The Brights Remove Children’s Clothing From Store

This doesn’t sound like a big deal, but I think it deserves a mention.

Atheists often talk about how religion brainwashes children before they really have a chance to decide for themselves what they think about religion/god.

If you go to Christian merchandising stores, for example, it’s not hard to find Jesus clothing for infants and toddlers :

Disturbing, no?

So how would you feel about shirts advocating non-religion being marketed for children of atheist parents?

I would hope most of us would be against that sort of thing. It’s the same type of thing as called a 3-year-old a “Muslim child” when the kid has made no such decision for himself.

Recently, the Brights were selling clothing marketed for children. It was just their logo, but it’s still an implicit endorsement of what the Brights stand for. A member of the group rightly called them out on it by sending the following email to the Brights’ website:

“I checked the merchandise page and saw that baby clothes with the Bright logo are being sold. Surely not appropriate, since babies will eventually make up their own mind? Dawkins makes the point about ‘Muslim Child / Catholic Child’ categorisations in his books. Surely a ‘Bright Child’ falls into the same dubious category? (Just a minor complaint though – keep up the good work, and best wishes from Wales, UK. Regards, Steve.”

Steve had a point. And Paul Geisert (who coined the “Brights” name originally) responded by talking to the person running that part of the Brights’ site and removing anything targeting children.

That’s awesome. Good for Paul and the Brights’ crew for responding quickly to this.

So… when do you think the Christian sites are going to take down their kid-themed merchandise?

Yeah. I’m not holding my breath, either.

(via The Brights Bulletin)

  • Deiloh

    How about Ts that say: “Someday, I’ll make up my own mind.” or “Freethinker in the making.”

  • Meyli

    I’d rather my kid wear something colorful – babies and small children can’t read! The clothes they wear should be visually stimulating and appealing to THEM, not me and my ideals

  • Miko

    Deiloh: Compared to a shirt with only a logo, I’d say that those slogans would be even more problematic.

  • JT

    Ah yes, pooping oneself and shoving things up one’s nose. That’s exactly how you serve that “big god”. And I swear, if I go to one more movie and have it interrupted by praising god I’m going to snap!

  • cathy

    I don’t think baby clothes target children, because it is adults who buy the clothes and dress them. You can get Cthulhu shirts too (http://www.cafepress.com/evilgeniusstore/2947774).

    Religious toys, schooling, camps, etc. actually do work on children’s brains, but babies this small don’t really care how they are dressed.

  • http://atheistreality.blogspot.com Stephanie

    A baby isn’t the appropriate place for a parent to paste their religious or political messages – but I have to admit, I think antireligious sayings on children’s clothing are less malignant than religious ones. You don’t have to tell a child not to be religious for that child not to be. You do, however, have to tell a child to be religious (through various messages) for them to believe. I agree with you though Hemant, either way, just keep it off the kiddies!

  • Staceyjw

    People forget that baby clothes have NOTHING to do with the baby- it’s not like they pick them out! It is all about the parent, and what they like, or want to say. I’m pretty sure no baby would willingly wear some of the crap I’ve seen them dressed in, like the onsies that say “Daddy’s condom broke”.

    I can’t stand logo’s for fashion reasons (like POLO or GAP) but I like to wear stuff with political or social group logo’s, and until the baby can pick its own clothes, I get to choose.

    My baby is not a billboard, but I think this is not worth protesting. Calling your kid by the atheist or xtian label and forcing them into a belief system is wrong, but I just don’t think that putting him/her in a t-shirt with your views is going to make a difference.

  • Epistaxis

    I only saw “The Brights Remove Children’s Clothing” and thought it would be something else.

  • littlejohn

    Since I assume places like Cafepress sell anti-religious T-shirts in children’s sizes, we really should leave this alone.
    Ideally, no children’s clothing should carry any sort of religious or political opinion, but good luck with that law.

  • http://ntrygg.wordpress.com/atheistindex/ nina

    the godbots aren’t going to stop marketing to children any sooner than toy companies, cereal and fast food marketers will

    they know that they need to get them young to keep people as loyal consumers

  • Mike

    Um, who really cares??? I mean besides Hemant, of course…;) Parents are (and should remain) the most influential force in their children’s lives. That’s what liberty and freedom are all about, no? If someone putting a shirt advocating religion or atheism or whatever on their child gets your panties in a twist, well get over it…It’s time that we realized that freedom of speech is, by it’s very nature, offensive to SOMEONE SOMEWHERE AT SOME POINT IN TIME, and just because someone does not agree with YOU does not mean that they should be silenced…unless of course you don’t believe in freedom of speech and expression, then by all means dictate what clothing others put on their children.

  • M33

    I think I have to respectfully disagree.

    Non-belief is the default position. Therefore, all babies start in a position of non-belief.

    That’s the crux of Dawkins’ argument: that assigning an affirmative believe to a child before they chose for themselves to adopt that affirmative belief is wrong. However, stating that a child still maintains the non-belief inherent at their birth is not.

    I will, however, make a small hedge to my argument. The term Brights may impute more than simply non-belief on the child. It may carry some affirmative belief baggage.

    Thoughts?

    – M33

  • Denise

    Well, where do we draw the line? I’ve got a 10 year old who is going to Camp Quest this year. She’s not an atheist or even agnostic – she’s a fervent believer in her own homebrew religion made up of elements of Shinto, Buddhism, and Starclan (from the Warriors series of kids’ books). Now, obviously, this is not the religious belief I expect her to carry throughout her life. And, as a parent, I DO want her to grow up and believe that rationality is the best basis for making decisions. I don’t shove it down her throat, and I certainly make a point to try to introduce her to lots of different belief systems. But she hasn’t made up her mind yet, and I AM trying to influence her – just as I try to influence her to study hard, not have unprotected sex, don’t use drugs, etc.

    And I think most parents would agree I have a right to do what I’m doing. So where is the line between ‘subtly influencing a child in a direction you think will be best for their future’ and ‘shoving your beliefs down a kid’s throat’?

  • http://thegodlessmonster.com/ The Godless Monster

    I’m inclined to think that this line wouldn’t sell as well as adult lines, so hopefully, it won’t be a big hit for them.

  • 3D

    I don’t agree with this — babies are, by definition, atheist.

    It’s wrong to put a baby in a shirt that says “I believe in God”. But, it’s not wrong to put a baby in a shirt that says “I don’t believe in God”. Because they don’t.

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Hemant

    @3D — How is that different from putting a shirt on babies that says “I don’t think people should be taxed” or “I don’t believe in the infield fly rule”?

    Sure, they don’t believe it, but the statement has no real meaning because the kids just can’t grasp the concept yet.

    I’m not saying it would be evil or wrong to put the shirt on them, but it would make no sense…

  • fritzy

    All infants are atheists and it is impossible to remove the influence parents have on their children (and I wouldn’t want to live in a society that attempted to do so,) so I don’t really get what the big deal is here. If people want to put religious or atheist clothing on their kids, so be it.

    That said, I wouldn’t personally turn my kid into a billboard for my personal beliefs. I think it’s kind of annoying. Really it’s just a matter of realizing that if the person viewing the t-shirt doesn’t agree with the message, all they will read is “mommy and daddy are douche-bags.”

    I do have to point out that this has nothing to do with “free speech.” People on all sides will often bring up this gem. There is truly no such thing as “free speech” because everything has a price. Freedom of speech only pertains to the individual’s right to say what they want without interference from the government. Individuals are free to criticize what comes out of your mouth and the things you say are constanly influenced by the mores of the society in which we live, whether we realize it or not. This isn’t a matter of anyone forcing the Brights to discontinue their childrens clothing line–they are doing so because their potential consumers have voiced that they would rather not purchase these items

  • http://cafeeine.wordpress.com Cafeeine

    Chalk up another vote to the ‘baby clothes’ slogans are not for babies’ opinion. Baby jumpers can have whatever the parent wishes on them, the child won’t understand it. After the child begins to speak, to read, to identify concepts, that’s when it becomes problematic.

  • Ziege

    So what you are really saying is, because ONE PERSON (or some small group) got burned by parents who shoved something they eventually turned against down their throat, they are going to see evil in anything that gives any semblance of that experience no matter how positive…even if it means silencing parents who are trying to raise kids with fewer delusional hangups, and you think that’s good.

    Why?

    By that logic we should also criticize baby clothes with messages like “save the whales” because the kids might grow up to hate whales. Is that really what you want? Or should we laud the parents for trying to instill a certain level of awareness in their kids and feel relief that the message wasn’t about jebus?

    Parents raising their kids are always going to shape the way those kids think. It’s not only a fact of life, it’s a beautiful thing. It’s what parents are FOR, and we should be glad there are parents trying to raise their kids to be part of a reason-based culture.

    The person who criticized these clothes has hang-ups I’m not going to try to diagnose…probably a bad childhood or residual religion. They may not even be atheists in any real sense. They should not be lauded for their complaints, they should be helped to understand that not everyone is their parents, not all parents are evil, and in any case they should mind their own business and let others raise their kids as they see fit.

    Atheists should not be trying to raise kids who grow up, sample all the religions they find, and choose one or not as they see fit. They should be raising kids who grow up with the tools to recognize that religions are irrational, offer no real answers, and should not be chosen at all.

    All of you parents, please, send a message to the Brights asking for those clothes to be brought back! Don’t let the hangups of a minority silence you or keep you from raising your kids as you see fit! Even if you don’t want those clothes for your kids, you should not let a vocal “moral minority” take choice away from you or your fellow parents.

  • http://www.eurovisionamerica.com Michael (SQFreak)

    It’s not a matter of the minority being “offended” and taking control over the majority. It’s a matter of not being hypocritical.

    The Brights say that they operate based largely on the philosophies of thinkers like Richard Dawkins. In The God Delusion, Dawkins makes a point of saying that there is no such thing as a “Christian child,” a “Jewish child,” a “Hindu child,” or an “atheist child,” because his philosophy is that children should not be told what to believe, but should make up their minds for themselves. (I would get a direct quote but I loaned my copy of The God Delusion to my father. You can see a video of Richard Dawkins saying this here.)
    The Brights thus consider it their philosophy to allow all people to decide for themselves what to believe. Forcing that belief on a child, no matter how, is, as Richard Dawkins would say, child abuse. The Brights are simply trying to control their message and make it clear that it’s not okay to indoctrinate a child.

  • WayBeyondSoccerMom

    Hey, Denise, I’m wondering the same thing. My kids are about to attend Camp Quest for the 4th time this summer, and every year, they come home with a Camp Quest t-shirt.

    So, does this Bright issue mean CQ shouldn’t have t-shirts for the kids?

    My kids are teenagers. I don’t dress them; they dress themselves. I’m not forcing them to wear their CQ shirts, which they do all until they outgrow them.

    What’s the age on this issue? When a child can pick out the clothes?

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Beth

    What does it matter if their shirts say anything at all? They’ll be covered in vomit and spit up baby food soon enough. :P

    Maybe this is a silly question, but can someone explain to me why babies would be considered atheists rather than agnostics?

  • http://9gag.com/photo/9035_540.jpg Flea

    I do not think “…shirts advocating non-religion being marketed for children of atheist parents… It’s the same type of thing as called a 3-year-old a ‘Muslim child’ when the kid has made no such decision for himself”:
    Gods do not exist. That is a fact. Believing in gods is preposterous and idiotic. That is why it is ok for kids to wear atheist shirts. “God does not exist” is the same as “Unicorns do not exist” or “Snow White is a fictional character”. It maybe idiotic or pointless (I think both) but it is not evil and cannot be compared with the disgusting labeling of kids as dogmatic believers in vicious deities.

  • Claudia

    No message, not “I’m not crying, I’m praising the Lord” (which made my eyes bleed), not “Freethinker in training” not “Obamababy” not “Save the baby seals” or even “the sky is blue” on a baby item is the opinion of the baby. The most comples message that can be attributed to a baby is “I like napping” or “I’ll be hungry or sleepy soon”. EVERYTHING else is all parents.

    Of course babies are atheists, in the same way that puppies are atheists. However we’re kidding outselves if we think that this means that we’re doing something substantially different when we label our children as “atheist children”. Atheism, by its nature, is a default position but ALSO a proactive one. Using the identifier “atheist” implicitly means you understand what religion is and have elected to stay away. A baby or small child is incapable of this sort of decision.

    It gets a little complicated when we’re talking about things like humanism. If and when I have children, I’d like to bring them up humanist, regardless of what decision they make about deities when they’re old enough. So does a camp Quest t-shirt count as labelling? What about a “good for goodness sake” t-shirt? How old is old enough, kids tend to imitate parents so when your 9 year old declares herself an atheist, is she? There aren’t easy answers, but that’s just the price we pay for living outside the religion box.

  • Demonhype

    “I’m not crying, I’m praising the Lord” gave me some lulz. It just seems like unintentional self-parody, making a connection between a squalling infant and your average believer–among other, less easily summarized, comedic angles. If I hadn’t seen it sold on a xian clothes site, I might have thought it was intended as a deliberate mockery.

    I do find it a bit disturbing when parents need to paste religious or political messages on babies and kids, but not enough that I’m going to get all that upset about it–either way, with xians and brights alike.

    I do see the point about not being hypocritical, though. If you’ve already said it’s not right to start labeling your kids views before they are old enough to choose, then it looks pretty damn bad when you start doing it yourself. In fact, it kind of ruins your credibility and makes you sound like a ….well, like a christian. :D

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  • beckster

    We have a toddler shirt that says “Now that I’m safe, I’m Pro-Choice!” My evangelical sister cried when she saw that one in the baby’s dresser. I told her it was for pajamas only, but it didn’t seem to help her feel better.

  • muggle

    You know this just reinforces the impression I get that brights are assholes as big as your average fundy Christians and that Dawkins needs to get over himself. It’s fine to write books on your philopsophy and to promote what you think is true and I’ll largely agree with him on that (but not on the child labelling thing, more later) but he all to fucking often crosses the damned line from that to telling others how to fucking live.

    First of all: stop trying to repress speech, hypocrite, while writing books that you’re only able to because your speech is protected!

    Frankly, while I could puke (mostly because I don’t believe in Christ), there’s really not much offensive in the t-shirts above. The biggest reaction they’d get out of me is an eye-roll. And a couple of them would even make me glad for the expression of the kid being appreciated and loved by the parent. All God’s grace in this little face is really calling that face sweet. Same with Mommy’s answered prayer. Mommy’s glad she got the baby. I’m rolling my eyes at those two but I’m also glad for the love for the baby they express.

    The crying one just made me laugh too as it seems rather ridiculous way to praise god. The most offensive one is the one about serving god which is putting it on the child but damned no one but the already fundy-nutty is buying that one. It’s just too absurd a claim. What is this baby? Mother Theresa? (I know, I know, just the first example I’m pulling out of my ass.)

    As for his protestations of labelling children, get a fucking life! Everyone knows a child labelled such and such is not so much labelling the child as it is the family, most specifically the parents. I really don’t have an issue with this maybe because I had an Atheist child. Let me translate for you, Mr. Dawkins, though you seem a smart man and surely should be able to figure this out: Atheist child means being raised Atheist, Christian child means being raised Christian, Muslim child means being raised Muslim, et al. Seriously, can you not figure out the obvious?

    And no one knows what that child will be when they grow up. No one. Because what they will be as a grownup is whatever they label themselves. While a minor, the parents or guardians get to put that on them. Just like everything else.

    Until a person is capable of living independently, someone else is going to be responsible for them, and that someone else, is naturally going to say, yeah, we’re Christian, we’re Jewish, we’re Atheist, we’re whatever because that someone is going to teach the kid(s) they are responsible for life as they see it.

    I’m with all the others who said they wouldn’t want it any other way because it would be barbaric to force them to refrain from teaching their kids what they believe to be truths.

    I guess this really ticks me off because I had to fight for the right to raise my child Atheist. Mr. Dawkins is quite agreeing with all those Xians who said I didn’t have that right. That makes Mr. Dawkins an asshole in my book.

  • Jonat

    I agree with just about all of this, but I just can’t get myself to think that wearing a religious shirt before one can even read would do much to influence their opinion..
    Or that someone would be influenced by mere merchandise in the first place.

  • Ziege

    “The Brights are simply trying to control their message and make it clear that it’s not okay to indoctrinate a child.”

    Which is utterly absurd. I don’t care if they think Dawkins said it or not. The job of human parents, a far more important role than feeding, protecting, or anything else that childrearing animals from cichlid to great apes all do, is to indoctrinate them with knowledge that will help them to succeed in life.

    Frankly, Dawkins is flat out wrong with his child abuse angle. He doesn’t seem to grasp the reality that some of the beliefs we find laughable are, in the culture as it exists, very very survival positive. Something which helps a child to fit in socially, to find mates and reproduce, to quickly dismiss questions they are not equipped to answer, cannot in any rational way be considered child abuse. It’s a successful survival strategy that has helped a lot of humans live and breed very successfully.

    The question isn’t whether successful indoctrination is abuse…The question is, Is OUR indoctrination better? In other words, will children indoctrinated to use reason, children equipped with the skill set to solve difficult problems, to act on rational conclusions, be MORE successful. I, having been raised from birth in a non-religious home, say yes. I say I am more successful because of the systematic indoctrination my parents gave me (which largely amounted to constantly questioning me about anything and everything…very Socratic), and that other children will benefit from similar indoctrination. I say that indoctrinating kids to apply, and to voluntarily seek association with, reason is a VERY survival positive thing which should be encouraged because it will allow those children to be more successful than their peers who are indoctrinated with flawed beliefs.

    At the end of the day that’s the only way forward for humanity. The rational question-askers have to out-compete the irrational fantasy believers. Why would you handicap yourself in that meme war? Why would you take any tool off the table?

    Unless this is all some fantasy rebellion against a god that, despite all you say, you really do believe in and are just pissed off at….

  • Eric

    I still think ‘Bright’ is a crap term.

    What? Baby clothes? Why would you put clothes on food?

  • Robin

    I want to get my baby a shirt that says “I don’t believe in the infield fly rule.” Seriously, he doesn’t care what his shirts say, so it might as well be funny. People have hopes for their children and this is one way that they project that. Taking away the shirts is not going to change it. I happen to hope he grows up to have a good sense of humor.


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