A new poster campaign from the British Humanist Campaign that suggests people should try to avoid indoctrinating children into religious (and other) beliefs seems to have riled certain sectors of society. The posters feature a couple of happy kids (of which more later) on a backdrop of ideologies and religions, with a slogan in the font and colour scheme familiar from the atheist bus campaign.
The billboards seem to antagonise religious people (though notice the grey captions in the background aren’t restricted to religions). For example in Befast, that hotbed of religious tolerance, we see in the Belfast Telegraph (Humanist poster stirs up religious storm) that
Reverend David McIlveen from the Free Presbyterian Church said: “It is none of their business how people bring up their children. It is the height of arrogance that the BHA would even assume to tell people not to instruct their children in the religion. I would totally reject the advertisement. It is reprehensible and so typical of the hypocrisy of the British Humanist Association today. They have a defeatist attitude and are just trying to draw attention to themselves. I think it is totally arrogant, presumptuous and sparks of total hypocrisy. I believe this doesn’t deserve a counter campaign. I will be expressing my public position on it in my own church on Sunday. I will be saying that this advert is another attack on the Biblical position of the family and will be totally rejecting it.”
I call this sad and pathetic. It’s not telling people how to bring up their kids, it suggesting we might leave kids to make their own minds up in their own time. How is it an attack on the Biblical position of the family? Has the Rev McIlveen read the poster? Elsewhere the press seems equally exercised. Ruth Gledhill over at The Times (Children who front Richard Dawkins’ atheist ads are evangelicals) gleefully reports that:
The two children chosen to front Richard Dawkins’s latest assault on God could not look more free of the misery he associates with religious baggage. With the slogan “Please don’t label me. Let me grow up and choose for myself”, the youngsters with broad grins seem to be the perfect advertisement for the new atheism being promoted by Professor Dawkins and the British Humanist Association.
Except that they are about as far from atheism as it is possible to be. The Times can reveal that Charlotte, 8, and Ollie, 7, are from one of the country’s most devout Christian families.
Her satisfaction at this news is shared by a variety of evangelicals. However the backers of the poster campaign point out that
“That’s one of the points of our campaign,” said Andrew Copson, the association’s education director. “People who criticise us for saying that children raised in religious families won’t be happy, or that no child should have any contact with religion, should take the time to read the adverts.
“The message is that the labelling of children by their parents’ religion fails to respect the rights of the child and their autonomy. We are saying that religions and philosophies — and ‘humanist’ is one of the labels we use on our poster — should not be foisted on or assumed of young children.”
Well, exactly. And it’s really quite telling that the religious axis seem to be so thoroughly paranoid that they regard any questioning of the indoctrination of children into any belief system – political and religious to be an attack on their superstitious claptrap.
It’s not just christians that take umbrage. Also from the Belfast Telegraph is this gem:
Father-of-four Sheikh Anwar Mady from the Belfast Islamic Centre added: “We believe that every child is born as a Muslim. Religion is not given by the family, but it is a natural religion given by our God at birth. The role of the family is to teach the traditions of the faith. But that faith is implanted at birth.”
This chap is claiming every child as a muslim. How does that square with his fellow-travellers in mystic mumbo-jumbo?