Very good article, and very clearly written.The sad yet clear double standard is that many, if not most, religious parents will insist that their faith is a personal choice to which they are entitled – and quite rightly so, as per Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights – but fail to apply that freedom to their own children, when it comes to inculcating their beliefs into them. My gripe, I suppose, is that I do not believe that parents have a ‘right to raise their children as they see fit’, as this is a dangerously subjective precept that gives carte blanche to coercive and abusive practices (for the most extreme cases, one need look no further than the New Hartford parents who whipped their son to death with electrical cables last year,1 for wanting to leave their church) as much as it does to the teaching of socially adaptive behaviour.By coincidence, I was reading about the matter of religious versus secular education, and came across the following from the New Zealand Secular Education Network, which includes an important distinction worth repeating:
‘Religious Instruction means teaching and endorsing a faith in its own right, for example the practice of Church volunteers “leading children to a faith in Jesus”. There is a significant difference between religious instruction and religious studies, [which teach] a comparative overview of the major world religions, taken by qualified teachers in a neutral manner.’
I am all in favour of Religious Studies, as, atheist or not, religion is an important cultural component of the backdrop of humanity, and a comparative appreciation of world religions can foster a sense of connectedness and an understanding of our heritage. On the other hand, the necessarily partial and exclusive teachings in Religious Instruction tend to foster an ‘us-and-them’ mentality that can be detrimental to social cohesion, encourage belief in the fantastical and/or magical as on an equal footing with physical reality, and finally – for the sake of their own survival – stand against critical, rational thinking.
Our children deserve better than that.
1 Sanchez, Ray, and Lawrence Crook. “Police: Teen killed in N.Y. church assault wanted out.” Edition.cnn.com. Cable News Network, 16 Oct. 2015. Web. 7 May 2016.
That’s right, even the zealous, the pious and the most committed of religious characters were born without any beliefs in gods. As Richard Dawkins points out in “The God Delusion”, children don’t have religions their parents do. We are born without knowledge of our culture, without an understanding of social stratification and without superstition. Children don’t inherit characteristics of social division, they are labelled with them. We ascribe them to them. They have to be learned and are invariably taught. In fact a quick search for “Christian preschool” will return a host of results for places children from 2 to 5 years old can learn about Christianity while learning to grip a pencil, identify colours and count to 20. Hazel’s Christian Preschool takes the view that…
“Through creative exploration and “hands on” approach, each child is supported emotionally,cognitively, physically, social growth and foundational opportunities to know God as our loving creator and…
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