Let’s have an Age of Consent for Religion
WE like comedian Mark Thomas and hisÂ no-nonsense, sabre-toothed approach to religion.
And we were particularly amused by the suggestion on his Radio 4 The Manifesto programme last night that an Age of Consent law should be slapped on religion.
This is what audience member Laura proposed, to enthusiastic applause:
There should be a minimum age of consent before anyone joins a religion, because the vast majority of religions’ members were put through ceremonies by their parents when they were far too young to know what was going on. And while many of them renounce their faith when they are older, indoctrinating children allows religions to claim more members and more influence than is actually justified.
Asked on the programme for his thoughts, comedian Robin Ince – “a torch-bearer for atheism” – went further, by suggesting that bits of the Bible should should be restricted to readers over a certain age. Revelation, for example, should carry an 18R certificate
You can hear the entire clip here.
This is not the first time I have heard it suggested that religion should keep its clammy mitts off children. In a much more serious piece, award-winning bloggerÂ Robert Sharp said in 2007:
Many countries around the world, including the UK, have an Age of Consent law. By stipulating the age at which one can legally be said to have given consent to sexual relations, it effectively says that children under that age are not capable of making such an important decision for themselves. However, I do not believe such laws exist for the adoption of a religion. This is in many ways odd. Choosing a faith (or none) is arguably a more important decision for a person, than whether to have sex or not. Most religious people cite their faith as the most important thing about them. They would surely be the first to agree that it outweighs the very human choice over whether to indulge in intercourse or not on any given evening.
Its a conundrum for the religionists, who are happy to use the language of choice, responsibility and rights when it comes to promoting their faith, yet deny similar choices can exist for sex and sexuality. I say that if a 14-year-old is old enough to make a decision about their God, then they are also ready to make a decision about sex! Alternatively, if a 14-year-old cannot make a responsible decision about sex, then they cannot possibly make a responsible decision about God. Note how children like Lydia Playfoot are only deemed capable of making a responsible choice when they choose chastity. In that case, is it any kind of choice at all? Should it be respected in human rights law?
My suggestion is to broaden the definition of the â€˜Age of Consent’ to include a consent to religion too. By this rationale, children could still, of course, wear religious symbols in schoolâ€¦ but below the age of consent, they would not be deemed, in a legal context, to have chosen to wear those things for themselves.
Rather, they have been dressed by their parents. If religionists wish to assimilate young members into their Church, and use their â€˜choices’ as the basis of a campaignâ€¦ then they have to allow those young members the choice to have sex too. Alternatively, if they cannot stomach such a permissive idea, then the religious choices of school-children can no longer be the basis of a Rights campaign in the courts.
Either way, The â€˜Age of Consent’ will remain a law designed to protect youngsters from the predatory influence of adults.