If we are serious about promoting freedom of thought, and about equipping ourselves with the tools to put that thought into action. And if we think that truth is important for its own sake and if we see enormous benefits in understanding reality, not fantasy, then it’s important that, although it might be too late for a lot of us, we should do everything we can to help future generations. It’s not a matter of what to think, more a case of how to think.
Instead, what happens is that any group with any influence works its hardest for the survival of its own thoughts, doctrines and prejudices. Richard Dawkins, quite rightly, is annoyed by this, particularly the labelling of children with an identity that they can’t have developed for themselves.
The point is not to abolish Religious Education. There is value in Religious Education, including Comparative Religion (for anthropologists tell us that religion is a ubiquitous human universal) and the King James Bible as literature (there are so many allusions to it in Shakespeare and other English literature). What is wrong — indeed, arguably a form of mental child abuse — is the INDOCTRINATION of children into one particular faith, which they are informed is THEIR faith, automatically inherited from their parents.
Unsurprisingly, he has come in for a lot of criticism centred around the word “abuse”, as when that word is used in connection with children it usually has different, more sinister, connotations. Most people don’t like to be told they’re abusing their children, even if it’s fair comment. Opportunities for equivocation abound. Nevertheless, when anyone forces their beliefs into untrained, innocent, accepting minds, I don’t know what else you could call it.
One group that know more about child abuse than most is the Catholic church, and I’m talking here of all types of abuse. They’re at it again, and we shouldn’t be surprised. The Guardian reports this week (although details are a bit sketchy) that:
The Roman Catholic church has written to every state-funded Catholic secondary school in England and Wales asking them to encourage pupils to sign a petition against gay marriage.
Now I’m sure that there’s a debate to be had on this issue – although for the life of me, in 2012 I can’t see how we can continue to institutionalise discrimination on these lines – but I’m even more sure that indoctrination in schools is any furtherance of that debate.
Students at one south London school were shown a presentation on religious opposition to government plans to let gay couples marry in civil ceremonies. Church leaders believe the proposal would reduce the significance of marriage.
The Catholic Education Service, which acts for Catholic bishops in England and Wales, contacted 385 secondary schools to highlight a letter read in parish churches last month, in which two archbishops told worshippers that Catholics have a “duty to do all we can to ensure that the true meaning of marriage is not lost for future generations”
“True” means “dogmatic” here. For a while I trained as a teacher and spent three months in a catholic school. The head of my department, otherwise a very nice chap, told me that the purpose of the school was “to serve the Catholic community”. I could have told him otherwise but because of my situation meekly opted for self-censorship.
The fact that the schools are state-funded shouldn’t make any difference. But I despair that the Catholic church will ever do anything apart from furthering its own narrow interests. They fancy that they can get away with this kind of thing because a school has the word “Catholic” in its title. Abuse of trust it might but it’s still abuse. The other religious groups aren’t much better. Time to break the link.
Addendum: I realise that this might be seen to conflict with my “idiots have rights” comment from a couple of posts ago. Not so. There’s no need to be sheltered from idiocy as long as we have the tools to cope with it. 11-16 year-olds deserve better.
April 27th, 2012 at 18:56
I saw this news item too, and immediately recoiled. There is something sinister about church leaders using children as political pawns. It simply confirms the hierarchy’s complete lack of respect for its members’ autonomy – a lack of respect that has been amply shown in the child abuse scandal and the recent furor over nuns.
April 28th, 2012 at 20:36
I’m very concerned about this apyly-termed abuse of trust, and yet I don’t know what can be done about it. I suppose the duty is for adults, especially those that have come through this madness, to speak out about this and work to raise awareness of the problem.