Conversations with an atheist on state education


I contributed last week to a debate on the Daily Telegraph forum which proposed the ending of state funding of faith schools.

In response, I pointed out that secularism or atheism is a faith position, where faith as the assent to a creed or belief which cannot be proved. The state has three options with respect to education:

  1. the state can fund all forms of education as people off all faiths are tax payers.
  2. the state can fund no eduction and allow parents to organise themselves into schools.
  3. the state can fund eduction according to majority faith of the state (secularism, atheism), but his would be tyrannical, discriminatory and unjust.

This generated a response from an atheist who argued that atheism is not a faith:

Atheism is not a belief that god does not exist, it is a rejection of claims that he does based on a complete and utter lack of evidence. In short it is a rejection of faith.

My response was:

You can’t reject belief in God based on a lack of evidence unless you know that you have complete knowledge and have exhausted the lines of enquiry. To reject belief in God is, therefore, to claim that you know everything. I assume you do not think you are omniscient and so for you to believe there is no God you are either acting in faith or arrogance.

If atheism is faith, then all schools or none should be state funded (options 1 and 2).  If it is arrogance then atheists have no right to stop state funding of religious schools but could act in tyranny, ignorance and bigotry by doing so (option 3).

[I seem to remember this argument from apologetics 2.2 with Mike Ovey at Oak Hill].

Advertisements
This entry was posted in Inner City Ministry, Other matters and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Conversations with an atheist on state education

  1. morsec0de says:

    “You can’t reject belief in God based on a lack of evidence unless you know that you have complete knowledge”

    Wrong.

    In no way was he, or atheists in general, claiming absolute knowledge. His statement stands. Atheism is a rejection of the claims of religion due to lack of evidence. Unless or until those religions present any good evidence, or evidence at all, then there is no reason to believe them.

  2. neilrobbie says:

    Hi Morsec0de, welcome to TG.

    Can we focus on the issue of state funded education?

    Let’s grant, for the sake of the argument, that atheists want evidence for faith and Christians say “there is lots of evidence why don’t you look at creation, read the bible and Timothy Keller’s “The reason for God”? and the atheist says “I’ve looked at the natural world and read both books and don’t believe that evidence.” There is now an impasse.

    Why should the atheist be permitted to lobby for the withdrawal of state funded faith based schools on the basis of an impasse?

    • morsec0de says:

      Because ‘evidence’ isn’t just a word. It has a specific definition. It doesn’t matter what the believers’ opinion is of what counts as evidence. The term can’t just be changed to be used for anything.

  3. neilrobbie says:

    I reject your definition of “evidence” and we still have an impasse. Why should the state not fund faith schools?

  4. neilrobbie says:

    And the Christian would say the same of a secular/atheist school.

    Shall we draw stumps? This dialogue is going nowhere.

    • morsec0de says:

      Except there are no atheist schools.

      And secular schools allow anyone to join. They don’t have doctrine that say non-secular people are evil and will be tortured and can’t join their schools.

  5. neilrobbie says:

    Can you tell me what do you know about the British education system at present and the nature of the debate? I ask because I think it is why we are talking past each other. The situation in the UK is not the same as the States.

  6. You can’t reject belief in God based on a lack of evidence unless you know that you have complete knowledge and have exhausted the lines of enquiry.

    Patently absurd. The claim is “god exists”, not “god does not exist”. Thus, because there is no support for the former claim, it is irrational to accept it. QED. I find the claim that the atheist is being arrogant when it is the theist who claims knowledge that he/she can not possibly have laughable. You opened the door on this, not morse.

    3.the state can fund eduction according to majority faith of the state (secularism, atheism), but his would be tyrannical, discriminatory and unjust.

    No. First, secularism is not a faith. It is the principle people are treated equally without regard to their religious belief and is the only way to treat people of faith and those without equally. There is no imposition here.

    Nor is atheism a faith. Believing that a god or gods exist is not a religion either. They are simply positions on a proposition. I was unaware that public school systems are being based on atheism. Or are you confusing secularism and atheism, as so many curiously do?

  7. neilrobbie says:

    Hello Shamelessly Atheist, welcome to transforming grace.

    In the realm of education what is the practical difference between secular education (assuming all knowledge is material) and atheist (assuming God does not exist and that, therefore, all knowledge is material)?

    Neil

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s