Response to Dawkins’ “Don’t Force Your Religious Opinions on Your Children”

Certainly we need to remember that no person should force anything on anybody else. But we should at least recognize Dawkins’ own perspective, a perspective which includes a negative view of religion.

And yet, I personally believe that Dawkins isn’t really arguing against religion as much as he thinks he is. What he is really arguing against is forms of human totalitarianism–whether on the large scale or the small scale. After all, no person should force anything onto anybody else.

But what his article doesn’t take into account is that any religion that is good and that is true actually doesn’t force its way onto anybody. I do admit here that there are many modern-day pharisees (for lack of a better term, though they are found in many religions) who have used the language of religion to negatively influence others–to force them, so to speak. I myself have witnessed firsthand many sad accounts. But that isn’t an argument against religion. It’s an argument against those people who try to force things on others by subtly manipulating language to get people to believe the same things they do. People who do evil in the name of good are the worst kinds of people. They are the ones which we must denounce.

But that doesn’t mean we can equivocate “forcing someone to do another’s will” with “teaching someone to do that which is good.” In other words, we must at least acknowledge that there are merits to teaching one another the basic principles that any good person believes, the same principles that any good religion teaches: principles like kindness towards others, respect and love for those who differ from you, selfless service towards one’s neighbor and in one’s community. Genuine honesty. Sincere gratitude. Don’t take things that aren’t yours. Don’t hurt others. Don’t shed innocent blood. Be kind. Be respectful. Values like these are the values of any good society, and they are values on which I believe all good people–no matter how we were raised or where we come from–can agree.