Whilst browsing through the posts on RichardDawkins.net, I came across this interesting petion site: Stop The Nightmares. It asks that concerned people sign a petition on the Prime Minister’s web site seeking to prevent children being threatened with eternal damnation for failing to observe religious teachings and beliefs. The site calls this practice a form of child abuse and, thinking about it, I’m inclined to agree.
Telling an impressionable child that they will burn in hell for eternity or suffer other torments for failing to believe in god or obeying commandments is an appalling betrayal of trust. I’d like to think that this sort of treatment does not go on in these modern** times but I suspect I’d be wrong. And that was my first reason for signing the petition.
My second is a bit more complex and concerns my own children. As a result of what I have learned over the years I have come to the conclusion that there is no god. But as a child, I was often told that I had to believe in god and that if I didn’t, unpleasant things would happen when I died. At the same time, I was taught that Jesus loved me. Result = confusion, rebellion and refusal to take anything I was told from a religious perspective seriously. As I grew older I began my own assessment of things religious and scientific and it didn’t take long for things to stack up heavily on the side of science, evidence and experience. As a result I want my children to have the chance to draw their own conclusions when they are old enough to do so in an informed manner. I believe all children should be afforded that choice.
And it’s at this point that my concern emerges. My youngest is about to start primary school and schools in the Western Isles have had a tendency towards indoctrination rather than information when it comes to what is now referred to as Religious and Moral Education. Consquently I wonder what (and how) my child will be told about god, the bible, et al in class. I hope any religious education will be used to explain that there are many religions with both shared and differing beliefs and that, whilst religion has a great deal of tradional and cultural weight behind it, it should not be blindly accepted as the truth. I hope that the classroom will not be used as a pulpit. Because there will be hell to pay if I find myself undoing any damage done as a result of references to damnation, eternal torment, sin, etc, etc.
** I was going to say ‘enlightened’ but I’m afraid I’ve become far too cynical to be that generous 🙄