By Charles Kanjama
Broadly speaking there are two kinds of atheists. The convinced, even militant, atheist, and the doubting, largely agnostic one. Both profess not to believe in God.
Yet it is a tribute to the Judeo-Christian and Islamic culture, that the profession of disbelief in God is normally accompanied by a pretty clear notion of God.
They don’t disbelieve God the way I disbelieve a square circle, or even a mermaid. Their disbelief normally involves a clear and immediate notion of God, along with a rejection of divinity due to some discordance between their notion of divinity and their perception of reality.
Like with theism, so too there are different types of atheism, from the doubting to the convinced atheist. The convinced atheist, who adopts the apparently scientific rigour of Richard Dawkins (The God Delusion) or Christopher Hitchens (God is not Great), is a person with a faith so strong it would put the average religious faithful to shame.
By faith here, I mean belief in the truth of something based not on personal observation but on the testimony of another. And of course, this faith is often reinforced through assertion and repeated testimony.
Both theism and atheism are based on dogma, which means established and authoritative doctrines or beliefs of a group of people. Theists acknowledge their faith, while atheists do not. As G K Chesterton memorably stated, “There are two kinds of people in the world, the conscious dogmatists and the unconscious ones... The unconscious dogmatists [are] by far the most dogmatic.” The deeper irony is that theists may logically believe that their faith is reasonable, while atheists dare not, thus falling into logical absurdity.
What does dogma have to do with education? Again it is Chesterton who insightfully remarked, “Dogma is actually the only thing that cannot be separated from education. It is education. A teacher who is not dogmatic is simply a teacher who is not teaching... The true task of culture today is not a task of expansion, but of selection and rejection.
The educationist must find a creed and teach it.” Education is never value-free or purely secular; it always involves making a selection from the marketplace of competing ideas. The primary responsibility for that choice is the basic right of parents, and indeed the essence of parenthood, which means to generate and educate children, or ‘bearing and rearing’. This basic parental right is captured in section 23(2) of the Children Act.
The proper role of the State in education is only secondary or subsidiary, namely to supplement the role of parents, and to assist the community, including in the limited cases of parental abuse of children. Since the State has resources, it assists parents by setting up schools, establishing standards, developing curricula and providing financial support to community-based education initiatives.
Secularism however tries to switch educational roles and wrest primary control from parents. Where it succeeds, it creates an Orwellian and totalitarian society, a nanny state which thrives by policing the home, and even worse, enforcing thought control on children.
The enemies of state absolutism are religion and the family.
They are also the greatest safeguards of personal freedom. Each predates the state and claims higher authority. True, individual rights and natural law also claim autonomy from the state. But if you think about it, only institutions can stop the march to state absolutism. Hence, secularism always attacks family and religion.
Kenya’s recent Education Bill is faulty because it has been drafted with a secularist philosophy. It seeks to totally control education content and structure, to stifle parental rights, penalise private initiative and subsidiarity, sideline religious sponsors and even throttle freedom of expression and academic freedom (Constitution, art 33). Parents, who are the main stakeholders in education, should resist the Bill.