Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Religion as Child Abuse. My own thoughts

I wanted to discuss my opinion on this argument separate from my analysis of Hitchens' presentation of it in god is not Great. This is mostly because I think it deserves more space than being intertwined with my analysis. Hopefully I will be posting a review of that chapter tomorrow, but I was inspired to write this instead for today.

The argument that religion being put forth to children is child abuse, and I am very much of two minds about that position. Richard Dawkins in The God Delusion presented the argument in a way so as to demonstrate that there are no "Catholic Children," or "Marxist Children," and such trying to justify that religious indoctrination of children is immoral and abusive. I agree with this insofar as I think deep indoctrination of children into just about anything is wrongheaded and an affront to reason as it pushes the child in a prechosen direction before they have developed the reasoning skills to comprehend the enormity of the decision.

But then I also have to disagree. Indoctrination is a loaded word in this case, and is particularly poignant when applied to religion. That said, at some point we have to think about where can we draw a line at what values and beliefs parents can instill in their own children. While I, and no doubt many people reading this, view religion as a hostile and caustic influence in the world the parents of the religious children literally believe they giving them "truth" whatever that may be. The same goes for a parent instilling capitalistic values, or stoic values or, whatever values, beliefs, and opinions you may wish to look at.

Do we draw the line of abuse at obviously harmful values, like racism and bigotry? Or do we start dictating the majority status quo with the ability to decide what is abusive? Take it to the courts? But any of these options bothers me. I'm not currently a parent, but someday I intend to be; I would not want the government or some other external authority telling me I could not teach my own child from my own experiences and values. So i'm really at a loss here. We can't just limit it to religion since that's far too narrow, and hardly the only indoctrinating philosophy category available.

I personally think it to be impossible to not indoctrinate children, even unintentionally. If, as parents, one does not teach their child, the child won't learn anything. Its also natural that in any environment a young child will learn by adopting something from the actions, words, and habits of his or her parents. Children from different backgrounds will obviously develop differently in this respect, but we can't really expect every religious parent to stop all religious habits to protect their child and give him a free development without influence. Its not realistic, and its questionable whether it would be moral.

So, is religion child abuse? Possibly. But I personally don't see that there's anything that can be done to stop it as a whole without violating a thousand other rights, and that I'm not ok with.

1 comment:

  1. I am in complete agreement. Parents have to have the ability to share their values with their children. We can not let majority rule raise our children because then why have parents at all?

    Using the values of the majority leads us to accepting the lowest common denominator of morality. It will also likely end up giving a lot of power to Christians, Muslims and other fanatics.

    It is true that letting parents instill values in their kids will lead to some kids being raised as bigots and homophobes. It will lead to kids being raised with religion. It will however also allow decent people the right to teach their kids not to be bigots, homophobes or cultists. If I have to protect the Phelps clans right to raise a brood of idiot fundamentalist bigots in order to preserve my right to raise intelligent, enlightened atheists then it is worth it.