Is Teaching Religion To Children A Form Of Child Abuse?

Discussion in 'Agnosticism and Atheism' started by Okiefreak, Mar 20, 2017.

  1. Okiefreak

    Okiefreak Senior Member

    This thread is a carry over from a thread in the Politics Forum entitled Ban All Abrahamic Religion". The OP, in her inimitable fashion, said of religion :"It is not a freedom, it is a brainwashing of babies to force them to believe a delusion. Saying religion is a freedom is like saying Nazi babies are free babies. The babies were brainwashed to be nazis, and the religious were brainwashed to be religious. The 10% of religious people who weren't brainwashed into it, are just idiots." I take issue with that, and am opening this thread in a more appropriate forum to continue the discussion. Dawkins, Kraus and other atheists have charged that religion is a form of child abuse. Is that true?
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  2. morrow

    morrow Senior Member

    In some ways, yes it is!
    I think of the Catholic religion, that insists their way, and nothing more..

    I will give you an example!

    My little granddaughter goes to a Catholic school, the one her mum and family went to, even though they hated it, it's the done thing!
    My son, not a Catholic, refused to allow her baptism into the church, but the school, because of the good sat results!, was agreed to.

    The priest is known as Father Ron.. he refuses to baptise the children at his school, if the parents are not married! Big problem these days!

    But, the children are told, if your not well-behaved, you die and go in the ground, and that's it!

    Little one was crying, panicking, all the things you don't expect from a six year old! Especially one as good, and nice as her, ( she really is a dream child,) so we gets it out of her, she is so scared of doing something wrong, at not being nice enough to go to heaven, she was scared of being put in the ground! I mean terrified!

    She has a terminal illness! And became ill in church during prayer time, father Ron, ordered her out the lesson, stamped his feet and told her she will surely go to hell, as she was disrespecting god!
    One of the teachers left with her...

    I'm not going to tell you what my son said, and did, but let's say, he is expelled from school! Lol

    No one at that school was surprised at the things they do, or say! But no one has the balls to complain! We did, i picked her up from school one day, father Ron, was balling his head at them all, home time bell went, he ordered them to sit still.. little ones were crying, mum's stood out side and watched! No fuckin way was i! I walked in the class, got hold of the little ones hand, gave him a piece of my mind! Little ugly shit, started spouting shit at me..I turned, walked up to him, and right up to his face, i said, it's you you child abuser, you bully, that's going to hell, now drop dead, you horrible man! Who do you think you are, fuckin god! I walked over to the coat rail, got her coat, bag, and med pack..He was lost for words, we went home!
    Everything those kids do, they do in the name, and for the love of god!
    But they are bullied into it..Yes, it's child abuse!
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  3. MeAgain

    MeAgain Dazed and Confused Staff Member

    So when I was a kid I went to summer school to be taught by nuns. I don't know what kind of nuns, I was a kid. But they wore black robes and lived in a nunnery over there at the side of the church.

    Even at that early age, what eight, nine, ten (this went on for some years) I couldn't figure out what they were talking about because it never made any sense....scared the hell of of me now and then but never made sense.
    I'd ask stupid questions like, "But what about all the Chinese kids who were never baptized", and all those Romans and cave people, where'd they go when they died?
    And when I found out about forgiveness, whoeee! I found out you could kill someone and then just "repent' and everything was okay.

    So, I wasn't real popular with the nuns and I learned to keep my mouth shut until I was in college and then I stopped going to church.

    It also saved me from getting my knuckles smacked.

    And my wife, who was Protestant, lived at a Catholic convent and attended school there for a few years during her elementary schooling. She had a class of about 10 people. Don't get her started.

    Here it is:


    So you can draw your own conclusions from my little story.
  4. Meliai

    Meliai Senior Member

    All parents, whether they're religious or not, are going to raise their children to be little extensions of their own value system.
    I personally would not call it child abuse unless it veers into more literal definitions of abuse; if, for example, your religion promotes a "spare the rod, spoil the child" philosophy which actively encourages parents to beat their children.
    And there are some extreme religious philosophies out there that are so far removed from mainstream culture, I would find it difficult to categorize it as anything but child abuse. Westboro Church comes to mind

    But barring any extremism, I think we're entering dangerous territory to label a religious upbringing as child abuse. The same logic could very easily be applied to the non religious by the religious as well. Better to allow parents the freedom to determine and teach their children their own values and beliefs.
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  5. Irminsul

    Irminsul Valkyrie

    If I had a little Irmi, she'd be just as influenced by the Norse as I was at her age and she'd be just as badass like her mamma is. :)

    There's morals in religion, there's a lot of positivity in religion, it's a shame most of of the negative society tend to pick on whether god is real or not opposed to what the child is actually learning.

    When I grew up going to church etc. I learned morals. What's right and what's wrong and in the end that's what I remember. I don't remember stories about God and Jesus, I remember how to treat somebody. :)

    A lot of new parents don't know how to treat people yet alone their own children.
  6. neonspectraltoast

    neonspectraltoast Senior Member

    I would say it is in the way it is carried out. Religious people should be sensible. I don't think there's anything wrong with teaching kids stories like the story of Jesus. But instead of being like "Christ died for our sins" why not be like, "There is a legend that there was a man who had great powers..." or something like that? That would be more honest and more caring.
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  7. guerillabedlam

    guerillabedlam Senior Member

    I don't think Teaching a Child Religion is inherently Child Abuse, but I think child abuse is more permissible and acceptable under the guise of "Teaching" in religion, more so than any other established legal paradigm.
  8. Okiefreak

    Okiefreak Senior Member

    It's a complex topic. My take on it is that it's impossible to generalize about the effects of religion as a whole. Many people who had religious upbringings turn out to be normal, decent citizens, but some are damaged. Richard Dawkins, the atheist who is credited with the thesis that religious upbringing is inherently abusive, himself had what he calls "a normal Anglican upbringing." Most of the atheists I know came from religious backgrounds I'd consider abusive: strongly punitive, with a concept of God as punishing and vindictive. I can relate to the posts about Catholicism, although fundamentalist Protestants are sometimes worse. I vividly remember being sent to Catholic school and encountering the fearsome nuns with rulers at age five. I can remember sister Laurencia's lecture n original sin--quite dramatic, with an image of a person on the blackboard covered with chalk and then her eraser representing God's saving grace making it all clean. Quite a lot to lay on a five year old, I'd say. But it didn't last long. The nuns advised my Mom that I'd be better off in a public school That's kind of like being kicked out of East Germany during the Cold War, when they were shooting everybody else who tried to escape. I felt like the ultimate reject! But the public school experience taught me there were kids who worshiped differently, and my parents weren't exactly religious zealots. My mother taught me all religions were teaching the same thing in a different way. So I survived, And I don't believe in Hell or Original Sin. And I'm a pretty liberal Protestant.
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  9. BlackBillBlake

    BlackBillBlake Hip Forums Supporter

    I think it's inevitable where you have parents who believe in a particular religion that they will want their children to get educated in it. I'm not sure that should be done in schools, but I do think schools should teach about different religions in a context of cultural studies or something similar. Many people brought up as Christians of whatever complexion leave school fairly ignorant of other religions. That can lead to suspicion and fear of the other. How many who bitterly criticise Islam really know what it's about? Very few if they relied on school to inform them.

    I went to a Catholic school when I was very young. I have to say that although the nuns were strange to me in some ways, I didn't get any abuse and my memories of it are quite good. Later I went to a state school where there was a fairly strong Anglican agenda, again, I don't think it did me much harm. At age 8 I was able to adapt to the differences pretty seamlessly.

    Not to educate children about religion at all would probably be a mistake.It would be like religious people denying their children any education in science. Like it or not, religion plays a big role in life for very large numbers of people, and I don't really see much advantage in ignorance. Without some knowledge of religion, how can you possibly teach history in any meaningful way?
    In an ideal world, children could be told about various religions and make their choice to follow one or not for themselves when they have enough maturity to decide. I don't think that's very likely to happen though.
  10. Okiefreak

    Okiefreak Senior Member

    It's often tempting, especially for people who feel passionately about their own opinions, to think that those who disagree with us are mentally damaged. I think Dawkins and others who regard religious teachings to children as inherently abusive may be guilty of that mode of thinking. He thinks that teaching children to accept their families' religion is more devastatingly and permanently harmful than sexual abuse because it impairs their ability to think correctly--like he does. I acknowledge at the outset that excessive physical violence against children is child abuse, and that religions that advocate that can be considered abusive. I say "excessive" because I'm not at the point where I condemn all spanking as abusive, although I personally don't believe in it. Certainly, sexual molestation of children is abusive, made worse when done by clerics. The major issue raised by Dawkins, though, is that teaching to children views that he considers to be wrong and detrimental to logical thought is inherently abusive. I see several problems with this. Does it apply only to religion, or would we throw other beliefs into the mix--like being raised Republican. That, as a matter of fact, that happened to me. My parents were pretty casual and open-minded when it came to religion, but Republican politics was another matter. It was like being raised by Fox News. Obviously it didn't work, which sometimes seems to be the case when indoctrination efforts are carried too far. Republicans seem to be anti-scientific when it comes to such matters as Climate Change--I think less for religious reasons than that it threatens the profit margins of the fossil fuel industry. Certainly voting for Trump has major adverse consequences for the safety and well-being of the United States and the rest of our planet. Yet I think there are major practical problems in trying to ban even such irrational and odious views as Trumpism.

    I think Dawkins is wrong because: (1) he adopts a simplistic distinction between truth and error; (2) he fails to discriminate among different kinds of religion; (3) he fails to put forward scientific (as opposed to anecdotal) evidence for his position; and (4) he does not consider possible adverse consequences of such a ban, especially getting the government involved in such an operation.

    (1) Dawkins seems to view reality in terms of truth and error: his own view, scientism, being truth; any opposing views being error. Scientism is defined as "an exaggerated trust in the efficacy of the methods of natural science applied to all areas of investigation (as in philosophy, the social sciences and the humanities)
    According to Philopsher Tom Sorrell, “Scientism is a matter of putting too high a value on natural science in comparison with other branches of learning or culture.” Dawkins is considered somewhat extreme on this by other natural scientists such as theoretical physicist Peter Higgs (of the Higgs Bosom theory), himself an atheist, who considers Dawkins to be an atheist fundamentalist prone to criticize religious fundamentalists but exeplifying the same pattern of rigidity and dogmatism. Democratic theory assumes that reasonable people can differ, and although some opinions are better grounded in the evidence than others,.
    (3) Dawkins is prone to overgeneralize about religion on the basis of the most fundamentalist examples. Karen Armstrong's excellent historical studies of religion distinguish between logos and mythos. Logos is reason that helps us deal effectively with physical reality and must be closely in tune with science; mythos is about finding meaning and moral purpose in life and expression our sense of mystery and the transcendent through symbols and allegories. In practice, the two are easily confused, and when they encroach into each other's realms, it is important to slap them back.

    (3) oddly for one so dedicated to science, Dawkins puts forward no systematic empirical evidence for his claims against religious upbringing, but relies mainly on anecdotes and conclusions based on what he figures stands to reason on the basis of his assumptions about religion. The most extensive social science study of the matter is by Smith and Farris, who surveyed some 2500 twelfth grade adolescents and found that adolescents who received frequent religious instruction . Those who attended regular worship services were less inclined to get into fights, get drunk, use or deal drugs, steal, engage in vandalism or arson , or hit their teachers; were more inclined to volunteer for community service, and reported being happier. Christian Smith and Robert Faris. 2002. Religion and American Adolescient Delinquency, Risk Behaviorsm and Constructive Social Activities.The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Of course some might argue that these goody two shoe conformists are not really what we want in the world, but that would seem to be a personal value judgment.
  11. Moonglow181

    Moonglow181 Lifetime Supporter

    I thought along these same lines.

    I also thought of the belief in Santa Claus....


    but a false way to begin the just developing brain thinking that there is some force that will bring you what you want....and not rely on yourself...much like religion does.
  12. BlackBillBlake

    BlackBillBlake Hip Forums Supporter

    I assume that Dawkin's own 1950's education contained an element of religion. All English schools did in those days. He says his education was 'normal Anglican'. The question would then arise: was he damaged in his thinking by it, and if not, why not if others are? No doubt he'd have to reply in the negative. But would still prevent others from getting that component of education.

    Myself I don't think any government should be trusted to tell us what to believe for obvious reasons.
  13. Okiefreak

    Okiefreak Senior Member

    Yes, and that's the biggest reason for concern about the "ban religious teaching" bluster. It would require government intervention on a massive scale, and when it's been tried before--notably the Soviet Union--it hasn't gone well. You either end up taking the kids away from their parents and sticking them in some youth group like the Hitler Jungen or the Soviet Komsomol's where they learn what the State thinks is good for them or you end up trying to police what the parents are teaching at home, which would require a massive state bureaucracy intruding far more into our lives than we're used to. And considering the record Abrahamics have for resisting interference with their religion, there would be lots of violence. The person who proposed this ban on another thread expresses acceptance of violence as a means of carrying out this "worthy" end. I think it the harm would vastly outweigh any good, and considering that the Abrahamics vastly outnumber atheists, doesn't seem like a sensible thing to attempt.

    We might also explore the proposition that Abrahamic religions, in general, are abusive to children. In my previous post (#10), I mentioned the study by Smith and Farris indicating early religious training seems to be positively correlated with certain outcomes which are generally considered to be good. This gets us into broader areas of value and what "good outcomes" in child rearing should be. I could see Jean-Paul Sartre or Simone de Beauvoir looking with horror on such results as indicators that the kids had been objectified and made to internalize their parents and society's idea of who they are and what they should be: "cheerful robots" as sociologist C.Wright Mills used to say How terrible! Where's the angst? Dawkins, i'm sure, would say the important thing is whether or not they believe unbelievable things and have compromised their chances of becoming Nobel Laureats in science. But certainly some observant Abrahamics have become distinguished scientists with better reputations than his. As an Abrahamic, myself, I must admit I'm often shocked by some of the stuff my co-religionists seem to believe, which I judge to be on the order of beliefs in Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy, but I suspect at least half the stuff I believe is also false (not necessarily the religious half, and chalk it up to being human. The notion that science can or will know just about everything important and will necessarily make the world unequivoclly better seems to me to be as dubious a fantasy as any.

    But I think some Abrahamics are certainly abusive: the fundamentalists who teach their kids that they're sinful, are going to Hell, or are surrounded by demonic forces. I don't know what can be done about it, except better education and the hope that it will sink in. I recall a few years ago a post on these forums by a kid who thought Satan must have created him because he was gay. I remember posting "Where is Richard Dawkins when you really need him?

    (BTW, if the foregoing seems redundant in light of my previous post #10, I thought I had lost that one. It seems to have disappeared temporarily into cyberspace and resurfaced. So please excuse.)
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  14. BlackBillBlake

    BlackBillBlake Hip Forums Supporter

    Many things there with which I fully agree. I for one don't want to live in a society that tries to control what people are allowed to think. Banning religion - Abrahamic or otherwise is never going to work, and any attempt would, as you say, lead to violence and to martyrdom.

    On the topic of education, I feel that the religious elements we had at primary school (up to age 11) probably did have a positive effect on my own ethical development at a stage where all of that is being formed in a child. Although not a church goer or affiliated to any religion, I see quite clearly that many of my core values came to me in that particular form.
    In subsequent life I've found that actually, having had a dash of Catholicism and a larger one of Anglicanism has helped me to gain a lot of insight into Christianity in those related forms, and helped to fuel my interest in spirituality in general, as well as giving me a deeper understanding of things such as art, history and literature.
    My parents too were conservative politically, and not particularly religious. Dad a lapsed Catholic, Mum an Anglican. We never went to church except for weddings, christenings etc. I used to go to mass with my grandfather, who very much wanted me to be Catholic. Christened by them, never confirmed.

    None of it did me much harm. My daughter too had the 'normal Anglican' stuff at school, and has grown up to be sensible and sensitive. Interestingly,in her 30s she's quite independently begun to lean towards Catholicism.

    I think there are extreme cases where children are taught the fundamentalist agenda. But it's not only in a Christian context that it occurs. I know some 2nd generation Krishna devotees, whose parents are about my age and converted in the 70's. The younger ones were all educated in a Krishna Consciousness school, and to me seem to be rather brainwashed, or at least at the stage where they don't seem ever to question their beliefs, which are a bit extreme in some areas. Also it puts them at odds to an extent with the surrounding culture and society, even more so than in the case of a fundamentalist Christian. And to me it can seem that they have had little choice in it all.

    One other point I wanted to pick up - I doubt science will ever arrive at anything resembling complete knowledge, and I can't say I have much faith in it to solve all our problems, although it clearly has to be a part of any solution. Science is an extremely useful thing, but it can only help in certain areas. In and of itself I don't think it will ever help us find meaning in this existence.
  15. Adamskiffle

    Adamskiffle Well-Known Member

    No, it's not abuse...I actually see teaching kids about religion as a good thing on the whole (as is teaching kids about different cultures & different ways of thinking etc).

    Now, building a guilt complex into kids which says: 'You must believe or you will burn in hell forever' OR punishing a kid for not saying their prayers, yes, that is abusive.
  16. MeAgain

    MeAgain Dazed and Confused Staff Member

    First we must remember that in the U.S. the constitution forbids the banning of religion, I don't know how it works in other countries.

    And I agree that any attempt to ban any religion would probably inspire violence.

    I couldn't find anything on the Smith and Farris study but I would comment that regardless of what they found as to the positive aspects of religion, it doesn't mean that only a religious upbringing, particularly in the Abrahamic religions, is needed to insure a solid moral upbringing. Just saying.

    Lastly as to science. While I agree that science will never know everything, I must point out that it has already made the world unequivocally better than religion ever has. This is not to say religion doesn't have its place, but the scientific method has brought us so many improvements in the human condition that I can't even begin to list them here.

    There is no fantasy as to the value of science or what it could accomplish.
  17. MeAgain

    MeAgain Dazed and Confused Staff Member

    I would agree that my early morals during childhood were greatly influenced by the Catholic religion, however as I grew and was exposed to more of the world I found it to be very one sided and exclusive n regard to those outside of that religion or it's off springs, such as Methodism, etc.

    As far as spirituality, I find Western religions in particular to be very restrictive compared to Eastern philosophies (or religions). There are outlets for genuine spirituality in Western religions but they are not very well known or practiced by the lay congregations.
  18. guerillabedlam

    guerillabedlam Senior Member
  19. BlackBillBlake

    BlackBillBlake Hip Forums Supporter

    I meant only the core values of Christianity such as 'do unto others' etc. The general idea that we have some responsibility to others. Also I suppose the idea of some higher power. As I've moved through life I've looked at many systems of philosophy and religion, and I think that still stands. Most religions as well as some purely secular philosophies have some similar ideas. But as a westerner it came to me first in a Christian wrapper.

    Have to agree that many of the more spiritual aspects of Christianity are not well known or widely practiced, but they are there for anyone who is prepared to spend a little time looking. Things such as 'centring prayer' seem very similar to eastern meditation methods.
    I do find most traditional Christianity to be a bit narrow.Fundamentalism worse than narrow. But also there's scope for change. Not only could Christians learn more about their own contemplative traditions, but also draw on other things such as eastern methods.
  20. Moonglow181

    Moonglow181 Lifetime Supporter

    "Do unto others"....isn't that a human right and philosophy. Why do people need religion to teach them that?
    I also want to know what religion, if any, teaches people to treat any animal the way they would want to be treated if they were that animal...but I guess religion cannot teach anyone real empathy.
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