Friday, August 14, 2009

... Child Abuse?

I recently finally finished reading "The God Delusion," by Richard Dawkins, after stalling on the last few chapters. Overall, the book is fantastic, surprisingly funny, and ultimately a massive relief for me. It was the first time I read something that articulated my skepticism and doubt so well.

I do not come from a religious background. For me as a child, religion was obviously true, because everyone believed in it. I can only remember one event from my childhood that exposed me to the idea of non-belief (once, a friend's mother was upset with my family for taking her child to church without her permission -- it took me a while to realize my family was clearly in the wrong) .

Once I began working through my doubts, eventually arriving at atheism in high school, I mentally relegated myself to being a minority and an outsider. Not only was it doubtful many people agreed with me, but it would be far too impolite to ever express what I really thought.

I have held onto this aversion to rocking the (religious) boat. This was one of the reasons why the penultimate chapter of "The God Delusion," which focuses on vocalizing opposition to parents passing on their religion to their children, was difficult for me to swallow. What right do you have to have any opinion on what religion someone else's child is brought up within??

Religious indoctrination, Dawkins argues, is a form of mental child abuse.

"Geez," I thought as I read Dawkin's argument, "no wonder everyone hates atheists."

But then I started to think about it. At its root, what is religion? A pleasant answer to that question is that religion is a foundation for morals and judgment on which our human world revolves. But honestly, that answer gives religion way too much credit. We have morals and judgment because, without them, humans would have become extinct thousands and thousands of years ago. To survive, we evolved into increasingly complex social creatures, capable of empathy and stumbled into our own morality.

Ultimately, religion and belief is a prism through which someone can view the world. It is immensely powerful, but it is still merely a perspective. Religion describes the world and the people in it on its own terms, sometimes for better, sometimes for worse.

And surely, something that is "merely a perspective" is harmless to pass onto an impressionable child, right?

I felt ambivalent about that question. That is, until watching the following video:

The video, uploaded by a young Christian girl, Molly, shows her and her friend in their effort to convert a young Hindu girl, Saraa. Thank god, they are unsuccessful.

On the surface, the video is hilariously stupid. Molly and her friend can't comprehend how someone with a darker complexion, clearly of Indian descent, comes from Asia instead of Africa. But making it through the entire 10 minutes reveals the video to be tragic.
"Okay," Molly heavily sighs, "it's really frustrating. I don't -- okay -- like I know it's not your fault that you're Hindu, but I can't -- I don't know if I can be around that type of presence, like someone who can't let Jesus in--"

"I know. It's like -- it's hard," chimes in her Christian cohort.

"Like, you're not a bad person, but -- It's just --"

"If you just try --"

"You're going down the wrong path. Okay," Molly sighs again, recognizing her defeat, "I can talk to you, but I don't know if we can be, like, friends."

Fed up with the backhanded insults, Saraa departs.
Okay, I know the girls are stupid. Deplorably stupid. But they are also young. And clearly, Molly's only perspective stems from her religion. Incapable of seeing anything of value outside her Christian prism, Molly is handicapped.

Can children handle the seriously flawed system of belief that is religion? Maybe if there was a chapter in the New Testament about critical thinking I would feel far less ... critical. At least adults can be expected to understand the archaic nature of most religions and also have the worthwhile capacity to pick and choose. But (most) kids can't pick and choose. They have what they are told. And if the parents pass on an identity of Christian or Muslim or Jew, who is the child to argue?

Should not children be given a pass, at least until given the tools of critical thinking, to be tagged with a religion? Maybe instead of asking, "what right do you have to have any opinion on what religion someone else's child is brought up within?" I should be asking "what right do you have to categorize your child's belief system before s/he is even given a chance to weigh in on the subject?"

Maybe if Molly's parents asked themselves this question, their daughter would not be down a friend.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Bless Her Heart

Oh Sarah Palin...

(While checking out Yahoo news this morning)

God bless the fact check.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009


The quick brown fox actually jumps over the lazy dog!