Prominent atheist Prof Richard Dawkins wants to set up a school where children can “automatically” work out that “they are atheists”.
Prof Dawkins has previously labelled the teaching of orthodox Christian beliefs about life after death as “child abuse”.
But, speaking yesterday to parents via online forum Mumsnet, he said he liked the idea of starting a school under the new Government system which would allow individuals to set up “free” schools.
Claiming not to want to “indoctrinate” children into atheism, Prof Dawkins said his school would teach children “to ask for evidence, to be sceptical, critical, open-minded”.
He went on to say: “If children understand that beliefs should be substantiated with evidence, as opposed to tradition, authority, revelation or faith, they will automatically work out for themselves that they are atheists.”
While noting that he would not open an atheist school “at any point soon”, Prof Dawkins said such a school would teach about ancient Greek religions and Norse gods.
He said the Bible would be included in lessons, but solely for its importance as a literary work.
“The Bible should be taught, but emphatically not as reality. It is fiction, myth, poetry, anything but reality”, he said.
Prof Dawkins added: “As such it needs to be taught because it underlies so much of our literature and our culture.”
Responding to secular critics like Prof Dawkins who have blasted faith schools, the Chief Rabbi, Jonathan Sacks, has argued that faith schools instill virtues of hard work, discipline and a sense of social responsibility.
“More and more people want them, and are prepared to go to great lengths to get their children admitted”, Lord Sacks wrote in an article for The Times in March.
Asking why faith schools tend to be academically successful, the Chief Rabbi commented: “My tentative suggestion is that faith schools tend to have a strong ethos that emphasises respect for authority, the virtues of hard work, discipline and a sense of duty, a commitment to high ideals, a willingness to learn, a sense of social responsibility, a preference for earned self-respect rather than unearned self-esteem, and the idea of an objective moral order that transcends subjective personal preference.”