Should We Rate Religious Indoctrination with an R, for Restricted?

In a 2008 book titled Forced Into Faith Innaiah Narisetti "forcefully argues that children's rights should include complete freedom from religious belief. Narisetti proposes that the choice of religious belief or non-belief should be deferred till adulthood. Just as most societies recognise that marriage and civic responsibilities such as voting are adult prerogatives that children should not be allowed to exercise, so should the choice of a belief system wait till an individual is competent to exercise mature judgement."

"In this controversial critique of the UN convention, humanist Narisetti cites numerous examples of the ways in which early religious indoctrination leads to later negative attitudes such as intolerance, suspicion, and outright hostility directed toward those who believe differently. He also notes that religion provides a cloak for such obvious evils as sexual abuse, genital mutilation, and corporal punishment of children. While most societies are quick to condemn such abuses, Narisetti suggests that they should be willing to take the next logical step and look to the role of religion in such problems."

Sometimes ideas take a long time to germinate and become accepted. This proposal may be many decades away from being accepted, but the case has now been made.


Jesse said...

Do you really want to give government that much control over parenting? One reason a government should never be allowed to stop parents from being honest (in their view) with their children. Once that happens, the truth becomes subject to the chaos of politics and democracy.

I counter propose that we criminalize only certain religiously motivated acts, such as male or female circumcision. Belief can be shrugged off, but infant genital mutilation cannot.

Chico said...

good on this guy

New Family Bureau said...

Such is the law in China.

There seems to be a prevailing view among atheists that religion must always be harmful.

Not so.

The naughty-or-nice list that is a part of many religious disciplines often has a positive effect.

For example:

Note the rate of violent crime on university campuses. Brigham Young University, Liberty University, Indiana Wesleyan, etc. have extremely low (often, non-existent) instances of violent crime. Many secular schools, on the other hand, have persistent crime problems.

Indoctrinating children with harmful philosophies — religious or secular in nature — is morally reprehensible. Religion is benign. It is innately neither good nor evil.

ismellarat said...

Kenn, can you post a link to stats on that?

I think both extremes can get a bit ridiculous, and there should be a list made of the pros and cons of each.

That would be a hell of a point to make for many of the religious - regardless of where the truth claims may lead us, possibly here's a large-scale, long-term, ready-made sociological study of the effect certain ways of looking at things have on people.

Who wouldn't rather lose their wallet in a church, than in the midst of a random assembly of other people, is a similar question I've been toying with for years.

The earth wasn't created in six days, the gold tablets were a lie, but in many ways, people who believe this stuff are better than those who don't, this would suggest. Go figure.

Another funny example along these lines is Rush Limbaugh's "Dan's Bake Sale" event that happened sometime in the 90s. He compared that to Earth Day, and how the police had commented on the cleanliness and orderliness of the crowd at one, and the garbage-strewn aftermath and rampant problems with pickpockets or whatever at the other.

I think truth and the goodness of those who believe/disbelieve in various things have to often be debated separately.

Jeff said...

I'd have to agree with Kenn. I don't think that the problem is religion per se - I think it's harmful philosophies, and ignorance. We shouldn't blame science for the atomic bomb anymore than we should blame religion for the atrocities that it can produce. The problem is fundamentalism, I think - the unwillingness to change one's point of view or even consider that one may be wrong.

I read a book recently by David G. Myers, an excellent psychologist, called "A Friendly Letter to Skeptics and Atheists." In it he talks about how religious people can have lower rates of violent crime, less anxiety, etc. Now, that doesn't mean we should go around spreading religion everywhere - if it's wrong, it's wrong. But everyone has their mild delusions, and sometimes these delusions can be beneficial. (Did you know that depressed people are more accurate in their predictions of outcomes? It's the non-depressed people that are deluded!) This is something I've been trying to work out in my mind since I've left the faith - where do we draw the line between what leads to harm and what does not? I think people like Dawkins and Hitchens generalize too broadly to condemn all religion.

David B. Ellis said...

Belief can be shrugged off, but infant genital mutilation cannot.

We need to have the legal right to sue doctors, or anyone else who does it, for mutilating us as infants. If that could be done its a practice that would quickly become rare.

David B. Ellis said...

In it he talks about how religious people can have lower rates of violent crime, less anxiety, etc.

Its not really accurate to compare highly religiously observant believers with nonbelievers in general.

Clearly there are other factors at work than belief. Because the difference shrinks markedly (or disappears, I'm not sure which) when simply comparing believers (including ones who rarely go to church and are otherwise nonobservant) with nonbelievers.

It would be more accurate to compare atheist unitarian universalists who attend church frequently with observant theists.

The difference may lie far less with belief than with a social community which brings with it a strong focus on values.

And then, of course, there's the negatives associated with religiosity found in many studies. Correlations with higher sex crime and racial prejudice for example.

David B. Ellis said...

I think religion probably emerged as a coping mechanism to deal with the increased anxiety resulting from the human species rise to self-awareness.

Religion may be an effective coping mechanism in many ways (I doubt it would be so pervasive if it wasn't). But there's no reason to assume its the only one possible. For all we know atheists who meditate regularly have all the same benefits.

I'd be interested to see the statisitics on that.

ismellarat said...

That's a rather odd statement to be making for an atheist, David, if I've pegged you correctly.

So atheists do acknowledge that, in many ways that really count "more religion makes you a better person"?

Why do they have such a hard time admitting it - like Christians have such a hard time admitting problems with their truth claims?

It may not all be true, but it often seems to be good for you, is the middle ground I've been trying to argue for years.

I've never understood the sudden 180-degree turns that people often make when they deconvert, rather than just a backing off of the parts they can no longer defend.

ismellarat said...

If Narisetti wants to do some good in this area, it should be limited to showing children that there are other options.

MTV was said by some to have brought down the iron curtain - because its videos suggested that people were richer and happier disbelieving the repressive nonsense that they'd been indoctrinated with.

I don't think female genital mutilation can be presented as a desirable alternative to "I don't believe that bunk, and look at me, I've got it all."

Ingo Hasselbach, a former neonazi from East Germany, wrote that exchange student programs are a devastating way to counter what hate groups teach. The minute you start liking someone who doesn't agree with what you say, it's all over.

Much better than becoming a fascist yourself and to try and interfere with the free speech of haters, if the summary of the book is accurate.

David said...

The only parents I would consider to be "brainwashing" their children are those who, as Daniel Dennet say, enforce their ignorance. But preventing religious instruction of the young in general is something I would oppose aggressively.

Rather than taking that route, I think Dennett's proposal for a compulsory world religions curriculum represents a better way to go. Parents can teach their children whatever they want so long as those teachings are given a context by learning about other faiths. As he says, parents do not have the right to keep their children ignorant.