[I was sitting last night with a friend of mine and we got to talk about the whole Christians vs Muslims situation in Lebanon. We were both well placed as I was raised in a Christian environment and him in a Muslim one.
Being both proud members of the Flying Spaghetti Church that preaches keep-your-religion-to-yourself-ism, peace and lots of noodles, we usually end up talking about George Carlin when Jesus and Mohammed were the start of the actual conversation. Yesterday night was different though in that we were actually talking seriously about the issue.
Growing up, I never had the chance to meet many Muslims despite living in the smallest country of continental Asia. The ideas and images that were propagated by my old and very Christian school, Saint Coeur Ain Najm, was not that Muslims did not exist or that Islam was an evil religion – that would be too straightforward – but rather that non-Christian points of views or beliefs were not really worthy of acknowledgment, that somehow we were the lucky ones to have been brought up in the true religion.
I am now 20 years old but I still remember vividly the “Catechese” – sort of Sunday School during the week – sessions that occurred between Chemistry and Biology for an hour or two. We were given some passage from the bible and were basically asked to find a meaning to it. This had nothing to do with whether a meaning was actually present but rather with how any story could eventually fit the narrow interpretation that our teacher had reserved for it. He couldn’t be blamed as he was nothing more than a spokesperson for a much larger and powerful institution. He didn’t really seem to have any opinion of his own anyway. That a soon-to-be atheist was sitting right in front of him couldn’t have entered his worse nightmares.
My friend went to a secular school so he didn’t experience the brainwashing I did and could easily see the flaw in the system long before I could. It didn’t really surprise us that religion played such an important role in Lebanon when it is introduced so early in a person’s life. How long can we pretend that religious-based education does not contribute to the dividing of this already shattered country? What differentiates the indoctrination of helpless children that depend on adults for guidance in an unknown world from the government censorship of opposite views that appalls any man and woman living outside the box? How is telling a child that he or she will suffer the eternal torture of hell by a cruel deity any different from child abuse?
We would probably find it odd if a 4 year old child claims to be part of the Keynesian school of macroeconomics simply because we are pretty sure that economics is too complicated for a 4-year old. Why aren’t we then appalled by a 4 year old wearing a cross? Is the subject of economics more complicated than the questions of life and death? of existence?
Do not get me wrong, I do not really care the religion to which one adheres to but we should draw the line between freedom of thought and belief and imposing one interpretation of the world on helpless and defenseless children. Indoctrination is child abuse and must be regarded as such. Any country that does not put the child’s inalienable rights to education – not brainwashing – as well as, of course, health and safety is bound to end up in the same situation we are in. A child has nothing to do with the bullshit we adults enjoy throwing at each other and must not be a victim of our flaws and weaknesses.
Needless to say, secular schools would not magically solve the problems of Lebanon but they would allow children to identify themselves with different points of views instead of having no choice at all. In a world where corruption is part of the atmosphere a child breathes, one cannot be surprised that corruption is what that child will exhale.
I cannot help myself by quoting Friedrich Nietzsche here to end my first blog post:
“The surest way to corrupt a youth is to instruct him to hold in higher esteem those who think alike than those who think differently.”]