What do you think of the religion of a child at the time of birth?
Every newborn child does not bring a particular religion with birth.
It is what the child’s family passes over faith and beliefs that the child is to follow for the rest of life.
They label those little human beings as Christians, Muslims, Jews, etc. without their knowledge and consent.
Let us consider how faiths and beliefs are passed down from one generation to another in different cultures.
Christian childbirth rituals
Water is poured over the baby’s head as the minister says: I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (in Orthodox Churches, the baby is briefly put under the water).
Water used in baptism is a symbol of washing away sin and the start of a new life.
Hindu childbirth rituals
Though Hindu Scriptures explain childbirth rituals, Hindu rituals and rites differ according to particular castes and regions.
Jatakarma is performed by a family member by writing the word “Om” onto the tongue of the neonate with honey or jaggery dipped in Ghee (clarified butter) hoping that the person’s good qualities are passed on to the infant.
They whisper the religious verses (Mantras) into the ears of the infant for long life and to counteract inauspicious influences.
Muslim Childbirth Rituals
To help tiny digestive systems to kick in parents chew a piece of date and rub the juice along the child’s gums.
Muslims believe that call to prayer (“God is great, there is no God but Allah. Muhammad is the messenger of Allah. Come to prayer.”) should be the first words a newborn baby hears.
The prayer is whispered into the right ear of the child by the child’s father.
The baby’s head is shaved within the first three years after birth. It is done to show that the child is a servant of Allah.
Baby boys are circumcised when they are seven days old or before puberty.
Jewish childbirth rituals
Any child born to a Jewish mother is considered a Jew.
The Brit Milah (circumcision ceremony) is an important initiation rite for young Jewish boys.
Jewish baby rites differ for male and female babies. A Jewish girl does not have to go through the same initiation ceremony as a baby boy.
Brit Milah is a ceremony and surgical operation in which they remove the foreskin from the penis of an 8-day-old baby boy.
The tradition stems from Genesis 17, in which God commands Abraham: “Every male among you shall be circumcised. You shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin, and that shall be the sign of the covenant between Me and you. At the age of eight days, every male among you throughout the generations shall be circumcised, even the home-born slave… An uncircumcised male… has broken My covenant.”
Sikh childbirth rituals
Sikhs believe that the birth of an individual is a special gift from God. The birth as a human is special as that allows an opportunity for the person to be close to God.
Within forty days, parents visit the local Gurdwara (Sikh temple) with the baby. The priest at Gurdwara opens the Guru Granth Sahib, the holy book of the Sikh faith, to a random page and reads a passage aloud.
The family chooses a name by using the first letter of the hymn on the opened page. The baby’s name is then announced to the gathering. A sweet dish made from flour, semolina, butter, and sugar is distributed among the congregation as a celebratory treat.
Buddhist childbirth rituals
There is no general birth ritual or obligation in Buddhists.
Within a month of birth, the parents put the child in front of the statue of the Buddha in a temple. They ask for the blessings of the Three Refuges – the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha.
In some cultures, the monks prepare a horoscope for the baby based on the date and time of birth. Based on that horoscope, they decide the first name of the baby.
Shinto (Japan) childbirth rituals
In Shinto tradition, parents and grandparents take the baby to their local place of worship, within 30 to 100 days after birth.
The ceremony is called a Miyamairi and is viewed as an opportunity to present the baby to the deities and ask for their protection on behalf of the child.
Zulu (South Africa) childbirth rituals
After birth babies are washed with water medicated with a special medicine called intelezi, in umsamo a sacred place in the house.
They are then ‘strengthened’ by the observance of rituals and the application of strengthening medicines.
According to the latest survey, transferring religious traditions from one generation to the next has considerably declined with the change in family structures.
That is because of rising rates of divorce, single-parent households, and the influence of cultural changes.
It has been noticed that those who had a close relationship with their fathers, 67 percent had carried their family’s religious tradition. And those who weren’t close to their fathers, 51 percent of them practiced the same faith they were raised in.
Over time, so many novel ideas and rituals have been introduced in the religions that we have lost track of their actual source.
The original message of these religions has become so tangled, that only weak resonance of the original message could be felt.
It is these variations that have contributed to the exploitation of religions.
Marriage is the only ritual that has survived weathering and is almost universal.
It is so much deep-rooted in each society that they accept it with no question, even if they oppose religions.
In an observation by Pew Research Center, fifty percent of Americans have changed religious affiliation at least once during their lifetime, and many of those do so more than once.
Their 2012 global study of 230 countries and territories shows that 16% of the world’s population is not affiliated with a religion, while 84% are.
According to an article by Annabelle Timsit, the role of religion is diminishing in some cultures, and more and more people are becoming secular.
By 2060 we expect 1.20 billion of irreligious people worldwide.
In the US, about a quarter of the population identifies as religiously unaffiliated today—up from 16% in 2007.
In the United Kingdom, in 2017, 53% of adults consider themselves not affiliated with any religion.
Secular people are likely to be less ethnocentric, less racist, less nationalistic, and less tribal on average than their religious counterparts.
Studies have shown that there is no moral difference between children raised as religious and those raised secular or non-believing.
Moral intuitions arise on their own in children, independent of religious understanding.
You can push your children to go to church on Sunday or pray five times a day. But if they don’t believe, going through the motions of religion won’t give them any of its pro-social and developmental advantages.
If parents try to push their child against their will to pray in a certain way or avoid certain food, that’s bound to create tensions, sometimes, irreconcilable ones.
A happy, productive, virtuous life does not require the belief in an invisible, supernatural power aware of our every thought and action.
No supernatural being will come to our rescue if we do not make the right choices.
We are the masters of our destinies and are responsible for our actions and their consequences.
Shouldn’t we expose our children to as many traditions as possible to make them choose the faith of their choice in place of passing over our faith and beliefs to them?