Avowed atheist Ariane Sherine has attracted a whopping 1,000+ reader comments over her anti-religion drive. But she’s muddling up religion and culture, writes Lester Holloway
Last year Sherine helped organise a much-publicised and controversial atheist bus campaign declaring there was “probably” no God, “now stop worrying and enjoy your life.”
Now she has taken out huge billboard adverts featuring a child next to the words “Please don’t label me. Let me grow up and chose for myself.”
Of course, Sherine is perfectly free to air such views. But what the latest posters reveal is a shocking ignorance about the role culture plays in religious households.
The poster features a child lying on a surface that includes the words “Muslim Child. Sikh Child. Protestant Child”, and so on.
This raises the question about whether religious instruction can be neatly divisible from the culture and traditions of the family and community a person is born into.
The reality for many people born into families with a heritage of a particular religion is that their whole upbringing is interwoven with faith.
As adults they are free to reject that particular faith or its’ teachings, but they will find it more difficult to shake off their roots and culture, much of which will be informed by a particular religion.
The fault line running through Sherine’s campaign is her underlining assumption that adults are trying to brainwash innocent children into accepting a particular religion.
But while the religious fervour of parents will vary enormously within any faith community, a large proportion of parents are more interested in passing on knowledge of, and respect for, traditions.
Rather than force-feeding kids religious doctrine, the desire instead is to teach them the stories that inform the customs and values that are almost in their DNA.
So does Sherine intend to detangle religion and culture, an impossible task I suggest? Or has she simply not considered how bound together lifestyle, heritage and faith really are?