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Raising children to be religious

Enter here to explore ethical issues and discuss the meaning and source of morality.
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Moonbeam
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Raising children to be religious

#1 Post by Moonbeam » November 25th, 2007, 11:16 am

Having just watched the Nicky Campbell show (aka the big questions) I found myself agreeing with Ann Widdecombe who defended the rights of families to raise children in their own culture and religion. Of course, I don't like the idea of children being indoctrinated with nonsense but I don't see a way round it. We can call it 'child abuse' until we're blue in the face but the bottom line is that if we expect to be free to raise our children with our beliefs and values, then we should accept that religious people will have the same expectation.

Phaedo
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Re: Raising children to be religious

#2 Post by Phaedo » November 25th, 2007, 12:12 pm

I also watched the programme and was appalled how weighted the studio guests list was in favour of religion, 4 for and 1 against. Yet note the emails read out were unanimously against the religious position.
Moonbeam wrote: We can call it 'child abuse' until we're blue in the face but the bottom line is that if we expect to be free to raise our children with our beliefs and values, then we should accept that religious people will have the same expectation.
I have to disagree with you here, Moonbeam.
Yes, religious people might have the expectation of raising their children in their beliefs - but do they have the right to do so?
A parent who was physically abused as a child does not have the right to physcally abuse the child and by the same token a parent who was mentally abused as a child does not have the right to mentally abuse the child. (excuse the split infinitives!). The vast majority of people who practise religion do so because they were raised to believe in its truth witness the fact that virtually all children raised in a particular faith stay with that faith in adulthood. This tells me that their options were limited as a product of their upbringing and essentially defines indoctrination.
I agree it would be difficult initially to get a law on the statute books to address this issue and even more difficult to enforce it, yet not so long ago child beating in schools (corporal punishment) was an accepted form of discipline.
It will take time but I live in hope.
True lovers of knowledge are temperate and brave...
Socrates

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Lifelinking
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#3 Post by Lifelinking » November 25th, 2007, 12:33 pm

I found myself - agreeing with Ann Widdecombe
how awful for you :grin:


Interesting thread Moonbeam. I broadly agree with your position about parents being able to raise children in line with their culture and faith, but with limits and caveats.

In a democracy such 'parental rights' must surely exist within the context of broader rights and responsibilities that are enshrined in law. The sort of thing for example that protects children from excesses such as female genital mutilation, despite the parents in such cases having a genuine belief that such mutilation is the 'right' thing to do.
"Who thinks the law has anything to do with justice? It's what we have because we can't have justice."
William McIlvanney

Ted Harvey
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#4 Post by Ted Harvey » November 25th, 2007, 12:37 pm

I have to say that I found Ann Widdicombe her usual unblinking, intolerant self. She did huff anyway about the very obvious point about how Christian (and other religions) families must in reality be allowed to bring their children up in their faith. What she ignored was the core point being made by several of the other participants about the way those people brought up their children in such a family

It's one thing to say to your children something like, 'we are a Christian family and this is what Christians like us believe, once you grow up we want you to think about this and other possibilities and decide for yourself', as opposed to the far more common 'we are a Christian family and your part of it so this is what you believe, or your bad'.

The Ann Widdicombes of this world are very adept at adding onto that things like, ' and anyone else who does not follow our beliefs is just plain wrong and maybe worse'.

I was struck by the, for once, quietly persuasive, almost emollient, stance of Richard Dawkins. The berobed cleric (was it Carey?) just came across as pompous (correcting Dawkins on the point that baptism made you a Christian and not the member of a particular church - I have to say that is contrary to what I was taught in our Roman Catholic School which was that we were baptized Catholics and that was that).

It was almost frightening to hear the university psychology lecturer on how her Christian final year psychology(!) students who just do not believe that prehistoric cave art exists, just as they do not believe in evolution and they believe, for example, that 'dinosaurs walked with man'

As for Nicky Campbell, I have little regard for him, having had the misfortune to go on one of these type of audience programs 'fronted' by him in the BBC Glasgow studios. My impression was of an utterly conventional airhead with his own set agendas and perceptions.

In today’s program he let the young Muslim women away with sheer liberties when not allowing the audience to challenge her claim that Muslim children are not taught any intolerant things - like ‘those who are not Muslims are dammed to be in Hell’. He also allowed Carey to get away with a weak diversionary response when he was asked to comment on the excerpt from the docu-film on the ghastly Jesus indoctrination of masses of young kids in the USA.

Moonbeam
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#5 Post by Moonbeam » November 25th, 2007, 3:06 pm

Cool responses!

I hoped to be a little bit provocative with the OP and I deliberately avoided using the word 'rights'because I thought going down that road would be fruitless. It seems to me that the physical abuse of children is a relatively clear-cut matter which is much easier to define and much easier to condemn than the mental/emotional abuse charge that some of us are levelling against religious parents. I agree that telling a child s/he has to think or do this or that or s/he's destined for hell could be construed as child abuse (I think it depends on how hell is defined because not all parents define it as burning for all eternity, that seems to be a minority view). But as long as Christianity is dignified (institutionalised in the UK) as a legitimate belief system then I don't see there is a hope in hell of being able to legislate about what parents can or can't tell their children.

It also occurred to me that religious believers could accuse atheist parents of child abuse if we tell them that death is the end. That is scarey enough for many adults let alone children. Who is to say that we are right and they are wrong?

I think the only way to combat religious indoctrination of children is for them to be exposed to other beliefs and ideas when they are outside the home and to encourage them to question and to think critically about things. It is much easier to make a case for secular education than it is for telling parents what they can and can't say to their children.

I agree with your comments about the programme generally, Ted, and about Nicky Campbell.

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Alan H
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#6 Post by Alan H » November 25th, 2007, 3:34 pm

Moonbeam: I agree with what you say.
Moonbeam wrote:It is much easier to make a case for secular education than it is for telling parents what they can and can't say to their children.
However, I think many religionists will see 'secular education' as much the same thing: even just exposing kids to other views will be seen as pro-atheism and anti-xtian - as indoctrination and child abuse!
Alan Henness

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Phaedo
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#7 Post by Phaedo » November 25th, 2007, 7:07 pm

Moonbeam wrote: I think the only way to combat religious indoctrination of children is for them to be exposed to other beliefs and ideas when they are outside the home and to encourage them to question and to think critically about things.
That is certainly 'a' way but sadly it goes much deeper than that. As you say Christianity is institutionalised in this country as are Islam and Judaism within their own communities, not only in this country but just about worldwide.
For centuries these religions have recognised that if they depended on adult converts for their continuity they would be extinct in a couple of generations. This is why the indoctrination of children is so important to them, not only in the home but also in the education system. Teaching religion in the same context as French, Mathematics, Geography etc. and in many cases even given a primacy over them as a special case in the curriculum without doubt gives their myths and superstitions a legitimacy and authority they couldn't otherwise have. No wonder the churches are fighting such a ferocious battle to maintain their grip on our schools.
How we go about disengaging religion from initially the classroom and eventually, hopefully, the home is a huge issue and I don't believe there are any quick answers.
Apart from what goes on in mainstream education, just a glimpse at Jesus Camps, Madrassas or Yeshiviot gives an idea of the scale of the educational indoctrination there is out there.
What goes on in the home is an even more intractactable problem as interference here could be construed as infringing religious and personal rights. However the rights of the child not to have their minds polluted with myth and superstition portrayed as truth are rarely considered in this context.
True lovers of knowledge are temperate and brave...
Socrates

Moonbeam
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#8 Post by Moonbeam » November 25th, 2007, 8:55 pm

Phaedo wrote: What goes on in the home is an even more intractactable problem as interference here could be construed as infringing religious and personal rights.

Which was exactly the point I made in my opening post.
However the rights of the child not to have their minds polluted with myth and superstition portrayed as truth are rarely considered in this context.
That's because, in the real world, the child doesn't have any such right. What we think is different to what the religionists think is right. Who is to decide which opinion prevails?

Alan H wrote:However, I think many religionists will see 'secular education' as much the same thing: even just exposing kids to other views will be seen as pro-atheism and anti-xtian - as indoctrination and child abuse!
I know many religionists will see secular education like that. However, in a pluralist society it's a damn sight easier to make a case for schools to be free of religious instruction than it is to make people's private homes free of religious instruction.

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#9 Post by Noggin » November 25th, 2007, 9:30 pm

We should bear in mind that one of the arguments we often use in connection with getting religion out of schools is that school is for education, while religion is a private matter and, if parents want their children to learn about their scriptures or follow their religious customs, then the place for this is their own homes and their places of worship.

This isn't to say we shouldn't protest when flagrant abuses of human rights take place within the family but there is a big difference between honour killings or packing teenagers off to Asia to be married against their will and 'polluting their minds with myths'.

We need to tread carefully when we are publicly criticising people's belief systems and confine ourselves to doing so only when we are sure some good can come of it.
It is the still and silent sea that drowns a man. -- Old Norse Proverb

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wizzy
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#10 Post by wizzy » November 26th, 2007, 8:16 pm

This is complicated. I definitely think schools should be secular with religious education about what the different beliefs and alternatives (obviously including Humanism) are, but without saying any are right or wrong.

However home is more complicated. I know people struggle with the idea of dying being it, but I don't really see what the problem is, eternal life sounds pretty dull and hell is obviously not appealing. So I don't think it is abuse to tell children when they die that's it. I do think it's morally dubious to tell children all other religions/behaviours are bad. When I was about 20 and a working on some playscheme a 5 year old asked me if I ate sausages, and then told me English people are bad because they eat sausages (to be teaching her that she's not English when she almost certainly was is in itself dodgy). I think I said something bland like "not everyone thinks that" and left it at that. I think it would have been hard to try and reason with an indoctrinated 5 year old.

But to some extents I would "indoctrinate" my child if I had them. Ie I'd tell them that religions that treat women, gay people as inferior are wrong.

Beki
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#11 Post by Beki » November 26th, 2007, 9:08 pm

I was absolutely determined that my son would not get to hear the crap that is spouted by the Catholic education system in Glasgow and sent him to a non-denominational (or the "Proddy" schools as we called them!) in the South Side.

I remember being tickled pink when at 7 he reasoned that because he hadn't been christened like his Auntie then he must be a muslim! (I had never heard of muslims at his age!) I told him then that it was his choice and he could be whatever he wanted to be, or not anything - it was up to him.

Imagine my surprise when, now aged 16 he has started going to a 'Christian Club' with his mates!! I am trying really, really hard not to mock because I genuinely don't want to influence one way or the other, or make him feel bad for attending. (He knows my beliefs - my Sunday-best "Heretic" T-shirt kind of gives it away!) and if I were to do so, I would think that I could be just as guilty of indoctrination - "believe what I believe or else".

It just goes to show, that some teenagers will just do what they like anyway! (Maybe this is his rebellion!!) :laughter:

Dan
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#12 Post by Dan » November 27th, 2007, 11:35 am

Of course religious parents should have the "right" to bring their children up in their traditions (so long as their traditions aren't physically or mentally abusive - as some of them are). The alternative would be appalling.

But what kind of a "right" is this?

Is it the kind of right where parents can demand that the State make provision to provide an education in line with the requirements of their particular traditions?

As an atheist, I am defying Dawkins and calling my daughter an atheist because I am bringing her up in my tradition. It helps dramatise the position, I've found.

What I am not doing is demanding that the State fund pro-atheist teachings in school. I shouldn't have that right. Nor should the religious have the analogous rights.

Dan

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jaywhat
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#13 Post by jaywhat » November 28th, 2007, 9:44 am

The best way to make a humanist is to rear a child in a religion - or not ?

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#14 Post by Dan » November 28th, 2007, 10:20 am

I think that's just silly, really.

Dan

Maria Mac
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#15 Post by Maria Mac » November 28th, 2007, 11:10 am

Beki wrote: Imagine my surprise when, now aged 16 he has started going to a 'Christian Club' with his mates!! I am trying really, really hard not to mock because I genuinely don't want to influence one way or the other, or make him feel bad for attending. (He knows my beliefs - my Sunday-best "Heretic" T-shirt kind of gives it away!) and if I were to do so, I would think that I could be just as guilty of indoctrination - "believe what I believe or else".
Where did he pick up these strange ideas? Was he given religious instruction at school?

My son didn't hear the God-word or anything about religion until he started school and made friends with children from religious backgrounds. He asked me about it and I told him that some people believe in it, I didn't and he was free to decide for himself. He promptly declared himself a believer and for the next few weeks plagued me with questions like "Why does God keep making it rain?" "why did God squash that hedgehog in the road?" etc etc. The final straw came when his carefully constructed lego tower over-balanced and fell off the table onto the hard floor and came apart. He burst into tears and said, "Why did God do that?" Exasperated, I said "Do you really think there's an invisible someone watching everything you do and playing spiteful tricks on you?" At which point he decided that he didn't believe after all and never has since (he's 23 now).

A brief explanation of humanism (having seen humanist literature at home lead him to ask me about it) was convincing enough to him to adopt the label for himself and those of his friends who'd shared their lack of god-belief with him.

I don't think my daughter ever went through any god-believing phase, though she did envy some of the 'perks' of religion, as she saw them, and when she was seven spent her pocket money on a little gilt crucifix on a chain! It didn't last long and was never replaced.

Both children went to secular schools where they learned about all religions but were indoctrinated in none and, as a result, both were heartily sick of hearing about religion by the end of primary school, though my son did develop an interest in the philosophy of it to eventually take religious studies at A level.
Dan wrote: Is it the kind of right where parents can demand that the State make provision to provide an education in line with the requirements of their particular traditions?

As an atheist, I am defying Dawkins and calling my daughter an atheist because I am bringing her up in my tradition. It helps dramatise the position, I've found.

What I am not doing is demanding that the State fund pro-atheist teachings in school. I shouldn't have that right. Nor should the religious have the analogous rights.

Dan
I agree although, as Alan said, the most religious of parents see secular education as pro-atheist teaching by definition because "God's word" is kept out of the curriculum apart from RE.

Dan
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#16 Post by Dan » November 29th, 2007, 9:36 am

]Maria wrote:
the most religious of parents see secular education as pro-atheist teaching by definition because "God's word" is kept out of the curriculum apart from RE.
Of course. But these people basically have trouble with the entire notion of a liberal education. They need confronting, not pandering to.

Dan

Beki
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#17 Post by Beki » November 30th, 2007, 9:02 pm

Where did he pick up these strange ideas? Was he given religious instruction at school?
From his pals I think. He has some really lovely mates and they happen to be church-goers so I think he goes to the club mainly because they are there (that and the fact that they do free food!!). I really don't think that he takes the 'Christian' but too seriously as he is quite cynical (not in a bad way).

To be honest, I am just glad that he is not hanging around the bus shelters drinking Buckie like some of the other blokes his age. I was actually still quite religious at his age and it wasn't until later that I saw that it wasn't for me.

I was lucky, in that I could do that pretty much without fear of censure. It is the parents who threaten or actually do cut-off children from their family if they refuse to follow their chosen religious dogma who should really be criticised. As long as the child has the choice to make up his or her mind (and they are exposed to different beliefs and faiths - ergo get rid of 'faith' schools) then there shouldn't be too much harm done...

crabsallover
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NSS v BHA strategy on Religious Education

#18 Post by crabsallover » December 7th, 2007, 12:28 am

The BHA position on Relgious Education (RE) is that Humanists should try to influence the teaching of RE.

By attending Standing Advisory Council on Religious Education (SACRE) the aim of Humanists is to introduce Humanism into the RE curriculum. Humanists attempt to 'factualise' the teaching of RE which means less indoctrination in the beliefs of one religious belief and more facts about the history and beliefs of a range of reglions. Religious Education not Religious Indoctrination / Religious Instruction.

BHA supports recent work on national strategy for RE which may lead to national curriculum and, hopefully raised standards along lines of Ofsted http://hasserblog.blogspot.com/2007/06/ ... fsted.html comments.

Ofsted says teachers should include ways in which religion is not always a force for good. In many schools, religion is linked with contemporary religious and moral issues, such as whether the war in Iraq was morally justified. Ofsted says students are often denied the profound understanding they need of the impact of religion on society. One of the most radical suggestions in Ofsted's report is that religion should be taught warts and all. The inspectors called on teachers not to shy away from controversy, but to accept in their classes that religion could be a force for bad as well as for good.

"Pupils should be taught that religion is complex," says the report, "and should be given the opportunity to explore that ambiguity." The best RE teachers are concentrating on teaching about the role of religion in society and its contribution towards community cohesion, diversity and tolerance.

Ofsted says attempts to raise standards are hindered by no curriculum. It says that lessons often fail to build on prior learning. There is no national curriculum in RE. Instead, all 151 local authorities are responsible for developing their own locally agreed syllabus (SACRE). Ofsted says that hinders attempts to raise standards in RE, and consistency, across the country.


I attended the November 2007 National Secular Society (NSS) AGM. The President Terry Sanderson got a near unanimous mandate for his position on RE and several other topics. As I understand it, the NSS position is that the non-relgious and Humanists should have nothing to do with SACRE. The clerics have got RE all sown up and will not give it up and will continue to highjack it. Humanism might get a few minutes mention in the syllabus. NSS say that RE should be abolished as a standalone subject. Instead religious education should be incorporated as a sub topic of History or Geography lessons. Get clerics influence out of schools says NSS!

Terry Sanderson wrote "the traditional humanist approach to RE is that we should widen RE to include non-religious philosophies. To me, this concedes the principle that RE, as a separate topic, should have no place in schools. Why should it have? We don't have Labour Education or Conservative Education - why should religion be uniquely promoted?"

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#19 Post by Zoe » December 7th, 2007, 11:23 am

The more I hear about the NSS, the less I like the sound of it. They sound really negative and defeatist.
Terry Sanderson wrote "the traditional humanist approach to RE is that we should widen RE to include non-religious philosophies. To me, this concedes the principle that RE, as a separate topic, should have no place in schools. Why should it have? We don't have Labour Education or Conservative Education - why should religion be uniquely promoted?"
Religion shouldn't be "promoted" but that's not what RE does, is it? When I was at school, I was only taught about Christianity and I was taught it as if it were the truth. That's promotion. I think it was called religious instruction not education. Nowadays RE is for learning about what different religions believe and do - at least, that's how it's taught where I live. Religion is important because of what it means to so many people, which is a hell of a lot more than political parties. The Labour/Conservative analogy is ludicrous. Religion is important, in my opinion, because it is dangerous - so is ignorance. I want my child to grow up knowing about different religions and, unless she learns it at school, it's not going to happen because her parents don't know much.

As for humanism getting only a few minutes mention on a syllabus, that's better than no mention at all. I wish to goodness I'd heard of humanism when I was at school.

Dan
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Re: Raising children to be religious

#20 Post by Dan » January 10th, 2008, 3:22 pm

Negative and defeatist? Absolutely not. We just disagree with the BHA position, which we see as negative and defeatist.

Religion is important. That's why secularism is important, to stop it having too much influence. The NSS's battles have always been with people who think that religion isn't important and secularism doesn't matter.

There are different views on whether RE should exist as a subject or not. Terry is committing the NSS to the view that it shouldn't, but he also said that he can't prevent individual secularists from working in SACREs if they want to. I've always opposed involvement in SACREs, because my objection is not that humanism doesn't have a fair crack of the whip, but that the entire system is suspect from a secularist point of view. There shouldn't be a whip to crack.
Nowadays RE is for learning about what different religions believe and do


No it isn't, as you would discover if you read the syllabus and guidelines. RE is for spiritual development, in fact. That involves learning about different beliefs, but that's the method (or part of the method), not the objective.

So when you say:
Religion shouldn't be "promoted" but that's not what RE does, is it?
You are completely wrong. RE may, in many schools, not be about inculcating Christianity, but nevertheless the aim is to promote religion.

Don't believe me?

Visit:http://www.qca.org.uk/libraryAssets/med ... ork_04.pdf for the national framework for RE. This document clearly states :
Religious education has a significant role in the promotion of spiritual, moral,
social and cultural development
Dan

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