It is a form of child abuse to teach religious myths to young children who are also likely to suffer negatively by reading tales of witchcraft and wizardry like Harry Potter, argues Britain's leading atheist and popular science writer, Richard Dawkins.
Dawkins is planning to conduct research on both the themes as he believes that while fairy tales may impact on children's rationality, they should be cautioned against "unscientific" religious myths.
He is the Charles Simonyi Professor of the Public Understanding of Science at Oxford University. A well-known biologist who has contributed to the research on evolution, Dawkins is equally known for his atheistic and rationalist views on religion and science.
He plans to bring out a book for children next year on the impact of fairy tales on them. "The book I write next year will be a children's book on how to think about the world, science thinking contrasted with mythical thinking. I haven't read Harry Potter, I have read Pullman who is the other leading children's author that one might mention and I love his books. I don't know what to think about magic and fairy tales."
That fairy tales are "anti-scientific" he is sure of but wants to know if their effects on children are "pernicious".
The Telegraph has quoted him as saying: "I think looking back to my own childhood, the fact that so many of the stories I read allowed the possibility of frogs turning into princes, whether that has a sort of insidious affect on rationality, I'm not sure. Perhaps it's something for research."
Dawkins' book also proposes to demystify Judeo-Christian beliefs and teachings. He argues that teaching children religion and labelling them according to their faiths is a form of "abuse".
He articulated his thoughts on the issue at a recent conference of the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain, a group of Britons who have renounced their religion: "It is evil to describe a child as a Muslim child or a Christian child. I think labelling children is child abuse and I think there is a very heavy issue, for example, about teaching about hell and torturing their minds with hell."
Referring to his book, Dawkins says he will look into the mythical content of religious teachings, including Judeo-Christian, and how much of it can be scientifically substantiated. He wants to "appeal" to children to "think for themselves and look for evidence" while reading on religion.