Weather and health permitting, I will be attending the Reason Rally in Washington DC on March 24, 2012. Billed as the largest secular event in world history, it is intended to focus on non-theist achievements over the past several years.
The event has a web site at http://www.reasonrally.org/. The discussions are interesting. One prospective participant wonders if she should bring her eight year old nephew. Her concern was that there might be "a lot of cussing" and general disparagement of what the child understands as the religion in which his family takes great comfort.
What this child might not understand is that many children have religions enforced in their early childhood, before they have the psychological and intellectual capacities to deal with the concepts. Some of these concepts are of a great fear of God and or some eternal punishment. It is these irrational fears, instilled by culture and family that he feels obligated to love and honor, that lead the child to become become manipulated later to hate the children of other belief systems. Their rational faculties have become corrupted and it can seem impossible for them to recover.
We observe this sadness once again in the recently concluded trial of the underwear bomber. This young man, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, has been unable to reorganize his court of reason. His fear of a false concept of Allah's punishment prevents him from questioning the things he was forced to believe before he attained the political and cultural freedom to question them. To honor his family and his culture and to dispel his irrational fear of a fictional punishment, Umar must declare himself proud of attempting to kill in the name of Allah. Having received a sentence of life in prison, he has nonetheless finally acquired that which was denied to him by his culture and his country: He lives now in a state of political freedom where he can observe the universe with his own eyes, free from the impressed opinions of others. And he will see the God that we all see who, if she exists at all, does not wish us to be killing each other. He will compare this view with the views of his ancestors and he will eventually stand up and understand how he was misled. And then with courage he will salvage what he can from the remainder of his life. He will come to know what we all know, that a concept of eternal punishment from God has always been a work of fiction. How do we know this? If God exists at all, we have merely to observe the Decisions of God to learn her nature.
Umar was once eight years of age himself. Today, a new generation of eight-year-olds is being psychologically manipulated by the religious opinions of their families and their cultures. What can be done to protect these children today? Is it too late for them? How about twenty years from now, is there some plan we can set in motion today to assist that generation of eight-year-olds? Do we need a 100 year plan? How about a 500 year plan? Where do we start? For example, can we begin a cross-generational effort to finally establish certain rights for children, including the right of protection from religious information before they have achieved the mental capacities and the political and cultural freedom to question the concepts?
An atheists cussing can sometimes be viewed as bravado designed to battle the same irrational fears of God that impact Umar. The eight year old might not be able to understand this intellectually and the atheists will eventually make themselves aware of this and tone down the rhetoric. Intellectual and psychological support for children subjected to enforced beliefs is a vital component of a plan to transform the world to a place of peace and who else will be providing this except for atheists and theists who will be working hand in hand for this very purpose as this new epoch of understanding begins?