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Ch. 16: Is Religion Child Abuse? 
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Post Ch. 16: Is Religion Child Abuse?
God is Not Great

Ch. 16: Is Religion Child Abuse?

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Mon Mar 02, 2009 5:44 pm
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Maybe we could at least agree that the term "child abuse" should not be used casually to refer merely to child-rearing practices we don't agree with or think are wrong. I think if we can agree, we'd get out of the way the matter of whether every parent sending kids off to Sunday school is abusing them: in most cases, of course they're not.

Most of the examples Hitchens gives in the chapter, on the other hand, rely on no exaggeration to qualify as child abuse. The few that might not reach that level are still disturbing.



Sun May 03, 2009 7:04 am
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Post religion and child abuse
DWILL wrote:

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Maybe we could at least agree that the term "child abuse" should not be used casually to refer merely to child-rearing practices we don't agree with or think are wrong. I think if we can agree, we'd get out of the way the matter of whether every parent sending kids off to Sunday school is abusing them: in most cases, of course they're not.



The doctrines in many religions if practiced and believed by children will continue to affect them as adults. The fear of God, the fear of not going to church, fear. Symptoms of child abuse oftentimes do not present themselves until adulthood.

I disagree with your above statement. I believe that rigid religious practices exposed to children and enforced in the home can have devastating affects. Examples include: hate, intolerance, elitism, also, low self esteem, alienation from family, and sometimes death. Below find a link that shows the effects of people immersed in religious beliefs.

www.msnbc.msn.com/id/26469519

Man is master over woman, beware if you do not follow. FEAR! Hate those who are different, shun those who live different. These principles are found in most religions practised today. The effects of these principles can be found in the KKK, and gay bashing, suicides and murder. Again, many symptoms of child abuse do not present themselves until adulthood. Rigid religious beliefs instructing children to hate and fear, in my opinion is child abuse.

Suzanne



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Sun May 03, 2009 3:28 pm
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Post Re: religion and child abuse
Suzanne wrote:
The doctrines in many religions if practiced and believed by children will continue to affect them as adults. The fear of God, the fear of not going to church, fear. Symptoms of child abuse oftentimes do not present themselves until adulthood.

I disagree with your above statement. I believe that rigid religious practices exposed to children and enforced in the home can have devastating affects. Examples include: hate, intolerance, elitism, also, low self esteem, alienation from family, and sometimes death. Below find a link that shows the effects of people immersed in religious beliefs.

www.msnbc.msn.com/id/26469519

Man is master over woman, beware if you do not follow. FEAR! Hate those who are different, shun those who live different. These principles are found in most religions practised today. The effects of these principles can be found in the KKK, and gay bashing, suicides and murder. Again, many symptoms of child abuse do not present themselves until adulthood. Rigid religious beliefs instructing children to hate and fear, in my opinion is child abuse.

Suzanne


I haven't read Hitchens' book yet but I'm familiar with Dawkins' argument which I assume is more or less the same. I do agree with DWILL that the term "child abuse" does not apply to the teaching of religious traditions. Parents will naturally rear their children in a manner consistent with their own beliefs. Yes, that may include teachings that foster intolerance, racism, and discrimination. But we cannot mandate what parents teach their children any more than we can mandate what people believe. We live in a free society. Only in extreme cases such as withholding necessary medical treatment should the government interfere in how a parents choose to raise their children.


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Last edited by geo on Sun May 03, 2009 7:45 pm, edited 1 time in total.



Sun May 03, 2009 7:38 pm
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Thanks for your views, Suzanne. I did not say that no parents are guilty of abuse, of course; those who actually subject their children to forced indoctrination to disturbed beliefs are committing abuse. But what we have out there today, at least in Protestant Sunday schools, is in my estimate and from some experience, largely mild stuff. My kids who went to Sunday school were never told that they would go to Hell if they did bad things. It was the kinder, gentler religion that they got.



Sun May 03, 2009 7:45 pm
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Post religion and child abuse
Hello DWILL:

I was raised Methodist, I went to Sunday school, and Bible camp in the summer. I suppose my words were harsh, but Catholic children do not go to Sunday school, they sit with the rest of the congregation, and boy, a lot of the words they hear are harsh. I didn't want to offend, so I did not separate different forms of Christrianity. I suppose in doing so I offended everyone.

I belive Hitchens when speaking of religions that are a form of child abuse he is reffering to those that have such strong beliefs, that if taken to heart by children and reinforced by parents can produce effects that are damaging. I feel teaching hate is intolerable, and this teaching can affect children as adults.

Suzanne



Mon May 04, 2009 6:03 am
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Post Re: religion and child abuse
Suzanne wrote:
Hello DWILL:

I was raised Methodist, I went to Sunday school, and Bible camp in the summer. I suppose my words were harsh, but Catholic children do not go to Sunday school, they sit with the rest of the congregation, and boy, a lot of the words they hear are harsh. I didn't want to offend, so I did not separate different forms of Christrianity. I suppose in doing so I offended everyone.

I belive Hitchens when speaking of religions that are a form of child abuse he is reffering to those that have such strong beliefs, that if taken to heart by children and reinforced by parents can produce effects that are damaging. I feel teaching hate is intolerable, and this teaching can affect children as adults. Suzanne

Suzanne,
I don't think anyone took offense. I wondered about Catholic children, too. My impression was that they all go through something called catechism, which as I imagine it qualifies as indoctrination. Maybe it is not so heavy on the fear part, but I wouldn't actually know. I did, in the line of duty, go to a number of Catholic Saturday services. These were pretty innocuous, informal, with a praise band of guitatrs and singing. A lot of kids would come to these, and if anything, they were only bored. I think it's clear that the forms of religion have evolved along with what can only be called secularization. Few adults want to be told about Satan, for example, so naturally they don't want their kids to be, either. As a result, Satan is almost absent from preaching or instruction in any church I know about. It wasn't so long ago when I assume to leave Satan out of the picture would have been thought of as telling only half the story. There are some exceptions to the "religion lite" norm, I'm sure.
Bill



Mon May 04, 2009 7:39 am
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Post Re: religion and child abuse
Suzanne wrote:
I was raised Methodist, I went to Sunday school, and Bible camp in the summer. I suppose my words were harsh, but Catholic children do not go to Sunday school, they sit with the rest of the congregation, and boy, a lot of the words they hear are harsh. I didn't want to offend, so I did not separate different forms of Christrianity. I suppose in doing so I offended everyone.

I belive Hitchens when speaking of religions that are a form of child abuse he is reffering to those that have such strong beliefs, that if taken to heart by children and reinforced by parents can produce effects that are damaging. I feel teaching hate is intolerable, and this teaching can affect children as adults.

Suzanne


I don't disagree that religious indoctrination causes much harm and can be especially damaging to children. In that sense, religion can be viewed in the same context of a cult, which uses the same kinds of brain-washing techniques. But the fact of the matter is that it's not religion itself which is damaging to young (and old) but the beliefs behind it. And like it or not, belief in spiritual entities is encoded into our genetic makeup. Humans gravitate towards supernatural beliefs, some religious and some not. A parent can cause untold psychological damage to a child with or without religion, which is why I feel it is not accurate to say religious indoctrination = child abuse. Religion itself is not the culprit. In fact, very many folks who are exposed to religion are perfectly normal and healthy. And I do acknowledge that Christianity in some respects has been a positive force through history, although as an atheist I hope that religion will fade and that people will gravitate away from supernatural and towards a naturalistic worldview. This will happen through attrition just as the idea of slavery is now morally repugnant. We as a society, of course, must continue to condemn extremity in all forms. But in my opinion saying religion is "child abuse" is not going to be very helpful to this ultimate goal.


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Mon May 04, 2009 9:14 am
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I agree with your reasoning above. Some religious practices certainly have been and are still child abuse, but we'd have to say the general statement religion=child abuse isn't accurate. I posted in another thread about the apparent consensus that participating in religion fosters good outcomes in children. I think this is something to be considered, too: that not only is religion not child abuse, but also that it has benefits for children. As I said in that thread, I have not evaluated the research. But I'm confident that the expert consensus exists and could find no research attempting to refute it. I'm sure we could speculate on reasons for the positive effect that are unrelated to religion, per se.



Mon May 04, 2009 10:53 am
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Post religion and child abuse
Geo wrote:

Quote:
And like it or not, belief in spiritual entities is encoded into our genetic makeup.


I would be very interested in understanding this concept, you say it with such confidence. Spiritual practises, religious practises are cultural, culture is taught through mores and values. Religion is certainly not encoded into our gentic makeup. If this were true, there would be no discussion on atheism, it would not exist.

I agree, parents of course have the final say about how children are raised. And of course we live in a free society that gives us the freedom to choose the direction our lives will take. Members of the KKK are free to choose their beliefs, skin heads are also free to choose to reek havic on the lives of people who are different from them. I can only guess that you do not believe in these attitudes.

I still stand by my original statement. Most religions, globally teach hate and intollerance, and oppression. I have used this example once, and I will use it again. Ham, the son of Noah is acredited with populating the African ethnicity. In the Bible the decendants of Ham will be considered inferior to those created by Noah's other two sons whose decedents populate the rest of the world. These passage in the Bible has been used
numerous times to prove oppresion. Homosexuals are also chastised due to passages in the Bible.
If children are raised to believe in the Bible, these two issues will be held as truth into adulthood.

When I was 18, a ran into a friend of mine on a public transit bus. I sat with him, and he started crying. He told me that his gay partner had beaten him up and kicked him out of the apartment they were sharing. His parents would not accept him back into their home because he was gay. He had nowhere to go. He planned on spending the entire day on the bus.

When I was engaged to be married, married into a devout catholic family, I choose my best friend to be my maid of honor who happened to be black. My mother in law to be told me that if I insisted upon this choice she would order the family not to attend the wedding. We eloped.

Two stories from an average American woman who has seen and felt how the rigid doctrines of religion can affect lives. And the big one, Roe V Wade, whether I believe in the rulling is not important, what is important is the weight politians place on this rulling. The abortion issue is the corner stone of many campaigns, gay marriage, again, huge issue for politians. Why? Religion is ingrained so veserally in many portions of our United States we can't get away from these issues.

I do want to end by saying that both yourself and DWILL are able to think about the concept of religion. I truly believe the capacity for thinking and pondering upon this delicate subject, and your willingness to discuss is beyond many devout practisioners of certain religions.

Suzanne






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Mon May 04, 2009 9:23 pm
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I wanted to mention something personal for me about this chapter. I don't have the book in front of me right now, so I don't have the name of the woman, but Hitchen's related a story about a woman who was afraid that her Grandfather was going to hell when he died and how that must have been a horrible situation for her.
The same thing happened to me! When I was about 8 my Grandfather had his first stroke and my parents kept saying that he was going to die soon. I was raised Catholic and my Grandfather was Methodist so I was really afraid that he was going to hell. I remember worrying about whether I should tell him about the Catholic religion being the only true religion so that he could convert and go to heaven. However, there was the fear that he might not convert, then he was doomed to hell, for sure. I ended up rationalizing the same way as the woman in the story. I thought that perhaps my Grandfather was ignorant of the Catholic religion and so could get by through some escape clause. It seems so ludicrous now, but t was very real and very troubling at the time. He actually didn't die at that time and when he did I didn't believe the bit about only Catholics going to heaven anymore.
One more thing, to make it worse, my parent's told me that I should pray for my Grandfather to die because he was in such bad shape. That only added to the awfulness of the whole thing as you can imagine. This part is still baffling to me.
It amazed me to read about the same thing that I had gone through as a child. I have to give it more thought, though, before I come right out with religion=child abuse or religion is not child abuse.



Fri May 15, 2009 4:26 pm
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Suzanne and Lois, thank you for sharing those stories from your lives. I am not reading this book right now and have only read those two last posts. I just wanted to thank the two of you for putting yourselves out there.



Fri May 15, 2009 4:57 pm
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Post Re: religion and child abuse
Suzanne wrote:
Geo wrote:

Quote:
And like it or not, belief in spiritual entities is encoded into our genetic makeup.


I would be very interested in understanding this concept, you say it with such confidence. Spiritual practises, religious practises are cultural, culture is taught through mores and values. Religion is certainly not encoded into our gentic makeup. If this were true, there would be no discussion on atheism, it would not exist.


I have an unfortunate habit of assuming everyone has read everything I have. :D Regardless, I didn't mean to sound so confident.

You're right that religion, per se, is culture-based. What I should have said is that humans may be genetically predisposed to believing in a higher power. Whether or not that belief has served as an evolutionary advantage at some point in our development is an interesting question. Some evolutionary psychologists believe that belief offered advantages. In small tribes living a hunter-gatherer existence, sharing beliefs and coming to beliefs easily might have been advantageous. Meanwhile, Richard Dawkins has suggested that belief in the supernatural may be an evolutionary accident, a mere byproduct of a big brain that might have been useful at one time, but no longer offers adaptive value.

Anyway, there's lots of stuff out there about this.

Here's a great article that was published a few years ago in the New York Times.

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/03/04/magaz ... ion.t.html

Here's an excerpt from a book review about The God Delusion (http://www.londonbookreview.com/lbr0035.html)

Quote:
Yet another issue that Dawkins addresses is the evolutionary roots of religion itself. It is clear that something that is so pervasive in human cultures must have evolved over time. Why is it that all cultures have God and religion? Again Dawkins turns to evolutionary theory, though in this case his arguments are far more speculative than those with which he attacks the God delusion or the idea of intelligent design. Rather than suggesting that there is direct evolutionary advantage to religious belief, he suggests that it is a by-product of those social and intellectual adaptations that have provided advantage in the past. This idea that the make-up of our brains pre-disposes us to believe in stories (religion), together with social advantages in terms of binding groups together, is appealing on many levels, but difficult to prove without additional research (a point that Dawkins himself makes).


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Post Brain size
Geo wrote:

Quote:
I have an unfortunate habit of assuming everyone has read everything I have.


Reading material is so subjective. I have the unfortunate habit that assumes people choose to read only those materials that support a narrow belief system. On the topic of religion, there will never be any definitive answers, just many probing questions. No one can be considered correct, we are still asking questions. In that, lies the origin of religion.

There is no doubt the increasing cranium size through out the evolution process stems directly with knowledge and information. There certainly is a direct correlation between increasing brain size and the quality of tools manufactured for example. The more knowledge one gains, the more questions one asks. This certainly can be seen in children and their endless, “why”, “why” “why”‘s.

It’s understandable that eventually, man starting asking questions outside the realm of its existence and knowledge. With those questions, creativity was born. With creativity, comes art, and dance, and stories, and with stories, religion was born.

The religious figures in a hunter gatherer society were held in high esteem, they provided wisdom and attempted to give knowledge to questions that have no answers. It is logical that man used imagination to create a unique way to explain the unexplainable and to provide comfort to those who asked for the unattainable answer to “Why”.

Agnosticism may be a continuing of the evolution process in that agnostics seek enlightenment but applies critical thinking to answers received without the fear of alienation that was so present in the hunter gatherer societies, making religion a tool of survival. This is the group that I place myself in. However, continuing this line of logic, makes me wonder if it is humanly possible to be a true atheist. Does the true atheist stop asking questions when there is no true answer? Do atheists still wonder about the unknown? Is it humanly possible? I need to wonder more about this.

It is my opinion that the basis of religion stems with the capability to ask creative questions. It is my opinion, that religion originated with the ability for creativity.“Why”, will never be answered, my opinion will never be justified. "Question everything", that is human nature, that is encoded into our genetic makeup.



Sun May 17, 2009 10:31 am
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Quote:
Suzanne
However, continuing this line of logic, makes me wonder if it is humanly possible to be a true atheist. Does the true atheist stop asking questions when there is no true answer? Do atheists still wonder about the unknown? Is it humanly possible? I need to wonder more about this.


I think you may have a different idea of what an atheist is as opposed to what we atheists actually are.

Atheists (at least none that I know) do not claim that there cannot be some sort of god, or prime mover of some sort. But we do not believe in those things with no evidence to support them.

Just because something is remotely possible does not warrant belief… especially the unwavering life consuming belief that religions often demand.

Atheists do continue the search, because the answers to date are lacking… it is the theist who thinks that they have the answers who is most likely to stop searching.

Atheists simply lack belief in gods and that is very possible, but we (for the most part) do not completely rule them out either.

As an example of the thought process I will use my favorite of the pink Venusian unicorns.

From what we know about the plant Venus and the mythical creature the unicorn it is vastly improbable that pink unicorns live on Venus.

Now we cannot be absolutely sure of this because the cloud cover of Venus is so thick we cannot see the surface to look for them.

No unicorns make their presence known form Venus so no normal person can rationally expect to find pink unicorns on Venus when or if we finally get some good views of the surface. So it is possible to not believe without being absolutely 100% positive.

If unicorns are there and evidence is found to support that then the new information can be processed and weighed in. Belief can be formed with the new evidence.

Similarly no belief in gods is necessary even while accepting the unlikely possibility that they might exist.

Later


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Last edited by Frank 013 on Sun May 17, 2009 2:34 pm, edited 1 time in total.



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