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“…first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.” Matthew 7:3
As the Taliban take back control in Afghanistan, their leaders claim Afghan rights of women will be respected “within the framework of Islamic law”.
Courtesy of BBC News, August 18, 2021
Our media commentators are prone to denigrate religions in certain parts of the world. We rightly despise cultures that tolerate female subordination. Yet these cultures often despise our attitude to children. In many British schools today, pupils receive punishments dating back to the 4th century. Michael Moloney’s new book focusses attention on work that needs doing closer to home.
FOR GENERAL RELEASE FROM 21st SEPTEMBER 2021
Subject: BOOK LAUNCH
Item Length: 400 words – (Alt. 300 words excluding final paragraph)
Press Release Date: 4th August, 2021 (Under Embargo)
Title: Why Punish Me? Augustine’s sinful lust unwrapped
Scheduled for publication: 29th September 2021
Author/Contact: Michael Moloney
THE SHAMEFUL STORY OF SIN INSIDE OUR CHURCHES
The ‘God Debate’ is about to be given a shot in the arm with this new assault on St Augustine. Available from 28th September, Why Punish Me? is a meticulously annotated account, initially from a child’s-eye viewpoint, of Augustine’s fourth century teaching. The author served as altar boy and chorister while attending church boarding schools in Ireland and England, where he faced abuse. Tracing his religious background, he recalls daily prayers of self-censure and remorse, the penitential ritual still practised in some British schools.
He writes “Having a sensitive nature is a positive attribute; it is what makes us human. But imaginative and impressionable individuals are susceptible to corrosive feelings of guilt and shame. These feelings are sharpened by the ritual avowals of self-blame decreed by Augustine, whose hair-shirt texts are the the bedrock of Christian belief in the West.”
Following Augustine’s doctrine on penance, the Church of England service admits sin and begs forgiveness or mercy twenty-four times. Grace and love are said twice. In many faith schools today children recite a shorter, but similarly mortifying version, often led by a cleric. Schools do not set out to sexualise pupils, but the NSPCC children’s charity lists ‘an authority figure causing a child to feel guilt and shame’ as a known method of child sexual grooming.
The author points out that clerical child sexual abuse is far from a historical problem. The UK independent inquiry reported in 2020 that more than 100 new cases are being recorded every year. Here the possible influence of drill and doctrine on the sexual abuse of children and the callous neglect found in Ireland’s mother and baby homes, is explored in depth. We see how Augustinian theology, endorsed by teachers in many of Britain’s faith schools, might play a role in clerical child sexual abuse and adult mental well-being.
The author reviews research papers endorsing religiosity and suggests a lack of rigour. Academics tend to shun religion as a field of study and in these pages we discover why. This book is a valuable read for all parents and teachers, indeed anyone involved in education or child care. The distinguished literary reviewer KARL FRENCH commented “It tackles – head-on – an important and pressing subject. …it’s vital stuff. It’s about how we safeguard young people, how we grow up, how we interact with others, how we see ourselves.”
Karl French, editor & literary reviewer:
“This is potentially of interest to anyone concerned with how we grow up, how we are shaped, and how the way that young people are drawn into whatever religious faith into which they are born, how this supposedly, avowedly benign process is enacted can have deeply malign effects on the individual and so on society in general.” “It tackles – head-on – an important and pressing subject… it’s vital stuff. It’s about how we safeguard young people, how we grow up, how we interact with others. It tackles – head-on – an important and pressing subject… it’s vital stuff. It’s about how we safeguard young people, how we grow up, how we interact with others.”
Carolyn Thompson, reader:
“Awesome how far Augustine’s tentacles of guilt and sinfulness reach. Alone among the world’s civilised nations, Britons are allowed to physically punish children because unelected bishops sitting in the House of Lords advocate it.”
Alan Wilkinson, editor & literary reviewer:
“It takes us directly to a seemingly real situation with flesh and blood people. The menace in the good father’s every action is tangible, and what isn’t said adds to the sense of danger.”
BOOK SYNOPSIS (350 words)
The UK is a mostly secular society, yet most of us born in these islands were taught his ideas, by law. St Augustine’s fourth century hair-shirt texts shape our society—our politics, our schools, and darkly, how we relate to ourselves and each other.
In school we are taught Augustine’s values, contradicting British notions of decency and fair play. We are told to say sorry for our wrongful actions, and we learn to expect forgiveness. All behind the back of the wronged victim. According to polls, most of us reject religion later in life, but billions of neural connections made in our infant brains are not simply freed.
Following Augustine’s doctrine on penance, the Church of England service admits sin and begs forgiveness or mercy twenty-four times. Grace and love are said twice. In faith schools today, infants are told to recite similar prayers, often by a cleric. Teachers do not set out to sexualise pupils, but an authority figure causing a child to feel guilt and shame is a known child sexual grooming technique.
The UK Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse reports 100 new sexual abuse cases by clerics each year, yet nothing in literature explains this deviance credibly. Augustine claimed that humans are naturally wicked and we are predisposed to be sinfully lustful from birth. In these pages we find he was mistaken. The possible influence that his ideas might have on the sexual abuse of altar boys and the callous neglect found in Ireland’s mother and baby homes, is rigorously scrutinised.
The author suggests Augustine’s teaching might play a more influential role in child sexual abuse and adult mental well-being than has generally been recognised in mainstream social science. He reviews multiple research papers endorsing religiosity, highlighting a lack of rigour. And we discover why academics shun this field of study.
This thought-provoking book fills a gap in the shelf, opening a compelling new front in the current wave of popular religious critiques and revitalising the ‘God Debate’. With a foreword by Alastair Lichten, Head of education, National Secular Society,
the lucid descriptions of faith school drill and doctrine will stir readers who suppose Christianity is a benign influence, to think again.
BOOK SYNOPSIS (200 words)
Why Punish Me? is a meticulous exploration, initially from a child’s-eye viewpoint, of St Augustine’s fourth century teaching. The author served as altar boy and chorister while attending church schools in Ireland and England, where he faced abuse. Here he recalls daily prayers of self-censure and remorse, a penitential ritual still practised in some British schools.
Britain is a mainly secular society, yet most of us born here were taught Augustine’s ideas, by law. His ancient hair-shirt texts shape our lives—our schools, our politics, and darkly, how we relate to ourselves and each other. In school we are taught values at odds with modern notions of decency and fair play. According to polls, most of us reject religion later in life, but billions of neural connections made in our infant brains are not then freed. Augustine’s shameful ideas about sex and sin pervade or culture, normalising negative thought patterns.
Tracing his religious background, the author suggests Augustine’s teaching on sinful lust might play a more influential role in child abuse and adult mental well-being than has generally been recognised in mainstream social science. The lucid descriptions by a schoolteacher of the indoctrination methods used in faith schools today will stir readers who suppose Christianity is a benign influence, to think again.
BOOK SYNOPSIS (100 words)
The ‘God Debate’ is given a shot in the arm with this new assault on St Augustine. The author served as altar boy and chorister while attending boarding schools in Ireland and England, where he faced sexual abuse. With the Vatican decrying critics of the church as ‘Friends of the Devil’, he reflected on the drill and doctrine of his schooldays.
Augustine’s teaching on self-censure and penitence, endorsed in many faith schools today, are studiously explored. The author suggests these dark ideas might play a more influential role in child abuse and adult mental well-being than has generally been recognised in mainstream social science.
BOOK SYNOPSIS (50 words)
An acclaimed fresh perspective on the current crisis within Christianity. Vignettes from the author’s church school where he faced abuse, illustrate the work. He explores Augustine’s dark ideas to discover what role drill and doctrine might play in child sexual abuse and adult mental well-being.
AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY (250 words)
Michael Moloney is the pseudonym of an acclaimed British writer. He served as altar boy and chorister while attending faith schools in Ireland and England, where he encountered abuse. With the Vatican decrying critics of the church as “Friends of the Devil”, he thought back to his schooldays. He recalls the daily prayers of self-censure and remorse prescribed by St Augustine, a penitential ritual still practised in some British schools.
Still performing in his local church choir, Michael has a scholarly knowledge of the church and an intimate acquaintance with its people and their rites and rituals. Reading about the evasiveness of the churches in response to disclosures of child abuse, he resolved to use his familiarity with drill and doctrine to evaluate Augustine’s shameful theology.
Tracing his own religious background, he sketches subtle pressures that colour the thinking of both followers and apostates. He suggests Augustine’s teaching on sinfulness and infantile lust might play a more influential role in child abuse and adult mental well-being than has generally been recognised in mainstream social science.
In the final chapters, educationist Lorna Graham, a schoolteacher for 26 years, brings faith schools to life depicting her struggle to deliver a critically conscious, dialogic education to her charges.
AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY (100 words)
Michael Moloney is the pen name of an acclaimed British writer. He served as altar boy and chorister while attending boarding schools in Ireland and England where he faced abuse. With the Vatican decrying critics of the church as ‘Friends of the Devil’, he thought back to the drill and doctrine of his church schooldays.
In this book the author reveals the shameful consequences of Augustine’s dark influence. Lorna Graham, a teacher for 26 years, brings faith schools to life describing her efforts to deliver a critically conscious, dialogic education to her pupils.
The readership demographic for Why Punish Me? is similar to that for other works critical of religion, by Dawkins, Hitchens, Fry, etc. However, this new scrutiny of the effect of indoctrination on school children, adopts a novel child’s-eye perspective.
No follower wants to hear criticism of their faith. The authors aim to avoid risking offence to believers by challenging the teachings of St Augustine, an already contentious figure from antiquity.
Intelligent young people, recent Christian apostates or those contemplating apostasy, will be responsive to a sincere critique from a church insider. Also, online and real world net-working indicate a strong prospective audience of educated thinkers who have reached a reflective stage in life. This is a profile you may recognise as typical of your readership.
- Audience in ‘The God Debate’
- Other educated seniors, 50+.
- Questioning 17 – 24 year-olds.
- Open minded thinkers.
- Child protection workers and anyone involved in child minding or education.
The launch of this important new book is supported by a lively promotion effort. The National Secular Society and Humanists UK are both actively campaigning against faith schools.
LITTLE-KNOWN FACTS ABOUT EDUCATION IN BRITAIN’S STATE FUNDED SCHOOLS
Most subjects taught in Britain’s schools are regulated by statute. However, some people do not realise that despite experience of sectarianism parts of the UK, there is no statutory curriculum for religious education. Guidance is provided, but schools are free to teach any religious beliefs they please (except teaching Creationism as a scientific theory).
Alone amongst civilised nations, Britain allows children to be beaten in the home. In May 2004 Peter Forster, the 55-year-old Lord Bishop of Chester sitting in the House of Lords, spoke in favour of allowing the beating of children as ‘reasonable chastisement’. The 66-year-old Baroness Richardson of Calow agreed, on behalf of ‘a great many Christians across a wide range of Churches, particularly those which have come out in support in official statements, such as the Methodist Church, the United Reform Church, the Roman Catholic Church and many children’s charities’. Yet research shows that corporal punishment does not work and can lead to mental health problems for some children.
All Britain’s schools are obliged to teach Christian beliefs. Since the Education Act of 1944 passed into law, state funded schools have been required to teach pupils the unhelpful ideas of St Augustine. Augustine held that all humans are innately evil, and even new-borns bear the stain of sinful lust.
The benefits credited to religious belief are often misrepresented in research studies of religiosity and health, perpetuating the cycle of misplaced approval accorded to Augustine’s teaching. In many such studies, participants are divided into ‘believers’ and ‘unbelievers’. Any health issues amongst unbelieving participants is held to be due to unbelief. However, the true reason might be related to any number of causes and quite possibly attributable to early proselytisation and not due to unbelief. For a proper study of the effects of religion on developing young people, it would be necessary to identify all the subjects who have been indoctrinated and later recanted, and classify them separately. In the pages of Why Punish Me? we discover why academics tend to shun religion as a field of study.
What do you know about religious teaching in schools?
About 89% of Britons identify as non-religious or notionally Christian and many will be unaware of the privileged influence enjoyed by religions in the education of our infants.
How many of the following questions on education in Britain, can you answer correctly?
- What proportion of state funded schools are paid to teach pupils their own exclusive beliefs?
- How many state schools in Britain teach St Augustine’s ideas on sin and guilt?
- Are Augustine’s doctrines, taught in schools, a good standard by which we can judge morality?
- Are all children in Britain covered by the legal requirement to attend school?
- Are schools able to exclude prospective pupils on the basis of their parents’ wealth or religious beliefs?
- Are faith schools bound by Equality Regulations, e.g. can they discriminate against job applicants?
- Can faith schools teach ideologies that directly contradict British values?
- Do faith schools promote friendship and good neighbourliness?
- Do faith schools provide the choices needed to protect parents’ religious freedom?
- Do faith schools achieve better results than other schools?
- How many times does the CofE service admit sin and beg forgiveness?
- Which bishop in the House of Lords advocated the law (prevailing today) that allows the physical punishment of children?
Religious Teaching in our Schools
- A third of schools are faith schools and permitted to teach any belief (except creationism, as a valid theory). Some schools ignore the law and teach religious beliefs as scientific theories, which they are not. Other maintained schools in the UK are required to promote basic human values, but the Government permits faith schools to “teach in accordance with the tenets of their faith,” even when these conflict with British values.
- All publicly funded schools in the UK are required by statute to teach Christian beliefs such as Augustine’s ideas on sin and guilt. Many schools flout the law, but most primary schools comply. Private schools tend to teach Christian beliefs by choice. Thus, most adults schooled in Britain have not been permitted an education free from religious interference. Why Punish Me? details multiple studies that show how this training negatively influences our British culture.
- Many of the values espoused by faith schools contradict British principles of decency and fair play. On women’s rights, child abuse, restorative justice and equality issues, faith schools often teach beliefs contrary to enlightened values. Prayers said in collective worship frequently teach questionable moralities. The Penitential Act, recited by pupils in many faith schools, admits wrongdoing and begs for mercy and forgiveness, but the victim is ignored. If I harm someone, the right course of action is to ask that person for forgiveness, directly. It is for me to resolve my wrongdoings honourably face to face with the person I harmed. Going behind the back of my victim to ask forgiveness of a third party is craven.
- A loophole in the law removes the requirement for ‘home-schooled’ pupils to be registered with the authorities. In 2018, the Department for Education publicly acknowledged this issue for the first time, but no effective action has yet been taken. In 2019, Ofsted revealed that close to 6,000 pupils are being educated in illegal schools, most often faith schools. Because these schools operate outside the law they are unregulated.
- Faith schools are allowed to select or reject pupils on any basis connected to the school’s ethos or beliefs. In addition, a Runnymede Trust study shows how faith schools often use unfair admissions practices, such as probing parents’ ability to contribute to school funds. All of their running costs and up to 90% of building costs are funded by taxpayers. Furthermore, the religious body usually gets to own the building for contributing 10% of the cost. The CofE is one of the wealthiest landowners in the UK, and capital gains on land sales by churches are free of tax.
- Faith schools enjoy exemptions from the provisions of the Equality Act. They can discriminate against teachers applying for work on the basis of religion without needing to demonstrate any occupational requirement. Applicants who are otherwise suitable, can be rejected and staff barred from promotion if they do not share the beliefs stipulated by their potential employer.
- The content of most subjects taught in Britain are regulated, but religion is different. Faith schools can teach that abortion is wrong, although it has been legal for 50 years in Britain. A faith school might advocate heterosexual marriage as the only morally sanctioned form of sexual expression, although same sex marriage was legalised in 2014. Faith schools can and do teach outdated ideas of guilt and shame which might contribute to making some young people vulnerable.
- Faith schools are effective in promoting goodwill amongst their followers. However, a wealth of robust evidence has been amassed confirming that faith schools often foster division and intolerance in a multicultural society. Despite Britain’s experience of religious tension in Northern Ireland, the proportion of state funded faith schools, propagating divisive religious ideas, is expanding.
- Faith schools are ‘By far the most systematic inhibitor of free choice’ according to a Paper to the Accord Coalition and All-Party Parliamentary Groups. Selection on the basis of belief disadvantages those unwilling to change belief (or pretend to change). 49.7% of places at Church of England secondary schools could be filled through religiously discriminatory selection criteria. The figure for Catholic schools was 99.8%.
- Because faith schools hand pick their intake, less able children get excluded and tend to be dispersed to other schools. The children that faith schools select would likely have done well regardless of what school they went to.
- The current Church of England Common Worship Eucharist for every Sunday service cites sin 24 times, and calls for mercy or forgiveness 26 times. Catholics make 18 admissions of sin and 25 pleas for mercy or forgiveness.
- Peter Forster the 55 years old Lord Bishop of Chester, spoke in May 2004 in favour of allowing the beating of children as ‘reasonable chastisement.’ Alone among the world’s civilised nations, Britain, a mostly non-Christian population, still permits the physical punishment of children in the home, despite compelling evidence of harm.