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> Religious Freedom Versus Freedom Of Speech, the unstopable force meets the immovable
bryden42
post Jan 30 2006, 08:03 PM
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Ok, So I am all up for free speech and whilst not a great fan of religion I also up for anyone believing in whatever they wish but an interesting situation arose for a teacher friend of mine the other week and I thought that I would field it to you guys to discuss.

It goes like this:
Teacher is asked by small girl (who is a Pentacostalist christian)
"how long can someone hold their breath for?"
Teacher (with alarm bells ringing) asks
"Why do you want to know?"
Little girl replies
"last Sunday the pastor was telling us about jonah and the whale, And I was wondering how long jonah could have held his breath for"
Teacher replies
"I think that that story is meant to be allegorical"
Small child gets Irate and says
"No its not our pastor says so, and he said that anyone that saidit was is going to hell"

Now there are a number of things that concern me about this story (Respect for elders and the brainwashing of small children not withstanding) what concerns me here though is the fact that after the outburst the teacher in question left the conversation and walked away, Why? because of fear of losing a job. This leads me to the question where do you draw the line between being able to say what you want despite the religious implications and religion being able to control what is said, for example the Hamas party has recently said that it does not recognise Israel and its right to exist or believe what it does (not an exact quote but deffinately the upshot of).
Of course I don't recognise any religions right to tell me what I can or cannot say or do does this make me an extremist? (of course I have enough respect for others beliefs to live and let live).

Any body else any thoughts?


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beleraphon
post Jan 30 2006, 10:12 PM
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interesting

I'd have bounced it back to the childs preacher, let him explain.
Tell the child that humans can be starved of oxygen for about 4 mins before brain damage starts to occur, and most people can hold their breath for about 1 minute without too much discomfort. Without oxygen humans die.

Its easier to say - "I don't know how Jonah survived inside the whale, he should have died under those conditions" than to try and explain the concept of alegory to a small child, or to contradict someones faith.

Then again, if the preacher had any sense then he'd be telling the child that under 'normal' circumstances Jonah would have perished inside the whale - but that because god can do miracles Jonah survived.

That way you are not damaging the childs faith and scientific fact is preserved.

I'd say it was a very irresponsible and close-minded 'elder' who told the child that story.


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Mata
post Jan 31 2006, 12:19 AM
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The expression of beliefs is always a tricky thing. An extreme socialist might feel that their views on racial purity are logical, but that doesn't necessarily mean that they should be given the right to attempt to convince others.

In the example given, the responsibility for upholding a logical argument clearly rests with the pastor, and the best response would be to let the pastor deal with it. The simple answer is simply that Jonah survived through the miraculous will of God. It's simple, it's easy, and it does not require scientific evidence. I don't have any problem at all with religions that say 'it's a miracle, so that's why it doesn't make rational sense'. I start having issues when people like Creationists start trying to tell me that they have a logical faith.

For me, logic has to be the underpinning of arguments, and beyond that faith is needed. I don't mind faith at all, I have a fair bit of it myself, as long as it is kept discrete from the process of logical rationalisation. When you start demanding rationalisation of the precise physical method emplyed by God to keep Jonah alive, for example, then you're taking the whole thing too far. You can say it's an allegory, you can say it was a miracle, but saying that it happened through a rational natural process just bugs me!


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Calantyr
post Jan 31 2006, 12:40 AM
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She asked the question to the teacher. They is perfectly within her rights to answer that to the best of their ability. That could be, a human can hold their breath for a maximum of two minutes if they are extremely fit.

If she doesn't like that answer? Well that's her fault. She shouldn't have asked the question if she isn't prepared for someones honest answer.

"But my pastor said this!" Well good for him. Get him to explain it then. You don't like my explanation? Well stop asking me questions.

Bah. I hate kids. And I hate indoctrinated kids even more.

In fact I hate a lot of things at the moment.

*Is filled with generic rage.*


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Mata
post Jan 31 2006, 12:12 PM
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It would certainly be an interesting test case. I'm not sure what the argument would be against the teacher: clearly there would be some approach stating that they were infringing the religious wishes of the family, but the teacher is employed by the state to educate and give accurate information to students who ask for it. Any ruling suggesting that the teacher should not answer questions about the natural operation of the world, in case a physics lesson demonstrates that water does not spontaneously turn into wine, would be very interesting to see enforced.

To me, a teacher's duty is to inform students about the operation of the natural world. The duty of religious leaders appears to be to convince people that there are also potential supernatural events in the world, and a religion teacher is there to explain the competing supernatural interpretations of the world. The teacher's answer about Jonah should be accurate, and the child's questions about the contradiction between that and the Bible story should then be explained with 'that's why it's regarded as a miracle. I don't teach the Bible, so you'd better talk to your pastor about that.'

I think that the concept of miracles is important in life, because serendipity is necessary for optimism. Christianity can provide a reasonable and ethical approach to the world, but it also needs to recognise that it is primarily a moral framework, and such things need to be adaptive to help their believers function in society. The teachings of Jesus are basically sound, the problems come when all Bible stories are understood and taught as being the literal truth. Not having any faith in the possibility of miraculous luck would sap any hope for good outcomes in bad situations. Yes, it's more rational to believe that bad events result in bad endings, but isn't it more useful to believe that, by apparent luck, great benefits can come out of bad times?

That's a little off-topic, but my point is that I think that the teaching of miracles to children has its place in building an optimistic view of the world at an early age. We can all get bitter and cynical when we're older, but if we once believed in magic I think that helps us get through life. Yes, there are levels to this so indoctrination must be viewed differently from promoting an open and curious mind, but I think that overall it can create a happier adult.


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Calantyr
post Jan 31 2006, 05:44 PM
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Oh I'm not saying we should beat all sense of miracle and wonder out of our children. I believe that that there are certainly things to existance that are completely unknowlable and as such to restrict ourselves to only cold science... well... its somewhat limiting...

And as for various mythologies, religions, or even folk tales? Well they build character, enrich our world, and give people hope.

But as you say, they are different spheres. Teachers teach observeable facts and 'truths' obtained through the scientific method. Simply how things appear to be and what we can reason is probable. It doesn't have to step on the toes of religion at all. They are different ways of understanding the world. Learning either doesn't negate the other. If you don't believe in science? Well good for you. If you can find another explanation, great.

However that doesn't give you the right to belittle people who teach science.

Gah. I'm not sure if I'm making any sense. I was watching Dawn of the Dead while typing this.


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bryden42
post Jan 31 2006, 07:25 PM
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just to add to this, I heard on the radio on the way home about the new laws the government are putting through the system at the moment regarding incitment to religious hatred and the demonstrations that are going on outside of parliament.

What I find scary about my teacher friends situation is that 2 thirds (about 150) of the children at the school go to the same churchand hold the same beliefs.

My other issue is what kind of response do you want from a biology teacher, yes the 1 to 2 minute breath holding but do you then not want them to bring up stomach acids and the effects of depth pressure on a body or a whole host of other things that a biology teacher knows about.

Yes Mata I agree with you about the teachers place and the pastors place and all about the place of belief and wonder in a persons life.

I suppose that one of the other things I was trying to bring up was that whilst this child is just that, A child, the point of view she displayed wasn't unrepresentative of a lot of parties (both religious and not) that i have heard (hamas, Protestant v catholic etc) who espouse the oppinion that not only are they right but that everyone else shouldn't be allowed to entertain any other view.


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Museum Girl
post Jan 31 2006, 08:27 PM
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The teacher ought to be able to explain biological fact but then add on something like "but you and your church believe that Jonah could do this because of god" or something. Explain what would normally happen but then say but Jonah didn't die because it was a mircle and miracles happen outside of normal science according to (insert religion here).

What do I know though, I got expelled from Sunday school.
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Astarael
post Feb 1 2006, 12:25 AM
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All of the above advice sounds sensible. When the kid gets bratty and fussy about "my pastor said so," explain that it's considered a miracle for a reason (outside natural possibilities) and then move on. Believing in miracles does do a lot for you later in life, but teachers should be able to explain natural law without offending little kids.
It's also annoying that the teacher was in danger of losing her job because the kid could have had so much control, but that's another subject.
How on earth can you be expelled from Sunday School? blink.gif


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sjbbandgeek
post Feb 1 2006, 12:55 AM
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In California, a teacher can tell a student that there is no God, Santa, or Easter Bunny with the knowledge that it would take over a year for them to potentially lose their job. Then they pull the First Amendment Card and all hell breaks loose.
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Phyllis
post Feb 1 2006, 02:55 AM
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QUOTE (sjbbandgeek @ Jan 31 2006, 04:55 PM)
In California, a teacher can tell a student that there is no God, Santa, or Easter Bunny with the knowledge that it would take over a year for them to potentially lose their job. Then they pull the First Amendment Card and all hell breaks loose.
*

I'm sorry, but what on earth are you talking about? Do you have any specific cases to cite as evidence?


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sjbbandgeek
post Feb 1 2006, 05:11 AM
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I apologise for exaggerating the comment. As far as I'm concerned, such issues do not happen frequently and they are usually minor.
My thoughts were mostly fueled by a horrible personal expirience in which I had little to no grasp on life and having many difficulties with schooling. Most of the difficulties arose from one individual teacher, whose political bias interrupted class progress. A few years later, I've sorted things out and am doing fine in school. But that teacher, who is not worthy of the title, still has a job. That is my basic problem with the school system.
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Daedalus
post Feb 1 2006, 10:27 PM
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Seems like a fairly hefty grudge to hold against someone for letting slip that santa isn't real...

EDIT: And hooray for Labour "rebels"

EDIT 2: http://politics.guardian.co.uk/homeaffairs...1699343,00.html


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beleraphon
post Feb 2 2006, 05:50 PM
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QUOTE (Astarael @ Feb 1 2006, 12:25 AM)
How on earth can you be expelled from Sunday School? blink.gif
*


In my case?

Starting a fight with the girl who got to play Mary in the Nativity laugh.gif
(I was playing a shepherd and hit her with my toy sheep)


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Jonman
post Feb 2 2006, 07:58 PM
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QUOTE (Astarael @ Feb 1 2006, 01:25 AM)
How on earth can you be expelled from Sunday School? blink.gif
*



I'd imagine it can't be that tough. Mumble something about everyone's soul belonging to Shaitan, and touch yourself in your fun places. Ought to do the job.


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Museum Girl
post Feb 2 2006, 08:47 PM
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QUOTE (Astarael @ Feb 1 2006, 01:25 AM)
How on earth can you be expelled from Sunday School? blink.gif
*


My Mum didn't like me going but my gran insisted, and it was this happy clappy church so when I was four mum taught me some "real theology" all about god punishing people and soddom and gomorrah and, being four, I repeated it all with glee (think Jeanette Winterson in Oranges are Not the only Fruit). I made the other children cry and the teacher asked my mother if we were catholics or Jewish or something then told her I wasn't welcome to come back until we sorted out the "little doctrinal problem" (my mum's really proud of this and still tells everyone).
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Astarael
post Feb 2 2006, 09:32 PM
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That would just about do it. I was a bit puzzled because even the people who misbehave horribly are pretty much just dragged back into my Sunday School. Their theory seems to be that you need more Sunday School to become a better person, but the kids who resent coming back just cause problems.
Anyway, the freedom of speech versus not harming people with your speech issue often has a fuzzy line. Some teachers probably are pretty fanatic about some topic or other in a way that hurts students, but sometimes the whole thing swings too far the other direction, so that teachers can't say anything for fear of offending the student's sensibilities.


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sjbbandgeek
post Feb 3 2006, 04:44 AM
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Teachers do not have the responsibility to discuss God or Politics unless it is within the class sylibus. Even in such classes, the teacher must remain neutral. When it comes to four year olds, the parents should be the authority on these topics.
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Wookiee
post Feb 3 2006, 12:10 PM
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I thought this thread might have something to do with Denmark, but it doesn't. However, seems as good a place as any to point out how nuts most of Islam is, out there chanting "Death to Denmark!" and burning Danish, Norwegian and Swedish flags. I'm not sure what Norway and Sweden actually did, but I suspect it has something to do with them just being generally Scandinavian.


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beleraphon
post Feb 3 2006, 12:52 PM
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QUOTE (Wookiee @ Feb 3 2006, 12:10 PM)
I thought this thread might have something to do with Denmark, but it doesn't. However, seems as good a place as any to point out how nuts most of Islam is, out there chanting "Death to Denmark!" and burning Danish, Norwegian and Swedish flags. I'm not sure what Norway and Sweden actually did, but I suspect it has something to do with them just being generally Scandinavian.
*


A danish newspaper printed some cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammad - Muslims do not have pictures of their holy people, its against the faith to show anything like that.
These cartoons were less than flattering as well - making observations about the recent violence that has been carried out 'in the name of Islam' by some groups.

Naturally this caused a lot of upset as it was a double-insult to the Islamic faith, and more radical groups have definatly over-reacted.
The more moderate groups have been a lot better - they complained and some people are boycotting Danish goods in peaceful protest, its a minority who have gone mental - burning Danish flags, threats, violence and so on.

Most of europe is a bit suprised about it all, and the general feeling is that they need to calm down and lighten up!

Try the BBC news site for more infomation.


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Mata
post Feb 3 2006, 01:24 PM
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They are completely right to be incensed by the cartoons, because, as the Muslims on the news said yesterday, no-one would ever tolerate other religions' prohpets having the piss taken out of them...





Err... Okay, scrap that first bit...


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Calantyr
post Feb 3 2006, 01:41 PM
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I like how lots of them are complaining that the cartoons portray Muslims as violent and bloodthirsty. In retaliation they are threatening to kill Scandinavian aid workers.

...

Well I'm glad they've banished any misconceptions I may have had.


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beleraphon
post Feb 3 2006, 01:53 PM
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just remeber that its only a minority of muslims who have reacted so drastically - I'm pretty sure most of them don't care and wish the nutters would shut up and go away so that everyone can get on with a normal life!


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Calantyr
post Feb 3 2006, 02:07 PM
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Oh believe me, I don't think that every Muslim is carrying a backpack full of C4. Far from it. However the outbust is rather dispreportionate when compared to other religions.

This really wouldn't have been an issue if they hadn't been fired up though. If I recall correctly, the cartoons had been out for ages and there was little commotion. Only after certain individuals went about drumming up resentment did the feces hit the rotating cooling appliance.

This really is a clash of cultures that throws things into harsh relief. In our western society restricting free speach is the ultimate tabboo. In the muslim world, portraying Mohammad in such a way can be considered the same. I'm not sure if there is any room for compromise.


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beleraphon
post Feb 3 2006, 07:34 PM
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And the paper that printed the pictures was deliberatly fishing for a reaction - its not the Danish equivelent of the Times, more like a tabloid!


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