Still Obsessed with Other People’s Children

Richard Dawkins really needs to get out of his intellectually inbred cocoon. He’s been on this 10+ year mission to get people to stop referring to children as “Christian children” or “Muslim children.” He is stuck on this crazypants notion that such labels are “child abuse,” although he backs away from using the term “child abuse” in his latest rant.

Consider this gem:

Would you ever speak of a four-year-old’s political beliefs? Hannah is a socialist four-year-old, Mark a conservative. Who would ever dream of saying such a thing? What would you say if you read a demographic article which said something like this: “One in every three children born today is a Kantian Neo-platonist child. If the birth rate trends continue, Existentialist Positivists will be outnumbered by 2030.” Never mind the nonsensical names of philosophical schools of thought I just invented. I deliberately chose surreal names so as not to distract from the real point. Religion is the one exception we all make to the rule: don’t label children with the opinions of their parents.

And if you want to make an exception for the opinions we call religious, and claim that it is any less preposterous to speak of “Christian children” or “Muslim children”, you’d better have a good argument up your sleeve.

No problem.

My good argument simply notes that once again, Dawkins is making claims without evidence. In fact, he is making claims that run contrary to the evidence. What claim? Religion is the one exception we all make to the rule. What evidence?

Well, let’s start with this web page – I’m raising my kids atheist in a God-obsessed culture: How I learned to parent godless children.

Or
Atheism: Raising Atheist Children – findingDulcinea

Or

Raising an Atheist Child

Or

Raising the Atheist Child

My favorite is this one, because it is hosted on a site called richarddawkins.net!

I’m raising my kids atheist in a God-obsessed culture: How I learned to parent godless children

LOL!

Why is it so easy to refute Richard Dawkins?

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38 Responses to Still Obsessed with Other People’s Children

  1. arollinson says:

    If you want to actually refute arguments, you have to refute the content of the argument: not the teller of the argument. I am not saying I agree or disagree with you, but explain why you think children should/shouldn’t be labeled by their parents beliefs rather than showing that Richard Dawkins may or may not be hypocritical. If you want to be taken seriously that is; perhaps that is not a priority of yours.

  2. Michael says:

    If you want to actually refute arguments, you have to refute the content of the argument: not the teller of the argument.

    I did. The argument was premised on the notion that “Religion is the one exception we all make to the rule: don’t label children with the opinions of their parents.” That premise was bogus and the whole argument collapsed.

    I am not saying I agree or disagree with you, but explain why you think children should/shouldn’t be labeled by their parents beliefs rather than showing that Richard Dawkins may or may not be hypocritical.

    I don’t care if people label or don’t label their children according to their beliefs, so I have no need to put forward some type of “explanation.” Live and let live.

    I simply find Dawkins’s pet peeve to be kooky and have fun responding to the world’s most famous atheist. And again, this is not “showing that Dawkins is hypocrtical.” He has a long track record on that with more substantial issues. It’s refuting his argument. Religion is not the “one exception.” Two minutes with google would have shown him that.

  3. arollinson says:

    That’s fair enough, although I think you would agree that the number of children labelled by religion rather than a lack thereof is so immensely skewed toward the former that perhaps Dawkins’ statement is close to the truth, if not the total truth.

    I would like to upset the apple cart as it were by presenting the argument that, by adopting a live and let live stance, you should actually be on the side of Dawkins in this case. Dawkins should let parents live, and parents should let their children live. The reasons Richard finds indoctrinating children repulsive are probably something like this:

    1) People stick with the religion they were raised with in most cases
    2) Dawkins, and I in fact, believe that religion is quite harmful and unnecessary for adults and children alike

    As you can see, calling children “Muslim” or “Christian” is not the same as calling them “red-headed” or “brown-eyed” to Dawkins, and I think you would agree. It has a real (often, negative) impact on their lives that they have no way of avoiding.

    Another reason that Dawkins has gone so far as to label indoctrination as child abuse is that he has interviewed child psychologists who testify that terrifying teachings, such as those about eternal torture in hell, actually negatively affect development and can lead to great psychological anguish. This is especially true in very fundamentalist sects that emphasize the punishment that awaits so-called “sinners”.

    And every public figure whose whole life is on the internet can be scrutinized for hypocrisy. All humans are hypocrites. If your life was published online I am sure we could all have a field day, as you could with mine. Pointing out hypocrisy is fine of course but definitely not earth-shattering or, in my opinion, even reputation-shattering.

  4. GeoffSmith says:

    On Dawkins’ own theories of cultural transference/traditioning of memes, I would think that on his premises, there really is no difference between calling a child buddhist, red head, white. Until children explicitly deviate from their parents, they possess their parents’ cultural inheritance.

  5. Michael says:

    That’s fair enough, although I think you would agree that the number of children labelled by religion rather than a lack thereof is so immensely skewed toward the former that perhaps Dawkins’ statement is close to the truth, if not the total truth.

    No, I would not agree. His statement is false. He just wants to single out religion because he is an atheist activist with an axe to grind. AS for any skewing, you would have to weight this according to the distribution of religious folk vs. atheists.

    BTW, I should probably note I myself have never referred to kids as “Christian children.” In fact, I can’t recall hearing someone else use such a phrase. I think the problem is that Dawkins aristocratic social circle is purely atheist. Since religous people are the outgroup for them, his fellow atheists, perhaps at a cocktail party, often refer to the outgroup with the labels – “I saw the cutest little Christian children today.” I think the labeling problem is mostly an atheist problem.

    I would like to upset the apple cart as it were by presenting the argument that, by adopting a live and let live stance, you should actually be on the side of Dawkins in this case. Dawkins should let parents live, and parents should let their children live.

    Wrong. The live and let live attitude would be a horrible parenting style. Children need their parents to be involved in their lives. They need guidance. They need to feel included. What’s harmful here is neglect.

    The reasons Richard finds indoctrinating children repulsive are probably something like this:
    1) People stick with the religion they were raised with in most cases
    2) Dawkins, and I in fact, believe that religion is quite harmful and unnecessary for adults and children alike

    That Dawkins and you think religion is “quite harmful” is your personal opinion. No one is claiming you or Dawkins would have to raise your children to be religious, so he should calm down. And of course Dawkins is “repulsed.” He is an anti-religious bigot.

    As you can see, calling children “Muslim” or “Christian” is not the same as calling them “red-headed” or “brown-eyed” to Dawkins, and I think you would agree. It has a real (often, negative) impact on their lives that they have no way of avoiding.

    I see no evidence that calling children “Muslim” or “Christian” has a real (often, negative) impact on their lives that they have no way of avoiding.

    Another reason that Dawkins has gone so far as to label indoctrination as child abuse is that he has interviewed child psychologists who testify that terrifying teachings, such as those about eternal torture in hell, actually negatively affect development and can lead to great psychological anguish. This is especially true in very fundamentalist sects that emphasize the punishment that awaits so-called “sinners”.

    Which is more evidence that the man does not know how to think like a scientist. We don’t resolve such kooky truth claims by interviewing child psychologists. You do controlled studies.

    BTW, which “child psychologists” did he interview?

    And every public figure whose whole life is on the internet can be scrutinized for hypocrisy. All humans are hypocrites. If your life was published online I am sure we could all have a field day, as you could with mine. Pointing out hypocrisy is fine of course but definitely not earth-shattering or, in my opinion, even reputation-shattering.

    Er, once again it was about making a truth claim that was not true. Religion is not the “one exception.”

  6. arollinson says:

    Well if you have not heard someone call their children “Christian” you have no doubt seen children with their parent’s religion thrust upon them, which is the crucial matter.
    Of course children need guidance: on matters of survival, responsibility, et cetera. I was not suggesting that parents abandon their children. I was suggesting that your “live and let live” stance entails allowing people to be themselves. This should include children as well as adults. Allow children to figure out their own beliefs and craft their own identity. Don’t shove yours on them. Children raised in secular homes (notice the difference between secular and atheist) do quite fine surviving in the world and in fact, a fair amount of research shows they are more satisfied and productive than their indoctrinated counterparts. Therefore, religious indoctrination is not a necessary part of parenting and really should be best avoided. As for the evidence, I could find you some links later but I am sure you could find it yourself. You could also read up on theocracies where all children have to be indoctrinated and deduce the evidence yourself.
    He is a well-respected scientist who is quite familiar with the scientific method. I am sure you would know that if you read his books The Greatest Show on Earth or The Ancestor’s Tale. There have not been to many controlled studies done that I know of but how about this for “negativity”: telling children lies that are disgusting and frightening is negative on its own even if it had no practical consequences, though I have experienced some myself. I grew up ridden with guilt as a child with fundamentalist Christian parents and I still have certain tendencies that I know are not psychologically healthy as a result. This is anecdotal evidence of course (as were Dawkins’ interviews with child psychologists) which I don’t expect to convince you of everything.
    What I would hope however, is that you do not dismiss the idea as “kooky” and give it no further thought. How much evidence do you really need that telling children they were born wretched sinners, that they should fear hellfire, that they should feel ashamed of their actions and even their thoughts, and that the most natural things in the world to them are wrong negatively affects many of them?
    Why risk all of that horrid nonsense when a secular upbringing would do a much better job at raising well-adjusted, productive citizens? You say it is up to the parents, but that is a dangerous relativism you are approaching. Freedom is valuable, but it cannot be absolute. If we are to maximize wellbeing in the world, there are certain things we should do and certain things we shouldn’t. Lying about fearful nonsense to our children is not exactly in a grey area.
    You may value religion and so disagree with me, but at least consider it. It is not kook, it is genuine concern for the wellbeing of human beings.

  7. TFBW says:

    Dawkins also said:

    We regularly read demographic projections like, “By the year so-and-so France will be 50 percent Muslim.” Such a forecast can only be based on the assumption that all children born to a Muslim couple are little Muslims who will grow up to raise their own little Muslims in due course.

    Isn’t that rather transparently false? I’d have figured that it could be projected from on current trends, based only on the assumption that present trends will continue. Sure, it could also be based on projected births, but the tendency of children to maintain the religion that they were raised with is also something measurable — you don’t need assume 100% as Dawkins suggests.

    Dawkins is bolstering his position by presenting straw-man opponents, and promoting bad science while he’s at it.

  8. Michael says:

    Well if you have not heard someone call their children “Christian” you have no doubt seen children with their parent’s religion thrust upon them, which is the crucial matter.

    Make up your mind. Is it the label or the indoctrination that’s the problem? According to Dawkins, the mere label is the child abuse.

    Of course children need guidance: on matters of survival, responsibility, et cetera.

    More than that. They often need guidance on how to handle their emotions. On how to handle with something that could be upsetting them. Etc. And it’s not just guidance. They need their parents to be involved. They need attention. They need to feel included.

    I was not suggesting that parents abandon their children.

    You are suggusting that parents should abandon their children when it comes to religion. The kids must be excluded from the parents church life and activity. Kids must be sent away from the table when a prayer is being said. Parents must keep their religious views secret from their children.

    I was suggesting that your “live and let live” stance entails allowing people to be themselves. This should include children as well as adults.

    Yes kids can be themselves. But that doesn’t mean they need to be bannished from their parent’s religious lifestyle. For religious parents to “kick the kids out” of their religious lifestyle would be closer to abuse.

    Allow children to figure out their own beliefs and craft their own identity.

    They do that naturally.

    Don’t shove yours on them.

    Good parents don’t shove; good parents share their lives with their children.

    Children raised in secular homes (notice the difference between secular and atheist) do quite fine surviving in the world

    I know. I did.

    and in fact, a fair amount of research shows they are more satisfied and productive than their indoctrinated counterparts.

    Hogwash. Here’s just one example from Tom Gilson: http://www.breakpoint.org/component/content/article/71-features/1490-childs-play-from-dawkins

    Therefore, religious indoctrination is not a necessary part of parenting and really should be best avoided.

    No, it is not necesarry, unless the religious parent wants to be emotionally close to his/her child. Emotional closeness can be one of the most valuable gifts a parent can give to their child.

    As for the evidence, I could find you some links later but I am sure you could find it yourself.

    I have looked for over 10 years now and can’t find any evidence that religious indoctrination is child abuse.

    He is a well-respected scientist who is quite familiar with the scientific method. I am sure you would know that if you read his books The Greatest Show on Earth or The Ancestor’s Tale.

    He is famous for writing popular science books. Actually, he only seems to write about one topic in science. He has done very little research throughout his whole life and has pretty much lost all interest in science since retiring. EO Wilson doesn’t even consider him a scientist anymore: ““There is no dispute between me and Richard Dawkins and there never has been, because he’s a journalist, and journalists are people that report what the scientists have found and the arguments I’ve had have actually been with scientists doing research.”

    There have not been to many controlled studies done that I know of

    You mean Dawkins, the well-respected scientist, doesn’t mention any?

    but how about this for “negativity”: telling children lies that are disgusting and frightening is negative on its own even if it had no practical consequences, though I have experienced some myself. I grew up ridden with guilt as a child with fundamentalist Christian parents and I still have certain tendencies that I know are not psychologically healthy as a result. This is anecdotal evidence of course (as were Dawkins’ interviews with child psychologists) which I don’t expect to convince you of everything.

    You are right – I am not convinced. For every bad ancedote you have, someone can bring up a good anecdote.

    What I would hope however, is that you do not dismiss the idea as “kooky” and give it no further thought.

    I dismiss it as kooky because I have thought about it for 10+ years now.

    How much evidence do you really need that telling children they were born wretched sinners, that they should fear hellfire, that they should feel ashamed of their actions and even their thoughts, and that the most natural things in the world to them are wrong negatively affects many of them?

    Er, me thinks that is not as common as you think it is.

    Why risk all of that horrid nonsense when a secular upbringing would do a much better job at raising well-adjusted, productive citizens?

    There is no evidence for this claim.

    You say it is up to the parents, but that is a dangerous relativism you are approaching.

    Let me guess….you think it should be up to the…..government?

    Freedom is valuable, but it cannot be absolute.

    Do you think a religious upbringing should be illegal?

    If we are to maximize wellbeing in the world, there are certain things we should do and certain things we shouldn’t.

    Are you invoking the Hive Mentality here?

    Lying about fearful nonsense to our children is not exactly in a grey area.

    How do you know someone is lying?

    You may value religion and so disagree with me, but at least consider it.

    Considered it for years.

    Here is something you should at least consider. Dawkins is not an expert on this topic. What’s more, he is not even faintly familiar with the research. Neither does he care about children when it comes to the real-world plague of children being abused because of drug and alcohol additions (and worse). He only wants this as a talking point for his activism.

    It is not kook, it is genuine concern for the wellbeing of human beings.

    If Dawkins had genuine concern for the wellbeing of human beings, why does he ignore all the secular child abuse and neglect – abuse and neglect that has nothing to with religion.

    Like this –
    http://www.kpho.com/story/28005423/pd-girl-4-rescued-from-vehicle-littered-with-drug-paraphernalia

    Oddly enough, Dawkins is only concerned about the well-being of children when religion can be turned into the bogey man.

  9. TFBW says:

    Michael said:

    Is it the label or the indoctrination that’s the problem? According to Dawkins, the mere label is the child abuse.

    Hardly. The label is just the thin end of a wedge strategy. If he can get buy-in on the relatively innocuous claim that “religious labels” are bad, then it will be much easier for him to get buy-in on the idea that “religious influence” is bad later. The indoctrination is the real problem, but he’s trying to “raise consciousness” by starting with something less conspicuous which tilts the field appropriately.

  10. Ilíon says:

    Goodness! Next thing you know, people will want to raise their childred as ‘Chinese’ or ‘French’ or ‘American’. This could get ugly if people ignore the warnings of the great Pope of God-hatred.

  11. mechanar says:

    I get the feeling that at this point new atheist are so desperate they just dont care anymore what they are saying anymore what matters is that they said SOMETHING. I mean seriously?! A label? Its not About a label it is how you MEAN that label. I can say “oh look there are some black People moving in” or “OH heck no Black people are moving in” You see? Its impossible not to have any label of any kind, and even if religion was the one exception so what? what does it prove? what has it to do with anything? There is only a Problem because Dawkings wants to create one execpt there really is not.

  12. Kevin says:

    Dawkins, and I in fact, believe that religion is quite harmful and unnecessary for adults and children alike

    I’m always fascinated when this argument and its variations are used. Let’s take away god-belief for a moment, and pretend that nature is all there is. Matter and energy behaving according to their properties. Nothing else.

    The objective facts under such a reality is that there is no purpose, there is no meaning to life, there is no justice, there is no justification for moral outrage because there is no basis for objective moral truth. Existence itself is an accident, my life even more so. Said life, incidentally, being no more or less unique than that of a housefly or blade of grass or bacterium, and no more or less valuable. The universe is a cold, pitiless place that will grind us all up into permanent death and there is no way to avoid it.

    In other words, such a reality when viewed without delusion is…absolutely horrifying.

    Theism is simply superior to atheism. Even if atheism was logical, even if it was the correct worldview, the delusion of a Christian is still far better than the delusion of a happy atheist who ignores every single implication of his own worldview. I firmly believe Christianity is the truth, but even if I’m wrong, my life is better in every possible way because of belief in God.

    So, how again do you find religion to be unnecessary?

  13. Ilíon says:

    Theism is simply superior to atheism. Even if atheism was logical, even if it was the correct worldview, the delusion of a Christian is still far better than the delusion of a happy atheist who ignores every single implication of his own worldview. I firmly believe Christianity is the truth, but even if I’m wrong, my life is better in every possible way because of belief in God.

    Indeed. Let us emphasize this: “the delusion of a happy atheist who ignores every single implication of his own worldview” — I generally refer to so-called atheists as ‘atheists’ (that is, with quote-marks around the word) because there are precious few, if any, real atheists anywhere in the world. There are multitudes of God-haters, almost none of whom understands, nor cares to understand, what must be true if their God-denial were true.

    For, moreover, were atheism really the truth about the nature of reality (and of us), and Christianity the delusion about the nature of reality (and of us), instead of the reverse, there is neither profit nor commendation, in either this world or the next, to the ‘atheist’ for seeing things aright, nor is there either any loss nor condemnation, in either this world or the next, to the Christian for seeing things false.

    What an interesting world-view atheism is — it matters only if it is false.

  14. arollinson says:

    I think you are being quite fatuous if you do not recognize that Dawkins assumes religious upbringing is attached to the label of the child. If you call your child a “Christian child” but don’t practice a faith yourself or teach your child anything about it I doubt Dawkins would cry child abuse. It is the enforcement of harmful ideas on a developing human who has no way to defend his or herself or think to the contrary. It is the use of fear or guilt in religion’s name (or at all) as a parenting tool that is inappropriate.
    If you can’t think of a way to handle emotions without religion than I regret to inform you that you are emotionally stunted. Regardless, I do not necessarily advocate Dawkins’ position that indoctrinating a child is child abuse, that is quite extreme and also means that accused parents could be charged. I do believe in freedom of religion and freedom in general. However, I do find that the right to live a healthy life is far more important than the right to your religion, and if the latter infringes on the former there is definitely a cause for scrutiny.
    You are suggusting that parents should abandon their children when it comes to religion. The kids must be excluded from the parents church life and activity. Kids must be sent away from the table when a prayer is being said. Parents must keep their religious views secret from their children.
    Well I don’t know about Dawkins but I have nothing like that in mind when I say parents should let children choose for themselves. Take them to church, pray at the table, and keep no secrets: especially about the fact that there are other religions out there and that you believe your religion but that doesn’t necessarily make it true. Should this be enforced by law? No. But does that keep us pronouncing on what methods of child-rearing are ideal and indeed what should be recommended? No.
    The study you present is very interesting but somewhat dubious. Were the variables all written by a conservative Christian?
    Habits: Smoking, drinking, marijuana use, TV watching, pornography use, ‘action’ video game use, R-rated movies;
    At school: Poor grades, cutting classes, getting suspended or expelled;
    Attitude: Bad temper, rebellious toward parents;
    Sex: Early physical involvement, including number of partners and age of first sexual contact.

    None of those things are particularly troubling (watch out for those R-rated movies; they lead down a dangerous path) except school performance and perhaps sexual activity but that depends on whether or not protection is used. And studies have found that it is the ultra-religious who have more unprotected sex than their non-affiliated counterparts. Take a look at just one study done on the other side. I don’t agree with everything Zuckerman says, but I certainly don’t think that secular people suffer from the ineptitude that the study you linked to suggests. http://www.pitzer.edu/academics/faculty/zuckerman/Zuckerman_on_Atheism.pdf
    The positive attributes of the study you mentioned are much more interesting though and definitely something to think about.
    Perhaps being non-religious in America causes problems (if it really does, which I am not convinced of) because of the stigma attached to atheists, who are trusted just about as well as sex offenders. If you look at highly secular countries, you will find that they rate better than religious countries like the United States in virtually every desirable area. Look at the top 5 in World Happiness Report and then try to remember just exactly how religious those countries are. http://unsdsn.org/resources/publications/world-happiness-report-2013/
    I see where you are coming from and I agree that labelling indoctrination as child abuse is too far but I would also shy away from suggesting that religion has no harmful impact or that secularism has a highly harmful impact. I don’t think the evidence supports either claim. In fact, it seems to me that the closer religious upbringing comes to secular values rather than fundamentalist religious values, the better. Christianity has been diverging from its source material for a long time now. My parents are fundamentalist Pentecostals and I assure you that their values and their methods of instilling these values were not healthy. And I think you underestimate how common this kind of upbringing is, especially in the United States (I am in Canada). And of course, if you look at the most religious nations on earth (i.e. theocracies), there is almost nothing good to say about them.
    Furthermore, I fundamentally agree with Dawkins that religion is generally harmful. It supports and institutionalizes irrational thinking, undue deference to authority, guilt and shame, violence (in far too many cases), discrimination (including against women, those outside of heteronormative ideals, “apostates”, other religious people, and of course, atheists), “Just World” and otherwise punitive thinking, conservatism (in all the worst ways and rarely any of the good ones), often anti-science or counter-science attitudes and beliefs, and the list keeps on and on. That he and others have selected religion as their cause makes sense to me. Sure, there are other problems, even bigger problems! But like I said before, activists pick their issues and focus on them, and without the so-called New Atheists, no one would be focusing on the one we all take for granted.
    “Are you invoking the Hive Mentality here?”
    Do you not agree that there are things we can collectively agree on to be better or worse for wellbeing? Is collectivism so anemic to your values of individuality and freedom that you can’t even agree that we all can agree about things? Do we all agree murder causes harm? Whoa, Hive Mind! I think we could make a similar claim about religion. If religion disappeared right now and was replaced by secular human morality, an incredible amount of violence, abuse, global conflict, and ignorance would disappear along with it. Is that really a controversial claim? If so, you aren’t watching the news.
    ”How do you know someone is lying?”
    When they say things that are almost certainly untrue. Of course, if they believe it to be true then whether or not you can call them liars is up for debate but there is still a reality to contend with; misinformation is being spread at the expense of truth. I don’t know how anyone could debate that religious teaching doesn’t heavily involve lies in the 21st Century but maybe you would like to try. Or perhaps you would like to argue that the elastic, undefinable faith that is becoming more and more popular is nothing like the “straw man” I (and Dawkins) hate. Fair enough. Continue on with your elasticity. I am more worried about the billions who don’t.
    ”Here is something you should at least consider. Dawkins is not an expert on this topic. What’s more, he is not even faintly familiar with the research.”
    Fair enough, perhaps you think I take all of my views from Dawkins but I most assuredly don’t. I just see a lot of smearing in his direction on the internet and I find it to be unfair. In fact, your next quote shows that quite well:
    ”Neither does he care about children when it comes to the real-world plague of children being abused because of drug and alcohol additions (and worse). He only wants this as a talking point for his activism.“
    Wow. You’re probably right, I am sure he doesn’t care about the suffering of children at all. His godless ways probably drained all empathy from his heart. Activists focus on one issue and they revolve their work around it. For Dawkins, it is religion. For others, it is crack babies. Suggesting that someone doesn’t care about something simply because they don’t publicly comment on it is a fallacy you are above. That is like saying Craig Kielberger doesn’t care about seniors with Alzheimer’s because he only ever talks about poor children in Africa.
    My conclusion thus far is that Dawkins is jumping the gun when he says he knows for sure that religious upbringing is harmful to children, and you have brought me there so congratulations. But I think quite a bit more specific research needs be to done, especially in countries outside the US. The study you linked to seems to show more of a link between income and the variables than religion, as the poor religious did not fare so well either. Regardless, even if Dawkins is 100% wrong on this issue, that does not discredit other work he has done and I think the virulent smear campaigns against him are excessive. People not only question his arguments, but his basic humanity. That’s too far. He is a very sweet and thoughtful man who, like all of us, happens to be wrong sometimes.

  15. Michael says:

    arollinson,

    I must resist the temptation and conform to the fact that I don’t have much time these days for lengthy exchanges about several topics. So let’s stick to the topic of the thread.

    First, I did refute Dawkins argument that was premised on the mistaken notion that only religious people have their children labelled.

    Second, it’s good to see we agree that Dawkins’s attempt to equate religious indoctrination is wrong-headed. For as you wisely noted, “that is quite extreme and also means that accused parents could be charged. I do believe in freedom of religion and freedom in general.”

    Finally, as for this notion that world would be a much better place without religion, I encourage you to read this.

  16. GM says:

    I have a huge problem with this entire argument because, once again, atheists are asking that we defend something as vague as religious upbringing as a whole, which is something no religious person anywhere has ever advocated: method is extraordinarily important.

    The assumption that all parents have some kind of obligation within their religion to terrorize their children with zero-nuanced expressions of the more serious, troubling doctrine is either a straw man, or based on anecdotes that I would strongly condemn.

    Would an atheist parent be obligated to tell their children from an early age that everything in the universe is doomed to be swallowed by an inevitable mass heat-death? Or that they as parents only love their children because of an evolutionary compulsion to pass their genes along?

  17. Michael says:

    Couldn’t resist.

    He is a very sweet and thoughtful man who, like all of us, happens to be wrong sometimes.

    And unlike most of us, he is a man, with a net worth of $150 million, who leads a movement that seeks to mock and denigrate religious people (as he once said at his atheist rally). Perhaps you can take a shot at answering the unanswerable question.

  18. arollinson says:

    Your link does not prove the world would not be a better place without religion, but rather that many New Atheists are bigoted.

    You can list good and bad people who are religious and who are New Atheists. It is as useless as adding up the body counts of the various genocidal maniacs of the past (a favourite pastime of atheists and theists alike).

    That blog post talks about how there are sexist, bigoted New Atheists. I would be careful of tallying up sexism and bigotry when you have millennia of both institutionalized behind you. The important part for me is not necessarily what people do, but why they do it. You cannot draw a line between modern, secular, humanist ideas and sexism, bigotry, and a general lack of concern for wellbeing. The line between religious doctrine and such filth is direct and well-defined. Can religion exist without it? Yes, but only when it becomes increasingly nominal or if its scriptures are totally benign (no such scriptures exist).

    New Atheists who say or do misogynistic things are not doing so because of New Atheism or even because of anti-theism in general. New Atheism is about criticizing ideas (ideologies), and you can see that when you listen to profoundly reasonable people like Sam Harris (who the blog post fails to mention) and Jerry Coyne. Following the latter’s blog, Why Evolution Is True, reveals both a single-minded determination to undermine religious ideas and a humane, empathetic recognition of the difference between attacking ideas and people. That is a lot more than I can say for detractors of Coyne like the religious apologist Reza Aslan.

    Is New Atheism such a corrupt movement that it needs an overhaul? Other than the few (literally, few) horror stories on that blog post, I don’t see much evidence of that. I am seeing a growing number of people finally coming out and writing well-reasoned pieces criticizing religion while recognizing the difference between ideas and people.

    And like I said before, do you really want to tally the bigotry of movements? It would be laughable to compare the current status of the Catholic Church (even with its faux-liberal Pope) with New Atheism in that regard and it is not even worth mentioning a comparison of New Atheism with theocracies like Saudi Arabia or the new caliphate established by IS. Some New Atheists, prominent ones, said very deplorable things. Every single day, people are beheaded or thrown from buildings in the name of religion.

  19. arollinson says:

    He said mock and denigrate “them” which, to be fair (and consistent with responses he has given in interviews), seems to refer to the beliefs of religious people and not the people themselves. I personally don’t find it productive to ridicule necessarily though I think there is a place for satire and occasionally, for sanity’s sake, I have to acknowledge how stupid some beliefs really are. On the occasion to which you refer, he was talking about people believing the communion wafer becomes the body of Christ—literally.

    He is not the movement, he is just the most popular. Many atheists are actually annoyed by his popularity because he makes us “look bad” on occasion. I think on the whole he is actually very good in debates in discussion. Whether or not he is always politically correct is another matter.

    I am afraid I do not quite understand the context of the unanswerable question. What does Dawkins mean by “faith-head”? As in an insulting way like you would say “butt-head” or rather just someone who represents a faith? I don’t follow his online writing that closely (I much prefer his books) so I have only ever really encountered him saying “Christians” or “Muslims” or “Jews” so far as I can remember. Regardless, he clearly does not use “faith-heads” ubiquitously or even necessarily often so I don’t quite see the point of the question except perhaps it being another attempt to point out hypocrisy.

  20. GM says:

    Arollison
    I have to be very blunt.

    The men you’re citing criticize things that they simply don’t understand. Period.

    I have never heard Dawkins, Coyne or Harris come close to ANYTHING that resembles a well-informed, nuanced critique of anything that I believe. The closest any of those guys have come to humbling me is when Hitchens cited failures of Christians to live up to their own ideals, but by and large these guys are theologically illiterate and have yet to exegete the Bible in a remotely compelling way.

  21. GM says:

    I’m not trying to sound pompous, but my issue is I see no reason to play by their rules when it comes to understanding religion in general, which is an odd thing to defend, or examining what it is that I actually do believe. Just because I cannot, or will not, force my beliefs into their parameters of cultural chauvinism, I am labeled by them as some kind of lunatic.

    The greatest gap between those guys and myself is that they have no capacity to work with mystery. To them, mystery is a dead end. To me, mystery is a very active, enlightening aspect of my existential experience and understanding of God. That’s because they demand that all knowable things be available for linear rationalization within the category of human language. I find this to be very facile in light of Christian doxology. This is why the book of Job is completely incomprehensible to the critic who doesn’t see what the text is attempting to do: it is not trying to lay out a philosophical dissertation on theodicy for a an objective neutral observer to agree or disagree. It is an attempt to wright out the subjective experience of the identity of God that must be approached existentially. Until this category of faith as lived by the believer is actually engaged with, the criticisms by the New Atheists are bathroom graffiti.

  22. Kevin says:

    I simply don’t understand calling someone like Sam Harris a reasonable person, let alone profoundly so. Having read much of their writings, I see very little that even remotely critiques what I actually believe as a Christian, and I’ve seen a lot that makes me wonder how they could possibly have become popular. I think their understanding of Christianity is infantile.

    Plus, anyone that uses the word “religion” as a target identifier has already dug themselves a huge intellectual hole. “Religion” can mean just about anything, so attacking it is about as useless as attacking “beliefs” or “philosophy”. People like Harris attack “religion” so they can pretend that Muslims flying planes into buildings – or as arollinson said, beheading or throwing people off buildings – has absolutely anything remotely to do with my believing that Jesus Christ is the son of God. Such a poor argument to me denotes either incredible ignorance, shallow thinking, dishonesty, or outright bigotry.

  23. Michael says:

    He said mock and denigrate “them” which, to be fair (and consistent with responses he has given in interviews), seems to refer to the beliefs of religious people and not the people themselves.

    Referring to people is consistent with what he has written before:

    I lately started to think that we need to go further: go beyond humorous ridicule, sharpen our barbs to a point where they really hurt.

    Michael Shermer, Michael Ruse, Eugenie Scott and others are probably right that contemptuous ridicule is not an expedient way to change the minds of those who are deeply religious. But I think we should probably abandon the irremediably religious precisely because that is what they are – irremediable. I am more interested in the fence-sitters who haven’t really considered the question very long or very carefully. And I think that they are likely to be swayed by a display of naked contempt. Nobody likes to be laughed at. Nobody wants to be the butt of contempt.

    Pay attention – the attacks are intended to be personal. “Nobody like to be laughed at. Nobody wants to be the butt of contempt.”

    This is confirmed in an interview he did:

    SPIEGEL ONLINE: Aren’t you afraid that some of these people might be alienated by the sometimes strong language in the book?
    Dawkins: What strong language do you mean?
    SPIEGEL ONLINE: You call your opponents “Holocaust-deniers,” “ignorant,” “ridiculous” and “deluded to the point of perversity.”
    Dawkins: My suspicion is that more people will find it amusing. If I read an author who is ridiculing some idiot, I myself am rather amused. There may be some who will be turned off and I will have lost them in those passages. But I suspect they’ll be outnumbered by those who are amused.

    Dawkins also has a history of attacking people. For example, when Nadia Eweida, a check-in worker at British Airways, complained because the airline tried to prevent her from wearing a tiny little cross round her neck, Richard Dawkins used his media connections to attack her as follows:

    “I saw a picture of this woman,” says Dawkins. “She had one of the most stupid faces I’ve ever seen.”

    Then there is the case of the 5-year old boy who accidentally shot and killed his 2-year old sister. Dawkins immediately went into one of his infamous twitter storms and began to ridicule and attack the family:

    “It was God’s will. It was her time to go, I guess.” “Just a tragic accident.” Poor little girl, her tragedy was her deeply stupid family.
    “I just know she’s in heaven right now.” No she’s not, she’s dead. Dead. Killed by some deeply stupid gun-lover who gave a gun to a 5-yr-old

    When someone asked if it was a good idea to make such comments while the family was grieving, Dawkins tweeted:

    Yes it bloody well is the right time. Stupid gun-toting idiots. A little girl is dead, killed by her cretinous family.

    And then there are the numerous occasions where Dawkins insults and mocks religious people as “faith-heads.”

    Sorry, but Dawkins is not a very sweet and thoughtful man. Very sweet and thoughtful men don’t encourage a crowd of religion-haters to go out and publicly mock religious people. Very sweet and thoughtful men do not misuse their media connections to attack the physical appearance of a working class woman. Very sweet and thoughtful men don’t use twitter to attack a family during their time of mourning. Very sweet and thoughtful men don’t consistently mock and ridicule other groups of people.

    He is not the movement, he is just the most popular. Many atheists are actually annoyed by his popularity because he makes us “look bad” on occasion.

    How so? How does your leader make you look bad?

    I am afraid I do not quite understand the context of the unanswerable question. What does Dawkins mean by “faith-head”? As in an insulting way like you would say “butt-head” or rather just someone who represents a faith?

    Try answering the unanswerable question. It may answer your question also.

    I don’t follow his online writing that closely (I much prefer his books)

    So you come to the table uninformed. Let me remind you his books are polished products. He gets others to read and review and then has highly-paid editors go over them with a fine toothed comb. If you want a feel for the real Richard Dawkins, the unedited version, read his online material. There you will find the man who is not very sweet and thoughtful. You’ve been played.

  24. Michael says:

    Your link does not prove the world would not be a better place without religion, but rather that many New Atheists are bigoted.

    I do not need to prove the world would not be a better place without religion. You are the only who believes the world would be a better place without religion. I think that is a fantasy not rooted in reality. Your belief would have some support if the community of atheists demonstrated that their community, which lacks religion, was in fact a better place than the rest of the world. What we have with the atheists is a community that lacks religion, but is no better than the rest of us.

  25. arollinson says:

    You and the link both mentioned “still think the world would be better without religion?”, that’s why I mentioned it. It is axiomatic in many cases that religion’s absence would be beneficial. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict would be largely de-escalated for one. ISIS wouldn’t exist. Et cetera.

    According to your evidence, if New Atheism takes over, the worst we might have is unwarranted litigation and rude comments. No beheadings. No stigmitization of homosexuals or sex in general. No faith. No honour killings.

    There is no really unified atheist community in the sense that say the religious have. The closest I have to a community anyway is a very few atheist friends, who are the most reasonable people I know. What we have with the most secular countries in the world is societies organized around human concerns and with humane results. We don’t need individual atheists, we need societies that value wellbeing and use real evidence to achieve it. Being rid of religion helps, but it is not the only requirement. Humanism, the love of all people, needs to replace the love of God.

  26. Michael says:

    You and the link both mentioned “still think the world would be better without religion?”, that’s why I mentioned it. It is axiomatic in many cases that religion’s absence would be beneficial. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict would be largely de-escalated for one. ISIS wouldn’t exist. Et cetera.

    In this case, axiomatic = imaginary. As far as we know, if we took away religion, the same fights would exist, just under a different banner.

    According to your evidence, if New Atheism takes over, the worst we might have is unwarranted litigation and rude comments. No beheadings. No stigmitization of homosexuals or sex in general. No faith. No honour killings.

    If New Atheism “takes over,” then New Atheism would have something it currently lacks – power. And when we look to history for examples of atheists with power, it’s not a pretty picture. Look at it this way. Richard Dawkins thinks a religious upbringing is child abuse. Jerry Coyne thinks it should be illegal to give a child a religious upbringing. Combine those views with power and what do you get.

    There is no really unified atheist community in the sense that say the religious have.

    The New Atheists have a unified community.

    The closest I have to a community anyway is a very few atheist friends, who are the most reasonable people I know.

    I’m not talking about you.

    Humanism, the love of all people, needs to replace the love of God.

    Well then, do it. I don’t see the “love of all people” in the New Atheist community (as shown in my link)

  27. GM says:

    Arollinson:
    Again, you’re just attacking “religion” in general. No one here is “religious” in general. Do you expect me to take intellectual responsibility for honor killings when I have beliefs that would specifically condemn honor killings? And if you feel tempted to throw a proof text at me from Dueteronomy, are you absolutely certain that I haven’t engaged with that on my own? Are you sure you know more about it than I do?

    I live in arguably the most liberal secular corner of the United States. I see nothing in my day to day with a broadly, staunchly irreligious population that gives me your optimism about human nature. Hint: for all the liberal posturing around here, for all the pride In education, for all the lip service to secular humanist values that goes on, you’re way, way better off being white in this city. It’s not even close. When friends from Alabama say “Wow, ya’ll really keep your black folk hidden. What a bunch of racists….”

    Take away the money and the social safety nets, and I wouldn’t trust the city I live in for a moment, these people will eat each other.

  28. J.P. says:

    It is comforting to know that there will always be opera buffa dictators ensuring that believers can not be themselves and live their faith with their children and raise them according to their convictions. What do they think they are, those dangerous child abusers!

  29. GM says:

    Also, the more I think about it, Michael doesn’t refute far enough. If you “took away” religion from, say, the Palestinian conflict, you’d have a bunch of atheists thinking “Ok so I don’t believe in God now, but that bastard still killed my brother.”

    No, I double down. They need MORE “religion.” Just religion of a specific kind. What if a large portion of both sides started to pray, meditate and internalize the Lord’s Prayer, specifically “forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us” individually and as a community? Like what happens if that becomes an existential and theological reality in enough people over there? Humanism’s “love of mankind” is too vague. What about the divine command to specifically love your enemy, that very bastard who killed your brother, coupled with a doxology that developes the spiritual energy required to actually do that?

    The assumption that love of God is mutually exclusive to love of people is ridiculous.

  30. Dhay says:

    arollinson > According to your evidence, if New Atheism takes over, the worst we might have is unwarranted litigation and rude comments. No beheadings. No stigmitization of homosexuals or sex in general. No faith. No honour killings.

    One could have fun playing with that fantasy: Sam Harris for Foreign Secretary — now that should be interesting; and with Jerry Coyne in charge of Homeland Defence, we could expect any atheists who dare to remain accommodationists to be treated as traitors.

    John G Messerly thinks that by 2050 or thereabouts we will all be digitally enhanced (http://hplusmagazine.com/2014/04/29/we-must-evolve/) and will require morality chips implanted within our brains. He doesn’t specify precisely what that morality chip should contain, but quite obviously the New Atheist Party will ban any religious morality coding, and will, I predict, want to include that it should be immoral to vote against the New Atheist Party in any future elections; on the other hand, in Saudi Arabia and huge chunks of the world, a Sharia Law morality chip will be mandatory; so if Harris ever did get to be Foreign Secretary, there would probably be an early pre-emptive nuclear strike.

    Harris is opposed to digital enhancement himself — which is odd, because he could be pushing for a morality chip which forces each of us to seek the well-being of all sentient beings; as a useful benefit it could also be programmed to assist in undistracted attention to the breath, for basic meditation purposes, or could be set to give us, effortlessly and quickly, by simple aversion and reward therapy, the long periods without thought which apparently constitute enlightenment, cutting out the arduous decades-long process of extending brief moments into longer moments.

  31. Ilíon says:

    GM:Also, the more I think about it, Michael doesn’t refute far enough. If you “took away” religion from, say, the Palestinian conflict, you’d have a bunch of atheists thinking “Ok so I don’t believe in God now, but that bastard still killed my brother.”

    No, I double down. They need MORE “religion.” Just religion of a specific kind. …

    People, especially hypocritical God-haters, like to tut-tut about the OT law of “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth”.

    But, in fact, that law was a major step forward for mankind.

    First, it is administered by disinterested magestrates.

    Second, it requires justice be administered (*). The plaintif who says, “He knocked out my tooth, so take off his hand”, is told, “a tooth for a tooth”. The plaintif who says, “He knocked out my eye, so take his life”, is told, “an eye for an eye”.

    Without the ‘lex talionis‘ — or among a people who imagine themselves to be, or who are ruled by those who imagine themselves to be, too moral for it — it quicly becomes the case that the magestrates *don’t* administer justice, and eventually they intentionally administer injustice. In such a society, the only “justice” one gets is that that one’s kith-and-kin can exact; and the situation quickly turns into one of endless, and excallating, vendetta and blood-feud.

    (*) The ‘lex talionis‘ does not rule out mercy. But, mercy must follow from justice. And justice among a people is possible only when then they collectively seek to do justice.

  32. GM says:

    I mean, the biblical criticism coming out of the New Atheist movement is so stubborn and myopic, that I rarely engage with it. If someone was interested in how the Hebrew law and ethical system relates to the canon, I’d love to have that conversation, but it’s never that. It’s “YOU HAVE TO APPROVE OF STONING PEOPLE LOLOLOL YOU DUMMY.” Which is just riveting conversation.

  33. Dhay says:

    arollinson > According to your evidence, if New Atheism takes over, the worst we might have is unwarranted litigation and rude comments. No beheadings. No stigmitization of homosexuals or sex in general. No faith. No honour killings.

    And as Minister for Health, Peter Boghossian would want mandatory medical treatment of religious people, who he considers obviously brain-damaged:

    In the section “Immune to Street Epistemology?” he addresses the question of those who remain unpersuaded by the machinations of the brazen “street epistemologist”. He writes:

    “This section will unpack the two primary reasons for this appearance of failure: either (1) an interlocutor’s brain is neurologically damaged, or (2) you’re actually succeeding. In the latter case, an interlocutor’s verbal behavior indicates that your intervention is failing–for example, they’re getting angry or raising their voice, or they seem to become even more entrenched in their belief. Such protests may actually indicate a successful treatment.”
    http://randalrauser.com/2014/05/peter-boghossian-is-a-bigot-but-is-tim-mcgrew-brain-damaged/

    and, via link,

    “There is perhaps no greater contribution one could make to contain and perhaps even cure faith than removing the exemption that prohibits classifying religious delusions as mental illness. The removal of religious exemptions from the DSM would enable academicians and clinicians to bring considerable resources to bear on the problem of treating faith, as well as on the ethical issues surrounding faith-based interventions. In the long term, once these treatments and this body of research is refined, results could then be used to inform public health policies designed to contain and ultimately eradicate faith.” Peter Boghossian A Manual for Creating Atheists (Kindle Locations 3551-3555).

    I rather fancy a New-Atheocracy would be quite as repressive and oppressive as a Theocracy.

  34. Isaac says:

    Arollinson, this comment of yours had me SMH-ing the mostest:

    “It is axiomatic in many cases that religion’s absence would be beneficial. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict would be largely de-escalated for one.”

    It’s always good to know what axioms exist among large groups of morons.

    I wasn’t around for it, but there was a time when a geographical hotbed of political tension suddenly decided that religion was for dum dums…and reason, good sense, and love of one’s fellow man reigned supreme. So much so that they called it “The Terror”.

  35. Dhay says:

    Over at the “Is there a God?” blog — recently linked in the Blogroll — I see there is an April 21, 2014 survey of the scientific literature on, “Is it natural for children to believe in God or do they have to be taught it?” There’s much there, including links to original sources, the blogger’s summary of it all being:

    It seems there is a broad consensus among cognitive scientists that the basics of religious belief – God as a creator, an afterlife and mind-body dualism – are innate. Some believe they are hard-wired at birth because of our evolutionary origins while others believe that early experience of life and the external world leads children to the religious predisposition.

    But it is clear that, at the present at least, those who say religious belief wouldn’t occur without teaching are not basing their views on the best science, though of course much of the specific content of belief is taught. It appears in fact that it is unbelief that must be taught if it is to be acquired.

    We are each free to interpret the information as we choose. What appears not to be open to anyone who believes in science is to say that religion only exists because it is taught.

    It has been claimed that teaching children religion is indoctrination that amounts to child abuse. These studies show that children don’t have to be taught to be religious, but will tend to be religious naturally.
    http://www.is-there-a-god.info/blog/clues/is-it-natural-for-children-to-believe-in-god-or-do-they-have-to-be-taught-it/

    So it looks like being religious (though not any particular religion) comes naturally to a child: atheism, on the other hand, seems to be unnatural.

    Richard Dawkins > What would you say if you read a demographic article which said something like this: “One in every three children born today is a Kantian Neo-platonist child.”.

    I would probably ask whether the scientific evidence for that is as strong as for the scientific evidence which says something like this: “Three in every three children born today is a naturally religious child.”

  36. Dhay says:

    Richard Dawkins > Religion is the one exception we all make to the rule: don’t label children with the opinions of their parents.
    And if you want to make an exception for the opinions we call religious, and claim that it is any less preposterous to speak of “Christian children” or “Muslim children”, you’d better have a good argument up your sleeve.

    Interestingly, in his blog post dated March 18, 2015, entitled, “Elaine Ecklund still taking Templeton cash to show that science and religion are compatible”, Jerry Coyne says, contra Ecklund’s “In the U.S., 76 percent of scientists in the general population identify with a religious tradition”, that:

    This is deceptive, for of course “identifying with a religious tradition” doesn’t mean “accepts a religion”! I identify with Judaism, for instance, as that’s my background, but I don’t believe a word of its doctrine.
    https://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2015/03/18/elaine-ecklund-still-taking-templeton-cash-to-show-that-science-and-religion-are-compatible/

    Coyne evidently thinks it is acceptable for someone to identify himself with Judaism, not because he believes a word of its doctrine, but because “that’s my background”.

    Presumably it would have been possible (and very likely) for the former seven-year old Jerry Coyne to identify himself as Jewish because “that’s my background”; or for today’s seven-year old Mohammed to identify himself as Muslim because “that’s my background”; or for [substitute appropriate names and religions].

    Looks like the argument to have up your sleeve when you want to speak of “Christian children” or “Muslim children”, is that Gnu atheist Coyne insists on labeling himself Jewish, because that’s his religious background, and Coyne would surely — he wouldn’t be two-faced about this, would he — be happy to likewise label other people according to their religious background. What’s OK for Jerry Coyne should be OK for little Mohammed.

    A child might or might not have properly formed and informed religious beliefs, but the child will generally have a religious background — that of their family — that they can and generally do identify themselves with, and which others should pay the child the basic respect of likewise identifying them with.

  37. Dhay says:

    /blockquote formatting error — again. My apologies.

  38. Dhay says:

    > Richard Dawkins really needs to get out of his intellectually inbred cocoon. He’s been on this 10+ year mission to get people to stop referring to children as “Christian children” or “Muslim children.”

    Hmm:

    We even had some very young freethinkers at our events!

    https://twitter.com/reasonrally?ref_src=twsrc%5Egoogle%7Ctwcamp%5Eserp%7Ctwgr%5Eauthor

    I’d say Dawkins is going to lose this one: apparently even the presumably super-rationally clear-thinking 2016 Reason Rally staff think that a babe-in-arms, with probably no thought in their head except “Who are these strange people” and “Where’s my cuddly toy”, can be referred to as a freethinker.

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