Selfometer Articles

World religious dominance: The consequential effects on the child, children's human rights and social progress.

by B M Oldfield, 2007

There are many who feel that their religion and religious beliefs are under threat. Religious beliefs go back to human pre-history and not a single religion has so far disappeared. In fact, the number of religious groups has increased since recorded history and not just from population growth, but also, and primarily from the lack of personal and social progress.

David Barnet et al (2000) said that there are 19 major world religions, sub-divided into a total of 270 large groups and many smaller ones. He says that 34,000 separate Christian groups have been identified in the world. Ralph Winter estimated in 2001 that there are 680 million "born again" Christians in the world and are growing at about 7% a year.

Each world religion is actually a classification of multiple distinct movements, sects, divisions, sub-divisions denominations, branches and so on, including a further diversity within these groups. The number of Christians are said to be falling but they are instead turning to a multitude of Neo and New Age cults and sects such as paganism, Scientology, Spiritualism, and Satanism etc. There is also an increase in old and new world religious movements and other innumerable distinct movements in Japan, India, Russia, China and in various countries, some were previously classified as non-religious because of communism. Within these movements there are further divisions and diversity. There are also 457 million combined ethno, tribal, and indigenous religions around the world practising shamanism and animism. There is also the worldwide belief, in tarot, astrology and 'luck.' Overall Christians dominate the world's religions with 33% of the world's population but are in decline, Muslims make up 19.6% and are growing, Hindus comprise 13.4% and non-religious groups 12.7%.

These facts demonstrate the fragmented, schismatic, divisive, and multifaceted diversity and variation on the theme of religion, superstition and 'other-worldly' unrealistic beliefs. Religion, therefore, is here to stay and could not be under any threat. However, it is most definitely a threat to the civility and social stability of the world. This threat comes from the underlying discriminative and divisiveness of religious beliefs, which is a personal and socially self-destructive force, proven by present and past history.

The statistics above also show that there is no need for the United Nations or any nation to have a human rights declaration that is concerned with the violation of individual's rights to believe in religion. What the United Nations may be doing is, in fact, promoting and defending the rights of religious groups to be 'personally and socially discriminative and divisive.' The threat to social progress and world stability could, therefore, be reinforced and confounded by the so-called widespread and politically correct belief that laws must be written so that we have a right to believe in something. Human beings are neurological and biological thinking and believing beings and as such, there is no need for any law to protect this human inherency. We will, whatever anyone tries to do, believe in something, for as long as we are on this planet. Since we cannot get rid of religious or other beliefs it is important, therefore, that any laws or discussion regarding 'beliefs' should involve, the recognition and the possibility of reducing, the negative effects and consequences of religious 'beliefs' on both the individual and on society.

Many will argue that what I am proposing represents just another form of belief. If any society is to be civilised or if anyone wishes to live in such a society, the first consideration is for the protection of personal and social rights regarding safety, security, personal 'well-being' and social cohesiveness. We must consider what should be acceptable and unacceptable religious behaviour and associated beliefs. It is not about removing religious beliefs, but to try and prevent or stop the personal, social and sickening 'pains' caused by, extreme or other anti-social and other manipulative religious behaviour.

The defiant attitude of many religious people to practice their religious beliefs are arrogant, narcissistic, and self-defeating. This is because they insist that everyone else must accommodate their beliefs and practices regardless of any of their effects and consequences. They put themselves first, over and above others. It seems that I am not allowed to disagree with such folk's views, but instead I must accommodate theirs, which is nothing other than a dogmatic right that they deny everyone else's views.

They, therefore, fail miserably to take into account the inherent human notions of social responsibility and social progress and instead place a concrete barrier between themselves and others. They seem to wish to be isolated from the rest of the world but this should never be allowed, as no one lives on an island.

What the United Nations should be concerned with is protecting the human race from the repetitive discriminative, historical and ongoing bloody acts carried out by religious groups in the name of protecting their religious rights and beliefs. It is not what we 'believe,' that is wrong, what should be wrong, is what people do to others with their religious beliefs. Instead of futilely protecting people's unstoppable and inherent adherence to their beliefs, we should instead be promoting and protecting the universal inherent 'human belief and right, to be free from religious control, intrusion, intolerance, discrimination, blood-letting and bigotry.' The UN's preference for the former is nothing other than a denial or ignorance of the latter or perhaps the UN might be a religious organisation.

Furthermore, and most important of all, the United Nations support of religious beliefs is very much inconsistent with their own declaration regarding the human rights of children. If this organisation must uphold their laws for adults to maintain their beliefs, then surely the same right should be applicable to the 'needs' of children. Children do not have 'beliefs' but essentially, only 'emotional, physical and social developmental needs'. Some of these needs can be seen in the UN's convention on the 'rights' of children and these are; life, and the best chance of developing fully, a fair standard of living, education, be as healthy as possible, live in a safe environment, protection from work that may harm their health and, protection from dangerous drugs.

That the UN believes adults should be allowed to maintain their religious beliefs is synonymous with the real truth that adults will instil such beliefs into their children and, only by controlling methods. These controlling methods of religious beliefs do not have anything to do with any of the above UN 'rights' for children. The following are just a few examples of the multitude of unacceptable and, sometimes, nasty and deadly effects, religious beliefs have on the lives of children.

In the most religious countries females are routinely denied access to education, divorce, to proper access to the law, to proper health treatments such as abortion, contraceptives and sexual health. Many young children are forced into marriage and often to men the same age as their fathers. In many countries young girls and women are considered as inferior, as chattels and denied access and participation in many religious and modern social activities, such as any form of entertainment, places of worship or even have any kind of career. Instead they are chained to, kept hidden in the cooking quarters, treated as belongings and kept to fulfil subservient roles for men's personal satisfaction.

Men's discriminative belief that women are inferior leads men to be controlling towards women and, it is a deep-rooted belief that permeates all religions. This religious sexual discrimination has repercussions for the lives of children across the world. It is across the world because it can be seen in the figures above of world religion dominance. There are far too many complex factors and circumstances around the world, where children's lives become devastatingly entwined with men's ill treatment of women so, it would be impossible for me to write about it here. But here the overall theme is men's pervasive religious beliefs, which is used to control and discriminate against women and children and ultimately against society, which already happens in many countries.

Most liberal or moderate Muslim parents do not insist on their daughters wearing the hijab. However, many others do particularly in the Third World and, it is generally the men who insist that young girls be forced to cover their bodies and faces. They often do this, not just because of their own religious beliefs but also because of something fundamentally and psychologically deeper. Some men it seems cannot control their own dysfunctional and socially discriminative behaviour. Instead, vulnerable women and children become the nearest target to replace their loss of personal and social control. Women's subservient roles means, that, they cannot oppose anything that men say or do.

However, women's vulnerability or inability to protect their children from men's control just simply reinforces men's behaviour. In turn this behaviour is passed onto and deeply affects children, especially boys. Boys then learn the same pattern of behaviour but more than this they often end up hating their mothers for failing to protect them from their fathers. Some hate their fathers while others hate their mothers or sometimes both are hated and this is dependent on the dynamics of all their relationships.

In many cases women are subjected to, often horrific, violence by their partners, as part of men's controlling behaviour. In these violent homes children are also often treated in the same way and women are unable to protect their children. This inability of both parents, to stop the violence not only affects the child emotionally, but also sometimes reinforces, in the boys particularly, a tendency towards violence against women. It is well known that, women more than men, suffer from depression, which again confounds the whole pattern of men's controlling behaviour. Depression in women also affects their ability to protect their children and themselves from men's violent behaviour. Women and men both need to learn, how to be in control of their own lives, not just for themselves but also and especially for, the sake of their children. Learning the reasons for and the skills of how to do this is another subject matter and this commentary is just a small part of the complex nature of religion and family relationships. But back to the Muslim veil.

Wearing the Muslim veil is a practice that is inconsistent with the health and 'well-being' of children. Hijabs and veils that cover children's bodies and faces prevent the absorption of sunlight, which contributes to ill health (e.g. depression) and must surely be frightening for children who wear them and for other children who do not. As an adult I find it somewhat intimidating. Where are the children's beautiful smiles and their human and childhood identity?

An Iranian feminist Azam Kanguiam says that girls aged nine in Iran are at the legal age of marriage. According to Iranian Islamic law these girls have to take part in the Takleaf ritual and celebration as 'coming of age.' During the ritual the clergyman tells the girls of their roles in society and warns them of 'evil' and Western culture and that their duty is to prevent corruption by wearing the proper Hijab. At this age they are now banned from playing with boys, to laugh loudly, must pray five times a day. Failure to wear the Hijab properly or if the child's hair falls out of the veil they will be punished in hell and snakes will grow on their heads. There is no sexual education and male/female relationship is secretive, sinful and humiliating. These girls are generally not allowed to play but instead have to help with the family's domestic chores.

This so-called responsibility given to such young girls is cruel, sexist, discriminative, demeaning, controlling and manipulative. Such young girls are, therefore, forced to personally accept both the burden of being sexually discriminated against and, the burdensome irresponsibility of the adults who behave in this way towards them. The men and women in the child's life are, both behaving in a similar sexist and discriminative way. They may also be behaving in the same way as Western parents, who sexualise their young daughters in beauty pageants and modelling work.

This demeaning sexualising of young girls may point to adult's lack of control, which may stem from sexual or other emotional dysfunction or it may be for some form of latent paedophilia. This is because young girls do not own sexual discrimination or emotional sexual problems. In addition, no young child could or should, ever be held responsible for adult's personal, discriminative and sexual problems. The explanation may perhaps be that these young girls are being asked to be responsible for adult's inability to control their sexuality or sexual desires. Both adult and children's vulnerabilities is at the heart of the debate.

Religion therefore tries to control sexual behaviour of both women and children and this control is nothing other than 'indoctrination' Every religion involves a similar controlling and indoctrination of women and children. Religion adherents are therefore using their religion and religious beliefs as a cover for brainwashing and controlling other people. They do this, to force others into accepting their religion, their religious beliefs, primarily, because of their 'learnt' discriminative, social, emotional and sexual dysfunction. This may also be seen in the tradition of women and young girls being forced to marry within their own religious tribe or extended family. At the core of all religious behaviour is a form of adult psychosexual dysfunction combined with the vulnerabilities of both adults and children.

However, the vulnerability of such young girls and the fact, that what they wear is fundamentally one of parental choice points to, further adult controlling behaviour. Children are being forced with and controlled by parental 'labels', which are essentially, both sexually and socially discriminative. Ultimately all children would be forced to share and deal with this discrimination because adults are failing to take responsibility for their own behaviour. What would adults do if they were treated in the same way? Can children speak, learn or fight back?

The dangerous effects of adult religious beliefs can also be seen by some cults, sects and churches, which regularly use hallucinogenic drugs, alcohol and dangerous animals in their religious rituals. Can children be adequately protected from the dangers and emotional abuse that these rituals inevitably create for young children? For children these and many other rituals often leave deep psychological and physical scars, often for the rest of their lives.

Many children also die for their parent's religious beliefs. It is estimated that in the US as many as five children die every month, due to the religious beliefs of their parents or guardian. Some of the groups involved are Christian Scientists, Jehovah Witnesses and other evangelical sects who rely on 'faith' healing, shunning medical science and technology. Many Muslims, Jews, Indians and Buddhists either set themselves on fire, blow themselves and others up with bombs, throw themselves or be thrown onto their husband's funeral pyre and die from infections after performing extreme rituals such as walking on fires, whipping or piercing their bodies. Sadly many children are often involved in these rituals.

The most religious states in the world still execute juveniles who commit crimes. Some of these states include, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Nigeria and Pakistan. In the US in 2001 there were 70 young people on death row who were minors when they committed their crimes.

In Britain a beautiful young girl named, Victoria Climbie, was considered in need of exorcism by her aunt and boyfriend. They heinously tortured her for many months, took her to church and soon after this visit they brutally murdered her. This is totally reprehensible in any civilised world. The list of young people and children dying for their parent's religious beliefs is endless and again, it is an utterly despicable and heinous behaviour by anyone or in any just society.

Aren't the UN, the EU and every society on the planet duty-bound to defend the rights of children from religious beliefs? Children are systematically being forced to accept such heinous behaviour and beliefs as 'norms' and so often, have to personally face the multitude of terrible consequences. This brutal manipulation and control of children's entire lives is utterly unacceptable in any part of our planet!

As far as education is concerned religious teaching could not in any way be education but it is often, the only form of so-called education for millions of children across the world. Many countries are increasingly denying the teaching of science and evolution, which is then replaced with religious preaching that is, in fact, simply bigoted 'indoctrination.' It also has nothing to do with whether or not the child has the emotional, intellectual or physical capacity to sit, absorb and understand such irrelevant and often frightening adult religious beliefs. Children cannot have the capacity to deal with the stress of emotional and physical abuse, which are often involved. Many religious schools run by priests and nuns, still use punitive disciplinary actions against young children. Religious schools by definition promote social prejudice and discrimination for many of their own children who in turn discriminate against other children in different religious and non-religious schools. This pervasive discrimination forces children against children, adults against adults and schools against schools.

According to Richard Dawkins the number of faith schools in Britain is growing and becoming increasingly run by evangelical staff. The curriculum of such schools mention god or Jesus on every page of the science textbooks. Could these schools become even more extreme as American religious schools, where the notions of 'sin' and 'the devil' are routinely taught. These frightening notions are applied to the children, who are then told that the only way to get rid of their personal sins and devils is through salvation and the adult's religious instructions. Such schools are deceitful and biased, and therefore, abusive of children's trust. Religious instructions inevitably fail to teach any diversity of social life, of education or even recognise any of the children's personal choice. They will, of course, also fail to teach other diverse views of the world in which they live such as humanism, secularism or any other views that do not fit, with their religious beliefs. They will also fail to mention to children the innumerable harmful ways that such beliefs can affect them and, the society in which they live.

Other effects on children from religious indoctrination and beliefs include; the long hours spent in prayer, reciting lengthy chants, monotonously learning incomprehensible texts, sitting for long periods, fasting for long periods, listening to long childhood-irrelevant sermons. Outside of religious schools, or at birth, children are forced to endure the painful and frightening rituals of the mutilation of their tiny bodies seen in circumcision and female genital mutilation. Many children are also forced to follow and endure parent's long and exhausting journeys to pilgrimages. They are then further forced to sit, observe, cope with and even try to comprehend or relate to the bloody, violent and other 'childhood' meaningless rituals, performed at the pilgrimage site. Children's attention span is not suitable for any of the above rituals or those mentioned below, nor do these rituals in any way stimulate children in childhood learning activities.

Religion also provides a legacy of hatred, discrimination and violence, which will affect the emotional and social stability for children and ultimately for society. This is how social upheaval and bigotry is passed from one generation to the next. Children when adult will inevitably be held responsible for the ongoing, recycling of religious problems taught to, absorbed by and handed down to them. They will be forced to try and solve the historical accumulation of social disorder and other bloody consequences from religious beliefs. More often than not, many children are forced to innocently die for beliefs passed on by religion. It is a well-known fact that most discriminative, anti-social and violent acts committed on behalf of religious beliefs and identities are, committed mostly by young people.

The UN Rights Convention on children should include or stipulate that, "every child has a right not to be forced, cajoled, indoctrinated, controlled, manipulated into, or instilled in any discriminative religious beliefs and rituals."

Just one of the innumerable examples that demonstrate this kind of objectionable indoctrination, is the Jim Jones tragedy, where nearly a thousand vulnerable people including many children, were psychologically controlled and manipulated into a particular belief system, which ultimately led to their deaths. Vulnerability plays a huge role that allows other people to use controlling methods, usually for personal gain and influence and, which often lead to self-destruction.

Parents who insist on having the right to pass on their religious beliefs to their children can in fact do this only through controlling methods, since children are essentially vulnerable and innocent human beings. The lives of children in such families could be like living in a self-destructive cult and could be denied their rights: to be a child, to be able to learn through play, to have a diverse education, to have the best chance to develop fully, healthily and in a constant safe environment and protected from work.

Other work in religious environments can be also be seen in the use of vulnerable young children, who are often forced to take part in regular religious ceremonies such as altar boys and choirboys. This may sound petty, but young children more often than not, do find such activities physically tiresome, tedious and un-stimulating, let alone having to endure the strenuous training and practice sessions. Adults may take pride and pleasure in their children's participation in their religious ceremonies but in effect they are protecting their own rights and freedom at the expense of and failure to, protect their children's needs, rights and freedom. Adults should do their own tedious jobs whatever the excuses.

Ask any adult whether they would like someone to force them to believe in a religion or any other beliefs other than their 'own.' You can bet what the answer would be, and as such, children should be allowed to have the same rights. Children are not born with or 'own' social, religious, cultural, political, philosophical, geographical or other historical or cultural baggage. They may be born into different cultures and histories, but it does not mean that these must be forced down their throats and lives. Children need guidance on and protection from their cultural and other features of their environment and should not be dictated to or bullied into any aspect of their parental, social or historical background. To bully children into religious or cultural beliefs is child abuse or neglect, which in turn teaches children intolerance, disrespect and leads to other anti-social behaviour.

The European Union also has a human right law, which is even more irresponsible than the UN in that, it states that parents have a right to educate their children in their own religious beliefs. From what was discussed above the EU may also be ignoring the developmental needs, freedom and rights of children and as such, may be promoting and protecting the rights of parent to possibly abuse and neglect their children. Ultimately the EU and the UN might be promoting further social and global instability. Putting adult human rights at the expense of children's human rights can only but deny, who we are as human beings and what we have been, time immemorial, hopelessly trying to achieve. Children's rights are, therefore impinged upon or denied by international or national laws regarding adult 'belief rights.' This denial represents, a congruent belief that children are somehow not as human as adults.

Children are human beings and they are, who all human beings should be about: we were once children, we grow up, we marry and have children, we attain immortality only through our children, we maintain our culture and knowledge through children, most of us work for our families and as such for our children and we can often learn through and from, our children. Children and young people are the main reasons for educational establishments, children also play a large and sorry part in the adult world of commercial, film, advertisements, theatre, entertainment, technological, sport, fashion, politics and many other social and unsocial activities. No wonder children's behaviour reflects and increasingly so, and at a younger age, the adult world: ill health, sexual and other diseases such as HIV/AIDS, diabetes, obesity and other eating disorders, drug and alcohol addiction, isolation, depression, violence, anti-social and other irresponsible social behaviour. This can be recognised as part and parcel of children being forced, to believe in and participate in, parental religious and other unacceptable and intolerable social and cultural beliefs. The sum total of all this behaviour is nothing other than 'bullying' and a tactic employed as it encompasses the vulnerabilities and innocence of our children.

Intolerance and bullying also permeates our powerful media driven society and, it is no wonder we have lost the meaning of the word 'future.' This comes from the pervasive selfishness, narcissism and other discriminative beliefs and values of the majority of the adult world. Children are routinely living in adult cages constructed for adult religious beliefs, values, entertainment, exploitation and personal satisfaction. Adults however, cannot be held responsible, as they were only a product of the same processes of adult personal and social irresponsible behaviour. I believe we can trace this back even further than just a few generations, which I believe may be due to evolutionary and/or childhood developmental factors. This will come another time but back to the sad problem of child neglect.

The imprisonment or neglect of children reflects: ignorance, a lack of intellectual, educational, learning or observational analysis of the true reality of children's lives, a lack of empathy and understanding for children, a lack of knowledge and skills regarding the development of the intellectual, emotional and social needs of children, a failure to observe the effects and consequences of adult behaviour for children and their future, an ignorance of the similarities and historical origins of all religions, a lack of recognition of the divisiveness and intergenerational bloody nature of religion, an ignorance of how to teach respect and social responsibility, a lack of skills and/or an inability of how to prepare children to survive in this chaotic, complex and god-forsaken world. Adults are in fact teaching their children nothing other than how to self-destruct, to live in fear, in war, by conflict and to live as socially isolated refugees.

The religious or cultural cage is a confinement of and a lack of freedom for, all human space, time and evolution and any development of personal and social progress. The cultural and religious cage of adults isolates children by the jailer's dogma that lacks the human phenomena of compassion, understanding, empathy, respect, reassurance, trust and human dignity.

When children become the next adult generation, they then recycle 'adult' socially exclusive/inclusive and divisive bullying narcissistic behaviour. As the saying goes, 'history repeats itself.' The laws, which protect adults to have personal beliefs, are discriminative in themselves as they fail to consider the social and other consequences on our children and on society at large. The adherents and supporters of religious beliefs are 'preachers' not 'listeners', which is a behaviour pattern pervasively reflected in, both religious and other parent/ child experiences and relationships. Just ask any troubled young adult or child from any background.

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