Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Should We Label Children Based on their Parents' Beliefs?

Today you can find the latest Interfaith Ramadan piece over at ABC Religion and Ethics. Here's a short snippet to capture your interest: 

"When I made the decision to become a Muslim, I didn't consider the profound effect it would have on my family. By this I don't mean my parents and extended family, although it certainly came as quite a surprise to them. But rather, I mean my descendents - any children I may have in the future.
I'm keenly aware that, as a convert, I've not only changed the course of my life but very likely the course of my (currently hypothetical) children's lives by creating a Muslim branch to the family and breaking away from a long line of Protestant ministers and missionaries. I have no doubt that had I remained a Christian my children would have been raised as such, whereas if I were to have children now they would be raised in a Muslim household and referred to as "Muslim children" by society.
This reflection led me to explore the significant influence parents' religious decisions have on their children's lives and the possible effects of labelling based on the religious or non-religious beliefs of their parents and guardians."

 You can read the full article over at ABC Religion and Ethics 

A bit of background 

I don't often find myself agreeing with Richard Dawkins but it was actually his reflection on labelling children that inspired this article. The manner in which he deals with religious issues, can make it all too easy, especially for people of faith, to dismiss his views on religion altogether but his statement here is certainly thought-provoking:

While I was pondering this issue I asked several writers and activists for their thoughts and they kindly shared their ideas and experiences with me: 

Can religious labels be a positive experience for children? 

Carrie P (Crafty Moms): "I knew I was a Christian and felt part of the church. At one point my mother worked for our church, so I really felt like it was a big part of our lives."

Are religious labels appropriate for children?  

Carrie P: "Since my husband and I are both Christian (he's Catholic and I'm Protestant), we have always referred to our daughter as Christian. By our belief she is Christian and has been baptized as a Christian." 

Leanna Guillen Mora, founder of Multicultural Kids Blogs and All Done Monkey: "I think children's hearts can be touched by faith and so it can be appropriate to refer to them as belonging to a particular religion, although of course this is different from when a mature adult makes this same commitment." 

What effect can labels have on wider society?

Jeremy Rodell, who previously wrote Why the Faithful Need Secularism for Interfaith Ramadan, believes that the assignment of religious labels can lead to faith-based privilege in the public sphere, citing the example that, "There are children in England who can’t get into their nearest state-funded school simply because of the beliefs of their parents."  

How would you respond to the questions raised in the article and to the responses above? 

Related Articles: 

You can read Jim Steele's response to this article here: Religious Labels: Constructive or Constrictive?

To Cut or Not To Cut: Finding Alternatives to Circumcision: New rituals create ways to symbolically acknowledge Jews’ covenant with God without actually circumcising infants. (Marjorie Ingall)

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