Religious Nuttiness: Not just for Westerners

Several bloggers have brought this up today, the case of 3-year-old Matani Shakya who was declared a living goddess in Nepal on Tuesday. You might hear women say to their menfolk, “I want to be treated like a goddess!” But do you really?

To these Hindu and Buddhist clerics, with the approval of the Nepalese president, being treated like a goddess involves being stripped from your family, thoroughly checked for physical imperfections, spending a night in a dark room filled with severed animal heads, living in isolation in an ancient temple, being paraded around the streets for strangers to touch you, and finally cast back into society, penniless and without a hope of marriage, at the time when you are emotionally most vulnerable. Um, no thanks, I think I’ll pass.

Although I disagree that mere indoctrination of children into religion is necessarily child abuse, this clearly crosses the line and violates the basic human rights of these girls. And notice that her horoscopes were checked in her candidacy for goddess-hood. Who said astrology wasn’t harmful?

2 comments for “Religious Nuttiness: Not just for Westerners

  1. Perry
    October 9, 2008 at 12:49

    You said: “Although I disagree that mere indoctrination of children into religion is necessarily child abuse…”

    I’m surprised you would say that when your profile indicates you are an atheist. In my opinion, I think it is dangerous to downplay the indoctrination of children by saying it is “mere” indoctrination.

    When you indoctrinate a child into one religion (that’s what indoctrination is) you are denying not only certain rights that the child has as a child, but also denying future rights that child will have as an adult. For example, all adults have the right to believe whatever they want to. However, if you indoctrinate a child to believe that only one religion is the true religion, and that if she doesn’t believe it she’ll go to hell, then you effectively cut off the right of that child when she becomes an adult to choose whatever belief system she wants. Yes, some will break out of that indoctrination, but many will not be able to shake the fear induced by such thought control.

    I could give many more examples of the ways in which indoctrinating children into a religion constitutes spiritual abuse, intellectual abuse, emotional abuse, physical abuse (eg. corporal punishment), and psychological abuse. The only way to teach religion to children in a way that respects them as persons and does not infringe on their human rights is to do it in a comparative religion course, or in a social studies class, in which children learn that there are thousands of religions and people believe in all kinds of crazy things. They need to learn about religions without being coerced or intimidated in anyway, and they need to know that they are free, really free, to believe whatever they want no matter what anyone says, whether a parent, teacher or religious “authority”.

    See my blog for plenty of examples of the harms that arise when children are indoctrinated into a religion.

  2. Nicole
    October 10, 2008 at 01:37

    Hi, Perry! Thanks for the comment and the link.

    I have a problem with labeling teaching of religion to children as “child abuse.” I think that in most cases, parents are just passing along what they think are helpful moral values, not trying to hurt their children. To label 90% of parents with abuse is harsh. And for the moderately religious, that is likely the case. maybe for that kind of teaching, “indoctrination” is too strong a word.

    However, there is no doubt that religion has become a powerful tool for child abuse in too many cases. When indoctrination becomes mentally and physically harmful, that is abuse. And that needs to be heralded from the rooftops.

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