BILL S-207 and the UN Secretary-General’s Study on Violence Against Children:
Submission to Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights
The Canadian Coalition for the Rights of Children urges the honourable members of the Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights to ensure that Canada’s international and domestic human rights obligations are brought to bear in its review of Bill S-207. In particular, the Coalition draws attention to the findings of the recent UN Secretary-General’s Study on Violence Against Children, the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), and the committee’s own review
of Canada’s obligations with regard to the rights of children. If these are taken into consideration, it would be difficult to find other than support for Bill S-207 and move forward to ensure that Canada’s Criminal Code protects all Canadian citizens – including its youngest, smallest and most vulnerable – from all forms of violence.
Violence in its myriad forms is universally condemned under international human rights law. But corporal punishment is a form of violence that persists in the everyday lives of children worldwide. In some States, it is a sanctioned practice by government agencies and bodies (e.g., in education, justice and child welfare systems). In others, it is permitted by legislation and persists in families.
The UN Secretary-General’s Study on Violence Against Children recognizes corporal punishment as a form of violence, and asserts that violence against children administered as “discipline” or “correction” must cease to be condoned, authorized or regulated in domestic law if States are to uphold their human rights obligations.
The key messages of the Study, which are reflected in the recommendations, are:
(a) No violence against children is justifiable. Children should never receive less protection than adults.
(b) All violence against children is preventable. States must build a protective legislative environment and invest in evidence-based policies and programs to address factors that give rise to violence against children.
(c) States have the primary responsibility to uphold children’s rights to protection and access to services, and to support families’ capacity to provide children with care in a safe environment.
(d) States have the obligation to ensure accountability in every case of violence.
(e) The vulnerability of children to violence is linked to their age and evolving capacity.
(f) Children have the right to express their views, and to have these views taken into account in the implementation of policies and programs.
“The Study should mark a turning point – an end to adult justification of violence against children, whether accepted as “tradition” or disguised as “discipline”.
Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, Independent Expert, UN Secretary General’s Study on Violence Against Children
The Responsibility of the State to Protect Children from All Violence
The UN Secretary General’s Study on Violence against Children is the product of a consultative process involving nine regional consultations (one hosted by the Government of Canada in 2005), responses to a government questionnaire submitted directly to the Independent Expert, public submissions, a series of 14 expert thematic meetings on various aspects of the issue, consultation with the Inter-agency Group on Violence against Children, consultation with children, and guidance from an editorial board. In Canada alone, close to 100 organizations representing multidisciplinary perspectives and more than 300 young people participated in the Study process. This formidable and broad process of consultation ensured that the recommendations of the Study are firmly anchored in the reality of children’s lives in every society, and in the current research.
The Study finds that some forms of violence, such as sexual exploitation and the impact of armed conflict on children, have provoked international condemnation and strong legislative and programmatic responses. However, some forms of violence in the home, schools, institutions and communities are largely ignored – or actually sanctioned – by governments.
The Study identifies corporal punishment as one of the most prevalent forms of violence faced by children in virtually every society ─ affluent and developing. It recognizes that family units are the best providers of physical and emotional care and protection for children. But governments have the responsibility to build a solid protective legal framework that respects the rights of children. Violence thrives in the absence of respect for human rights. Violence against children will persist where laws persist that confer on adults the right to use violence in the treatment of children. State responsibility to protect, respect and fulfil the rights of children extends beyond its direct activities and those of State agents; it requires the adoption of measures to ensure that parents, legal guardians and others do not violate children’s rights. States are obliged to put in place a framework of laws, policies and programmes to prevent violence.
The Study calls for the universal prohibition of all corporal punishment and other forms of cruel or degrading punishment in all settings, including schools and homes, setting a target date of 2009.
The findings of the global study were supported in the recent report of this committee, entitled Children: The Silenced Citizens: Effective Implementation of Canada’s International Obligations with Respect to the Rights of Children. It recognizes the gravity of the issue of violence against children in Canada and makes cogent recommendations to address it through legislative and educative means. Recommendation 2, among other things, calls for repeal of section 43 of the Criminal Code. Recommendation 5 calls on the federal government to respond to the UN Study on Violence Against Children and inform the international community, Parliament, and the Canadian public how it is responding to issues of violence against children and how it intends to improve upon policies to bring Canada into compliance with the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Recommendation 19 calls on the federal government to “immediately implement and comply with its obligations” under the CRC.
Support for Bill S-207 is consistent with both global and national findings on the role of governments in protecting children from all forms of violence. A Foundation in Children’s Human Rights The UN Study draws on international human rights frameworks to conclude that corporal punishment of children breaches their fundamental rights to respect for their human dignity and physical integrity. Legally permitted corporal punishment also abrogates their right to equal protection under the law. These rights are upheld for everyone – including children – in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, The Convention on the Rights of the Child, which forms a universal framework for addressing violence against children, requires states to protect children from “all forms of physical or mental violence” while in the care of parents or others (Article 19). It requires discipline in schools to “be administered in a manner consistent with the child’s human dignity” (Article 28). Children must never be subjected to “degrading treatment or punishment” (Article 37). The Convention on 3
the Rights of the Child (Article 3) requires that the child’s best interest be a primary consideration in all matters affecting the child. A vast body of research findings clearly establish that corporal punishment is never in the child’s best interest; rather it is a consistently identified risk factor for child abuse and for perpetuating violence.
The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child consistently interprets the Convention as requiring prohibition in law of all corporal punishment in the family, schools, all forms of alternative care and juvenile justice settings, together with awareness-raising and public education. The legislative prohibition of corporal punishment is recommended as an educative and deterrent means of reducing violence against children. In June 2006, the Committee adopted General Comment No. 8 on the rights of the child to protection from corporal punishment and other cruel or degrading forms of punishment. In it, the Committee underlines that “eliminating violent and humiliating punishment of children, through law reform and other necessary measures, is an immediate and unqualified obligation of States parties.”
Furthermore, the Outcome Document of the 2002 UN General Assembly Special Session on Children encouraged all States “to adopt and enforce laws, and improve the implementation of policies and programmes to protect children from all forms of violence, neglect, abuse and exploitation, whether at home, in school or other institutions, in the workplace, or in the community”. “How can we expect children to take human rights seriously and help build a culture of human rights while we
adults not only persist in slapping, spanking, smacking and beating them, but actually defend doing so as being ‘for their own good’? Smacking children is not just a lesson in bad behaviour, it is a potent demonstration of contempt for the human rights of smaller, weaker people.”
Thomas Hammarberg, Human Rights Commissioner, Council of Europe: Issue Paper 2006/01.
Implementation of the Study and its Recommendations “When parents do so much [physical violence], kids will end up being violent” Youth consulted for Seen, Heard & Believed: What Youth Say about Violence, 2006 (UNICEF Canada, Cape Breton University Centre for Children’s Rights, Canadian Council of Provincial Child and Youth Advocates, Save the Children Canada). Adoption of Bill S-207 is consistent with Canada’s support for the UN Study and plans for follow-up. The Study Report calls for implementation of 12 overarching recommendations (see Appendix), complemented by additional recommendations which are specific to each of the settings of home and family, educational settings, institutions for care or detention, the workplace and the community. (More information on these can be found in the full document available at www.violencestudy.org) In particular, the time frame refers to these being integrated into national planning processes by 2007. Prohibiting violence against children by law and initiating a process to develop reliable national data collection systems should be achieved by 2009. States should provide information on implementation of these recommendations in their reports to the Committee on the Rights of the Child. Canada’s next report is scheduled for
Following the presentation of the Secretary-General’s Study on Violence Against Children to the General Assembly in October 2006, the Resolution on the Rights of the Child adopted by the Third Committee of the Assembly (A/C.3/61/L.16) encourages Member States and requests United Nations entities, regional organisations and civil society, including non-governmental organisations, to widely disseminate and follow up on the Study. The resolution calls on relevant organisations of the United Nations system (19) “to explore ways and means, within their respective mandates, by which they can contribute more effectively to address the need to prevent and to respond to all forms of violence against children.” The resolution also requests the Independent Expert to promote the initial phase of follow-up. During 2007, the Independent Expert will call upon Governments, UN organisations, regional organisations, national institutions, civil society, and other partners to provide inputs to a progress report he will prepare for the 2007 General Assembly.
Canada adopted the Violence Study by resolution at the UN General Assembly in November 2006. In a letter to the Canadian Coalition for the Rights of Children, dated March 23, 2007, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Peter MacKay, stated that “The Canadian government welcomes the recommendations contained in the Study…Violence against girls, boys, and adolescents contravenes their most basic human rights and the impact on their development is enormously detrimental.”
Canada has emphasized the importance it places on human rights standards, and pledged to uphold and promote them. But the persisting legality of corporal punishment of children by parents, through s. 43 of the Criminal Code, is inconsistent with the human rights standards Canada has accepted and ratified. It is no more possible to define some level of “reasonable” or “justifiable” violence against children than against adults. In previous centuries, many states’ laws permitted and thus condoned physical chastisement of wives, slaves, servants and apprentices, but societies have moved on to adopt clear international human rights standards. It is unthinkable that legislation on violence against women, or violence against older people, would exclude condemnation of the most common form of violence against them, within the family or elsewhere.
By prohibiting corporal punishment, states are prohibiting not just a particular category of violence, but the idea that some arbitrary degree of violence against children should, uniquely, be legal and socially approved. This is fundamental to asserting children’s status as individual people and rights-holders, just as challenging men’s violence against women in the home has been a vital part of the struggle for women’s rights.The pace of legal reform is rapidly gaining momentum. Since Sweden became the first state to explicitly prohibit all corporal punishment of children in all settings in 1979, 17 states have since enacted legal prohibition. Another 23 states
have legislation in preparation or have committed themselves to legal reform towards full prohibition, including in the home.
Corporal punishment is prohibited in all schools in 102 States; in penal systems (both as a sentence and as a disciplinary measure in institutions for juvenile detention) in 104 States; and in all alternative care settings in 28 States. But at least 92 States have yet to introduce legislation explicitly prohibiting corporal punishment in all schools; at least 80 have yet to prohibit it as a disciplinary measure in institutions for juvenile detention. And in at least 40 children can still be sentenced to whipping, caning or flogging as a sentence for crime. “Many citizens and politicians express deep concern about increasing violence in their societies. The credibility of this concern is questionable as long as they are not willing to seriously and systematically address the use of violence against children. And nobody should suggest that a little bit of violence is acceptable. That applies equally for adults and children.” Jaap E. Doek, Chairperson, United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child, 2001-2007
“Adults need to set a better example for kids” Youth consulted for Seen, Heard & Believed: What Youth Say about Violence, 2006 (UNICEF Canada, Cape Breton University Centre for Children’s Rights, Canadian Council of Provincial Child and Youth Advocates, Save the Children Canada For Further Information, Contact: Kathy Vandergrift, Chair Canadian Coalition for the Rights of Children 613-820-0272 firstname.lastname@example.org
Intersection of Stephen Law and Stefan Molyneux
“The War for Children’s Minds” is a brilliantly clear and convincingly argued defense of liberalism in moral education. Stephen Law examines and demolishes all the arguments in favor of authoritarian ways of teaching, and shows that in spite of the insistence of popular commentators from the religious right, a liberal and rational examination and discussion of moral questions does not lead to moral relativism and the decay of moral behaviour, but can in fact be the best defense against them. This book won’t be read by popular journalists: they will attack it without reading it. But it should be read by every teacher, every parent, and every politician. What’s more, it should form the subject for discussion in every church, synagogue, mosque and religious youth group. It’s one of the most engaging as well as one of the most necessary books that I’ve ever read in the field of moral education. — Author Philip Pullman
Stephen Law’s point is that children must be given free reign to ask and discuss any and every question. Which is what I have emphasized over and over again in my posts. Children are naturally programmed to ask questions and they love why questions the most. Why is the sky blue? Why did my dog die? Why did we bury him in the garden? Instinctively it seems, children know that why questions are at the heart of understanding their world. Unfortunately for parents why questions do not lend themselves to quick and easy answers all the time. It is precisely the type of question that harried parents don’t want to answer because we are into philosophy now and there is no ending a discussion that turns philosophical. So typically, parents bow to the pressures of the day and downplay openings their children have given them to have meaningful conversations. This is what Stefan Molyneux explains in his book, On Truth: The Tyranny of Illusions.
I have argued that children are going to innocently wander into sensitive areas that are considered heretical or blasphemous, not to mention sexual. If they are met with frowns or exasperated eye rolling how better to vividly teach them they are not to think for themselves? How do you explain to a five year old that they are asking dangerous questions? You cannot explain, because young children do not have enough knowledge about the way the world works and religious concepts to process any kind of substantive answer. Which immediately points to a glaring problem with indoctrinating young children. Mostly all they can take away from religious indoctrination is confusion, fear and wishful thinking.
Stefan Molyneux writes about the moral obligations parents have towards their children and drills down to what he identifies as the second part of parent’s moral obligation to their children:
“The second part of your parents’ moral obligation towards you is much more subtle and corrosive. This is the realm of integrity, and it is a great challenge for societies throughout the world.
Integrity can be defined as consistency between reality, ideas and behaviour. Consistency with reality is not telling a child that daddy is “sick” when he is in fact drunk. Consistency with behaviour is not slapping a child for hitting another child. The value of this kind of integrity is also well understood by many, even if imperfectly practiced, and we will not deal with it much here either.
It is consistency with ideas that causes the most problems for families – and the most long-term suffering for children throughout their lives.
When you were a child, you were told over and over that certain actions were either good or bad. Telling the truth was good; stealing was bad. Hitting your brother was bad; helping your grandmother was good. Being on time was good; failing to complete chores was bad.
Implicit in all these instructions – moral instructions – was the premise that your parents knew what was right and what was wrong; what was good, and what was bad.
Do you think that was really true? Do you think that your parents knew what was right and wrong when you were a child?
When we tell a child that something is wrong – not just incorrect, but morally wrong – there are really only two possibilities. The first is that we actually know what is right and wrong in general, and we are applying our universal knowledge of right and wrong to a specific action committed by the child.
This is how it is always portrayed to the child. It is almost always the most dangerous lie in the world.
The second possibility is that we are telling our child that his actions are “wrong” for a variety of reasons that have nothing to do with morality whatsoever.
For instance, we might tell a child that stealing is wrong because:
We are embarrassed at our child’s actions. We are afraid of being judged a poor parent. We are afraid that our child’s theft will be discovered. We are simply repeating what was told to us. We enjoy humiliating our child. Correcting our child on “ethics” makes us feel morally superior. We want our child to avoid behaviour that we were punished for as children. … and so on
Assuming they are not terrified, most children, on first receiving moral instructions, will generally respond by asking “why?” Why is stealing wrong? Why is lying wrong? Why is bullying wrong? Why is hitting wrong?
These are all perfectly valid questions, akin to asking why the sky is blue. The problem arises in the fact that parents have no rational answers, but endlessly pretend that they do.
When a child asks us why something is wrong, we are put in a terrible bind. If we say that we do not know why lying is universally wrong, we believe we will lose our moral authority in the eyes of our children. If we say that we do know why lying is wrong, then we retain our moral authority, but only by lying to our children.
Since the fall of religion, we have lost our way in terms of ethics. As an atheist, I do not mourn the loss of the illusions of gods and devils, but I am alarmed at the fact that we have not yet admitted that the fall of religion has not provided us an objective and rational moral compass. By failing to admit to the fact that we do not know what we are doing ethically, we are perpetrating a grave moral error on our children.
Basically, we are lying to them about being good.
But here, I want to switch back to Stephen Law. In chapter nine he explains that in spite of the fact moral laws cannot be arrived at strictly through reason (Hume is quoted here) that does not mean we should reject reason as a tool to help us make valid moral choices. Moral values come from law, culture, and religion. Using reason and subjecting every moral idea to questioning can reveal unacknowledged consequences and logical inconsistencies. He cites the fact that scientific reasoning helped resolve the issue of whether women should have the right to vote. The evidence they do have the intellectual skills to exercise the right to vote is a matter of empirically demonstrable fact.
Approaching moral lessons from the standpoint of authority leads to learning ossified values that have never been subjected to the winnowing that would occur if authorities were allowed to be questioned. Besides, from the standpoint of religious authority all avenues wind up with God as the ultimate law giver. Questioning God amounts to blasphemy so we see the horrendous labyrinth of imaginative reasoning religious apologists must go to in an attempt to “modernize” their theology. As if it could be modernized.
One crucial idea to grasp is that the world is constantly changing and that makes teaching children to question everything the most important thing parents can teach them.
http://stephenlaw.blogspot.com/ Stephen Law, Philosopher, UK, The War for Children’s Minds
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The people who promote the position that atheism is a belief system are no doubt confused between humanism and atheism or they lack fine control over their gun sights. Not all atheists are humanists, but probably the majority would majorly agree with the various humanist manifestos that are extant around the world. It is secular humanism that the theists are getting their wigs wound up over because that is a genuine world view that is anti-theist, organized, and humanists speak out. Humanists are thoughtful and kind and do leave room for freedom of conscience, as all thinking people must. They just want religion to go back to being a private matter, like masturbation, gluttony, nudity and other self-gratifications that are best not paraded in public.
The very idea that mere lowly humans can somehow get along and thrive without god and have a systematic and enlightened way of presenting their views is perceived by theists as a threat, precisely because it is a threat. The only dogma atheists hold is “we hate cant, humbug, hypocricy, pretense, and dogma”. This again spins the believers up because all they know is dogma, humbug, pretense and hypocrisy. Unlike humanists, atheists do not have a manifesto or a creed or until very recently any popular way to be recognized as atheists. There is no baptism or confirmation or any of the other ways religion dreamed up to psychologically close the cage door.
That little scarlet letter “A” emblazoned on atheist shirts and boldly printed on their web sites is a defiant, provocative, in your face announcement that we are here among you. Be afraid. The scarlet letter “A” (who says atheists don’t appreciate irony?) serves to bring more and more atheists out of the closet. The symbol gives them an identity with their soul mates and creates a sense of solidarity of purpose in overcoming the unjust hatred directed towards atheists. Not to mention the fact that the red letter “A” is guaranteed to produce vapors, palpitations and vertigo in the likes of Pat Robertson and James “smack-them-again” Dobson.
It is a curious fact of human psychology that we humans attribute the way others think to our own way of thinking. Therefore, a person sitting in a church listening to the pastor spout dogma as “truth” will have an almost insurmountable task to believe that other humans have absolutely no need of and are in fact violently opposed to dogma preached as truth.
The fact that Dawkins, Dennett, Harris and Hitchens identify as atheists has reignited the fire of opposition by religious people. Assuming the fire had ever really gone out. Now, in addition we must contend with the merging of religion and politics in the United States because the conservatives have brilliantly succeeded in a mashup of the worst qualities humans possess. And here I am talking about emotionalism, ignorance, fear, racism, bigotry, anachronism, and the worship of patriarchy.
On Truth, The Tyranny of Illusion
On Truth, The Tyranny of Illusion
From a short-term, merely practical standpoint, you really do not want to read this book. This book will mess up your life, as you know it. This book will change every single one of your relationships – most importantly, your relationship with yourself. This book will change your life even if you never implement a single one of the proposals it contains. This book will change you even if you disagree with every single idea it puts forward. Even if you put it down right now, this book will have changed your life, because now you know that you are afraid of change.
This book is radioactive and painful – it is only incidentally the kind of radiation and pain that will cure you.
Fiction as Facts (Paragraph excerpt)
When you were a child, you did not have the ability to objectively validate the commandments of those who had power over you. Your susceptibility was a great temptation to those who would rather be believed than be right. All power tends to corrupt, and the power that parents have over their children is the greatest power in the world.
A child is biologically predisposed to trust and obey his parents – this has great utility, insofar as parents will often tell their children not to eat poisonous berries, pull hot frying pans off the stove, or run around all day outside without sunscreen on. The requirements of survival tend to discourage endless “trial and error.”
When parents instruct their children, they can either present that instruction as conditional, or absolute. Conditional instructions – do not hit your brother except in self-defence – tend to lead to endless additional questions, and quickly reveal the parents’ lack of knowledge. As the child continues to ask what exactly defines self-defence, whether pre-emptive strikes are allowable, whether teasing can be considered aggression and so on, the fuzzy areas innate to all systems of ethics quickly come into view.
As these fuzzy areas become clearer, parents fear once more the loss of moral authority. However, the fact that certain areas of ethics are harder to define than others does not mean that ethics as a whole is a purely subjective discipline. In biology, the classification of very similar species tends to be fuzzy as well – at least before the discovery of DNA – but that does not mean that biology is a purely subjective science. Water can never be perfectly pure, but that does not mean that bottled water is indistinguishable from seawater.
Due to their desire for simple and absolute moral commandments, parents spend enormous amounts of energy continually herding their children away from the “cliff edges” of ethical complexities. They deploy a wide variety of distractive and abusive tactics to achieve this end – and all these tactics are designed to convince the child that his parents possess absolute knowledge of ethical matters.
However, as children grow – particularly into the teenage years – a certain danger begins to arise. The children, formerly compliant (at least from the “terrible twos” through the latency period) begin to suspect that their parents’ “knowledge” is little more than a form of hypocritical bullying. They begin to see the true conformity of their parents with regards to culture, and really begin to understand that what was presented to them as objective fact was in reality subjective opinion.
This causes great confusion and resentment, because teenagers instinctually grasp the true corruption of their parents.
A counterfeiter necessarily respects the value of real money, since he does not spend his time and energies creating exact replicas of Monopoly banknotes. The counterfeiter wishes to accurately reproduce real money because he knows that real money has value – he wishes his reproduction to be as accurate as possible because he knows that his fake money does not have value.
Similarly, parents present their opinions as facts because they know that objective facts have more power and validity than mere opinion. A “doctor” who fakes his own credentials does so because he knows credentials have the power to create credibility.
Recognizing the power of truth – and using that power to reinforce lies – is abominably corrupt. A man who presents his opinions as facts does so because he recognizes the value of facts. Using the credibility of “truth” to make falsehoods more plausible simultaneously affirms and denies the value of honesty and integrity. It is a fundamental logical contradiction in theory, and almost unbearably hypocritical in practice.
Thus it always happens that when grown children begin to examine their elders, they rapidly discover that those elders do not in fact know what they claimed to know – but knew enough about the value of the truth to present their subjective opinions as objective knowledge. This hypocritical crime far outstrips the abuses of mere counterfeiting, or the faking of credentials, because adults can protect themselves against false currency and fake diplomas.
Children have no such defences.”
There are some great ideas for parents to think about in this short “book”, which you can read in about one hour. Or, there is the option of downloading an audio recording. The books available at the site are free, but a donation is appreciated.
The words of God do not justify cruelty to women
The Guardian/The Observer – UK July 12, 2009
Discrimination and abuse wrongly backed by doctrine are damaging society, argues the former US president
by Jimmy Carter | Opinion
“Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status …” (Article 2, Universal Declaration of Human Rights)
“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28)
I have been a practising Christian all my life and a deacon and Bible teacher for many years. My faith is a source of strength and comfort to me, as religious beliefs are to hundreds of millions of people around the world.
So my decision to sever my ties with the Southern Baptist Convention, after six decades, was painful and difficult. It was, however, an unavoidable decision when the convention’s leaders, quoting a few carefully selected Bible verses and claiming that Eve was created second to Adam and was responsible for original sin, ordained that women must be “subservient” to their husbands and prohibited from serving as deacons, pastors or chaplains in the military service. This was in conflict with my belief – confirmed in the holy scriptures – that we are all equal in the eyes of God.
This view that women are somehow inferior to men is not restricted to one religion or belief. It is widespread. Women are prevented from playing a full and equal role in many faiths.
Nor, tragically, does its influence stop at the walls of the church, mosque, synagogue or temple. This discrimination, unjustifiably attributed to a Higher Authority, has provided a reason or excuse for the deprivation of women’s equal rights across the world for centuries. The male interpretations of religious texts and the way they interact with, and reinforce, traditional practices justify some of the most pervasive, persistent, flagrant and damaging examples of human rights abuses.
At their most repugnant, the belief that women must be subjugated to the wishes of men excuses slavery, violence, forced prostitution, genital mutilation and national laws that omit rape as a crime. But it also costs many millions of girls and women control over their own bodies and lives, and continues to deny them fair access to education, health, employment and influence within their own communities.
The impact of these religious beliefs touches every aspect of our lives. They help explain why in many countries boys are educated before girls; why girls are told when and whom they must marry; and why many face enormous and unacceptable risks in pregnancy and childbirth because their basic health needs are not met.
In some Islamic nations, women are restricted in their movements, punished for permitting the exposure of an arm or ankle, deprived of education, prohibited from driving a car or competing with men for a job. If a woman is raped, she is often most severely punished as the guilty party in the crime.
The same discriminatory thinking lies behind the continuing gender gap in pay and why there are still so few women in office in Britain and the United States. The root of this prejudice lies deep in our histories, but its impact is felt every day. It is not women and girls alone who suffer. It damages all of us. The evidence shows that investing in women and girls delivers major benefits for everyone in society. An educated woman has healthier children. She is more likely to send them to school. She earns more and invests what she earns in her family.
It is simply self-defeating for any community to discriminate against half its population. We need to challenge these self-serving and out-dated attitudes and practices – as we are seeing in Iran where women are at the forefront of the battle for democracy and freedom.
I understand, however, why many political leaders can be reluctant about stepping into this minefield. Religion, and tradition, are powerful and sensitive area to challenge.
But my fellow Elders and I, who come from many faiths and backgrounds, no longer need to worry about winning votes or avoiding controversy – and we are deeply committed to challenging injustice wherever we see it.
The Elders have decided to draw particular attention to the responsibility of religious and traditional leaders in ensuring equality and human rights. We have recently published a statement that declares: “The justification of discrimination against women and girls on grounds of religion or tradition, as if it were prescribed by a Higher Authority, is unacceptable.”
We are calling on all leaders to challenge and change the harmful teachings and practices, no matter how ingrained, which justify discrimination against women. We ask, in particular, that leaders of all religions have the courage to acknowledge and emphasise the positive messages of dignity and equality that all the world’s major faiths share.
Although not having training in religion or theology, I understand that the carefully selected verses found in the holy scriptures to justify the superiority of men owe more to time and place – and the determination of male leaders to hold onto their influence – than eternal truths. Similar Biblical excerpts could be found to support the approval of slavery and the timid acquiescence to oppressive rulers.
At the same time, I am also familiar with vivid descriptions in the same scriptures in which women are revered as pre-eminent leaders. During the years of the early Christian church women served as deacons, priests, bishops, apostles, teachers and prophets. It wasn’t until the fourth century that dominant Christian leaders, all men, twisted and distorted holy scriptures to perpetuate their ascendant positions within the religious hierarchy.
I know, too, that Billy Graham, one of the most widely respected and revered Christians during my lifetime, did not understand why women were prevented from being priests and preachers. He said: “Women preach all over the world. It doesn’t bother me from my study of the scriptures.”
The truth is that male religious leaders have had – and still have – an option to interpret holy teachings either to exalt or subjugate women. They have, for their own selfish ends, overwhelmingly chosen the latter.
Their continuing choice provides the foundation or justification for much of the pervasive persecution and abuse of women throughout the world. This is in clear violation not just of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights but also the teachings of Jesus Christ, the Apostle Paul, Moses and the prophets, Muhammad, and founders of other great religions – all of whom have called for proper and equitable treatment of all the children of God. It is time we had the courage to challenge these views.
Jimmy Carter was US president from 1977-81. The Elders are an independent group of eminent global leaders, brought together by Nelson Mandela, who offer their influence and experience to support peace building, help address major causes of human suffering and promote the shared interests of humanity.
This article was found at:
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Influence without indoctrination
Dale McGowan is a source of inspiration and guidance for thousands of secular parents raising children in a society heavily overlayed with religious thought and practice. In this video he clearly points out a strategy for making sure that parents guide their children in the direction of taking control of important questions that they should be in charge of not their parents.
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- Growing Emotionally Healthy Children (counselingonlinesite.com)
—– Forced Into Faith: How Religion Abuses Children’s Rights by Innaiah Narisetti (Prometheus Books)
In 1989, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Convention on the Rights of the Child, proclaiming elementary rights for children worldwide. Among other provisions, the Convention safeguards children’s religious freedom and their freedom of thought. But because child rearing is recognized as the primary responsibility of parents, the question of what children are raised to believe is left up to their mothers and fathers.
In this controversial critique of the UN Convention, humanist Innaiah Narisetti forcefully argues that children’s rights should include complete freedom from religious belief. Narisetti proposes that the choice of religious belief or nonbelief should be deferred till adulthood. Just as most societies recognize that marriage and civic responsibilities such as voting are adult prerogatives that children should not be allowed to exercise, so should the choice of a belief system wait till an individual is competent to exercise mature judgment.
Narisetti cites numerous examples of the ways in which early religious indoctrination leads to later negative attitudes such as intolerance, suspicion, and outright hostility directed toward those who believe differently. He also notes that religion provides a cloak for such obvious evils as sexual abuse, genital mutilation, and corporal punishment of children. While most societies are quick to condemn such abuses, Narisetti suggests that they should be willing to take the next logical step and look to the role of religion in such problems.
Including the complete text of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, this candid, unflinching critique of childhood religious education will provoke much thoughtful discussion.
Innaiah Narisetti, Ph.D. (Hyderabad, India), is the chairman of the Center for Inquiry, India, the former general secretary of the Indian Radical Humanist Association, and the author of Let Sanity Prevail, M. N. Roy: Radical Humanist, and four other books.
Religion is Not about Tolerance
ABC Middle East correspondent Anne Barker became the target of an angry mob of Orthodox Jews. The protest she was filming was happening because a local council decided to open a municipal carpark on Saturday. As she filmed, several protesters noticed her.
It was like rain, coming at me from all directions – hitting my recorder, my bag, my shoes, even my glasses.
Big gobs of spit landed on me like heavy raindrops. I could even smell it as it fell on my face.
Somewhere behind me – I didn’t see him – a man on a stairway either kicked me in the head or knocked something heavy against me.
I wasn’t even sure why the mob was angry with me. Was it because I was a journalist? Or a woman? Because I wasn’t Jewish in an Orthodox area? Was I not dressed conservatively enough?
No. It was none of that. She was using a camera. Using a camera is a desecration of the Shabbat. For pressing a button on a camera, these idiots decided that she deserved to be spat upon. Not just a little, either. She deserved to be covered in spittle. She deserved to be kicked in the head.
This is obviously not the first time we’ve seen organized stupidity in the name of religion. Various groups are ready to kill and torture for crimes ranging from drawing a cartoon to naming a teddy bear to performing legal abortions to being raped by an uncle. It’s not my purpose to point out that there’s a lot of stupidity in religion. If you are not aware of this fact, you either live in a cave or have permanent blinders attached to your head.
Instead, I want to make the case that “Live and Let Live” is simply not compatible with religion. Sure, there are moderate religious people in most every religion who are content to let others have differing beliefs, but I think we’ve had it wrong all along. These people aren’t the rule. They’re the exception, and the exception doesn’t disprove the rule in this case.
I realize that this isn’t a popular position, and I also realize that it’s kind of hard to prove, in a statistical sense. Here’s the problem. Very few people want to be identified as religious extremists. In fact, many people who are religious extremists don’t believe themselves to be. Compounding this is the well known fact that people tend to see themselves as more rational, fair, and altruistic than they really are. The result, then, is that in surveys, we would expect to see a large number of people self-identifying as religious moderates when in fact, their beliefs and attitudes are quite extreme.
Consider the extremist position of advocating, voting for, and demonstrating publicly for the legislation of a purely religious belief. (I don’t think anyone would argue that this is an extreme practice of religion, would they? It’s not “live and let live.”) We have plenty of that in America, and a great deal of it is coming from the live-and-let-live moderates. Moderates have been active supporters of prayer in schools, the Ten Commandments in court houses, the tampering with the Pledge of Allegiance, the teaching of religion as science in public schools, abolishing a woman’s right to reproductive choice, banning sex toys, changing the constitution to legalize discrimination against gays, restricting the rights of retailers to sell perfectly legal products on days of religious observation, and dare I say it… protecting the interests of Israel primarily because of its place in the history of our major religion.
If only those who self-identify as “fundamentalists” or “theocrats” or other extremists were behind all of these measures, none of them would ever pass. The U.S. would be a truly secular nation with separation of church and state if only 20-25% of the population actively supported things like “faith based initiatives.” But as we’ve seen time and time again, religious legislation has the support of large swaths of the American public.
I don’t want to harp on this for too long since it will distract from my main point. I’m not trying to prove that there are lots of religious extremists in America. That, too, should be patently obvious. What I’m trying to do is demonstrate that religion itself — the belief in things that contradict science, and the validity of feelings over evidence — promotes and encourages this kind of behavior, and more importantly, that religious tolerance is NOT the normal state of affairs in religion. It’s the exception that proves the rule.
In defense of this claim, I offer the following:
- Humans, by nature, form religion in their own image. Humans, by nature, are prone to intolerance, herd mentality, and group-think.
- Many, if not most, religious moderates are more moderate in practice than belief. At least in my experience, most moderates, if pressed, will agree with many of the extremist practices in principle, but will lament extremists as too “over the top.”
- Our statistics on religious moderates are largely from self-identification, and people tend to identify as less extreme and more tolerant than they really are. We should expect the number of “real extremists” to be higher than the statistics indicate.
- The history of successful religious litigation, and the continued erosion of the church-state wall indicates very broad support — much broader than just self-identified extremists.
- We see the same patterns in other major religions, Islam and Judaism in particular. It’s a lot more talk of tolerance than practice.
- The “true feelings” of moderates towards atheists. Time and again, atheists are viewed by the majority of theists as untrustworthy, immoral, or just outright evil.
If moderation and tolerance was the default setting for religion, we should expect that across cultures, extremists would have very little say in government, and that by and large, there would be few public fights over matters of religion. What we see is quite the opposite. In most countries where the population is primarily religious, we see heated and often violent public and legislative fights over how to institutionalize, legalize, and give preferential treatment to religious interests.
Human nature is not always pretty, and religion facilitates and encourages many of the worst parts of it. It gives people permission to believe themselves correct despite outside reality checks. It gives us permission to go to the dark places in human nature and not only give them voice, but put them into practice. It lets us spit on women, cut off their genitals, and stone them to death after raping them. Not only that, it gives us permission to believe that anyone who says anything about it is an infidel.
No. Religion is not about tolerance. When a person is religious and tolerant, it’s not the religion’s doing. It’s the person’s own nature overriding the destructive and divisive beliefs that religion gives them permission to have. When a church adopts a kind, gentle view of Christianity that doesn’t shout about hell and damnation, it’s because the people in the church are good in spite of the nastiness inherent in their religion.
Religion is poison.
Children afraid to tell their parents
Annie and Brandon Kelly, both 26, are a married couple who grew up in evangelical families. They both now call themselves atheists. Their parents have not officially been told.
The Weekly met with the Kellys outside a shuttered café near the University of Arizona, where they’re both graduate students. Brandon, who was wearing a striped polo shirt, had a solemn demeanor. Tattoos festooned Annie’s arm; she also sported black fingernails, a nose piercing and dangly earrings.
They got married about five years ago in a “Christian, very religious wedding,” Annie said. Three years ago, after moving to Tucson from Michigan, they started questioning. They put a name to their new worldview last year.
“Getting past that initial step of actually being honest with yourself and saying, ‘OK, I really don’t believe in my religion anymore; I really don’t consider myself a Christian anymore,’ is probably the hardest step to get over,” Brandon said. “For a long time, I sort of–on an intellectual level–didn’t really believe it anymore. At the same time, when you grew up with it, and you’re told, ‘Be a Christian; it’s part of your identity, and everyone else is Christian, too,’ it’s very hard not to believe it anymore.”
“It’s scary to start questioning it, and be like, ‘I don’t know if I believe this anymore,’” Annie said. “And you start feeling guilty that you’re not as strong a believer as some other people.
“I kind of had the assumption that if you’re not a Christian,” Annie said, “there’s no reason to want to be a good person. But when I finally came to the realization that I can still be a good person, I can want to live a good life, there doesn’t have to be a reason for me to be a good person–if that makes sense–then I became more comfortable.”
With a state of mind that sounds similar to the one experienced by homosexuals when they come out of the closet, Annie and Brandon haven’t had the “very special talk” about atheism with their parents; the couple thinks they’ll be be disappointed when they get the official word. Mom and dad undoubtedly know on some level, but the negative (atheism) is downplayed while the positive (the potential for their return to the fold) is accentuated, Annie said.
“My parents will be like, ‘Where did I go wrong?’” she continued. “My mom will probably say that she didn’t do this enough for me, maybe she wasn’t in contact enough for me, maybe she didn’t send me enough books–which she did. I still have all the books sitting on my bookshelf. It’ll be a big disappointment.”
Brandon added: “I think also that both of our parents will blame the spouse to a certain extent. But it’s not easy to bring it up. It just hasn’t really come up, and it’s been such a gradual process for us. It wasn’t like we woke up one day and were like, ‘Oh, we’re atheists.’ They don’t really make a card for it.”
The experience of Annie and Brandon Kelly is typical of the personal stories you read on exChristian.net of people recovering from religion. A common thread running through these “true confessions” is that many children dread telling their parents. Depending upon how insular their faith community was, leaving can be a wrenching, depressing experience that they face alone. The church and the people they have known all their lives are often the newly converted apostate’s only friends. Since leaving is seen as disloyal and a betrayal, their friends often abandon them. Millions of people leave a faith community every year and the pain they suffer is one of the dark shameful secrets that goes unrevealed in the major media and that is systematically covered up by the churches. Parents do not seem to look this far ahead when they consign their children to the control program used to trap and keep children in the fold. If they knew what lay ahead, would it make them at least stop and hesitate before consigning their children? Joining a faith community is a private decision for an adult to make based on their freedom of conscience.
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