The Debate about Teaching Religion to Children Is Actually a Debate about Religious Hegemony

The Debate about Teaching Religion to Children Is Actually a Debate about Religious Hegemony October 29, 2014

If you don’t already know, we have begun a debate about teaching religion to children. Wendy Thomas Russell talked about using a neutral language to talk to children about religion, and then I write a post which disagreed with her on just that, using a language which is not neutral about religion. This caused both Wendy and Libby Anne to chime in and write rebuttals. I then wrote another blog post about it. Now Daniel Fincke has contributed to the debate too. I really love his contribution: It explains eloquently what I’ve been trying to say.

Here however I’m going to focus on one aspect of my argument though, the question of religious hegemony.

People who disagree with me state that “You shouldn’t force your own ideas to your children”, a principle that I agree with, but then again, that is clearly not what I’m arguing for. I haven’t written about how I’m going to force my children to accept my all claims about ethics or epistemology or ontology. I have made a specific point – that I’m not going to treat Abrahamic religions as true, but as myths.

Ultimately every parent will have to exclude some opinions from the debate. Some of those opinions are clearly untrue. Like homeopathy and astrology. Some of them are clearly tyrannical and authoritarian. Like fascism. Abrahamic religions fall under the first category.

Conspiracy theorists deeply care for their conspiracy theories. When teaching history, should I “let my children decide” whether JFK was not actually killed by Oswald or whether the moon landing was faked or whether 9/11 was an inside job? Because Judaism, Christianity, and Islam have equal amount of evidence to produce, none. If not, then what makes these religions so much better than these conspiracy theorists?

So – from this point onward, our debate can go on two separate ways. Either you are going to argue that I have to give equal weight in the truth debate to every ideology out there, which would include the non-hegemonic religions such as the dead ones – like Greek and Roman and Norse mythologies – OR you have to show me how Abrahamic religions are different from those other dead religions which makes them a respectable part of this debate.

Now here religious people suffer from no intellectual confusion. Their religion is different because it’s true. That’s a good position, something we can debate. It is coherent. Not so the Abrahamic-friendly atheist position.

The real answer is of course that these religions are powerful. They are part of the hegemony of our age. This power can buy them respect, can buy them fear, but it ultimately buys them a special privilege. This fact should dictate many behaviors of atheists, but not when they are arguing for truth and ethics. Ultimately an atheist must be careful to not intentionally or unintentionally reproduce this privilege in their own household. Basically an atheist who treats Abrahamic religions differently from Norse religions is sending the message “these are special kinds of ideologies, different from all the other ones”.

As an anti-theist, one of my main goals is to take away this special respect from religion. The worth of any ideology depends on how rational it is. Abrahamic religions do not stand the test.

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