My school was in the middle of the most multicultural city in the UK, so our trip was easy, and free: we walked round the city centre for an afternoon, and visited the cathedral, a synagogue, a gurdwara, a mosque and a Hindu temple. A different group visited Buddhist and Jain temples.

We were generally set questions like “compare and contrast attitudes to death in Christianity and Buddhism”, or “compare ritual obligations of children in Judaism and Hinduism”, which I thought made it pretty clear the whole lot was just stories and traditions.

People from outside the UK might think after reading these posts that we in the UK have some national brainwashing scheme to turn people into obedient zealots for the State Religion, and that we urgently need a constitution, a division of church and state, and a whole slew of new laws either making this sort of thing illegal or compulsory, depending on their faith or lack of it. This is the UK folks: and some of us actually prefer to wing it rather than to set everything into laws and let expensive lawyers deal with it.

Anyhow, RE classes in the UK aren’t really ‘incredibly important’ - they way I think science or maths is. They are one period a week where, if you aren’t goofing off or staring out of the window, you may get exposed to the fact that some other people have some other beliefs. The title suggests that they do not need to address atheism at all, but the curriculum is so woolly that it is not unreasonable to bring it up one week. This exposure to religion is sufficiently slight that it probably serves as a vaccination against the full-blown disease.

I do not know why the particular teacher put that bit in the letter, but I feel they must have been provoked to make such a stand for something as harmless as the RE school expedition. A mass boycott by one faction would probably do it. Anyway, all’s well that ends well, and everyone at that school now knows a bit more about religious diversity.

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Religious education in the UK isn’t about indoctrination in any particular world view. It’s about learning the context of the world that we’re in. If you want to understand the actions of people in the world you need to have some insight into their beliefs and culture.

There’s two things wrong with the letter 1) it’s written in Comic Sans 2) it’s threatening a permanent ‘racial discrimination’ note on the students education record if they don’t attend the trip. You can’t draw an inference of racial discrimination for skiving off a school trip. “Unexplained absence” perhaps - but threatening to label someone a racist is unacceptable.

People who treat atheism as if it were a religious belief bothers me a little. People who treat atheism as the root of all evil and believe atheists are untrustworthy serpents, eager to kill everyone and bring ruin to the earth, bothers me a lot.
Most religions hate anyone who believes differently. But nearly all religions hate much more those who’d rather adhere to reason, evidence and facts. For if everyone were to deny belief in favor of facts and evidence, religion wouldn’t exist at all, and religion is really focused on perpetuating itself by any lies necessary.

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I suppose if you really really want the story to be about race, then it can be. The author of the original letter imagined it could be, and it can be for you too.

But I’d prefer if we didn’t repeat that initial ignorance. The threatened epithet of “racist” was applied wrongly because race is neither religion nor culture.

Is it racist to misunderstand what racism is? In the same way people might say, “you can’t say that, it’s racist against fat people” when they actually mean sweeping judgements and bigotry against a particular group.
So there’s your racism in the story, tenuous though it is.

Another thing about religious education in the UK (as far as I know, this applies in every one of the four national systems), Is the blurred line between religious observance, and religious education.

As has been noted, there is nothing wrong in teaching children about all the religious beliefs that exist in the world, and have an impact on it. However, in England, there is still a requirement for “daily act of collective worship” which is largely ignored, but still pernicious.

Also, I’m glad to see the typographic issue getting the prominence that it deserves.

I don’t have any proper evidence for it, but my own anecdotal data tells me that comic sans is the font of choice for many people who choose to write passive aggressive emails. I posit that this is the real reason that people hate comic sans so much.


But I am just a derpy lamb/unicorn, so what would I know?!

That takes the form of a school assembly in the morning and a prayer. It’s on a par with swearing allegiance to the flag in the USA - quaint, slightly weird and out-moded, ultimately harmless.

One obvious reason is that the school was asking the parents to pay. Primary education in the UK is supposed to be free.

We did the same thing - funny how there wasn’t a trip to the secular society. I don’t remember much, but I do remember the guy at the mosque talking about how we believed in the same god as him - maybe a good thing, but clearly we were all being assumed to be Christians.

One of the best things about my schools was that they regularly got marked down in inspections for not having a daily act of worship. RE was a bullshit mandatory class though, they should have just called it bible study.

No such luck at primary school, because I had to go to a C of E school. Now that I think about it, those trips were at primary school.

An Administrator used to dealing with children behaving like a child, excoriating adults who behave like children on behalf of the children that both the Administrator and the Parents are teaching to behave childishly.

Won’t somebody think of the children!

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That’s one of those rhetorical ‘have your cake and eat it too’ situations. I personally find it rhetorically more useful for classify atheism as a religion in discussions of policy, because that secures it protection under laws that secure freedom of religion. Arguments that Atheism is not a religion can be harmful when tossed about willy-nilly, and are pretty meaningless when the person making the statement doesn’t unpack the pet definition of ‘religion’ they are using to make that statement.

I’ve read works that posited that Christianity is not, strictly speaking, a religion, and in fact is at its core a philosophic system that directly contradicts how religious systems typically work (though in practice often perpetuates these systems rather than contradicts them). But the authors don’t just drop that rhetorical bomb and walk away. They spend a chapter (or a whole book) unpacking what exactly they mean by ‘religion’ and why the distinction they’re making is meaningful. Atheists, however, seem to mostly treat the distinction as self-evident and beg the question, which strikes me as pretty unreflective.

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I grew up in a U.S. public school, which meant no formal religious education, but I was fortunate to grow up in a city with a significant Jewish population (we got Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashannah off from school!), as well as a number of Jain, Sikh,and Hindu immigrants, which contributed to an extremely formative atmosphere of religious/cultural diversity. (Diversity along other lines wasn’t so hot - my lower-middle-class backgorund was probably the lowest economic rung in a school that was largely uber-affluent, and while we had several international students, we didn’t have very many American POC students). This was bootstrapped by my growing up in a pretty liberal Catholic church where other religions were discussed in Sunday school in a non-dismissive way, and non-Christian and non-Catholic ‘saints’ were often praised in the homilies.

It was a definitely shock to walk into a Czech public school where I taught for a year, and to see nativity creches all over the place in December. And is also quite a shock, now that I live in the American south, to encounter unambiguous Christmas Parades run by the city and Christmas Plays performed in the public schools, which both strike me as totally inappropriate, despite the largely secular/material trappings of that particular holiday.

As a teen I went to ‘Army Cadet’ summer camps (a Canadian thing). Every Sunday we were expected to (literally marched over to) attend ‘chapel’. No big deal for most of us, but a few of the kids were neither Protestant nor Catholic, which were the only 2 options available.

On arrival the sergeant would sort us according to each faith. In practice the sorting was into ‘Catholic’ and “other” as all the Buddhists, atheists and others were sent to the Protestant chapel. Humorous if it wasn’t so appallingly narrow.*

*my understanding is that the Cdn. Forces has changed dramatically in the last 30 years and now is extremely inclusive, this story is dated.