Poll: Would you expose your children to religion as you were?
Yes, but only enough to make an informed decision when the time calls for it
No, I will not expose my child to this mindless nonsense that I was forced to accept
Not sure. Depends on the situation
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Childhood Indoctrination
#1
Exclamation 
In one of the hundreds of videos that I have watched regarding atheism, some of them were about a practice called "Childhood Indoctrination" into religion. I am sure most of us would have heard of this or experienced it first hand. I have not yet witnessed the worst part of it, first-hand.

However, that is about to change drastically. I don't want to talk about childhood indoctrination in general as many of us have already heard the discussions and arguments against it. I was born into a Tamil Brahmin community called Iyengars. They have a ritual called as a "thread ceremony" or "Upanayanam" in which they indoctrinate a child into the religion formally. While this happened to me at age 11, when I had made some vague opinions about some things in life, I cannot say the same to my nephew who is being put through this at the tender age of 6.

I have tried talking my brother out of doing such a thing at such a young age. But he says that he is doing it so soon just because our father wants him to. I should also add that my brother is mostly rational except when it comes to god. However, he respects my decision about atheism.

That being said, this function is still going to happen and I, the first uncle of the kid am supposed to be present there with a smiling face and "celebrate" the happy occasion.

Would anybody out here please give me some suggestions to deal with this situation in a rational way and also remain society-friendly?

I would also like to ask a question to all the users of Nirmukta.
[fon‌t=Trebuchet MS]The easiest answer to a difficult question is almost always not the right one.[/font]
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#2
Well to give you some background before I start with my reply- I am a Brahmin Iyer by name only;I've undergone the thread ceremony at around 15 I think, but at around 22 years I removed it off my own free will. Parents were infuriated, upset, crying etc etc, but I said firmly that I never abided by the Brahmin rules and as I listened to them and made them happy by putting on the thread, it's their turn to reciprocate.

Yours is a tricky situation: this sort of ceremony exposes your rationalism/atheism stance and at once jeopardizes your relationship with the more old fashioned god-fearing folk. My advice to you is to go ahead with the ceremony and do the duties as per the norm. Smile for the odd photo. As a society with deeply entrenched ceremonies, these things can't be avoided.
In perhaps a few years, your nephew himself will make the same decision I did.
"It's alright, I rarely meet anyone who's able to read it properly. Although personally, I never thought that it to be an odd of a name. Once I give people the pronunciation, they tend to remember my name by easily associating me with it. A unique face, a unique moniker."
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#3
(17-Apr-2012, 05:57 PM)nick87 Wrote: My advice to you is to go ahead with the ceremony and do the duties as per the norm. Smile for the odd photo. As a society with deeply entrenched ceremonies, these things can't be avoided.
In perhaps a few years, your nephew himself will make the same decision I did.

Well nick, that IS some good advice. I was just disappointed with the fact that the child is being put through all this when he is only barely able to understand addition and subtraction.

But then, the fact that I myself realized the truth even under those situations gives me some confidence that my nephew will too. Some day, if not right away.
[fon‌t=Trebuchet MS]The easiest answer to a difficult question is almost always not the right one.[/font]
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#4
May be you could talk to your nephew expressing him your objections. The goal is not to convince him to cancel the ceremony, but just let him know about the rationale for your objections. It might implant a seed of doubt which will eventually set him free.
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#5
As Nick and Kanad have said above, that such ceremonies will continue to occur seems fait accompli. However, we can hang around in the sidelights of these very ceremonies and begin conversations about what their role and relevance is in this day and age. In the possible venues and avenues of conversation listed in this article...

Quote:To begin with, we must at least talk the talk at every opportunity, at home, in travel and in the workplace, braving the raised eyebrows and bracing for the verbal brickbats. We do not yet have a bully pulpit to make our call from, but we can continue to speak up at the coffee-machine, in ticket-queues and in drawing rooms.

...we can perhaps also had marriage-halls and thread-ceremony halls!

Some of the issues we can raise with fellow attendees during these conversation are:

Drain on finances
Here is an excerpt from one of the many rants I keep subjecting my folks to.

Quote:Yesterday's chat about the upcoming ritual calendar was yet another reminder that it's high time TamBrahms outgrew the sacred-threading rigmarole. The whole affair is too inconsequential (resulting either in a farcically hasty Sandhyavandanam routine, or a wholly avoidable nagging guilt in young adults when this travesty of a routine isn't adhered to) to warrant the turmoil of living up to it or longing for it, not to mention the considerable monetary expenditure. We do not even need a back-of-the-envelope calculation to convince ourselves that a contemporary middle-income Brahmin household can safely purchase, say, a computer for the same expense as a typical Upanayanam ceremony. In 2010, lack of access to a computer is a serious disadvantage while a loop of tangled yarn around the shoulder is something a child can well do without. Perhaps it is time for those of who have dispensed with such tokenism to be more upfront and vocal about it, so that this wholly avoidable anachronism receives the criticism it deserves.

Demanding explanations
Keep asking "What's the big idea?" and watch folks squirm. This approach is outlined at length in this earlier post.

With enough such conversations, the mystique may begin to wear off these ceremonies, and even though the force of tradition will keep folks going through the motions, the diminished motivation due to eroded mystique may hinder these motions from going on as long as they would have.
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#6
AI makes a valid point. There is a lot of costs involved in any ceremony: mandapam booking charges,catering, cards for invitation, courier costs and the sastrigal charges (the religious dudes who do the chanting and pour stuff into the hearth).

There's a lot of a father's or other immediate relative's money going into this when they might as well open a Public provident fund at the post office and invest that amount for the child's future. When the child is eighteen or so, he will have a decent sum of money. Imagine if your father said this:
"Son, when you were six, I decided to do the thread ceremony instead of saving that money for you Sweatdrop. Give Dad a hug?"

"It's alright, I rarely meet anyone who's able to read it properly. Although personally, I never thought that it to be an odd of a name. Once I give people the pronunciation, they tend to remember my name by easily associating me with it. A unique face, a unique moniker."
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#7
I had to be dragged kicking and screaming for my upanayan ceremony. I have a problem with my speech and wasn't able to recite the sanskrit mantras and that made the experience even morre unpleasant. It was funny though being covered by a dhoti alongside my dad with him whispering into my ear the "secret" gayatri mantra. But I was pretty happy when my dad gave me a gold ring on the occasion.
I am unaware of the religious significance of the upanayan ceremony and would appreciate any information on the same.
On similar lines my dad spent close to a lakh on my engagement ceremony despite my vehement protests and my fiance's family has a budget of nearly five lakhs for the marriage itself with my fiance turning down my requests for a civil marriage.
On another instance a colleague of mine invited everyone to his housewarming ceremony to be held in his new house at 3 am in the morning, that being the auspicious time revealed by the pundit. Currently in Bangalore the priest/s charge INR 10,000 to conduct a housewarming function.
Such occasions, apart from their purely religious aspects, function as occasions where long lost relatives and community members have a reason to get together, have unlimited gossip, build networks amongst caste members, eat together etc,. It is these social aspects walking hand in hand with the religious ones as well as other with aspects of caste and cultural identity, that will ensure that these rituals continue into the foreseeable future. And one obviously cannot disregard the economics of such rituals either. Rituals are big big business in India with lots of livelihoods depending upon them.
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#8
The indoctrination of children is a rather difficult proposition to counter, since most children are raised and indoctrinated in a lot of theories and philosophies, religion being one amongst many others. For instance, a child of staunchly communist parents is most likely to become communist, as is the child of liberals to become a liberal... There, however, there is less "coercion" involved, and the child is acknowledgedly free to make the choice of subscribing to one or another ideology. With religion too, the person is technically free to reject religion in acts and thoughts, but whether the person is strong/brave enough to face the social consequences of doing so is the question.

Many people I know have rejected religion altogether despite being raised in communities advocating religious fundamntalism, but not all came out unscathed.

The question we must ask ourselves is whether we want to expose children to the idea that religious practices are sacrosanct; once this idea is understood, ANYTHING preached by religious persons/texts becomes an unquestionable truth. Which religion or what ideas are all secondary once the floodgates of justification on religious grounds are opened up. Think about the most heinous acts that are performed in the name of religion- from killing non-believers to restraining the freedom of believers- will you, as a parent, be fine with your child performing these acts? Forget about whether or not your own religion preaches it, conversion is always possible, all it takes is one charismatic person to influence one impressionable mind about the veracity of the religion preached. Once your child has understood that faith and religion are unquestionable, any act may be justifiable thereafter on religious grounds.
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#9
It seems my experience is quite different from many of the guys in this forum. I came from the community which is now called as neo-buddhist in Maharashtra. Since my grandparents had changed from Hinduism to Buddhism, the trend of reversal of "more hindu and less buddhist" was seen over generations. In this process, most of people in my generation don't believe in God. It never occurred to me in my childhood days that god is there and he(she/it) is important in my day-2-day life. Similar stories with many of my friend in my community. I guess this is because my parent never told us of this god thing.

Since I am married now, and we have to think as to what to tell our children when they will see others are following things which we are not. As there is no "vidhi" or "sanskar", "festival" etc in my life or community, I can't offer it to my children. I am worried that my children should not feel alienated from circle of friends.
Indians today are governed by two different ideologies. Their political ideal set in the preamble of the Constitution affirms a life of liberty, equality and fraternity. Their social ideal embodied in their religion denies them. - Ambedkar
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#10
(03-May-2012, 04:19 PM)nispat Wrote: It seems my experience is quite different from many of the guys in this forum. I came from the community which is now called as neo-buddhist in Maharashtra.... As there is no "vidhi" or "sanskar", "festival" etc in my life or community, I can't offer it to my children. I am worried that my children should not feel alienated from circle of friends.

Recently, a friend of mine had shared this article in Marathi by author Laxman Mane on the impact of Buddhism in eroding ritualism in the communities that embraced it. Here are some thoughts I presented on that, which seem somewhat relevant to this discussion as well.

Quote:There was a part about how the embrace of Buddhism led to less ritualism in weddings, funerals etc. Reducing ritualism, besides the philosophical aspects, is also sound practical advice, simply because it will also lead to less expenses! It is path that all sections of society can benefit from taking. One dilemma is that people (from all communities) prefer to assert newfound prosperity through grandeur and ostentation in weddings etc, which is of course their right, but not quite in line with the fundamental simplicity of the Buddha's teaching. To call for less ceremony and less ostentation without at the same time limiting people's self-expression via these, is a collective challenge for our society.

Nowadays, one excuse offered up by many Indians justifying ostentatious weddings is that these ceremonies form the 'intangible heritage of India' that needs to be preserved. Therefore, a vigorous critique of ritualism taking a leaf from the Buddhists' book (something which many in the rationalist community have reason to be apprehensive about) could do communities across the board a world of good. Speaking of expensive wedding ceremonies, here is an excerpt from a little piece I wrote up last year (which I may perhaps publish in full some day) about the dilemma between asserting prosperity by grandeur, and according to the principle of rejecting ritualism.

Quote:In custom's name why ruin your savings,
In a spectacle of your social flair?
For the sake of your attentional cravings,
Why should your wedding be a country fair?

Now that brings us to what stupidseeker said earlier...

(19-Apr-2012, 08:03 PM)stupidseeker Wrote: Such occasions, apart from their purely religious aspects, function as occasions where long lost relatives and community members have a reason to get together, have unlimited gossip, build networks amongst caste members, eat together etc,. It is these social aspects walking hand in hand with the religious ones as well as other with aspects of caste and cultural identity, that will ensure that these rituals continue into the foreseeable future. And one obviously cannot disregard the economics of such rituals either. Rituals are big big business in India with lots of livelihoods depending upon them.

Even if agree that such gatherings in ritualistic settings are here to stay, we can think of these very gatherings as an occasion to find an audience and start a conversation about ritualism and how it drains resources. For example, during a traditional threading ceremony, one of the rituals is the chooda karma, ritual tonsuring of the head. Nowadays, in many cases in South India, this ritual has been replaced by a convenient tokenistic variant of simply snipping off a lock of hair instead of shaving off the whole head. Whenever a relative or a orthodox friend does this ceremony for their children, I never pass up the opportunity of asking them, " If your commitment to tradition was not hurt too much by replacing a tonsure with a single scissor-snip, then why can't you replace your gallons and gallons of Shivaratri offerings with say, just a spoonful of milk?" Sometimes, linking what maybe a freethinking argument with native thrift may help us advance our cause. Arguments about costs of rituals can force a rethink in many. I remember how, during the hoopla about Ganesha idols drinking milk when I was curious schoolkid in around 1995, my mom refused to give me a drop more than a few spoonfuls of milk to try in my Ganesha milk-feeding 'experiment' then! Good old kitchen management commonsense can be an ally of rationalism.

Coming back to what our strategy of reversing and preventing childhood indoctrination should be, I think one key aspect of it as outlined in several instances above, is that we must begin reverse-indoctrinating the parents, in whatever setting we are able to start the conversation,






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#11
It's ironical but sometimes the way to sneak the seeds of rationalism is to use the religious stuff against them.
From a Hindu standpoint:
Why waste so much of milk as offerings? Will God not be pleased that a devotee offered him a spoonful of milk with great devotion instead of a million gallons with an unfaithful heart?
Why waste money traveling up a dangerous mountain and in your old age to worship an icicle that's supposed to be Shiva? According to the Narashima story, God is supposed to be in everything; he's in our Pooja room, so why not save ourselves the effort?
Why bother with Thread ceremonies and daily elaborate ritualistic chantings? Was there not a story where Vishnu favoured a farmer who uttered Vishnu's name twice daily and dissed Narada, even though Narada kept chanting Vishnu's name 24/7?

The adults in the society are the ones we should think about changing; once they change their influence on the younger generation will be less pronounced.

P.S. Vishnu should consider getting a restraining order against Narada; the guy is clearly stalking Vishnu. Lol
"It's alright, I rarely meet anyone who's able to read it properly. Although personally, I never thought that it to be an odd of a name. Once I give people the pronunciation, they tend to remember my name by easily associating me with it. A unique face, a unique moniker."
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#12
I'm too young to comment on My children, Yet I can say, I'll teach them only one religion, "Humanism" and nothing more than that
I still think Naruto is the best manga ever \o/

" Tell me not, in mournful numbers,
Life is but an empty dream ! —
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
And things are not what they seem.
"
~~~ A Psalm of Life
~ H.W. Longfellow
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