Thursday 14 December 2017

Teaching children to think critically is better than cramming them with religion

Girls in their Holy Communion dresses lead a Corpus Christi procession in Dublin in 1965
Girls in their Holy Communion dresses lead a Corpus Christi procession in Dublin in 1965
Carol Hunt

Carol Hunt

Have you ever sworn to renounce the Devil and all his works? Chances are, if you're godparent to a Christian child, you have. Did you believe it when you promised? Well, if you're anything like me and many of my contemporaries - you didn't. So to all intents and purposes, we would have lied, on the altar, before a God some of us also don't believe in. But does it matter?

Most of us would probably say, no, it doesn't. Many a parent who baptises their child nowadays does so for a variety of reasons: because it's traditional, because their Mammy would have palpitations if they didn't, or because they need a baptismal cert to get the child in the local school - none of which involve religious belief. Likewise, for the next few months, Irish parents who have no more interest in being a practising Catholic as they do in the Hindu religion, will be "forced" to attend meetings to prepare their children to receive the sacraments of Holy Communion and Confirmation. Many will do so willingly, and go to great expense buying dresses and suits, hiring a caterer and bouncy castle and generally making a big splash of the whole thing. The kids love it, don't they? What kind of parent would deprive their child of what is a traditional right to accept cash from every adult they meet on their special day?

Well, mea culpa, I am that parent. Despite wanting to be a nun at age nine, I am now a staunch atheist. That's what studying the philosophy of religion does to you - it's hardly surprising the Church doesn't want it taught in schools. After a lot of soul-searching I decided not to baptise either of my children even though I knew it would cause problems in our predominantly Catholic school system. Did you know, for instance, that the National Schools Rule 68 says that: "Of all the parts of a school curriculum Religious Instruction is by far the most important, as its subject-matter, God's honour and service, includes the proper use of all man's faculties, and affords the most powerful inducements to their proper use." (It's hardly surprising our kids are failing at maths, is it?)

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