Archive for November, 2007

Christian children all must be / Mild, obedient, good as He (i.e. not)

Just finished watching the first part of Richard Dawkins’ talk at Atheist Alliance International, and will watch the second at some stage.

There’s something I’ve been thinking about since reading The God Delusion… Dawkins has a fairly well-known position on the use of the phrase “Christian child” (or “Muslim child”, “Catholic child” or whatever) – that, essentially, there’s no such thing, any more than there’s such a thing as a Republican child or a Marxist child; and that giving them this label is a form of child abuse. This is a sentiment I have a lot of sympathy for, and would wholeheartedly agree with, if it weren’t for one conflicting fact.

There. Are. Christian. Children.

I’m not talking about just children whose parents have religious beliefs. I’m talking about children who pray, who sing Christian songs, who ask for bedtime stories from the Children’s Illustrated Bible. Children who maybe ask why Noah’s flood happened, but never whether it happened. Children who believe in God. I was one of them (to some degree – I didn’t do all of those things), and I know plenty of children now who I wouldn’t hesitate to call believers – not because I necessarily think it’s good for them to be, but because they are. By what definition are they not Christian?

Sure, there’s always the argument that a child hasn’t had the opportunity, the ability or the maturity to reach their own rational conclusion about what they believe, so their belief system shouldn’t be binding. But do all adult Christians believe what they do as a result of mature, rational consideration? If you reserved the word “Christian” for those who had reached the decision only after serious research and objective analysis, you’d find yourself using the word far less often.

Is it a good thing that children are given such strong exposure to a religion at such a young age that they adopt it before they can seriously question it? I’m strongly in the “no” camp, although I’d defend the rights of parents to raise their children in whatever way they think is appropriate (with the sidepoint that having a right to do something doesn’t make it a good idea). I’d greatly prefer to see children raised to work out their own conclusions about anything where there’s major disagreement around them, and religion is the obvious candidate for that. But the fact that I want it, and the fact that Richard Dawkins wants it, doesn’t make it fact. The reality is that children all over the place believe in God. (More so than would even understand Marxism, let alone subscribe to it.)

So the phrase is valid, as far as I’m concerned. The terms “Christian child” and “child of Christian parents” should never be confused (although there’s a pretty strong correlation between the two), but they both exist.

Anyway, that’s my rant for today. About time I took a swing at an atheist position. Normal programming will resume shortly.

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