You Can’t Be Neutral On a Moving Train-Dawkins and the Labeling of Children

Dawkins, Humanism and the Labeling of Children

The British Humanist Association is following up its highly visible “Atheist Bus Campaign” with a new Atheist Billboard Campaignthat I think is quite fascinating.

Children Billboard

The focus of this campaign is to point out that children do not inherently belong to a specific denomination. The page I link to above has an extensive quote from Dawkins as he talks about shuddering when he hears mention of a “Jewish child” or a “Catholic Child.”

To one degree I actually find myself nodding my head in agreement. After all, our church is very emphatic in its belief that infants do not need baptism and are pure in the eyes of God. Moroni 8 is especially strong in this regard.

14 Behold I say unto you, that he that supposeth that little children need baptism is in the gall of bitterness and in the bonds of iniquity; for he hath neither faith, hope, nor charity; wherefore, should he be cut off while in the thought, he must go down to hell.
15 For awful is the wickedness to suppose that God saveth one child because of baptism, and the other must perish because he hath no baptism.
16 Wo be unto them that shall pervert the ways of the Lord after this manner, for they shall perish except they repent. Behold, I speak with boldness, having authority from God; and I fear not what man can do; for perfect love casteth out all fear.
17 And I am filled with charity, which is everlasting love; wherefore, all children are alike unto me; wherefore, I love little children with a perfect love; and they are all alike and partakers of salvation.

Thus, we hold that the idea that Children need repentance is an abomination. All children are alike and loved by God with a perfect love. They are all saved. In this regard the saints and Dawkins are in agreement.

Yet, the goal of such a humanist campaign is not merely to criticize labels. Its agenda is broader arguing that parents should not raise their children in one particular faith or another. Latter Day Saints, with out strong focus on primary education as well as church centered activities such as scouting, would passionately disagree in this regard.

The humanist fallacy here is the notion that a child can be raised in a ‘neutral’ household and then allowed to make an unbiased choice. The logic suggests that a child exposed to religion will be biased while one in a secular environment will be very to make a truly educated decision.

Indeed, we have had wise prophetic counsel speaking out against this fallacy

It is clear that faith is something that must be cultivated from childhood. Marion G. Romney spoke beautifully about the impact of scripture reading on a family

“I feel certain that if, in our homes, parents will read from the Book of Mormon prayerfully and regularly, both by themselves and with their children, the spirit of that great book will come to permeate our homes and all who dwell therein. The spirit of reverence will increase; mutual respect and consideration for each other will grow. The spirit of contention will depart. Parents will counsel their children in greater love and wisdom. Children will be more responsive and submissive to the counsel of their parents. Righteousness will increase. Faith, hope, and charity—the pure love of Christ—will abound in our homes and lives, bringing in their wake peace, joy, and happiness” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1980, 88, 90; or Ensign, May 1980, 66–67 ).

Elder Bednar recently described this process as one of small brushstrokes on a canvas.

Elder John C. Carmack of the Seventy  points out that we do not live in a world where choices are consequence free and can be made in a vacuum. Children face temptation and need proper gospel teachings to endure.

“This is not a neutral world. Good and evil bombard us and our children. Teaching our children correct principles allows them to make informed choices. But when children make choices contrary to gospel teachings, they always suffer the consequences, some of which are serious.”

This is perhaps the most important fallacy in the humanist argument. The world is not a neutral place but one where Satan stands ready to tempt us. Famed historian Howard Zinn titled a film ‘You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving train’ and I think this certainly applies to child rearing.

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3 thoughts on “You Can’t Be Neutral On a Moving Train-Dawkins and the Labeling of Children

  1. Pingback: Richard Dawkins says the darnedest things « Irresistible (Dis)Grace

  2. this is a bit of an old post now, but I’ve just been thinking about a line you’ve had.

    “It is clear that faith is something that must be cultivated from childhood.”

    I disagree. if this *is* the case, i think it makes faith particularly fragile…but really, what I think happens is that faith doesn’t have to be cultivated from childhood. Rather, it can be discovered at any time.

    I probably agree with you that there is no “neutral way” to raise children (and there probably ought not be), but I do see a difference in many secular parents and many religious parents. The secular parents, in general, even if they are personally very against religion, do not “require” that anti-religious attitude of their children. So if their children do become religious — of their own self-discovery — then they are generally more supportive of this than religious parents are when they find their children are not religious (or are religious…but for a different religion.)

    I think that if Mormons truly believe that Mormonism will falter and fail without education from very young, then this is a bad faith to their own religion. It also flies against very Mormon ideas that anyone can ask, knock, or pray, and God will respond. It flies against Mormon ideas of conversion (with people who, as a rule, did not grow in LDS environments,) and so on.

  3. Pingback: Live Blog General Conference PM Session « Symphonyofdissent

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