It’s rare that I get to link to an article from the Telegraph that is positive.
By Tim Stanley (Telegraph)
A few days ago, Richard Dawkins wrote to the Times to complain that they had referred to “Muslim babies”. Because, in his view, a baby isn’t a fully developed human being so it can’t possibly be conscious of being a Muslim.
Richard Dawkins is just an Angry of Tunbridge Wells with a PhD. Let me define that. He is a prejudiced pedant who goes through newspapers looking for small things that irritate him greatly. On this subject he is – yet again – wrong. I’d prefer to ignore him but then my wonderful friend and colleague Tom Chivers decided to write a blog saying he might have a point. So, because Tom is my buddy and I want him to get good with God, I have to offer a brief note of correction.
A Muslim baby is a Muslim baby for two reasons. First, because that’s how Islam works. Dawkins might not believe in Islam but Muslims generally do, and they think that all humans are innately Muslim and that life is a process of submitting to that state of grace. This is common to most faiths, the hope that all humans belong to God whether they can truly comprehend Him or not. As a Catholic, I believe that Christ died for all of us – including children. Ergo, because the baby is a gift from God, because it has been baptised with water and because Jesus died for it – that baby is, in some way, a Christian. The baptism reminds us that salvation is a favour from God, not something we can 100 per cent determine ourselves, and it is vital to save us from sin. Of course, the child isn’t confirmed or confessing. But it’s one of us. Welcome to the family and seventy years of feeling guilty about stuff.
Second, a Muslim baby is a Muslim baby because that’s how culture works. When a baby is born it inherits more than genes. For instance, we call it British, which by Dawkins’ logic is a silly thing to do. After all, it cannot possibly drink tea, hate the French or laugh at Carry On films. Yet by dint of its parents being British and living in Britain, it is British. Because it will be raised so, it will only become more British as it gets older. Likewise, if your parents are Jewish and you are circumcised and raised in a Jewish household … you are Jewish – even if you cannot technically be aware of the fact. Does Dawkins imagine that children can somehow be protected from all identities until a certain age of reason: given no nationality or, for that matter, no surname?
Of course he doesn’t – he’s not that foolish. But he does get very excited about people being labelled by religion because – if you hadn’t already noticed – he has an irrational hatred of religion. As if being raised Anglican will turn you into a monster.
What kind of person attends a Christening, observes the toothy vicar, cake, jelly and drunken aunts and thinks, “This is pure brainwashing!” Richard, if you really are creeped out by infant baptisms then you don’t have to go to them. We’ll just bore you with hundreds of photos afterwards instead.