Sunday, 13 November 2011

On Indoctrination

Part of this post is inspired by my continuing journey from 'weak' atheism to 'strong' atheism, which is continuing apace as I attempt to logically justify the things I've come to believe. This will be the subject of another post, to come probably sooner rather than later.

It's a fairly standard line in the skeptical community: indoctrination is bad. We give religious communities all kinds of flak for indoctrinating their children, and for good reasons, given that in the absence of evidence, or even logical sense, indoctrination is the only way that religion continues to survive.

But of course, we try to be as intellectually honest as we can, and we try to avoid double standards, and so we hold ourselves to the same expectations. I see many posts by atheist parents who talk about how their children we allowed the benefit of a choice, who were given all the information, and who have, far more often than not, chosen non-belief. All this is, of course, fantastic.

Recently, however, I've been wondering if 'indoctrination' is a word that applies to the teaching of atheism to children. It is, logically and scientifically, the standpoint that's most likely to be true - and I do realize that the religious will say the same thing about their viewpoint, but please bear with me.

I now see the non-existence of god as a fact - I cannot justify this, but it's how I think. Given that, how is the teaching of atheism to my child indoctrination? I also intend to teach him/her that the sun is fusing hydrogen into helium, that evolution is true, and that physical activity is good for you. None of these things are viewed as indoctrination - because they're all simply, indisputably, true. It's not indoctrination to pass on facts.

And lately, as far as I'm concerned, the fact is that god does not exist.

This is, I realize, a risky position for me to hold. I cannot fully justify this belief. But at the same time, I cannot fully justify my believe that centaurs do not, and never have, existed. It's the outright, worldwide lack of evidence for centaurs, along with the physiological improbability of them, that causes my belief that they do not exist - and the same is true of god. There is not, nor has there ever been, a speck of credible evidence for god, and his existence would flatly contradict our entire knowledge of physics. He is, to put it shortly, so unlikely to actually exist that the probability is a number indistinguishable from zero.

The gist of all this is that I plan to teach my child that he or she is growing up surrounded by people who believe a myth, as well as all the various reasons why they believe it. I intend to teach the non-existence of god with the same certainty as I will teach mathematics, physics, chemistry - and so on. As simple fact. And I do not consider this indoctrination.

I'm still working through the implications of this. It's true that I'm setting myself up in a double standard - the religious consider the existence of god to be a fact in this exact same way, and I still think of that as indoctrination. The rising tide of atheism belies this point of view, however. Their certainty is based on myth and faith. Ours is based on science, evidence, and logic. It is, in short, a defensible position, where theirs is not, and it shows in the reams of people abandoning the church.

This is not to say that, should my child ultimately reject this point of view and become some kind of religious fundamentalist, I would abandon them. They are, as ever, free to choose, and I do intend to present all points of view. But I intend to also teach that one point of view is fact, and the rest are myth. Should my child turn his/her back on science and embrace religious fundamentalism, it would undoubtedly cause strain on the relationship, but I would not turn my back. I do, however, consider this outcome highly unlikely, for the reasons listed above. A mind trained to accept reality as it is, and to evaluate facts and claims based on evidence, is unlikely to start to accept fairy tales on faith.

I'm eager for feedback on this. Am I committing a fallacy? Would I be doing my child a disservice? Or would I merely be teaching the ability to see reality as it actually is, without unneeded religious filters? I think it's the best way to go, but outside perspective on my ideas is something that, as a free-thinking individual, I crave. Anyone?

So it's been a while.

I haven't been active, at all, for a period of a couple of months now. This is primarily because I've been working like a mad person, putting in a lot of overtime, in order to get my financial situation back in better order. The urgency of this has passed, somewhat, though I continue to put in hours trying to get out of where I am now, and into the field I -want- to be in. Which will, if I'm successful, eat up even more of my time, but I hope I can make it work.

Also, my internet connectivity went through a period where it did not, for most intents and purposes, exist at all.

These problems have abated somewhat, and so I make my triumphant return. I've been busy, but it's been interesting as well; I work with a guy who's one of the more devoted Christians I've ever personally met, as well as a woman who is deeply pagan, with a touch of conspiracy theorist, and the discussions have been interesting. Combined with that, one of Greta Christina's latest offerings has re-inspired me; it may not seem like it at times, but we're having an effect. It's working - and everyone who contributes their voice to the atheist effort adds impact to that.

My collection of atheist swag is increasing rapidly, and shortly I'll likely have a nice tattoo.

But for now, the idea for my next post is already half-written in my head, and I'm rather proud of it. So why don't I hop to it?