Olivier Rouleau responded to my post on Ethics of Metaphysics with such a clearly expressed counterpoint that I thought it would be worth sharing it. I don't agree with all his points, but I feel our sails are tacking in the same direction, just from opposite sides of the ocean.
There is a certain sense in which raising children is forcing them to do stuff they would prefer not to do. In my case, I know for a fact that I was forced to go to church and if I had had freedom of choice on the matter, I wouldn't have gone (because I was young and would rather have played then attended church). I think few children would have any interest in religious education (or education at all!) if they were free. So we have to acknowledge that these are choices we are making and imposing on them. I'm also ready to go as far as to say that we usually do so for all the right reasons. These choices are numerous and far reaching : how to interact with others, what to eat, how to care for oneself, values system, respect of the law (or not) etc. Making these choices and getting the child ready to make them for himself when he's old enough is the essence of what raising a child is.
This being said, the fact that we, as parents, have the right and often the duty to make these choices for our children doesn't, by itself, imply that choice of religion is one we should and much less need to make for them. I think there is a huge difference between saying, "in my opinion, parents should raise their children in a strictly secular way" and saying "Lets make a law to invalidate the declaration of human right and force people to do this and not that".
While I certainly don't fully endorse Dawkins' vision, I do think he is entitled to advocate secularism, if only as a counter for religious extremism that is, and has historically been,a potent and consistent source of conflict and problems (and yes, maybe also of solutions) for the human race.
You say in your earlier comment:
If my parents were not allowed to raise me in a religious tradition until I was 18, who has freedom of religion in this scenario? Not me, I have to wait until 18 to be granted this right (whilst in the meantime being forcibly excluded from my own family in certain contexts!) and not my parents who are forced to exclude me from their religious practices against their wishes.
I think that it's possible, as a Christian, to raise children in a fairly secular way without it being the horrible disruption of family life that you describe.
It's not about raising them in a different culture than your own, it's simply not emphasising certain aspects of yourself or your beliefs. It's accepting difference and letting them explore that and make their own mind. To a large extent, this is already being done on various aspects of life. For example, it is generally considered healthy not to choose hobbies for a child, or what he should study, what career to pursue, and so forth. Over the past few decades, in the most educated portion of the population at least, this freedom of the child has also been extended to sexual orientation. It doesn't prevent you from guiding your child through life and even though these are important and integral parts of who you are, you understand that your child doesn't have to be like you on these matters to be a complete and decent person.
Also, it's not imperative (and I would posit not even desirable) that a choice on that even be made at all before later in life. We don't stress if our children don't know what they want to be at 12 years of age. We also don't fret if they haven't decided who they want to marry at 18 years of age. Embracing a metaphysical explanation to the world and which God (if any) to worship strikes me as something eminently more complex, fundamental and personal than that. Yet, this is a commitment we systematically and ritually ask 8 year old children to make when they undergo their first Communion.
I was raised Christian, became agnostic around 14 and, sadly, am leaning more and more towards atheism as the years pass. My parents meant well of course... But today, I can definitely say, very personally, that I know my Christian upbringing has been an obstacle for me to overcome on my quest for identity and happiness. To this day, this is something that I sometimes end up fighting when thinking about ethical issues.
I'm also confident that raising me an atheist wouldn't have been any better. Today, when a child asks me about death, instead of giving my personal theory, I use this answer: "Nobody knows for sure, this is something you will have to find out for yourself as you grow up..." This is how I understand Dawkins' secularism (as opposed to Dawkins' materialistic atheism).
We give our children freedom to choose tons of stuff for themselves already. Maybe, just maybe, we don't have to choose what arbitrary dogma they should follow or what the meaning of the universe has to be for them.
Edited very slightly by me.