Yet another crappy article in my local paper, the Waterloo Region Record. This time it's about the Waterloo Region school board's decision to end the practice of distributing Gideon bibles in school.
From the headline ("Bible ban in schools ignores its influence") to the content, the article is misleading and inaccurate. Nothing was "banned" by the Board's decision. Students are free to bring bibles to school, and bibles aren't being removed from libraries. The only thing that was changed by the decision is that an explicitly evangelical organization will no longer be allowed special dispensation from a public school board to distribute its sacred text to a captive audience of 5th graders, a right granted to no other organization and no other religion.
The author's article, Liz Monteiro, didn't interview a single person in favor of the decision. False claims by Cindy Watson, the school board trustee who voted in favor of continuing the practice of distributing bibles, that it is "not proselytizing", were allowed to go unchallenged. David Seljak, who is usually sensible, is quoted as saying "To eliminate the study of religion from our curriculum is an exercise on mythmaking that borders on propaganda." Only problem? Nothing about "eliminat[ing] the study of religion" was at issue in the School Board's vote.
Andrew Mills, a youth pastor, is allowed to make the remarkable claim that "It's a false dichotomy to think faith is opposed to learning." Well, let's go to Wilmot Centre Missionary Church and see how many books on evolutionary biology (not creationist books) are in their library. Of course faith is opposed to learning. By its very definition, faith leads to beliefs that cannot be questioned and cannot be swayed by evidence.
All in all, more lousy reporting from the Record.
Saturday, June 25, 2011
More Lousy Reporting from the Record
Posted by Jeffrey Shallit at 8:45 PM
Labels: Gideons, religion, shoddy journalism
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"Of course faith is opposed to learning. By its very definition, faith leads to beliefs that cannot be questioned and cannot be swayed by evidence."
Indeed, indeed. But try to convince about this any religious person, even educated ones, even mathematicians, even scientists. At this very moment, they will start uttering the most irrational things in order to convince you that faith and learning are compatible. For example, they will say that proofs are in their holy text, AS IF those texts are not based on faith. Go figure...
By its very definition, faith leads to beliefs that cannot be questioned and cannot be swayed by evidence.
Say you're a 5th grader, not unlike those mentioned in the article. You have faith in your geography teacher. She tells you that the capital of Azerbaijan is Ankara, and you believe it. Your belief came about because of faith; faith led to your belief. But surely this is not a belief that "cannot be questioned and cannot be swayed by evidence" -- any reasonable person would be swayed by evidence. (And depending on various circumstances, your faith in your teacher may not be diminished by any significant amount.)
Which is all a way of asking: what definition of "faith" are you using?
displayname: Looks like you are a 5th grader, otherwise you wouldn't have such a naive dilemma. Think harder and you'll find the answer. Or one of the readers may tell you the solution....
I could be wrong here, but I heard that in order to get a copy of the New Testament, the 5th graders had to take a form home and have it signed by their parents. If this is true, then it might not be entirely honest to say the 5th graders were a 'captive audience'. It would have been essentially a parent's decision, not a 5th grader's. Like I said, however, this is only what I heard and I could be wrong.
Liz Monteiro appears to be The Record's religion writer.
"Good" reporters are all currently having trouble with the idea that there aren't always "two sides to an issue" and that giving equal time to what constitutes a narrow fringe isn't balanced reporting. I don't expect much from Liz.
A quick search turned up this gem from Oct 31, 2010: http://www.catch21.ca/Life/faith/article/803474 "Waterloo Region churchgoers shunning the dark side of Halloween". Seriously? I suppose that adults who believe fairy tales are susceptible to other ridiculous stories.
The part that made me laugh was the closing line: " 'If you live in a world in which dark powers are at work, then you are living in a dangerous world and therefore you must exercise caution,' said Seljak. " I agree. Organized Religion is a dark power that's done great harm.
"By its very definition, faith leads to beliefs that cannot be questioned and cannot be swayed by evidence."
No, faith may lead to such unquestioned beliefs.
Takis, your reply to "displayname" had no substance except insult.
Miranda! Hello, long time no see. You made my day (well, night really, here in Sweden, albeit a very short one these days). Thanks. Indeed, this is what I meant to do, you got it: to point out the naiveté of this person's writing.
Actually, I kind of like to make fun of people who are stupid enough to utter such things. As an example, I will refer you to my most recent posting on my blog: Please take a look and I'm sure you'll agree that this person (his name is Steve Fuller) is hopeless. Just like Mr or Mrs displayname above.
Well, Takis, do you agree with Shallit that "faith leads to beliefs that cannot be questioned and cannot be swayed by evidence" or do you agree with me that faith may lead to such beliefs"
Miranda: I was replying to your comment on me: "Takis, your reply to "displayname" had no substance except insult." And I did.
I'm sure Shallit can reply to your questions, if he wants.
(I see, you still have your good old habit of acting like a policeman. Grumpy old schoolteacher, I said once. I wouldn't know because you post anonymously.)
Well, Takis, I think you actually agree with me (my 10:13 post) but are ashamed to admit it.
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