Atheism’s sole object is the advancement of atheism. Our ultimate goal is the end of faith – the false and irrational belief that God exists – and of religion, the social manifestation of faith. The world would be a better place without them. We aim to achieve this by opposing the propagation of faith.
The most substantial propagation of faith is from parent to child. Whilst this cannot be interfered with directly in a free society, it can be modified by education of both parent and child.
Religious education in schools is one of our main areas of concern. Schools stand in loco parentis, in a real (not just a legal) sense. And, today’s children are tomorrow’s parents.
We will campaign for the abolition of compulsory religious education (except as a branch of anthropology), collective worship and ‘faith’ schools – on the grounds that they are founded on a falsehood: God exists. We are also developing strategies to advance atheism within existing RE law.
Our report, Religious Education in State Schools, contains an in-depth study of the current regime, from an atheist standpoint. It makes a number of recommendations, upon which we base our policies and from which our campaigns will emerge.
They emphasise a “bottom-up” reform, under which parents and schools are encouraged to exploit the existing law and resources are provided to enable them to do so. However, such action may, in itself bring about changes in government and LEA policy and hasten changes in the law.
Religious Education in State Schools can be downloaded here.
Based on this report are two policy documents:-
The word “spiritual” occurs, in “spiritual development”, in two areas of education legislation: the general responsibility of the local authority for education, and general requirements in relation to curriculum.
The word is increasingly problematical in educational circles. Even under modern attempts to reinterpret it, “spiritual development” means the development of the non-material element of a human, of which there is no
such thing. We show, by analogy with recent court judgments, that there is no place in the law for such a concept.
The non-material element is intended to refer to the “personality” or “character”, but these are material things and are correctly captured by the existing word “mental”.
Therefore, the word “spiritual” should be removed from education legislation. Spiritual development is one of the main rationales for religious education.
It should not be compulsory for a maintained school to give religious education as a discrete subject. Some aspects, of religious education, should be redeployed across other National Curriculum subjects. It does not necessarily follow, however, that a maintained school should be prohibited from giving religious education, provided it was balanced and broadly based.
Pending abolition, we encourage teachers, parents and pupils to adopt a minimal interpretation of “syllabus” to enable religious education to consist mainly of comparison between religion and lack of religion, rather than comparison between different religions.
We are developing complementary policies on “faith schools”, religious education in academies and the position of teachers in relation to “faith schools” and religious education.