Thursday, January 28, 2010

Religion and Free Expression

This article is a response to an event that happened to my 9 year old niece, who is attending a school in Athens Greece. Unfortunately, schools in Greece are not secular, and neither is the state secular. We still have a Ministry of Education and Religion, the constitution says that this is a christian country and part of our taxes go for the salaries of the greek orthodox priests! To explain a bit, even in state schools we have a class called "Religion", which actually is a propaganda for the Greek Orthodox religion.

When she chose the school that my niece is attending, nobody told her that it was a religious/faith school; it was understood that it was just a good school where religion was taught as part of the curriculum, just like in every other school. Nor was it in any way written anywhere that there would be any kind of religious problems or anything else religious except for the usual religious crap that all schools have to abide by.

My sister has explained to my niece that most of the things she is being told in the "Religion" class are myths and legends, and that they are not true; that there is no evidence for mystical resurrected zombies or parthenogenesis in humans...

Anyway, to continue with the story, my niece wanted to dress up for the annual school carnival party as a little devil girl, nothing frightening for other children. The owners of the school, though, forbade her the costume on religious grounds! They said that it is blasphemy to dress as such! Blasphemy again, the "protector" of religion from any kind of criticism, from logic, from critical thinking, from being human even, as it seems, from having fun! I wrote my ideas about blasphemy in a previous article in this blog, when I criticized the new blasphemy law of Ireland.

This is a clear fundamentalist attitude and as such my sister has complained but to no avail. Those people are set in their illogical, superstitious, irrational, dogmatic mind set, they have been lobotomized by religion and cannot think outside the box.

Of course, my sister's family will not be attending the school party; entrance per person was priced at 28 euros, and since my sister has 3 kids, you can understand how much these cost for a total of 5 persons.

One of the worst things is that they run a school which is supposed to give an education to children. But the worst of it all is the way they made a 9 year old child feel. My niece at this moment has been hurt, is feeling humiliated. All I can do, as her aunt, is to try and explain some things, but she does not understand why she cannot dress as a little devil in the school party; she does not yet understand religion and its implications.And right now she is wondering why she was forbidden to dress as a little devil, and she is angry at the school's owner.

Of course, the school will lose not just one student but three, as my sister has 3 children in all and none will be attending that particular school.

Children need to be free from such attitudes, they need to be free to think and express themselves; parents and the surrounding environment, have the responsibility to guide them and help them think logically, think critically, to use their empathy for other people, to be human.

How are children going to develop logic and critical thinking skills, when religion is superstitious and dogmatic? How are they going to be free and to express themselves, when religion limits that freedom? How are they going to learn to be responsible for their actions when religion teaches people to put responsibility to mythological beings (god and satan)? How are they going to learn to be human, to have empathy and to care for others when religion teaches them that they are sinners, and thus bad, and ugly? How are they going to be responsible citizens and be sensitive to major current events, when religion teaches "Have faith in God"? How are they going to consider themselves as an equal member of society, when religion teaches misogyny and racism?

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