Cheats and the Church

David Cameron has been defending those parents who baptize their children in order to win a place at popular schools. Meanwhile, the hackles of some Labour MPs have been raised:

Fears that middle-class parents are adopting religion to get their children into popular schools have led some Labour MPs to call for an end to the expansion of faith schools.

The usual Labour objection over schooling is that parents can ‘buy’ better education for their offspring, either by sending them to a private school, or by moving to an expensive area with better state schools. But I don’t see how this argument works regarding faith schools, since presumbably parents of all classes can arrnage a cynical baptism, thereby gaining that edge in the competition for places.
More likely, the Labour MPs are objecting because they beleive the practice emboldens Catholicism, which in turn they believe to be a threat.
If his is the case, then they are mistaken. Although Catholicism is a threat to progressive, liberal values, it will not be strengthened through this particular ploy. In fact, quite the opposite – by inviting these pseudo-Catholics into their churches, Catholic priests dilute the fervour and reverence of their congregations. The cohesion of their community is inevitably weakened, and the religion as a whole loses power and influence.
By making silly demands on people’s spirituality, priests of all religions undermine themselves. One aetheist friend of mine signed allowed his fiance to sign a form committing their unborn children to the Catholic faith, just so they could get married in a Catholic Cathedral. And a Hindu friend of mine will ‘convert’ to Islam this year, just so certain relatives of her betrothed will attend the marriage.Yet her appreciation of the five pilliars is slight.
The social pressures which religions were able to exert over their communities many centuries ago, hardly exist in contemporary Britain. Baptising someone is no longer enough to keep them in the pews. By demanding these empty conversions, priests ask these parents and newlyweds to tell a lie, the easiest they will ever tell. No souls are secured, and the church will recieve no succour. More of it, I say.

One Reply to “Cheats and the Church”

  1. “Although Catholicism is a threat to progressive, liberal values”
    I don’t think anyone would describe catholicism as liberal, but is it any more of a threat to liberal values than any other religion, e.g Islam ?
    My alma mater is now a catholic sixth form college, which is popular with mormons and bizzarely, muslims, who apparently feel that some religious
    observance (even the “wrong” one) is preferable to a state education. Most people don’t attend religious schools out of religious zealotry, but because they have more discipline, higher expectations, are to some extent free of state interference, and consequently acheive higher grades than the local comp. The idea that the state has a legitimate role in education is actually relatively new.
    As for weakening the church. Religious observance is so low that priests, catholic or otherwise, probably don’t care that half the congregation are only there with an eye on admissions policy, the church looks fuller, more money for the new roof, and if only one of those people finds religion as a consequence of regular attendance, they have a new recruit, and their offspring to work on.
    Remember the majority of people in this country still describe themselves as christian, so it’s no more incongruent for them to start attending church to get into a decent school, than it is to enter one for a wedding or a funeral.

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