Second annual day of protest against hereditary religion coming soon
January 20, 2013 will be the date for the second annual international day of protest against hereditary religion. The protest will again be held in cyberspace, but the aim is to eventually have annual protests in the real world. Complete with marches, rallies, and public speeches. Not to mention music.
The concept of children as the property of their parents comes from antiquity and is part of the legacy of patriarchy. Modern children are conceived as persons in their own right because the notion of one person owning another person amounts to slavery. Furthermore, children have internationally recognized rights, including the right to make their own decisions according to their ability to do so. The decision to join a religion is a decision best left until a child is a mature adult. But, institutionalized religion has been unwilling to acknowledge that children have religious freedom rights. The institutions depend upon a steady stream of new adherents to maintain their flocks as older members fall into sickness and death due to aging. Until recently no one has mounted any serious challenges to hereditary religion.
Religious authorities deny any harm comes to children and insist a child is always free to make a choice later on in life. This claim simply does not stand up to the facts as observed. Indeed, there is nothing tentative about the religious indoctrination process. It is designed to produce a lifelong adherent and it usually succeeds admirably.
The notion of ending hereditary religion is novel and can startle people upon first hearing the proposal. An immediate reaction is often instant rejection. Defenders of the status quo argue that children need religion in order to behave. Such arguments completely ignore the fact that children in the highly secular societies of Europe and elsewhere behave just fine without being subjected to religious superstition and dogma. Moreover, the evidence is mounting that early religious indoctrination is detrimental to a flourishing intellectual life and can even produce mental anxiety problems when there is a stress on obedience and fear.
Here is the link to the 2013 protest event page:
UN agency adopted a new general comment in 2006 on corporal punishment
In 2006 the Committee on the Rights of the Child adopted a new General Comment on the issue of corporal punishment
The Committee’s General Comment on Corporal Punishment
At its 42nd session, held in Geneva from 15 May to 2 June 2006, the Committee on the Rights of the Child adopted a new General Comment on the issue of corporal punishment. This is the first General Comment concerning the protection of children from all forms of violence which the Committee resolved to publish following its Days of General Discussion on violence against children in 2000 and 2001. It reflects the Committee’s commitment to address the problem of corporal punishment, which dates back to the early days of monitoring the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and which has consistently informed the Committee’s recommendations to States parties over the years.
General Comment No.8 (2006) on “The right to protection from corporal punishment and other cruel or degrading forms of punishment (arts. 19; 28, para. 2; and 37, inter alia)” aims “to highlight the obligation of all States parties to move quickly to prohibit and eliminate all corporal punishment and all other cruel or degrading forms of punishment of children and to outline the legislative and other awareness-raising and educational measures that States must take” (para 2). As well as being an obligation of States parties under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, addressing and eliminating corporal punishment of children is “a key strategy for reducing and preventing all forms of violence in societies” (para 3).
The Committee defines corporal punishment in paragraph 11 of the General Comment:
“The Committee defines ‘corporal’ or ‘physical’ punishment as any punishment in which physical force is used and intended to cause some degree of pain or discomfort, however light. Most involves hitting (‘smacking’, ‘slapping’, ‘spanking’) children, with the hand or with an implement – whip, stick, belt, shoe, wooden spoon, etc. But it can also involve, for example, kicking, shaking or throwing children, scratching, pinching, burning, scalding or forced ingestion (for example, washing children’s mouths out with soap or forcing them to swallow hot spices). In the view of the Committee, corporal punishment is invariably degrading. In addition, there are other non-physical forms of punishment which are also cruel and degrading and thus incompatible with the Convention. These include, for example, punishment which belittles, humiliates, denigrates, scapegoats, threatens, scares or ridicules the child.”
Children are subjected to such punishment in all settings and must be addressed and eliminated in all settings, including within the home and family.
The Committee distinguishes between violence and humiliation as forms of punishment, which it rejects, and discipline of children in the form of “necessary guidance and direction”, which is essential for healthy growth of children. The Committee also differentiates between punitive physical actions against children and physical interventions aimed at protecting children from harm.
Human rights standards
The foundations of the human rights obligation to prohibit and eliminate all corporal punishment and all other degrading forms of punishment lie in the rights of every person to respect for his/her dignity and physical integrity and to equal protection under the law. The Committee traces this back to the original International Bill of Human Rights – “The dignity of each and every individual is the fundamental guiding principle of international human rights law” (para 16) – and shows how the Convention on the Rights of the Child builds on these principles. Quoting article 19 of the Convention, which requires States to protect children “from all forms of physical or mental violence”, the Committee states (para 18):
“… There is no ambiguity: ‘all forms of physical or mental violence’ does not leave room for any level of legalized violence against children. Corporal punishment and other cruel or degrading forms of punishment are forms of violence and the State must take all appropriate legislative, administrative, social and educational measures to eliminate them.”
The fact that article 19 and article 28 – on school discipline – do not specifically refer to corporal punishment does not in any way undermine the obligation to prohibit and eliminate it (paras 20, 21 and 22):
“… the Convention, like all human rights instruments, must be regarded as a living instrument, whose interpretation develops over time. In the 17 years since the Convention was adopted, the prevalence of corporal punishment of children in their homes, schools and other institutions has become more visible, through the reporting process under the Convention and through research and advocacy by, among others, national human rights institutions and non-governmental organizations (NGOs).
“Once visible, it is clear that the practice directly conflicts with the equal and inalienable rights of children to respect for their human dignity and physical integrity. The distinct nature of children, their initial dependent and developmental state, their unique human potential as well as their vulnerability, all demand the need for more, rather than less, legal and other protection from all forms of violence.
“The Committee emphasizes that eliminating violent and humiliating punishment of children, through law reform and other necessary measures, is n immediate and unqualified obligation of States parties….”
The Committee goes on to note that this approach is mirrored in the work of other international human rights treaty monitoring bodies and of regional human rights mechanisms, including the European Court of Human Rights, the Inter-American Court of Human
Rights, and the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights.
Common arguments by governments against prohibition of all corporal punishment are also addressed by the Committee. For example, in response to the contention that a certain degree of “reasonable” or “moderate” corporal punishment is in the “best interests” of the child, the Committee states that “interpretation of a child’s best interests must be consistent with the whole Convention, including the obligation to protect children from all forms of violence and the requirement to give due weight to the child’s views; it cannot be used to justify practices, including corporal punishment and other forms of cruel or degrading punishment, which conflict with the child’s human dignity and right to physical integrity” (para 26). And there is no conflict between realising children’s rights and the importance of the family unit, which the Convention fully upholds. The Committee recognises that some justify the use of corporal punishment through religious faith teachings and texts but again notes that “practice of a religion or belief must be consistent with respect for others’ human dignity and physical integrity” and that “[f]reedom to practice one’s religion or belief may be legitimately limited in order to protect the fundamental rights and freedoms of others” (para 29).
You can continue reading the comments here:
Click the Wiki link below the map of Europe to see the latest data.
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Parents have an endless supply of justifications
One parent wrote to tell me that I could not understand the practice of indoctrinating young children because I did not believe what they believe, meaning I am not an indoctrinated Christian. He wrote that if Christians did not “indoctrinate” their children, they would be hypocrites. The scare quotes are his, not mine.
In reply, I wrote that I perfectly understand what this Christian and many other believers have said about the power of their belief and how they have no choice. To an outside objective observer that is not trapped in such a bubble of belief I can sympathize, but it does not lessen the fact that they are deluded to believe that they have some kind of ultimate truth that will save them and their children if they do what they are told.
Organized religions have clever and insidious ways to trap people and keep them ensnared. They have grown so good at this that adherents don’t even realize they live in a locked cage.
Christian truth is no more the ultimate truth than is the Muslim’s, the Hindu’s, or any of the other myriad faiths that make the same claim. In as much as there is so much disagreement between billions of people around the world and in as much as imposing Christian dogma and superstition on a small child can have profound negative effects on their mental health, isn’t the most responsible thing a parent can do is allow their children to gain the maturity they need to make a decision about this for themselves? The choice is between living a life guided by unrelenting doctrine or guided by freedom and reason.
If your religion is so good, so true, so pure, why won’t an 18 year old who has not been abusively indoctrinated see this for themselves? Not a single believer has given us a straight answer to that question. Why must Christians (and all the other believers in various and sundry superstitions) proselytize?
Saying you have no choice is clearly not the case. You do have a choice, but you are tightly wedded to just one option and cannot see there is a serious downside to what you advocate: unmitigated unthinking obedience to your faith. Such obedience is not admirable, because it marks you as an unthinking slave.
Here is what I propose. To understand the harm you may be doing, commit to reading the personal stories people post to exchristian.net for 30 days. Look hard at exactly what the result of childhood indoctrination produces, not the rosy picture you have painted in your mind. I don’t know what sect you belong to or how many people are in your congregation, but start paying attention to how people that leave are treated. Know that a large number of children do leave their childhood faith as soon as they are out from under their parents supervision. Many drift into other religions because it is extremely difficult to escape the results of childhood indoctrination. What you advocate can have life long negative effects. Realize you are degrading one of the most fantastic natural devices in the universe, the human mind.
What I hear is really all about you, your concerns, your fears. If you don’t consign your children the rest of the congregation and your cleric will all mark you as a “bad” Christian. Isn’t that the truth of the matter? Forget what the bible says, your real concern is what others will think about you and your devotion.
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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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Johann Hari: Dear God, stop brainwashing children
Let us now put our hands together and pray. O God, we gather here today to ask you to free our schoolchildren from being forced to go through this charade every day. As you know, O Lord, because You see all, British law requires every schoolchild to participate in “an act of collective worship” every 24 hours. Irrespective of what the child thinks or believes, they are shepherded into a hall, silenced, and forced to pray – or pretend to.
If they refuse to bow their heads to You, they are punished. This happened to me, because I protested that there is no evidence whatsoever that You exist, and plenty of proof that shows the texts describing You are filled with falsehoods. When I pointed this out, I was told to stop being “blasphemous” and threatened with detention. “Shut up and pray,” a teacher told me on one occasion. Are you proud, O Lord?
Forcing children to take part in religious worship every day is a law worthy of a theocracy, not a liberal democracy where 70 per cent of adults never attend a religious ceremony. That’s why the Association of Teachers and Lecturers – one of the teachers’ unions – has recently moved to ask the Government to stop forcing its members to take part in this practice.
I can understand why the unelected, faltering religious institutions cling to this law so tightly. When it comes to “faith”, if you don’t get people young, you probably won’t ever get them. Very few people are, as adults, persuaded of the idea that (say) a Messiah was born to a virgin and managed to bend the laws of physics, or that we should revere a man who at the age of 53 had sex with a nine-year-old girl. You can usually only persuade people of this when they are very young – a time when their critical and rational faculties have not yet been developed – and hope it becomes a rock in their psychological make-up they dare not pull out.
But why do the rest of us allow this fervent 5 per cent of the population to force the rest of our kids to follow their superstitions? Parents can withdraw their children if they choose – but that often means separating the child in an embarrassing way from her friends and exposing them to criticisms from the school, so only 1 per cent do it. Most don’t even know it is an option.
More importantly still, why is worship forced on 99 per cent of children without their own consent or even asking what they think? As the author Richard Dawkins has pointed out many times, there are no “Christian children” or “Muslim children”. I was classed as “Christian” because my mother is vaguely culturally Christian, although at every opportunity I protested that I didn’t believe any of it. Children are not born with these beliefs, as they are born with a particular pigmentation or height or eye colour. Indeed, if you watch children being taught about religion, you will see most of them instinctively laugh and ask perfectly sensible sceptical questions that are swatted away – or punished – by religious instructors.
I am genuinely surprised that no moderate religious people have, to my knowledge, joined the campaign to stop this compelled prayer. What pleasure or pride can you possibly feel in knowing that children are compelled to worship your God? Why are you silent?
Why does this anachronism persist in this blessedly irreligious country? For all their whining that they are “persecuted”, the religious minority in Britain are in fact accorded remarkable privileges. They are given a bench-full of unelected positions in the legislature, protection from criticism in the law, and vast amounts of public money to indoctrinate children into their belief systems in every school in the land.
For the rest of the article go here.
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Nate Phelps & Fred Phelps: Religion as Child Abuse, Mental Abuse
Austin’s Atheism Blog
By Austin Cline, About.com Guide to Atheism since 1998
Saturday November 15, 2008
Liberal and moderate believers object very strongly to any suggestion that traditional religious dogmas might in any way qualify as emotional or psychological abuse when they are taught to young children. If there is any truth to such an idea, it would most easily be found among those believers who take traditional religious dogmas most seriously — believers who don’t try to minimize the dogmas or “reinterpret” them in the light of modern, humanistic ethics.
Nate Phelps was recently interviewed about his history and break with his father, Fred Phelps, and the notorious Westboro Baptist Church. Nate rejected the extreme fundamentalism of his father and so didn’t try to impress it upon his own children. However, it appears that what he did try to teach his children was the straightforward, unadorned truth of Christian dogma with no attempts to soften the message. The results weren’t what he expected.
“Every Sunday, I was listening closely and trying desperately to find something in the preaching or in the words that would convince me that this was right. Even while I was doing that, I was always skeptical…but I never voiced it. I was very good at playing the apologist for the Christian faith. In fact, I had quite a reputation for writing and talking in defense of Christianity.”
The turning point was one Christmas, when Nate decided to teach his children about God. In the end, his son Tyler began crying in the backseat of the car, saying that he didn’t want to go to hell.
“He wanted to believe because he didn’t want to go to hell,” Nate said. “I was just stunned because I didn’t know what I had said or how I had left him with that fear. I thought I was doing a good job of presenting it without the fear.
“Thinking about it after the fact, I realized you can’t do that. With a young mind it doesn’t matter. You can try as much as you want to talk about how good God is, but the bottom line is there’s this intolerably frightening punishment if you don’t accept it. And how does a young mind deal with that?”
Ubyssey: The Ubyssey
So Nate Phelps didn’t go out of his way to teach his children to fear and, in fact, may have managed to avoid raising the issue entirely. That’s a long, long way from how his father and his father’s church teaches things. Specifically emphasizing any need to fear, though, clearly isn’t necessary because as Nate came to realize, teaching people that they will suffer immeasurably for all eternity if they don’t believe the correct things can only lead to fear.
Shirley Phelps-Roper, Nate’s sister, commented on the above article:
At the end of the day, rebel Nate who is a man of the flesh according to the Bible, cannot get it into his head the the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. The child crying over a fear of hell is exactly what is intended by the plain language of the scriptures. You can love that and live that and own that and be one with that, as they say, or you can foolishly fight against that. WHO thinks they can beat God? YIKES! He never one time mentions HIS duty to teach HIS children every day in every way with every thing that does and says what the Lord their God requires of them. God is a consuming fire. Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, WE PERSUADE MEN! Just look at the way you two brutes got together and tried to put a fluffy spin on rebellion AND the consenquences thereof.
It sounds an awful lot to me like Shirley Phelps-Roper is arguing that psychological and emotional abuse of children is the point of the Bible. Given how atrocious many of the stories and teachings in that book are, I find it hard to argue against her — but rather than treat this as license to engage in abuse, I treat that as a reason to reject the Bible and seek guidance or inspiration in more moral sources.
I think other Christians at least unconsciously agree and this is one reason why they aren’t flocking to churches like Phelp’s. Unfortunately, they can’t completely let go of ancient superstitions so they continue to cling to the Bible by reinterpreting in ways that more closely match morals, ethics, and standards what would have been foreign and abhorrent to the original authors. In effect, they want the authority of the Bible behind ethics that have little or nothing to do with the Bible.
Read entire article here Nate Phelps & Fred Phelps: Religion as Child Abuse, Mental Abuse.
Parents need not abandon their faith
There are ways parents can approach the issue of guiding a child’s faith that respects the child’s rights and honors the parents own faith. Parents object that they do not see a way to have their religion and not involve their children. But these are two separate issues.
There are strong objections to the way that child raising has assumed an element of obligatory childhood religious indoctrination. Children can be, and should be taught about religion, but it does not follow that they have to be forced into a particular faith. Teaching children about religion is quite different than forcing them to take up a specific religion.
The choice to commit to a religion is one that belongs to a person with a mature mind that can weigh the pros and cons and consult their own (their own) conscience about the matter. Notwithstanding this injunction, we can find child adherents that claim they became religious of their own volition. Clearly their parents must have unfairly influenced such children.
The documentary film Deborah 13: Servant of God tells the story of a such a child. Here is an abbreviated version of the film that was broadcast in the UK.
Parents should wait to allow their children time to form the ability to think like an adult before allowing them to undertake religious training. Development experts say children around 12 to 14 are starting to think like adults. Furthermore, the initiative should be coming from the child not the parents. But, only after children have learned all the facts about religion: the relationship between religion and cults, the history of religion, and the impact of religion on society, both positive and negative.
All the ramifications should be discussed, parents must lay out all the possible options including eastern religions, not just various sects of Christianity. Also children should learn about the option of staying free of religion. Atheism or humanism are perfectly viable honorable choices.
Why should parents try to prevent their children from considering these options? Approximately 30,000,000 Americans lead happy productive secular lives guided by reason and as we can see in Europe and Scandinavia societies that are secular enjoy a high quality of life.
What parents, indeed cultures around the world, are doing now is dishonest and unethical. Parents withhold the knowledge of other options and do not fully disclose the drawbacks that go with getting involved in the supernatural. Religious communities can effect a persons freedom to be self determining and autonomous because for the indoctrination to work, the natural impluse of children to question everything must be tamped down. Religious institutions are not exactly hotbeds of skepticism, and that goes double for Sunday Schools and faith based schools.
Once a child enters a faith they usually find that leaving is not easy. Would it not be more fair if children knew this up front?
A frequent issue parents raise is what to do with small children if they do not take them to religious services. Surely this is not an insurmountable problem. There must be friends or family members who will care for children a few hours per month. Perhaps Christians could strike bargains with Jewish or Muslim friends who have a different Sabbath. Arrange a mutual support pact. In every family there is a circle of friends or family members that would step in. Parents can find ways to practice their faith, while simultaneously insuring their children’s religious freedom rights are not abridged.
Trying to convert people surely is a waste of time
I’m sure that people who favored slavery would have made the same argument. As would have those who did not want to grant women the right to vote, people of mixed races to marry, and blacks to use the same drinking fountain as whites. Nonetheless, change came about.
Realistically what we write here is not going to convert any bigots, or people who cannot see the injustice of the present system because they were raised to think belief was a duty. If it’s a choice of following what we advocate versus following what they think their god would say — well we know what the decision will be. God has the hell weapon in his arsenal.
It is an interesting fact that children who were punished physically during their childhood frequently defend the practice of hitting children. They also vociferously defend their parents. The analogy to people who were subjected to childhood religious indoctrination is rather striking and may stem from a similar psychological mechanism. All children are strongly indoctrinated with the idea that they must love their parents and obey them. The conditioning works against them seeing their parents in a true light.
Our project is interested in learning why parents believe forcing religion on their captive children is their right, even when shown that it can be harmful to some, probably large percentage, of children and that parent’s so called rights are on shaky moral ground. The indoctrination of children is customary, traditional, and shielded by strong taboos and tropes the institutions have put in place to guard themselves from criticism. Of that we may be sure.
Out of all the people who decide to objectively investigate and think about their options, there will be some percentage that agree that it is healthy to stop and question practices that are continued solely on the basis of tradition. In fact, solely on the basis of patriarchal tradition. In Rome, fathers could legally murder a rebellious son because family fortunes passed down the patriarchal line. It is no accident that we have a saying that a man’s home is his castle and the notion that it is wrong to interfere in another man’s castle is so strong. Child rearing is loaded with sanctimony and issues of male dominance and power. Conservatives just totally lose control of their bladders when parental “rights” are challenged. What about the rights of children? No one talks about that.
With the issue of childhood religious indoctrination, parents usually face pressure from family members, their co-religionists, clerics and what they themselves were forced to endure. The culture, institutions, and unfortunately even the law in the USA, offer formidable resistance to change. That does not mean that we cannot examine what is going on and see how it might be changed.
If the institutions are deprived of vulnerable children they are apt to strike a more reasonable tone. Free inquiry if allowed to flourish is the best defense we have against bad institutions and bad ideas. Children raised to value rational thought over superstition and dogma will make far more discerning consumers of religion and parents that are far more more fair to their offspring.
If the religious institutions of today are so good, so fair, and wise, they should not fear people who set out to question them and demand changes. The number one change would be to allow children a voice in decisions that effect them. Allow them to opt out if they are unhappy with religion. Respect their wishes. Let them question everything freely even the heretical bits. Let them say they don’t believe, if they don’t believe. They have a right to their own thoughts. The present practice is dishonest and unethical.
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To the people who claim you cannot indoctrinate children
Yes, you may be sure it is dead easy to indoctrinate children. All you have to do is instill the idea that thinking for yourself is bad and that faith trumps reason. Discourage questions as much as possible.
Last year I read an article about the new phenomenon of child suicide bombers in Pakistan. There has been a wave of these attacks in recent months. Here are the details of one such attack:
In December 2007, an attack in Kohat that killed 11 army cadets was carried out by a bomber aged 16 or 17 who detonated explosives strapped to his body as he approached his targets. (Who knows how many of the cadets are now blind or missing limbs — it’s so sad children can be convinced to treat other children this way.)
In January, a boy of around the same age blew himself up at a mosque in Peshawar in a sectarian attack on worshipers gathered there. (You would think worshipers would be safe, but such is the power of brainwashing vulnerable children.)
The children were too young to be led into these atrocities with the promise of 72 virgins like the wretched men who attacked our country on 9/11. Instead, these children were promised they would go where rivers of milk and honey flowed. Their life of boredom and poverty would be replaced by an elaborate supernatural fantasy. No one has ever actually seen these milk and honey rivers, of course. But, amazing as this may seem that doesn’t really matter, so divorced are believers from reality.
According to the report Pakistan suffered Fifty-six suicide bombings in 2007 alone, killing at least 636 people, including 419 members of Pakistan’s security forces.
A further four bombings in 2008 have already killed over 70 people – the most recent at a political rally on 11 February when a teenage suicide bomber blew himself up in Pakistan’s North Waziristan tribal area near the Afghan border.
From a lecture on “Individuality” by Robert Ingersoll
…All these things they implicitly believe because it is popular and patriotic, and because they were told so when they were very small, and remember distinctly of hearing mother read it out of a book. It is hard to over-estimate the influence of early training in the direction of superstition. You first teach children that a certain book is true–that it was written by God himself–that to question its truth is a sin, that to deny it is a crime, and that should they die without believing that book they will be forever damned without benefit of clergy. The consequence is, that long before they read that book, they believe it to be true. When they do read it their minds are wholly unfitted to investigate its claims. They accept it as a matter of course.
In this way the reason is overcome, the sweet instincts of humanity are blotted from the heart… In this way we have made tyrants, bigots, and inquisitors. In this way the brain of man has become a kind of palimpsest upon which, and over the writings of nature, superstition has scrawled her countless lies. … In this way you may make Christians, but you cannot make men; you cannot make women.”
Supposing one knows what a palimpsest is — apparently Ingersoll’s audiences in 1880 did — that line about the brain is a wonderful figure of speech. Anyway, enjoy.
This wonderful quote by Ingersoll was sent to me by my friend David Cortesi, author of this fine book of advice for the godless:
Secular Wholeness – A sceptic’s paths to a richer life You can read it on line or purchase a printed copy from Amazon.com or your favorite bookseller.
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