Education Radio

Debate with Terry Sanderson of the National Secular Society on Evangelicals infiltrating State Schools!

Debate with Terry Sanderson of the National Secular Society on Evangelicals infiltrating State Schools!

This is a somewhat ‘feisty’ debate between myself and Terry Sanderson, the President of the National Secular Society on ‘Unbelievable’ on Premier Radio in London. It was difficult because I was in the midst of a conference in Ukraine, had just delivered a lecture and was due to give another.  I recorded it over an Iphone in my lunch break.  I was expecting a different opponent, they sent Terry at the last minute (I think because he had debated me before).  I was disappointed that I did not pick up on a couple of things and that it ended more abruptly than I expected.  Obviously I am too close to it to make an objective judgement but it seems to me that Terry had no answer to what was being said and that his case was totally destroyed.  For me it was good to expose the myth of secular neutrality.  But you might think otherwise so it would be good to get your feedback.


  1. David –

    Honest impression: Content 9/10, Presentation 6/10 (suppressing personality is difficult).

    I read the report just before listening to the programme. Like Copson (British Humanist Association – both gay activists….coincidence?), Sanderson tries to win votes by speaking in calm and measured tones which conveys the impression that he must be right….he’s thought it all through and if you were only to sit down and do the same, in an objective manner, you too would see the light. “There there, I used to have a Sky daddy too, you know, but I ditched him along with Santa Claus.” A casual listener would have heard a rather angry Christian attacking a nice man who just wants children in school not to be indoctrinated by “Bible bashers”. Folk like that minister who got arrested in Dundee City centre for preaching at people. Surely that’s a good thing?! I don’t want my wee boy subjected to that.

    Sanderson denied that the report says what should happen in schools. This was disingenuous. It most certainly says what should not be happening in schools but as you pointed out, it gives no factual evidence or statistics to give credibility to the claimed significance of the findings. You commented that the report was trying to create a problem where none existed. There is a problem, but it’s only a problem for atheists and I’m quite sure that every one of the emails and letters to the NSS was from an anti-theist, not a neutral observer, the vast majority of whom will not have heard of the NSS. Let’ see the numbers and let’s hear their personal views on Christianity.

    Church attendance is not declining because people have tried Christianity and rejected it. It is because they are not exposed to it and are being indoctrinated against it by an all-pervading anti-Christian message in the media and other sections of society.

    I have no knowledge of the current situation with Christian groups in schools generally but I find it hard to believe that students (pupils in my day) are being rounded up for proselytisation. Surely attendance at SU meetings etc is voluntary? And are those children who attended (or healed at) the Prayer International meetings happier or unhappier than they were before? This is my problem with the whole attitude of secularists – why is Christianity bad for people or bad for society? Show us the evidence in our current society. Watch Wiliam Lane Craig debating God with atheist physicist, Lawrence Krauss and see who you think is the better person. Where “better” has the sense of goodness and rightness.

    I would welcome the removal of RE from our schools with replacement by a class on Worldviews. A class where religious and non-religious worldviews and philosophies are explained, discussed and debated. Indeed, the “Unbelievable” show would be a good model. Unfortunately, I doubt that many of the students coming out of our state schools will have been provided with the necessary knowledge and thinking skills to allow them to engage with such sophisticated discussion. I also doubt that Sanderson and his ilk would want the “Unbelievable” show or something like it to be aired to schoolchildren in case they hear too much of the other side and start thinking.

    Bring on Peter Hitchens 🙂


  2. David

    Like William Lane Craig, you are all too eager to pronounce yourself the victor in many clashes, when an objective view of the encounter reveals no such thing.

    I thought you came across as bad tempered, bullying, patronising, mocking and dogmatic while your opponent was calm, collected, had an answer to all of your charges and quite rightly hauled you up on taking the discussion away from the agreed topic and straw manning his arguments.

    I also think it’s rather disingenuous of you not to link to the NSS’ original report (PDF
    ) and summary article in order for listeners to make up their own minds, so I will do so for you.

    Although the report does not amass a wealth of statistical evidence, it does raise legitimate concerns from parents who object to Christian evangelists proselytising in schools and this is a matter that deserves a frank and honest discussion without vacuous, sarcastic putdowns such as atheists and secularists are “living in a fantasyland” and performing a “stand up comedy routine”.

    Best regards


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