Please dont label me

As I am sure most of you are aware (I am still catching up from my travels – lots of strange things have happened while I have been away), there is a new poster campaign:

Please dont label me

Please dont label me

The idea behind this comes from Dawkins, writing in The God Delusion (and a zillion places elsewhere):

There is no such thing as a Christian child: only a child of Christian parents. … Catholic child? Flinch. Protestant child? Squirm. Muslim child? Shudder. Everybody’s consciousness should be raised to this level.

This strikes me (obviously) as making complete sense. As the oft-quoted remarks go we wouldnt describe a three year old as a “marxist child” or any other combination of their parents interests, hobbies and beliefs. We find that normal, while ignoring the oddity of treating “Muslim Child” as normal.

Part of this may be to do with the fact parents who have faith in a particular belief system will begin indoctrinating their children at a very early age. So, for example, children from a devout Catholic family will have learned their prayers by the time they can talk. However, this is not the same as making the informed choice to adopt that belief system. It is telling that religious groups put so much effort into catching children when they are young (and more susceptible to crazy stories about invisible people living in the clouds), hoping to force their ideas to such an extent that a minority stray from the fold – notably, most converts from one cult religion to another turn out to hold extreme views as that is what is needed to break the shackles.

So, that said, it is obvious why the BHA (et al) want a campaign like this, and obvious why religious groups are opposed to it (as always). The idea that children are given a free choice is comical at the best of times – atheist parents will try to leave their children to make up their own minds, while religious groups (under state sponsorship in the UK*) will try to convert them; meanwhile religious parents will continue to indoctrinate. What this poster campaign does, however, is educate adults. It brings the double standards we practice in daily life into public view. Painful it maybe, but this is a good thing.

With that background out of the way, there is an interesting post on Ruth Gledhill’s blog, on TimesOnline:

The two children chosen to front Richard Dawkins’ latest assault on God could not look more free of the misery with which he associates religious baggage.
With the slogan “Please don’t label me. Let me grow up and choose for myself”, the two children, their hair flying and with broad grins, seem to be the perfect advertisement for the new atheism being promoted by Professor Dawkins and the British Humanist Association.
Except that they are about as far from atheism as it is possible to be. The Times can reveal that Charlotte, 8, and Ollie, 7, are from one of Britain’s most devout Christian families.
Their father, Brad Mason, is something of a celebrity within evangelical circles as the drummer for the popular Christian musician Noel Richards.

I am not sure, exactly, what the motivation behind this item was, but it seems to be massively missing the point while proving the whole reason behind the campaign. It is hard, to work out where to begin with this, it all just seems a bit misguided.

First off: The pictures are from a stock photo gallery. When they were chosen there was no “background check” (despite how much we get off on that sort of thing in the UK) carried out and nor should there be. Can you imagine if iStockPhoto (or the like) demanded to know the religious background of any of its models. Rightfully, newspapers like the times would be outraged.

Secondly: Some minor “celeb” (dont make me laugh) drummer for a (ahem) popular Christian musician does not make them “one of Britain’s most devout Christian families.” That is just meaningless words where Ruth has lowered herself to a tabloid standard while trying to mock the post campaign. Its comically pointless.

Thirdly: This underscores the need for the campaign. These children are aged 8 and 7. They are too young to vote, drink alcohol, drive, own a gun, smoke, etc. They are below the age of criminal responsibility so they cant, legally, be held accountable for their actions. They can not, in any way, have made the concious, informed decision to commit to a religion. They are not “Christian Children” but “Children of Christian Parents.” Ruth seems to massively miss this point, but it not her worst blunder here.

Lastly: Where does it say they are, or should be, atheist children? The idea is not that only atheist children are happy, it is not that all children are atheists (although they are born that way), it is that we should stop labelling them. There is nothing wrong with having “children of Christian parents” on the campaign poster. This is a campaign that, should, be equally supported by every religion. It gives a greater chance for Christians to “save” children from Muslim, Hindu or Jewish families – sadly for them the opposite is true.

All Ruth has done with her post is show how quickly we fall into the trap of labelling children based on what ever ideas their parents have. No mention is made of the children being interviewed, just their father who appears to be speaking on their behalf.

Obviously you can be too young to think for yourself, but not too young to believe…….

I have missed this level of irony during my travels.


It seems great minds think alike 🙂 and The Freethinker has taken the times to task over this madness.


* yes, I know you can ask for your child to be excluded from communal prayer and other religious based teachings, but Religious Education is still mandatory and, in reality, who would want their child to be singled out for the dreaded “special treatment” in front of their school mates. It must be torture. On the positive side, mandatory RE / prayer never managed to even come close to convincing me, or anyone I went to school with, that God exists….

9 thoughts on “Please dont label me

  1. I think it is hilarious that Almighty God has arranged for children of evangelical Christian parents to be “chosen” for this campaign. They are obviously very happy, and thus show how great a Christian upbringing is. Psalm 14:1 comes to mind. With every blessing to you from someone who is very grateful that she was sent to Sunday School as a child and even named a Christian. This put me in good stead when my life fell apart in 1994 and I was able to draw on the faith that was taught me as a child. At 41 years of age I actually did become a Christian and I now know that there definitely is a God.

  2. It totally misses the point! Even if they were the children of the world’s most devout Christian the point still stands. They’re not there to be poster-children for atheism (notice that “atheist child” is up there with the rest!) and the fact that they have massively religious families just underscores the point that we shouldn’t assume the children believe the same as their parents. How cretinous can you be!

  3. I like this ad campaign better than the “stop worrying” one. Parents seem to give their kids so much choice in every other area of life but can’t extend the choice to a belief or philosophy?

  4. Jacqui,

    I think it is hilarious that Almighty God has arranged for children of evangelical Christian parents to be “chosen” for this campaign.

    Well that is certainly one viewpoint, but not one I would share. It is good to see, though, that you feel your god would support what is essentially an atheist campaign.

    I agree with this, I think if your god does exist he would be more in favour of atheists than christians.

    They are obviously very happy, and thus show how great a Christian upbringing is.

    So if I show you a picture of sad christian children will that show how bad such an upbringing is? Likewise, if I show you pictures of very happy atheist children will that show how great an atheist upbringing is?

  5. Pingback: Dawkins is the Devil – lying for jeebus… » Why Dont You Blog?

  6. This is merely more atheist propaganda as Richard Dawkins wonders whether there is occasion for “society stepping in” and hopes that such efforts “might lead children to choose no religion at all.” Dawkins also supports the atheist summer camp “Camp Quest.” Furthermore, with this campaign they are attempting to piggy back on the United Nations.

    Phillip Pullman states the following about his “fictional” books for children, “I don’t think I’m writing fantasy. I think I’m writing realism. My books are psychologically real.” But what does he really write about? As he has admitted, “My books are about killing God” and “I’m trying to undermine the basis of Christian belief.”

    More evidence here:

    Yet again, atheists are collecting “amazing sums” during a time of worldwide recession not in order to help anyone in real material need but in order to attempt to demonstrate just how clever they consider themselves to be—while actually loudly, proudly and expensively demonstrating their ignorance and arrogance—need any more be said?

  7. Is “atheist propaganda” worse than religious propaganda? Or do you think any religious billboards / posters / adverts should be banned?

    Is the fact that Churches worldwide are still collecting “amazing sums” during a recession a good thing?

  8. So if I show you a picture of sad christian children will that show how bad such an upbringing is? Likewise, if I show you pictures of very happy atheist children will that show how great an atheist upbringing is?

    Quite – yes it will, but the conclusion it will only relate to the upbringing of the individual child or the faith group. So the grouping – the label – is irrelevant to their quality of life. If it’s irrelevant then Dawkins objection to it amounts to subjective dislike, which is where he came in in the first place.

    Intrigued, but not convinced.

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