The traditional way to raise children is basically to indoctrinate them to your way of thinking and beat them until they do what you want. Force works, but it creates dysfunctional, beaten down individuals who will in turn beat down their own children. Of course, that is part of the purpose of it.
The “enlightened” way to raise children is a reaction to this traditional way. Sadly, it seems it is purely reactionary. For example, we see atheist parents who react to the indoctrination they went through by refusing to teach anything to their children, even sending them to Sunday school. When I told an atheist mother I thought she was wrong for having sent her child to Sunday school, she basically treated me as if I had called her a criminal. I find that attitude absolutely disgusting.
There is a huge difference between teaching the variety of existing views, and just letting anyone brainwash your child. The “enlightened” way seems to be mostly the latter. That is to say, they are afraid that by teaching their children the rational truth they will “prejudice” their children in some way or make them unfit for living in society (much like how it is said that raising children to be cooperative and social is maladaptive and that we should raise children to compete at all costs). Fear pushes people towards conservatism, and this fear is no different. Many parents rightly live in fear, and that pushes them towards religion.
The fear is not the problem, but the push towards religion is, because imposing religion on children is child abuse and is inherently a violent act, no matter what variant of religion is being imposed or how nice the doctrines are. Little children don’t have religion any more than they have a gender, a sexual orientation, a nationality or a philosophy, and it is pure evil to brainwash children into believing that they are a religion, a gender, a sexual orientation, a nationality or a philosophy. Children cannot defend themselves against their parents or assert their own constructed identity against the impositions of society.
To the “enlightened,” there are only two alternatives: teach children something, which is an imposition, or teach them nothing. The sad fact is that implicit in the latter is that other people will teach them the dominant views, and so the children raised in an “enlightened” manner will grow up being taught the dominant views, which are for the most part lies. An ideological vacuum, or treating thoughts and actions as existing in a vacuum, always favors the dominant views.
Now, students who are taught all religions, not just one, will often come to the realization that religion is inextricably linked with culture, not with some absolute truths. That’s one way to deal with the diversity of opinions out there. When all opinions are founded on the same kind of evidence, like all religions are, then present them all on the same footing. Our culture envelops us within a single religion’s perspective, and we are never or rarely reminded of the other perspectives. But when some opinions are founded on observations and others are founded on dogma, it’s irresponsible to present all opinions on the same footing, as Creationism wish their dogma to be presented as equal to evolution.
A lot of misunderstanding occurs because people confuse these two cases. Obviously it is wrong to withdraw scientific information from children on the basis that there are unfounded opposite views; that Creationism should be taught in public schools on the same footing as evolution is a profoundly mistaken conclusion. But nothing forbids teaching Creationism in a mythology class, alongside all the other creation myths that exist or have existed, because there’s no clear way to favor one over any other.
“Equal time” is an irrational doctrine unless it’s rephrased as “equal time for equal evidence.” Otherwise, giving one dogmatic position and one rational position “equal time” means giving them the appearance of equal credibility, which is nothing but a little white lie.
So there are two fallacies in the treatment of children. One is to treat children like inferior, subhuman beings by controlling everything they see and hear. The other is to treat children like full-grown adults by assuming that they can experience things solely as experiences.
By the latter I mean assuming that a child can go to Sunday school and treat it as “just another experience” to be seen as being on par with future experiences. But that’s not how children work, they don’t have the capacity to detach themselves from their experiences as easily as an adult, unless they are exceptionally mature. Most of us, as children, believed all sorts of things which were intended by adults or older children to be viewed with detachment or with suspension of disbelief. Sending children to church, or Sunday school, or public school (not sure which one is worse), will affect them whether it’s intended or not.
The only humane alternative is to treat children not as cows with the mental capacity of cows, not as full-grown adults with the mental capacity of an adult, but as human beings with the mental capacity of children, nothing more or less.
Instead of forcing children to use their developing critical faculties to do the work for you, be responsible and do not expose them to things to which they should not be exposed, but do not try to control their lives. Use your rationality to figure reality out, it’s not too complicated. Stop running under the skirt of spooks because you’re scared of teaching your children wrongly. You decided to have children, so take responsibility for their education. Anyone who doesn’t do so, in my mind, has refused to do their duty and has done wrong to an innocent human being. I really don’t give a shit how offended it makes you, or how mean you think I am for saying that. By having children, you consciously put innumerable duties on yourself, so fulfill them.