February 7, 2010

When We Must Intervene

A Nepalese woman and her infant child
A Nepalese woman and her infant child. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
"Do we have a right to tell people they are wrong?" Fascinating question, isn't it?

This was the question recently posed by Richard Collins (End Hereditary Religion; link no longer active following Richard's passing in 2015) after he encountered it during a public parenting forum. I agreed with his affirmative response. In fact, I think I might take it an additional step and suggest that we may actually have an obligation to do this when it comes to religion, at least in some circumstances.

Richard begins by pointing out how interconnected we are today and addressing the implications this has for the subject of parenting.
Incompetent parents raise children who because of the maltreatment they endured are angry and become dangerous to everybody around them.
He notes that we all end up paying the costs for those in society who go wrong as a result of poor parenting practices and suggests that this is part of what gives us the right to speak out "especially against willful ignorance."

I tend to feel the same way when it comes to some aspects of religion. For example, teaching children to hate atheists and homosexuals because of assorted passages in their "holy" book causes real pain and conflict.
Trying to protect the feelings of such people, who will not listen to reason, commands far less importance that trying to prevent very real harm to thousands of children.
On some issues of vital importance, I believe we in the reality-based community may even incur an obligation to speak out. Take the prevention of HIV/AIDS as an example. If I were to run across someone providing erroneous instruction to children, I believe I might incur a duty to at least attempt to correct the misinformation. Increasingly, I feel this way about atheist-bashing too.

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