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“If the mother is pleased, and the father, God is pleased with the man.”- Swami Vivekananda, an infamous Hindu priest. Parents are given the status equivalent to god because of all they do for us. However, to please them, does it mean we must obey all their beliefs? What if there is a difference in opinions? Have you ever wondered how the religion of a child is determined when he/she is born? Religion. A simple word carrying an immense amount of power and meaning. Religion has been around for thousands of years providing guidance, belief and hope. Parents always make decisions that benefit us, however, is it ethically right for them to have the power to decide someone’s religion? Religion can be analysed through multiple perspectives such as different religious groups, local communities, or personal beliefs. Ethics, faith and ideologies are the foundation and justification for the actions and decisions humans make. Religion can provide these aspects and it can serve as a viable reasoning for an action. By forcing religion onto someone, are we restricting them from forming their individual ideas? Essentially, should parents enforce religion onto their children or allow them to choose from any? Mahatma Gandhi, unquestionably one of the greatest influencers of his time once said, “The essence of all religions is one. Only their approaches are different.” Whilst all religions strive to achieve acceptance and happiness, every religion has different beliefs and methods which are mandatory to follow. Parents across the world have individual religions and often, their religion requires them to enforce their religion onto their offspring without choice. Sometimes, this can cause individuals to be unable to express their thoughts and be true to their religious beliefs. For example, in a religion like Islamism, it is under the Islamic law that the child must adopt the father’s religion regardless of what religion the mother may belong to. So, essentially, the child is born into Islamism and doesn’t have the opportunity to choose a religion. Since it is stated by the Sharia Law, parents must enforce the religion and children are expected to follow it. If they are considered to not be content with Islamism, they are regarded as an apostate. Furthermore, even Christianism promotes the idea that a child’s religion must be determined by the parents. When a child is born into a Christian family, they are expected to be baptised, which symbolises the entrance to Christianism for the child. Whilst some religions clearly state that religion must be decided according to the parents, other religions such as Hinduism, don’t dictate any laws regarding the religion of a child, it is upto the parents to decide, in which case, it can become challenging as the parents are biased toward their religion because they’d believe it was right. This may lead to the child being pressured to adopt the parent’s religion despite their will. For example, in a case study in 2006, it showed how divorced parents were enforcing religious traditions on an 8 year old boy. The mother wanted to perform circumcision which was required by her religion, whereas, the father argued that is was an unnecessary, dangerous medical procedure which shouldn’t take place. This illustrates the child wasn’t given the opportunity to express his opinion. Have you ever wondered why the driving age in Singapore is 18? Why are there age restrictions on certain products? Brains develop through different stages in a lifetime and at a given period, there might be some skills yet to develop. So, when we ask a child to make a colossal decision like this, we may not receive a decision that has a good amount of understanding behind it. According to Centre On The Developing Child, Harvard University, it has been proven by scientists that a brain develops overtime, and it functions at different rates. So essentially, if we allow a child to make the decision to choose their religion, it’s like asking them to learn calculus in grade 2. Their brain hasn’t developed to an extent to understand complicated concepts and religion can be one of the largest factors impacting someone. So, this raises the question whether it is ethically right for a child to make such decisions, when he may not be at an appropriate age as proved by scientists. But does that mean it’s right if the parents enforce their religion? Generally, people like celebrating joyous festivals with others. It spreads love and affection. Every year, a community of Indians in my local condominium get together to celebrate Hindu festivals such as Diwali or Holi. These are the only times of the year where everybody is positive and grateful. ┬áIn my society, majority of the community are consisted of Hindus and Christians. However, the celebration is exclusive to Hindu festivals only. Hindu parents send their children to light firecrackers, or throw colour with other children, but rarely do hindus allow their children to join in on christian celebrations or vice versa. So, I do think, in Mandarin Gardens, my local community, enforcement of religion by parents can be seen evidently. On a larger scale, in Singapore, although freedom of religion exists, it has been shown that many parents are quite strict. If a child doesn’t listen, often, Asian parents can succumb to using violence. So, how would a child communicate his beliefs if he lives in fear? Often, it is possible to see if parents support enforcement of religion through the child’s school. Singapore has modern, advanced schools which are affordable for each “class of society.” However, depending on which school the parents choose to send their children to, it can determine if religion is forced onto the child. For instance, between schools like Saint Joseph’s Institution and Opera Estate primary school- which are approximately the same cost, however, OEPS doesn’t offer religious studies- why would a parent choose to send their child to a school which enforces religion rather than one which provides the same quality of education, with the exception of religion? This raises ethical questions and whether it’s morally right for a parent to enforce religion onto a child by putting him in an intense spiritual environment. My belief is simple. I believe that parents spend their lives building ours, and truly are the most precious gift we’re given. They make the most rational decisions which are beneficial to us, nonetheless, they too make mistakes. I don’t think there is anything wrong with being biased towards one’s religion, considering they have adapted to that particular religion and its values and beliefs. I grew up in a Hindu household, celebrated Hindu festivals, and connected with Hindu ideologies. My parents influenced me into Hinduism because they believed in the religion and its preaches, however, they never enforced religion onto me. Although I engaged in all Hinduism requirements, it was clear that participation was voluntary. My parents allowed me be introduced to other religions and examine each one’s pros and cons, however, being from Delhi, I automatically considered myself a Hindu, and my family didn’t discuss much regarding a sensitive topic like religion. In my perspective, I think having faith in one religion provides emotional and spiritual comfort for a child. It provides guidance and helps differentiate right and wrong. Furthermore, my parents encouraged me to learn about other religions. In fact, we’ve visited other sacred venues for some religions. My parents believe that it is important that we are respectful toward all religions, and learning about their ways is a useful experience. For instance, when we travelled to Agra, we visited the golden temple, a holy location for Sikhism. We performed some of the rituals, and learnt about the religion. In addition, when we were on vacation in Leh Ladakh, we went to a Buddhist shrine, where we met Monks, and had conversations regarding their lifestyle. This experience influenced us to be accepting of all religions, and essentially, we became a family with fusion of religious beliefs. We demonstrate this by performing a variety of rituals every year. For example, last year we did “Sukhmani phaat,” this year we engaged in “Satyanarayan,” and we plan to participate in other prayer ceremonies in the future. Although, this type of thinking isn’t always acceptable by some. Is it ethically right for parents to teach their children to believe in more than one religion? Shouldn’t they teach children to stay true to one religion? I agree that it isn’t fair to believe in a religion half-heartedly, however, if a parent wishes to inform the child about all religions, and allow them them to choose one which they connect the most with, I don’t think it matters how many religions you believe in, because at the end of the day, all religion preach one thing. Peace and love. When growing up, your parents will always be there to catch you when you fall, stand by you when you succeed, and guide you when you lose your way. It is expected for there to be a biased opinion, however, parents should only guide a child to make a knowledgeable decision, never enforce a decision or their religious beliefs onto them, especially on a sensitive topic like religion. If a parent wishes for their child to be grateful and satisfied with their life, they should allow them to make their own decisions at an age which is deemed appropriate. At the end of the day, a parent’s only goal is their child’s happiness. Should religion be an obstacle in that goal?


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