Faith and Religion: The Finest and Oldest Traditions

Information age?

Information age?

     Immediately upon crossing the final “i” and dotting the final “t” of my previous article, I began to come to an even deeper realisation of exactly what Dr. Dobson’s statement implies, and its potential to do harm. (For those of you who are just now joining the story, I highly recommend that you read the other article, before continuing on with this one.)

     So, let’s recap. Dr. James Dobson, radio host, author and founder of “Focus On The Family,” has posited the idea that parents have a right to, as he puts it, “select their child’s religious orientation”:

“The right of parents to select their child’s religious orientation must be protected and no teacher or administrator should be allowed to contradict what the child has been taught at home.”

     I, on the other hand, refuted his assertion and claimed that parents could not hope to choose their child’s religion, any more than they can choose the child’s blood type or eye color. Then, the wheels in The Cybersattva’s head slowly started to turn, and I got to thinking; could it actually be possible for a parent to choose what a child will believe to be true? Frighteningly, the answer to this question is yes, it is possible. The mechanism for accomplishing this is one that has been employed by religious bodies for millennia, and is still being employed today. Governments employ this same tactic in their efforts to control their citizenry, through channels including the media. The mechanism? Control of the information.

     Let’s say that a mother, who we’ll call “Lucy,” has a small child, who she wants to believe that the sky is…yellow, for instance. Right from the beginning, Lucy manipulates and controls everything that the child sees and hears, to cause him / her to believe that the color blue is actually called “yellow,” even going so far as to change the text in books, and make the occasional statement, “Wow, that’s a pretty yellow sky today!” Before long, the youngster believes that the blue sky is actually yellow! (Of course, this approach also requires that Lucy change the real yellow to something else!)

     This can only go on as long as Lucy maintains complete control of the child’s access to information. Fortunately, forces of nature dictate that sooner or later, the child will be exposed to the truth, whether it be through television, talking to friends or enrollment in the compulsory education system. At any rate, the gig will be up, and Lucy will have some “‘splaining to do!”

     The same can be said for parents who would seek to choose their child’s religious beliefs, through the implementation of that ages old tradition of the church, information control. In this respect, it’s accomplished by such methods as home schooling and rigorous, compulsory attendance in a church. The parents of these children will also control who the child’s friends are, what they watch on television and what they listen to on the radio. Once again, it’s all about controlling the information, but there again, forces of nature will eventually bring some greater truths to bear against the limited info that the child has received. At that point, several problems arise and the questions start to flow like champagne at a wedding;

  • Who’s telling me the truth?
  • Who’s lying to me?
  • What’s real?
  • Why does the evidence point away from what my parents told me?
  • Why are people making fun of me and calling me dumb?
  • Why did my parents lie to me? I thought they loved me.

     My fine, young readers, let me ask you this; what kind of a parent would want to subject their child to this kind of eventual, existential dilemma? What gives any parent the moral, legal or parental right to put their child through this? Make no mistake, it’s the parent’s fault when this happens, not the fault of the people presenting the external information, even though the “Christian” parent will make (and often has made) that assumption.

     This is not what the founding fathers of this nation had in mind, when they penned the first amendment. The “Free Exercise” and “Establishment” clauses were never meant to enable parents to place their children in such a precarious position. As one who has, in the past, sworn to support and defend the constitution against all foreign and domestic enemies, I find James Dobson’s shameless purloining of the first amendment incredibly offensive.

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3 comments on “Faith and Religion: The Finest and Oldest Traditions

  1. FG says:

    (Forgive this second try at responding, but my first attempt was cut off)

    You asked: “do you feel that it is incumbent upon you to choose what your child will believe, or, are you willing to let him / her decide for themselves, having raised them by honest example and information?”

    That all depends on whether one believes that educating one’s child is important or whether one simply chooses to leave their child in ignorance. For those who take no responsibility to teach their children, then allowing a child to to adopt their own belief that 2+2=7 presents no problem to them. For those who want their children to live in reality, imparting truth is important. And it doesn’t matter if we’re discussing mathematical propositions, historical claims, or claims relating to God. Truth is truth, and as stewards of their child’s well-being, parents have some responsibility of imparting truth to their children.

    Regarding your question regarding religion’s contribution to civilization, that all depends on what religion you’re referencing. Now, can one give examples where alleged adherents to any particular religion have behaved badly? Given the fallibility of humans, people will always fail to live up to their principles, no matter what those are. The important question is whether the worldview in question itself advocates for good or evil, not whether its adherents have lived stellar lives. The point is, before one criticizes any “religion”, one needs to avoid the common error of conflating a worldview with its adherents, whose behavior may not at all comport with the tenets of their confessed worldview.

    Finally, it’s conspicuous that you asked the question about religion’s contributions, because it suggests that your opposition to “religious” parenting has less to do with the propriety of a parent indoctrinating a child with truth, than your opinion as to what is, in fact, true. In other words, you seem opposed to children being taught anything that doesn’t agree with your own metaphysical commitments. And while I would prefer that children not be taught metaphysical falsehoods, there’s no way to change that situation without violating parental authority.

  2. FG says:

    Although I agree with your point (i.e., that one can possibly be deceived via information control), you seem intent on equating religious parenting with an intent to deceive one’s child via misinformation, an entirely unwarranted assumption. (For the record, deception of that nature isn’t equivalent to “forcing” a belief, since one’s mind isn’t being altered against one’s will.)

    Furthermore, the questions you suggest will later cause an existential dilemma are hardly problematic at all if one’s religion is actually true. And herein is the problem with your theory, which seems to be proceeding on the assumption that religious parents are teaching their children something that is false. Again, until some evidence is forthcoming that (to use an example from your previous and related post) someone such as Dr. Dobson is teaching his children a false religion, it’s not clear how the “existential” questions you raised will present a problem to his children. (In fact, such questions have apparently not presented a problem to them at all, because they appear quite secure in their Christian worldview, as do many other adults raised with a Biblical worldview.)

    Now, one may point out, and rightly so, that not all religions can be equally true. Thus, someone is definitely teaching their children falsehood, albeit, not intentionally. While this might be unfortunate, what’s the alternative? Should the state impose metaphysical views like relativism or skepticism on its citizenry?

    It seems quite clear that the Founders (having lived in an environment that included homeschooling, compulsory church attendance, no access to television, and all the nefarious things which were implied to mislead children) did not share your views about parental rights. Certainly they intended the “Free Exercise” clause to protect a parent’s right to indoctrinate his children into his religion. (The bigger question is whether God really cares what the state allows when it violates His will.)

    Finally, you asked: “what kind of a parent would want to subject their child to this kind of eventual, existential dilemma?”

    A better question is, what kind of parent would abandon his child to wallow in metaphysical ignorance?

    http://thehomeschoolmomblog.wordpress.com/2013/01/21/reality-a-multiple-choice-quiz/

    • I suppose the “bottom-line” question would be this; do you feel that it is incumbent upon you to choose what your child will believe, or, are you willing to let him / her decide for themselves, having raised them by honest example and information?

      You seem to be of the opinion that “religion” as such, can be a good thing. Tell me; what has religion contributed to civilisation within the past…oh, let’s say three millennia, which can offset control, conflict, death and the plethora of other negatives it has wrought? (As a prime example, I would encourage you to read the letter that the Conference of Catholic Bishops sent to the House back on the 26th of last month, encouraging house Republicans to effectively shut down the government!) Look back throughout the arc of history, and it becomes painfully clear, that religion has a propensity for abuse. Faith, on the other hand, is something that I’ve always lauded. Faith, hope and love.

      There’s nothing wrong with faith-based home schooling, as long as ALL the evidence and theories are presented.

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