Monday, July 27, 2009

Stand up, stand up for Dawkins

Dawkins sets up kids camp to groom atheists - The Reason Project
Richard Dawkins launches children's summer camp for atheists - The Telegraph
Dawkins sets up kids’ camp to groom atheists - The Times
Atheist camp will not brainwash children - The Times

I’m all for reason and the freedom to believe or not believe whatever you like, but from what I have read so far, this camp is just a not-very-subtle form of indoctrination. Liberal religion is not about belief, it’s about values. The insistence on belief in a set of unbelievable concepts is a Christian weirdness; other religions are more about values and practice and culture. I think it’s a pity that the debate has polarised to this extent.

Admittedly if it was a choice between sending my kids to Dawkins’ camp or sending them to the scary Jesus camp, I’d choose Dawkins’ camp every time. Fortunately that is not the case and there is a huge spectrum for people to choose from. (I don’t have any kids though.)

But the point is, kids should not be indoctrinated into anything, whether it's atheism or religion. They should be given the tools and concepts to decide for themselves when they're old enough.

Unitarians, Pagans, Wiccans, and other liberal religious types don’t believe in indoctrinating children, but giving them the tools and concepts to choose their own spiritual path (or not, as the case may be).

Many atheists seem incapable of understanding the difference between liberal religion (which is about values and spirituality and community) and the rest.

I tried to look at Richard Dawkins' website to see what his take on the whole thing is, as he has apparently said that the Times article was biased and gave the wrong impression, but I can't get into his website at the moment due to a connection error.

UPDATE: I have now managed to find Richard Dawkins' letter, in which he says he abhors the indoctrination of children. However, giving them a biased view that all religion is about having daft beliefs, and that reason is the ultimate arbiter of everything, is a form of indoctrination.


Pitch313 said...

If Dawkins and those around him are evangelizing for atheism, then we might wonder how much of "religion" persists here and what atheism is liberating us from.

The human situation--in its paradoxical way--requires that we take up and rely upon belief systems. Even schemas that deny the validity of (some) beliefs remain themselves belief systems. And belief systems are things we humans drum for, transmit, and take up...

FWIW, I wouldn't have cared for an "atheism" camp any more than a "theo-ism" camp.

Yewtree said...

Yes, I have always thought that atheism is itself a belief system.

Yeah, I was presenting a false dichotomy, but if someone forced me at gunpoint to send my child either to Dawkins camp or Jesus camp, I'd pick Dawkins - at least they might pick up some interesting discussion techniques.

Yvonne Rathbone said...

Such a good topic! Yes, I'd send the kids to Dawkins over Jesus. Even though they are both pushing a dogma (sorry, I just don't buy the "no-belief" definition of atheism - I think it's self-congratulatory and self-deceptive) for the time being Dawkins' dogma is still very much the alternative and will be challenged in daily life. The Christian stuff will be reinforced.

But your point about the fetishization of belief is also really important. I can't help but think that one of the reasons Pagans are generally left out of the battle Dawkins' et. al. are battling is that we aren't one-wayists. The Christianity/Atheism debate is really about which Right Way (tm) will win. Most Pagans I know at least work toward living in a post-onewayist world.

Yewtree said...

Yes, most Pagans do that, and also Unitarians, UUs and other liberals.