Last night I was discussing my opinions of religion with some friends. I made it clear that, contrary to what it might appear from what I write, I don’t actually want religion banned. I believe that people should be free to believe whatever nonsense they like. There are, however, three conditions that need to be met. You can belief whatever you like as long as you do it a) in private, b) amongst consenting adults and c) never in front of the children.
I think that these are three very important conditions. The first would curtail the effect that religious groups have on public life, the second would prevent anyone from forcing their religious beliefs on anyone else and the third would stop parents from forcing religion onto children while the children are still gullible enough to believe anything their parents tell them.
And completely coincidently, I see today that the people behind the Atheist Bus Campaign (was that really a year ago?) have launched a new campaign and that the subject of this campaign is faith schools – which neatly addresses my third point.
The “please don’t label me” slogan of the campaign comes from a theme that Richard Dawkins covered in The God Delusion. Speaking at the launch of this campaign, he said:
We urgently need to raise consciousnesses on this issue. Nobody would seriously describe a tiny child as a ‘Marxist child’ or an ‘Anarchist child’ or a ‘Post-modernist child’. Yet children are routinely labelled with the religion of their parents. We need to encourage people to think carefully before labelling any child too young to know their own opinions and our adverts will help to do that.
This campaign is initially being funded from money left over from the Atheist Bus Campaign, but there’s a page where you can donate more money if you like.
I firmly believe that the majority of religious people only have those beliefs because they were indoctrinated as children. If people decide to follow a religion when they are old enough to make up their own mind then of course I have no objections to that. But forcing children to believe the same fairy stories as their parents is clearly wrong and should be stopped.