Open letter to believers in freedom of religion

Dear Friend:

As the atheist that I am, I am a great defender of freedom of religion. This fact is oddly considered as a contradiction by some. In fact freedom of religion or belief is just one more face of freedom of thought, which I consider to be the most natural of the liberties associated to human beings.

Not only do I believe that the freedom to have any religion is something that cannot be helped, but I also believe it is good that it is that way. I mean, I consider it to be something good that people naturally believe what they believe, since belief itself cannot be chosen, I consider belief in anything a natural result of observation and reasoning, and I love the idea that belief is that, I think that idea is fundamental to build a better world.

In that sense I would like to draw attention from all people and organizations that support freethinking and freedom of religion, as much as those that support freedom from religion (one more face of freedom of thought) because I consider that freedom of religion is not respected.

After so many years of mankind engaging this fight we are still far away from having freedom of religion, because children all over the world are quickly initiated in some religion, in most cases the parents'. A real demonstration of respect for freedom of religion I have only observed in some cases, in families that have given the admirable example to wait until their children are older and have the capacity to decide for themselves, exercising their freedom of thought.

It is crucial to understand that we are not allowing people to exercise their freedom of thought when at an early age at which children need to believe blindly in many things their parents tell them, they are inculcated about a version of absolute truth that admits no questioning. This fact has caused that the road to emancipation from the initial belief be a hard path to follow for those of us who have chosen another religion or no religion at all, after having gone through childhood indoctrination. In many cases indoctrination is carried out with no bad intention of the parents, who perhaps not realizing are stepping on their children's freedom of religion.

I would like to call out to all organizations and persons of the world that back up freedom of religion, for each one of them to start a local campaign at their city or country to raise consciousness about freedom of religion of their children. I would love to see that a torch is lit in the name of freedom of thought and freedom of religion, and I believe that the actual religious organizations should join this initiative, since it is them who naturally should defend more vigorously this right.

I dream of seeing campaign lemmas that say: "If you really love your child, respect his/her freedom of religion. Let him/her choose his/her religion when he/she is older and capable to decide for himself". From my point of view freedom from religion is just one more form of freedom of religion, and I believe this could be a challenge that secular, atheist, agnostic, religious, etc. could face together.

The greatest gift a parent could give to his child is a free and healthy mind, that allows him/her to think with no prejudices and to be through the use of that mind truly themselves. I've had the personal experience to meet wonderful people, of exemplary moral behavior and admirable rectitude who have being raised without being initiated in any religion, in order to let them choose later hat they consider real.

Of course parents could still teach their children the values they consider appropriate, as they always do, or even they reasons they have to choose those values, just without having to impose a particular belief. I also believe that people of the world will value more religiosity if it is chosen freely.

In fact many legislations consider as held without discernment acts where minors of a certain age are protagonist. It could fit into this category, for example, to be baptized (were you happen to start belonging to an organization) when you are only just a child who might not even speak yet, so to say that he understands what he is getting into. These legislation establish such things so that one can exert his right to choose to be or not to be part of an organization for example. I believe we should suggest to churches the possibility of them establishing a policy of later religious initiation, in order to be also more respectful of the premises that guide such legislations as well.

To put it into few words, I am proposing a multiple and simultaneous launching of a campaigns in the name of freedom of religion, to avoid childhood indoctrination, which I see as the biggest enemy of this right. I look forward to seeing the greatest defenders of freedom of thought to join it. Besides, as Latin American surrounded by catholicism, I would make a special request to Joseph Ratzinger for him to consider supporting this cause.


A fervent defender of freedom of religion.

Carlos Antonio Galeano Ríos

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