Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Should Kids Be Classified Under Religious Sects?

When it comes to matters concerning religion, theists and religious groups tend to get away with many of our liberties, with blantant disregard to secular norms and human rights. Rationality and reason, it seems, are applicable to many issues, but when matters of religion are concerned, no amount of reasoning, it seems, can seep into the fabric of entrenched religious dogmas.

Altar boys of a Catholic Church: Catholic Children?

Muslim Children?

Or Just Simply Children?

The minds of children are, metaphorically speaking, untainted blank sheets of paper. They are not born with any inherent beliefs, nor do they have the slightest dogmatic thoughts of invisible deities. Because they are born as such, learning becomes paramount to their existence, for even in a civilized world, knowledge is necessary to keep the child away from harm's way, as well as equipping them with the basic necessary skills for communication and survival. Hence, the idea that children can be attached with any sort of religious identities is not only ludicrous, it inhibits and limits the child's niche to a very selective community.

Richard Dawkins, an eminent atheist and professor, opined that no sane parent would call their child a Tory child, a left-wing child or a liberal child, yet they have no qualms calling them Catholic, Protestant or Muslim children. Such a degree of biaseness, it seems, has nothing to do with the child's beliefs.

All too often, religion is forced and shoved down the throats of children who are barely old enough to discern and rationalize the tenets of various beliefs, and religious folks will tell you that indoctrinating young children is easiest, since their minds are the most pliable at ages below ten. As children, their minds are "programmed" by natural selection to take orders without question. This evolutionary trait of compliance, it seems, allows children to learn the necessary skills for survival within the shortest time frame.

Unfortunately, this very trait has become a form of exploitation by parents who unwittingly indoctrinate their children to obey their respective religions blindly, without seeking any forms of justification, logic and rationality behind their faiths.

By labelling kids in accordance to the religions of their parents, there is also this tendency to segregate these kids from other kids who do not share their parents' religious backgrounds and creeds. Children in a Catholic school, for example, would likely not mix around as much with Protestant children as their catholic counterparts.

Another form of segregation of a more sinister kind may be that parents tend to imprint on the impressionable minds of their children that their beliefs are right, and the rest are outright false, and those so-called "infidels" who do not believe in their exclusive religion would find themselves burning in the raging fires of hell. This abject exclusivity leads to condescension and leads to further arrogance and segregation, for the child who harbors such fire and brimestone beliefs will not see eye to eye with people, possibly showing scant (or worst, disdain) respect to people who do not share their creeds and beliefs. Chances are, such children will stick to their own niche, seldom or never venturing to mix around with friends outside their own little band of religious kids and folks.

While I am not suggesting that classifying kids in accordance to their respective faiths that they are brought up in constitute child abuse, it is important to realize that children are far to young to make up their minds with regards to certain creeds and philosophies, and to label them as religious only serves as just another dastardly means of segregating them from an ideological and religious level.

-"What can it mean to speak of a child's 'own' religion? Imagine a world in which it was normal to speak of a Keynesian child, a Hayekian child, or a Marxist child. Or imagine a proposal to pour government money into separate primary schools for Labour children, Tory children, LibDem children and Monster Raving Loony children? Everyone agrees that small children are too young to know whether they are Keynesian or Monetarist, Labour or Tory, too young to bear the burden of such labels. Why, then, is our entire society happy to slap a label like Catholic or Protestant, Muslim or Jew, on a tiny child? Isn't that, when you think about it, a kind of mental child abuse?"

-Richard Dawkins, "Imagine No Religion"

1 comment:

Snave said...

I liked Dawkins' book "The God Delusion" quite a bit. I tend toward agnosticism, and I try very hard to be tolerant of rightwing religious fundamentalists.

Have you seen "Jesus Camp"? I think one could call those not "fundamentalist children", but tather "brainwashed children of fundamentalists".

This may sound harsh, but when religion gets forced down a child's throat before the child can develop the reasoning skills necessary to fully understand said religion, I think it amounts to a form of child abuse. I am thankful my parents never forced their beliefs on me, and that they allowed me to make up my own mind about what to belief. I learned a lot about the Bible from being a regular attendee at Bible study groups and United Methodist services for about eight years, and I stopped it about eight years ago. I wouldn't necessarily call myself a recovering Christian, because I don't view Christianity as a disease... unless it is taken to extremes.

In regard to the segregation of kids along religious lines, I agree with Dawkins about organized religions (and particularly those of the fundamentalist variety) generally creating a mindset of exclusivity within their members. Sadly, the parents transfer this on to their children in multiple ways. Those Christians who believe they are of a chosen generation, who think they are annointed by God, etc. stunt the growth of their children by not allowing them to learn that while everyone has different beliefs, no one religious belief system is really any better or any different than the rest. Practitioners of particular faiths may claim theirs is the best, and that others are not valid... but I tend to look at this in the same way Ambrose Bierce did when he defined "faith" in his excellent work "The Devil's Dictionary":

" Faith: Belief without evidence in what is told by one who speaks without knowledge, of things without parallel. "

Kids need to be free to learn about the world with minimal intereference from deluded parents, plain and simple.