Richard Dawkins’ Hypocrisy

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Richard Dawkins’ hypocrisy drags on:

Professor Richard Dawkins has claimed that forcing a religion on children without questioning its merits is as bad as ‘child abuse’.

In typically incendiary style, the leading atheist said he was against the ‘indoctrination of religion’ and teaching it as fact.

[From Richard Dawkins: Forcing religion on your children is child abuse, claims atheist professor | Mail Online]

He’s just wrong. Not “religiously” wrong (well, he is that, too) but scientifically wrong. Wrong according to the empirical evidence, which he obviously doesn’t care about: even though everywhere he goes, he claims it’s the only thing he cares about.

This is mendacity multiplied. Repeat a lie often enough, and people will believe it. He claims that’s what religion does.

Next time you hear someone complaining about hypocrites in the church, nod your head and agree we do have that problem. Then, just for perspective, remind them of Richard Dawkins.

113 Responses

  1. Vince says:

    I have been reading Dawkin’s book The Greatest Show on Earth where he lays out his evidence for evolution. From what I read, Richard exercises much more faith than he admits. He has absolute faith that the fossils Australopithecus, Homo Habilis, Homo Erectus, Archaic Homo Sapiens, and finally Homo Sapiens provide an undisputed evolutionary sequence from ape to man. He bases his atheism on evolutionary evidence such as this. But if I was going to sign on as an atheist, I would want much better evidence.

    Australopithecus fossils have totally apelike features, brain size, with hands fit for tree dwelling. There is a possibility that they walked upright more than other apes, but that can be disputed, and besides, pygmy chimps have been seen to walk upright often. Homo habilis is simply a number of fossils grouped together, some with human morphology, some apelike, but called one fossil type when it is really two distinct morphologies, apes and men.

    Homo erectus was just like modern man from the neck down, as was Neanderthal. There are some evolutionists that think Homo erectus and Homo sapiens should be lumped together. I know of at least one prominent scientist who admitted that Homo sapiens was a more variable species earlier in his history. So Homo Erectus, Archaic Homo Sapiens, and modern man could all be variations of Homo Sapiens.

    Also, the fossils were mostly found in many pieces, and reconstructions could vary from very ape-like to man-like, depending on the pre-conceived ideas of the person putting them together. And in addition, if you put all the catalogued actual fossils together on a time chart according to their given dates, they apparently all have existed side by side for much of their history. So they aren’t really proven to be an evolutionary sequence.

    It could be easily concluded from the evidence that men have always been men, and apes have been apes. There is just not enough evidence that one type evolved into another. Not enough to use as a basis for becoming an atheist and risking one’s eternal destiny. Yet Dawkins ridicules those who show faith equal to his, but in creation.

  2. Ray Ingles says:

    No denying Dawkins has his flaws, and prejudices. I think he’d do a lot better to work on identifying the (rather limited) cases when religious upbringing amounts to abuse. (Surely you’d agree that there are wrong ways to teach about hell?)

    But just as Christians don’t claim to be perfect, just saved, atheists can claim to aim for rationality even if they don’t always achieve it.

  3. Tom Gilson says:

    Thanks for excusing his hypocrisy, Ray. Most impressive.

  4. Tom Gilson says:

    And why on earth did you pick a fictional sensationalized hyped horror movie as your representation of wrong teaching????

    Sheesh.

    Yes, there are wrong ways to teach about hell. Do they get a pass the way Dawkins gets a pass? Do they come from Christianity’s most esteemed thought leaders? Do they sell millions of books? Do they go unchallenged in the popular media the way his blooming idiocy goes unchallenged?

    If you’re claiming some kind of parallelism between Dawkins’ errors and others’ errors, you’re going to have to try harder than that.

  5. BSquibs says:

    Sometimes “Dawkins was wrong” are the hardest words, Ray.

    You should have stopped typing just before your link.

  6. SteveK says:

    The movie Carrie is a well known teaching video for many churches. In fact, every year our church shows this movie on the front lawn during the summer months – complete with carnival games, a petting zoo and a giant BBQ pit for cooking ribs. We have a lot of fun making various “Repent or burn” signs and then going door-to-door inviting neighbors to see the movie and reminding them they are going to hell.

    It’s a great teaching moment.

    [/sarcasm]

  7. bigbird says:

    The movie Carrie is a well known teaching video for many churches.

    What, in your church too?? It’s particularly popular with the under two’s.

  8. Ray Ingles says:

    What? Dawkins is wrong about this in the general case. A religious upbringing isn’t ‘child abuse’, the vast majority of the time. Dawkins has come across one or two examples of cases when it genuinely was abusive, and extrapolates too far from those cases.

    And I used Carrie as an example because it’s over-the-top and sensationalized. It is – ahem – not the typical case. You might have read it as an indictment of the examples Dawkins chooses rather than an indictment of religious education in general. Sheesh.

    (I’m much more in favor of Daniel Dennett’s proposal, btw. Mandatory religious education – but education about religion in general, covering what a wide range of people believe, all over the world.)

    Yes, there are wrong ways to teach about hell. Do they get a pass the way Dawkins gets a pass? Do they come from Christianity’s most esteemed thought leaders? Do they sell millions of books? Do they go unchallenged in the popular media the way his blooming idiocy goes unchallenged?

    Not about hell, no. About, say, creationism or Intelligent Design? Sure. Hits every one of your points.

    You see, I’m not ‘excusing’ Dawkins here. If it makes you feel better, I’ll use BSquibs’ specific phrasing: Dawkins was wrong.

    But just because Dawkins is wrong about this, it doesn’t automatically mean he’s wrong about his central points. And just because Behe was wrong about the clotting cascade, the vertebrate immune system, and the bacterial flagellum, it doesn’t prove there’s no God.

    Atheists don’t demand human perfection. Christianity is supposed to, though. 🙂

  9. JAD says:

    Let’s follow out the logical implications of Dawkin’s thinking:

    (1) If bringing up a child in a certain religious tradition is child abuse, then shouldn’t it be against the law?

    (2) If should be ruled someday to be against the law, and it’s as evil as Dawkins claims, then shouldn’t the authorities put full time effort into enforcing the law?

    (3) But how would you enforce this kind of law? Prohibiting Sunday School and church youth groups? Putting camera’s in every bodies home? Encouraging children to betray their parents?

    Sounds rather Orwellian, doesn’t it?

  10. Ray Ingles says:

    JAD – If cases of ‘religious education child abuse’ are, in reality, as rare as ‘religiously-motivated medical neglect’, then legal intervention would likewise be rare.

  11. Tom Gilson says:

    Define “rare.” 140 fatalities in 20 years (from the abstract to that article)? In the same length of time there would typically by 1080 deaths by lightning strike.

    And how many of those were from biblical religions rather than cults?

  12. Tom Gilson says:

    P.S.:

    Sheesh.

    Don’t you know when you’re over-reaching?

    Or do you have some numbers other than that abstract indicates? Was it more than 140?

  13. Tom Gilson says:

    Christianity’s demand is for human acceptance of God’s gift of forgiveness for imperfection.

  14. SteveK says:

    Ray said:
    (1) I think he’d do a lot better to work on identifying the (rather limited) cases when religious upbringing amounts to abuse. (Surely you’d agree that there are wrong ways to teach about hell?)

    (2) And I used Carrie as an example because it’s over-the-top and sensationalized. It is – ahem – not the typical case.

    I don’t see the connection between (1) and (2), but I accept your clarification Ray and encourage you to communicate better.

  15. Ray Ingles says:

    Tom Gilson –

    Define “rare.” 140 fatalities in 20 years

    Yes, that’s rare. That’s why I pointed out those numbers.

    I already noted – twice now – that Dawkins can cite at most a handful of cases of ‘religious abuse’. (The one woman who reported trauma about the idea of her friend burning in hell comes up repeatedly.)

    I’m not over-reaching. I’m agreeing with you that Dawkins is over-reaching.

    Yes, I’m an atheist. That doesn’t mean everything I write is dogmatically opposed to you, or defends other atheists.

  16. bigbird says:

    Unfortunately, it’s been so long since Richard Dawkins did any science (20 years?) that he seems to have forgotten how to apply the scientific method to his nonsensical assertions.

  17. Keith says:

    Tom @4: “Yes, there are wrong ways to teach about hell. Do they come from Christianity’s most esteemed thought leaders?”

    Well, actually, “yes”.

    Read Aquinas, Luther, Augustine, Calvin: they believed in and preached a brutal, eternal hell for men, women and children alike.

    Jonathan Edwards: “The sight of hell torments will exalt the happiness of the saints forever. . . Can the believing father in Heaven be happy with his unbelieving children in Hell. . . I tell you, yea! Such will be his sense of justice that it will increase rather than diminish his bliss.”

    John Wesley: “Is it not common to say to a child, “Put your finger into that candle: Can you bear it even for one minute How then will you bear hell-fire” Surely it would be torment enough to have the flesh burnt off from only one finger. What then will it be, to have the whole body plunged into a lake of fire burning with brimstone!”

  18. Keith says:

    Ray @2:

    A better choice is Gibson’s film The Passion of the Christ.

    “The Passion” has bloody, horrific violence, torture, sadism, and yes, a presentation of hell.

    Is “The Passion” being screened at Christian churches for moms, dads and kids alike? (Don’t forget to order the accompanying DVD!)

  19. bigbird says:

    Read Aquinas, Luther, Augustine, Calvin: they believed in and preached a brutal, eternal hell for men, women and children alike.

    Christianity includes hell as one of its doctrines, so it is no surprise that these leaders believed in hell. The context here is children, and what and how they are taught. Were they preaching to children?

  20. bigbird says:

    Is “The Passion” being screened at Christian churches for moms, dads and kids alike?

    Like any parents, Christian parents are careful about what movies are shown to their children. “The Passion” isn’t suitable for children, and I doubt that many parents would let their children see it, even the cut version.

    I don’t recall any churches screening it (although I suppose there were) as it was shown for a while in cinemas.

  21. Tom Gilson says:

    Context, context, context.

    How often do we need to repeat that?

  22. Keith says:

    bigbird @19:

    Yes, they were preaching to children.

    You might enjoy James Janeway’s book An Exact Account of the Converfion Holy and Exemplary Lives and Joyful Deaths of feveral YOUNG Children.

    The phrase “Joyful Deaths” should tell you all you need to know, but here’s a sample from a story of a young lad, related in those pages as a model of what every child should be: “Every Mother’s Child of us that doth not bring forth the Fruit of good Works, fhall fhortly be cut down with the Ax of God’s Wrath, and caft into the Fire of Hell; and this he fpake like One believed and felt the Power of what he fpake, and not with the leaft Vifibility of a childifh Levity of Spirit. This was, when he was between Seven and Eight Years old.”

  23. bigbird says:

    Yes, they were preaching to children.

    The sermons are for adults – no child would understand them. What makes you conclude they were preaching to children?

  24. Keith says:

    bigbird @23:

    Typical churches of Edward’s and Wesley’s time (for example, Puritan New England), were single rooms and everybody attended services. I don’t see how children wouldn’t attend: I’m sure attendance began in your mother’s arms, and ended when you died.

    Luther: “Cursed be every preacher who aims at lofty topics in the church, looking for his own glory and selfishly desiring to please one individual or another. When I preach here I adapt myself to the circumstances of the common people. I don’t look at the doctors and masters, of whom scarcely forty are present, but at the hundred or the thousand young people and children. It’s to them that I preach, to them that I devote myself, for they too need to understand.”

    Did you know Calvin advocated rebellious children be executed?

    It’s a fact.

    I guess if reprobation is true, when you die doesn’t matter that much.

    Not to put too fine a point on it, but children and childhood were really (really!) different then.

  25. bigbird says:

    Typical churches of Edward’s and Wesley’s time (for example, Puritan New England), were single rooms and everybody attended services. I don’t see how children wouldn’t attend: I’m sure attendance began in your mother’s arms, and ended when you died.

    I’m not as familiar with Edwards, but Wesley rarely spoke in churches – he mostly preached in the open air. In any case, no doubt there were children present. But his sermons certainly weren’t aimed at children.

    Did you know Calvin advocated rebellious children be executed? It’s a fact.

    Did you know that English law (in the 19th century) once actually stated that “strong evidence of malice in a child aged 7–14 years of age” was subject to the death penalty? There were many offences that subject to the death penalty, many seemingly minor ones.

  26. Keith says:

    I’m not defending Dawson, by-the way: I don’t know if he said something silly or not (and, as Tom says, “context, context, context”).

    I do believe it’s a hard line to draw, and inevitably reflects cultural norms and beliefs more than rationality.

    We’d all probably agree that when people perform a Christian or Islamic exorcism involving the whipping, burning, starvation, or beating of a child, it’s “child abuse”.

    But to someone who believes in the rites of exorcism found in those faiths, and honestly fears for the demon-possessed soul of their child, well, it’s not hard to get from point A to point B on that well-worn path of “good intentions”.

    How about the faithful who perform a circumcision or cliterectomy because of their religious laws. Is that “child abuse”?

    How about the faithful who refuse to school their female children, because of the Biblical role a women is expected to fulfill? Is that “child abuse”?

    How about the faithful who deny a child medical care or blood transfusions. Is that “child abuse”?

    How about when the kindly pastor explains to a small child how she needs to accept Jesus, or “she’ll go to a horrible place forever”? And she’ll be “all alone”, and “Mommy and Daddy won’t be with her”, unless she prays a very special prayer with him. Is that “child abuse”?

    You tell me.

    But if you believe any of that list of religiously motivated actions are “child abuse”, I suspect you might agree with Dawkins that forcing that particular religion on a child counts as abuse.

  27. Keith says:

    bigbird, @25:

    I didn’t say what I meant to say, as strongly as I should have said it: I just don’t know if the sermons were preached at children, my only point was I can’t think any reason children would not have been present during Edward’s performance of, say, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God”.

    Were the sermons directed at children? Good question, and I haven’t read enough of those sermons to answer it, myself.

  28. JAD says:

    Because Keith, Ray and Dawkins find the teaching of hell to be objectionable what should we do? Ban movies like the Passion (I thought that was about the crucifixion) and Janeway’s book? (Funny I don’t remember seeing his book the last time I was at Barnes and Noble.) And what should we do about parents who allow children to see movies and read books like that? Take their children away from them? Send them to reeducation camps?

    Once again, follow Dawkins logic here. Religious indoctrination in his mind is worse than sexual abuse! For example, in The God Delusion, he wrote:

    “Once, in the question time after a lecture in Dublin, I was asked what I thought about the widely publicized cases of sexual abuse by Catholic priests in Ireland. I replied that, horrible as sexual abuse no doubt was, the damage was arguably less than the long-term psychological damage inflicted by bringing the child up Catholic in the first place. It was an off-the-cuff remark made in the heat of the moment, and I was surprised that it earned a round of enthusiastic applause from that Irish audience (composed, admittedly, of Dublin intellectuals and presumably not representative of the country at large).”

    –p. 356 (emphasis added)

    In other words, do we tolerate sexual abuse?

  29. G. Rodrigues says:

    @Keith:

    A better choice is Gibson’s film The Passion of the Christ.

    “The Passion” has bloody, horrific violence, torture, sadism, and yes, a presentation of hell.

    There are two comments to be made about this remark.

    1. There is a distinction between Art and Entertainment. Philistines cannot see it, but that is why they are philistines. Having not seen Gibson’s film (and from what little I have read about, I have no intention of seeing it), I do not know if it is any good, but we can simply take the greatest work of art in the whole western literature, the Bible. Who will deny that at several points the Bible is ultra-violent? If someone does not like the Bible, just take Shakespeare, probably the only writer that vies with the Bible for the most influence and importance and read say, his Titus Andronicus, a grotesquely bloody farce (and in my judgment, one of Shakespeare’s weaker plays). Or if “old” books annoy you and you want to stay to the 20th century, just pick up Gravity’s Rainbow from the extraordinaire and mysterious Mr. Thomas Pynchon. Can you recognize the difference and why exactly is the difference important?

    2. If Keith is really serious about his indictment, and not just a hypocrite trying to score a cheap point, then he must also remember that the United States is the home of a multi-billion dollar industry of Pornography. That Hollywood releases to the market every month, scores of films with “bloody, horrific violence, torture, sadism”. The same thing about TV shows, which feature on a regular basis all kinds of psycopaths performing crimes of a brutality and sadism unparalleled by anything an over-imaginative Gibson could ever portray. Shall we talk about music? Death metal? Maybe video games? The list is a mile-long. Does your indictment extend to all of these?

  30. Keith says:

    JAD @28:

    I agree with you, and I don’t have an answer.

    If someone believes [really bad thing] endangers their children, they’re a bad parent if they don’t ensure their children share that healthy fear. If someone doesn’t believe [really bad thing], scarring a child’s psyche to no purpose is abuse.

    When Tom says Dawkins is scientifically and empirically wrong, that argument requires limiting Dawkins’ comments to a particular set of religious practices which Tom believes not only unobjectionable, but to have an overall positive influence on people and society.

    If Dawkins meant denying children medical care, or raising them to be suicide bombers, or FGM, then Tom and Dawkins probably agree the normal practice of some religions involves child abuse, and how is Dawkins wrong?

    It’s “child abuse” if you don’t believe in a literal hell, but it’s “good parenting” if you do.

    Dawkins is drawing the same line we are all drawing, and we all draw that line in a slightly different place.

  31. Ray Ingles says:

    JAD –

    Because Keith, Ray and Dawkins find the teaching of hell to be objectionable

    Wow. I really don’t get it.

    What I said was “there are wrong ways to teach about hell”. That simply does not mean that all “teaching of hell” is “objectionable”. It just means that… well, that there are wrong ways to teach about hell.

    Gotta admit, the Passion of the Christ is an example: http://randalrauser.com/2013/02/should-children-watch-the-passion-of-the-christ/

    “As we were sitting there waiting for the film to start a family came in and sat down in our row … including a child of about five. I pleaded with the father to remove his child. This was not an age appropriate film. For some perspective on just how inappropriate consider that Ebert described it as “the most violent film I have ever seen.” (And that’s spoken by somebody who has been a professional film critic since Lyndon Johnson was in the White House.) But my pleas fell on deaf ears. The man just smiled broadly at me and replied “yes”. And for the next two hours he subjected his traumatized child to the unspeakable abuse unfolding on the screen…

    I was prompted to write this article because I was approached the other day by a friend who asked whether Gibson’s film would be appropriate viewing for his ten year old child this Easter. To be sure, a ten year old who has already grappled with the dystopian future of “The Hunger Games” is world’s better than a five year old who trembled upon hearing “Franklin and the Thunderstorm” read at bedtime. But this doesn’t mean the most violent film Roger Ebert has ever seen is appropriate viewing for that ten year old. To put it into context, I asked the parent if they would expose their child to the infamous ten minute torture-ear amputation scene in “Reservoir Dogs”. The predictable answer was an emphatic no. Okay then, what about two hours of torture and murder where the only difference is the theological interpretation laid on top of the unfolding carnage? Does the addition of the interpretation make this appropriate viewing for a child? Why would it?

    To return to JAD:

    And what should we do about parents who allow children to see movies and read books like that? Take their children away from them? Send them to reeducation camps?

    How about scaling with the severity of the trauma? Starting with public censure, maybe a parenting class for something more objectionable, and only in extreme cases (Carrie-level?) removing the children? After all, only in the most extreme cases of medical neglect are the children removed from the parents…

  32. Ray Ingles says:

    G. Rodrigues –

    There is a distinction between Art and Entertainment.

    True, and irrelevant. Keith specifically objected to showing “The Passion of the Christ” to kids. (The Song of Solomon in all its detail, for example, isn’t part of most Sunday School curricula, either.)

    The Passion of the Christ might be an excellent movie – I haven’t seen it either. But the set of “great art” and the set of “appropriate for children”, while often intersecting, are not identical.

  33. bigbird says:

    Were the sermons directed at children?

    I don’t think so. Reading the examples here, they are way above the vocabulary of younger children whom the content might be inappropriate for.

  34. BSquibs says:

    Thank you for clarifying you position, Ray. Hopefully we wont be so quick to assume your intent in future. Though in my defence you have nailed your colours to the mast (I’ve seen you on this blog and on Feser’s, I believe) and it becomes difficult not to see some of your statements as not having some needling intent or angle. (Apologies for the double negative.) Remember the whole Hitler scrap that you got into? On one hand people read meaning into your words, on the other hand you created the conditions that lead up to it.

    On another note, I would contend that Christianity doesn’t demand perfection. Instead, it recognises that you are I are equally lost and in need of salvation.

    Anyway, RD is tremendously fun at times. It’s just a shame that everyone takes what he says so seriously. Himself included.

  35. bigbird says:

    Dawkins is drawing the same line we are all drawing, and we all draw that line in a slightly different place.

    Dawkins is drawing the line in a place that labels almost all parents who wish to give their children a religious upbringing as child abusers.

    BSquibs, it’s a bit hard not to take Dawkins seriously when he is labelling you as a child abuser. I don’t regard those type of accusations as much fun at all.

  36. G. Rodrigues says:

    @Ray Ingles:

    True, and irrelevant. Keith specifically objected to showing “The Passion of the Christ” to kids. (The Song of Solomon in all its detail, for example, isn’t part of most Sunday School curricula, either.)

    Granted, but the point remains just the same, because the reason why Keith objected to the “The Passion of the Christ” was its inordinate violent character. Or do you think that children stories are not violent? What is the criteria to draw the line? Or was it just some ad hoc cheap shot? And he has to answer the point about hypocrisy. Or do you think kids today are being fed some modern day equivalent of “The Sound of Music”? Yeah, right.

  37. Keith says:

    G. Rodrigues @36:

    I think I’d only be hypocritical if I were to support showing kids non-religious violent or pornographic movies?

    I’m sorry, but I’m missing the point you’re making.

  38. Keith says:

    In a (hopefully amusing, slightly off-topic) diversion…

    If you want to think about exposing kids to violence, read the original Grimm’s Fairy Tales. They were pretty “grim”: for example, the Pied Piper drowns all the town’s children, Little Red Riding Hood gets eaten, Sleeping Beauty is raped and has two children while asleep, and Cinderella’s sisters amputate parts of their feet to make the shoes fit (but the prince figures it out when pigeons peck out their eyes).

    And in the Catholic tradition, who can forget Fr. Furniss’ “The Sight of Hell”, a tract written for children (Fr. Furniss ran an orphanage).

    XXVIII. The Fifth Dungeon: The Red Hot Oven

    Thou shalt make him as an oven of fire in the time of thy anger. You are going to see again the child about which you read in the Terrible Judgement, that it was condemned to Hell. See! It is a pitiful sight. The little child is in this red hot oven. Hear how it screams to come out. See how it turns and twists itself about in the fire. It beats its head against the roof of the oven. It stamps its little feet on the floor of the oven. You can see on the face of this little child what you see on the faces of all in Hell— despair, desperate and horrible!… This child committed very bad mortal sins, knowing well the harm of what it was doing, and knowing that Hell would be the punishment. God was very good to this child. Very likely God saw that this child would get worse and worse, and would never repent, and so it would have to be punished much more in Hell. So God, in His mercy, called it out of the world in its early childhood.

    Fr. Furniss had a vivid imagination.

    Or not: in the Catholic tradition, it wasn’t uncommon for clergy to have visions of hell that were then treated as eye-witness accounts.

    Sister Josefa Menendez:

    A sickening stench asphyxiates and corrupts everything, it is like the burning of putrefied flesh, mingled with tar and sulfur. . . a mixture to which nothing on earth can be compared. . . although these tortures were terrific, they would be bearable if the soul were at peace. But it suffers indescribably. . . All I have written,” she concluded, “is but a shadow of what the soul suffers, for no words can express such dire torment.

    Hollywood (including Gibson’s “The Passion”) didn’t invent anything new — they just upgraded the graphics.

  39. JAD says:

    bigbird wrote:

    Dawkins is drawing the line in a place that labels almost all parents who wish to give their children a religious upbringing as child abusers.

    BSquibs, it’s a bit hard not to take Dawkins seriously when he is labelling you as a child abuser. I don’t regard those type of accusations as much fun at all.

    Exactly! However, notice what Ray and others are trying to do here. Dawkins is painting with a very broad brush. He’s arguing that any kind religious indoctrination of children equals child abuse. Ray comes along and tries to change the topic. Apparently Ray wants us to believe that because he has a more nuanced view (some ways of teaching about hell are wrong) maybe, just maybe, Dawkins really has a more nuanced view. The topic of the OP, Ray, is about Dawkins and what Dawkins thinks, not about Ray Ingles and what Ray thinks.

    My point is that if you follow Dawkin’s beliefs to their logical conclusion you end up with a totalitarian state and society. I think that is what he meant, because that is what he said. I think we should take the man at his word.

  40. Ray Ingles says:

    JAD –

    Apparently Ray wants us to believe that because he has a more nuanced view (some ways of teaching about hell are wrong) maybe, just maybe, Dawkins really has a more nuanced view.

    BSquibs, see, here is why I don’t feel my communication skills are all that bad. See comment #8 where I said “Dawkins is wrong”, and “Dawkins was wrong“, and “Dawkins is wrong” (all emphasis in the original).

    But JAD can somehow read it as me saying “just maybe, Dawkins really has a more nuanced view”. Mark 8:18 comes to mind.

  41. G. Rodrigues says:

    @Keith:

    I’m sorry, but I’m missing the point you’re making.

    I am sorry, but I do not know how to make myself clearer than #29 and #36.

  42. JAD says:

    Ray,

    Do you really think that Dawkins is wrong? Then you’ll agree with me “that if you follow Dawkin’s beliefs to their logical conclusion you end up with a totalitarian state and society.” In my opinion that is truly a dangerous belief. How can you have democracy without freedom of religion and freedom of conscience?

  43. Keith says:

    JAD @42:

    I’m confused about your comments: do you believe we have “freedom of religion” now?

    What about religions that include FGM, or disallow modern medical care for children? Or witness New York city attempting to stop certain Jewish circumcision rituals.

    Are those citizens in our democracy able to practice their religion “freely”?

  44. Ray Ingles says:

    Do you really think that Dawkins is wrong?

    Yes.

    (I really hope that was clear enough for you.)

    Then you’ll agree with me “that if you follow Dawkin’s beliefs to their logical conclusion you end up with a totalitarian state and society.”

    When he says, “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.” he is setting the bar for ‘child abuse’ way too low.

    If child abuse really were that common, a totalitarian state might conceivably be justifiable. (Some people justify the slaughter of the Amalekites, including their children, on the grounds that they practiced child sacrifice. If genocide can be permitted for widespread child abuse, I’d imagine totalitarianism might be.)

    So yes, Dawkins’ hyperbole is problematic at best and dangerous at worst.

    How can you have democracy without freedom of religion and freedom of conscience?

    There are, of course, acknowledged limits to both of those freedoms. In comment #31 I linked to a recent tragic case where a couple let an 8-month-old infant die rather than seek medical care for them. Even though they had been enjoined to see medical care in such a case because they’d already let a two-year-old die the same way.

    I hope you’d agree with me that taking their remaining children away from them is the only sane thing to do… even after they get out of jail.

    Fortunately, such cases are rare. They don’t justify totalitarian, Orwellian oversight.

    At this point, I really cannot imagine what else I could say to convey my position to you. BSquibs, any suggestions?

  45. Ray Ingles says:

    G. Rodrigues –

    …the reason why Keith objected to the “The Passion of the Christ” was its inordinate violent character.

    Objected to showing it to kids, not simply “objected to”.

    Or do you think that children stories are not violent? What is the criteria to draw the line?

    Depends on the context and the child. For example, my second son is a bit more sensitive than my oldest. I don’t let him play certain games that I would let my oldest play at the same age.

    And there’s room for disagreement and disputation, certainly. But can you clarify something for me – do you think that there’s anything that’s (a) art (or even Art), and (b) too violent to show to, say, children below the age of ten? Can you give me an example?

    Or do you think kids today are being fed some modern day equivalent of “The Sound of Music”? Yeah, right.

    I sure don’t. Our kids regularly report their friends discussing seeing shows we wouldn’t think of letting them watch. No kid below the age of ten needs to see “The Walking Dead” or “Mad Men”, to take two examples not at random.

    I dunno if Kieth objects to kids seeing those, too. I do. Along with the Passion of the Christ.

  46. G. Rodrigues says:

    @Ray Ingles:

    But can you clarify something for me – do you think that there’s anything that’s (a) art (or even Art), and (b) too violent to show to, say, children below the age of ten? Can you give me an example?

    Of course there is, and if I ever gave the impression that I think the contrary I hasten to say that I do not. The examples I gave fit the bill — heck, Gravity’s Rainbow is not even fit for *most* people, under-age or not. There is no doubt in my mind it is a true master piece of modern literature, but its display of violence, sexual perversions and other lurid, turgid content is too much, even for someone like me that has an uncommonly strong stomach — and by this I mean that outside of re-reading some passages (say the passage of Byron, the light bulb), I have no intention of re-reading the whole book, which for me is the acid test of a book’s quality.

    But pointing to inordinate violence is not enough. There is violence and there is violence. I am not asking for a precise line (it is impossible to do so, for the reasons you point out), but if “The Passion” is just thrown out as an example of what should not be shown to kids, with no explanation of why “The Passion” is singled out then I am perfectly entitled to think that the choice is purely ad hoc to score a cheap rhetorical point.

  47. BSquibs says:

    No advice, Ray.

  48. Ray Ingles says:

    G. Rodrigues – I don’t think that pointing out “The Passion of the Christ” was ad hoc. It was specifically pointed out as (a) something that should not be shown to kids, and yet (b) religious, even widely regarded as edifying. And the explanation for why it was inappropriate for kids was given, too: it “has bloody, horrific violence, torture, sadism, and yes, a presentation of hell.”

    The only way you could level a serious accusation of hypocrisy is if Keith actually advocated showing kids, I dunno, the latest “Evil Dead” remake but drew the line at “The Passion of the Christ”. If you know of a case where he did something like that, that’s one thing, but I haven’t seen that.

    I mean, it’s true “That Hollywood releases to the market every month, scores of films with “bloody, horrific violence, torture, sadism””. But – and this is kind of important – those films aren’t marketed toward kids, and the movie industry set up a system of ratings so that kids aren’t supposed to be able to see those films.

    So, for example, I can object to kids seeing “The Passion of the Christ”, and support Hollywood’s right to release yet another “Evil Dead”, without hypocrisy. So can Keith, as far as I can see.

  49. bigbird says:

    But – and this is kind of important – those films aren’t marketed toward kids, and the movie industry set up a system of ratings so that kids aren’t supposed to be able to see those films.

    *The Passion of the Christ* wasn’t marketed toward kids either, and it too was appropriately rated.

    I don’t remember anyone advocating that kids should see it – when it was released I recall people discussing whether *they* should see it, not their children.

    Also, it should be remembered that a cut version was released that removed the most extreme parts of the film, and that in many cases this is the film that churches chose to screen – not the original.

  50. bigbird says:

    Gravity’s Rainbow is not even fit for *most* people, under-age or not.

    I threw my copy in the bin – decided that was preferable to passing it on to anyone.

  51. Mike D says:

    It’s rather frustrating that after the lengthy discussion we had on my blog on this topic in which we seemed to make some amount of progress on understanding one another, you’re still quote mining Dawkins on this issue. He is talking about particular types of authoritarian religious parenting having long-term psychological effects, not blanketing all religious parents.

    And he’s right:
    http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/13674679808406502

  52. bigbird says:

    you’re still quote mining Dawkins on this issue. He is talking about particular types of authoritarian religious parenting having long-term psychological effects, not blanketing all religious parents.

    1) Reading the “Childhood, Abuse and Religion” chapter of TGD leaves me with the distinct impression that Dawkins is blanketing all religious parents.

    2) If you want to reference scientific articles about authoritarian religious parenting having long-term psychological effects, you should seriously consider the research about the effects of authoritarian parenting in general, religious or not. It’s likely it is the style of parenting that is the cause of these problems, not what they are teaching.

  53. Ray Ingles says:

    bigbird –

    I don’t remember anyone advocating that kids should see it

    Perhaps not in your circle, but there definitely were plenty of people doing so. E.g. comment #31 above, or “Jerry Johnston, a pastor of the First Family Church in Kansas City“. Or how “A manager at one [Seattle area] theater said “a whole lot of kids, even very young kids” came with parents to “The Passion” showings, more than a typical R-rated movie.

  54. BSquibs says:

    Mike,

    Have your read the research paper that you link to? I ask because few people are going to pay €28 to access it. It;s therefore rather pointless posting it without some expansion on it’s findings.

  55. bigbird says:

    BSquibs, I’ve browsed the paper. A third of the 129 adults came from Catholic families, which probably makes it rather unrepresentative. Over 10% more were Jewish.

    But I’m not much wiser having browsed it than after I read the abstract. Maybe Mike D can tell us what he thinks the paper is saying.

  56. Tom Gilson says:

    Mike,

    I’m traveling, dealing with some challenging decision-making, in and out of meetings. So I trust you won’t think too badly of me if I ask you to provide the specific wording Dawkins used to nuance his message in that way, and the specific wording I used to concede your point earlier. I don’t recall either of those; in fact as I recall TGD, it seems bigbird has it right.

    I notice that Dawkins’s inflammatory article on “Religion’s Real Child Abuse,” previously at http://www.richarddawkins.net/articles/118, has disappeared from his website. The Wayback Machine (web.archive.org) is running too slow to retrieve it from an earlier date right now. I’m sure someone will be able to find it for us later today, perhaps while I’m on an airplane.

  57. Tom Gilson says:

    This is what Mike D. wants us to consider limited and nuanced:

    I am sure her experience is far from unique. And what if we assume a less altruistic child, worried about her own eternity rather than a friend’s? Odious as the physical abuse of children by priests undoubtedly is, I suspect that it may do them less lasting damage than the mental abuse of bringing them up Catholic in the first place.

    Happily I was spared the misfortune of a Roman Catholic upbringing (Anglicanism is a significantly less noxious strain of the virus). Being fondled by the Latin master in the Squash Court was a disagreeable sensation for a nine-year-old, a mixture of embarrassment and skin-crawling revulsion, but it was certainly not in the same league as being led to believe that I, or someone I knew, might go to everlasting fire.

    Mike, you’re wrong on this one.

  58. BSquibs says:

    On other RD related news – http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/apr/22/richard-dawkins-islamophobic

    I don’t think that RD is islamophobic per se. It’s more a case that he clearly just can’t help himself when it comes to red-faced outbursts about religion. While I actually enjoy enjoy such comments because they are so outrageous, I’m also developing something that might be described as pity for the man.* It appears that he has forgotten his own advice and his remaining years are seemingly increasingly punctuated by bitter broadsides against the religious. From a purely temporal perspective is this what he will be remembered for, I wonder? More is the tragedy if he is wrong – there is in fact a God and that he, RD, is in rebellion against Him.

    *Though it isn’t intended as such, I don’t suppose that my pity will be understood as being anything other than condescending.

  59. BSquibs says:

    If you want to reference scientific articles about authoritarian religious parenting having long-term psychological effects, you should seriously consider the research about the effects of authoritarian parenting in general, religious or not. It’s likely it is the style of parenting that is the cause of these problems, not what they are teaching.

    I missed this earlier. It’s a fair point that’s well made. It got me thinking about a thought experiment. Lets say there was a public figure who was primarily known for his promotion of atheism and his anti-religious stance. Lets call him R Dawkins. Actually, that’s too obvious, lets call him Richard D.

    The scenario is that Richard D’s teenage daughter tells her incredulous daddy that she had come to the realisation that there is sufficient evidence to justify belief in God. Moreover, she then goes on to state that there is sufficient evidence to believe in specifics such as – God revealed himself in the person of Jesus, that he did miracles, that he rose from the dead, that he will return one day to judge the world. She then goes on to say that she thinks her father’s stance on abortion and infanticide is immoral and that there just might be something to this whole ID thing. And so it goes.

    Considering Richard D’s very strong and public set of beliefs to the contrary, would we be justified in thinking that this could this lead to conflict and then long term psychological effects for all involved? I think so.

    What’s good for the goose…

  60. Stephen says:

    Note that Dawkins never said “as bad as child abuse”. He said it “is child abuse”. In other words he is saying he deems raising pre-adults to identify with an ideology a form of child abuse. To understand Dawkins more fully we need to try to imagine what it is like to not think of this in either-or terms, “it is” or “it is not” such and such. Child abuse comes in many forms, both physical and psychological and we grade such behaviors with various degrees of abhorrence. To change what Dawkins says to “as bad as child abuse” is therefore to abuse his meaning so much as to be on the level of a lie. Here we can be either-or : he did not say that.

  61. Tom Gilson says:

    Is it too far of a stretch to conclude that if he thinks it’s child abuse, he thinks it’s as bad as child abuse?

  62. Tom Gilson says:

    Further:

    In view of the tweeted responses to the Daily Mail article, I thought it might be helpful to reproduce what I actually said in 2006. Incidentally, I was myself sexually abused by a teacher when I was about nine or ten years old. It was a very unpleasant and embarrassing experience, but the mental trauma was soon exorcised by comparing notes with my contemporaries who had suffered it previously at the hands of the same master. Thank goodness, I have never personally experienced what it is like to believe – really and truly and deeply believe ­– in hell. But I think it can be plausibly argued that such a deeply held belief might cause a child more long-lasting mental trauma than the temporary embarrassment of mild physical abuse.

    The comparative is clearly there, and it continues in the rest of the article, even if the exact wording is different. There is no misrepresentation or lie in drawing that conclusion.

  63. Tom Gilson says:

    Stephen, how do you handle the empirical evidence that shows raising kids as Christians is not abuse?

  64. Stephen says:

    Tom Said

    Is it too far of a stretch to conclude that if he thinks it’s child abuse, he thinks it’s as bad as child abuse?

    This is just falling into the same trap I was warning about in my post: you are trying to make “child a abuse” a unitary thing with a single measure of judgement. Do you really think Dawkins would say that raising your child to be a Christian is “as bad” as beating them with a belt every day of there life? When you see things on a scale instead of identity (the nature of the thing), it changes your reaction.

  65. Stephen says:

    Tom Said

    Stephen, how do you handle the empirical evidence that shows raising kids as Christians is not abuse?

    Is it your concept that secularist see everything as requiring empirical evidence? How could that be so? It is your intellectual style to think you have the evidence that settles this complex matter. What a society says child abuse is, is what a society decides it is. It isn’t something that we “prove” or something that we work to discover the “right” definition. We will not find a grounding for our definition in some standard that sits outside of human purposes and endeavors: it is something that we try to reach agreement on, settle with a compromise and tolerate differences. For example, some people see taking a belt to a child as appropriate disciplining, others see it as child abuse. Neither are “wrong”, but I want to live in a society where it is deemed child abuse, so I’ll try to persuade others to see it as I do.

  66. Stephen says:

    The comparative is clearly there, and it continues in the rest of the article, even if the exact wording is different. There is no misrepresentation or lie in drawing that conclusion.

    Note that Dawkins’ comments on this largely derive from the personal experience of a woman that wrote to him, saying that the sexual abuse by a priest was far less traumatic in her life than being raised to believe that her friend, who had died, was doomed to “roast in hell”. Does this count as “evidence”?
    There is no necessary way a person responds to abuse like any other misfortune in life. Some people come away chuckling about an experience as a child, another can’t get their life off the ground over it. This again points to lack of a “nature” or “essence” to anything here, even the response does not have a necessary, given feature about it. There is no clear ladder of badness about these things. Human evaluation weighs significantly on how it all turns out. The account by that woman, I think, is perfectly believable and understandable. She isn’t right or wrong to have evaluated it all out this way. But it shows that for some, religious dogma apparently can be more damaging that sex abuse.

  67. Tom Gilson says:

    1. It is Richard Dawkins’ stated assertion that nothing should be believed except on the basis of empirical evidence. He’s contradicting his own standards. Hence the hypocrisy charge.

    2. It’s not just that empirical evidence fails to support the abuse theory. It positively and completely contradicts it (see the links in the OP). If it is not your “intellectual style” to take that into account, then your intellectual style is lacking in scientific rigor.

    3. If it were true as you say that society can say what “child abuse” is without reference to whether children’s lives have better outcomes based on that “abuse,” then the word is meaningless, and Dawkins’s charge would be rendered irrelevant.

    4. Suppose he still insists on calling a religious upbringing “abuse.” I’ll just disagree! And if (as you claim) there’s no further grounding for either of our opinions, then if he says I’m wrong, I’ll remind he has no better reason to call me wrong than I do him. Except for this: my view has empirical support, and also…

    5. Finally: the definition of child abuse is something the relevant professionals, whom society generally considers authoritative, actually have agreed on, and their definition has nothing to do with what Dawkins calls abuse.

    So, five strikes and you’re more than out.

  68. Ray Ingles says:

    Tom Gilson –

    It is Richard Dawkins’ stated assertion that nothing should be believed except on the basis of empirical evidence.

    Where? I don’t recall him using those words. I wouldn’t be shocked if he had, but I’d still like a source.

  69. Stephen says:

    It is Richard Dawkins’ stated assertion that nothing should be believed except on the basis of empirical evidence.

    I think Dawkins would require evidence for those beliefs that are about the world, beliefs that are ordinarily justified by evidence. This is not the same as requiring evidence for all beliefs. There is no evidence of the sort used in chemistry, for example, that is going to convince all involved that taking a belt to a child with the intention of disciplining them, is child abuse.

  70. Tom Gilson says:

    I think you can find that evidence, Ray, in all of Dawkins’s insistence on science as the one reliable source of knowledge. Here is a good example.

    Stephen, there is science relating to child abuse, for it is “about the world,” as you say. Sure, there are gray areas and points of dispute, as you have correctly pointed out, but there are also some firmly established facts. One of them is that abuse is bad for kids, and leads to bad outcomes. The empirical data relating to religion shows precisely the opposite: that the more devoted kids are to Christianity, the healthier they are on dozens and dozens of life-outcome measures.

    So from an empirical perspective with respect to Christianity — I’ll repeat it once again — Dawkins is wrong. And he’s hypocritical not to accept what science has to say on this.

    (I have no data relating to other religions and no reason to think the same should be true for them — and also no interest in discussing “religion” as an amorphous homogeneous blob-like thing. There is no such thing as religion in any relevant sociological sense here, only religions; and there is every reason to expect that different religions would lead to different kinds of lives and outcomes.)

  71. Ray Ingles says:

    Tom – Dawkins says he wants evidence to believe things, but I don’t see him make the claim that all evidence is empirical evidence. (Or is the phrase “empirical evidence” redundant?) Even if he did say ’empirical evidence’ somewhere, which subdefinition would he insist on, if any?

    (Now, that’s not to say that he should reject empirical evidence. Indeed, I’ve already agreed with you that evidence is against him for the overbroad claims he makes in this regard.)

  72. Stephen says:

    Tom says:

    Sure, there are gray areas and points of dispute, as you have correctly pointed out, but there are also some firmly established facts.

    There are specifics that are more easy to get agreement on than others, of course. The “gray areas” you acknowledge are all we need to ratify Dawkins’ effort to include things like telling children that their friend who died tragically is doomed to “roast in hell” as a FORM of child (emotional) abuse. Will his effort get off the ground in America? Probably not.

    One of them is that abuse is bad for kids, and leads to bad outcomes.

    The question here is what counts as “abuse”, so this statement is begging the question.

    The empirical data relating to religion shows precisely the opposite: that the more devoted kids are to Christianity, the healthier they are on dozens and dozens of life-outcome measures.

    But probably not the brand of Christianity that the woman which Dawkins referred to, right? And how else should this be qualified? Same goes for Dawkins, there are degrees and variations that matter, and that are running under the radar of the abstraction used in this discussion.

  73. Tom Gilson says:

    Stephen, if you want to hold to a private definition of abuse that defies all the professional literature, fine. If you want to take it that there is some kind of abuse that results in improved life outcomes for the children, that would definitely be a private definition. If you think that Dawkins limits his abuse charge to some unique and rare “brand of Christianity,” then you have a most idiosyncratic understanding of the phrase quoted above, “bringing them up Catholic.”

    In other words, if you want to keep steering this discussion off onto a rabbit trail, then please know that I’m done wandering off that direction with you.

    I’ll grant that there are possible ways to hurt kids with age-inappropriate, overly violent messages. In my experience that effect is rare and limited. Dawkins wants to extend it to virtually all Christian upbringing, however. Mike D. said he had nuanced that to something more limited, but I don’t see that anywhere in his writings.

    So you can defend your position if you define your position very, very narrowly, so narrow that it refers to a tiny minority of religious parents, and so narrow that its scope differs by orders of magnitude from what Dawkins was apparently referring to.

    And if that’s what you want to defend, then fine, I’ll grant it. But in so doing you’re not defending Dawkins, for his position is different from that. You’re not getting him off the hook for his hypocrisy. And you’re not making a case that bringing up a child to believe in Christ is abusive. Those are the topics I think are interesting here.

    You can defend something much different than that, as you have been, and I don’t care. But it would be a lot more interesting if you would actually talk about the topics that matter to more than a tiny minority.

  74. Tom Gilson says:

    I made that too complicated. Here’s the simple version.

    I opened this post by speaking of Richard Dawkins’s belief that a religious upbringing is generally harmful to children. He didn’t qualify that: in fact, he speaks very broadly, for example, of “bringing them up Catholic” doing harm.

    You’re trying to change the subject to a very limited and essentially private definition of “abuse,” committed by some “brand of Christianity.”

    Other than granting that there are instances where some persons holding to some brands of “Christianity” have made mistakes in bringing up their children, I’m not interested in that. I’m interested in Dawkins’s hypocrisy.

  75. Stephen says:

    Tom, what I have argued is not FOR any specific definition, and so not anything that could possible run against conventional definitions. I have argued that there isn’t a settled, universal idea of what COUNTS as abuse, as the “belt” example would point out. And I have argued our working through this question of what counts as abuse is a process and an ongoing discussion and Dawkins is a voice out there saying children should be sheltered from ideas like people “roasting in hell” just like we think they should be sheltered from sexual content in conversation and in the media. That is an extreme example, I admit, but it is all I need to break through the abstractions “child abuse” and “Christianity” to show that on the level of particulars, there are clearly things we need to be talking about.

  76. Stephen says:

    Tom, I agree that this discussion is muddling over a couple of different points, but it also derives from the muddle in the original article. We could split in two what is going here. One distinct point Dawkins makes has to do with identity. He thinks it abusive to raise children to identify themselves with a religion because they are too young and vulnerable and gullible, etc, to make such an identification so important as this. The other part of this has to with Christian Dogma on the whole being unsuitable for consumption by children, as I said earlier, the way we think sexual content is unsuitable. Both of those original threads are represented in your comments posts by many contributors.

    Tom says

    You’re trying to change the subject to a very limited and essentially private definition of “abuse,” committed by some “brand of Christianity.”

    No, I’m trying to show what happens when we avoid the blur of abstract language and start talking in terms of specifics. It becomes clear that we a lot to talk about – it isn’t a good/bad done thing.

  77. SteveK says:

    I have argued that there isn’t a settled, universal idea of what COUNTS as abuse, as the “belt” example would point out.

    Add to that list of unsettled universal ideas, the following:

    I
    have
    argued
    that
    there
    isn’t

    I really am amazed at how many intelligent people suddenly lose their ability to know what they know about universal concepts when they decide to enter into a debate. Suddenly every one of these concepts is a mystery – except the ones that fit their agenda. Those are concrete ideas that everybody knows.

  78. bigbird says:

    One distinct point Dawkins makes has to do with identity. He thinks it abusive to raise children to identify themselves with a religion because they are too young and vulnerable and gullible, etc, to make such an identification so important as this.

    For something to be abusive, you have to demonstrate harm. I can equally make the claim it is abusive to raise children to identify themselves as “free thinkers” or “brights”, because they are too young and vulnerable and gullible, etc, to make such an identification so important as this.

    It seems too that many atheists’ children grow up to be atheists, and this is a definite worry – it certainly seems to confirm my fears that indoctrination has been going on.

    The other part of this has to with Christian Dogma on the whole being unsuitable for consumption by children, as I said earlier, the way we think sexual content is unsuitable.

    I find atheist dogma highly unsuitable for consumption by children, and feel that this should be raised in the discussion.

  79. Ray Ingles says:

    bigbird –

    It seems too that many atheists’ children grow up to be atheists, and this is a definite worry – it certainly seems to confirm my fears that indoctrination has been going on.

    I assume you were being sarcastic here in an effort to point out an issue with Dawkins’ reasoning?

  80. Stephen says:

    SteveK says

    I really am amazed at how many intelligent people suddenly lose their ability to know what they know about universal concepts when they decide to enter into a debate. Suddenly every one of these concepts is a mystery – except the ones that fit their agenda. Those are concrete ideas that everybody knows.

    I’m not saying what counts as abuse is a mystery, I’m saying when we look at the public dialog what we see is that it is not “settled”, there isn’t universal “agreement”. And I’m saying that it isn’t something to discover and get “right”, that there are many forms of abuse and we judge them variously. And I’m saying that Dawkins’ concern is valid and worth being a part of that dialog.

    As an example of where we see lack of universal agreement, see the question of whether taking a belt to a child in an effort to discipline him/her. No mystery, that’s observation.

  81. Stephen says:

    For something to be abusive, you have to demonstrate harm. I can equally make the claim it is abusive to raise children to identify themselves as “free thinkers” or “brights”, because they are too young and vulnerable and gullible, etc, to make such an identification so important as this.

    This is like putting science on a list of religious choices. It misses an important differentiator – the lack of rigidly held ideology. To teach a child to be a free thinker is the opposite of indocrinating them – it is teaching them about ideology and rhetoric. It is about as far from ideology as we have been able to get. To teach a child to be a free thinker is to let them decide, not to tell them who they are.

    However, I do think there are OTHER examples of indoctrination. The way Americans are raised to view their country and their way of life counts as one of these. The way we think of capitalism is one of these. These have content in a way that free thinking does not.

  82. bigbird says:

    This is like putting science on a list of religious choices. It misses an important differentiator – the lack of rigidly he ideology. To teach a child to be a free thinker is the opposite of indocrinating them – it is teaching them about ideology and rhetoric. It is about as far from ideology as we have been able to get. To teach a child to be a free thinker is to let them decide, not to tell them who they are.

    That was really funny, thank you. I should elaborate – it made me think of a parent angrily telling their child “you MUST be a free thinker!!”.

  83. Stephen says:

    Bigbird says

    For something to be abusive, you have to demonstrate harm..

    One argument for my opponents to make here would be to say that many Christians do their own policing of material that children are exposed to. You have children’s versions of the bible and in many other ways just stay clear of the stuff that really is not appropriate for them. That would be a good start in that it would admit that a Sunday school class the focused weekly on these parts of the bible would be questionable to say the least. To do this would also show some honesty on the subject.

  84. Stephen says:

    That was really funny, thank you. I should elaborate – it made me think of a parent angrily telling their child “you MUST be a free thinker!!”.

    Good example of how meaning is made – in the minds of the recipient of language as much or more as from the author. I think this is a skill that is fine tuned in bible studies where you have to be adept at such transformations of language.

  85. Tom Gilson says:

    Stephen,

    1. Richard Dawkins says it is abusive to raise children to hold religious beliefs.
    2. In the professional literature, abuse is regularly, and as a statistical tendency — even if there are individual exceptions — necessarily associated with harm, otherwise it is not “abuse.”
    3. This is “settled.” On this there is agreement, within the relevant community of scientific practice.
    4. There is no social science to support a statistical effect of harm coming from a Christian upbringing; to the contrary, the best studies out there contradict it.
    5. Therefore Dawkins’s statement is unscientific and in fact anti-scientific.
    6. But Dawkins insists on science as the sine qua non of knowledge.
    7. Therefore Dawkins’s stand on religion and abuse is hypocritical.

    If as you say there are various opinions about “abuse” in other contexts and so on, the above remains true regardless.

    Finally, if you’re interested in “raising a child to be a free thinker,” please check out the series I’m writing to students (next installment tomorrow) and to parents. Notice in particular how often I’m encouraging question-asking.

    There’s nothing peculiarly atheistic about raising a free thinker, if it just means having the freedom to think. Just don’t confuse free-thinking with free-of-information-thinking. To raise a child without teaching her is to hobble her thinking, not to open it up.

  86. Tom Gilson says:

    Ray, responding to your #80:

    I can’t speak for bigbird, but I could certainly make that statement without the slightest intention of sarcasm or irony. It’s just true.

  87. Stephen says:

    For something to be abusive, you have to demonstrate harm.

    Isn’t this begging the question? Don’t we now just have to ask all of the same questions we asked about “abuse”?

    Since the meaning of “harm” has in recent years (through a gradual process of change through public discussion) come to include things like emotional abuse (oops now we are defining abuse in terms of harm and harm in terms in abuse) it gets tricky. What counts as emotional abuse? We now even have to ask questions like “is harm to children always abuse?” That would seem obvious but not when I consider the “belt” example. Parents that take a belt to a child with the intention of disciplining them KNOW it harms them, that is suppose to be the remedy to a problem. But would they also want the practice to be called “abuse”. Probably not. So abuse must cause harm but harm isn’t necessarily abuse.

  88. bigbird says:

    Parents that take a belt to a child with the intention of disciplining them KNOW it harms them, that is suppose to be the remedy to a problem. But would they also want the practice to be called “abuse”. Probably not. So abuse must cause harm but harm isn’t necessarily abuse (even though abuse is harmful).

    You need to distinguish between “pain” and “harm”. Pain is temporary, harm is longer lasting. Otherwise you must concede that vaccinating a child is causing them harm, which I doubt many people believe (except perhaps the anti-vaccination crowd).

  89. bigbird says:

    One argument for my opponents to make here would be to say that many Christians do their own policing of material that children are exposed to. You have children’s versions of the bible and in many other ways just stay clear of the stuff that really is not appropriate for them. That would be a good start in that it would admit that a Sunday school class the focused weekly on these parts of the bible would be questionable to say the least. To do this would also show some honesty on the subject.

    I suppose we could say the obvious – that good parents of every stripe monitor and control the material that they allow their children to access.

    As an aside, I’m surprised you are not concerned at the use of Grimm’s Fairy Tales with young children. And Little Red Riding Hood has some disturbing material about wolves eating grandmothers.

    Really, it would show some honesty on this subject if you raised concerns about this type of material which I believe is extremely common in many homes. Otherwise I might get the erroneous idea that you were being hypocritical and were only concerned with criticizing religious families and not being truly concerned about abuse.

  90. Stephen says:

    You need to distinguish between “pain” and “harm”. Pain is temporary, harm is longer lasting. Otherwise you must concede that vaccinating a child is causing them harm, which I doubt many people believe (except perhaps the anti-vaccination crowd).

    Ok, good distinction. But how long does the pain have to last before we can safely call it harm? Or what is “longer lasting”? Is length of time all that distinguish pain and harm, or might there be other evaluations?

    Do you think the woman that Dawkins refers to was harmed?

  91. Tom Gilson says:

    Stephen, you ask,

    Isn’t this begging the question? Don’t we now just have to ask all of the same questions we asked about “abuse”?

    The question I’m addressing here is whether Richard Dawkins is being anti-scientific. The scientific community is not as confused about this as you seem to think we ought to be. There are standards within that community by which these terms are defined, and by which outcomes are measured. This is not as much in doubt as you seem to think it is.

    Have you read the links in the OP yet? If not, then you won’t know what I’m talking about.

  92. Stephen says:

    Really, it would show some honesty on this subject if you raised concerns about this type of material which I believe is extremely common in many homes. Otherwise I might get the erroneous idea that you were being hypocritical and were only concerned with criticizing religious families and not being truly concerned about abuse.

    Well, if we were talking about children’s literature, I might have said that have thought they are not generally for children at all, nor is “Alice in Wonderland” a childrens story. What if someone came out and said reading some Grimm’s fairy tales to children is a form of child abuse. Would they get treated as we see Dawkins is being treated? Probably not. Why?

  93. Tom Gilson says:

    Do I think the woman Dawkins refers to was harmed?

    Of course I do.

    Do I think his use of anecdotal evidence is consistent with his insistence on the use of science?

    No. It’s a demonstration of his hypocrisy.

  94. Tom Gilson says:

    What difference does it make, in view of bigbird’s question, whether someone is or isn’t heard for saying it’s abuse to read Grimm’s fairy tales to their children? That’s just a red herring posing as a question.

  95. Tom Gilson says:

    Which treatment of Dawkins were you referring to, by the way? The (unfortunately not inexplicable) adulation he gets, recently being voted the world’s leading thinker, or my insistent criticism of his hypocrisy?

  96. Stephen says:

    Tom says this

    Do I think his use of anecdotal evidence is consistent with his insistence on the use of science?

    in response to Dawkins putting forth a case where a woman was (he thinks) abused by religious dogma.
    Science operates on the principle that we cannot prove something to be true but we can prove it false by producing a case that breaks the generalization established by a theory. Dawkins did just that. He produced a case that breaks the claim that religion cannot be abusive to people. That is science.

  97. Stephen says:

    Bigbird? Can you show a case where someone felt abused because their parents taught them to be free thinkers? Someone that felt abused because they were taught the value of reason, parsimony and evidence?

  98. Stephen says:

    The problem with anecdotal evidence is that we don’t want to generalize from a single or a few case(s). However, as the case above shows, it is scientific method to use a single case to break a general claim.

  99. bigbird says:

    Science operates on the principle that we cannot prove something to be true but we can prove it false by producing a case that breaks the generalization established by a theory. Dawkins did just that. He produced a case that breaks the claim that religion cannot be abusive to people. That is science.

    Straw man, and a poor one. No-one has claimed religion can’t be used to be abusive. Any ideology can be.

    It is not science to break a claim no-one has made!

    Can you show a case where someone felt abused because their parents taught them to be free thinkers? Someone that felt abused because they were taught the value of reason, parsimony and evidence?

    You miss the point. It’s not the content – it’s how children are taught.

  100. Stephen says:

    Straw man, and a poor one. No-one has claimed religion can’t be used to be abusive. Any ideology can be.

    I don’t hear anybody arguing that Dawkins has a point in that Christians need to be careful in their handling of doctrine, etc. What I hear is there is no way he has any valid point, which carries the implication that he is flat out wrong, period! In that case, it is no straw man, it is arguing the actual stance being put forth by all who have not said such a disclaimer.

  101. Stephen says:

    You miss the point. It’s not the content – it’s how children are taught.I don’t think this point has been made until now. It’s not the content? To think of “how” smacks of clever spin. Tell me how “how” makes the difference?

  102. bigbird says:

    I don’t think this point has been made until now. It’s not the content? To think of “how” smacks of clever spin. Tell me how “how” makes the difference?

    The point has already been made in #52.

  103. bigbird says:

    I don’t hear anybody arguing that Dawkins has a point in that Christians need to be careful in their handling of doctrine, etc. What I hear is there is no way he has any valid point, which carries the implication that he is flat out wrong, period! In that case, it is no straw man, it is arguing the actual stance being put forth by all who have not said such a disclaimer.

    You said “He produced a case that breaks the claim that religion cannot be abusive to people. “.

    No-one has made that claim. So that’s a straw man, no matter how you like to spin it.

    Yes, Dawkins has a trivial point that Christians need to be careful to teach their children in age-appropriate ways. But that advice applies to every parent, religious or atheist – don’t expose children to concepts they are not ready for.

  104. Stephen says:

    In response to

    I don’t hear anybody arguing that Dawkins has a point in that Christians need to be careful in their handling of doctrine, etc. What I hear is there is no way he has any valid point, which carries the implication that he is flat out wrong, period!

    Bigbird said

    You said “He produced a case that breaks the claim that religion cannot be abusive to people. “.

    No-one has made that claim. So that’s a straw man, no matter how you like to spin it.

    You seem to be insisting that claims are always explicitly stated, never implicitly, or if it isn’t explicitly stated, it isn’t part of the argument. My statement rests on that not being true.

  105. bigbird says:

    You seem to be insisting that claims are always explicitly stated, never implicitly, or if it isn’t explicitly stated, it isn’t part of the argument. My statement rests on that not being true.

    No-one has made that claim, explicitly or implicitly.

    I must say, it’s amazing how much someone can write trying to defend a stupid assertion someone else (Dawkins) has made. And his assertion has nothing to do with science.

  106. Tom Gilson says:

    Stephen,

    Dawkins’s claim was not that religion can be abusive. He was not simply producing evidence to counter some claim that religion cannot be abusive. Please re-read what he said. If he had said what you are saying here, then he would not have been hypocritical in what he said.

    But that’s not what he said, not even implicitly: he was making a broad case for the fact that raising kids in a religion is generally abusive. Or as bigbird put it in #35, “Dawkins is drawing the line in a place that labels almost all parents who wish to give their children a religious upbringing as child abusers.”

    So he was not doing science, and he was being a hypocrite.

  107. Tom Gilson says:

    And now I want to pair two things you have said here, and add some that we have said:

    1. (From you) “You seem to be insisting that claims are always explicitly stated, never implicitly, or if it isn’t explicitly stated, it isn’t part of the argument. My statement rests on that not being true.”
    2. (From you) “I don’t hear anybody arguing that Dawkins has a point in that Christians need to be careful in their handling of doctrine, etc. ”
    3. (From me)”Do I think the woman Dawkins refers to was harmed? Of course I do.”
    4. (From me) “Other than granting that there are instances where some persons holding to some brands of “Christianity” have made mistakes in bringing up their children…”

    Let’s put those together. You say you “don’t hear anybody arguing that … Christians need to be careful in their handling of doctrine.” But you did hear me say that this one woman was harmed, and that there are some who have made mistakes. And you do insist (and of course I agree) that claims can be implicit rather than explicit. I think if you had some charity in your interpretation you could find me implicitly saying (in 3 and 4) that Christians need to be careful that way.

    Which we can place now in a larger perspective:

    A. You say (#97) that “He produced a case that breaks the claim that religion cannot be abusive to people. That is science.”
    B. bigbird has been arguing since then that no one has made that claim.
    C. I have just now shown, further, that I agree that in some cases religion can be applied abusively.
    D. It’s not here in this thread, but I can guarantee you that if you polled Christians generally with the question, “Can religion be used abusively in bringing up children?” more than 95% would say “yes,” as bigbird and I have done here (implicitly).
    E. So you are staking your defense of Dawkins on something he didn’t say (see my previous comment) and on something that no one else says, either.

  108. Tom Gilson says:

    Finally (for now), Stephen, I have to wonder: what is your stake in this? Why are you so insistent on defending Dawkins? Why would you take that defense so far as to change what he said? Why is this so important to you?

    Ray has recognized that Dawkins got it wrong. I don’t think you think Dawkins is infallible; that would be supernatural, and I’m sure you don’t see Dawkins that way.

    I’m wondering what your experience with Christianity has been. I’m thinking that if you’ve seen it being abusive, in your family or someone else’s close to you, you might have a pretty serious reason to try to hold your ground here. We’re talking about science and logic, while possibly you’re dealing with something else on a completely different level.

    I don’t know that, obviously. I’m speculating. If that were the case, I’d rather get off the scientific/logical level of discussion and meet you where it really matters. If you have something to tell us about abusive religion in your background, I’d be happy to hear it. I wouldn’t be happy it happened (if it did), because no one should ever do that to another human being; it’s a tragedy on multiple levels. It’s wrong, and I would be very regretful and sad to hear of it. But if you wanted to share something, you’d be welcome to do so.

    Okay, I’m still speculating. If this doesn’t apply to you, maybe it does to some other reader, and I’d welcome anyone else to jump in and tell their story. I think we Christians need to hear from you.

    Meanwhile, Stephen, since I have no real idea what’s going on, I have to wonder what your stake is in defending Dawkins. Why is it that important to you?

  109. BSquibs says:

    Stephen, as a Christian I agree with Tom and Bigbird. Religion can be applied in an abusive manor. Regrettably Christianity is no different. But this isn’t quite what RD was talking about.

  110. Ray Ingles says:

    Tom Gilson –

    I can’t speak for bigbird, but I could certainly make that statement without the slightest intention of sarcasm or irony. It’s just true.

    Oookay. The kids of atheists tend to be atheists. This is, so far as I can gather from your and bigbird’s words, a sign of worrying ‘indoctrination’.

    Of course, kids tend to grow up to have religious beliefs similar to their parents. The kids of Muslims tend to be Muslim. The kids of Hindus tend to be Hindu. The kids of Christians tend to be Cristian.

    So… we should be equally worried about Christian ‘indoctrination’ as atheist ‘indoctrination’, amirite?

  111. SteveK says:

    Dawkins may be right after all

    Christian tortures peaceful Muslim man in an effort to force him to recant his faith

    What the……..wait!…….no, that’s not right……dang it!

  112. Bryan Clagg says:

    Outstanding, Dawkins is so very wrong, “scientifically wrong”, empirically wrong….so you say….but you dont. Nice assertions backed by: nothing!
    Christianity for the win, but dont push fairy tales on our children!