Children Should Make Up Own Mind About Faith, Evangelicals Say

The Evangelical Alliance in the United Kingdom says it agrees with the message of a new humanist advertising campaign proclaiming that children should make up their own mind about their beliefs.

The British Humanist Association has put up posters in London, Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast depicting children alongside different faith labels and the slogan "Please don't label me. Let me grow up and choose for myself."

The campaign has been timed to coincide with Universal Children's Day on Nov. 20 and follows on from the high profile atheist bus campaign launched by the BHA in January with the slogan "There's probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life."

Justin Thacker, head of theology at the Evangelical Alliance, said it was great to see humanists were now agreeing that children should make their own decisions about faith.

"Evangelicals do not believe that God has any grandchildren, only children," he said. "You are not a Christian simply because your parents are. Every child or adult has to make up their own minds about the reality of God."

The Bishop of Croydon, the Rt. Rev. Nick Baines, contested the idea that parents could bring up their children without influencing their beliefs but remained positive about the opportunities for conversation thrown up by the campaign.

"If the poster was asking us to bring up our children to be able to think intelligently about human meaning, experience, morality, etc., then I am all for it. But to suggest that you can bring children up with no philosophical input, no pointers, no assumptions about reality, no priorities, no account for the values, beliefs and experiences of their parents and others is just irrational," he wrote in his blog.

"Or, to repeat the obvious: to not tell a child that there is a God is not to leave that child philosophically neutral, but to positively indoctrinate the child into the assumption that there is no God. Why is that more rational or less bad?

"Anyway, I welcome this new poster campaign and hope it will get people talking in the same way as the bus poster. Whatever conclusions we come to."

Writing in the Guardian, the Church of England's chief education officer, the Rev. Jan Ainsworth, questioned the rationale behind the poster campaign.

She said the posters proposed a "misguided and patronizing argument" and were a waste of charitable donations.

"If parents wish their children to be brought up as Christians, or, for that matter, atheists, what right do others have to stop them?" she wrote.