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The real extremism1


Published: 2 April 2019 (GMT+10)

A recent edition of the BBC’s Moral Maze2 featured, among others, two prominent secularists, Stephen Evans, CEO of the National Secular Society, and humanist, Susan Blackmore. The subject debated was ‘Religious orthodoxy versus liberal values’ and among the topics discussed were circumcision, ‘faith schools’ and the teaching of creation. The totalitarian mind-set of these people was truly disturbing.

Evans argued that “the right to manifest religion is a qualified right, and it’s right to set that right aside in certain circumstances.” This, he maintains, is justified “where there is harm caused … whether that’s harm to an individual, whether that’s harm to an animal, or a broader societal harm.” Particularly, he says, “if it’s abusive to a child then I think the State has every right to intervene.” In his view, circumcision is child abuse, and should therefore be criminalised. (We note, too, that many claim teaching creation is child abuse.)

There can be little doubt that Evans’ real motive here is to find some excuse to curb religious freedom and to use the power of the State to do this. According to the World Health Organisation, approximately one third of men throughout the world are circumcised.3 They maintain that “male circumcision provided by well-trained health professionals in properly equipped settings is safe”4 and even list seven health benefits.5 Hence, not only is criminalising the practice ridiculous but, given the enormous problems facing society, it is also waste of precious time and resources.6

When asked whether he was happy for the State to ban a “non-negotiable aspect of Jewish identity”, Evans replied that he didn’t accept that religion was fixed and couldn’t be changed. Remarkably, he argued that circumcision “is not a theological issue at all”. But the assertion that the State should make judgements about what Jews should believe about circumcision is absurd. It also flies in the face of his earlier statement that “you have a right to your beliefs”. Moreover, once such a principle is accepted, no religion will be free to hold to their beliefs, as they will always be subject to government intervention.

Faith schools

Evans was then asked whether he thinks that “parents should be free to rear and educate their children to embrace their parents’ and family’s beliefs and values and morality.” He replied, “Absolutely” but then added, “I don’t necessarily think they have the right to do that via the State”—by which he presumably means state-funded ‘faith schools’. Yet this is exactly what is happening. The presentation of evolution in state schools today ‘as fact’ is effectively teaching Evan’s religion of secularism “via the State”.

Later in the programme, Susan Blackmore was asked “What’s wrong with allowing a religion or a religious group to organise schools, recruiting only people from their faith?” She answered,

“What’s wrong with that is that it doesn’t give the children a true opportunity to learn to think for themselves and I think that one of the main purposes of education is to give children skills and that includes critical thinking, comparing different ideas and so on. So if they’re brought up entirely in a faith school in which they are taught the articles of that faith and … particularly when it comes to creationism then we have a real problem.”
Professor Antony Flew’s book in which he argues that intelligence was necessary to produce life.

However, it is really the secular state schools that are failing to “give the children a true opportunity to learn to think for themselves”. (And, in fact, some Christian parents do teach their children about evolution.) Teachers in some British state schools who know the weaknesses of evolution theory take a risk if they even hint to the pupils that there is just no evidence that natural processes can turn ‘molecules into men’.

For many years Professor Antony Flew was one of the leading atheist thinkers of the 20th century, perhaps even the leading atheist. However, later in life he investigated the scientific issues relating to the origin of life and concluded that life must have had an intelligent designer. He said,

“It now seems to me that the findings of more than fifty years of DNA research have provided materials for a new and enormously powerful argument to design …. What I think the DNA material has done is that it has shown, by the almost unbelievable complexity of the arrangements which are needed to produce life, that intelligence must have been involved in getting these extraordinarily diverse elements to work together.”7

However, if a teacher in a state school were to explain Flew’s reasoning to pupils in a science class he/she might lose their job.

The Casey Report

In 2016, Dame Louise Casey, who recently railed against Catholic schools for being “homophobic and anti-gay marriage”,8 authored a UK government report, A review into opportunity and integration. In this she gave a remarkable definition of extremism:

“Extremism is a subjective concept, defined in a number of ways. It is generally taken to mean the holding of an extreme view or taking an extreme action, usually associated with a political or religious ideology, which is at odds with the views of mainstream society. Extremist views will often be seen as uncompromising or intolerant, while extremist actions (or tactics) can be violent and non-violent.”9

So according to Casey, holding a view which is at odds with mainstream society, even if non-violent, could be deemed ‘extremism’. Based on this definition, I would suggest that Stephan Evans, in arguing for the criminalisation of circumcision (a position many disagree with), should be regarded as an extremist. Similarly, when teachers are threatened with the sack simply for informing pupils of different views about origins, this is extremism too.

When considering the absurdity of these attacks on faith communities it is easy to become angry. However, we must remember the words of Jesus and be quick to “turn the other cheek” (Matthew 5:39) and pray for those who persecute us (Matthew 6:44). At the same time, we must be “as shrewd as snakes” (Matthew 10:16) and ensure that we are equipped with the facts so that we can argue effectively for the truth.

References and notes

  1. This first appeared in CMI-UK/Europe’s Prayer News, July–September 2018. Return to text.
  2. Religious orthodoxy versus liberal values, Moral Maze, BCC Radio 4, 21 February 2018. Return to text.
  3. Male circumcision: Global trends and determinants of prevalence, safety and acceptability, World Health Organisation, p. 7, apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/10665/43749/1/9789241596169_eng.pdf, 2007; accessed 20 March 2019. Return to text.
  4. Male circumcision for HIV prevention; who.int/hiv/topics/malecircumcision/en; accessed 20 March 2019. Return to text.
  5. Male circumcision information package, Insert 3; who.int/hiv/pub/malecircumcision/infopack_en_3.pdf?ua=1; accessed 20 March 2019. Return to text.
  6. Female circumcision, of course, is a different matter. This is really just a mutilation of women with no health benefits. Return to text.
  7. Flew, A., interviewed by Habermas, G., My Pilgrimage from Atheism to Theism, digitalcommons.liberty.edu, 2004. Return to text.
  8. Communities and Local Government Committee, Oral evidence: Integration Review, HC 881, data.parliament.uk, 9 January 2017. Return to text.
  9. Casey, L., The Casey Review: A review into opportunity and integration, assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/575973/The_Casey_Review_Report.pdf, December 2016; accessed 20 March 2019. Return to text.

Readers’ comments

Robert J.
In response to Philip R.

CMI might have some pro-creation bias but I don't think they let that bias cloud their final decisions on creation/evolution. They say that Christians believe by faith and scientists believe by proof and/or evidence. It takes a lot more faith to believe in evolution than in creation. As I see it CMI closely studies the 'evidence' for evolution and finds it lacking.

On the other hand the WHO and the AAP are so pro-circumcision that they completely ignore the evidence that points to the harm caused by circumcision; and there is lots of evidence, especially empirical evidence from some countries that, except for their Jewish and Muslim citizens, don't generally circumcise their sons.

When you study all the evidence with an open mind any sane person will conclude that the harm from that procedure is far greater than any 'perceived' benefits.

Since circumcision is mentioned numerous times throughout the Bible, I'd like to see biblical theologians study the issue further. Instead it's treated as a taboo subject. There are so many unanswered questions.
Philip Bell
We have permitted this little exchange on the issue of circumcision. However, although it is a topic worthy of discussion, this will be the last feedback posted on this issue.
Philip R.
I find Robert J's argument quite unconvincing. "The WHO is very pro-circumcision and therefore not a good source for information on genital cutting.". By that logic, CMI, which is very pro-creation, is therefore not a good source of information on creation. Sorry, but that's simply a non-sequitur. You can be very pro something because you're biased, or because the evidence supports it. Being very pro something does not automatically mean that you're biased.

And if the studies were supposedly flawed because of preconceived opinions, why couldn't that also be the case with the studies that supposedly debunked them?

"The NT is very clear that circumcision was taken from us at the cross."
Which means that it is no longer required by God. That says nothing about the benefits or otherwise of it. On the contrary, the fact that God instituted it at all (and not as a punishment) would strongly suggest that it does no harm. Or at least did no harm, and it's fair to presume that that's still the case unless a reason can be advanced as to why that would have changed.
Robert J.
So Evans 'argues that "the right to manifest religion is a qualified right, and it's right to set that right aside in certain circumstances... where harm is caused to an individual..." ' I believe there is some truth to this statement, and especially when it's viewed in the case of forced genital cutting. The WHO is very pro-circumcision and therefore not a good source for information on genital cutting. All the studies that indicate benefits to circumcision have been debunked. They are basically flawed because they were conducted by people who skewed the facts to support their preconceived opinions. ... In actual fact the harm from that procedure is far greater than any perceived benefits. The NT is very clear that circumcision was taken from us at the cross. ... Even Peter, a circumcised Jew, when he addressed specifically the issue of circumcision at the Jerusalem Council stated that it was a yoke around the neck that they (the Jews) and their fathers weren't able to bear. He said, "We are saved in the same manner as they are", as the Gentiles are, without being circumcised. ... I believe strongly in religious freedom, but we have to draw a line when that freedom causes physical or psychological harm, or even death, to other people against their will.
Nathan G.
"Evans argued that “the right to manifest religion is a qualified right, and it’s right to set that right aside in certain circumstances.”" Except of course, where atheistic evo religion is illegally protected as the unofficial US state religion and is rabidly defended by lawsuits, which are nonvoluntarily paid for by Christian taxpayers who disagree. Let's see how long it takes for the ACLU to howl unfair, if atheists' kids are forced to learn about and accept Christianity as true in school. There's not a stopwatch fast enough to clock that hypocrisy!

Evans obviously disagrees with the Founders' statement: "We hold these truths to be self-evident (universal and axiomatic), that all men are created equal …. life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." And the Bill of Rights is seemingly just a piece of paper. More Humpty Dumpty deceit.

Evans maintains that stripping Constitutional rights away is justified “where there is harm caused … whether that’s harm to an individual, whether that’s harm to an animal, or a broader societal harm.” How does he defend the fact that evolutionary thought deprived millions of Americans of their tonsils, because they allegedly were "vestigial organs"? That had a direct, measurable health effect on people. Or the faulty decisions doctors and evo scientists have made on the basis of "junk DNA", which has now been proven to be integrally functional? Even wearing underwear is unhealthy for sperm production. How many more people have been harmed by evo pseudo-science in this respect?

And what about bloated, uncontrollable polar bear populations due to evo propaganda and animal exploitation to "prove" alleged manmade climate change? Polar bear expert Susan Crockford recently debunked the polar bear myth in a book. Animal harm, anyone?
David S.
At this rate, the western church may yet get to be tested under persecution, and have the opportunity to rejoice that we are “counted worthy to suffer shame for His name”. Secularists are fools to think they can in any way hinder God’s plans. The more they attack the church, the more power He will display through us, even through our suffering, for His eternal glory. Our God is great and greatly to be praised!
John Z.
Good article. We have too often let our passivism (not pacifism) stop us from being as aggressive as we need to be in order to make the point that the real extremists are those who want to limit, prevent, control and eliminate faith and religious concepts from being taught, regardless of their usefulness and regardless of the principles of free speech, parental rights, and freedom of religion.
Robert M.
Dame Louise Casey believes that "holding a view which is at odds with mainstream society... could be deemed ‘extremism’." Thus, she must surely belive homosexuality and gay marriage is extremism because it is undisputedly outside the mainstream of society.
Neil O.
Thank you for that informative article. The sentiments in your final paragraph have been exercising this believer, recently. Engaging (as we 'on-the-ground' do) with the many provocative happenings and assertions making headline impact in the 'social media' (in the absence of impartiality in Mainstream Media), these are now very pertinent considerations. Jesus did not pray that the Father take us FROM 'the world', so we are to 'occupy' until He comes. When, how far and how robustly to 'contend' for the faith; and when and how to hold back from 'contending' in that sense and turning to 'contending' in the Spirit: THAT is the question.
Mike D.
Ironic & a perfect example of how double standard minded & hypocritical they are. Like the old saying, When you point one finger you have 3 pointing back at you.

They specialize in Teaching What to Think to students ( people). Instead of teaching How to Think ( Critically Analyze).

Read Physics Today June 2000 article named "Teaching & Propaganda" by Dr. Mano Singham

He is a college professor that admits how they teach evolution is by using Propaganda, Brainwashing, & Filtering etc techniques. Of course he rationalized it. But amazingly he was honest about so much of it. What's so sad is the part where he describes how they preplan how to & how they discredit any opposing views at the same time that they brainwash. It has been extremely successful. So much so that even when confronted with the facts of this article & admitted fraud(s) of evolution. Like the book Icons of Evolution written by non Christian by honest scientist (Dr Jonathan Wells). Plus there is the Darwin's Scientist Dissent List, proving not all scientists believe [evolution] & not all are Christians. ...

Yet even when exposed to all this, they sadly refuse to move off believing in evolution. Which is why parents & grandparents need to learn this info' to counter schools brainwashing & teach how to critically analyze, & about Biblical inerrancy. Sites like this have the materials age appropriate. Plus when they bring it up in school it will witness to many teachers that know no better themselves! God Bless & get this info' for Sunday School classes too.
S H.
The scary thing about this whole 'extremism' issue and debate is that without any moral compass, what is defined as extremism is increasingly random and hazardous, defined by aggressive groups who shout the loudest (often like bullies). Believing the Bible is being intentionally lumped in with Islamist terrorism. Without God and his life-guarding truth, what is considered acceptable today may be regarded as extremism tomorrow and vice versa. It is a floating moral morass where 'society' decides to legalise or criminalise whatever is the latest thinking. It continually amazes me that in a world where people say there is no truth, intelligent people make half-baked judgements about what is truth. They say 'religion' is 'damaging', while simultaneously acting as God themselves and prescribing a more oppressive and indoctrinating system of government and thinking. Jesus called out the religious pharisees of the day. The irony is that today it is not generally 'religious' leaders who are the religious extremists of the day, it is the secular humanist world view political correct movement that has become the new religious order. Ironically, it is a very cruel and vindictive judge and jury. It is not believing in Jesus that is a 'religion', it is the dictates of a secular state that is becoming a religion! But it highlights the grace of God because God never abandons people and there is always redemption and a fresh start. While society imposes ever more draconian laws as it follows itself as the only god, the living and true God (through truth) offers real hope, life, peace, identity and freedom. As the founding fathers in the US intended (and has since been twisted), freedom of 'religion' is not the freedom of the state but freedom from the state!
Pauline T.
Thanks for another stimulating article.

Is there somewhere I can find a clear comparison/contrast between how creationists define contentious words c/w how secularists/evolutionists define them? My experience is that until we understand what each other mean by certain terms/phrases, we are really just talking past each other and not engaging in meaningful discussing/debate.

Thanks for your fantastic work at CMI in defending and explaining so many facets of God's word, work and world.
Philip Bell
I don't know of such a list but the following article does discuss the problem of secularist double speak, "the way that evolutionists use double-entendres (phrases with double meanings) and equivocation (the use of language, often deliberately, capable of alternative interpretation). They do this to foist a naturalistic worldview onto an unsuspecting and often uncritical public": Evolutionary Stasis, Double-Speak and Propaganda.
The following famous illustration, appropriated from Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking Glass, is apposite:

“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said in a rather scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.”
“The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”
“The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master—that’s all.”
Dean R.
It is also extremely ironic that the secular state would support the idea of male and female humans re identifying & changing their image/gender and being supported in that with surgery and medication that has been proven to be harmful. And then there is abortion which is becoming more extreme.

Anti Theistic/Anti Christian Surrealism is another type of religion fueled by the myth of modernism. People become less than or more than the image of God, animals or gods themselves & king over all. Only Jesus/God can restore us to who we truly are to the fullest measure with overflowing.Such is the God of Abraham, Isaac & Jacob. There is none like Him.

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