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Spats and Stats

Currently having a bit of a spat in the comments section on a Christina Odone article (on page 3 at the moment) – not with the Blessed Christina herself – mainly with someone called geoffreysmith1.

Although it’s pretty standard fare for faith schools apologists (faith schools teach morality and discipline, they cater for the children of the faithful who should have such schooling provided for them) it does raise an interesting question.

I am pretty sure that at my church the vast majority of the parents of school-age children attending are only there to get the vicar’s signature. (See this post for background.) But I only know this anecdotally. I am very friendly with two sets of parents attending church and know that none of them is the slightest bit religious – in fact we often compare notes on the bits we really can’t stand in the service: for me it’s the blood sacrifice and all the I-am-not-worthy parts; for the mother of one couple we know it was the smug superiority in a recent sermon that nearly had her walking out.

To be fair, there are also the obviously religious Mr & Mrs Faith-Head in the congregation. Most parents I do not know and so don’t know why they are there – or how genuine their belief is.

geoffreysmith1 says in my response to my comment that evidence in this area is hard to come by: if you are pretending to be religious in order to get into the school of your choice you’re obviously not going to say so!:

Oh, you do sound depressed and disconsolate!
All that research and nothing to show for it.
Perhaps the evidence you are trying to find doesn’t actually exist?
Have you thought of that possibility?

I have thought of it but discount it in the light of what I’ve experienced. However, I could be wrong: it would be good to have some hard figures to back this up. As far as I can tell, no-one has done this research. Partly because, as I have said, if you are in my position you are unlikely to admit it publicly, but partly because no-one has a great interest in doing this research: certainly not the Church as it would undermine the credibility of its – already declining – attendance figures. Nor the Department for Education as it might undermine its parental-choice-good and faith-schools-good mantras.

Possibly the British Humanist Association or the Accord Coalition might want to do the research. But they may lack the resources or the access to congregations and schools that would be needed.

It may be difficult to do this research but is probably not impossible. Daniel Dennett and Linda LaScola recently produced a report called Preachers who are not Believers (PDF) on a similar topic. It would be good to see someone have a go at doing this for faith schools.

  1. Stonyground
    21/06/2010 at 6:41 pm

    Did I read that correctly, you have a religiot accusing you of believing something for which you have no evidence? Admittedly the evidence is mixed at the moment but should improve in time as those who have been attending just to get access to a school that their taxes paid for stop coming. At present you could be right, maybe JS1 is right, I know which horse my money would be on.

    • 21/06/2010 at 6:58 pm

      Ha, ha! I missed the irony – and so did he probably. With his latest comments he has stopped making sense altogether. Probably a theologian.

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