Religious schools should be abolished. Moreover, if home schooling is to be allowed, it must not involve religious education. It is a human rights crisis when children are denied the religious freedom to which they are entitled. Religious freedom requires first and foremost freedom from religious indoctrination, which becomes practically impossible when children are indoctrinated from birth. To be sure, some children escape indoctrination, but most do not. And even those who do escape often struggle with guilt and trepidation and shame, since their family and peers still believe.
Childhood is a crucial developmental period where society has to take extra care to make sure that parents, teachers, and other adults don’t use their proximity to and authority over children to impose their agenda of ideas that have no basis in reason or fact – worse, ideas that are irrational and harmful. Early socialization in mythology-as-reality changes the patterns of cognition such that children struggle to distinguish the truth from lies in adulthood. This is wrong. It should not be tolerated.
This does not mean that parents cannot hold or talk about their religious beliefs with their children. It means that society must protect children from parents who send them to religious schools or turn their household into schools of religious indoctrination. Just as protecting children means ending the practice of genital mutilation, substituting prayer and laying on of hands for science-based medicine, or administering corporal punishment and other physically and psychologically degrading disciplinary systems on children, it means not allowing parents to fill their children’s heads with irrational and poisonous ideas.
I appreciate my parents creating an environment where I was allowed to know about and free to express ideas other than Christian ones. It was this freedom that allowed me to grow up free of the deep religious socialization that likely would have made it difficult as an adult to know and accept the deeper understanding of the universe that comes with secular humanism and scientific knowledge. I want all children to have the same opportunity I had: to be treated as a free individual who could, if he so desired, choose his religion when he was ready to do so – or choose not to be religious at all.