Saturday, January 23, 2010

a debate with Richard Dawkins on labelling children as a 'Christian child' etc

source: The Daily Politics via HumanistLife
Professor Richard Dawkins debates (5 minutes) the ideas in his film  (2 minutes) on religious labels with ex-Tory chairman Norman Tebbit and the Communities Secretary John Denham (who calls himself a Secular Humanist - unlike his predecessors Hazel Blears and Ruth Kelly).
Dawkins says that if we, as a society, label a child after the religion of its parents eg a 'Catholic child' if it has Catholic parents, then this is divisive, especially in places like Northern Ireland and the Middle East, where automatically you belong to the same party of thought as your parents. Therefore as a child having been labelled a being 'a Catholic Child' you have an enmity towards other groups eg Protestant children, without really having thought it through, simply because you are a child of those parents.

I think this is a topic of critical thinking skills for children. They should be critically thinking what it means to be a Catholic or a Protestant without taking on board or allowing the labels to distract them from critically thinking about these issues. Dawkins is saying that because society has labeled them a Catholic child, then somehow this faculty to critcally think themselves will somehow be lessened as a result of the labelling. Because children are labelled Catholic or Protestant their critical thinking skills are nullified and so Catholics v Protestants rivalry persists without giving the issues sufficient critical thinking.

John Denham struggles to understand the cause and effect issues. By labelling a child, a Catholic child, what is the effect on a child? He agrees that if Catholic children are brought up with a view that they should have nothing to do, per se, with a Protestant child, then that is indeed a problem with parenting. He is not convinced that the general colloquial use of the language viz this child is a Chatholic child viz. a child of Catholic parents, is an issue or a problem or could become a problem. The language is not a real material problem.

Norman Tebbit says what is wrong with calling a child born in Britain who has African parents, a British child? Dawkins says that this is the opposite of what he is saying. Tebbit says its just bilge (Stupid talk or writing; nonsenseto say there is something wrong in calling a child a Christian Child because he has grown up in Christian-Judeo culture. Tebbit cannot see what damage it does to label a child a Christian Child (just as there is no damage in calling a child a British child). 

By calling a child a British child I wonder if this exacerbates enmity between nations eg with the French?

John Denham says that parents should continue to have the right to bring up children in their own faith. I think he thinks Dawkins has another agenda. If you accept the arguement that you shouldn't label children as 'Christian' then this is a slippery slop argument which would lead  to preventing parents religious belief being taught to children by their parents.

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