As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I spoke at City Bible Forum North Sydney in a mini-debate on the ongoing current issue of SRE and Ethics in our schools in NSW. As always, Dave “the Happy” Singer proved to be a worthy opponent.
Also present (and perhaps overly keen to make herself heard – she seemed unable to distinguish between a question and a 5-minute speech) was a lady called Teresa Russell who is the Ethics in Schools Project Coordinator for the St James Ethics Centre – ie she organised the trial in 10 NSW primary schools. You can read some of her material here and here.
The discussion itself was, I think, useful and the following issues arose for me out of that process and subsequent discussions with David, Teresa and other proponents of the “Ethics” course.
- Despite the rhetoric, the proposed “ethics” course simply isn't a “complement” to SRE in the plain sense of the word. I pressed David on this a number of times but he was unable to address the issue that any course run simultaneously to SRE cannot be spoken of as “complementing” it. During her “question/speech” Teresa Russell actually conceded the point.
- Opponents of Scripture/SRE still have very little understanding of what we are actually teaching in those classes, not least in terms of the basic Christian worldview in which we are educating those children under our care. It took a long time to persuade another of my conversation partners that afternoon that I was not simply teaching an alternate ethical system. That unbelievers simply don't understand the gospel is, of course, something that we should constantly be aware of. Let's never assume they know what we mean – rather, we should always be seeking to explain ourselves. In terms of SRE itself, it might do us the world of good to make our curricula more widely available.
- A common complaint I heard that lunchtime was “what right do you have to tell me what my children should and should not be doing during school?” by those who protested the “lack” of an option for their children during SRE time. However, it strikes me that we should resist such flawed reasoning. We all take part in the influencing of decision-making about education and every other area of our society. It is, ultimately, part of the democratic contract that all individuals and organisations in a society have the right, in general, to influence such decisions in a direction that they are convinced is good for society as a whole. Frankly, the more time I spend engaged in the teaching of SRE and enquiring about the “ethics” course, the more I conclude that the status quo should be maintained. Now, of course I am biased – as are the proponents of “ethics”. But we both have the right to influence how each others children are educated. We simply accept such influence as a necessary part of the democratic society that we live in, even when we do not agree with the outcome.
Interestingly, there have also been a number of recent opinion pieces in the newspapers pushing back against what is perceived to be an increasingly hostile move by some against SRE and religion in the public sphere in general. So, for example, “Altar Egos“,
The culture clash is not over being a Protestant in a Catholic church, but over being an atheist. The attack comes from my fellow unbelievers, as if I have made human sacrifices of my children. How can you let them be indoctrinated? How can you send them to the church of Pell and Ratzinger? Do you want them infantilised by the mumbo-jumbo of miracles? Isn't this (to heed the call of Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens), the time for us atheists to take a stand?
To which I reply: us atheists, yes. But children are too young to be atheists, or for that matter believers. It is as an atheist that I wanted them to have religious education. It is as an atheist that I agree with Robert Forsyth, the Anglican Bishop of South Sydney, who says ethics classes should not be substitutes for scripture. It is as an atheist that I support a religious education, and here are the reasons.
and this balance piece on the ABC website, “SRE: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly“,
Secular education was never intended to threaten religion in the colony, rather to formally take responsibility and therefore control of it from the church. That families had a right to see their children learn something of their religious heritage was never in doubt. All early legislation included provisions for such teaching.
At some point in history, the provision for clergy to access and instruct government school children began to be viewed as a right. A right to perform religious ministry, without competition from secular instruction.
This perception is a source of conflict in the current debate in NSW, regarding the ethics alternative to SRE.
However, there is no legal basis for converting the access privilege into a grant that conveys control over 3 per cent of the school year to ministries operated by churches. In NSW it is school policy (not legislation) that supports the church's monopoly in SRE time.
Not even a different interpretation of the secular principle defends this claim. The literal meaning of “secular” – a term based on the Latin, saeculum – is “of the times,” or “of the age” or even “in the world.”
It was first used to describe monks who did not seclude themselves, but engaged in business and other worldly matters, embodying how the sacred and the secular could co-operate.
Using this understanding, religion in school is part of the responsibility of education. To engage with these times, religion must be included in what children learn about the world.
However, learning about religion and being instructed into a particular religion are distinct concepts.
The comments are also well worth reading.
No doubt we'll be back to this topic in the future
This Post Has 11 Comments
I think it’s important to remember that SRE access is a priviledge, not a right, and that how we react when threatened with having the priveledge revoked etc. is important, and can actually betray a lot about what we think – some critics might see certain responses to boost the wrong idea that the church ‘needs’ the access as a means to recruiting church members, and without it, we’ll die.. We need to remember that God, and the gospel is bigger than our programmes etc., and that he will keep growing his kingdom and bringing people to himself through the proclamation of the Gospel, whether SRE continues or not.
Thanks Andrew, they’re helpful comments. I’m certain some of our reaction on this issue has been unhelpful.
Yes, you’re right – God knows what He’s doing!
came across your post while doing a bit of research. I remember the twitter posts about it all..
On point A: really quite irrelevant as to the word used in the grand scheme of things. Complement or “just another option”? I’d say that as the “no religion” or often “any non Christian”/“any secular” option is missing a structured use of the time then it does indeed “complement” as per the definition you link to:
>1.something that completes or makes perfect: A good wine is a complement to a good meal.
>2.the quantity or amount that completes anything: We now have a full complement of packers.
>3.either of two parts or things needed to complete the whole; counterpart.
>4.full quantity or amount; complete allowance.
So there’s a gap, the ethics course fills that gap and thus complements the current religious or nothing situation. We now have a full complement of options and we have widened the available options, not narrowed them.
B. I think it is you who doesn’t understand that not everyone shares your views that the gospel is essential to life. In fact, statistically a very large chunk of the world gets along just fine without teachings of Jesus in their lives. I would argue the moral void that Christianity provides is a detrimental thing (e.g. authoritarian dictator who slaughtered millions, punishes thought crime, punishes free speech as blasphemy, regards not accepting the holy spirit as the one unforgivable sin but is silent or ambivalent on a number of issues etc etc). So we all have different viewpoints that the other side “just doesn’t get”. Talk to a Muslim and you’ll encounter similar views to yours but with “Qu’ran” instead of bible and Mohammed rather than Jesus. Go back thousands of years it’d be pagan gods.. If you had grown up in a Muslim country you’d say that it is essential you constantly know about the Qur’an and Hadith.
As for not knowing what is taught in scripture: I’ve done my research (talking to teachers who have to sit in the class and try and keep order) and I can determine that nothing much has changed since I was a boy and sat through a few years of it before going to the (then) unsupervised non scripture option.
I think you were ignoring the rather large amount of support for the option to be made available and a vocal minority of (some) Church/religious folks wanting to deny the others the freedom that they currently have. Talk about hypocrites as those same religious leaders wouldn’t dare try to pull that view with other religious SRE options. e.g. Catholics calling for a banning of Anglican, Jewish or (well.. maybe they would) Muslim instruction.
So let’s be honest: this is about protectionism of the current situation lest people have a choice. In the old days people were forced by the church/state situation to believe or perish.. We don’t have that now in this society at least, but we did have “you want your kids doing something – you have to go the preaching option”.
I would think that for children to have some time to stop and rationally discuss ethical situations with each other is something anyone in society would be happy about. The good word of the lord is always there for people to go and reach, I don’t see anything in the bible that says it must be to the exclusion of personal choice in our primary schools.
Which class do you reckon Jesus would have opted for as a child? One where everyone gets to hold a valid voice and discuss their views, or one where an adult tells kids what’s written in a book and that thinking anything different could result in eternal torture?
Glad to breathe some life into an old post.
In Australian law the “no religion” category is typically treated as a religion for the purposes of freedom of religion or as follows: freedom from religion. Now that the ethics/philosophy option exists there’s at least a choice for parents to make, the “sit and read” option is still there. Now no one is forcing parents to send their kids to the new class, just as the addition of an Anglican option to a school that only had Catholic isn’t “forcing” anyone away from the existing option.
I think that so many P&Cs; voted in favour of the option indicates that there are a lot of parents who say that the SRE slot should be used for this purpose and it seems to be a valid position as far as the legal “no religion” is a religious category, so is that enough of a reason to let it happen? If the proposal was to teach something vastly different and out of scope then I could see your point..
Now I really can’t see why we should have religious indoctrination/“education” from religious organisations in supposedly secular public schools to start with BUT if we’re going to have them there then there must be a secular/non religious option (volunteers permitting of course as with any religion’s scripture option). Religious groups should be campaigning for this so they avoid accusations of shanghai-ing kids into their religion (which currently happens with default opt in at a lot of schools).
So if we’re going to get down to it: I don’t think SRE in public funded schools should exist, but if it does then it can’t just be a forum for one side of thinking with rules to keep the kids idle if they opt out.
As for the content: it isn’t like it is preaching against religions, saying they are false or telling kids that they face eternal punishment if they doubt a particular religious view point. Religious scripture absolutely does this (parents complain about this when kids come home worried they’re going to hell etc). So this course is neutral ground, not anti-religion at all, secular in content. So it will be the odd one out in amongst religious scripture, but a good “odd one out” from your perspective surely compared to the other religions preaching that yours is wrong?
You are dead right that there’s a difference in what a “properly-run Christian SRE class to what the Ethics class seeks to provide”. Just as there’s a fundamental difference in what an Islamic course, a hindu one, a scientology one etc would seek to teach. That’s not a reason to oppose it or try to have it banned.
Have a watch of this video and I think Philip Cam sums up the difference you are talking about at 1:40
Might also get you up to speed on how the classes actually run. Not much preaching going on in it huh?
It’s “ethical enquiry vs moral instruction”. Christian scripture is big on moral instruction, the ethics class is big on ethical enquiry.
If we’re talking tired caricatures: the “you just don’t get it” bit: Either explain in more detail a particular point.. But if “getting it” involves being a believer – it’s not a useful statement.
I also “get” the idea of Churches having a nice path to converting children to believers outside the ones attending religious schools.. I fully understand the process (and why naturally a decent option for the “no scripture” option is feared) and am well enough read up on the beliefs and content of your books and other religious books to get what they’re about. I am aware of the context of how religions are created and how the mythology develops, how books are stuck together in the past, culling, rewriting, embellishing etc. So I get all that, I just don’t believe in god or gods. If believing is a prerequisite for understanding your point then you need a different line of argument for people outside your religion.
Even if I did believe in your religion or one of the thousands out there and understood the value you provide in faith based SRE: why should kids (or their parents) who don’t want that be forced to sit idle rather than having constructive mediated discussions (which, if as you say, they always do anyhow). This isn’t an anti-religious battle, as a good many parents who hold religious beliefs might just want their kids to participate (or the kids want to) and they can always attend religious instruction outside school time as well. The reviews from the kids/parents seem to be glowing so far I think you’d agree?
Whereas the scripture teachers might get up and claim to have some absolute morals/truths, this course is nothing like that. It is providing a guided topic, but the chidren are the ones driving/challenging each other’s views on things. There’s no “well god says this and you aren’t allowed to question the word of god”.
The St James course is provided for others to use, including the faith based organisations. So you can review what is in it.. Can I do the same for any of the faith based ones?
>“it’s not about restricting choice”
Yes, it absolutely is. If you and the Christian lobby groups had your way there would be 1 less choice than there is now. That’s restricting choice.
>“It’s about actually protecting kids from an unnecessary programme that will fool them (and, even more importantly, their parents) into thinking that they are somehow more virtuous. “
Is that you talking about the ethics course or me talking about your religion?
Is there any reference to claims of the ethics course to be making kids more virtuous? It might claim to make them more questioning, or more curious to debate philosophical points, but I don’t think anyone except your side is claiming that their teachings leave kids super shiny clean morality wise. This seems another case of you assuming the ethics class is mirroring your claims but without god involved: it’s doing no such thing. It’s about providing an environment for exploring and developing the capacity for moral judgement and understanding ethical arguments/views and weighing them up. It’s not like saying a prayer to Jesus or 10 hail mary’s and having a sin washed away and now virtuous.. It’s a little more grown up than that: discussion.
>“In fact it will do the opposite – it will only compound their problem like a sign that says “Keep off the Grass” raises my desire to tread on the lawn. Ultimately, Christians will claim that the Ethics course doesn’t understand human nature correctly.”
That’s silly for anyone to claim. Do Christians make similar claims about every other religion’s SRE course? Well, I guess it does tend to do that when you claim to have the one truth. But why is this option special? What that just implied: that without your specific supernatural stories and book you can’t understand human nature. I suppose it’s slightly better than the twits saying you can’t be ethical without religion.
I might put it to you that what your religion does is plant a bunch of “keep off the grass” signs with no explanations. e.g. “don’t take the lord’s name in vain”, “you should be prepared to do anything god says even kill your own child”, “you should love god and hate the devil even though god killed children and entire civilisations” etc etc. Some religious teachings are directly at odds with our society today: homophobia, gender equality etc and I think people well tuned to question and debate things are in a far better position to respond to new situations in a “good” way.
Compare with teachings that prescribe eternal torture if you question things too much.. I think a lot of you Christians often misunderstand human nature if you think that without a mass murdering supernatural dictator threatening torture for all eternity: you have neither purpose or capacity to be moral without god. That without an afterlife lined up then everything is meaningless and horribly dark. I’m not saying that’s what all Christians or religious people believe, but I’ve heard a lot say similar things which I would disagree with. But that’s all a bit of a side issue to whether the ethics course is valid and is straying into whether SRE in public schools is valid or religion is morally good.
As you say: we can vote on things to get our say and that’s a great system. So why then do you follow a religion with an authoritarian dictator as head of the universe where you get no vote?
I’m not a parent, but I’m (I think) a productive, helpful member of society and have been an educator (from high school tutoring to university lecturer to professional trainer) over the years.. I try to put my money where my mouth is and thus a while back I signed up for the ethics course. So, assuming the timing works out, my interview goes well, police checks pass and I complete the two day course: I too will be in SRE time in a short while but teaching the Ethics class.
I think it’ll be fascinating sitting in on the discussions the kiddies will have and I really wish this course had been around when I was a child.. So I’ll let you know how things go and maybe we can compare notes.
Thanks again Nathan, there’s a lot of material there so forgive me if I don’t engage with all of it – just wanted to continue to respond to what I think are our main areas of disagreement.
You speak of “supposedly secular public schools” in a way I don’t recognise. You mention the distinction between “freedom of” and “freedom from” religion but I’m not sure you genuinely uphold the first. As things stand we have freedom of religion and also schools that do not promote one particular religion or even denomination but
allow SRE. That is how our society understands “secular” and, FWIW, I think it works. There is a certain fundamentalist rigidity in denying any religious expression in schools, particularly when it is a prominent feature of the culture that the children are drawn from.
You raise a number of complaints that are actually examples of the current legislation not being properly implemented. Notably what you call “shanghai-ing” and also “sit and do nothing”. Neither of these are envisaged in the SRE framework – if they do happen then that is something to take up with the principal of a school who has not met their obligations, but it’s not a flaw in SRE itself.
As for the intent of the course – I’m in agreement with you about the stated intentions; to explore ethical decision making. My point was that there is a massive expectation gap between that intended provision and what many parents actually think will happen. FWIW, I suffer the same expectation gap myself in my own SRE classes.
But what I’m not saying is that, in your words, “The Ethics class is mirroring [my] claims”. In fact I went out of my way in my previous post to explain that I’m not there to teach a moral framework. It seems my point that opponents don’t work hard at understanding what SRE is actually intending to achieve is somewhat demonstrated by your actual response, which moves from what I have to call “ignorance” to “childish” (“saying a prayer to Jesus or 10 hail mary’s and having a sin washed away and now virtuous” – I don’t think for a minute that’s your understanding of genuine Christian faith so I wonder why you felt the need to add it.) I gave a brief description of CHristian understanding – self-awareness of sin, forgiveness and the consequent supernatural renewal of the inner self – but you obviously didn’t read it. Or, if you did, you ignored it because you seem to have continued playing the caricature card.
In terms of review, I’ve still not seen the full Ethics course nor do I yet know how to get a copy – not for want of trying. For my personal SRE classes I use the CPAS Connect material for yrs K-4 (although with some adaptation) and then the CPAS “Big Questions” package for yrs 5-6. If you want you can come and sit in on a lesson when we start up next year and see how it works.
As for your comments on “the twits” I will just assume you had a particularly grumpy moment when you wrote it.
more generally, there are plenty of explanations in the Scriptures of God’s moral law. Even the first example you make “don’t take the Lord’s name in vain” is delivered in a particular context where the instruction makes perfect sense (in that case the giving of the Law at Sinai – the issue of God’s “name” is a big topic in Exodus and is tied up with His reputation and proper response to those things). I am tempted to ask you if you’ve ever actually objectively and sympathetically tried to understand that which you so quickly jump to criticise. You’re not a stupid man (at least you don’t present as such) so I’m not clear why you’re so quick to dismiss rather than genuinely engage.
Your third comment, sadly, ramps up the throw-away pejoratives. Again, you demonstrate a slightly worrying tendency to utterly misrepresent Christianity. This line, for example,
teachings that prescribe eternal torture if you question things too much
is utterly beyond me. There’s nothing remotely like that in the Bible. If there is then it’s a new one on me and I’ve been reading the Bible in a serious way for almost 20 years. Can you point out to me where the Scriptures such a thing? Or, perhaps, will you retract and make an effort to ease up a bit with the (childish) insults?
You’re right to note that it’s fascinating to sit in on the discussions that the kids have. I have the privilege of doing it every week with my year 5 and 6 classes (when, I find, they really start engaging in a meaningful way with the world around them). But I don’t think you’re going to hear anything astounding. As I said – they already know the right way to respond to certain issues. Their real problem (and ours too) is that they don’t do what they should do. That, again it seems to me, is the fundamental problem that the Ethics course simply doesn’t address or begin to deal with.
Thanks Nathan, plenty to engage with there. Let me have a go…
I understand what you’re saying with point A. But your point assumes that the SRE time-slot should be more than simply the provision of (to use that horrible term) “faith-based” lessons. I don’t share that premise – the SRE slot is exactly that – Religious education. I think you end up begging the question.
I think you’ve missed my point with B – in fact I’m fairly convinced of it since you don’t engage at all with the classical orthodox understanding of the “gospel”. Rather, it appears you’ve resorted to the same (dare I say it) tired stereotypes – I’m happy to engage those particular issues that you allude to but not if you begin by using such sweeping caricatures.
My point is this – there is a fundamentally different thing being taught in a properly-run Christian SRE class to what the Ethics class seeks to provide. Further, proponents of SRE repeatedly don’t seem to get it. What I’m saying to Christians is that we need to consistently ensure that our opponents in this debate are fully informed so they won’t make, if I may be so bold, the error that I think you fall into in your response to C…
Well, the charge of hypocrisy is always an easy, emotive one to make. Nevertheless, I think it’s entirely true that for some this is a simple issue of “protectionism”, as you put it. Still, sometimes people take that view because they are greatly concerned about the alternative – they see it as detrimental to those who will take it.
Now, of course, you take the opposite view – that is of course your right. More than that, you state “I would think that for children to have some time to stop and rationally discuss ethical situations with each other is something anyone in society would be happy about.”
Well yes. But they do that all the time, anyway. Life is one constant quest for working out what to do. But I don’t think the Ethics course will help those kids one bit. Let me explain…
I don’t think I quite understood this so clearly until I was challenged after a small public debate by a lady who insisted on telling me that Ethics was just another way of learning how what to do, just like SRE. It took me quite a while to persuade her that the Christian gospel (as it should be taught in SRE) is far from a simple ethical code. I spoke to her about sin and forgiveness – but she got stuck on the first.
How dare I suggest her children were sinners! She was quite outraged by the idea. My children, she told me, know the right thing to do.
And that, Nathan, is the point – they already know. You sit a bunch of yr 5-6 kids in a classroom and ask them to resolve a dilemma and they mostly know what to do. Their problem is not so much that they are ignorant of the correct response – but that they are incapable of consistently living it out. They, like each of us, don’t need a stronger moral framework, they need forgiveness and then inner renewal.
So, for me at least, it’s not about restricting choice. It’s about actually protecting kids from an unnecessary programme that will fool them (and, even more importantly, their parents) into thinking that they are somehow more virtuous. In fact it will do the opposite – it will only compound their problem like a sign that says “Keep off the Grass” raises my desire to tread on the lawn. Ultimately, Christians will claim that the Ethics course doesn’t understand human nature correctly.
So, as a parent myself (and, of course, an SRE provider) I’m convinced its an unhelpful thing. As such, I think I have the right in a democratic society to campaign along those lines. We do, after all, accept this sort of process in many other areas – the use of “softer” drugs springs to mind as one. It’s simply part of the democratic contract that we are all allowed influence. You have, of course, the ultimate say in a few months’ time at the ballot box.
Hope that’s helpfully clear for you Nathan. Look forward to any response.
and you ask “what would Jesus have opted for as a child?”
Well, the only Jesus I know is the Jesus of the Scriptures and so I refer you to Luke 2:49. That’s what the Jesus of the same age as our yr5/6 kids chose to do
“supposedly secular public schools” – as in they should not participate in matters of religious indoctrination. The school chaplians is an absolute violation of this. These chaplains have as their mission to spread their religion and, wait for it, they’re getting paid by the government to hover around schools preaching.
The other one is SRE which had, up until it was rectified, a faith bias at the exclusion of non-religious or minority religions. It would be a poor line of argument to insist that blocking out a structured “something organised” option for those not wanting one of the (largely christian) SRE options.
The sit and do nothing option is what the ethics course fixes.. The shanghai-ing I refer to practices like: pre-filled acceptance letters for scripture or requirement of a parent to attend school in order to opt out of scripture. I could go on with grossly inappropriate stories about SRE such as the timeslot being used as a fundraising device (donations or else not permitted in the class) and children receiving hellfire and brimstone type “lessons”. Of course there’s no centralised collection and reporting of such things with schools referring matters to churches rather than the department of education. If there was an area of reform you could push for it would be the handling of any complaints to immediately go to the department of education if for no other reason than transparency and to have some metrics.
Curriculum: There’s an overview at:
I guess there’s more detail to come as of the start of term etc.
Virtuous: asking a 3rd party for forgiveness is not how our legal system works. The only person that can forgive a wrong is the person wronged themselves and that might not ever happen (certainly I believe that it’s perfectly reasonable to never forgive some things.. Attempting to make people value forgiveness can in a lot of cases be an abhorrent act in itself: e.g. a rape victim shouldn’t be pushed to forgive that, nor should someone have to move past having their family killed.. etc). You can move on from it, but that’s not the same as forgiving.
On sins: blasphemy and the like, it says clearly in two locations in the bible that blaspheming against the holy spirit/ghost is unforgivable. Child rape: no worries, ask for forgiveness, mean it, get forgiveness. But me saying:
[start unforgivable sin worse than any other sin]
I think the holy spirit is a bunch of nonsense and there’s no proof it exists. God, Jesus and the holy spirit are nothing more than made up nonsense plagiarised from earlier pagan stories. Poorly plagiarised and that’s why such mental gymnastics are needed to try and explain it in Christian teachings.
[end unforgivable sin]
I have now committed an unforgivable sin as per the bible. Meanwhile while you read this: someone somewhere is killed in cold blood, but assuming they find a bible at some stage, accept Jesus etc they can be forgiven. Not me, I’m permanently destined for hell. Do you think that’s in any way a good system of morals? Who was hurt by my “blasphemy”: no one. Who was hurt by the other action: a person, a real person and any loved ones left behind.
As for the “prescribe eternal torture if you question things too much” : I’m not making this up. Would someone who commits (as I have just done) not be destined for hell? You’ve read the bits about hell right? Surely you can make the jump from my statement there to the concept of hell.
Is that not the place where anyone who refuses to abide by the laws/beliefs of Christianity goes?
I could pull out the references to hell in the bible and why you end up there, but I don’t think I’m breaking new ground on this by saying that hell is where sinners go. That includes blasphemy and picking other gods etc.
So the key bits:
* it is for eternity
* to be punished for sins
* only got this world to make the decisions
* weeping and gnashing of teeth etc
Of course, it could just all be made up and the barbaric system described was just down to the barbaric times it was created and they couldn’t envision a better system.
The sit and do nothing option is what the ethics course fixes
Yes, but as I’ve already pointed out “sit and do nothing” is not a part of SRE, it’s simply a symptom of schools that don’t look after the children properly.
As for your other comments, I thought I had already pointed out to you how to (as an example that you picked) understand the context of proscriptions against blasphemy. I’m not sure how to understand your comment since it begins to look like you’ve not actually properly read what I wrote but, rather, just launched into another recapitulation of the same argument. Would you please review my comment and actually respond to what is actually written there? You would then find that your repeated misrepresentations of the Christian position would not be so frequent.
I also suggest that you might actually have a more illumining conversation on your part, rather than the monologue that this is rapidly becoming. There’s already been enough material on this thread to answer some of your apparent concerns.
It’s either that or you shift the goalposts halfway up the pitch. You claim that people are “sent to hell for even questioning” and yet when asked for some explanation you launch into a pretty poor misrepresentation of “blaspheming the Spirit” which is a long way removed. So I ask again, where do the Scriptures say that people are sent to hell for “merely questioning”? Or, perhaps you might concede that this is an example of massive overstatement. I await your specific response with keen interest.
You then go on to decry forgiveness. I’m not surprised that you do – forgiveness is one of the hardest things to get your head and your heart round and yet it is the core of the Christian explanation of the gospel. We all require forgiveness, not only in our relationship with God but also in our inter-personal relationships. As a Christian and as a pastor it has long been my experience that forgiveness has the most dramatically positive effects in broken relationships – yes, even in some of the most horrific situations. I feel dismay that you would discount it so readily.