‘It is time that the Scottish Education became fully secular – hence all religious practice should be removed’
This was the motion that Abertay University set for me to debate with my old sparring partner Alistair McBay of the National Secular Society (Sadly Megan Crawford of the Scottish Secular Society was unable to attend). The debate was well attended and went well. You can listen to it by clicking on the Sound Cloud link below – this is a recording from a students phone so is not high quality but you can get the gist and hear the content fine. I would suggest that by far the most interesting bit is the Q and A about half way through….
There was a vote before hand with roughly two thirds being in favour of the motion and one quarter against. After the debate there was another vote and although there was a little movement in my favour (two people changed to me and one went to Alistair), that was not the real point. I found the whole thing fascinating and enlightening. Alistair is a good speaker, but he said nothing that I had not heard before. What was much more interesting was the reaction of the students. The vast majority of the questions were for me.
Here are some of the basic lessons I would take from this:
- Students and academics in general have little or no idea about religion in general and Christianity in particular.
- Ignorance leads to prejudice, mockery and intolerance. Consider this – a majority of students in this debate voted that all religious practice should be removed from education. Even for those who want it. There is no equality, diversity and tolerance here!
- Atheistic Secularists have faith that their secularism is neutral, when clearly it is not. This is the most dangerous kind of prejudice, because if your default emotion is that your view only is the obvious right one, then you are not able to consider other viewpoints.
- The Christian worldview is rational, consistent and wholistic. In the post-modern market place of ideas we have the best product! We also have by far the most radical. We are not the ones defending the status quo to the priveliged! We are challenging it.
- When students are presented with an alternative viewpoint many are open to consider something they had never thought about before. I had several conversations afterwards which showed that. Kudos to Abertay University for allowing this kind of discussion and debate. Many secular institutions are so convinced of their own superiority that they would never think of allowing an alternative point of view.
- Therefore Christians need to be in the public square – not ‘defending’ the faith just in our own churches, but rather ‘attacking’ (questioning, undermining, challenging) the faith/presuppositions/prejudices of those who have been indoctrinated into the secularist worldview. We need to do so in an open, tolerant, loving, gracious, humorous, brave and intelligent manner. I know I fail in this in many ways – but at least I try.