My son has just started school. I’m not religious (but not anti-religion), neither is my wife and our son is not baptised. But the local National School is just 200 metres away and it makes perfect sense for him to go there. In his class are all sorts of ethnic groups but already there are signs of Catholicism everywhere – even some of the molds for the Play-Doh are in the shapes of Crosses and the Star of Bethlehem.
Young children are very curious and the question “Where did I come from?” is a natural one for them to ask. This is soon followed by “Where did you come from?” and eventually deep thoughts about the nature of existence – and death – will occur to the child. This is a very normal process and to interrupt it with simplistic and even puerile answers to deep questions is a perversion of education. Education is about giving children knowledge, it’s about developing their ability to think and it’s about encouraging them to value learning. Giving dogmatic answers to fundamental questions – even when the child may not have actually asked the question – is a completely unwarranted intrusion into their development. It is a national scandal that the State’s education system is still being corrupted in this way.
By all means teach religion at some stage – even if it is just Catholic or whatever dogma – but do so when the child understands that religion provides an explanation for existence. Some children may well believe it and others may not – so be it.