Last Thursday,I attended the monthly meeting of free thinkers organised by Freethought-Kampala, at Spice Gardens(formerly Four Points Bar and Restaurant)-Centenary Park.It was the usual topical discussion, only that this time the discussion was preceded by a movie/documentary-Jesus Camp.
I will not go into the details of the documentary,though it was briefly about several families in the United States of America that take their very young children to a summer camp. The aim is simple: teach and groom the children into strong, righteous Christians. That sounds good, normal. Doesn’t it?
But wait,this is not just teaching children about the birth-life-death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.The children are actually doctored into extreme Christians through extreme methods; of threats,songs,praise and obviously prayer and lectures.The summer camp was not a failure.You actually see the success in the general aptitude of the young children.They reasoned out religious issues, perhaps much better than some of your ordinary preacher at your local worship centre.
The documentary got me thinking: To what extent should parents be able to groom their young children into religion? To what extent should a parent determine or influence his/her child’s religious belief/preferences? Does such extreme and exclusive conduct amount to responsible parenting, or even child abuse? That was one of the controversial questions we had to answer after watching the documentary. We got and I am sure we will continue to get as many answers as there are thoughts and opinions.
My initial position during and after the movie was that,while it is completely wrong for parents to force their children into such religious drills,it is perhaps equally unreasonable to consider such drills as child abuse.
It is important to understand it from the parents’ point of view; so we were warned by James Onen (Fat Boy) Parents hold a big responsibility of grooming their children into responsible citizens. Parents reading this will understand the pressure the suffer when they start imagining the future of their children. A parent has the moral and natural responsibility of grooming and modeling his/her child into a responsible human being. Modeling and grooming include, but are not limited to teaching the children morals. Needless to say,the standard for morals in the lager part of our conservative societies is still based on religious teachings.Simply meaning that what is moral should be usually religious in nature. That is the opinion of religion and its proponents, not mine. Are you fair to the parents in blaming them?
My problem is:Why wont parents open the world to their children-so that the children can be able to make an informed decision? Religion is not a hereditary thing.That is why our law gives each and everybody the freedom of worship. Custom over the years has sort of dictated that we follow the religions of our families. But does that give parents a right to heavily/wrongly influence/manipulate their children into their own religions? My answer is NO. I consider that insecurity,as well as selfishness.
This brings me to the issue of child abuse: in relation to the topic. We have parents getting infants with delicate and extremely young minds. Minds not old enough to to tell between A and B. These are children who believe that what Dad/Mom says is absolutely right. They take these helpless children into an isolated camp and torment them into submission.Threats of death,everlasting fire,curses,the devil and other sorts of things. Actually, they make the young children think they are the worst people on earth, who simply need God’s grace in order to live another day.They give them the-the world is against us-impression. They actually do not teach them the meaning and relevancy of religion. What do you expect? How else can one call that? The parents’ responsibility to groom children also involves involves giving the children all relevant information within their rich.Why can’t parents expose their children to a variety of of world views? Why should a parent deny a learning child a chance to read,ask and understand evolution? I consider the habit of denying such reasonable information to the children a form of child abuse.
I don’t care/know about the rest. But I intend to give my children the chance to follow their conscience;because I believe that there is nothing as righteous as one’s conscience. I will teach them values of humanity and harmonious living:sharing,respect,love,forgiveness,thanking,justice,peaceful resolution of conflicts, etc. For the record,i don’t intend to teach my children any religion. That is a private matter and therefore their personal business. If they grow up and admire a particular religion and want to join and follow it,I have no problem as it is a mature and informed decision. I will bless them.I don’t care what religion it is.If they want to be atheists,its their choice too. I will not reward them for that. But I will be sure that they are not Christians or Muslims-just because Dad is.
I think,in my conclusion,that parents should be fair to their children.If the parents were in their infancy denied their right to choose,they should not deny their children the same. They were simply unlucky. The wrong in the past cannot justify the wrong in the present.