Rite grooming?

Author enlists a primary schoolteacher to explore faith school lessons

29 independent reviews 4.4 out of 5 stars


Let’s face it, believing newborn babies are sinful – in need of having their souls washed – is quaint.  But St Augustine linked their sin to sex.  That’s creepy.  Is it any wonder the Church remains mired in cases of child sexual abuse?
The UK is a mainly secular society, yet most of us born in these islands were taught the beliefs of St Augustine of Hippo, by statute.  We are shaped by his fourth century hair-shirt doctrines of submission and self-censure.
The Church of England prayer service admits sin and begs forgiveness or mercy twenty-four times. Grace and love are said twice.

In many faith schools today, pupils are taught to recite similarly mortifying prayers, often by a church leader.  Infants learn to dwell upon how sinful they are.  As babies they were baptised to wash the stain of sin inside them.  They are made beholden to a saviour who was tortured and put to death for their inborn wickedness.

An authority figure causing a child to feel guilt and shame is a documented grooming method.

Clearly grooming is unintended, but drilling infants in self-deprecation seems unsafe regardless.  In school we learn Christian values, often contradicting British 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 simply freed.  Sensitive children can be affected by negative thoughts.

This new book examines recognised studies and official reports testifying that children are more likely to be abused in a church setting than in other environments.  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.

The author reflects on his schooling, where he suffered abuse.  He considers whether teaching on sex and sin might play a more influential role in child sexual abuse and adult mental well-being than has generally been recognised in mainstream social science. 

Augustine claimed that humans are naturally wicked and we are predisposed to be sinfully lustful from birth. 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 scrutinised here.  Multiple research papers endorsing religiosity are reviewed, highlighting a lack of rigour. And we discover why leading academics shun this field of study.

A schoolteacher’s lucid descriptions of Religious Education lessons in faith schools today, will stir readers who suppose Christianity is a benign influence to think again.   Hailed by reviewers as ‘profoundly thought provoking,’ this revealing new book fills a gap in the shelf.

With a foreword by Alastair Lichten, Head of education, National Secular Society, the author opens a compelling new front in the current wave of popular religious critiques, revitalising the ‘God Debate’.

4.4 stars
Independent Reviews - St Augustine's Sin - Why child abuse bedevils Christianity

The #1 Cause of Suffering and Misery

Spoiler: It’s not religion 

The complexities in this story are so profound they are a trending topic in the scientific community.  Unless you have been a victim, as I have, or you are among that body of specialist academics and doctors focussed on medical research or after care, you are unlikely to be familiar with vital facts.

Reams of research papers are publicly available attempting to explain the multiple paradoxes and ambiguities that have been identified.  Despite decades of study a breakthrough is not expected any time soon, and meanwhile the number of people affected is rising.

To be continued next month…

Our family lived at the top of Dulwich hill overlooking London. One stormy night the wind howled menacingly outside as my Irish mother gathered us around her to tell of:

The Banshee

We vassals of time have a measured score
And the Banshee wails, when we’re ‘counted for,
To Her Headless Coachman and his team of four
Black stallions with head plumes, in deference to lore.

They ride on the wind from out of the night,
A fiendish dark turnout, as these lines recite.
When they break into gallop the traces draw tight,
The beasts’ nostrils flare and their eyes glisten white.

“The blustering wind, or a carriage in flight
With coach wheels a’rumbling?”  Though still out of sight,
It sounds closer each hearing, as thunderclaps might,
Calling up the one doomed – a macabre Invite.

One wild night you’ll harken her wailing once more;
You’ll feel the hooves thunder, you’ll hear the hearse draw
And the windows will shake with a rap at your door.
That’s the call of the Banshee, that you can’t ignore.

The above poem was published in 2014 in the United Press National Poetry Anthology.

The Banshee - We vassals of time have a measured score
The Dullahan (headless coachman)

Our Garden

Earth’s dark hibernal curfew has succumbed to vibrant spring
And blossom-gravid fruiting buds of life rekindled sing.
Now, Common Sturnus sorties out for mayflies on the wing
And grubs, his greedy starlets have demanded him to bring.

That fount of social balm that we’ve been restive for is here,
He’s warmed our pocket plot and nudged her life back into gear.
Our living space extends to let this joie de vivre come near;
And, sweet pea, rose and dahlia miraculously appear.

We’ve watched the seed unfurl and swell, now God unveils his store:
Cos leaves, Savoys, Olympians, Valencias by the score
And canes borne down with lusciousness, red, gold and black galore.
Then, fiery Stag Horn Sumac shows and livens the décor!

Luminescent emerald fades to depleted gold
As the cool thief of fruitfulness contemptuously takes hold
And wilful frosty fingers wrap his booty in white mould.
Now, plucky Winter Pansies melt my eyes and scorn the cold.

Thus the seasons spend themselves, while Time keeps silent score.
Throughout our humble garden, with its year split into four,
Earth flaunts her wondrous cycle to inspire us ever more
With the miracle of life, enacted right outside our door.


The above little rhyme started life as a silver wedding anniversary  poem to my late wife. When she died I rewrote it in celebration of the other love of my life. It was published in the Festival of Chichester anthology 2017.  Below is the original last verse.


The blessing of our coupling, after five years and a score,
Is the Sun of love between us, quietly blazing all the more.
And the warmth from this eternal summer will ensure
That like the dateless natural world, our love remains secure.

%A free resource of topics involving domestic abuse%
Our Garden in Winter


A pinch of hair, a squashed up head
And suddenly my world stopped dead.

Neat hands and feet, and eyes to see,
One finely crafted Lilliput me;

Tiny, fresh and undefiled,
My twin before I was a child.


Please fritter these moments in chatter, not prayer,
For whoever’s my maker, he’s shown little care.
I don’t need recitals of hymns, to be blest
Nor do I have want of a graveyard for rest.
So, scatter me not over hallowed ground
With tussocky grass and no one around.
Nor think you I’ll rest in these rolling downs
‘Mid frost chilled hollows and touristy towns.

But scatter me please o’er the waters that rise
At Trewsbury Mead under sapphire skies
And roll down thro’ Remenham to St Nicholas’ path
Where my love and I wended to chatter and laugh,

    And here we will float in perpetual grace
    While rapt in each other’s dust-spangled embrace.

The above two verses were published in 2015 in the Chichester Writer’s Circle Annual Yearbook.

Domestic bliss vs Domestic abuse
The author & wife dancing aboard 'Transvania'

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