Don’t be fooled by Dawkins

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.
Richard Dawkins

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.”

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7 Responses to Don’t be fooled by Dawkins

  1. Nicely done! Twist that about to make it how you want it to seem. There is a point when two evils become equal. Would you rather lose an arm or a leg? Either is bad enough, why compare one as more bad than the other?

    In the case in point, one has counseling the other does not. Both are evil. Which is worse? Perhaps the one that no one is defending you against… your bleeting is nothing more than you saying your brand of evil is not as bad as the other. Both are abhorent. Be quiet lest you be associated with such as you cannot extract yourself from.

  2. Crude says:

    Be quiet lest you be associated with such as you cannot extract yourself from.

    Oh, MAL. If only Dawkins would take your advice, he may not have his followers so shellshocked and embarrassed as they try to cover for him.

    As it stands, he said something reprehensible and made a fool of himself. He’s downplaying child sexual abuse based on nothing but his hatred of the church, anecdotes and an utter lack of science.

    No, I don’t think Mike should be quiet. Nor will he, nor shall any of the people (including atheists) who are seeing Dawkins for what he is – a sad little man and a lunatic whose hatred for religion has made him irrational.

  3. Michael says:

    Nicely done! Twist that about to make it how you want it to seem. There is a point when two evils become equal. Would you rather lose an arm or a leg? Either is bad enough, why compare one as more bad than the other?

    You are confused. I did not twist anything and the comparisons originate from Dawkins. In 2012, he”argued that teaching a child about hell is worse than a child being sexually abused,which he said ‘she might feel was yucky’.” In 2001, he wrote, “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.”

    You should direct your question to Dawkins.

    In the case in point, one has counseling the other does not. Both are evil. Which is worse? Perhaps the one that no one is defending you against…

    I see. So after complaining about a comparison being made, you want to defend Dawkins’ comparison that it is better to physically or sexually abuse a child than to bring that child up as a Catholic.

    your bleeting is nothing more than you saying your brand of evil is not as bad as the other.

    The bleeting comes from you. Yes, I am indeed saying that raising a child as a Catholic is no where near as bad as sexually abusing a child. As I noted, Dawkins position cannot be defended by anyone who is intellectually honest and has a moral compass.

    Both are abhorent.

    Not according to Dawkins. For him, the sexual abuse of children is “unpleasant” and “yucky.” As he wrote in 2002: “a little bit of fondling perhaps, and a young child might scarcely notice that.”

  4. Here is an extended excerpt from my book on this subject under the title ‘Freedom to Believe’:

    It is from this point of view of faith that Richard Dawkins seeks to ‘raise our consciousness’ to ‘the violation of childhood by religion. Faith can be very very dangerous, and deliberately to implant it into the vulnerable mind of an innocent child is a grievous wrong.’

    I think there is an excellent point to be made here that we are the caretakers and custodians of our children, and our goal is to facilitate the development of a caring person that is capable of expressing and actualizing their gifts to the greatest extent possible. The last thing we want is to burden our children with false ideas, harmful beliefs; or worst of all, project out own issues, needs, and insecurities onto them. Raising children is a high calling taken all too lightly, and we can never remind ourselves of this too often. Having children isn’t about our beliefs or wants or needs or poor decisions. It’s about creating flourishing. On this front, we all need to dramatically raise our consciousness.

    That being said, Richard Dawkins’ discussion of the violation of childhood by religion is simply too one-sided and full of anti-religious bias to take us very far ahead. In addition to this, Dawkins himself has an unusually skewed perception of evolution, theology, philosophy, religion, and science, which very much affect his views of what is normal in terms of childhood development and education.

    Do people have the right to teach their children what another person believes to be false? Do parents have a right to educate their children in their faith? Is it ‘child abuse’ to refer to children by religious labels?

    In one of the most disturbing parts of The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins attempts to portray religious upbringing as child abuse worse than sexual and physical abuse. After cataloging wrenching sexual and physical abuse, he sums up by saying that: ‘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.’ I find this depreciation of the horror of physical and sexual abuse of children really sad. It is one thing to legitimately call into question the rightness of teaching some religious ideas to children. It is quite another to compare being raised within a religious context with physical and sexual abuse.

    Dawkins uses the belief in hell as his primary example of religious abuse. He sums up his argument in an interview quoting Jill Mytton, a woman who faced prolonged psychological abuse from being raised in a closed and oppressive cult called ‘The Exclusive Brethren’:

    You use the words religious abuse. If you were to compare the abuse of bringing up a child really to believe in hell . . . how do you think that would compare in trauma terms with sexual abuse?’ She [Jill Mytton] replied: ‘That’s a very difficult question . . . I think there are a lot of similarities actually, because it is about abuse of trust; it is about denying the child the right to feel free and open and able to relate to the world in the normal way . . . it’s a form of denigration; it’s a form of denial of the true self in both cases.’

    I agree with Richard Dawkins that the teaching of the belief in a continuation of moral consequences after death in any form is almost always simply inappropriate for children. Children have not developed the critical cognitive skills or the understanding of responsibility and choice necessary to engage in this kind of enquiry. Like sex education, a certain level of development has to be reached before any real engagement or understanding can take place. If a child asks ‘What happens after we die?’ every answer is equally difficult. The best answer is probably to reaffirm to the child that they are deeply loved and cared for, and foster a profound sense of trust and security in their place in the cosmos.

    But what I strongly disagree with is Richard Dawkins’ leading questions and quote mining that constantly steered the discussion toward a demonization of religion from Jill’s personal trauma, as she was relating her personal story, and still wrestling with those heart wrenching issues. I found it disgusting. It was part of The Root of All Evil? series of interviews, and you can listen to it online.

    From here, Richard Dawkins cites Nicholas Humphrey to argue in favor of ‘censorship in the special case of children’. Censorship is appropriate in ‘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.’ Humprhey continues:

    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 license 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.

    Dawkins promotes this approach under the more disarming banner of protecting children from being religiously labeled:

    And now, here’s another charming picture. At Christmas-time one year my daily newspaper, the Independent, was looking for a seasonal image and found a heart-warmingly ecumenical one at a school nativity play. The Three Wise Men were played by, as the caption glowingly said, Shadbreet (a Sikh), Musharaff (a Muslim) and Adele (a Christian), all aged four. Charming? Heart-warming? No, it is not, it is neither; it is grotesque. How could any decent person think it right to label four year-old children with the cosmic and theological opinions of their parents?

    Since Dawkins doesn’t see a future for religion, it is easy to call interfaith ecumenicalism ‘grotesque’. But for people who do see a future for faith in the world, it is beautiful to see children being taught at such a young age that religious differences don’t matter, and that we can all share in and celebrate one another’s traditions. This is exactly the kind of thing we need to have more often, not less.

    The motivation here for Dawkins’ portrayal of this scene of hope as something grotesque is his conviction that the only reason people hold religious beliefs is that their minds were indoctrinated in childhood and fatally corrupted by ‘faith’. The best way to stop the spread of the ‘God virus’ is to stop it from being implanted in the first place.

    This is a two-pronged attack. The first is begging us to ‘raise our consciousness’ on the inappropriateness of labeling ‘tiny innocent children’ with the beliefs of their parents. This in and of itself is a benign request, and worthy of discussion. So it is sad that it is ruined and spoiled as part of a larger and corrupt agenda to stop parents teaching their children their faith. The one is the bait, the other the hook, and both are blended into one: ‘Our society, including the non-religious sector, has accepted the preposterous idea that it is normal and right to indoctrinate tiny children in the religion of their parents, and to slap religious labels on them – ‘Catholic child’, ‘Protestant child’, ‘Jewish child’, ‘Muslim child’, etc.’

    I as much as anyone would like to live in a world where children are raised free from harmful beliefs. But there is an immense problem. In many cases reasonable people of good will and intelligence disagree about what beliefs are beneficial or harmful. For example, Sam Harris writes that ‘an utter revolution in our thinking could be accomplished in a single generation: if parents and teachers would merely give honest answers to the questions of every child.’ I suppose he means something along the lines of what Richard Dawkins wrote in his book for children entitled: The Magic of Reality: How We Know What’s Really True:

    Natural selection nudges evolution in a purposeful direction: namely, the direction of survival. The genes that survive in a gene pool are the genes that are good at surviving. And what makes a gene good at surviving? It helps other genes to build bodies that are good at surviving and reproducing: bodies that survive long enough to pass on the genes that helped them to survive. Exactly how they do it varies from species to species. Genes survive in bird or bat bodies by helping to build wings. Genes survive in mole bodies by helping to build stout, spade-like hands. Genes survive in lion bodies by helping to build fast-running legs, and sharp claws and teeth. Genes survive in antelope bodies by helping to build fast-running legs, and sharp hearing and eyesight. Genes survive in leaf-insect bodies by making the insects all but indistinguishable from leaves. However different the details, in all species the name of the game is gene survival in gene pools. Next time you see an animal – any animal – or any plant, look at it and say to yourself: what I am looking at is an elaborate machine for passing on the genes that made it. I’m looking at a survival machine for genes. Next time you look in the mirror, just think: that is what you are too.

    Is it okay to indoctrinate and label a child as ‘a survival machine for genes’, ‘an elaborate machine for passing on the genes that made it’? In my view, and in the view of many scientists and philosophers, this is pure nonsense. It is an absolutely ridiculous thing to tell a child, and it is abusing a child’s trust. Richard Dawkins is a distinctly minority opinion here. But even if he believes what he is saying, why would you write this in a children’s book? And of all the things you can tell a child in the whole world, why would you tell a child that this is what they are? That when they look in the mirror, they should say: ‘This is what I am.’ Dawkins ruffled indignantly to the suggestion that scientists ‘tell children there is no purpose to their life–that they are just a chemical mutation–[and] that doesn’t build self-esteem.’ He replied: ‘No scientist has ever suggested that a child is a ‘chemical mutation’. Perhaps not. But I can’t think of a better contemporary example of indoctrinating a child, and violating a child’s trust in the name of science.

    So who decides? I could rhetorically build up resentment, stressing how this is taking advantage of a ‘young’ ‘gullible’ ‘innocent’ ‘vulnerable’ ‘trusting’ ‘uncomprehending’ ‘small’ ‘helpless’ ‘tiny child’. Would that help? Richard Dawkins strongly holds convictions which I and most thinking people believe are pure fabrications. Fair enough. But then he turns to indoctrinating children with them in the name of science. From Richard Dawkins’ perspective, many mainstream religions are doing the same. There are no easy answers here. We all want the best for our children. We all want to reduce the physical, sexual, psychological, and emotional abuse of children to the utmost. But claiming that teaching faith is child abuse, and of a sort worse than even physical or sexual abuse, is not the answer.

    We have to recognize what we are really opening up here: that people’s beliefs should be evaluated and scrutinized before being taught to children. Of course we all know the horror stories that all of us want to prevent. But if all our beliefs must cohere, where do we start? Who get’s to decide? Who polices? And who polices the police? What we have here is a cure worse than the disease. We do not need science and rationality thought police any more than we need the Inquisition.

    Some people may say: ‘It doesn’t matter. The world will be better off without religion.’ But your ‘unjustified’ beliefs will be next. Whatever position one actually holds can just as easily be caricatured and demonized into ‘faith’, ‘unreasonable’, ‘without evidence’, as easily as religion has been, in fact, much more easily. If it can happen to such an obviously inapplicable structure as large and diverse as religion, anything else will be small potatoes.

    Notes:
    201 Dawkins, The God Delusion, p. 348. 202 Dawkins, pp. 354-356. 203 Dawkins, p. 356. 204 Dawkins, p. 358ff. 205 Dawkins, pp. 365-366. 206 Jill Mytton uncut interview with Richard Dawkins for ‘The Root of All Evil?’: http:// http://www.youtube.com/ watch? v = GXA7GA9yntc. 207 Dawkins, The God Delusion, pp. 366 -367. 208 Dawkins, pp. 379-380. 209 Dawkins, p. 321ff. He relates here a story of Kurt Wise. 210 Dawkins, pp. 381-382. 211 Harris, End of Faith, p. 224. 212 Richard Dawkins, The Magic of Reality: How We Know What’s Really True (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2011), p. 75. 213 For example, see Anthony Flew: ‘Richard Dawkins’s The Selfish Gene was a major exercise in popular mystification. As an atheist philosopher, I considered this work of popularization as destructive in its own ways as either The Naked Ape or The Human Zoo by Desmond Morris: There is a God: How the World’s Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind, NY: Harper Collins, 2007), p. 79. 214 Dawkins, The God Delusion, p. 373.

    Copyright reserved. Paul Thibodeau 2012

  5. Michael if you don’t mind could you please remove my response to Vedic? Also, an obvious email contact somewhere on your Blog would be helpful. Thank you.

  6. Shizzle-d says:

    Paul, “God virus”? Are you serious?

  7. Dhay says:

    Note, all, that to send Michael a contact e-mail, click on the link half-way down the “Blogroll”, which is located at top right of any blog page.

    I’m sure he is monitoring posts, and already knows — though he seems to be away, and out of normal blog-owner control at the moment, so you might have to wait a day or few for him to get back and action your request.

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