Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Preying on the Tabulae Rasae

"There is no absurdity so palpable but that it may be firmly planted in the human head if you only begin to inculcate it before the age of five, by constantly repeating it with an air of great solemnity."

Arthur Schopenhauer

I am a member of a Facebook group called the Philippines Atheists and Agnostics Society (PATAS) and someone put up this question there:

How will you introduce atheism to a 5 year old kid?

Here are the answers (copied and pasted unedited) that were given by the members there within the first hour the question was dropped.

  • "you don't. Doing that is acting like any other religious nut trying to shove a belief system down a kid's throat. You let them come to their own conclusions and their own faith. it's a 5-year-old, for crying out loud. He/she can believe in the flying spaghetti monster if he/she wants to."
  • "You don't"
  • "I won't , I will just teach him or her to have an open and rational mind and to use logic. I will teach him not to be afraid question what he or she thinks is illogical."
  • "Let them learn by themselves. IMO we shouldn't impose it on the younglings"
  • "Teach kids critical thinking instead."
  • "Let his/her curiosity run. :)"
  • "no, I would teach him/her some science tho"
  • "Let him/her be."

You get the idea. I don't get many opportunities to be proud of something I am part of but the responses I read really made me want to tell them "You guys are awesome!"

None of the atheists participating in the thread wanted to establish their atheistic worldview in that hypothetical child. None of them were worried that the kid in question would go on to embrace religion later if left to his or her own devices. Almost everyone baulked at the idea of telling a child what to believe in, preferring instead to equip that child with the means to assess beliefs.

I think that stood in stark contrast to the typical religious mindset and paranoia. It is their thinking that if they don't instil all the values of their own tribal religion in their children at an early age, these kids might get "lost", embrace another religion or - God forbid! - become atheists.

Just look at Malaysia alone. Children born to Muslim families can expect to attend "tadika Islam" or Islamic kindergartens before they even go into Primary School where they are then separated from kuffar kids for a few periods a week to attend Islamic study classes. This would go on until they graduate high school while they are tested on their Islamic knowledge in every major academic exam along the way. They are also expected to pray in every morning assembly, and at the start of every official school function.

Christians too would take their kids to church as soon as they are old enough to sit still and feed them Biblical stories in Sunday schools at an age when they still have trouble telling if Barney is a real dinosaur or not. At the same time, it is also fashionable for Malaysian Buddhists to offer their children as godsons and goddaughters to the Goddess of Mercy in hopes that she would protect them. I mean, even the temple I "served" back when I was a committee member of my high school's Buddhist Society have their version of Sunday classes for kids.

Of course, the reality is religious parents start even earlier than that. Just after a few days a baby is born, it is registered and its birth certificate would be slapped with a label indicating whether it is a Muslim baby or a Christian baby or a Hindu baby or what have you. In the case of babies born to Muslim parents, that label means that they are not allowed to leave Islam for the rest of their lives! I mean holy shit, they just barely got here! They have not even mastered the art of keeping their heads steady and already they have understood the tenets of their folks' religions sufficiently to embrace it in a meaningful and permanent way?!

That shit is bull.
Clockwise from top left: (1) A baby girl wearing a hijab and holding a copy of the Qur'an, (2) A baby boy being circumcised by an Orthodox Jewish mohel, (3) The immersion baptism of an infant, (4) A toddler monk in a Tibetan Buddhist monastery, (5) A young boy shouldering a kavadi during Thaipusam, (6) A baby tossed about to be tossed down from a height of 50-feet in a ritual practiced by both Muslims and Hindus in India.

Atheists are perhaps unique in their awareness and conscious effort in avoiding the indoctrination of children with their personal opinions on the hypothesised God - frequently favouring the idea of letting the kids make their own discovery and choices when they are ready to do so for themselves. I believe that this pattern of behaviour is motivated by their own upbringing. As children, their own defenceless minds were assaulted with religious dogma by their parents which they could only abandon with great pain, and thereafter when their loss of faith was made known, they were likely met with rejection and estrangement from their family. It is very understandable that do not want to put their own children through the same coercive cycle of indoctrination they had to endure. They just want their kids to have the choices they were denied.

That and also because any rational human beings should be able to recognise that there can be no such thing as a Muslim child, a Christian child or a Buddhist child - there are only children born to Muslim, Christian or Buddhist households. Now, I have filled the religion field in my son Darwin's birth certificate with "None" because that is true. He has not decided on a religion, does not know what a religion is and now at 7 months old, still can't even pronounce the word "religion" yet. Of course, it would be delusional of me to consider Darwin an atheist in the way I am an atheist because meaningful atheism only exists when someone capable of comprehending it have regarded the God hypothesis but subsequently fails to develop a corresponding belief. Having intrinsic (inborn) atheism is by no means an impressive feat considering that a rigorous application of the definition of atheism would effortlessly encompass my two cats, my toilet bowl and the majority of houseplants.

Besides atheists, I wonder if the adherents of any other worldview would be so progressive as to respect their children's rights to grow up and make their own decisions about faith. Why can't they refrain from encumbering their offspring with years of cultural and scriptural programming instituted against them at a time when they are at the their most trusting and gullible? When they would readily accept the existence of Santa Claus and Batman if you just say so?

Can't you Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Taoists, Hindus, Sikhs and the rest of you Power Rangers see how predatory that is?

Does not like washing brains,
k0k s3n w4i


shanaz@RS said...

Such a beautiful mind you have, KSW! Have always enjoyed your frank thoughts on the blog and every other platform where you spill your views but that's probably because they echo mine.

Yet, we are still further away from letting children be children and matters of faith be personal:

k0k s3n w4i said...

shanaz@RS: I don't know about beautiful but my mind is certainly giving a lot of pain trying to make sense of this world of ours. And if my mind is beautiful and they echo yours... are you saying that your mind is beautiful? Haha.