Evolutionary biologist and atheist author Richard Dawkins has said that society and parents labeling young children by a religion, such as "Christian children" or "Muslim children," is just as wrong as labeling a child a "liberal" or "conservative."
"We wouldn't claim our young kids are liberals or Libertarian, so why are we saddling them with our religious labels?" Dawkins asked in an article for Time magazine on Thursday.
The author of The God Delusion was responding to a case in London concerning the banning of pork products for primary school dinners, so as not to allow children of different religious or ethnic background to consume food that might be against their beliefs.
Dawkins questioned the whole narrative that 4-year-olds are old enough to actually have religious beliefs.
"How can the 'beliefs' of a 4-year-old child be 'important' to her if she doesn't even know what her beliefs are?" the author asked.
"Would you ever speak of a 4-year-old's political beliefs? Hannah is a socialist 4-year-old, Mark a conservative. Who would ever dream of saying such a thing?"
He argued that labeling a child by a religion is different from labeling the child by its nationality, since the latter has legal implications.
"Your country issues your passport, you are allowed to vote in its elections, you may even be drafted to fight its wars. But if you know somebody's nationality that doesn't tell you their opinions about anything," he said.
"Unlike national labels, religious labels carry a baggage of personal opinion. Catholics believe Jesus was born of a virgin mother who never died but was 'assumed' bodily into heaven. Mormons believe Jesus visited America and that Native Americans migrated from Israel," he continued.
"It is high-handed and presumptuous to tie a metaphorical label around a tiny child's neck stating, in effect, 'this child believes Jesus rose from the dead,' as calmly as you might write 'Blood Group AB.' At very least it negates the ideal, held dear by all decent educationists, that children should be taught to think for themselves."
Dawkins insisted that it's a "defeatist assumption" that children automatically inherit the beliefs of their parents, and said that both religious and non-religious people should stop allowing children to be labeled by religion.
Dawkins has often blamed faith in God for many of the atrocities committed in the world today, such as the Pakistan school massacre in December where the Taliban killed 132 children and nine staff members.
When responding to the tragedy, Dawkins blamed both Islam and religion as a whole.
"Mental illness can drive a lone nutter to it. But an organized group needs an extreme motivation — faith, in something like a god or Nazism," Dawkins said.
"Very few faith-heads are as evil as Taliban or IS. Yet what else but faith is CAPABLE of making people do such evil?" he asked.