Saturday, January 12, 2013

Fastened to a Mast: The Cross of Belief

In many parts of the world today, when a child is born, he or she becomes metaphorically bound to a cross of belief. The child is instructed that he is a Christian, Jew, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist or of some other belief system. We all can see that these are not statements of truth when they are made to a child.  A Christian is an adherent of Christianity.  A Jew is an adherent of Judaism.  A Muslim is an adherent of Islam.  All such  statements imply a decision of belief.  All of us can see that the uneducated child has not yet achieved the knowledge necessary to make an informed decision as to what he or she will believe.

Sometimes these statements are not made directly, implied instead in phrases such as "We are Christians..."  To be fair to the child, a more truthful statement would be more instructive.  Parents would say something like: "We are Christian, and we would like for you to join us in  our celebrations as you grow up and become educated." The parents would then ensure that the child receives a complete education.

However many children are  commanded along the lines of "You are Christian," or "You are Muslim, " or "You are Jewish." The child usually receives such instructions from those he most admires: his well-meaning parents, siblings, caretakers and teachers.  Recognizing their good intentions, the child  will take these instructions to heart and then survey the world. Within his own internal language, within his developing court of reason, the child thinks along these lines:

“I am one of this religion, and so are my loved ones, but none of us is one of those other religiions. All of those others believe that they have the truth and that we do not. My parents would never give to me to believe something that is not true so therefore only we have the truth and with good reason then these others cannot be trusted.”

Thus the child's court of reason has become corrupted by the false instruction. The child has accepted what he has been told as truth and become cornered within the prejudice of mistrust.    In some parts of the world, the child risks corporal punishment if he or she wishes to debate the truth of statements such as these. Some of them are truly trapped by nothing more than a false idea that is however protected by fear and violence.  They find themselves fastened tightly to the mast of the cultures ancient ship, sailing in sorrow past the islands of the children of man with whom they would have otherwise in joy shared this, their only epoch. 

The world today has not yet created the document that will specify their human rights. Some parents believe that they own their children and as such owners they are free to instill and enforce whatever beliefs and fears  they wish.  Their children are defenseless against such onslaughts, not being allowed the freedom nor the education to challenge the fears and beliefs of their parents.

If we are created then we can all see the rights granted to us by our creator. Our children are created and entrusted to us and we can respond to this love of God by raising them in love,  truth and fairness, ensuring that they will have the right to believe as they wish and the education with which to make a decision.  To do less than that is a betrayal of the trust that has been placed in us.  And if we are not created, we can all with reason see the rights that we ourselves should declare and grant to one another.   In both cases, we can all see that the human rights of children are the same and that among these rights are the rights to a full education and the rights to freedom of belief.

Therefore atheists and theists have a common ground of understanding and belief with regard to the human rights of children. And we who have inherited freedom, and parents who are beginning to understand what they must do to free their children, together with those who are still in silence bound, have a common goal to declare the rights of children and to enact them for all of time.

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