That over the years, the fervour of faith has declined; that religious passion has ebbed; that religiosity has replaced true religion; that belief in God and religion has touched its nadir, are universally acknowledged facts. And the greatest contributory factor for this progressive erosion of faith is that succeeding generations have been cast into ancestral religious moulds in their infancy, without understanding or conviction.
Choice of religion should be a right
Since millennia, infants and innocent children have been inducted, through various rites and rituals, into the belief systems of their parents. Without understanding, children have become heirs to parental faiths. They become Hindus, Buddhists, Zoroastrians, Jews, Christians and Muslims, and also inherit their parental denominations, sects and castes.
Thus, is perpetuated traditional communal prejudices and dissensions, making religion a disruptive force, deepening and widening the chasm of communal division. Young adults of today are not unconcerned or uncaring members of society. Though appearing as members of different religious communities, they have no serious religious inclination.
On the contrary, they are driven away from religion by the ongoing furore over religion, bigotry and discrimination, heated and hostile debates in the media, attacks and counter attacks. No wonder that a recent survey at the Indian Institute of Technology revealed that 60 per cent of students did not believe in God. And these avowed atheists are the brightest of our next generation, and hope of the future of our nation.
This is the consequence of inherited beliefs thrust upon a mature, thinking generation that refuses to blindly follow any ideology or religion. Will our future society comprise of intellectual and technical giants who are spiritually wanting?
The Baha’i community aims to reverse the outdated practice of religious inheritance. Their children are not born Baha’is. They are nurtured in the love of God, taught the basics of religious history, familiarised with God’s progressive revelations through the ages, and instilled in their hearts is the love and respect for all manifestations Krishna, the Buddha, Zoroaster, Moses, Christ, Muhammad, and the latest of God’s manifestations, the Bab and Baha’u’llah.
They are taught prayers in languages they understand and encouraged by the living example of their parents. They thus acquire a fair knowledge of the history and teachings of all revelations and are enabled to make rational decisions.
At the age of 15, Baha’i youth choose the belief system they wish to practise. Thus, Baha’i children start on the highway of life armed with the positive attitude of the unity of religion and oneness of mankind.
Erased from their minds and hearts are every prejudice of caste, colour, religion, race, language and gender. They excel as successful graduates of God’s university, and in life merge with all people as worthy citizens and members of a world family of mankind, the promised Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam of our scriptures.
The denial of freedom of worship to children, assured to adults under terms of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, merits serious consideration by parents, educationists, and governments. And urgent steps need be initiated to remedy the situation. Rationalists and peace loving people across the world will welcome the manner of Baha’i religious training in bringing about a confluence of belief systems acceptance of all divine revelations.
But while many governments guarantee health, education and other rights to children, they continue to overlook the brazen enforcement of religious ideologies on them. Denial of civil rights anywhere is vociferously condemned by vigilant activists, but the deprivation of children’s rights is overlooked or is condoned. If children have the right to material education and choice of careers, why not the right to spiritual education and choice of religion?