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Arguments for Atheism - Living without religion, with a clear conscience
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OTHER ARGUMENTS FOR ATHEISM - RELIGION DENIES THE BASIC RIGHTS OF CHILDREN

When children are brought up in a restrictive religious environment, it can be argued that their basic rights are being infringed. The UNICEF Convention on the Rights of the Child identifies the following basic human rights that children everywhere should have: the right to survival; the right to develop to the fullest; the right to protection from harmful influences, abuse and exploitation; and the right to participate fully in family, cultural and social life.
Religion prevents our children from having a rational education; religion prevents us from removing the fundamental causes of war; religion prevents us from teaching the ethic of scientific cooperation in place of the old fierce doctrines of sin and punishment.
- Bertrand Russell (1930)

Some atheist commentators (such as Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens) have argued that some kinds of religious upbringing amount to a kind of mental child abuse, leaving children terrorized by threats of divine punishment (hell, damnation and eternal torment), repressed and guilty about normal sexual functions and thoroughly indoctrinated from an early age, thus effectively depriving them of the opportunity to make their own free inquiry later.

In the same way, forcing children into a religious education - or depriving them of a secular one - before they are old enough, and intellectually mature enough, to think about the issues in any constructive way, deliberately traps them in a way of life from which it will be increasingly difficult to escape as they grow up. Denying them access to modern science knowledge (e.g. by teaching young-Earth creationism in the place of evolution and geology) fails to provide them with a rounded and practical modern education.

A comparative religion study, on the other hand, may well be appropriate for children, in order to give them a grounding in cultural and anthropological studies and to start them thinking about the issues in a non-directed manner. Arguably, the Bible could also be taught as part of literature studies - in the same way as Greek and Roman myths are taught, without any requirement to believe in them - especially given the vast number of Biblical allusions and references in other literature (an estimated 1,300 in the works of Shakespeare alone).

Describing a small child as “Muslim” or “Catholic” is not only meaningless (given that they are not intellectually mature enough to have such independent views) but may be positively harmful. By contrast, we would never speak of a “Republican child” or a “Marxist child”, for example, but assume that political choices will be made later in life based on informed opinion.

 
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