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Monday, June 4, 2007 | Reason : Religion as Child Abuse | print version Print

Document Religion and Child Abuse

by Innaiah Narisetti, Council for Secular Humanism

Thanks to ranjani for the link.

Reposted from:
http://www.secularhumanism.org/index.php?section=library&page=narisetti_27_4

Innaiah Narisetti is the chair of the Center for Inquiry/India. This article is excerpted from a paper that he will present at the Center for Inquiry's congress in China this coming October.

Over the years, the abuse of children has received substantial attention worldwide. The United Nations, through its member organizations such as UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization), has focused on this issue, recognizing the worst forms of such abuse. These include child labor, in which an estimated 250 million children are engaged in some form due to the practice of slavery, bondage linked to family debts, or serfdom; as well as the forced recruitment and involvement of children in armed conflicts, child pornography and prostitution, and the production and trafficking of illicit drugs.

The International Labor Organization, the United Nations Children's Fund, and UNESCO hold regular discussions at various levels and organize international conventions. The UN has adopted a world declaration for the protection of children, the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

THE CONVENTION ON THE RIGHTS OF THE CHILD

The human rights of children and the standards to which all governments must aspire in realizing these rights for all children are most concisely and fully articulated in one international human-rights treaty: the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The Convention is the most universally accepted human-rights instrument in history. It has been ratified by every country in the world except two: the United States and Somalia. It places children at center stage in the quest for the universal application of human rights. By ratifying this instrument, national governments have committed themselves to protecting and ensuring children's rights and have agreed to hold themselves accountable for this commitment before the international community.

While it is unfortunate that a powerful country such as the United States has yet to ratify the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the UN's efforts are salutary and place much-needed emphasis on improving the lives of children globally.

THE INFLUENCE OF RELIGION

However, despite all the effort and rhetoric about protecting children and their rights, there is a severe shortcoming in the global campaign to protect children: the influence of religion and its continuing contribution to many forms of child abuse all around the world.

Such abuse begins with the involuntary involvement of children in religious practices from the time they are born. All religions, through ritual, preaching, and religious texts, seek to bring children into day-to-day religious practice. This gives holy books and scriptures, as well as those who teach them, an early grip on the developing minds of young people, leaving an indelible impression on them. In many cases, most notably in the Catholic Church, this forced and prolonged exposure of children to religious institutions has also been a key factor in the physical, mental, and sexual abuse of children by religious leaders.

This early grip is so strong that very few people, once grown, ever get an opportunity to change their minds, despite being exposed to science and rational thinking, or even other religious systems. Religious beliefs thrive by imposing themselves upon impressionable minds and gaining their blind adherence to certain dogmatic practices. In some ways, this lays the groundwork for sustained psychological abuse of young children by allowing adults the use of religion as a pretext for various other forms of abuse such as forcing them to fight in wars in the name of religion and ethnicity. During 2004, about 300,000 children served as soldiers in national armies, worldwide.

When it comes to the forced inculcation of religion and the resulting abuses of children in the name of religion, the UN, all of its affiliated organizations, and almost all national governments remain steadfastly silent.

THE UN'S RELUCTANCE

In one form or another, all religions violate the rights of children. Yet a body like the UN, which allows the Vatican to be represented among its member countries, is unaware of—or more likely—unable and unwilling to stand up to the Vatican regarding the religious abuse of children. There is significant pressure from the Vatican to pull back on or dilute any resolutions that point to religion as a cause of abuse or strife. Add to this the unwillingness of the UN to confront its member countries, especially those in the Muslim world, which can also exert a lot of pressure when it comes to issues related to the abuse of children by their religious schools (madrassas) where, for example, very young children are forced to memorize six thousand verses of the Qur'an, a process that involves both mental and physical abuse.

As a result, the UN and its affiliated agencies tend to focus on addressing just the symptoms rather than the root causes of some of the most insidious forms of child abuse. For example, while everyone speaks out against genital mutilation, UNICEF is unwilling to acknowledge and condemn it as a religious practice. Instead, it talks about educating communities and spends millions of dollars on medical kits to treat those children who have already been mutilated. By not forcefully pointing the finger at the real culprits—religious practices—the UN is not only missing a good opportunity to fix the problem at its source but also putting too small a bandage on a very deep wound.

GENDER DISCRIMINATION

Another area in which religions contribute to child abuse is through explicit and implicit gender discrimination that leads to unequal rights and opportunities between boys and girls and contributes to further abuses. While economic factors are also to blame, the roots of this inequity lie in religious and social mores. How can the UN hope to tackle the problem of child labor or a lack of educational opportunity among the children in 130 developing countries who are not in primary school, the majority of them being girls? In the Islamic world, some female students are allowed to attend certain madrassas. However, they are forced to learn in classrooms, or even buildings, separate from their male peers.

There is a global unwillingness to acknowledge that all religions use their educational institutions and programs, be they Sunday schools, madrassas, or Jewish or Hindu temples to indoctrinate children. Sometimes, this is in the guise of conveying good moral values, but, while it may be much more rigid and overt in, say, a madrassa, it is no less influential on young minds in a Christian Sunday school.

Ultimately, all such programs try to instill a belief in the superiority of one religion and inculcate an unquestioning faith in that system.

THE DEBATE MUST BEGIN!

Just as we all stand up against child marriage, because marriage is an institution meant for adults, and just as we do not let children participate in certain civic duties, such as voting, until they reach a certain age, the time has come to debate the participation of children in religious institutions. While some might see it as a matter better left to parents, the negative influence of religion and its subsequent contribution to child abuse from religious beliefs and practices requires us to ask whether organized religion is an institution that needs limits set on how early it should have access to children.

There is no doubt that this will be a controversial position. However, there is nothing to prevent the UN from organizing a world convention on the issue of the religious abuse of children, a forum where the pros and cons of childhood exposure to religion and its influence on children can be openly debated. The world body cannot remain silent on this vital issue just because it is a sensitive and difficult subject, even given its member nations and their religious interests. A convention like this would also be an opportunity for those who might want to argue for the benefits of the influence of religion on children, so the UN should not shy away from debate of the issue.

If such a convention clearly shows that religion contributes to child abuse globally, the UN must then take a clear stand on the issue of the forced involvement of children in religious practices; it must speak up for the rights of children and not the automatic right of parents and societies to pass on religious beliefs, and it must reexamine whether an organization like the Vatican should belong to the UN.

Until this happens, millions of children worldwide will continue to be abused in the name of religion, and the efforts made by the UN will continue to address the symptoms but not the disease.

Comments 1 - 50 of 78 |

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1. Comment #47491 by MIND_REBEL on June 4, 2007 at 5:22 pm

 avatarReligion is a form of child abuse. Childhood indoctrinazation of religion is the worship of irrationality, and plants the seeds that allow more extreme forms of irrationality to be acceptable later in life. The bottom line, raise a child in a rational manner, you'll get a rational person, abandon science and logic in childrearing, and you'll get another religious nutso/racist/bigot.

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2. Comment #47496 by BAEOZ on June 4, 2007 at 5:54 pm

 avatarMakes me wanna scream "Yes, you f***ing beauty!". It's good to see that others are making the case for religion as child abuse, because poor old Richard (I mean that in an endearing manner, not ageist/fiscally poor) gets attacked by religious people who don't see that they're just visiting the sins of their parents onto their children when indoctrinating them into a given religion (sins? it's a saying). No religious education until a child is 18 and only after he has been taught critical thinking I say (of course I'm a wanna be authoritarian type, so pay no attention)!

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3. Comment #47498 by He'sAVeryNaughtyBoy on June 4, 2007 at 5:56 pm

The US not signing on board doesn't bother me. Spams have a habit of shouting that their way is the best, and whilst their country has some major issues with humans rights *cough..Guantanamo Bay..cough*, their record in general is good.

What concerns me are those countries that signed up to the convention and are going to blatently ignore it. It's all very well to sign a piece of paper saying you are going to do something, but I hardly doubt that this is going to have any affect on child slavery.

What worries me is that there needs to be something specificaly aimed at children at all. By declaring they need their own separate rights from adults implies that they are not equal to adults in some way - as though they were lesser humans. Surely it would be better to raise the consciousness of these backwards neanderthals that children are people too.

Other Comments by He'sAVeryNaughtyBoy

4. Comment #47506 by Undefined on June 4, 2007 at 6:44 pm

 avatarI liken religious training in childhood to basic training in the military, both of which I have been a part. The similarity being the constant, repetetive indoctrination of values and thoughts. I don't really like getting into that subject... I still tend to get a bit angry at the realizations I come to. But I digress...
I believe religious training is brainwashing, and as harmful as any other form of the sort.

Other Comments by Undefined

5. Comment #47522 by SMART on June 4, 2007 at 9:04 pm

Future generations will shake their heads at how long human beings took to recognise the evil of religious schools
http://www.smartsociety.org/religiousschoolschildabuse.html

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6. Comment #47523 by BeauHMcLendon on June 4, 2007 at 9:15 pm

Separation of Church and State. This is fantastic, but obviously not infallible considering the second any Secular organization or those of opposed faiths revolt against religious pressure in the school systems are instantly charged as somehow encroaching on religious belief itself.

It's obvious why the religious pressure their dogma on children, such is the meme (I had to add "meme" to the dictionary, ha). If this were to prevented, then it would increase the chances of religion eventually withering.

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7. Comment #47525 by Wyle_E on June 4, 2007 at 9:24 pm

While common criminals may know that they are doing wrong, the perpetrators of great evil are always certain that they are doing good.

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8. Comment #47538 by Bizarro Dawkins on June 4, 2007 at 11:05 pm

At the heart of this monstrous idea lies the incredible misunderstanding that children can be taught to not believe anything. To believe in nothing is still to believe in something. A vacuum is still something. It is empty space. It does not not exist. You cannot teach children to not believe in anything, for then you teach them to believe in nothing. To teach children to believe in nothing would therefore still be considered, in your own words, "indoctrination". It's just plain silly.

I also disagree that bad religion is the sole source of instilment of corrupt values. Just look at any number of communist or formerly communist secular societies. Their children were still indoctrinated in corrupt values (i.e., that people who meet to worship God in secret churches should be executed) just like those of militant Muslims. The only difference is that one group thinks believers should be killed whereas the other things that non-believers should be killed. This is but one of the many different glaring issues that this article clumsily fails to consider.

What right does the state have to monitor the values that parents instill in their children? Regardless of the few rotten apples out there that propagate their corrupt beliefs, the freedom of parents to pass their values to their children far transcends the remotely possible positive effects of government control of parental guidance. The state guidelines would be irrelevant, even if they were friendly to Christianity. It is just not the government's place to tell parents what to tech their children, and as an American, the idea sickens me.

I know you all think we Americans are ignorant logic haters, what with mottos like "In God We Trust" on our money, but I will be so bold as to suggest that this may be the manifestation of just a bit of jealousy. I know America is very, very far from perfect, but here people are free. I can shoot my civilianized AK (or, if you're Canadian/British, my 9mm handgun) in my backyard without having to worry about being arrested for owning a gun. I can tell people about my perfectly rational faith in the God who gives me hope without being fined for spreading my beliefs. I can even curse my own country without a care in the world. God forbid that any government ever tells me what to teach my own children.

Other Comments by Bizarro Dawkins

9. Comment #47540 by Robert Maynard on June 4, 2007 at 11:25 pm

 avatarBizarro Dawkins said:
At the heart of this monstrous idea lies the incredible misunderstanding that children can be taught to not believe anything. To believe in nothing is still to believe in something.
This is nomologically false. Anyway, that isn't exactly what I think is being advocated, and its at least not what I would advocate. Children should be taught how to think, not what to think - obviously the principle of skills over knowledge doesn't precisely extend to stuff like history and math - but you are specifically referring to questions of uncertainties, what children should be taught to believe in the absence of reasons. What is being advocated is that children deserve honest answers to questions no one can claim to be certain they know, like what happens when we die, or where life and the universe came from.
A vacuum is still something ... it does not not exist.
This statement is incorrect, at least in the sense you are attempting to apply it. We could talk about energy and spacetime curvatures, but I don't think that's really what you were getting at. ..or maybe it was. *shrug*

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10. Comment #47541 by greg_m on June 4, 2007 at 11:31 pm

What a scary story, Bizarro. I live in Australia, and I can also curse my country without a care, but we have laws against owning assault rifles and handguns. I don't see that this is unreasonable; we have far fewer mass shootings that you do in the US. I'm not jealous.

Have a look at what Hamas teaches children (http://richarddawkins.net/article,1231,n,n), is this a great demonstration of freedom also?

Other Comments by greg_m

11. Comment #47543 by krogercomplete on June 4, 2007 at 11:32 pm

I like the thrust of the convention, but I'm not sure how it would actually go about dealing with religion as child abuse. As much as it pains me to say, a few of the things in Bizzaro's post resonated with me. Unfortunately Bizzaro, you lost me with that last paragraph:

"I will be so bold as to suggest that this may be the manifestation of just a bit of jealousy. I know America is very, very far from perfect, but here people are free. I can shoot my civilianized AK (or, if you're Canadian/British, my 9mm handgun) in my backyard without having to worry about being arrested for owning a gun."

As an American, I try to distance myself from sentiments like that as much as is possible.

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12. Comment #47545 by kcjerith on June 4, 2007 at 11:39 pm

This is an issue i am a bit torn on. Yes, I think a religious up bringing is horrible. But i am not sure what one can do. Ban religious teaching in the home? To me this would turn Christians into martyrs, as well as being unproductive. I also dislike the idea of the government interfering with parents and their children. this of course echoes the point the Bizarro Dawkins makes (though i feel a bit odd being in agreement with him). I do support gun ownership, though i am not sure what it has to do with this topic.

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13. Comment #47547 by krogercomplete on June 4, 2007 at 11:43 pm

kcjerith,

I am pretty much in the same boat. My "1984" alarm started to go off the first time I read this article.

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14. Comment #47548 by kcjerith on June 4, 2007 at 11:47 pm

After i thought about it for a minute, i know that the government trying to prevent religious education is pointless. First, it would be a massive undertaking. Can you imagine how big a department (or making current ones larger) you would need to try to accomplish such a goal. I can also just imagine the "reason police" who's job it would be to determine if the children's belief systems are rational. I have a feeling it would almost be comical, like a monty python skit. And, trying to punish people for not thinking or teaching a certain way seems scary to me.

Maybe it wold be best (ok best is the wrong word) to let parents teach their kids what they want. their religious values/way(s) of thinking will have to compete in an open intellectual market place. It is there that peoples minds will be changed. Again, i despise the notion of bring children up in a religious manner, but i am not sure there any other sane answers.

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15. Comment #47558 by Shuggy on June 5, 2007 at 12:42 am

 avatarkcjerith wrote:
i am not sure what one can do. Ban religious teaching in the home?
No, that would probably be too much of an intrusion, but one could certainly keep public schooling secular, and possibly make public schooling compulsory - let them indoctrinate the kids in their own time. I don't know about yours, but our government got sucked in by the line that private (church) schools were lifting a burden from the state, so the state should fund them.

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16. Comment #47560 by mmurray on June 5, 2007 at 12:54 am

 avatar
You cannot teach children to not believe in anything, for then you teach them to believe in nothing.


No you teach them to believe in nothing without evidence. It's called thinking for themselves.

Michael

Other Comments by mmurray

17. Comment #47565 by Geoff on June 5, 2007 at 1:34 am

 avatar

Comment #47498 by He'sAVeryNaughtyBoy
"What worries me is that there needs to be something specificaly aimed at children at all. By declaring they need their own separate rights from adults implies that they are not equal to adults in some way - as though they were lesser humans."

No, it simply implies that they need protection from [some] adults, in exactly the same way that they need protection from physical abuse.
Children are "not equal to adults" in the sense that they are reliant on, and subordinate to, adults in most cases.

Other Comments by Geoff

18. Comment #47567 by kcjerith on June 5, 2007 at 1:49 am

I agree that if we have to public school, and I would claim we do not, that they should be secular. In the USA their is strong constitutional reasons for this. I do think it is shame that people who are not religious should be forced to fund bible/religious schools, but on the same hand what makes it ok to force religious people to fund secular schools? I think the key is getting the government out of the business of education. Let the crazy religious (now that is a redundant term!)people fund their own schools.

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19. Comment #47569 by redfive on June 5, 2007 at 1:50 am

 avatarBizarro: "To believe in nothing is still to believe in something. A vacuum is still something. It is empty space. It does not not exist."

Brilliant, just brilliant.

Stopped reading after this - what was the point?

Other Comments by redfive

20. Comment #47571 by Corylus on June 5, 2007 at 2:10 am

 avatarBizarro

I notice that you did not comment on the moral cowardice shown by the Vatican (and people of faith in general) over condemning the practice of circumcism.

What is your view on this?

You also did not comment on the gender equality legitimised by religious teachings.

What is your view on this?

You also neglected to mention of the biblical advise vis-a-vis childrearing. You mention that you plan to have children one day. That's nice.

Will you be sparing the rod?

My point is that if you condemn the mistreatment of children (as I am sure you do) you have to condemn it whatever the theoretical underpinnings behind it.

Faith is not a get out clause for bad behaviour.

P.S. Re gun use: if you believe that just because your government allows you to play with lethal toys in your own backyard you are 'free' I frankly despair...

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21. Comment #47579 by Logicel on June 5, 2007 at 2:47 am

 avatarThere is no doubt that this will be a controversial position. However, there is nothing to prevent the UN from organizing a world convention on the issue of the religious abuse of children, a forum where the pros and cons of childhood exposure to religion and its influence on children can be openly debated. The world body cannot remain silent on this vital issue just because it is a sensitive and difficult subject, even given its member nations and their religious interests. A convention like this would also be an opportunity for those who might want to argue for the benefits of the influence of religion on children, so the UN should not shy away from debate of the issue.
_________

Excellent article, the above quote is my favorite bit.

As for Biz and his free-shooting in his back yard, what does that have to with children and religious institutions? Was Biz allowed to shoot his real gun when a kid? Was he allowed to drink alcohol when a kid? Were his parents allowed to beat him to a pulp when he was a kid? Was he allowed to buy cigarettes when he a was kid? Were his parents allowed to deny him medical treatment because of religious beliefs when he was a kid?

The debate needs to be done whether or not it is a difficult debate with difficult to arrived-at solutions.

One measure could be as Dawkins suggests, that children are not LABELED the religion of their parents. Parents can teach their religion to their children, along with all the other ones, and when grown up, then that former child can decide what religion, if any, to embrace. I find absolutely nothing oppressive or state controlled about this aspect. Various restrictions are in place already, like children not partaking in voting, drinking, smoking, working in certain jobs, being beaten to a pulp, etc. Enough of this hypocrisy. No free pass for religious institutions.

As a former child forced to kowtow to Catholicism--being an atheist in mind, though keeping my atheism secret until I could leave my family home at age eighteen--I would have loved/been extremely grateful if my American government restricted my parents in labeling me as Catholic before I was grown up enough to decide for myself.

Religious beliefs are not VALUES. They are simply beliefs based on no evidence.

Other Comments by Logicel

22. Comment #47580 by rokort on June 5, 2007 at 2:48 am

 avatarBizarro Dawkins wrote:
I know you all think we Americans are ignorant logic haters, what with mottos like "In God We Trust" on our money, but I will be so bold as to suggest that this may be the manifestation of just a bit of jealousy. I know America is very, very far from perfect, but here people are free. I can shoot my civilianized AK (or, if you're Canadian/British, my 9mm handgun) in my backyard without having to worry about being arrested for owning a gun. I can tell people about my perfectly rational faith in the God who gives me hope without being fined for spreading my beliefs. I can even curse my own country without a care in the world. God forbid that any government ever tells me what to teach my own children.


I think you need to find yourself a dictionary and look up what "free" means. I will be so bold as to suggest that the US is a totalitarian system where (too many) people are so afraid of each other that communication goes via court, have a screwed up idea of reality, are a political and environmental menace to the rest of the world, and push forward archaic views about "freedom" by planting bombs and soldiers around the world. Thank you for exemplifying this by saying that gun(ab)use and brainwashing your kid in the name of some mystical deity is a right. Have you ever been abroad? I think (and hope) that if you would see how things work in (many) other countries you would be deeply embarrassed about what you wrote/think.

And maybe the idea that the government tells you what to teach your kids sickens you, but if you teach your kids something which damages society, how arrogant do you have to be to say that you in particular should be excluded from comment on your behavior or what you teach? You don't decide what society is or does all by yourself. There's rules to make everybody get along in a certain sense. That's called democracy, which as you might know is under attack in the US because of those widely *cough* tolerant *cough* "leaders", who –surprise, surprise- rather have gun-loving god-fearing brainwashed slaves walking around than somebody not supporting their push for wealth and power.

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23. Comment #47582 by Quetzalcoatl on June 5, 2007 at 2:59 am

 avatarDespite the fact that the labelling of children as "Catholic" or "Muslim" is, as Dawkins says, a great problem, an even greater problem is what to do about it. No state can control what parents teach their children at home, nor should it be allowed to. Religions are geared around the idea of introducing children into the faith at an early age, all the better to keep them in it for life. Religious parents that truly believe would regard it as CRUEL not to "save" their children as soon as possible.

Also, an earlier comment mentioned the idea of teaching children about other faiths. I think we all know how this would go.

"Yes, little Timmy, there are these people called Muslims, Jews and Zoroastrians. They believe in this, this and this. But they're wrong, and they're all going to burn in hell, not like us".

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24. Comment #47583 by Logicel on June 5, 2007 at 3:00 am

 avatarYes, Biz, you need to not only travel to other countries, but also live in other democratic countries. There are quite a few in existence in addition to America, which is still a democracy despite unrelenting encroachment upon the American constiution by religious, right wingnuts. The same wingnuts are an embarrassment to more rational members of the conservative political party.

Inhabitants of other democratic countries, do own real guns and ammunition and can shoot them--via target practice and hunting.

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25. Comment #47585 by Logicel on June 5, 2007 at 3:06 am

 avatarQuetzalcoatl wrote: No state can control what parents teach their children at home, nor should it be allowed to.
_______

No, but at public schools, no child should have a file which states that they are of a particular religion. The religion of their parents can be noted, of course.

Dawkins' important point is to raise consciousness regarding the labeling of children. Some posters here are so wrapped up with the state interfering with the raising of children--with which I absolutely agree--that they seem to be blind to this point of RAISING CONSCIOUSNESS.

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26. Comment #47587 by Logicel on June 5, 2007 at 3:08 am

 avatarAs for religious studies, instructors can be accredited, with a religious studies certificate, to be qualified to teach the topic of comparative religion.

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27. Comment #47588 by Quetzalcoatl on June 5, 2007 at 3:10 am

 avatarI merely meant that it's all very well and good not being labelled in public, but these children are still going to be labelled at home by their parents. Their parents are also the ones who will teach them to label each other, far more than public schools would. The point is that there is only a limited amount that public bodies can do in this regard. True change would require the reformation of religious attitudes themselves. A much trickier proposition.

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28. Comment #47590 by Luthien on June 5, 2007 at 3:21 am

 avatarBizarro Dawkins

A vacuum is indeed full of things, it is full of virtual particles; pairs of particles and A vacuum is indeed full of things, it is full of virtual particles; pairs of particles and anti-particles that are created and annihilated constantly in an effect that can give visible results in some physics experiments. If these particles can appear from a little bit of quantum uncertainty, then given enough time (infinity) could a whole universe appear? You may be correct in asserting that a vacuum is "something", as it could be the entire universe ;-)

I also disagree that bad religion is the sole source of instilment of corrupt values. Just look at any number of communist or formerly communist secular societies. Their children were still indoctrinated in corrupt values


You are correct in the above statement too, because any ideology that infringes upon the rights of other individuals is just as bad as religion. You Americans have a saying about the right to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness, and that is what needs to be protected from all religions and ideologies.

What right does the state have to monitor the values that parents instill in their children?


None whatsoever, (until they cross the line to psychological abuse of course) but they do have a duty to educate them with the knowledge to make their way in the world (proper sex education for example), and I am concerned that parents who isolate their children for religious reasons are deeply harming them (can they form proper relationships with their peers, or learn by themselves?). Privately funded (or in some countries publicly funded) indoctrination centres are another matter entirely, and should be banned!

I can tell people about my perfectly rational faith in the God who gives me hope without being fined for spreading my beliefs. I can even curse my own country without a care in the world. God forbid that any government ever tells me what to teach my own children.


I'm glad you can stand up for your rights, but other people have their rights too. There is no Atheist on this site that wouldn't stand up for your personal rights, but we also stand up for the rights of others who's lifestyles you may not agree with, and we stand up for the rights of children to get a proper science education no matter what stories their parents believe.

The main beef we have with religion on this site is that it teaches people that they need to infringe other peoples rights in their private lives for their own good. This phrase when refering to something that is not hurting anyone else (and I exclude the whole hell fire crap from that definition) should set off alarm bells with you.

Other Comments by Luthien

29. Comment #47592 by I'mNotAlone on June 5, 2007 at 3:30 am

As an atheist, I hope my two children (four and two) learn about religion at school. However I hope that they learn about ALL religions, rather than the religious education I had where a Xtian 'taught' me about the Bible. Here in the UK, I'm horrified by the Govnts decision to allow faith schools. The one thing that children shouldn't have to learn by example is about division - whether that be by religion, colour, race, sex or anything else. By all means make them aware of the division in the outside world, but dont bring that divide into the classroom (or practised at the school gate).

As for the right of the state to monitor the values that parents instill in their children (re: Bizarro) - of course they have a right. If my next door neighbour is teaching his kids that my family are bad or evil, and that we should be killed, just because of our colour, race, religion (or lack thereof)or any other reason, then I hope the state WOULD step in. To pick an extreme and contentious example, suppose Bizarro lived in the same street as a family of Muslims who were teaching their children that Xtians were evil infidel and that anyone who killed Xtians was a martyr? The state's purpose is surely to look at the good of society as a whole and, if absolutely necessary, interfere with an individual where to not do so would be detrimental to that society?
One area in which Bizarro is quite correct is that religion is not the only belief system that teaches 'corrupt' values. If new values are drawn up then they need to ensure that all indoctrinations are banned.
The one thing that did rather puzzle me was Kcjerith in comment 18 who said "I think the key is getting the government out of the business of education." What, lets make it a free for all??
The reason for making sure that education IS govnt run is to make sure that the 'crazy religious' dont have carte blanche to enforce the in group/out group mentality.

Other Comments by I'mNotAlone

30. Comment #47593 by Flagellant on June 5, 2007 at 3:35 am

 avatarA suitable slogan/definition might be:
Religion - an activity for consenting adults in private
I'm having that on a tee-shirt.

Other Comments by Flagellant

31. Comment #47599 by Adrian on June 5, 2007 at 3:46 am

We are talking about education and schools are now the primary places to obtain that.

Education is the imparting of knowledge and knowledge is the result of perception and learning and reasoning.

Teach children ONLY those skills and leave out biased opinion - indoctrination - and you will have a proper educational system that will, over time, obviate the need for 'policing' religious brainwashing.

This, in turn, will dilute the religious influence of parents as their children are steered away from religion, via critical thinking, and grow up less religious so that they, in turn, do not feel the need to indoctrinate their kids at home.

R.I.P. religion.

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32. Comment #47601 by Donald on June 5, 2007 at 3:48 am

What a splendid article. It's good to see the efforts of the sane to counterbalance the insanity that gets reported here.


I see Bizarro is still here. But living up to his name, sadly.
Biz mispresents the article, then attacks the misrepresentation. Straw man again!

I'll only tackle the first misrepresentation, which occurs in the first sentence. Biz says "At the heart of this monstrous idea lies the incredible misunderstanding that children can be taught to not believe anything."

I assume that "monstrous idea" means the idea that the religions indoctrinate children, and that this indoctrination is child abuse which should be stopped.
Fine, so far so good, Biz's opinion is that the idea is monstrous. We could usefully discuss the reasons for and against this idea.

But then comes the sleight of hand and the misrepresentation. "...the incredible misunderstanding that children can be taught to not believe anything."

Whoa! NOT so fast, please. The article does NOT say that children can be taught to "not believe things".

To paraphrase the article, it says "children should not be taught damaging false beliefs". Quite different. I assume you CAN see the difference Biz?

Or are you practising to write misleading religious propaganda, and are using this site to explore how far you can go with intelligent readers?

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33. Comment #47617 by Mat on June 5, 2007 at 4:37 am

Regarding Bizarro Dawkins' above post, I must confess that I agree, to an extent, that the problem of religious indoctrination of children by parents is something that governments would find very difficult to do anything about - even if one assumes they "should." However, the article doesn't ask for that. It asks for dialogue, debate, conversation on the matter. Something very different. I, for one, feel that governments are generally incompetent and power-hungry, so giving them more powers is something that should be questioned hard. I'd agree with Bizarro on this, if that was what he was saying. But unfortunately, he was also doing a reflexive strawman argument because the reality (let's talk about this) is more reasonable than what he wants to object to (all religious teaching is bad and the government should do something about it).

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34. Comment #47620 by newatheist on June 5, 2007 at 4:38 am

 avatar@Logicel (comment 21)

Were his parents allowed to deny him medical treatment because of religious beliefs when he was a kid?
Excellent! And a point that Innaiah Narisetti left out of the article altogether. [edit - I see this is an excerpt] If ever there was a case of religious child abuse that should be straight out illegal altogether, this is it.

Not that I could've done better, but Mr Narisetti missed the mark on this and a few other points, e.g..
In the Islamic world, some female students are allowed to attend certain madrassas. However, they are forced to learn in classrooms, or even buildings, separate from their male peers.
This reads like "boy's schools", and "girl's schools", and doesn't mention any inequality in teaching, if that's what the author intended..

Mr Narisetti's repeated reference to the Vatican seems like an attempt to introduce an existing (although valid) agenda with only a tenuous link to the topic, and to me weakens the overall effect of the paper.

Hey Logicel…
no child should have a file which states that they are of a particular religion. The religion of their parents can be noted, of course. (emphasis mine)

Um, why? <:-O

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35. Comment #47640 by MAS2007 on June 5, 2007 at 5:49 am

 avatar
18. Comment #47567 by kcjerith on June 5, 2007 at 1:49 am I agree that if we have to public school, and I would claim we do not, that they should be secular. In the USA their is strong constitutional reasons for this. I do think it is shame that people who are not religious should be forced to fund bible/religious schools, but on the same hand what makes it ok to force religious people to fund secular schools? I think the key is getting the government out of the business of education. Let the crazy religious (now that is a redundant term!)people fund their own schools.




Consider this,
Why should a racial bigot be expected to pay taxes for the benefit of all?


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36. Comment #47649 by Awl on June 5, 2007 at 6:32 am

As many people here have pointed out, even if it was not a huge breach of civil liberties for the goverment to interfere in what parents teach their children it would certainly be very difficult to enforce.

However, what can be enforced, as has also been pointed out above is a complete end to faith schools of any sort. Relgious education should continue but in a comparitive manner so the relative merits of all faiths can be assessed (inevitably such education leads to a realisation that all faiths are equally ridiculous).

what is more important however, and easily and legally implemented, is education in critical thinking.

If we teach children from an early age to evaluate logically any information given to them then they will not only be protected from religious people but also all the other con-men that they may come across in their lives (be in double glazing salesmen or crystal healers).

A far more vauable gift than blind adherance to someone elses ideas, surely?

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37. Comment #47658 by konquererz on June 5, 2007 at 7:34 am

 avatarI agree that childhood indoctrination is abuse. However, its not your run of the mill abuse that you can possibly think of taking kids out of their homes and forcing parents to not teach them religion. In some cases you can, such as when your religious indoctrination blatantly teaches you to harm someone, like shooting them.

However, a UN meeting about religious abuse cannot extend past purposeful harm being done to the children of the world. Circumcision causes known pain, teaching them to shoot guns also teaches them to knowingly hurt someone else, but teaching religion does not cause purposeful harm unless you already know religion harms children psychologically. So that just cannot be enforced if you truly believe in a free world.

The answer to religious indoctrinational abuse is raising the conscieousness of the world. We have to continue to pound away at the foundation of religion or this type of abuse will never ever end. It won't be until the day there is a greater majority of skeptics and freethinkers that children will cease to be abuse in this fashion.

and Bizarro, teaching no belief isn't even close to teaching a belief. Teaching no belief requires simply doing nothing and letting children explore the world and make their own interpretations. Its a hands off, don't touch approach. I don't tell my kids there is no god, for my two youngest, the issue never comes up. My oldest son was talked to by my mother who told him angels and god exist. He asked me if I believe in them, I said no, he asked me if they exist, I told him I don't believe they do, but wanted to know what he thought. He said he believes in god but not angels because grandma said so. That right there is where he stands and I don't push the issue, in the end, his logic will rule out and I am giving him the room to grow on his own with out me telling him what to believe.

See Biz, non-belief isn't a belief or a teaching, its a lack of both. You religiousites just seem to think that you "have to believe in something or you fall for anything". Problem is, you already fell for "anything".

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38. Comment #47671 by kcjerith on June 5, 2007 at 8:45 am

MAS2007,

To be frank, I consider all taxes that are collected by the use of force to be unethical. So no, I dont think the bigot should have to pay taxes for the benefit of all.

Other Comments by kcjerith

39. Comment #47689 by Stuart Paul Wood on June 5, 2007 at 9:42 am

Bizarro said:

"I can shoot my civilianized AK (or, if you're Canadian/British, my 9mm handgun) in my backyard without having to worry about being arrested for owning a gun."

Your reference to the UK is untrue. May I refer you to - The Firearms (Amendment) (No. 2) Act 1997, which bans all handguns above .22 calibre and leaving only sporting shotguns and antique guns, either of which if you shoot in your backyard (unless you happen to be rich and inbred enough to own one of English aristocracies' sprawling estates) you will be arrested or, as likely, shot by the police.

Strangely, we haven't had a gun massacre since 1997. One of the few things Blair actually got right.

Other Comments by Stuart Paul Wood

40. Comment #47690 by Jonathan Dore on June 5, 2007 at 9:43 am

I would oppose "banning" parents from teaching certain propositions to their children at home (school is another matter) not out of respect for their rights as parents to foist nonsense on their children, but because:
a) banning a *belief* (as opposed to a practice), however nonsensical, turns it into a victim of oppression, thus giving it a moral legitimacy that, in religion's case, is undeserved (this was the great mistake of the communist revolutions in their treatment of religion); and
b) it would be unenforceable, and unenforceable laws tend to be flouted. It's not good for the integrity and credibility of any legal system for its laws to be flouted, and that flouting to be widely known.
Taken together, these two factors would make the idea a "lose-lose" scenario for secularists.

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41. Comment #47697 by Bremas on June 5, 2007 at 9:59 am

I have joined the "ignore bizarro" bandwagon.

Off Topic:
Obama, Clinton, and that other guy discuss Faith.
Jesus can Hillary roll with it.
http://www.cnn.com/video/player/player.html?url=/video/politics/2007/06/05/obrien.faith.politics.cnn

edit
Edwards talks about (around) evolution.
http://www.cnn.com/video/player/player.html?url=/video/politics/2007/06/04/sot.edwards.faith.cnn

Other Comments by Bremas

42. Comment #47700 by Duff on June 5, 2007 at 10:16 am

Bizarro,
While it is true that Americans "can" own guns, most Americans, when they grow up, usually put guns aside and think about other more important things. Some just never grow up and always consider their gun as their important, personal friend, fixating on the only warm thing they have ever gotten their hands on. You seem to be one of the them.
Ånd, if you can't think of anything that can be put in a childs mind in the absence of religion, then your child will truly have a vacuum where the brain should have been.

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43. Comment #47710 by Jenin on June 5, 2007 at 10:38 am

This is hardly an easy issue to tackle. Parents' freedom to raise their children as they choose vs. children's freedom from indoctrination...also excessive government intervention in family life which to most is a frightening proposition. Although I have not thought enough about this issue to say with confidence this is the best solution, I think Sam Harris' ideas apply here : we should not make religious indoctrination by parents illegal per se, but consider it as socially unacceptable as verbal abuse. We should force parents to think about just what they are doing to their children through this indoctrination--although needless to say many will still see nothing wrong with it. However, if religious indoctrination of children becomes akin to verbal child abuse, I think many more people would refrain from it.

Other Comments by Jenin

44. Comment #47760 by Canuck#1 on June 5, 2007 at 12:58 pm

We are dealing with a problem with no solution - for the christians, they are following the word of God-bring up a child in the way that he should go and and he will not depart from it. Further, growth in christianity is seen in two perspectives - from without (new converts) and within (the children). Add to that the child's immortal soul is at risk and the fight against any interference in the rearing of their children would be a fight to the death....which means (in my opinion) there is nothing to be done about this except to continue to get the message out and hope that eventaually some people will realize where the truth is......in rationalism.

Other Comments by Canuck#1

45. Comment #47786 by catchy_nick on June 5, 2007 at 2:17 pm

I am against legislating what parents out to teach their kids. Daniel Dennett suggested that we teach children about ALL religions in schools. Their origins, their history and their *ahem* evolution and in some cases, their death. With no biases ofcourse. I couldnt agree more. I would go as far as saying the course should be mandatory. Also the fact that most children end up following their parents' religion should also be part of the syllabus. Even the "home schooled" should be tested on this. It'll take a generation or two, but I think it would pretty much get rid of atleast fundamentalism. We also need to teach our children to think critically and question everything. Including faith. I can already see faithhead cry babies calling this an attempt by satan to sway Xtians from the Word! Just like satan used the theory of evolution to make people doubt the FACT of creation.

Other Comments by catchy_nick

46. Comment #47791 by D'Arcy on June 5, 2007 at 2:28 pm

 avatarI thought the article was quite good, but is asking the impossible. The UN is a nice gravy train for its employees, and it acts as a kind of guilty conscience for today's global society, capitalism. It's not only children who are abused in this world it's the adults too. According to UN figures, something like 2 billion people (one third of world's population) live on less than $2.00 a day. The richest 5 individuals have an income greater than the 40 poorest countries combined. Something like 50,000 children die every day because of poverty related issues, disease, lack of clean water, malnutrition etc.etc. But there again this is all a manifestation of the Mighty Smiter's great plan for humanity. Bizzaro can shoot his gun and feel free and believe in God, whilst thousands of children die every day.

Other Comments by D'Arcy

47. Comment #47848 by flistr8 on June 5, 2007 at 5:54 pm

As sad and immoral as this appears, perhaps we should take some solice in the fact that evolution is at work here. If teaching children this behavior results in the horror most of us think it will, the selfish gene will put an end to it eventually.

Other Comments by flistr8

48. Comment #47867 by kcjerith on June 5, 2007 at 8:46 pm

See, i think the gun issue is way off topic, not saying it isn't worth discussion, just that it has very little to do with religion. Since you (bizzaro) have linked the two issues (and falsely so) you made an attack against one an attack against the other, which you can see in several of the above comments. While i am tempted to debate the merits and perils of gun ownership, that would seem to be spreading my attention a bit too thin. :)

Other Comments by kcjerith

49. Comment #47875 by krogercomplete on June 5, 2007 at 9:48 pm

I will be so bold as to suggest that the US is a totalitarian system where (too many) people are so afraid of each other that communication goes via court, have a screwed up idea of reality, are a political and environmental menace to the rest of the world, and push forward archaic views about "freedom" by planting bombs and soldiers around the world.



Whoa there big fella.

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50. Comment #47892 by Bizarro Dawkins on June 6, 2007 at 12:50 am

First, I think my statement on guns is being taken out of context. My comment did not focus on gun control; it briefly mentioned it (that would mean that many of you are setting up straw men). The last part of my post was something of a side note on the rather negative attitudes that many non-American societies have towards the US, and this was indeed relevant to certain portions of the article. And yes, all of my guns are legal and registered. I shoot for fun. And you know, I may try to be well-spoken and educated, but it's a universal truth that any typical guy just likes things that go boom.

"This is nomologically false."

I think you've taken "nothing" out of context here. I was referring to the "nothing" in respect to the void of any belief that would exist in the mind of a child who is taught nothing regarding his or her parents' values. To retain no metaphysical beliefs would be to believe in nothing (in the sense that it is being used above), and that would obviously still mean believing in something. I always think it rather dull when atheists say that their philosophy is not a belief, but rather a lack of belief. A belief that God does not exist however is still obviously a belief. As for the irrelevant jargon on vacuums which I was already well aware of, I just say "boo". You, being educated people, are well aware that I was not referring to vacuums in the scientific context, but rather the philosophical one.

As for my use of a double negative, I am aware that it is a grammatical error (and of course Word underlines it in the little green squiggle) but I was using it to emphasize the logical absurdity of saying that vacuums do not exist.

"Anyway, that isn't exactly what I think is being advocated, and its at least not what I would advocate."

[In one form or another, all religions violate the rights of children.]

Then you have a very interesting interpretation of this article. I think the statement above says it all. The way I read it, the article is suggesting that the government have the power to regulate what children are taught by their parents in respect to religion, and specifically that children should be taught nothing of the faith of their ancestors. That's morally and ethically and many-other-strong-words-ly repugnant.

"Children should be taught how to think, not what to think"

I agree to an extent. I think however that this statement is a bit short-sited. You can teach a child to use and strengthen reasoning skills, but if your son asked you what the sun was, would you tell him to just figure it out using reason and logic? Certainly not. In this case, any father would absolutely tell him what to think. Learning how to think cannot be accomplished without pre-existing information. Reason after all requires experience. For example, a child needs to know that hurting other kids on the playground is wrong. This information cannot be gleaned from merely learning how to think, because there exists no experiential basis for understanding the morally unacceptable nature of physically assaulting another person. In this case, the parent would have to tell the child that hitting other children is wrong. This then becomes a moral foundation on which the child can build on using reason. Therefore, in many situations it is only through being told what to think that a child can learn how to think. The two aspects of learning cannot be separated as they are complimentary to one another.

"No you teach them to believe in nothing without evidence. It's called thinking for themselves."

No, actually it's called classical evidentialism, and it is a logically corrupt philosophical notion. Evidentialism holds that it is irrational for anyone anywhere to believe any proposition without sufficient evidence. Unfortunately, the philosophy fails to pass its own test as there is obviously no evidence to support evidentialism.

"I notice that you did not comment on the moral cowardice shown by the Vatican (and people of faith in general) over condemning the practice of circumcism."

Ok, well I'm sure you are aware that circumcision is actually a health benefit, right? I'm not trying to be gross, but I was not circumcised due to religious reasons. It's not an obligation in any way for Christians. I was circumcised purely for the health benefits. This is therefore a non-argument.

"Will you be sparing the rod?"

No, not really. I was spanked as a child with a leather belt. I've never once used or experimented with drugs, gotten drunk, or gotten into a fight. I don't even have a single ticket despite the fact that I drive a Camaro. I'm not perfect, but I can certainly attribute much of my success in life to amazing parents who didn't wuss out when it came to discipline.

"My point is that if you condemn the mistreatment of children (as I am sure you do) you have to condemn it whatever the theoretical underpinnings behind it."

Ok, well as I've argued before on this site numerous times, any philosophy/religion/what have you can be used to justify evil deeds. I can abuse my child in the name of atheism just as easily as I can in the name of Islam can I not?

"Was Biz allowed to shoot his real gun when a kid? Was he allowed to drink alcohol when a kid? Were his parents allowed to beat him to a pulp when he was a kid? Was he allowed to buy cigarettes when he a was kid? Were his parents allowed to deny him medical treatment because of religious beliefs when he was a kid?"

Where in the world did this come from? It's totally irrelevant and totally inappropriate. Why would you assume that because I own two guns and enjoy shooting that my parents, whom I love dearly, were abusive and irresponsible? This kind of garbage just isn't necessary.

I think that about covers it. This will probably be my last post on this article as I will have little to no internet access over the next couple of days.

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