As a follow up to the “There’s probably no God” bus ads, Richard Dawkins and his supporters have launched a new bus campaign in the UK which reads:
Please don’t label me. Let me grow up and choose for myself.
The following excerpt from a Guardian blog article explains how this new campaign came to be:
When … we asked how the extra funds [from the previous campaign] should be spent, one of the issues which came up repeatedly in the comments concerned the growth of of faith schools in the UK and the segregation of children according to their parents’ beliefs. Many of you felt strongly that children should be given the freedom to decide which belief system they wanted to belong to, if any, and that they should not have a religion decided for them.
The atheist campaign team shared this point of view. However, rather than using adverts to try and campaign politically, we thought it would be more beneficial to try and change the current public perception that it is acceptable to label children with a religion.
That said, while the bus ads don’t talk about faith-based schools, sites like atheistbus.org.uk (the “Official website of the Atheist Bus Campaign”) link through to a fund raising campaign, using the same branding as the new ads, to support the British Humanist Association’s efforts “to phase out state funded ‘faith’ schools.”
To the actual issue raised by the ads, I think this one line: “Let me grow up and choose for myself” summarizes their message well. In the context of the teachings of Dawkins, I’d say the issue isn’t as much one of labels as it is that we teach our children that what we believe is actually true.
I say this, at least in part, because Dawkins considers raising a child as a Christian to be child abuse. Of course, he has made clear that children should not be taken from religious parents as in the case of physical abuse; he just believes parents should not raise their child as if their worldview is correct. They shouldn’t teach their children that there is a knowable truth about religion or God and, most certainly, they mustn’t teach that God sets forth any obligations or requirements of them; let alone that he holds them responsible for their actions.
In more specific terms, to follow the biblical instructions on raising children (e.g., Deuteronomy 6:5-7, Ephesians 6:4) is, according to Dawkins and his supporters, morally wrong and tantamount to abuse.
However, you cannot raise a child without influencing their beliefs about God; to suggest you can (as the ads appear to) is simply false. Children will learn from your words, attitudes and actions whether you intend them to or not.
For example, to do as Dawkins wishes is to raise the child to believe that God, even if the parent may think he exists, has no bearing whatsoever on their life. It is to teach them that the very idea of God is unimportant and trivial. In other words, this is to raise a child as a practical atheist.
So, in reality, what Dawkins and his supporters want is for all children to be raised according to their worldview alone.
It would seem to me that the parents who would listen to such a message are likely already teaching their children that God is irrelevant through their own lives, even if their words say something else.
It’s the parents that truly believe, who don’t simply give mental ascent but who put an active trust in Christ and live our lives for him, who are really the ones they are concerned about. However it is that very real faith that they hold that makes them immune to the message of this campaign.
Perhaps for those Dawkins is simply hoping to make their chosen lifestyle even less socially acceptable than it currently is.