I have a quiz for you all and I expect you to give it your fullest attention and no cheating by reading down the blog to get the answers!
What connects the following and where do the words come from?
- The sword of my youth
- Strong hands skilled at the plane and the lathe
- The cold wind in the winter
- The verge of Jordan
- My table
- A mighty army
- Toil and tribulation
Whilst you think about the answer let me tell you that this morning I was once again called upon to bring order to the universe by adding just a smidgeon of common sense and wisdom to a radio debate about god in school.
The question posed was, should god be allowed in school and my initial thought was that he should only be allowed in if he has a current Police check.
Only jesting my little lemmings, he might pass a Police check but as for his son, well that's another question. He asked for little children to come unto him and I don't think head teachers should allow that in school. (Catholics might take exception here).
The real point of this drivel is to explore the relevance of a collective act of worship in school, which is set down in law as something that should take place although a survey discovered that it doesn't - well not much.
Back to the radio where the argument for worship, and specifically Christian worship, was advanced by a lady vicar - not many of them in the Christian bible! The case against was delivered by a very grumpy member of the Secular Society who blames religion for all the worlds wrongs.
There were others who added their own thoughts, 'normal people' whose opinions should not be allowed on the BBC. The majority seemed to suggest that singing hymns and saying prayers in school prevented this country turning into a moral desert. Balderdash!
My few well chosen words of wisdom suggested that most people are moderate in their approach to this argument, but that the elevation of a Christian ethos as being more significant than any other was arrogant - that was the word I used my children; arrogant.
I suggested that a 'teach not preach' stance was probably what most people would find acceptable. Teach young people about various philosophies and religions and allow them to make up their mind - don't confuse the issue by saying there are many different ways to live but in this school we pray to Jesus because if you don't you're not British nor law abiding!
Some with a strong anti-religious view point will often say that children are born atheist and that enforced acts of worship are child abuse. That devalues the damage of real abuse so I don't subscribe to that argument.
It also strikes me as too simplistic and I don't really see how a baby can make the decision not to believe in something they are not yet aware of!
It's like saying I don't like the taste of marmite without ever having it in your mouth. If you like it you can swallow it, as some swallow religion.
Some would say we are all born with the love of god in our soul - and it would seem from recent scientific research that mankind as a species has developed a sense of common humanity and decency in that we want to support each other. But goodness does not lie solely within the purview of god - the Christian god that is.
We are all born with the capacity to think and learn and again, for me, this makes 'teach not preach' a good way forward. Give young people information and let them make a reasoned decision.
In America, religion is not allowed in school. The law states that actions in schools should 'neither advance nor inhibit religion'. Religion is still quite big in America, so keeping it out of the classroom doesn't seem to affect it adversely.
Let us drift back in time, to that little village where I raised. When I was a tiny little guru I went to a C of E school and we sang hymns to Jesus and we said prayers and the local vicar, Basil Spencer, came into the classroom and spoke to us about the bible. Singing those hymns and saying those prayers did not stop me in later life from making a decision to live without god, so I suppose you could argue that I am living proof that collective acts of worship might not be totally harmful?
But at school we were never taught about Hinduism, Buddhism, Shintoism, Sikhism, Islam, Judaism or Humanism - we were given no choice and again this is why I have an issue with the arrogance and power of an established church in England.
What I can never know is what might have happened in my life if I was told at ten or twelve that it was OK to think about living a life without god.
What I was unable to discover until much later in life is that life without god can be a life of value.
I believe my life is an equally moral life when compared to some of the hypocrites who drag their sorry arses to church each Sunday.
Ranting about moral deserts and how Hitler never sang Away In A Manger and that's what made him evil - well that doesn't really do anyone any good.
By the way, I'm really fed up with being compared with Hitler and Stalin just because I don't believe in god - yes they were not the nicest of men but let me offer for your consideration the actions of some real god fearing fellows, from history we have Torquemada and then a more recent addition to the Christians who kill brigade - Anders Behring Breivik.
Anyway, the answer to the questions - they are all lines from hymns I still recall singing at school:
- When A knight won his spurs
- Lord of all hopefulness
- All things bright and beautiful ( which should be banned as it is creationist propaganda)
- Guide me O thou great redeemer
- The Lord's my shepherd
- Onward Christian soldiers
- The churches one foundation
Off you go now, you well informed rascals. Go out into the world and spread the word of Teach not Preach...if that's what you decide to do!