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Nov 21 2009

Theists completely miss the point of BHA’s new campaign

You may have heard of the new billboard campaign by the British Humanist Association against state funded faith schools. It takes a page from Richard Dawkins argument that small children are not yet intellectually or emotionally mature enough to make their own decisions about religion, and should not be labeled with the religion of their parents.Apparently the happy children pictured above came from a stock photo website, and are actually kids of famous evangelical Christian parents. What do people have to say about this?

[Their father] said: “It is quite funny, because obviously they were searching for images of children that looked happy and free. They happened to choose children who are Christian. It is ironic. The humanists obviously did not know the background of these children.”

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He said that the children’s Christianity had shone through. “Obviously there is something in their faces which is different. So they judged that they were happy and free without knowing that they are Christians. That is quite a compliment. I reckon it shows we have brought up our children in a good way and that they are happy.”

Gerald Coates, the leader of the Pioneer network of churches, which Mr Mason and his family used to attend before they moved to Dorset, said: “I think it is hilarious that the happy and liberated children on the atheist poster are in fact Christian.”

Are people really this daft? The whole point of the bloody campaign is to show we should stop labeling children, yet they go on to repeatedly call them not Christian children. They are not Christians. They are impressionable kids who are currently being raised in a Christian environment and do not yet have the skills to make informed decisions about religion. But with the level of critical thinking we’re seeing in the adults, I’m concerned that they’ll never reach that level of comprehension.

And the fact that they imply that these children are happy just because they’re raised by Christians annoys the hell out of me. Yep, atheists are completely unable to raise children in a healthy, loving environment. That’s why we didn’t use atheist kids, because they wouldn’t stop sobbing or cutting themselves long enough to take a good photograph. Oh wait, no, it’s because we don’t label children as “atheists” or “humanists.”

Good thing being the children of twits doesn’t automatically make you a twit yourself.

(Via RichardDawkins.net)

54 comments

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  1. 1
    Veritas

    Labelling one's child from an early age is an important tactic for generational growth in the religious community. The purpose of it is simple: to ensure that one's child will be like themself. I see where it comes from, but I sure don't like it. Obviously, these people miss the point, but they may be purposefully ignoring it to speak out to those who are participating in the same behaviour.

  2. 2
    Veritas

    Labelling one’s child from an early age is an important tactic for generational growth in the religious community. The purpose of it is simple: to ensure that one’s child will be like themself. I see where it comes from, but I sure don’t like it. Obviously, these people miss the point, but they may be purposefully ignoring it to speak out to those who are participating in the same behaviour.

  3. 3
    mcbender

    Missing the point seems to be the one thing theists are consistently good at.

  4. 4
    mcbender

    Missing the point seems to be the one thing theists are consistently good at.

  5. 5
    edivimo

    I love de graphic!

  6. 6
    edivimo

    I love de graphic!

  7. 7
    Mike

    Yeah, I'm with Veritas on this. For theists to miss the point as often as they do by accident is pretty close to statistically impossible. They, on some level, see the point, then swerve to make sure they don't get it.

  8. 8
    Mike

    Yeah, I’m with Veritas on this. For theists to miss the point as often as they do by accident is pretty close to statistically impossible. They, on some level, see the point, then swerve to make sure they don’t get it.

  9. 9
    pboyfloyd

    Pfft! Anyone with an 'eye for it' can see that these kids are being forced to be jumping and happyhappy, yea, AT GUN POINT!!!

  10. 10
    pboyfloyd

    Pfft! Anyone with an ‘eye for it’ can see that these kids are being forced to be jumping and happyhappy, yea, AT GUN POINT!!!

  11. 11
    Andrew Ray Gorman

    A True Christian family!

    Oh. I am in love with that "missing the point" picture

  12. 12
    Andrew Ray Gorman

    A True Christian family!Oh. I am in love with that “missing the point” picture

  13. 13
    Daniel Sprockett

    Most American kids are being raised by Christians. Any two randomly chosen kids on an American owned stock photo site are likely to be Christian.

  14. 14
    Dan!

    Most American kids are being raised by Christians. Any two randomly chosen kids on an American owned stock photo site are likely to be Christian.

  15. 15
    jemand

    The sign says "Please DON'T label me."

    The fact that the children pictured actually *are* being labeled currently actually only increases the message.

  16. 16
    jemand

    The sign says “Please DON’T label me.”The fact that the children pictured actually *are* being labeled currently actually only increases the message.

  17. 17
    Anonymous

    Actually, if you looked at the ad it also included political terms. Such as the names of political parties.

    I think if one does a good job teaching critical thinking to a child that child will then turn around and put some of his/her ideas (learned from parents) to a test.

    I also have no intention of avoiding discussing politics with my children (if I have some and I would like to in the future) until they are 18. If they vote for people other than I do I'll live with that, I would like for them to have reasons though and at least have thought about the reasons I have considered when I made decisions on election day.

    Ditto for religion. I think parents can be loving towards their kids and be Christian, Atheist, Buddhist, and so on.

    There is a difference between encouraging someone (especially one's own children) to have an open mind and enforcing a certain level of ignorance so they don't know anything about a given topic at hand when they gain the ability to really make decisions for themselves. The ad may lean toward the former.

    I would expect my children to know some things about each of the major political parties before they turn 18. If they hit the age of legal voting and don't know anything about it or the major groups involved I would be upset.

    pplr

  18. 18
    Anonymous

    Actually, if you looked at the ad it also included political terms. Such as the names of political parties.I think if one does a good job teaching critical thinking to a child that child will then turn around and put some of his/her ideas (learned from parents) to a test.I also have no intention of avoiding discussing politics with my children (if I have some and I would like to in the future) until they are 18. If they vote for people other than I do I’ll live with that, I would like for them to have reasons though and at least have thought about the reasons I have considered when I made decisions on election day.Ditto for religion. I think parents can be loving towards their kids and be Christian, Atheist, Buddhist, and so on.There is a difference between encouraging someone (especially one’s own children) to have an open mind and enforcing a certain level of ignorance so they don’t know anything about a given topic at hand when they gain the ability to really make decisions for themselves. The ad may lean toward the former.I would expect my children to know some things about each of the major political parties before they turn 18. If they hit the age of legal voting and don’t know anything about it or the major groups involved I would be upset.pplr

  19. 19
    Anonymous

    Missed a typo in editing. The ads may lean toward the latter, not former.

    pplr

  20. 20
    Anonymous

    Missed a typo in editing. The ads may lean toward the latter, not former.pplr

  21. 21
    jemand

    it's against labeling, not against teaching them.

    Just when you're teaching them, you say, *I think this, other people think this, here are some reasons, when you're older you can choose for yourself which you think*

    It's not against taking your children to your religious events, or talking politics with them, but against counting those children as already being "soldiers for Christ" or whatever religion, and pretty much setting it up so that they KNOW you will not accept them or will disrespect them if they eventually decide your reasoning and explanations are not sufficient for them.

  22. 22
    jemand

    it’s against labeling, not against teaching them.Just when you’re teaching them, you say, *I think this, other people think this, here are some reasons, when you’re older you can choose for yourself which you think*It’s not against taking your children to your religious events, or talking politics with them, but against counting those children as already being “soldiers for Christ” or whatever religion, and pretty much setting it up so that they KNOW you will not accept them or will disrespect them if they eventually decide your reasoning and explanations are not sufficient for them.

  23. 23
    Anonymous

    Instead of "labeling" it sounds like the issue you are talking about is parents trying to run their children's lives.

    This happens with more than just religion or politics. I met a girl whose parents built a house and strongly let her know that they expected her to come back home after college and live in it/take care of it and so on.

    The problem there isn't (at least not usually) what children are called it is realizing they can and will be making decisions for themselves.

    pplr

  24. 24
    Anonymous

    Instead of “labeling” it sounds like the issue you are talking about is parents trying to run their children’s lives.This happens with more than just religion or politics. I met a girl whose parents built a house and strongly let her know that they expected her to come back home after college and live in it/take care of it and so on.The problem there isn’t (at least not usually) what children are called it is realizing they can and will be making decisions for themselves.pplr

  25. 25
    thewrittenwordreviews

    I'm an atheist and I'm against this stupid campaign.

    Kids should be labelled what there parents are until they are old enough to make a decision. It's about custom and culture. Children with Christian parents are Christian kids. They are going to be brought up by Christians, in a Christian household, with Christian values.

    I understand why we are worried about this – it is the beginning of indoctrination. The point is people have the freedom to bring up their children however they choose and label them whatever they want. I see this campaign as petty and ham fisted.

  26. 26
    thewrittenwordreviews

    I’m an atheist and I’m against this stupid campaign. Kids should be labelled what there parents are until they are old enough to make a decision. It’s about custom and culture. Children with Christian parents are Christian kids. They are going to be brought up by Christians, in a Christian household, with Christian values. I understand why we are worried about this – it is the beginning of indoctrination. The point is people have the freedom to bring up their children however they choose and label them whatever they want. I see this campaign as petty and ham fisted.

  27. 27
    Tyler

    thewrittenwordreviews, so you have no problem with Muslim parents raising their children to be Muslim and, when the kids decide not to be Muslim anymore, they kill the children for apostasy?

  28. 28
    Tyler

    thewrittenwordreviews, so you have no problem with Muslim parents raising their children to be Muslim and, when the kids decide not to be Muslim anymore, they kill the children for apostasy?

  29. 29
    thewrittenwordreviews

    I have a problem with the infanticide, not the raising of chilren as Muslims.

  30. 30
    thewrittenwordreviews

    I have a problem with the infanticide, not the raising of chilren as Muslims.

  31. 31
    Tyler

    So you have absolutely no problem with Muslim parents raising a Muslim child who doesn't want to be Muslim and could possibly die for thinking like that?

  32. 32
    Tyler

    So you have absolutely no problem with Muslim parents raising a Muslim child who doesn’t want to be Muslim and could possibly die for thinking like that?

  33. 33
    jose

    You can't wait until they grow some sense. You need to teach children right and wrong now because you need for them not to become selfih spoiled evil little brats who don't know anything now. You can't say "See, I think this is right but some people say it's wrong, so you should think about it and decide for yourself maturely and responsibly".

    But religious people believe that not loving their god is a terrible sin (christian parents won't let their kids to be sinners) and it's absolutely wrong cause they assume their values and morality comes from god. They think their lives are good and moral because of religion! That's why religious families will always make cute little christians out of them. I think the campaign is ignoring this fact.

  34. 34
    jose

    You can’t wait until they grow some sense. You need to teach children right and wrong now because you need for them not to become selfih spoiled evil little brats who don’t know anything now. You can’t say “See, I think this is right but some people say it’s wrong, so you should think about it and decide for yourself maturely and responsibly”.But religious people believe that not loving their god is a terrible sin (christian parents won’t let their kids to be sinners) and it’s absolutely wrong cause they assume their values and morality comes from god. They think their lives are good and moral because of religion! That’s why religious families will always make cute little christians out of them. I think the campaign is ignoring this fact.

  35. 35
    Veritas

    I think the point is that, as an atheist, if my children were to choose a religion, I would challenge it, but accept it. If my child voted different to me, or liked members of the same sex, I would accept it, because I hadn't mentally slotted my child into a slot, like "Christian", "straight", or "progressive".

    We only need to look at the intense damage done to many homosexual youth by their parents who had already mentally slotted them into the "straight" role to know the sort of harm this behaviour can have. How many atheist children have felt they have to hide what they are from their parents? And how many atheists have been guilted into clinging to behaviour they know is false because they grew up "Christian" "Muslim" "Sihk", what have you?

  36. 36
    Veritas

    I think the point is that, as an atheist, if my children were to choose a religion, I would challenge it, but accept it. If my child voted different to me, or liked members of the same sex, I would accept it, because I hadn’t mentally slotted my child into a slot, like “Christian”, “straight”, or “progressive”.We only need to look at the intense damage done to many homosexual youth by their parents who had already mentally slotted them into the “straight” role to know the sort of harm this behaviour can have. How many atheist children have felt they have to hide what they are from their parents? And how many atheists have been guilted into clinging to behaviour they know is false because they grew up “Christian” “Muslim” “Sihk”, what have you?

  37. 37
    mcbender

    Looks like people are missing the point even here.

    The problem with labelling of children is that they are fundamentally incapable of coming to decisions about these kinds of matters. Children are credulous and, frankly, I'd go so far as to say stupid (I remember being one, although I wish I could forget; it wasn't THAT long ago, unfortunately).

    Religious people may want to believe their children are "Christians", "Muslims", "Jews", and so on, but they aren't. The children don't have any real understanding of what it means to be any of those things (again, we all used to be children, we all know this at some level), so calling them such is disingenuous.

    Furthermore, labelling children gives the children a message along these lines: "This is what you are. This is what you believe. Stop questioning and accept it."

    I remember growing up as a 'Jewish child' in a predominantly Christian community. I remember being confused; I didn't understand what was different about me, but I knew I was different and nobody let me forget it, especially around holiday times (although all I remember the other children knowing was that because I was Jewish I didn't believe in Santa or Jesus; I knew what Santa was but I didn't really know anything about Jesus except that I wasn't supposed to believe in it).

    If I hadn't been labelled a 'Jewish child', if I hadn't been told "You are Jewish", I never would have considered myself Jewish in any respect. If it hadn't been for the expectations of everybody around me, who assumed I was Jewish because my parents were… I would never have gotten as far into Judaism as I did (granted, by age 14 I was an atheist, so I got out rather quickly and the harm done was minimal).

    The point is that labelling has consequences. If we can raise consciousness about the labelling of children, and reduce the frequency with which it occurs… those children will grow up with the knowledge that they can choose, and I doubt nearly as many will choose religion (but of course they are free to).

  38. 38
    mcbender

    Looks like people are missing the point even here.The problem with labelling of children is that they are fundamentally incapable of coming to decisions about these kinds of matters. Children are credulous and, frankly, I’d go so far as to say stupid (I remember being one, although I wish I could forget; it wasn’t THAT long ago, unfortunately).Religious people may want to believe their children are “Christians”, “Muslims”, “Jews”, and so on, but they aren’t. The children don’t have any real understanding of what it means to be any of those things (again, we all used to be children, we all know this at some level), so calling them such is disingenuous.Furthermore, labelling children gives the children a message along these lines: “This is what you are. This is what you believe. Stop questioning and accept it.”I remember growing up as a ‘Jewish child’ in a predominantly Christian community. I remember being confused; I didn’t understand what was different about me, but I knew I was different and nobody let me forget it, especially around holiday times (although all I remember the other children knowing was that because I was Jewish I didn’t believe in Santa or Jesus; I knew what Santa was but I didn’t really know anything about Jesus except that I wasn’t supposed to believe in it).If I hadn’t been labelled a ‘Jewish child’, if I hadn’t been told “You are Jewish”, I never would have considered myself Jewish in any respect. If it hadn’t been for the expectations of everybody around me, who assumed I was Jewish because my parents were… I would never have gotten as far into Judaism as I did (granted, by age 14 I was an atheist, so I got out rather quickly and the harm done was minimal).The point is that labelling has consequences. If we can raise consciousness about the labelling of children, and reduce the frequency with which it occurs… those children will grow up with the knowledge that they can choose, and I doubt nearly as many will choose religion (but of course they are free to).

  39. 39
    thewrittenwordreviews

    So you have absolutely no problem with Muslim parents raising a Muslim child who doesn't want to be Muslim and could possibly die for thinking like that?

    No, I have a problem with the rule that says they murder people who don't believe in the Koran, not their choice to bring up their kids as Muslims, or them labelling their kids Muslims.

  40. 40
    thewrittenwordreviews

    So you have absolutely no problem with Muslim parents raising a Muslim child who doesn’t want to be Muslim and could possibly die for thinking like that?No, I have a problem with the rule that says they murder people who don’t believe in the Koran, not their choice to bring up their kids as Muslims, or them labelling their kids Muslims.

  41. 41
    Tyler

    The problem with labelling kids anything, thewrittenwordreviews, is that by giving them the label, you also give them the rules that apply to that label, even if they don't understand them. Thus, giving a child a label with insanely strict rules (such as our lovely "death for apostasy" deal) could mean trouble if they decide to not want that label anymore.

  42. 42
    Tyler

    The problem with labelling kids anything, thewrittenwordreviews, is that by giving them the label, you also give them the rules that apply to that label, even if they don’t understand them. Thus, giving a child a label with insanely strict rules (such as our lovely “death for apostasy” deal) could mean trouble if they decide to not want that label anymore.

  43. 43
    thewrittenwordreviews

    I'm aware and please let me clarify that I understand the harmful results that follow such labelling, such as indoctrination and confusion of identity for people who decide against their parents religion.

    However, I don't see this concept working at all in relatively secular societies, let alone the type of societies that regularly practise infanticide for apostasy.

    What I'm trying to say is that I understand the ideas behind the theory, but I don't think it will work in reality.

    For intance, how would it work in practice? When a Muslim family takes a child to their mosque, what do they tell them? What is the child's status to others? Even though he or she attends the mosque, follows the customs of the Muslim religion, is part of a group of people whose entire culture is effected by the Muslim faith and is most likely going to continue to be a Muslim with his or her own children – he or she is not to be considered a Muslim?

    Religion is not just individual spirituality, it is culture. I don't see how we can try to splice the children away from their parents culture by definition.

    My other problem with this campaign is this: I believe in the right of parents to raise their children according to their values, whether they be atheists or religious. Trying to intervene, by saying that there children are not part of their values, is wrong. For instance, what if it were the other way round? What if society demanded, like in the past, that all children must by law have a denomination?

    As a side note, I think the reason this campaign will not go down well is that it comes across as self serving. If the children are not labelled as religious, then what are they? They are inherently atheistic or agnostic, until a choice to become religious. It seems as if we are trying to indoctrinate their children.

  44. 44
    thewrittenwordreviews

    I’m aware and please let me clarify that I understand the harmful results that follow such labelling, such as indoctrination and confusion of identity for people who decide against their parents religion. However, I don’t see this concept working at all in relatively secular societies, let alone the type of societies that regularly practise infanticide for apostasy.What I’m trying to say is that I understand the ideas behind the theory, but I don’t think it will work in reality. For intance, how would it work in practice? When a Muslim family takes a child to their mosque, what do they tell them? What is the child’s status to others? Even though he or she attends the mosque, follows the customs of the Muslim religion, is part of a group of people whose entire culture is effected by the Muslim faith and is most likely going to continue to be a Muslim with his or her own children – he or she is not to be considered a Muslim?Religion is not just individual spirituality, it is culture. I don’t see how we can try to splice the children away from their parents culture by definition.My other problem with this campaign is this: I believe in the right of parents to raise their children according to their values, whether they be atheists or religious. Trying to intervene, by saying that there children are not part of their values, is wrong. For instance, what if it were the other way round? What if society demanded, like in the past, that all children must by law have a denomination? As a side note, I think the reason this campaign will not go down well is that it comes across as self serving. If the children are not labelled as religious, then what are they? They are inherently atheistic or agnostic, until a choice to become religious. It seems as if we are trying to indoctrinate their children.

  45. 45
    AlexH

    thewrittenwordreviews has a good point.. It seems you are trying to indoctrinate our children..

  46. 46
    AlexH

    thewrittenwordreviews has a good point.. It seems you are trying to indoctrinate our children..

  47. 47
    M. C. Bender

    How are we trying to indoctrinate anybody if we're not telling them anything? All we're saying is "children are too young to understand, so let them grow up and decide for themselves rather than making the decision for them"!

    What, precisely, does that message have to do with indoctrination? It is precisely the opposite of indoctrination… and, actually, I think that's what all of its opponents are so afraid of.

  48. 48
    M. C. Bender

    How are we trying to indoctrinate anybody if we’re not telling them anything? All we’re saying is “children are too young to understand, so let them grow up and decide for themselves rather than making the decision for them”!What, precisely, does that message have to do with indoctrination? It is precisely the opposite of indoctrination… and, actually, I think that’s what all of its opponents are so afraid of.

  49. 49
    Anonymous

    I would say there is a difference between indoctrination and teaching critical thinking.

    There is also a difference between utter silence (no information of any sort) and letting children make up their own minds.

    pplr

  50. 50
    Anonymous

    I would say there is a difference between indoctrination and teaching critical thinking.There is also a difference between utter silence (no information of any sort) and letting children make up their own minds.pplr

  51. 51
    Miranda Celeste Hale

    It's both hilarious and sad how thoroughly most of the newspaper articles/editorials, etc., about the campaign have missed the whole point of it. At least the clueless responses indicate how important the campaign is and how much it is needed.

  52. 52
    Miranda

    It’s both hilarious and sad how thoroughly most of the newspaper articles/editorials, etc., about the campaign have missed the whole point of it. At least the clueless responses indicate how important the campaign is and how much it is needed.

  53. 53
    thewrittenwordreviews

    How are we trying to indoctrinate anybody if we're not telling them anything? All we're saying is "children are too young to understand, so let them grow up and decide for themselves rather than making the decision for them"!

    What, precisely, does that message have to do with indoctrination? It is precisely the opposite of indoctrination… and, actually, I think that's what all of its opponents are so afraid of.

    I would say there is a difference between indoctrination and teaching critical thinking.

    I think their idea is that We are attempting to indoctrinate them to critical thinking – something I value greatly – but something a religious parents probably doesn't when it is pointed at their own spirituality.

    I'm not saying that I agree with this, but I'm just pointing out why people will react badly and where they are coming from. Veritas explained it well:

    Labelling one's child from an early age is an important tactic for generational growth in the religious community. The purpose of it is simple: to ensure that one's child will be like themself. I see where it comes from, but I sure don't like it.

  54. 54
    thewrittenwordreviews

    How are we trying to indoctrinate anybody if we’re not telling them anything? All we’re saying is “children are too young to understand, so let them grow up and decide for themselves rather than making the decision for them”!What, precisely, does that message have to do with indoctrination? It is precisely the opposite of indoctrination… and, actually, I think that’s what all of its opponents are so afraid of.I would say there is a difference between indoctrination and teaching critical thinking.I think their idea is that We are attempting to indoctrinate them to critical thinking – something I value greatly – but something a religious parents probably doesn’t when it is pointed at their own spirituality.I’m not saying that I agree with this, but I’m just pointing out why people will react badly and where they are coming from. Veritas explained it well:Labelling one’s child from an early age is an important tactic for generational growth in the religious community. The purpose of it is simple: to ensure that one’s child will be like themself. I see where it comes from, but I sure don’t like it.

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