My ebook: Journeys with the caterpillar

My ebook
Journeys with the caterpillar: Travelling through the islands of Flores
and Sumba, Indonesia
" is available at
this link

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Child upbringing and religion

In our world, most children are claimed to be born with a religion, the religion of one of his parents. And right after its birth, the child is exposed to an entire jamboree of religious rituals. Around the age of two, when its consciousness of self and the external world is just developing, it is taught basic skills such as language together with loads of religion. In India, it is not unusual to find parents teaching two year old kids to fold hands when in front of idols. As soon as the child learns to respond to language and speak, most parents teach their children religious chants in Sanskrit. Children born to parents with certain religions are denied rights to their own bodies through acts such as circumcision (for both male and female) and shaving off of head!!!!

And when a child begins his formal education, thus arriving at a stage in life where there are critical outcomes from his efforts, parents and society at large ingrain it in his mind that there are supernatural forces at play, groveling to whom will result in great benefits and hellfire consequences otherwise. Many parents tell their children that physical disabilities and abject poverty are consequences of god's wrath. With such messages being hammered down the throat of the child by multiple sources, most children reach a point of no return wherein irrational faith becomes a cornerstone of their lives. From that point onwards, it becomes an uphill task for anyone to take the notional risk of defying gods by being a skeptic. The child is also exposed to the cheap thrills of religion; festivals with their material gifts, lavish food, and relief from daily toil (studies).

Modern secular liberalism dictates that the public messages to be sent to people is to respect and appreciate each other’s faith (it’s like asking a thousand idiots to appreciate and respect each other’s unique idiocies). Never do the public media encourage people to adopt a skeptical attitude. As for private media, it’s full of reactionary tele novellas espousing the greatness of going to a temple or a church. For a child, how accessible are works by Sartre, Camus, Bertrand Russell, Dan Barker or Christopher Hitchens as compared to Koran, Bible or Geeta?

The moot point is that religion and faith typically have an open playing field in the child’s mind and one has to swim against a waterfall to develop a critical attitude in life. As personal religion is mostly about securing through prayers, personal success (at studies or at work), health, love life, and happiness with family, people dare not think of doubting faith and risking the wrath of the so called almighty.

I don’t believe that any institution has the right to force anyone to abandon religion. There is indeed a case for faith that it brings (false) hope and (false) meaning to the lives of many in this world. But I also believe that it is only fair to a child that he or she is spared from an onslaught of Pavlovian religious conditioning before he or she has the mental ability to judge between arguments. Alas, as some say, the world is only about jails and churches. Will we people, who so blindly adulate missionaries of charity ever give a fair chance to a few visionaries with clarity?

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