Sunday, July 6, 2008

Nothing Short of Brainwashing

My personal emancipation from religion-induced neurosis has been a long time in coming. That it has taken me until the age of 50 to expel the worst effects of my childhood indoctrination is not a testament to my gullibility as a child, but rather is a testament to the ferocity of the religious inculcation I endured in my early life.

Besides being innately curious, the mind if a child is particularly malleable, thus susceptible to the impulses of those charged with their upbringing. And when those impulses are offered to satisfy the caregivers rather than the child, the results can be horrific. The late and very wise Dr. Benjamin Spock had one thing right for sure: young children should be raised as individuals and not be driven to conformity as subjects of ritual discipline. This methodology clearly suggests that a child's uniqueness be allowed to flourish even at the expense of parents' preferences - or prejudices.

Which brings me to suggest that children have the right to be raised free from the imposition of ideologies that legitimately only an informed adult can aspire to - chief among them, religion. This may appear to fly directly in the face of parents' so-called right to bring up children in the religion of their choice. If such a right exists, I question its legitimacy.

To remedy this collision of ideas would likely take at least as long as organized religions have been systematically brainwashing children with their beliefs - from hundreds to thousands of years. But I say, "On with the task!" And, is "brainwashing" the correct description of this process that results in the inevitable transformation from innocent infant to religious automaton? If we agree that the purpose of brainwashing is to compel its subject to relinquish his will to behave autonomously and to replicate the mindset of the authority figure in question, then this term is most certainly appropriate.

The introduction of simple, easy-to-comprehend, life-affirming values should be all that parents are allowed to instill in their children. From these, a firm foundation for more complex and morally pertinent values can easily be constructed. In other words, the nonsense that is religious dogma has no authentic role in cultivating either the mind or morals of a young child. The differences between right and wrong are readily discerned by accessing more universally accepted paradigms and without anointing religious parents or educators as arbiters of truth and morality.


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  2. Thank you for the kind words. It's gratifying to think others might find some benefit - or even joy - from some of my writing.

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    Bill C.