CHILD ABUSE BY RELIGIONS
Innaiah Narisetti Ph.D.
Children too are human beings
“The children are ours; we thrash them or kill them; who are you to poke your nose?”, flare up some parents in righteous indignation.
some assert that they have to catch them (children) young and fashion them the way they want. “After all, you can train a plant but not a tree”.
some others swear by the dictum, “Spare the rod and spoil the child”.
Most parents regard their children as their property. They believe that the more the number of children, the better off they are. A child has not only a mouth but also two earning hands.
There are parents who honestly feel that children should follow them in thought, word and deed, subscribe to and live according to their religious beliefs and customs. For children, parents constitute their universe. Parent-speech is, therefore, sacrosanct and inviolable.
against this backdrop, religions go out of their way to lure children. Over the ages, a religious dimension has been added to every aspect of life, beginning with the naming of the baby soon after birth. Parents feel it is their duty to abide by religious customs, traditions and rituals. This, in turn, assures livelihood to the priestly class.
Priests encourage parents to bring along their children to places of worship. Parents fall in line as they think temple visits help children develop faith in God and follow ethical conduct. Children are thus controlled right from their birth in all countries and in all religions.
Children are neither born into religion nor aware of what religion is. Yet, the religion of their parents is attributed to them. By the time they start talking and writing, they name their religion. Thus steeped in religion from childhood, most find it difficult to climb out of it later on in life.
Parents indoctrinate their children not merely on the virtues of their own religion. They warn them against embracing other religions or following their customs and beliefs. The seeds of hatred against other religions are sown directly or indirectly in children’s impressionable minds. Children brought up in such an environment cannot shed the ingrained religious influence even when they blossom into scientists or technologists. Education helps them carve out their careers even as they practice religion. They do not apply the scientific temperament acquired in education to religion. Before you believe in anything, science demands that it be subjected to an inquiry, analysis and proof. If something cannot be proved, it should not be blindly believed. But the educated exclude religion from such scientific scrutiny. One thus gets mired in religious beliefs. When there is a conflict between religion and science, people follow religion, giving the go-by to science. Religion has thus become an eternal and insurmountable barrier to humankind’s progress and development.
Parents have remained mute spectators to religions’ abuse of children. Although the civilized world occasionally is amazed, it has by and large kept quiet, afraid of taking religion head on. There are individuals here and there who have criticized children’s abuse. But society in general has turned a deaf ear or ostracized some as atheists. The silver lining in the dark horizon is that at long last, the United Nations has taken cognizance of religious perversities. It convened a global conference and facilitated the adoption of a Children’s Charter.
A Children’s Charter:
On November 20, 1989, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a Charter adumbrating children’s rights. Parliaments of 191 countries have so far adopted the Charter with 54 articles. Somalia, wracked by civil war and devoid of a stable government, did not adopt the Charter. Even a super power like the U. S. has been sitting tight on the Charter. According to the Children’s Charter, children enjoy certain legal rights honoring which is incumbent on families and Governments.
The Charter covers all children below 18 years of age. There shall be no discrimination based on caste, color, creed or gender in safeguarding children’s rights. Where parents fail to take care of children, the Government shall assume responsibility. The Government has to stand by parents in safeguarding children’s right to life and development. Children in general shall be with parents. To preserve family unity, children and parents shall be allowed to travel together anywhere. Children shall be protected from abduction.
every girl and boy, irrespective of territorial boundaries, has the freedom of expression and right to information. Governments shall safeguard their religious freedom and freedom of thinking. Children have the right to mix with others. Both Government and society shall provide environment conducive to their development.
although bringing up children is parents’ responsibility; the Government shall extend its helping hand. Children shall be provided nutritious food and enabled to take part in social activities. They shall not be abused.
Children have the right to education. The Government shall provide free and compulsory education. Education shall facilitate the unfolding of the latent talent in children. They shall be protected from ill health and bonded labor. They shall not be sexually abused or subjected to exploitation. Children’s rights shall be widely publicized.
What the UN is doing:
The United Nations resolved that children shall not be treated as the personal property of parents, and enumerated their rights. Noticing atrocities all around, UNICEF has launched a movement to safeguard children but without blaming religion. After all, even the UN is under religious influence. The Vatican, seat of the Roman Catholic Church, is a member of the UN without voting rights. The Vatican co-opted UNICEF and convened a conference at which religious leaders shed crocodile tears over children’s plight. You don’t expect religions to condemn themselves. It is like handing over the keys to a thief to safeguard the house.
The UN chooses to describe the problems caused by religion as a cultural crisis. It recognizes that children are being used as bonded labor, abused in wars and sexually assaulted. It is going to the rescue of victims at some places. But it would not identify religion as one of the causes for the children’s plight. It is yet to dawn on the UN that tackling symptoms ignoring the root cause is futile.
Religions’ crime against children:
without distinction, all religions have been guilty of gross misbehavior towards children. To begin with, let us study the unpardonable crimes and atrocities committed by Christianity, one of the biggest religions with sway over many developed countries and even the UN.
Christianity has many denominations or sects among the Roman Catholics and the Protestants. Almost all denominations abuse children, notwithstanding minor differences.
the sects, which directly and blatantly harass children, are:
The Believers’ Fellowship
Church of the First Borne
Church of God of the Union Assembly
Church of God Chapel
Faith Temple Doctoral Church of Christ in God
Jesus through John and Judy
Christ Miracle Healing Center
Northeast Kingdom Community Church
True Followers of Christ
No Name Fellowship
Most of these are small groups working primarily in the US. The biggest among them –The Christian Science – operates in the U. S. and Europe.
their views regarding Medical treatment to children:
A number of these Christian groups preach that medical treatment of sick children is contrary to God’s will. Did Christ use drugs for treatment, they ask. Children fall ill because of parents’ sins or crimes. A remedy lies in prayer. These groups oppose blood transfusions, injections and medication. They engender fear of doctors and medicine among Christians.
Christian Science Founder Mary Baker Eddy trots out such arguments in her innumerable writings. The Pentecostal Mission maintains that confessions will cure diseases as they wash away sins, the cause of diseases. Christian devotees belonging to this denomination do not call in doctors or report communicable diseases.
The Christian Science denomination appoints its own nurses and doctors. But they are not trained in modern medicine. They recite devotional songs and or Eddy Baker’s writings to cure the diseased.
Watch Tower and Jehovah Witness denominations oppose blood transfusions on the ground blood contains soul.
some of these denominations have gone to court and obtained exemptions from medical treatment, testifying to their clout over courts.
Christian Science founder Mary Eddy Baker went in for corrective eyeglasses for defective vision, got her aching tooth extracted under local anesthesia and used sedatives to get relief from kidney stones. When this news got leaked, she took the line that devotees could go in for anesthesia and painkillers in the treatment of certain disorders.
there have been innumerable instances of children dying because of the Christian sects’ edicts against medical treatment. Children in a developed country like U. S. have died of pneumonia, meningitis, diphtheria, appendicitis, diabetes, measles, gangrene, dehydration, blood poisoning, cancer, diarrhea, lung diseases, epilepsy or fits, pericardiatis, hernia and thalasemia.
Hundreds of children have died in the U. S. since 1973 because of Christian opposition to medicine, according to details available. One can only imagine the number of deaths that went unreported. Child, a non-governmental organization, has exposed the church by highlighting the incidents. Child went to court to save some children from certain death and got parents punished for negligence.
when such incidents come to light, the denominations maintain that opposition to medical treatment is an aberration of some working in remote areas. Christianity as such should not be blamed, they maintain.
you can only imagine the inhumanity of those who advocate that prayers are the antidotes to diseases like cancer and tetanus and bone fractures. (For details of their inhumanity see: bettel.botto ms, Philip R. Shaver, Gall S. Goodman, Jiangjin Qin In the Name of God: A Profile of Religion-related Child Abuse (Journal of Social Issues 1995, Vol. 51, No. 2)
Sin in shroud:
The Vatican in Rome, the headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church, is the fountainhead of many evils.
the church is opposed to marriages between priests and nuns. But since sex is an irresistible human urge, priests and nuns indulge in it behind flowing robes, enjoying religious protection. It is common knowledge that pastors in churches and nuns in convents sexually assault children. Because of social taboos, such instances are not reported. Functionaries ranging from the Pope to the ordinary priest or nun have been guilty of misbehavior because of the celibacy ordained by the Catholic Church.
David Holly, a Roman Catholic priest, was sentenced to 275 years in jail as he confessed to sexual exploitation of eight boys. He used to rape children in the name of discipline.
Priest Rudolphkos (52) of Dallas in Texas admitted to having raped Nathan Nicholas (18), a boy assisting him in church rituals. It was revealed the priest used 10 boys for 11 years until 1992. Rudolphkos abused the boys for massage, masturbation and oral sex – some times after administering sedatives.
When the Rudophkos sex scam broke out for the first time in 1992, the church suspended him. But the church, which lost its case in the court, went in appeal. Bishop Charles Grahmann contended that the priest had taken the church too for a ride. It lost the appeal and $119.6 million. Since the money belonged to the public, there was none to question it.
Jay Lemberger (20), boy assisting in church rituals, committed suicide. The court directed the church to pay a compensation of $20.2 million to the boy’s parents.
The Catholic Church remains indifferent when children are thus exploited. Or occasionally it takes token action like transferring the guilty. Because of greater dictatorship in the Roman Catholic Church than in Protestant, Methodist, Lutheran and Baptist Churches, it would not allow sexual exploitation instances to come to light. Parents are gradually mustering courage to expose the guilty.
Instances in Europe:
There have been instances of Catholic priests in Europe indulging in sexual crimes against children.
In 1995, Austrian Cardinal Hans Hermann Cardinal (78) was found guilty of raping boys. When the victims and colleagues exposed him, the Catholic Church relieved him of duties. The Cardinal confessed to his crime. The New York Times published the news on April 15, 1998, shortly before Pope’s visit to Austria.
Priest Brinden Smith (70) of Ireland was sentenced to four years in jail for sexually abusing children for 36 years.
In the Irish Protestant-Catholic clashes, children were also fielded in the name of religion.
Researchers have published many books and articles on the abuse of children and underlined the need to keep children away from religion. (See the appendix for references).
Losing her child to religious atrocities, Rita Swan of the US got out of religion and started an organization to rescue children. (Child, Inc., Box 2604, Sioux City, IA 51106, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, Fax: 712 948 3500). Besides collecting details of children who died as a result of religious violence, she has also been successfully fighting battles for them in courts of law.
In Europe, Radda Barnen founded a child rights institution and published many books. The UN has recognized its commendable work. Address: (SE-107 88, Stockholm, e-mail: email@example.com, Phone: 468 698 9000
the civilized world has expressed its shock over Christian violence on children. There has also been a flood of criticism of the Church. Yet the church remains unruffled.
Bible & children:
Christians’ scripture, the Bible, preaches love, compassion, forgiveness and other values. Yet when it comes to children, it changes tune. Proverbs in the Bible talk about the need for corporeal punishment in the interest of the child. Refraining from beating is tantamount to hating, says one Proverb. Cane rescues the soul from hell, says another. (Proverbs 13:24, 23:13-4). Devout Christians who believe that the Bible contains the ultimate truth do not find anything wrong in punishing children. Teachers thrash children in the name of driving out Satan from them.
There is a constant conflict between science and the Bible, both of which children study. Where there is a conflict, children are advised to ignore science and blindly believe the scripture. Their curiosity is stifled as they are prevented from questioning. If the miracles in the Bible are narrated as fiction, nobody has any objection. Children can read, enjoy and forget the stories. No harm befalls them. The trouble arises only when they are advised to believe and practice what they are taught as facts.
Christians, who condemned Galileo for centuries, today confess they were wrong. The Pope has officially declared so. As per the Bible, the earth is flat and the center of the universe, and the Sun revolves round the earth. Science established that the Bible version was a cock and bull story.
Christians question Darwin’s theory of evolution and want the story of God’s creation to be taught, citing Bible as proof.
Christians forget that there are two theories of creation in the initial chapters of the Bible. Children should not question which of them is correct.
Children should believe that Eve was created out of Adam’s rib bone. Children notice the discrepancy between the origin of life learnt scientifically and the Bible’s strange concoction. Yet, they should remain silent.
they should not ask whether God lied when he warned Adam and Eve against eating the forbidden fruit because of its deadly effect. They should not inquire why Adam and Eve who ate the fruit at the instance of Satan did not die. In what language did Satan in snake form speak? Who created Satan and why? All such queries are quelled with the cane. Children have to believe the story that fearing the birth of Christ; King Herod ordered the killing of all children.
there is the story of a father complying with the wish of God for his son’s sacrifice. What is the moral of the story for children?
should children believe that Christ resurrected a dead Lazarus on the third day of his death to console his mother? Did Lazarus live subsequently? Did he die again? Why did Christ resurrect only Lazarus? Did Lazarus recount his experiences after death to anybody? The news should have spread like wild fire and thousands of people congregated to see a dead man coming to life. How is it that the Bible does not contain any more details about him? It is natural for children to raise such queries.
In fact there were four New Testaments written by John, Matthew, Luke and Mark. But only John’s testament records the miracle. Children naturally like to know why the other three did not write about it.
Mary was said to have given birth to Christ as a virgin. Jesus is said to be the Son of God, described as Holy Ghost. Although the story cannot be proved, children have to believe it unquestioningly.
Noah’s Ark was said to have saved animals, birds, and insects. A modern student will be assailed by umpteen doubts. Did carnivores and herbivores lead a peaceful co-existence? Did goats and tigers play together? If carnivores had eaten away deer, goat and sheep, which animals were left behind? Would not the boat have sprung a leak and sunk had a borer bird chipped away the wood? Could a panda of China, a kangaroo of Australia, iguana of South America, a polar bear, and shark of the ocean have all been collected? How did the Noah family withstand the stink of feces discharged by the animals? Children should not raise such embarrassing questions.
Bible talks of many unsavory things like father-daughter incest, prostitution, murders and other atrocities. Would not children feel repulsed if they were made to recite the Bible in the name of devotion?
Children should be clearly taught what is fact and what is fiction. Isac Asimov studied the Bible and recorded his scientific findings. At the instance of British King James, the Bible was modernized and published in an easy-to-read style.
Islam and children:
World over, Muslim children undergo abuse in the name of religion. U. S. Muslims take their girl children often on foreign trips. It is not for pleasure. It is to subject them for genital mutilation or circumcision (“sunna”), which they believe, is a good religious practice. American law does not permit circumcisions. UNICEF noticed that Muslims in 28 countries spread over Africa and Asia practice circumcision.
UNICEF calls it a wrong cultural practice instead of condemning it as an obscurantist religious perversion. Perhaps, it does not want to offend Muslims.
Muslims, for reasons not known, believe that girl’s clitoris shall be excised. They don’t cite any scientific reason for their belief. Nurses or quacks carry out the procedure with a razor blade or scissors, without administering anesthesia. Girls, who underwent such procedure, have died of septicemia, tetanus, hemorrhage, sepsis and AIDS. In some instances, circumcisions have resulted in difficult sex, problems during pregnancy, urinary tract infections and menstrual troubles.
UNICEF wants the antediluvian circumcision practice be done away with as it infringes children’s rights.
why do Muslims believe in circumcision? According to Muslim pundits themselves, the Koran does not prescribe it as mandatory. Yet, mullahs and clerics approve of it and regard the opponents as anti-religious. A fight is on in Egypt between fundamentalists and modernists on the issue. In Somalia, 98 per cent of Muslim girls are subjected to circumcision. Some Imams say that drawing blood with the prick of a needle can be a substitute for circumcision.
Muslim women organizations are opposed to the perpetuation of this practice. But they are too weak to end it. UNICEF, trying to end the malpractice through education, distributes first aid kits to girls undergoing circumcision!
Muslims the world over invariably make their children memorize the Koran. Children are sent to schools run by mullahs in mosques. They are taught how to recite the 6200 suras written in Arabic. The children may be illiterate, ignorant of Arabic and the meaning of what they are told to get by heart. Yet they blindly memorize, reposing faith in the Holy Scripture. Children are not expected to raise any queries.
there is not one Koran on which all Muslims agree. There are versions and versions with different interpretations. Muslims are also divided on how to pronounce vowels and consonants. All these confuse children.
what do the children learn from the Koran? They are told that women are inferior to men; contrary to the generally accepted line that women and men are equal. When there is a conflict between human rights and the Koran, mullahs say that Koran cannot be questioned. Boys brought up thus develop a superiority complex and start looking down upon girls.
Muslims practice child marriages, citing the Koran. Mohammed himself married six-year-old Ayesha. Ayesha joined Mohammed as spouse in her ninth year. This marriage is often cited to justify child marriages. A Muslim girl’s consent is not necessary for marriage. Unlike the civilized world, Islam does not consider sex with children a crime.
what is the impact of such practices on children? Muslims violently retaliate if Mohammed is criticized or condemned. So most people remain mute out of fear.
According to Muslim tradition, killing of soldiers captured in a campaign is not a crime. So is the sale of women and children as slaves. Islam approved and encouraged slavery, contrary to the civilized world’s view that slavery in all forms is reprehensible.
Mohammed married the wife of his adopted son. She had taken divorce earlier. Otherwise, Koran would not approve one’s marriage with daughter-in-law. A slave by name Jayad -- part of the dowry received by Mohammed on his marriage– later became his adopted son. His wife Janab was a beauty. When Mohammed liked her, the adopted son divorced her. With religious and legal hurdles out of the way thus, Mohammed married Janab and said he carried out Allah’s wishes. Mohammed knew that no one could stop him if he invoked Allah’s name.
Muslim boys, who think girls are inferior to them, want them to wear purdah.
although a number of Muslim societies and Governments have been repressing women, women in some places have revolted and rose to become Prime Ministers. It may take a long time for Muslim women to assert their rights.
neither parents nor teachers nor Mullahs dispel students’ natural doubts over the Koran. They unleash threats or thrashing to make the children comply.
what do the children learn? Cruel punishment visits those committing adultery and other crimes. Inflicting 100 whiplashes in public is one such punishment. The victims are badly crippled or they die. Pelting with stones to death is the punishment for adultery. The judge pronounces one guilty, based on the evidence of four witnesses, giving no opportunity to the accused to defend or produce witnesses. The hearing is one sided. Swearing by the Koran, the judge is unconcerned about human rights. The woman found guilty is buried up to the neck. Spectators follow the judge and the witnesses in stoning the accused to death.
Children have to keep quiet when the father beats up their mother, as the Koran confers such a right on husbands. He can thrash her if she refuses to go to bed even on grounds of ill health. But the wife can never reply in the same coin.
As per Muslim law, men can easily divorce their wives by uttering “talaq” thrice. In contrast, it is very difficult for women to divorce spouses.
Children, who read about Mohammed’s four marriages and some divorces, believe the Koran sanctions these.
Koran engenders fear and concern about life in hell. The children are taught that people like liars, infidels and drunkards go to hell. The fear continues to haunt them throughout their lives.
Children amidst minefields:
Some countries fighting wars in the name of religion (jihad) rope in children by giving them military training. Children who should be in schools are dragged to theaters of war.
The UN has called for measures to safeguard children in times of war and taken care of, if injured. Children are maimed or killed when they step on landmines laid as part of war in countries like Cambodia, Bosnia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Central America and Africa. Under the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, landmines killed children going to school or playing, or carrying out chores like collecting firewood or fetching water. It is estimated there are 15 million mines in Angola and 10 million in Iraq. Thirty percent of the accidents involve children.
Every year 10000 children are killed or disabled by landmines in the world. Many countries have agreed on the need for a ban on laying landmines in future. Deactivation of the existing mines is an expensive proposition.
There should be a ban on inciting children to join wars in the name of religion. While politicians invoke religion to serve their selfish ends, priests and mullahs back them quoting scriptures.
The UN has taken up the task of educating children about landmines and ways of escaping from them. The UN needs the cooperation of national governments in making the campaign a success. Religion and State should be separated. Children under no circumstances should be dragged into conflicts.
Research is uncovering the many ways in which Muslim children are abused in countries like Thailand, Myanmar, Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Afghanistan, India, and Sri Lanka and in Africa. Religions have remained mute when every year a million girls are roped into prostitution in Asian countries.
Only 44 countries have adopted legislation against domestic violence and 27 countries against sexual violence. Although children have been conferred rights by the UN in 1989, they are yet to be enforced. Even the US is yet to adopt the Children’s Charter.
Instances of Bangladeshi children being bought for serving the entertainment needs of people in Arab countries have come to light. Unable to feed them, parents sell children for monetary consideration. In one sport, children are strapped to racing camels. Spectators clap and whistle as the camels run while the cries of scared children fall on deaf ears. In the race, some children roll down to die or get crippled. Mullahs watch the plight of the orphan children but do not condemn the rich who abuse them for the dangerous sport.
Aged Muslim men from the Gulf countries marry young Indian Muslim girls after paying off their parents and take them home to use as slaves. Mullahs keep quiet turning blind to the fact and do not take task the khajis or priests who perform the marriage.
Child victims of such atrocities are growing in number every year. The civilized world should take note of them.
Human rights & Islam:
The first article of the human rights charter says that all human beings are equal, have equal discriminating faculties and should live in brotherhood.
The Koran says that men and women are not equal. In law, a woman’s evidence is equal to only 50 percent of a man’s evidence. Muslim women cannot marry non-Muslims.
The second article says that all enjoy equal right to freedom irrespective of race, color, language, religion, politics and gender.
But in Muslim countries human rights are not extended to non-Muslims. In Saudi Arabia, for instance, Hindus and Christians cannot construct temples and churches and hold public religious functions. But Muslims can build mosques in other countries, say prayers and observe their religious rituals in public.
According to the third article, all have a right to life, liberty and security.
In Muslim countries, atheists are not tolerated. Islam says that killing them is not wrong, maintaining that atheism is a greater crime than adultery, theft and murder.
According to the human rights charter, slavery and bonded labor are unacceptable.
But the Koran approves slavery and sex with women slaves.
According to human rights charter, inhuman and cruel punishments are not permitted.
Koran-based Muslim law, in contrast, prescribes whiplashes, pelting with stones, fracturing/amputation of hands and legs and burial up to the neck etc as punishments.
A Muslim cannot change his religion. One who gives up Islam can be sentenced to death. But conversion of others into Islam is permitted.
According to the human rights charter, every one should enjoy the freedom of thought and expression.
In Islamic countries, such freedom is not allowed. Even Muslim minorities like Shias, Ahmediyas, Bahais and Khurds go through untold hardship, not to talk of non-Muslims.
Although they are signatories, Muslim countries do not honor the human rights charter. Children learn about the rights only to keep their mouths shut.
Afghanistan came under Taliban rule in 1996 after liberation from 20 years of cruel Russian control. Reigning over most of the country, it converted the people into flocks. In the name of following Islam to the letter, it drove women and children into the pre-historic age. Women who did not cover themselves up in purdahs were beaten up. Girls were confined to homes with the closure of schools. Taliban cadres, who underwent training on Pakistan borders, took cudgels against modern civilization. They brought children under control by brandishing knives or guns and used them in wars. Human rights organizations raised a furore over the way women and children were treated in Afghanistan. Even some Muslim countries were shocked to know all that.
How should children react to criticism of the Koran, Mohammed and Islam?
An Iranian Muslim religious leader issued a “fatwa” to kill a novelist Salman Rushdie taking exception to his criticism of Prophet Mohammed in his book “Satanic Verses”. Millions of copies of the book were sold around the world as people wanted to know what he wrote. The book was translated into many languages. The British Government saved the writer from death. Freedom-loving writers criticized the religious order. In Bangladesh, “Lajja”, a novel written by Tasleem Nasreen, was banned. The Swedish Government gave asylum to Nasreen when she faced threat to her life. If there were mistakes in what she wrote, Islamic pundits could have criticized her. But unable to argue their case and blinded by belief, they displayed cruel intolerance.
In many countries, critics of Islam are killed or jailed or abused.
Children realize that Islamic mullahs resort to trials of strength and violence when they cannot rebut critics.
Islam had played a pivotal role in history. The credit for handing over Greek and Roman civilizations, arts, history and sciences to Europe goes to Muslims. But Islam never displayed religious tolerance. After successful military campaigns, Muslim invaders cruelly killed the captured and sold women and children as slaves. Children would never like to follow a religion, which approves of slavery, polygamy and cruel punishments. That is why Islam seeks to forcibly mould children. Shielding children from science, it drowns them in superstitions. Parents and elders show the way to children by practicing male superiority and repression of women.
Fear and anxiety are systematically etched in children’s minds. Fear is the bedrock of Koran’s morals.
While Allah is portrayed as kind and compassionate, children are taught about the killing of adversaries and experiences in hell if one goes against Islam. If God has pre-determined everything, children cannot comprehend why some are condemned to hell. Does God decide a priori on sending people to hell? How can such a God be a personification of compassion and love! wonder children.
The punishments mentioned in Koran run counter to modern civilization. According to Sura 5.38, the punishment for the first offence of theft is amputation of hands and for the second, amputation of legs. The offender is then jailed. Sura 5.33 lists beating, amputation, killing and deportation are among punishments for opponents of God and his messengers. Sura 4.15 says that women found guilty of adultery on the basis of four witnesses have to be kept under life-long house arrest. Sura 24.2-4 prescribes 100 whiplashes for prostitution.
One finds two sets of suras with contradictory views. In the earlier version there is religious tolerance. Faith and rituals are left to individuals with no element of compulsion. “Wish peace of mind to those who do not believe in your religion or God”, say some suras. Suras 10.9, 50.45, 2.256 and 2.62 exemplify these thoughts.
In contrast, suras like 2,4,5,8,9,22,47 exemplify religious intolerance, cruel punishments and killings. Suras 22.9 and 47.4 make it plain that the Koran does not show tolerance towards non-believers.
The Koran calls for waging a religious war called Jihad until the entire world is brought under Islam. Worshippers of other religions have to be eliminated. (Suras 9.5-6, 4.76, 8.12, 8.39-42, 2.256, 8.15, 16, 9.39 and 4.74).
Those who surrender in Muslim campaigns are called Thimmas or slaves who do not enjoy any rights. Taxes like “kharab” and “ jijia” are extracted from them. Islam does not agree that all are equal in the eyes of law.
These suras are sure sign of how indoctrination of children stunts their growth.
Koran and science:
Contradictions between the Koran and science confront a modern student all the way. Should a student follow the Koran reposing faith; or science, which is founded in research, proof, evidence and mathematics? The Koran cannot withstand scientific scrutiny. While the world revolves round science, the Muslim world cannot reconcile itself to it. That is why it keeps science aside.
If one follows the Koran, one has to extend unusual respect to the moon and believe in unscientific things. The moon is not self-evanescent. Man has set foot on the moon and brought rocks. The believers in Koran find it incredible. (See Sura 10.5).
Mullahs maintain that the Koran is a treasure trove of wisdom. They try in vain to discover in the Koran what all the science has unraveled.
The Koran maintains that Allah created the universe in six days. The Koran says that God’s throne was floating on water, Adam was created out of earth and the moon was created to measure time.
The believers assert that the Koran talked of cross-pollination long before scientists did. They try to defend that Adam’s creation out of earth is scientific.
According to the Koran, the earth came into existence prior to heaven (Sura 14.12). The Sun revolves round the earth. The Koran makes no sense to those who study the modern theory of evolution, and astronomy.
According to mullahs, science means only their religious traditions and customs. They dismiss modern science as anti-religious and alien. Because of such fundamentalism, Muslim students in general continue to remain very backward in sciences.
A devout Muslim student of the Koran is bound to wonder how a kindly Allah could be responsible for droughts and famines, earthquakes and tidal waves, floods and hailstorms.
The Koran’s theory of creation cannot withstand the scientific theory of evolution enunciated by Darwin and others. If a student believes in the creation of Adam and Eve, it is only because of fear from mullahs.
Koran’s heaven of sexual ecstasy:
Many suras in the Koran vividly describe how human beings enjoy sex in heaven. Should children memorize such verses? The consensus now is that children be kept away from sexual matters until they come of age. There are demands that children be denied access to pornography on the Internet. Does it become sacred simply because it is found in the Koran? (See Suras 78.31 –33, 55.54-58, 45.70-74, 46.10-22, 56.35-38, 52.19-20, 37-38-49, 44.51-55, 38.49-53, 2.25) The Koran, which treats women as second rate citizens, portrays them as enjoyable commodities in heaven. Such an attitude reflecting male superiority, arrogance, and selfishness is opposed to human rights.
The Koran is said to contain ultimate truths. Doubting or questioning them is criminal, say the mullahs. How can children believe in things which are opposed to human rights, equality, freedom, and scientific research?
Children should, therefore, be kept away from the Koran and given the freedom to pursue their own path once they grow up.
Shia Muslims in Iran, who came to power through the 1980 Iranian revolution, have imposed severe restrictions on women in the name of the Koran. Women have to wear the purdah and cannot ride cycles like men. The women who took part in the revolution are deeply disappointed. Some are fighting for their rights. withstanding hardships. Some women, who became Ministers after getting elected to Parliament, are trying to break the Islamic stranglehold to ensure equal rights for women.
To learn more about the efforts under way in the field, see publications of Sisterhood’s Global Institute, Bethesda, Maryland: “Safe & Secure: Eliminating Violence against Women and Girls in Muslim Societies” and Haleh Esfandiari’s “Reconstructed Lives – Women & Iran Islamic Revolution 1977”, The Johns Hopkins University Press. Wlumi Documentation details how women and children are subjected to abuse in the name of the Koran and Islam all over the world.
Muslims account for one-fourth of the world’s population and many countries are under Islamic rule. Muslim traditions, customs and religious scriptures have assumed importance as they clash with democracy, human rights and science. In the name of Jihad, some Muslims have degenerated into terrorists and indulged in killing people. Even children are fed on fanaticism.
Abuse in Hinduism:
Since the Vedic age, higher caste Brahmins and Kshatriyas sent their children to ashram schools for studies. Saints and sages living in cottages beside rivers or rivulets, on the outskirts of villages or forests, got pupito from the villages. The children spent years in these cottages doing domestic chores, and grazing the cattle of teachers while learning. (Lower caste children had no right to education).
Education meant recitation of mantras and withstanding memory tests. Teachers meted out punishment to them in the name of discipline. Children often pined for their parents as they could look them up only once or twice during their 10-year stay in the ashram. Literature is full of instances of the teacher and his wife sexually assaulting children. The “Chandogyaupanishad” and “Manusmrithi” warn teachers to beware of students likely to indulge in adultery with their wives. The teacher did not begin teaching Satyakama Jabali until she attained 12 years.
During the Upanishad times, bonded labor flourished unhindered in the name of education in ashram schools. Students were made to beg and fetch ingredients for rituals. Those who studied in ashram schools became priests. Whether they understood the meaning of the mantras or not, people called in priests for every function.
Ashram schools followed the caste order in the name of dharma. If a lower caste student like Ekalavya excelled higher caste children in archery, a teacher like Dronacharya sought his thumb to checkmate him.
Children were taught untouchability. Children of the village should not touch or interact with children of untouchable castes who were kept outside the village. God’s name was invoked to justify such caste discrimination. Caste feelings were promoted among those in the village.
Girls were looked down upon. They were not sent to ashram schools as they were meant for domestic work. Vedas were taboo for women.
Child marriages were the norm and justified in the name of god. Marriages were made in heaven, they argued. Some became widows in childhood but widow marriages were banned. Child widows were looked down upon.
Sati -- in which a wife joins her dead husband on the funeral pyre -- was practiced as dharma. Women were thus forcibly burnt.
Such atrocities were committed in the name of Hindu religion. Holy Scriptures was quoted to make the public believe that they were all God’s decisions. Indoctrination from childhood turned people into mental slaves.
The “Upanishads”, “Shatdarshanas”, “Bhagavatgita”, “Manusmrithi” and “Sankara Bhashaym” have all harmed children since the Vedic times. We are delving into the religious past because it strongly influences social customs and traditions even to this day, notwithstanding modern education.
In India, there are two streams of religious traditions. Brahmins and Kshatriyas follow the traditions of the “Vedas”, “Upanishads”, “Darsanas” and other religious works. Vysyas and Sudras try to imitate them. The lower tradition, represented by “Puranas” and “Itihasas”, is meant for the masses. All motley gods are attributed to the masses.
Sacrifice of human beings and animals continued as a religious tradition. Although they came to a halt when the Buddha stridently opposed them, they were revived later with a vengeance. By co-opting the Buddha, Hinduism camouflaged its traditions and survived.
Lower caste children, devoid of education, lived in slavery or bonded labor. Parents did not feel anything wrong in treating their children as property and living of their labor.
We have to recall history because of calls for revival of ashram schools and teaching of Hindu dharma to children.
Whatever was taught in ashram schools was unscientific and stifled children’s thinking, inquisitiveness and questioning.
All ancient astrology is contrary to astronomy. Yet astrology, palmistry and vastu are followed to this day. People are asked to continue to believe what they did once for want of proof. Among such is the belief in the 10 reincarnations of god. Although contrary to the theory of evolution, the 10 reincarnations continue to be worshipped.
Should children be taught scriptures that extend the caste order to animals, birds and even planets? According to the scriptures, Jupiter and Venus are Brahmins, Mars and Sun Kshatriyas, -- that sun is not a planet is not known to our astrology -- , Buddha, a Vysya and Saturn, a Sudra. Animal features are attributed to stars.
We cannot inflict greater cruelty on children than teaching them dharma sastras. How can children be taught caste divisions and superiority and inferiority among human beings in these days of respect for human rights and equality?
Into the new millennium:
In India, the deadweight of the past is crippling children. Parents leave a legacy of their blind beliefs, superstitions and evil practices to their children. These vary from State to State.
In Assam, the ashram school system is called “satram”. Superstitious parents regard handing over their children to “satrams” as a badge of honor. The children are virtually mortgaged. The “satrams” are abodes of the Vaishna Hindu cult. Each “satram” accommodates 500 children and there are 20 such “satrams”. The children are made to memorize Holy Scriptures and harassed in the name of discipline. By the time they leave the “satrams”, they are unfit to lead a normal life in the world. Their future is at stake.
In Sankara mutts, the heads are identified in their childhood and brought up in the ashram. Here the caste
system with its attendant untouchability is followed. The organizers fatten themselves on donations and properties collected from devotees.
In Rajasthan, children are subjected to hellish experiences because of child marriages and the “sati” system. The places of “sati” are treated as sacred and temples are constructed there.
In Andhra Pradesh, child marriages were the norm even at the beginning of the 20th century. Many girls became widows in their childhood and withered away wearing white saris and covering their tonsured heads. Child marriages were performed invoking religion, fatalistic theories about birth and prospects of a better life in heaven. While a priest recited mantras and made the bridegroom tie the sacred tali, elders feasted themselves and blessed the couple, thinking in the least of the bleak future that awaited the children. Gurazada Apparao’s (social reformer and a writer) heart-rending narration of young married girls ending their lives by plunging into wells drew tears. Poets mirrored religious evils. Social reformers like Kandukuri Veeresalingam fought against such unjust practices resulting in a ban on child marriages by the Sarada Act.
In the name of religion, girls were turned into prostitutes called “Matangi” and “Murali” in Maharashtra, “Basivi” in Karnataka, “Bhogini” and “Devadasi” in Andhra Pradesh, “Mahari” in Kerala, and “Neti” in Assam. Gifted by the parents’ to the temple in their childhood, these girls were supposed to dedicate their lives in the service of god. Breaking into song and dance on the occasion of festivals in temples and funeral processions of higher castes, they collected coins pelted at them by cheering crowds.
The village priest known as “Pothuraju” tied the sacred tali to the “Bhogini”, formally declaring the girl was married to god. He or the village landlord exploited her sexually first after she came of age. Later on, village officials and others with money power and influence enjoyed her. In course of time, the girls turned into prostitutes and acquired a caste of their own. No one would marry ‘Devadasis” or “Bhoginis” since they were god’s spouses. The girls did not enjoy any rights and their children had no social recognition. Their daughters became servants of god like them while their sons became orphans.
People belonging to all castes handed over girls to temples. A girl belonging to higher castes was called “Devadasi” according to the Vaishnava tradition and that of a lower, untouchable caste, “Bhogini”, according to the Saiva tradition.
Religion approved the system in the name of service to god. The higher castes exercised their clout in making girls from untouchable classes “Bhoginis”.
Religious heads have not attempted to reform the “Jhogini” system. In Andhra Pradesh, the Atheistic Center of Vijayawada launched a campaign against the system. Modern education is partly responsible for a decline of the system in Andhra Pradesh. These practices continue to be prevalent in many places resulting in village “Devadasis” migrating to towns as prostitutes.
Tonsuring of children:
In the name of fulfilling vows, small kids are taken to temples and tonsured. Some parents take their children to Tirupati - Tirumala, the abode of Lord Venkateswara, for the ceremony. The ignorant and helpless children bow their heads. As colleagues make fun of their tonsured heads, the children shrink in despair. Such practices survive because parents regard children as their property. The UN wants parents to honor children’s rights.
Recitation of “Venkateswara Suprabhatam” is a ritual in many homes. Devotees revel in the recitation, although they do not know the meaning of the verses in Sanskrit. When the author asked a Telugu gathering in New York whether it understood the meaning of “Suprabhatam”, many blinked. “Suprabhatam” contains sex and obscenities, which should be out of bounds for children. The pity is that parents themselves do not know the meaning.
Clad in black, devotees trek their way to a temple atop Sabarimalai hill in Kerala. They are thrilled when a light is sighted enveloping the hill on a particular day every year. Although it is now revealed god does not manifest the “sacred” light but is the result of tons of camphor burnt by the Kerala Electricity Board, devotees continue to throng the place. Parents make their children follow in their footsteps literally and figuratively. Parents are thus thrusting their customs, traditions and blind beliefs on children. If children really understood the origins of Ayyappa, they will develop revulsion.
Many Hindu scriptures contain matters that should not be taught to children. Take the “Bhagavat Gita”, for instance. It says that women and “sudras” come out of sinful vagina. Srikrishna glorifies violence and incites Arjuna to indulge in killing. The fatalistic theory of the “Gita” emasculates students. Everything in this birth is attributed to actions in the previous birth, implying that little can be done by anybody now. Should not such harmful material be deleted before it is taught? How can a holy book contain unholy matters?
Similarly, Manu’s “Dharma Sastra” talks about caste-based judgments and punishments. Can it be taught today? Vastu Sastra too talks about caste culture with reference to its unscientific postulations.
Jews continue to practice circumcision for children citing medical opinion in its favor. Innumerable instances of children undergoing hardships because of such a procedure have come to light. Many associations of Jews too have opposed it. Recently, the American Society of Pediatricians dubbed circumcision as unscientific.
Buddhist abuse:Buddhism is one of the biggest religions in the world. Although it was born in India, it flourished in China, Japan, Thailand, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Tibet, Malaysia, Indonesia, Korea, Vietnam, Laos and other countries. It has only a token presence in the country of its origin.
The founder of Buddhism highlighted human values, ethics and the quest for truth, without bothering about god. Hindus in India successfully killed Buddhism, by co-opting Buddha into their pantheon of gods as a reincarnation of Lord Vishnu. Buddha’s followers split to have their own schools of thought like “Hinayana”, “Mahayana” and “Vajrayana”. But all of them deified the Buddha. Statues, temples, ashrams and Lamas became part of the order. As in other religions, the followers fought among themselves and killed each other.
In Tibet, Lamas are chosen even when they are children like the Shankaracharyas in India are. The present Dalai Lama is the 14th in the series. The 13th Lama died in 1933. Lamas are regarded as a reincarnation of god. A Lama is said be aware of his previous birth. There are legends of miracles happening when a Lama is born.
Lama Dondan was a four-year-old boy of Tuxer, a small village in Tibet, living happily with his parents and playing with other children when he was picked up as the 14th Dalai Lama. He was brought to Lhasa and declared Dalai Lama on February 22, 1939. Segregated from other children, he was taught religion in the Potola Palace and declared a world Buddhist leader when he attained age 15. In 1950, the Dalai Lama was formally enthroned as a religious head. In his 19th year, the Dalai Lama visited China and sought recognition for his Buddhist leadership. The Communist leaders of China, however, turned down his plea. When the Chinese occupied Tibet in 1959, the Dalai Lama fled the mountainous country for his life and sought asylum in India. The Government of India granted him asylum and helped him set up his base at Dharmashala. Since then, he has been touring the world preaching freedom and human rights. The Dalai Lama, who was conferred the Nobel Prize in 1989, continues to preach superstitions. He is yet to realize that he has no supernatural powers and his claims of previous births are mere lies.
The 15th Lama has already been chosen when he was six years old. Ling Ringpoche, the Lama, is now undergoing religious training at Dharmashala. The Lamas are kept in “religious prisons” away from society and scientific education.
In the Buddhist country of Bhutan nestling in the Himalayan hills, rulers insulated people from the outside world by denying them the means of communication. That television could not make its advent in Bhutan till 1999 was a telling commentary on the cruelty of religion. Even in Tibet, the Buddhist Lamas were guilty of despotism for a long period. Even as they talked of dharma, ethics and compassion, they controlled the population tightly.
Children & religion:
Children should be brought up without allowing religion to influence them. If they are steeped in religion attributed to them as a hereditary feature, they cannot get out of it.Religion rests on belief and trust.
Only those who got out of religion have contributed to progress and development in all ages. The urge to learn new things, study, research and living in tune with nature are all above religion.
Religion treats everything as god’s creation and asks its followers to believe in it. It implies that there is little that man can discover or invent and progress. New things have, however, come to light because of the in-born quest to learn new things and the urge to question. Those who peeped out of religion could become leaders of society.
It takes 20 years for the brain of a child to mature to its full capacity. Adherence to religion, however, thwarts brain development. Parents, priests and other social leaders teach children blind beliefs and inculcate in them fear and devotion, all of which kill their inquisitiveness. The brain that should blossom as years roll by is blunted. Religion has no regrets because a thinking soul is a threat to religion.
We should take care of children, listen to them, answer their queries and encourage their inquisitiveness. Children should not be bossed over or beaten or threatened. They should not be prevented from asking however inconvenient the questions are. It is a crime to warn children that they will lose sight or fall ill if they do not worship god or raise unpalatable questions.
Sex, politics and religion, coming under the purview of elders, should not be imposed on children. Children should have the freedom to choose any religion once they attain 18 years and mature enough to know what they are doing.
Religion should be taught on scientific lines in schools. Then children will have an opportunity to question and get their doubts clarified and evince interest in the subject.
Children should not inherit religion. If parents belong to one political party, their children should not be taken for granted that they belong to that party. A similar logic should be applied even in resects of religion.
Children should be insulated from religious hatred and intolerance. They should not be threatened in the name of god, devil, demons and apparitions and other invisible entities of power. They need ethics devoid of fear. They should be taught that societies progress when their members are upright in conduct and cooperate with each other. They should be educated on the role of science in development. Superstitions should not be taught under any circumstances.
Parents should be educated about UN’s Charter for Children. Honoring children’s rights does not mean separating children from parents. Parents should be told of injustices unwittingly meted out to children so that they mend their ways.
Children, irrespective of their place of birth, color or race, are curious and inquisitive. They have no inhibitions or fear. They want to question and learn about everything. But unable to answer them, parents snub them and instill fear and blind devotion in them. Threats and fear kill their curiosity. For instance, parents never answer the children’s question as to how birth takes place. The Children get confused as they hear many conflicting answers.
Teaching children that the god who created human beings fulfils desires or forgives sins and crimes if he is worshipped or propitiated is a crime. Such teachings sap children’s initiative to excel in life.
All religions are opposed to human values. The very assertion that we live for god is contrary to human values. Children should be rescued from religion and restored to humanity.
The road map for the new millennium:
Children should be educated on the need for morals, upright conduct and mutual cooperation and instructed that violence is bad. Understanding and questioning are natural human urges. They should be told that god and demon, devils and apparitions, heaven and hell are all man’s creations, and that the “Vedas”, “Upanishads”, “Bhagavad-Gita”, Bible, Koran, Zend-Avesta are all human works. We should ensure that children take the contents as mere stories. They should be told that life is supreme and it should be respected and the idea of life being miserable or bad is meaningless.
Parents should realize that religion should not be ascribed to children as a hereditary trait. Children should be kept away from religion, just as they are from prostitution, politics, obscenity and marriage. Taking children to temples, tonsuring their heads to fulfill vows, encouraging blind worship and terrorizing them in the name of god are all unwarranted.
One hundred ninety-one countries have signed the Children’s Charter and their parliaments have begun to adopt legislation to implement the charter. Parents have to appreciate and accept that children have some inherent rights. In schools, children should be educated about their rights. Radio, television and newspapers should carry on a publicity campaign on children’s rights.
The priestly class will attempt to oppose children’s rights. If priests lose grip over the religion, they lose their livelihood. Society should take cognizance of such a threat and move forward.
The Children’s Charter is yet to be adopted by a developed country like the U. S. because of opposition from religion. Even parents hesitate to support it fearing the loosening of their grip over children. Recognition of children’s rights is in the interest of their future. Children, who move about freely without fear, learn everything and behave morally and in cooperation with others will contribute to society’s development.
Parents should realize that they would not make their children devoted or disciplined by making them recite “Venkateswara Suprabhatam”. The “Suprabhatam” is a verse recited to wake up Lord Venkateswara, sleeping fatigued after the previous night’s love play with his consort Lakshmi. So long as children recite it in Sanskrit without understanding its meaning there is no trouble. But were they to understand its meaning? Then parents would not force them. Similarly, in the devotional songs of Tyagaraja and Kshetrayya, and in Pothana’s “Bhagavatha”, there are repulsive references to sex.
Parents should realize that they are not inculcating discipline but only fear by promoting god’s worship. They are stifling their innate curiosity.
Parents might have been brought up that way. But they should not impose their religious customs, habits, superstitions and devotion on their children and leave them as a legacy. They should break with the unhealthy past at least in the new millennium.