The British Humanist Association has launched a billboard
campaign with the slogan “Please don't label me. Let me grow up and choose
for myself”. It's a clever piece of spin, managing to disguise its bigotry as
an apparently reasonable request. What lies behind this campaign is an
attack on Faith schools, which in turn amounts to advocating the violation of
the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It’s driven by rhetoric from
Richard Dawkins (who part funded the billboard campaign), who believes
that parents passing their religious traditions onto their children is
tantamount to child abuse.
If what were really being attacked were labels, this would be a grammatical
attack on adjectives and would be recognisably insane. Instead, the rhetoric of
inclusionism is used to make religion seem expressly and entirely
negative: “religious parents force
their beliefs onto their children, and this is bad,” claims the underlying
logic – it’s something that many non-religious people find easy to believe. You
only have to scratch the surface slightly to see the intolerance beneath, as in
this blog post which brazenly states:
I firmly believe that the
majority of religious people only have those beliefs because they were
indoctrinated as children.
There’s little hope of religious tolerance from someone who
cannot even imagine a child benefiting from a religious upbringing, nor how one’s
life might be enriched by following a faith tradition.
Parents pass their beliefs onto their children as a natural part
of the experience of parenthood, be it nationality, religion, political
partisanship or sporting allegiance. It was part of the joy of my childhood
that I got to share in my parent’s religious journey, and even though what I
now believe is very different to what they believed I cannot begin to estimate
how much I have gained from the experiences they shared with me. The idea that
someone would advocate excluding a child from sharing in their parent’s
spirituality or religion horrifies me, and such a proposal is an express
violation of our human rights treaties.
No-one is denying that there are problems in the domain of
religion, as there is in every sphere of human experience. Humanity is far from
a perfect species. But to single out religion in the domain of cultural inheritance
constitutes a prejudice, and to advocate the exclusion of children from
religion is an assault on our most fundamental freedoms. Besides, if one
soberly considers the whole of human history can anyone honestly say that religious
identities are definitively more problematic than national identities?