Children are often mosaics, comprised of the musings of their parents. While it is healthy for parents to have some level of authority over their children, certain decisions in every child’s life are best left to the child. Debate over the issue of whether parents should assign their child a gender at birth has been prominent in the last few months, yet religion, a similar issue regarding autonomy has been largely ignored.
Every year, millions of children are pushed down a conveyer belt of conversion and shaped into products of faith. The process starts early, with parents often branding their child with the poker of faith upon birth. Yet, as Dawkins has stated, there is no such thing as a Catholic, Muslim, or Jewish child – and labelling them as such is disingenuous.
Young children are not mature enough to properly formulate and express their own views on god, or how humanity came to be. This inability is akin to a toddler’s inability to express their own views on normative moral or economic issues. Yet it is entirely common for a child to be religiously branded as if religion was a hereditary trait, while the lunacy of labelling a child as a ‘capitalist child’ is apparent.
Beyond simply assigning children a religion, the long term process of converting children is problematic, and, in many ways, draws comparisons to the conversion of Native Americans by European settlers, although is obviously far less violent. In both cases, the dominant group abuses its power by asserting a subjective belief it holds true over those it controls. Children are put through the ringer of forced festivals, such as baptisms, which they do not consent to, much in the same way that Native Americans were forced through these procedures as adults to appease their oppressors.
The effects of this abusive procedure are evident in the world, with young Muslim children on Hamas television preaching hate, and minions of the Westborough Baptist Church picketing with their troubled parents. While these cases are regularly condemned by more moderate religious followers for their extremity, the procedure in all cases of religious indoctrination is fundamentally unjust, regardless of the teaching it injects. Parents can educate their children on various religious beliefs, but should not punish nor praise their children for whatever view they choose to adopt.
As logic increasingly continues to trump blind belief, the percentage of religious followers on the earth has declined. Yet, for real progress to be made, parents must end the unjust brainwashing of children. This should mean no forced prayers or church and no fear mongering through in depth descriptions of hell.
Ending this indoctrination will give children the opportunity to discover their own views, unpolluted by the beliefs of their elders. If this means that children will continue to overwhelmingly believe in their parent’s religion, so be it. Yet it is likely that indoctrination will continue, as parents wishing for their children to follow their religion know that, without biasing the process, children will likely emerge as non believers.
Balaclava Discourse is a column written by Davide Mastracci on the structures of authority, hierarchy, and domination in society. It appears every other Monday in commentary. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.