Irrational story

7th April 1995 at 01:00
Was John Habgood's speech about religious education meant to be a joke?

The Archbishop of York used an argument - which he said he did "not particularly like" - that crime is inversely proportional to "Protestant church adherence". Is this true? Is there, in fact, any evidence that non-religious people behave any worse than religious people?

He went on to claim that religious education is a way of "building some moral foundations" and is an antidote to "the growth of irrationalism" and to "weird and wonderful religious ideas" held "especially among the young", along with "astrology and the occult, and various kinds of healing, and keys to self-knowledge", because "the antidote to irrationalism is not irreligion, but rational religion".

But what could be more weird and wonderful than the religious idea that an all-powerful, all knowing and all-good god created in his own image beings who became so evil that they had to be saved from hell by the sacrifice of his own son, whose miraculous birth was foretold by astrologers, whose life was surrounded by the occult and spent in performing miracles and offering keys to self-knowledge, and whose death was followed by a miraculous resurrection and ascension to Heaven?

No wonder there is a danger of producing a "morally bewildered generation", when a leading exponent of such a religious idea doesn't realise just how irrational it is; when he favours "critical religion" but still believes that teaching Christianity will make children "religiously literate"; when he argues that we should know about religion but assumes that religion is superior to other forms of knowledge; and when he fails to see that telling lies is no way to build moral foundations.

No wonder that more and more young people are rejecting all supernatural and superstitious ideas.


3 Hartwell Grove

Leighton Buzzard


Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar,, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today