Religion cannot be thrust upon a child or a spouse?

Was glad to read,

Religion cannot be thrust upon a child: Bombay high court.

A minor girl’s father (behind bars for fatally stabbing her mother) and aunt were not granted the child’s custody.

They wanted the three year old to be raised as per their religion, with rituals performed and ideals of their religion taught to the child.

The court rejected the argument that a man’s religion must prevail upon his child, saying it was directly contrary to the freedom of religion under the Constitution and it would also be gender discriminatory.

And now glad to read that religion is not being thrust upon a spouse either.

Kareena has not converted to Islam: Sharmila Tagore

Has Kareena converted to Islam?
She hasn’t converted, but she is now the Begum of Pataudi. He is the Nawab, so Kareena is the Begum.

Wouldn’t it be good if religion became more a matter of choice and beliefs than birth and marriage?

Also, do you think the sentiments of atheists, rationalists, skeptics and agnostics deserve respect? Is ‘not being Religious’ a Right?

Comments moderation is enabled. 

Related Posts:

How do women benefit from religion?

Atheism: Taking Stock - The Wild Child

Yes, these Shaadis are legal! - The Times of India

Census will ask family members individually about their faith - The TOI

 

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42 thoughts on “Religion cannot be thrust upon a child or a spouse?

  1. Seems like good news, but like always, I’m wary of the practical application of this judicial pronouncement.

    Having read the first article, though, I’m confused about this sentence:
    “”It would be insulting to Christianity to see the father of the child, who is a Christian, being convicted of murder of his wife. ”

    What exactly does this mean? How would punishing a man for such as heinous crime be insulting to Christianity?

    Also, how was he able to apply for the daughter’s guardianship in the first place, if he is convicted? Would he not be in prison?

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      • (Grinning because I was first, and because you replied!) Makes sense, though its still absurd that a court needed to clarify that a man accused (and convicted?) of murdering his child’s mother would be an inappropriate choice to have custody of said child. I would have though criminal convictions (particularly related to acts affecting the child, as was the case here) would be an automatic bar to seeking custody.

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    • “It would be insulting to Christianity to see the father of the child, who is a Christian, being convicted of murder of his wife.
      What exactly does this mean? How would punishing a man for such as heinous crime be insulting to Christianity?”

      I don’t think the judge meant that punishing this man is insulting. No religion preaches violence. So, this person calling himself a Christian and committing the crime in the name of religion is insulting to Christianity.

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  2. ‘Wouldn’t it be good if religion became more a matter of choice and beliefs than birth and marriage?’ – Absolutely! It would make thing so much simpler if religion was a matter of choice rather than a result of birth and marriage. Half the issues that come up because of these societal expectations would die a natural death.

    ‘Also, do you think the sentiments of atheists, rationalists, skeptics and agnostics deserve respect? Is ‘not being Religious’ a Right?’ – Absolutely! After all these are all belief systems as well, aren’t they? So they should have an equal right to exist. It would be great when forms which ask for details of religion have an option for these as well.

    Some of our court judgements are just brilliant – just what we need, actually. Gives me so much hope when I read news.

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    • Freedom of religion implies anyone has the right to reject the teachings of the Quran. And the teachings of the Bible. It’s absurd to say that one has the right to reject all of these — but that one has to choose and accept one of them. Yet if you accept the right to reject all of them, you end up accepting and respecting atheism (or non-theism or whatever you want to call it)

      Atheism isn’t a belief, for the same reason that celibacy is not a sex-position. But what you may mean is the fact that atheists generally do hold moral and ethical beliefs — and *those* are indeed beliefs. But atheists don’t share all these beliefs. Just because two people both reject the idea of God, it does not follow that they agree on a moral or ethical question.

      Most atheists will in practice tend to agree that moral rules that forbid certain actions, because they displease some God or other, are invalid. Thus rules like “no pig meat” or “no cheese with meat” or “no sex before marriage”, or “women who menstruate are unclean” tend to be rejected by atheists. (I say tend to, because I’m sure exceptions exist)

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      • “It’s absurd to say that one has the right to reject all of these”

        I’m confused. Are you saying that one doesn’t have the right to reject all religions and must be forced to choose one? That people should be forced to believe in a god of some kind?

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  3. As an agnostic with no inclinations towards any kind of organized religion, I definitely think that everyone has a right NOT to be associated with any particular religion (just as everyone has the right to be associated with any particular religion). I find it funny when maids/dhobis/delivery people ask why aren’t there any signs of ‘gods’ in our place–it’s almost like they want to know what religion we’re associated with, like it’s an integral part of our identity or something.

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      • “I now like the idea of names that do not declare religion, race or gender.”

        – Do you think its bad if they do? Name as in Identity is bad?
        Because……whatever name you choose – whether we like it or not – people will associate us with something or the other.
        Sometimes it makes practical sense too.

        All that apart – “practicing” the religion of our choice would become easier in this country as we progress. But the law – the way it is in India right now, doesn’t treat people of different faiths equally. Civil laws are different for different religions.

        Today it is this case….some day we might have far more complicated cases.

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        • Maybe we do need the option of not declaring any religion, and acts like The Special Marriage Act?

          I think many would like to not have to announce the faith their parents/spouse/ancestors came from, and their gender, and in women’s case, their marital status too, the moment they announce their name?

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  4. Have never and will never understand the fanatic behaviour religion evokes… I have always felt religion has just been based out of insecurity and the penchant in humans to have crowds on their side… sigh..

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  5. I was born a Hindu, but my parents are not the religious types. For a while now, I’ve realised that I am what wikepedia defines an Agnostic theist . My husband, is an atheist, but we’ve decided that despite our shared distaste for most things religious , we’re not going to keep our son ignorant of the existence of such things, so that when he decides his views on religion, it should be an informed choice. In the meanwhile we are trying our best to raise him to become a good person.

    In my experience mentioning things like a dislike for all things related to religion, tends to bring on a range of reactions, from the pity head shake to the rabid generalisations about a person’s character and morals from most people.I don’t think that’s likely to change anytime soon, but yes, definitely I think having the freedom to NOT believe is essential. So, absolutely , not being religious should be a right, if it already isn’t !

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  6. Religion is a matter of belief (or non-belief) and cannot be coerced or forced. Certainly, I raised our children in our religion, but I was always aware that they had the right to choose their oiwn path through life when they reached to age to do so.
    To force anyone into any religion is a gross violation of the individual’s human rights and should be actionable.

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  7. Religion is as personal as undergarments I had read somewhere long back and had found it outrageous then as a teenager.
    But now as a parent especially I realize that when I give my child a choice in everything else then why not her religious beliefs,but sadly the husband’s side of the family as I do believe in most cases comfortably presume that the child must follow their religious practices and support their beliefs.One of the basic assumptions that patriarchy thrives on is that the progeny belongs to the father,that needs to change.a child is not a belonging.

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  8. Ideally children should be raised Religion free. They should not be asked to take part religious rituals till they are adults .
    May be at the age of 18 they can decide their religion or decide not to follow anything.
    But this will not happen because then most people will decide not to follow anything. Religions will never allow it. Their motto is catch them as young as possible, preferably from mother’s womb.
    It is child hood brain washing of raising our kids in our religion that perpetuates this irrationality.

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    • Love your comment Arun and completely agree. It’s amazing that people can kill or die for a religion that they never actually chose and were simply born into.

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  9. Thats such a heartening piece of judgment to read! Wish our judiciary would keep exercising its powers in a similar and progressive manner like this.

    “Wouldn’t it be good if religion became more a matter of choice and beliefs than birth and marriage?” completely agree.

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  10. Relevant to the discussion here, though on a tangent: one thing that stuck from the movie version of ‘The Life of Pi’ -

    *spoiler alert*

    is that Pi is not stopped by his parents or talked out of it when he experiments with the different religions he encounters. They do look at it in an amused way, and he IS regarded as an eccentric person, but he has his freedom of choice. Nor does one parent impinge upon the right of the other parent in speaking about what they have faith in. In fact, his father is a rationalist in the movie. Different from what is depicted in the book- where the family is perplexed over his experimentation, and there are angry words over it. There is much discussion with men of religion from the different faiths that is an interesting read.

    That said, we have subscribed so completely to the British policy of divide and rule, that it seems near impossible to undo the damage of separate personal laws for different faiths. Unfortunate.

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  11. Wouldn’t it be good if religion became more a matter of choice and beliefs than birth and marriage? – Absolutely

    Also, do you think the sentiments of atheists, rationalists, skeptics and agnostics deserve respect? – Yes, they do but does an average Indian respect an atheist and their beliefs? Even if they do not bash you outwardly, they will keep on hinting like pray to god, go to temple blah blah

    Is ‘not being Religious’ a Right? – It is but it is not considered a right among most ppl I know. Everybody has to belong somewhere.

    SPeaking of religion, there is a rising crowd of evanlagical protestant christians in south east Asia, and they are equally annoying. They are nice to you, only hoping you will convert to Jesus. More on that someday. They are equally bad and maybe worse and supremely annoying

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  12. “The court rejected the argument that a man’s religion must prevail upon his child”

    Brilliant. Common sense prevailed. It’s quite ironic to see how many people have an unquestioned or a ‘can kill and die’ level of belief in their religion, when the ONLY reason they belong to that religion is that they happened to be born to parents who did. It’s not a choice they ever made.. and yet, they are sure that their religion is correct and all others wrong.

    “And now glad to read that religion is not being thrust upon a spouse either.”

    Great. Nothing should be ‘thrust’ upon a spouse. Not the last name, not the religion, not the clothing/ food, nothing. Especially when the thrusting is only one way and not out of choice (as implied by ‘thrusting’). If you can’t respect each other as adults with different preferences, I can’t imagine how you could possibly have a healthy marriage.

    “Also, do you think the sentiments of atheists, rationalists, skeptics and agnostics deserve respect?”

    Yes. I am an atheist. I find it disturbing that there is a ‘blasphemy’ law in India, which means I can be arrested for simply saying that there is no god, which sort of contradicts the ‘freedom of speech’ thing that we have. Religious people share their views with me all the time. I don’t impose my beliefs on them. I can’t call the police and say that they have hurt my non-religious sentiments. So why should the reverse be allowed? If they are not arrested/disrespected for saying that there is a god, then why should I be arrested/disrespected for saying that there isn’t? Shouldn’t we all have the same right to believe what we want and not what others want us to?

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    • I find it disturbing that there is a ‘blasphemy’ law in India, which means I can be arrested for simply saying that there is no god, which sort of contradicts the ‘freedom of speech’ thing that we have

      Well, it doesn’t really work that way.

      A successful conviction for Blasphemy would involve having to prove to the court, beyond reasonable doubt, with ‘deliberate and malicious intent’, made statements or performed actions which were intended to insult the religious feelings of a particular section of Indians . Saying that you don’t believe in god won’t get you arrested, but trying to insult a religion, with specific malicious intent, might.

      The idea is not to punish you for speaking against religion, but to deter people who peddle hate speech in the guise of freedom of expression.

      Also, unlike the American version of Freedom of Expression in particular, FoE in India is not, and has never been, absolute. There is extensive hate speech protection in the Indian constitution (although it is not very commonly utilized in practice), and the government is constitutionally empowered to impose ‘reasonable restrictions’ on free speech in the interests of public order, decency and morality.

      I do think the blasphemy law should be modified so as to be more specifically directed against hate speech, and FoE protections in India could do with a bit of an update (the ‘decency’ and ‘morality’ part is too much like censorship for me).

      That said, the laws themselves have never been the real problem in India. The real problem has always been enforcement infrastructure – uneven, inadequate and often misused.

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      • Edit:

        “… A successful conviction for Blasphemy would involve having to prove to the court, beyond reasonable doubt, [that you], with ‘deliberate and malicious intent’, made statements … “

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      • “The real problem has always been enforcement infrastructure – uneven, inadequate and often misused.”

        Yes, this exactly. I suspected that I wouldn’t be convicted just for that but the police could still arrest me and abuse that clause.

        A man was recently accused of blasphemy in Mumbai because he proved that what appeared to be tears sprouting from a statues of Jesus was actually sewage water resulting from a plumbing leak.

        Now, I’m sure you’ll agree that his actions were not blasphemous really. It wasn’t hate speech either. He was simply disagreeing with the views of one group, with evidence that proved their ‘belief’ was incorrect this time.

        It never came to conviction because he got so many death threats that he had to seek refuge and got it from Finland. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/nov/23/india-blasphemy-jesus-tears

        I’m usually heartened by the SC’s responses but the Police and lower courts seem to have a very ‘flexible’ interpretation of our laws. Perhaps the laws should be better defined and tightened. Perhaps this is a reflection of the immature attitude of the majority towards actual religious tolerance (where maturity means allowing views that differ to yours).

        It hampers progressiveness greatly if even pointing out scientific flaws/ gaps in religious text or proving some ‘miracles’ as fake becomes risky.

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        • A quote from the link I mentioned, for those who don’t want to read the whole thing:

          “He has been living in Finland since the summer. He was in Europe on a lecture tour in July when his partner rang to say the police had arrived at his flat. “I felt really upset because under the blasphemy law you cannot get bail until the court case begins. I would be in jail now if I had been at my apartment in Delhi,” he said.”

          So the police can book you for blasphemy even if you didn’t do any blasphemy and you can’t even get bail until you get a hearing. That’s really scary to me and a slap in the face of rational thought.

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        • Carvaka,

          You have a valid point; one which has been raised a fair few times in judicial circles, but also one which, unfortunately, is not considered politically ‘important enough’ for anyone to do anything about.

          Arbitrary arrests are a huge problem; I personally knew a youngster (summer intern at my old firm) who got arrested under the ITPA (the act which provides against prostitution), of all things. His crime was attending a birthday party at a (female) friend’s place with his own girlfriend, and playing music loudly enough to annoy the neighbors. All of them got out of the situation relatively unscathed, but I can only imagine what it might have felt like to him and the women he was partying with. Being officially branded a prostitute can’t be very nice, perhaps only marginally better than being charged with an offense as serious and socially damaging as human trafficking. If this were North America, there would almost certainly have been big-money lawsuits over this; as it was, these guys thanked their lucky stars that they got out without much damage.

          But again, this is a systemic issue. The police and local administration here hold far too much power over peoples’ lives. Moreover, the concept of individual rights seem to be far better established in legal theory than law enforcement practice.

          Yes, things do indeed need to change.

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  13. There is an excellent post written by TWC on the subject here http://thechildgonewild.wordpress.com/2012/09/25/atheism-taking-stock/ (if you wish to link it).

    I’m glad that the govt has taken this stance. I was born into a hindu family, but am agnostic and I have visited mosques,churches, gurudwaras as well as hindu & buddhist temples.

    It’s all meant to be the same isn’t it? Prayer, faith in a divine being that no one has really met or seen. I don’t believe in following the rules put together by a random set of men thousands of years ago, rules that were put together to suit that time period and has no relevance now.
    So yeah, my periods don’t stop me from going to the temple and I don’t let any of the religious doctrines stop me from doing what I want.
    I keep traveling to different places and experiencing different cultures that underline to me the fact that religions were made a way of life to discipline us and to make us better people (“thou shalt not steal” .. well of course you shouldn’t!” Thou shalt also not pee on the streets please!), NOT to divide us from others based on our differences and make it a It’s-either-them-or-us kinda situation like it is now!

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  14. I never knew that in India, one had the choice of not choosing a religion. I found out about such an option, when a friend of mine whose mom is a Hindu and dad a Muslim, chose not to follow any religion. He has been to temples and Mosques, Churches and Gurudwaras. But, on official papers, he does not follow any religion. I think there is too much importance given to religion and an expectation that children will believe and follow what you have taught them. Parents are unable to accept their children saying that they are not interested in going to churches and temples. I very strongly believe that it is your RIGHT to be religious or NOT. No one can tell you to believe. One believes from within.

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  15. A good decision, certainly in line with previous assertions of freedom of religion in India.

    I’m not a religious person by any stretch of imagination, nor do I believe in deities or God(s), but if I was and I did, I would certainly have seen the futility of trying to coerce a person into following a religion. Religion is all about belief, and belief is not something you can impose – at least not on an adult. You can certainly brainwash your kid into it, if you are so inclined, but the ethics of doing that are debatable, to say the least.

    Being religious or not (or holding any kind of belief system, or lack thereof) is a right on a much more fundamental level than what you’d normally tend to think of when you say ‘right’. Unlike, say, your right to life, or property or freedom of expression, It is literally inalienable, by which I mean that it is absolutely impossible to take away by any means whatsoever. You always have the freedom to believe in whatever you damn well please.

    What we’re really talking about here is the freedom from persecution for openly admitting to your belief system (or, again, the lack of it). The government cannot take away or give you the right to believe. What they can do is give you the right to openly believe without being harassed, mistreated, possibly harmed for it.

    That’s what the Indian constitution guarantees, and that’s what the court must uphold.

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  16. As an atheist, I disagree that atheism or rationalism are belief systems (a point raised by a commenter). There is no systematics involved in being an atheist – just a lack of belief in dieties. No book, no ritual and no codes of conduct for a person to be an atheist. This is of couse, a bone of contention that I have to encounter with the more dogmatic atheists among my peers and acquaintances, who feel that an atheist, I have to believe in certain things that ‘atheists believe’ or act in certain ways that atheists do. One is my reluctance to recommend atheist or inter-religious couples to go for the Special Marriage Act.

    Also, as an atheist and a rationalist, I don’t expect or require people to ‘respect the sentiments’ of atheists or rationalists. I am willing to take all the disrespect they can throw at me, as long as they don’t try to shut me up or violate might rights in any way. Also, calling for respecting your sentiments when you are a rationalist is rather paradoxial.

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    • Just curious, why are you reluctant to recommend atheist or inter-religious couples to use the special marriage act? Does it have any disadvantages vis a vis the Hindu marriage act? And what other option is there anyway for inter-religious couples?

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  17. Anything which is forced looses its true meaning. Unless it comes from within, there is no point in following rituals of any religion. Off late religion is doing more harm than good. Just like spouses, a child at 18 should be free to decide.

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  18. Pingback: Inter Religious marriages. | The Life and Times of an Indian Homemaker

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