Having a Relationship with an Imaginary God
A forum participant writes:
It is rather a relationship with a loving God who desires to know them and show them truths of the Bible in their everyday lives. It is about understanding that acceptance is not based on performance but on the very existance of that relationship. If I did not teach what I believe to be true and so very important, eternally important, I would be remiss as a parent.
Hold up there! First of all you cannot provide a single shred of evidence to show there is a god. Let alone a Hebrew god of the bible (assuming you are Christian). We cannot accept such imaginings as justification for parent’s actions. Prove there is a god — then maybe we will listen to you.
Children should only be taught the truth of the natural world, not the wild postulations of the supernatural. You do not know there is a god. You simply have decided to believe there is a god. If this gives you comfort and satisfaction, well and good you are entitled to follow your conscience. It does not mean you are entitled to infect your children with your delusional beliefs.
Do you understand the difference? Making crucial life decisions based on unproven beliefs is highly irresponsible. The principle of freedom of religion only goes so far — the minute harm is caused by a belief in religion your rights are abrogated — null and void. Teaching vulnerable children supernatural myths and unfounded religious dogma is harmful. You can couch your misbegotten program with all the sentiments of love you so choose, that only makes your actions more reprehensible. Parents that truly love their children respect them as persons and allow them to make there own choices to suit themselves.
If we are going to suffer harm, wouldn’t we all rather be wounded by someone that hates us than by someone who loves us? You are trampling on your children’s religious freedom.
Genealogies of Ignorance: A Conversation on Childhood Indoctrination
In a previous post, titled, “My children are currently being raised Roman Catholic”, I brought up the question of childhood indoctrination and examined a Catholic woman’s justification for requiring her children to be indoctrinated into the Catholic Church. If you have not read that post then I suggest that you take a quick look at it to understand what follows.
This post prompted an interesting written exchange elsewhere between myself and a reader. Below I am reproducing that conversation, at least up to the point upon which it stands now, because it allows me to further explicate my views on this subject within the context of a dialog. The other person’s name and identity will remain anonymous (”Reader” will suffice as a designation), but I suspect that many other people share the same or similar views as this Reader does.
The Reader’s statements are presented as Reader. My responses are presented as Me.
Reader: Are not parents care-takers of their children? If they think it is in their best interest to introduce them to religion, despite what someone outside of their family thinks, is that any of our business?
Couldn’t we apply this same logic to a child’s diet? Education? Residence? Political beliefs? Overall attitude? We do not want robots; we want developed children from a loving environment. What better way to bestow our love by teaching our experiences to our children, rather than throwing them to “the wolves” with no understanding of what’s to come.
It is our charge to equip our children for the world to the best of our abilities; whether that means imparting our spiritual experiences, or neglecting their spiritual man.
To each his own.
Me: This entry is questioning whether it really IS in a child’s best interest to be not just ‘introduced’ to religion, but thoroughly indoctrinated in a religion regardless of what the child’s wishes may be. This is a far more serious than simply teaching a child one’s life or spiritual experiences.
1. to instruct in a doctrine, principle, ideology, etc., esp. to imbue with a specific partisan or biased belief or point of view.
2. to teach or inculcate.
3. to imbue with learning.
Again: “It is our charge to equip our children for the world to the best of our abilities; whether that means imparting our spiritual experiences, or neglecting their spiritual man. To each his own.”
Please note that these are merely my opinions I’m expressing, so that perhaps you’ll understand a different perspective. I, in no way, want to provoke anyone or feel the need to be necessarily right or wrong in anyone’s eyes. I hope that was already understood.
Me: Okay…well, I understand your opinion but like I said earlier, my issue is with something that I see as far more serious than simply introducing children to religion or spiritual experiences. So, I’d be happy to hear your opinion on the specific issue of indoctrination.
Reader: Do you have children? If you think about it, on the converse–and btw, I am concluding that you are an atheist because of your name–what if your family was a family of atheists, but all of society believed in God and Christianity? Do you want us to shove our God down your children’s throats? And to tell you that you are not allowed to “indoctrinate” your children to believe there is no God?
Plus, in regards to your quote, “Essentially, the implication here is that children are not mature enough to make their own decisions when it comes to religion, so as a child that decision must be made for them. But if the decision is made for them throughout their childhood, how can one expect that same child to be fully equiped to make his or own decision once he or she is a full grown adult?”:
The fact of the matter is our children are not mature enough to make their own decisions. If my son made his own decisions, he would be playing all day instead of doing his homework. He would eat Gushers and Fruit Roll Ups and never any vegetables. He would spend his afternoons in swimming pools or at parks, instead of go to school. Our children need guidance from adults, not passive morons who think their children (or anyone’s children) should have the “right” to choose whatever they want. That’s why children do not vote until they are 18; that’s why they do not serve in the military until they’re 18 (unless they have permission); that’s why they don’t get tattoos, or piercings until 18. They are children and don’t know how to make decisions yet– but you said, how will they be fully equiped? They will be fully equiped if they are taught right from wrong. If they are shown what is overall good, and overall bad. Yes, some children are exposed to some religions that are bad for this country or bad for the world, but we do not have the right to be able to strip other people of their right to the first amendment– or do we? I am open to your opinion as well…
Me: To answer a couple of your points:
(1) I would never indoctrinate or approve of the indoctrination of children into believing there is no god. I am against any form of childhood indoctrination.
(2) The question regards whether child are mature enough to make their own decisions regarding religion, not everything in their daily life. This is different. This is telling a child what opinions he or she must hold. I doubt that many people would look approvingly on a set of parents that made their children swear to be Republicans. How is that different from making children swear that they believe Jesus rose from the dead and will punish unbelievers in hell?
(3) I am not interested in stripping people of any rights. And I am certainly not interested in passing laws against this. However, I do feel that it needs to be roundly and loudly criticized.
Reader: I do agree with you to a point. My parents taught me what they believed and I accepted it as a child. As an adult, I had the opportunity to reject what I was taught, and I did reject it for quite some time, until I decided that, after eight years of searching, it was right for me after all. I agree that it is wrong to tell someone what to believe, and to reject them if they do not believe it.
But it is not anyone’s right to tell anyone what they should be allowed to teach their children.
Just like it is wrong to go to Iraq and tell Iraqis how to believe or act, it is wrong for Americans to go into fellow Americans’ homes to tell them how to behave. Unfortunately, although these thoughts are “nice”, they are all quite moot points.
However, I appreciate how kind you’ve been while disagreeing with me. I think it’s perfectly reasonable to have differences in opinions, and I do respect that you are able to share your opinions without being patronizing.
Me: “But it is not anyone’s right to tell anyone what they should be allowed to teach their children.”
To an extent I would agree. However, surely we can imagine situations in which it is in the best interest of the child not to be taught certain things. Should parents be allowed to raise racist children? Maybe. How about teaching children that it is okay to perform acts of violence on another class of people? Some parents reject all medical science for religious reasons and force their children to reject medical treatment – even in life threatening situations.
The pertinent question, therefore, is not whether or not we can intervene on a child’s behalf but in what circumstances should we?
Reader: “The pertinent question, therefore, is not whether or not we can intervene on a child’s behalf but in what circumstances should we?”
Physical abuse. When a child’s life is in apparent danger, that is when someone else should step in. Otherwise, it is none of our business. Even if that’s annoying (which I know it is).
Me: I agree that physical abuse dictates that we must intervene on the child’s behalf. However, I do not agree that in cases of what I will call “mental abuse” that it is none of our business. It should be our business because this will have an affect on the child’s life and future. This is why Richard Dawkins calls childhood indoctrination a form of child abuse. Children are the future and it behooves us to know whether or not parents are teaching their children wrong, silly, stupid, or dangerous ideas.
I am not saying that in this case we have a right to physically intervene. I do believe in protecting certain freedoms. All that I am saying is that we should not shy away from criticizing such practices because we are afraid that it is none of our business.
Reader: I am not “afraid” that it is none of our business– it is none of our business. Who’s to say what’s right or wrong? Will it become a thing like in Germany when all Jews were wrong? When it was first only a mere hatred then hatred grown to genecide?
It is none of anyone’s business what religion I choose for myself or for my children– otherwise my rights are being tampered with.
Me: Your rights are only being tampered with if you are forced, through legislation or some other means, to do something contrary to what your stated rights are. I am not talking about forcing anything on anyone. However, watch a documentary like “Jesus Camp” and you might appreciate why I feel that how parents are indoctrinating their children should be, in general, society’s business.
Children that are taught to fear eternal hellfire or that the non-Christians will be tortured after death. Children that are taught to embrace the possibility that the end of the world may be at hand and that this is a good thing. This can and is in many cases traumatizing or has other negative psychological effects.
When ideas themselves being imposed on young and innocent children might constitute a form of mental child abuse then yes, it is our business to show concern and criticize the religious beliefs and institutions that encourage it.
Reader: No offense, but how do you know what will happen after death?
Me: I am not claiming to know what happens after death. But I do know that there is absolutely no evidence for any of the claims I mentioned in my previous note. None. Not even close. And that’s part of the problem. Children do not recognize this. And what results is a genealogy of ignorance and an inability to properly reason about the reality of religious claims.
You know, lost amid all this talk about parents rights is the even more obvious right of a child to a proper and beneficial education. There are thousands, if not millions, of children being taught right now that the Earth is only 6,000 years old and that scientific knowledge should be demonized. There are children being taught that homosexuality is a sin and abnormal. There are children that are being denied comprehensive sex-education because their parents fervently believe in abstinence only. Etc.
That is the where the conversation currently stands. Do you agree with Reader on any points? Would you have answered Reader differently than I did?
[Cross posted at AnAtheist.Net]