Is it fair to label childhood religious indoctrination as abuse ? at the moment in any given society it's seen as the norm , I often wonder will future generations look back in astonishment at this practice .

I don't think so, since it is really difficult to indoctrinate anyone in anything, if by that one means that it is very hard to change your mind on the issue later on. As we know, children brought up to be religious often abandon the religion and vice versa.

Religious parents may say that bringing their children up within their faith gives them an appropriate background to decide when they are older what attitude to take to the religion. Obviously the parents hope it will be a committed attitude. Should they not though just do nothing with the children and allow them when older to decide on what if any religion to pursue? The trouble with this is that a religion is more than just a set of doctrines, it is a way of life, and children need to experience this before they can make an informed decision. It is a bit like learning a language. It is useful to be brought up within a language community, and when one is an adult you can decide if you want to continue using that language, or perhaps would it be better to go for a different language, which you would then of course have to learn. You need to know at least one language though and the best way to learn it is to be brought up with it.

Is this indoctrination? Yes, but it could be argued it is alright since it widens our freedom of action about the direction we want our lives to follow.

I agree with my co-panelist that it's hard to peg this as abuse. But I'd like to focus on a somewhat different issue: the word "indoctrination" is being used to mean an illegitimate way of inculcating beliefs. That's fine, and isn't my issue. But the notion of "religious indoctrination" is left unexamined. And so I want to know what counts.

In particular, suppose someone brings their children up in a religious tradition: introduces them to the texts and doctrines, participates in the rituals, makes clear that s/he is an adherent, and so on. If indoctrination counts as something bad, is this automatically a case of indoctrination? Surely it depends on the details. Suppose that the religious tradition has admirable moral precepts. Suppose it encourages thoughtful reflection. Suppose it doesn't threaten non-adherents with hellfire and brimstone. There really are such traditions; I know many people who belong to them. The tradition may well include metaphysical claims that you think are just wrong. But is that the criterion for indoctrination? If so, it's hard for me to see how it warrants the label "child abuse."

And for that matter, why pick on religion? How about ethical views? When my children were young, I certainly hoped that they would come to share at least the more dearly-held of my ethical views. Near as I can tell, they largely did. Was that indoctrination? Was it child abuse? If it might be, where do the lines lie?

We influence our children in lots of ways. It's not unlikely that if my children had been brought up in a different sort of household, they'd think differently than I do about some things I care about. Some of these things are eminently debatable; some reasonable people would say that the views my children learned from me are wrong. But without a lot more analysis, the word "indoctrination" doesn't get us very far, and without a great deal more analysis, the accusation of "abuse" is even less helpful.

There's another problem with invoking the notion of abuse here. If we label a child-rearing practice abusive, this suggests that we ought to do something about it$mdash;perhaps that the State itself should step in. I don't know about you, but I'm not confident that the State would draw the lines wisely.

So to sum up: maybe some cases of bringing a child up in a tradition count as indoctrination, but it's not plausible that all do. And maybe some of those cases count as abuse. But we'd need to think hard about what we mean when we invoke that word. And even if we decide there's a sense in which some cases of religious upbringing count as abuse, we need to think really hard if we want to take that as a license for any sort of intervention.

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