This blog contains material I wrote and posted on multiply.com between the years 2005 and 2011 only. It does not contain any new material. For newer writing, please check my main blog (Bill the Butcher).
Monday, 26 November 2012
Catching Them Young
There is something I’ve often thought – that my parents, despite their many, many faults, did me one single and signal favour. They did not try to brainwash me into religion.
Not that my dad would have. Despite being religiously ambiguous (in his entire life I never discovered whether he actually believed in any of it) he was always a votary of personal laissez faire and he’d never have told me this is what I should believe and that isn’t. My mother was a different kettle of fish altogether but despite her religious fanaticism she never made a serious attempt to brainwash me either. Perhaps she thought that, sharing her genes, I’d automatically fall into the groove.
Of course, the point I want to make is that not having been brainwashed in childhood is a big reason I’m an atheist today. It’s a big reason and a considerable cause of heartburn for the religious establishments, that parents don’t brainwash their kids early enough. So you’ll keep seeing little kids being dragged off to church, temple or mosque when still far too young to have the slightest idea what they are doing. The indoctrination comes first, the “explanations” of the doctrines later.
So many times have I seen even teachers in primary schools set children’s minds in grooves that I’m no longer outraged by it – I’ve sunk into weary acceptance. My own teacher in the second standard asked us all to sit down in the grass and ask god to speak to us. I did…and fell asleep. Well, to satisfy her, everyone came up with fancy comments from God revolving around the theme of study and respecting one’s elders. There was one guy, though, who vapourised on about stars and moons and stuff. This was a good long time ago so I don’t recall all he said, but it was music to her ears. Ha.
Now there are two reasons why they have to reach kids young. The first is that, in my not so humble opinion, children are inherently rationalistic.You tell a child, “God made the world”, and the average child will instantly ask “Who made God, then?” It’s a logical question but not one that will make a religion minded parent happy, so children have to be trained away from this kind of clear thinking.
Then, of course, children are ritualistic. This – I suspect – was evolutionarily advantageous once, by promoting bonding in social groups. You see it now in children demanding ritualistic games and formalised, repetitive storytelling. It makes them easy to hook into a ritual. By the time it’s ingrained, they can be safely brainwashed into the theory of the practice they’ve already absorbed.
Since it’s the parents who are doing this, and since for simple reasons of survival, the child is beholden to the parent, it’s easy to programme them. Mostly they stay programmed. Rare is the child who escapes and still rarer the child who, once programmed, succeeds in deprogramming itself or at least admitting it’s deprogrammed itself. Once in the religion’s maw, it’s tough to extricate oneself; the social pressures to conform are too great for most of them. How many people do you know who have had the courage to declare themselves at variance with the religious oeder imposed on them by their social group?
(I have asked, more than once, my acquaintances who are religious to leave their kid(s) alone without religious programming until the individual child was old enough to make an informed choice. The reaction in every instance was one of shocked horror. Well, in the unlikely eventuality of my sharing in the birth of a child, it’s not going to be programmed – a promise I made to myself a very long time ago.)
It’s exactly the sort of programming that they use over again, for armies. The uniform, the formalised chants (watch Jarhead for an excellent depiction), the discouragement of individual thought, the dependence on the military for one’s every need – it’s all designed to programme he who dares to enter here.