Children’s Bill of Religious Rights

I have almost always found children’s choirs incredibly loathesome because almost always they are used to have children in unison preach bland platitudes which are simply empty words to kids.  Only recently I heard a great use of a children’s choir as part of the Decemberists’ new Hazards of Love album, which effectively just uses the children to communicate story and its theme, not to preach to me about some political issue or religious sentiment en masse. The falseness of children mouthing their parents’ ideals in song irritates me to no end.

That and the tremendous exploitation of children’s relative ignorance and trust in their parents and other adults given charge of their education and mentoring, makes me extremely sympathetic to this sort of cause.

Children’s Bill of Religious Rights

Posted by Richard Collins


The decision whether to commit to a faith practice or be free of religion is an extremely personal one that can shape a persons entire life. Usurping this right is unethical no matter how well intentioned the motive. In a free society children should actually not require a religious bill of rights, but until the society is free of religious hegemony and parents come to respect their children as persons with rights and not objects to be molded by religion we must work towards gaining them religious freedom rights.

  1. Children have an ethical right to decide questions involving religious practice for themselves and until they are old enough to exercise this right no one has a right to impose a religious faith on them that would bias or thwart that right.
  2. Parents will not consign children to a specific religious faith, but may help educate their children about any and all faiths including the parent’s own personal choice and explain why they were motivated to follow a certain faith.
  3. The initiative to receive religious instruction and participate in religious activities must come from the child, sans coercion of any kind.
  4. The child must demonstrate that they have reached the level of development that they are thinking like an adult, meaning they can realize that life is full of options and each option they might choose can have positive effects and negative drawbacks. They are to use facts and reason to weigh the positives and negatives in making all of their life choices. Children are beginning to think like adults around 12 to 14 years of age, but there can be wide variation between individuals.
  5. They can change their mind at anytime and opt out or modify a course of action if circumstances warrant a change of mind. Only the unwise continue to carry out a plan that is not working just for the sake of constancy. There is no disgrace in changing one’s mind when new facts and understandings so warrant such a change.
  6. Other family members and friends must respect a child’s decision and not interfere.

Your Thoughts?

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About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.