Atheist Child Indoctrination
Question: Some people say children should be left to make up their own minds about religion. Do you agree?
KEVIN SMITH is on the board of directors for the centre for Inquiry, Canada’s premier venue for humanists, skeptics and freethinkers.
Some people say that teaching one’s child your family religion is a form of child abuse. They do make some interesting points that every parent should heed. Every one of us is born an atheist and would live contented, moral, and productive lives as such, save for one thing: our parents feel it necessary to indoctrinate us.
Voila! Yahweh’s your God, or Allah, Vishnu, or whatever deity your family has been conditioned to follow. So we become a Christian, Jewish, Muslim or Hindu child without any choice in the matter. In most cases I would not go so far to say it is child abuse, as much as a perversion of children’s rights.
Certainly, those who cling to the literal interpretation of the Bible — the fire and brimstone choir — wreak havoc in the minds of their young. Their message is so frightening and powerful that their fear of Hell remains with many of them throughout their lives. We see evidence of this with several of our religious refugees at our Living Without Religion group in Ottawa.
Philosopher and fellow atheist Daniel Dennett believes parents should teach their children the family faith, alongside other religious views. He explains, “Toxic religions depend on enforced ignorance of the young.” He proposes including the history, myths, and contradictions between various faith groups so their young minds “will not be victimized by their parents’ religion.”
It’s also important to include a lesson on the fastest growing world view in Western society, one where teens are flocking in droves: non-belief.Customizing your children to blindly follow your faith creates an us vs. them mentality, instilling exclusion instead of embracing our human differences.
We don’t own our children. Our prime responsibility is teaching critical thinking and having empathy for others. This is the greatest gift we can give them.
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