Re: A Certificate of De-Baptism

Gareth McCaughan <Gareth.McCaughan@xxxxxxxxx> wrote in

Marcus Maxwell wrote:

[SNIP: various bits of agreement, background, etc. Me:]
That's a little too simple, because sometimes the truth is
just too complicated and there are easier good approximations
available. So, a slightly tightened-up version: If a majority
of people who have given careful consideration to a question
consider that X (a purported answer to that question) is
neither correct nor an appropriate approximation to to the
truth given a child's knowledge and intelligence, then it is
wrong to tell a child that X is true without any sort of

So, for instance, this principle forbids exactly one of
(a) telling a child flatly "God exists" and (b) telling
a child flatly "God doesn't exist" -- I haven't checked
the statistics; most people are at least notionally religious
but not all are theists and I've no idea what the figures are
among those who've looked at the issue carefully -- but
it certainly forbids telling a child flatly that Jesus
was the son of God or that Muhammad was his greatest

This all seems quite reasonable, but I some worries about it.
The main one is that of deciding who has looked into it
sufficiently well. Obviously, you have. I think I have too,
but not in the manner you did. So have I done so exhaustively
enough to count? And who decides? Is it someone who believes
that any sufficient inquiry must result in their particular

I don't understand the "who decides?" question; obivously
the answer is that anyone who wants to figure out whether
it's reasonable to tell a child something, and who uses
the same criterion as me, will do their own deciding.

Ah, silly me! We're a bit at cross purposes. I'm reading your
comments against the background of Humphrey's suggestion that
there should be state intervention in parental teaching of

I was reading you as saying people should not be *allowed* (again,
I still have the Humphrey thing drifting around my late-night
brain - reading "shouldn't" as in you shouldn't do something
illegal rather than immoral) to teach as facts things which had
been agreed to be contentious by those who had looked carefully at
the issues. That led me to think that a major problem would be
the formation of a tier of suitably rigorous thinkers whose
opinions should be taken on board by government etc. As I've
said, as a purely personal approach, I agree with you and that's
reflected in my own attitude.

(For the record: of course I think you have looked into it
sufficiently well for this purpose; the only reason for
having that clause at all is that for many important questions
there are millions or billions of people who hold strong
opinions which they have simply inherited from their parents
or picked up by osmosis from the community around them.)

I didn't suppose that you personally would think otherwise; I
wondered whether one who was putting H's policy into practice
would do so, if you see what I mean.

Secondly is a head count of the intelligentsia not unmanagably

Excuse me, but where did I say anything about the

I don't object to elitism in many instances, but
seems to be something wrong about telling people that they
shall teach their children in a manner decided upon by the

Excuse me, but where did I say anything about the Wise?

Obviously you didn't - my misreading of the subtext, I fear.

Marcus, as already mentioned you're a reasonable chap; don't
you think it's wrong to misrepresent people like this? I say
"people who have given careful consideration to a question",
you turn it into "the intelligentsia" and "the Wise"; surely
you aren't unable to see the differences both in actual meaning
and in connotation. For instance: (1) "the intelligentsia" is
a fixed group, the same set of people whatever question is at
issue; "people who have thought about X carefully" is not.
So (2) your version has me advocating for some sort of
privileged class, whose opinions matter more than others',
whereas in fact the only inequality between opinions that I
acknowledged was between those of people who have actually
thought about the question at issue and those who haven't. And
(3) "intelligentsia" is, pretty much universally, a sneering
sort of word; perhaps deservedly, since it doesn't really mean
"the intelligent" or "the well-informed" or anything like that,
but something nearer to "the dilettantes in the upper middle
classes who like to think of themselves as intelligent and
well-informed"; and of course I certainly wasn't proposing that
*they* should be the arbiters of anything. (Er, I suppose I
should say "we" rather than "they" there. Please sneer if you

Actually, I don't use the term sneeringly - I'm rather influenced
by the positive role of the (for want of a better term)
intelligentsia in Eastern bloc countries under Soviet hegemony.

Further: I said "you shouldn't teach your children X as if it's
unquestioned when a majority of Those People disagree with it";
you turned that into "they shall teach their children in a
manner decided upon by the Wise". Again, aren't the differences
both in actual meaning and in connotation glaringly apparent?
And, again, aren't they consistently such as to portray what I
actually wrote as something much worse? Something sinister and
oppressive and stupid and extreme?

See above. Damn! Looks like I'm apologising again - I may get a
reputation for humility at this rate (and maybe idiocy as well...)

I also, of course, don't think it will work. For what it's
worth, I told my children that this is what we believe, others
don't, but it's what we do till they decide otherwise.

In which case, I have no doubt you will be immensely relieved
to learn that I don't think you've acted improperly :-).

Phew :-)

It's useful, sometimes, to have a way of saying that a child
has been brought up in a Christian culture or by Christian
parents. The claim Dawkins is making is that doing so by
saying "X is a Christian child" is bad, not because there's
anything bad about saying "X has been brought up in a
Christian culture" but because saying "X is a Christian child"
is liable to be interpreted as saying much more -- that X
shares the distinctive beliefs of Christians, for instance.

And that is what my objection really rests on, and why I think
there is a parallel with nationality etc. I don't think that
being "Christian" is just a matter of personal doctrinal

Of course it isn't. But *among other things* it generally is
a matter of personal doctrinal assent, no? So if you say that
a child (or anyone else) is "Christian" or "a Christian",
then indeed you aren't *only* saying that they have particular
beliefs; but that's *one* of the things that you are liable
to be interpreted as saying.

Yes, but I still feel that such assent won't be taken as being the
same as adult assent, just like a child's assent to a host of
other things.

Marcus Maxwell

(Still sigless)