Rodney Hide: Maori prayers cause for chuckles

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Photo / The Daily Post
Photo / The Daily Post

I am an anti-theist. I just don't believe in God. I am pleased there isn't one. Nothing would irritate me more than a supernatural force knowing everything and hovering above directing all that happens in the world. It would be like suffering a metaphysical Kim Jong-il without the farce or humour.

I like the organ music, the art works and the parables. But the supernatural stuff moves me not a bit. What a miserable place it would be if all explanation ultimately reverted to supernatural belief. The truth and the search for truth are far more interesting than ghostly stories of how we came to be.

It's the human discovery of billions of galaxies, of black holes, dark matter, and the space-time continuum that fills me with awe and wonder.

Hocus-pocus creation stories can't compete with the beauty, the inspiration and the grandeur of the truth that life has evolved over hundreds of millions of years.

For some unfathomable reason religious people invariably want to push their beliefs on to others. The different religions have fought bloody and terrible wars and the religions have splintered, only to unleash holy horror among one another to prove one supernatural belief system superior to the other.

Sadly, the fighting and the terror continues and shows no sign of abating. We now have modern weapons wielded by medieval religious warriors immune to reason and untroubled by their own holy demise. Somehow they are convinced that blowing themselves up along with innocents advances their religious cause and assures eternal bliss. The greatest crimes have always been committed not by evil men doing wrong but by misguided good men believing they were doing right.

The believers in the supernatural are eager to access young minds when at their most impressionable. The very success of religion is the direct consequence of early indoctrination. A man from the American South brought up accordingly will be a Baptist through and through. A man from Peshawar will be Sunni. The two men are highly unlikely ever to examine each other's religious beliefs to decide the other is right. Their religious beliefs instilled in them when they were still too young to reason and to think define who and what they are. The best that we can hope for is that each will leave the other alone.

And so what to make of the karakia row taking place at Kelston Intermediate, revealed in the Herald on Sunday? We would rightly object to a Catholic priest or an Anglican bishop or an Islamic mullah taking such a daily prayer. That's because we have long concluded that state schools are best to teach our children to read and to write and to think critically. The religious instruction is better left to parents, church groups, temples and mosques and to those who choose a religious school for their children.

But somehow the karakia has popped up in our schools. Maori Affairs Minister Pita Sharples defends the karakia as a vital part of the Maori lifestyle and as making Kelston culturally safe, whatever that means.

But it's not the traditional Maori prayer of pre-Christian times: it's a Christian prayer in Maori. The early missionaries must be looking down from heaven and having a good chuckle. I stand there at Playcentre pretending to mumble the words. I try to be polite but I think it's double bollocks: once for being hocus-pocus and twice for being in Maori that no one in the centre understands or appears to care about.

Debate on this article is now closed.

- Herald on Sunday

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