Sunday, 22 November 2009

Don't Label Me

I’ve been pondering over the Don’t Label Me campaign for a few days now and have decided that it doesn’t sit with me very well.

I loved the Atheist Bus campaign. It gave me great joy to follow the huge support and amount of donations it was getting from people in such a short amount of time and it gave me even greater pleasure to watch the reaction to it. Religious organisations claimed it to be nonsense and pointless whilst simultaneously getting in such a state about it to the point of creating they’re own posters to combat it, showing just how threatened they actually were.

However, I don’t think the most recent campaign packs the same punch. The idea behind it is coming from a great place. It’s a product of getting so many donations that there was a surplus amount of money which was then used to fund the current posters. People were asked what they thought was the most pressing issue and a huge number of people replied voicing their concerns about children being forced into a religion without being given a chance to choose for themselves. This issue is a tricky one. The campaign is about not labelling children with a religion and, from what I’ve heard so far, the emphasis is on the media, when talking about children, describing them as belonging to a religion as dictated by their parents. It’s all about changing the language that we use to avoid labelling children. After all, as Richard Dawkins points out, we wouldn’t label a child Marxist just because their parents are, it makes just as little sense to label a child with a religion when they haven’t yet had the chance to make up their own mind. Don’t get me wrong, so far so good.

The reason I think there is such a focus on the media’s use of labelling children is because it can’t get anywhere near the parents. This campaign is very easy for lazy people, who can’t be bothered to do their research fully, to assume that it is an attack on parents having the right to teach their children about what they believe and to bring up their children according to these beliefs. That’s not what it is about because, of course, it can’t be. Nobody has the right to dictate to people how they should bring up their children. As long as no harm is coming to the child mentally or physically (and, yes, I know many would argue that religion is a form of abuse but ignoring that for a minute) we can’t get involved in telling others how to bring up their children. Now, I’m sure the people who wrote in to the campaign with their concerns, in an ideal world, would really love to be able to stop parents filling their children’s heads with stories masquerading as facts but it’s just not possible.

I think this campaign is a bit flimsy and a bit fuzzy round the edges and as a result easily manipulated into something sinister and controlling that those amoral, filthy atheists are trying to enforce on our parents who are only trying to exercise their human rights. I think a better route would have been to address the issue of religious schools. Schools which are funded by the government i.e. paid for by the public, yet exclude a vast number of children based on their religion (or how often their parents could be bothered to go to church) whilst taking up a valuable amount of teaching time with bible studies and adapting the curriculum to meet their own narrow needs. Or, even more dangerously, privately funded evangelical schools which use pseudo-science mixed in with creationism to brainwash our children without any monitoring from the local community (the local education authority) and this is just the Christian schools.

Admittedly, a campaign on this scale would take considerably more funding and staffing than is currently available to organisations such as the BHA. Still, a girl can dream.

I’d love to know what people think so don’t hesitate in leaving a comment.