Outspoken atheist professor Richard Dawkins has argued that while the United Kingdom is "culturally" a Christian country, schools should not "indoctrinate" students by promoting Biblical teachings in their religious studies programs.
"Yes, culturally UK's a Christian country. But schools should teach comparative religion+atheism. NEVER indoctrinate," the 74-year-old God Delusion author wrote in a Twitter message posted on December 28.
Dawkins also linked to a Telegraph article, which states that Nicky Morgan, the Education Secretary, on Sunday sidestepped a controversial High Court ruling which found she "unlawfully excluded atheism from the school curriculum" by issuing new guidelines which state that religious education should "reflect the fact that the religious traditions in Great Britain are, in the main, Christian."
"This government is determined to protect schools' freedom to set their own religious studies curriculum, in line with the wishes of parents and the local community," Morgan was quoted as saying while issuing the guidelines. "The guidance I have issued today makes absolutely clear that the recent judicial review will have no impact on what is currently being taught in religious education. I am clear that both faith and non-faith schools are completely entitled to prioritize the teaching of religion and faith over non-religious worldviews if they wish."
This is not the first time Dawkins has promoted the notion that children must be "protected" from religious indoctrination. Speaking to the Irish Times in February, the evolutionary biologist stated, "There is a balancing act and you have to balance the rights of parents and the rights of children and I think the balance has swung too far towards parents...Children do need to be protected so that they can have a proper education and not be indoctrinated in whatever religion their parents happen to have been brought up in."
In a separate blog post published on Time.com a short time earlier, Dawkins argued that children are being "saddled with religious labels" in a way they never would be with certain political opinions.
Responding to a recent case in London concerning the banning of pork products for primary school dinners so that certain children would not be forced to eat food that violate their beliefs, Dawkins wrote, "How can the 'beliefs' of a 4-year-old child be 'important' to her if she doesn't even know what her beliefs are?"
He continued, "Religion is the one exception we all make to the rule: don't label children with the opinions of their parents...Unlike national labels, religious labels carry a baggage of personal opinion. Catholics believe Jesus was born of a virgin mother who never died but was 'assumed' bodily into heaven. Mormons believe Jesus visited America and that Native Americans migrated from Israel."
When parents force their religious opinions on their children, Dawkins argued, the children are prevented from properly thinking for themselves or escaping their "idiot child role."
He added that many of his Jewish friends, almost all atheists, enjoy celebrating traditional festivals, and he is not opposed to attending cathedral carol services and harvest festivals in country churches.
"Tradition is fine where it amounts to songs or literature, styles of dress or architecture. But tradition is a terrible basis for ethics, or beliefs about the origin of the universe or the evolution of life," he explained.
In turn, Creation Museum President Ken Ham argued that Dawkins simply wishes to impose his own "religion" of atheism on others: "Dawkins believes that children should be taught evolutionary naturalism as fact. He wants his religion of naturalism imposed on them. So children shouldn't be taught religion by their parents - they should be taught the religion of atheism by their teachers," Ham wrote in an op-ed posted on his AiG blog in March.
"All Dawkins is advocating is replacing one religion with another religion," he added, referring to Dawkins' arguments as inconsistent and dangerous.
"Does Dawkins mean that children should be taught the major problems with evolution? Does this mean that children should be shown the evidence that supports the Bible's history? Does this mean that children should learn the difference between historical and observational science? Dawkins definitely wouldn't think so," Ham wrote.
He added that the Selfish Gene author believes children "should be exclusively taught a religion of atheistic, evolutionary naturalism - and no other options."
[Such teaching is] indoctrination in a false religion," wrote Ham, adding that Dawkins desires to do the very thing he's warning parents against.
Ham encouraged Christian parents to impress the Gospel truth on their children's hearts and minds, as the secular world will continue to pull them in the opposite direction.
"I encourage you to be bold in teaching your children to stand on the authority of God's Word from the very beginning. Secularists are working hard at indoctrinating our children, and we need, more than ever, to equip our children with solid answers from God's Word and from science that confirms what the Bible teaches," he concluded.