25 October 2015

Children and the Religious Decision

I recently came across this article, which reports on a court in Canada ordering a couple in British Columbia not to talk about religion to their granddaughter. The couple happens to be Jehovah's Witnesses, and based on the report, they have been insisting to take their four-year-old granddaughter to church. The mother, on the other hand, who happens to be the sole guardian of the granddaughter, thinks that her daughter can choose her own religion when she gets older. Of course, there's conflict. The court ruled in favour of the mother, ruling that the grandparents shouldn't be allowed unsupervised visits to their grandchild because of their insistence on talking religion to their granddaughter.

I am actually glad that this has been the outcome of this trial. There are too many decisions pertaining to religion that has been done on children, which, in my opinion, should not have been done, until the children were older. You have infants being circumcised, newborns being baptized, children being groomed to parrot scriptures from the Bible, all of these just because parents think that it is important for them to raise their children in the religion they believe in. But come to think of it, these religious choices should be left to the children themselves, no? They should be the one to decide what religion they want to believe in.

See, the funny thing is, this is a logic that the Jehovah's Witnesses think they also agree with. They object to infant baptism. They object to immediate membership, so to speak. Instead, they make it a point that children should be educated with their religious dogma, but it is still up to the children to decide if they get baptized or not.

Sure, on the surface, it seems that children growing up with parents who are Jehovah's Witnesses have the choice to be baptized or not. But in reality, they don't. I was raised as a Witness. I remember being baptized when I was 14. Did I do it because I wanted to? Probably not. Rather, I did it because it was obviously the thing to do if you want your parents to be happy. Simple classical learning here. If you as a child see what are the things that make your parents happy, and what are the things that make them not happy, and compare the different states when your parents are happy as opposed to when they are not, then wouldn't you also do the things that would make them happy? I got baptized because my parents obviously wanted me to be baptized. So I did it. But did I do it because I truly believed in the doctrines of the Witnesses? Not at all.

Imagine, now, if you, as a child, growing up in a Witness environment, hear these doctrines week by week. Slowly, you are being groomed, brainwashed, conditioned to think that this is indeed your reality, that the end is coming soon, and that the only thing you should do is be baptized. This is by no means letting the child choose his religion for himself. This is classical conditioning, so that the child will eventually deliver the Pavlovian response when the time comes and the child is asked if he would want to be baptized.

So no, the Witnesses might claim that they let the child choose their own religion, but in reality, that is not the case. That was never the case for me. It was only later, when I knew how to think for myself, did I choose that I didn't want to be part of this religion, and was awakened, and escaped. I only feel pity for the thousands of children who are still trapped in this organization, because given the social structure of this religion, it is not easy to get out.


  1. There should be more people talking like that about religion. It is sad to see how silent main stream media is when it comes to religion. Take for example the TV channel Rede Globo, a media empire here in Brazil where I live. They put reporters with smiles on their faces to appreciate and regard generously the claims of miracles performed by catholic believers around the country, without a single healthy question about the plausibility of those claims, or the supporting evidence. A privilege that very few subjects get.

    The BBC that I got acquainted with during my time in the UK was not very different when it came to the coverage of religious grounded terrorism. A lot of questions they would naturally put when covering any other subject, they would avoid for the sake of diversity and respect for believers.

    I wonder whether we could be heading towards a no coming back point, where the respect and fear for religion is so well stablished that people will think it justified when someone kills cartoonists in response to humor pages.

    I can't remember who said that you don't need to burn all the books to put and end to the civilization, all you need is that they are not read for one generation. I think that there is a lot of truth in that, and that makes me think of an experiment that could be beneficial to atheists and believers: why don't we try one generation without any religious education or indoctrination whatsoever?

    Obviously it would be hard to put such an experiment in practice. But if it was possible, would any believer have any reason to fear it? Surely if God exists, He will come after a generation to re-establish the truth to those that missed the chance to learn about him, won't He?

    I must admit that I am worried about the hesitance of our societies and leaders to interfere when parents teach nonsense to their kids. This massacre of children intellect is not even in the political agenda.

    1. Renan,

      Oh don't even get me started on the respect thing. I utterly hate it when there are governments and other positions of authority who seem to prioritize a particular group of people simply because they don't want to "offend" them and their beliefs. I mean, come on, why do we treat religious beliefs as something infallible, and needing respect all the time? Why cannot they be challenged and criticized? I seriously think that religious beliefs have a trump card where anyone can just say "Oh that is against my religious beliefs" and everyone else is expected to take that and move on.

  2. I'm still very much a "whatever suits you but please don't shove your beliefs down my throat" person. I don't mind religion, occasionally I find various beliefs fascinating and enlightening. But I cannot stand proselytism.

    I also firmly believe that regardless of your beliefs, you have to give your kids several options. Like "well, at home we do X and Y but your friends may do Y and Z and that's fine too!" And let older kids choose for themselves, of course.

    1. Zhu,

      Right, I agree. The sad thing is that most parents do shove their beliefs down the throats of their children. I remember my parents once said that they taught us what they taught us because they think that is the best thing out there that can be taught, but nevertheless, that was their subjective evaluation of the matter, and what might be best for them is not necessarily the best for their children.