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God in the Schools

Oxford University

In the Mail, Peter Hitchens has a personal response to the question of religious schools in Britain. He writes:

This is a Christian country by tradition and history, and the Roman Catholic and Church of England schools now existing are there because the churches set them up in the first place, before the state got interested in education.

Personally I think they do a lot of good, and only wish the Church of England put more effort into its schools, insisting on a more definitely Christian attitude. Richard Dawkins and his friends are completely mistaken when they sneer at religious teaching of children as indoctrination of helpless victims. Children are in fact interested in all the great theological questions and are constantly asking such questions, usually beginning "Why?" and "How?"

When they grow up, they are free to reject what they have been taught - as I did for many years myself, only returning to faith after much thought and experience had persuaded me that atheism offered nothing but silence and darkness. My return was by no means automatic. Others known to me who had exactly the same kind of religious upbringing have become in one case a militant atheist and in another an army chaplain.

But at least they will know what it is that they are rejecting, and are less likely to be indifferent to this most important subject, which matters hugely in forming any kind of view of the world. . .

The vital contribution of Christianity to the founding and provision of Oxford and Cambridge and to Britain's grammar schools has long been ignored. Funny, isn't it, how automatically Christianity is criticized and how rarely anyone remembers the Church's contributions to the establishment of universities, hospitals, and hospices and to the creation of Magna Carta, common law, and the Bill of Rights?

Hitchens goes on to tackle the question of state support for Islamic religious schools.