Richard Dawkins thinks so. He states there should be no such thing as a Muslim child or a Christian child etc because they are not old enough to understand the concepts of religion, assess other options and quite frankly decide for themselves.
I agree that children shouldn't be forced to follow religion, I would never force my child to believe as I believe but to do so is it really abuse? And to what extent do we push our beliefs on to others?
I accept that it may be seen as abuse in the way that it;
A) suppresses learned truths about the world.
B) Restricts free will and free thought.
C) Contain harmful views that create negative thought processes (for example, men are worth more than women, homosexual relationships are wrong)
Let's take these one by one and see how harmful each may be.
A) Some might argue that all of the scientific discoveries made about the earth, creation, evolution and the universe can be explained in their holy books. Personally I would argue that a lot of what science has discovered contradicts scripture and only through tiresome and wordy apologetics do people try to present otherwise.
Is it right to tell a child the world was created in six days by a creator rather than encourage them to look at science and the evidence for big bang?Or at least present them with both theories. Is it any different to telling children that Santa exists or the tooth fairy?
Yes, views about how we got here and here came from are important to our world view. They surpass childhood story's. Children may not have the ability or desire to contemplate that much but they question and learn and take things they learn at a young age up until they are adults even if they change their mind. I think it is wrong but I am not sure if it's abuse.
B) Free thought and free will. I think abuse begins when a child would be condemned for not accepting a parents world view. Say a Christian child expresses disbelief in god, in my eyes it would be wrong to tell them that was 'naughty' and that they would ' go to hell' for blasphemous thoughts. This goes against the free will we all have to question and learn. Children live by their parents law, on a grander scale it's comparable to the government telling us that to believe in god was stupid and wrong. Or that punishment was imminent for not doing so.
We should encourage children to think for themselves and to remember that others have the right to that freedom as well.
C) Is it right to tell a child that homosexual relationships are wrong despite it being accepted in wider society? Or that men are the head of the family and the head of a women despite being told we are all equal? Are these conflicting attitudes too much for a child to understand and harmful? I would say yes. Secular society is at odds with some aspects of religious ideology, namely homosexual relationships, abortion, women's rights. How can a child process these conflicting ideas?
Ultimately however from a religious view they believe that is the way of the world and to not tell a child about god and about hell could lead them to ruin. It may be easy to point the finger at religion but a secular world presents as many confusing contradictions for a child, such as its wrong to kill yet the country they live in goes to war. What about our appraisal of money yet our disgust for those who have too much? Our desires to be successful yet our attitude that it's ok just to try.
I was going to do a separate post on Dawkins latest documentary 'Faith School Menace' but I think I've covered most of my opinions here. So here's the link. Definitely worth a watch if not just to see kids asking Richard Dawkins about the extinction of dinosaurs.
Watch Faith School Menace here: