A PRAYER FOR OUR DAUGHTERS: ISRAELIS, PALESTINIANS AND HUMANS

Outspoken atheists are often criticised for being too brash, or too blunt in their arguments. The charge that atheists, such as the late, remarkably eloquent Christopher Hitchens or the effervescently vigorous Richard Dawkins, are as fundamental as their religious counterparts is often heard and is as ridiculous a claim as any other made by the more reactionary members of society. Firstly, the burden of proof is not on the non-believers: demanding evidence of gods and demons and reacting incredulously when nothing is given is not being a fundamentalist; it is simply being rational. Atheists are open to have their minds being changed, it is just that there is no evidence presented by the religious to consider.

Secondly, the Enlightenment has already happened. For the uninitiated, this period in history, commencing in the 18th century, was primarily designed to elevate science and reason over religious superstition and dogmatic belief in Western societies. About three hundred years later, we still nod along when people tell us about healing energies, aligning star signs, crystal auras and other pseudoscientific mumbo-jumbo. These people are either merely self-deluding, and thus robbing themselves of the beauty of reality itself, or are at worst charlatans, exploiting gullible people’s minds and wallets.

The topic of religion is one that has been discussed and debated in immense detail, especially recently, and in my opinion, most spectacularly by the aforementioned intellectuals. However, the violence that is currently flaring across Israel and the Palestinian Territories has provoked me to highlight a point that Richard Dawkins made which at the time caused many people to raise an eyebrow, even some atheists.

Dawkins has opined that labelling a child with any sort of religion is a form of child abuse. Now, this seems to many people a little far fetched, but upon ruminating over it, I am willing to say that this outspoken remark is actually not going far enough.

The point is sound: labelling any child with anything before they are old enough to think for themselves is immoral. You wouldn’t call a child a Marxist child or a racist child just because their parents happen to be Marxists or racists. So why apply a religious label to them before they have had the chance to make up their own minds?