Evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins on Sunday told a British literary festival that parents who forced their children to believe that religion was a fact were guilty of "child abuse."
Speaking about his family-friendly book The Magic of Reality at the Chipping Norton Literary Festival, the University of Oxford professor warned against the "indoctrination of children," according to The Daily Mail.
"What a child should never be taught is that you are a Catholic or Muslim child, therefore that is what you believe. That's child abuse."
The author of The God Delusion recommended that children be taught religion in the same way that they are taught literature.
"There is a value in teaching children about religion. You cannot really appreciate a lot of literature without knowing about religion. But we must not indoctrinate our children," he said.
In an interview with Al Jazeera late last year, Dawkins had said that being raised as a Catholic was similar to sexual abuse.
The professor told the story of a woman who had been sexually abused by a priest and told by a Protestant friend that she was going to Hell.
"She told me of those two abuses, she got over the physical abuse; it was yucky but she got over it," Dawkins recalled. "But the mental abuse of being told about Hell, she took years to get over."
"It seems to me that telling children that they really, really believe that people who sin are going to go to Hell and roast forever – that your skin grows again when it peels off with burning – it seems to me to be intuitively entirely reasonable that that is a worse form of child abuse, that will give more nightmares, that will give more genuine distress because they really believe."