Richard Dawkins’ twisted attempts to insist it is better to sexually abuse a child than to teach that child about hell cannot be defended by anyone who is intellectually honest and has a moral compass. Nevertheless, because of the cultish essence of Gnu atheism, Gnus do try to defend their leader by trying to downplay/ignore his radical views about child abuse and refocusing attention on the doctrine of hell.
Don’t fall for it. Dawkins and the Gnus don’t have a problem with teachings about hell. They have a problem with all of Christianity. Put simply, they hate it and they hate it all. It is hate that motivates them.
We can see this from Dawkins book itself. He wrote:
My colleague the psychologist Nicholas Humphrey used the “sticks and stones” proverb in introducing his Amnesty Lecture in Oxford in 1997. Humphrey began his lecture by arguing that the proverb is not always true, citing the case of Haitian Voodoo believers who die, apparently from some psychosomatic effect of terror, within days of having a malign “spell” cast upon them. He then asked whether Amnesty International, the beneficiary of the lecture series to which he was contributing, should campaign against hurtful or damaging speeches or publications. His answer was a resounding no to such censorship in general: “Freedom of speech is too precious a freedom to be meddled with.” But he then went on to shock his liberal self by advocating one important exception: to argue in favour of censorship for the special case of children … “… moral and religious education, and especially the education a child receives at home, where parents are allowed – even expected – to determine for their children what counts as truth and falsehood, right and wrong. Children, I’ll argue, have a human right not to have their minds crippled by exposure to other people’s bad ideas – no matter who these other people are. Parents, correspondingly, have no God-given licence to enculturate their children in whatever ways they personally choose: no right to limit the horizons of their children’s knowledge, to bring them up in an atmosphere of dogma and superstition, or to insist they follow the straight and narrow paths of their own faith. In short, children have a right not to have their minds addled by nonsense, and we as a society have a duty to protect them from it. So we should no more allow parents to teach their children to believe, for example, in the literal truth of the Bible or that the planets rule their lives, than we should allow parents to knock their children’s teeth out or lock them in a dungeon.“ (pp. 325-326)
Note that Dawkins radical, extreme views do not hinge around teaching the doctrine of hell. On the contrary, he likens teaching “the literal truth of the Bible” to knocking a child’s teeth out.* So in Dawkins’ version of Gnutopia, if you teach your children that Jesus was the Messiah who rose from the dead, this is equivalent to extreme physical violence.
But Dawkins radical views did not begin with his book. Back in Nov 27, 2001, he sent a letter to The Independent (London, England) and he made it clear he picked this as “just one example.” Here is what he wrote:
Sir: It is good of the Pope to apologise for the sexual abuse of children by priests (report, 23 November). But such physical abuse, unpleasant as it is, may do less permanent damage to the children than bringing them up Catholic in the first place. To take just one example, it is hard to see the threat of hell fire as anything other than mental child abuse.
Note that he irrationally insists that sexual and physical abuse “may do less permanent damage to the children than bringing them up Catholic in the first place.” Note further that “the threat of hell fire” is just one example. So don’t be tricked into thinking this is some debate about hell. If you take hell out of the picture, Dawkins and his followers would still be making the same crackpot argument.
Instead, keep the focus on where it belongs – Dawkins’ crackpottery and its association with a demented sense of morality.
*Notice that in his letter he describes the sexual and physical abuse of children as “unpleasant.” In other words, “yucky.”