More on the Authoritarian Nature of New Atheism

We have further evidence of the authoritarian nature of modern day atheism.   Here’s a video of a semi-popular 17-year-old Gnu sharing the wisdom of a 17-year-old Gnu.  What does this new generation of Gnus have in store for us?

At 4:51, he spells out his ideology on parenting and religion:

I think the most important thing a parent can be in terms of religion and the upbringing of a child is secular.  I don’t really care what you believe, as long as you let the children come to their own conclusions when they’re old enough.

So even if you are a Christian, you are supposed to raise your child as an atheist  (keeping in mind that we are told atheism is simply a lack of God belief which, in turn, is simply secularism).  He doesn’t care if you are a Christian as long as you don’t share it with your children.   Of course, Cosmic Skeptic is not alone.

A couple months ago, a Gnu named Travis was making essentially the same point:

I am not encouraging them to teach atheism and existentialism to their children. I believe that parents should not take their kids to church, should not teach them that these faith systems are the truth, and should not try and inspire religious belief in them…… I don’t think public schools or the government should promote any one religion as correct, and I don’t think parents should tell this to their children either.

This Gnu insists that parents should be as secular/atheistic as the public school system.

Look, I don’t share these authoritarian tendencies.  For record, I think atheist parents should be able to raise their children however they think best.  If they want to teach their children atheism , send them to Camp Quest, and have them read Dawkins and Harris, it’s none of my business to tell them otherwise (even though the children will receive plenty of misinformation).  I’m more of a live and let live type.

But this younger generation of Gnus, indoctrinated by Richard Dawkin’s ideology on these matters, have more of an authoritarian nature.  They insist that religious people behave and talk as secular parents around their children.  They insist that religious parents raise children by acting as if atheism was true.

So while I have never accused atheists of child abuse for raising their children in a secular world view, multiple atheists have accused religious people of child abuse for raising their children in a religious world view.  And while I have never insisted that atheist parents should behave as Christians when raising their children, atheists have insisted that religious parents should behave as atheists when raising their children.  The New Atheists not only want to poke their nose in other people’s bedrooms, but also their kitchens, their living rooms, their dining rooms, and their family rooms.

What’s even more astounding is that this desire to control other people is rooted in a world view that insists our morality is simply a matter of personal taste.  From Travis:

As to this issue about relative morals and “what I think is wrong,” of course there is no absolute set of morals. Humans decide what is right and wrong so I’m making an argument, whether or not you agree with it. None of what I’m saying is “right” is objectively true because this is impossible.

Leading me to reply:

But no one is claiming you have to raise your children as if Christianity is true. You are the one insisting Christians raise their children as if atheism was true. If you seek to impose your morality on others, it doesn’t help your position to discover you agree that your own morality is simply a matter of subjective taste. Why do you think anyone will alter their behavior because of your own idiosyncratic sentiments?

Look, here’s the solution – worry about your own kids and raise them the best that you can. Don’t be a busybody, poking your nose into other people’s houses and insisting that your ideas of parenting be implemented by all.

At that point, Travis ran away.

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79 Responses to More on the Authoritarian Nature of New Atheism

  1. The original Mr. X says:

    So even if you are a Christian, you are supposed to raise your child as an atheist  (keeping in mind that we are told atheism is simply a lack of God belief which, in turn, is simply secularism).  He doesn’t care if you are a Christian as long as you don’t share it with your children.

    Interestingly enough, I think that was also the USSR’s approach to religion.

  2. pennywit says:

    I don’t have time for endless videos … is this guy saying that he would force parents to raise their kids non-religious? Or just that he thinks they should raise their kids without faith? If the former, yes, that’s authoritarian. If the latter, well, he’s entitled to an opinion.

  3. Michael says:

    I don’t have time for endless videos …

    I did it for ya – the quote is below the video.

    is this guy saying that he would force parents to raise their kids non-religious?

    No. That would be incredibly counter-productive to the movement to say that. Not only would the authoritarian nature of the movement be too obvious, he doesn’t have the power to carry it out anyway. If he did want to force parents to raise their kids non-religious, he would not admit it.

    Look, force is an undercurrent in this whole issue, given the way Gnu’s want to label a religious upbringing as child abuse. Last time I checked, the government forcefully intervenes when child abuse is occurring.


    Or just that he thinks they should raise their kids without faith?

    He thinks “the most important thing a parent can be in terms of religion and the upbringing of a child is secular. I don’t really care what you believe, as long as you let the children come to their own conclusions when they’re old enough.” Note the “as long as you” qualifier. It’s comforting to know he doesn’t care if we believe Christianity is true as long as we keep our mouths shut about it around our children.

    If the former, yes, that’s authoritarian. If the latter, well, he’s entitled to an opinion.

    Of course he is entitled to his opinion. I’m just noting the authoritarian aspect of his opinion. I am able to note this because it is so different from my views. As I noted, ” And while I have never insisted that atheist parents should behave as Christians when raising their children, atheists have insisted that religious parents should behave as atheists when raising their children.”

    Or

    ” For record, I think atheist parents should be able to raise their children however they think best. If they want to teach their children atheism , send them to Camp Quest, and have them read Dawkins and Harris, it’s none of my business to tell them otherwise (even though the children will receive plenty of misinformation). I’m more of a live and let live type.

    But this younger generation of Gnus, indoctrinated by Richard Dawkin’s ideology on these matters, have more of an authoritarian nature. They insist that religious people behave and talk as secular parents around their children. They insist that religious parents raise children by acting as if atheism was true.”

    Sometimes it helps to read the blog entry. 😉

  4. Kevin says:

    The kid is a complete idiot if he thinks a parent’s most fundamental beliefs about the nature of life, death, reality, and morality should not be passed on to the parent’s kids.

  5. TFBW says:

    I think it’s funny that he rates his own opinions about child-rearing so highly, given his rather limited experience in the subject. I guess you can do that when you’re basically parroting an authority figure like Dawkins.

  6. FZM says:

    But this younger generation of Gnus, indoctrinated by Richard Dawkin’s ideology on these matters, have more of an authoritarian nature. They insist that religious people behave and talk as secular parents around their children. They insist that religious parents raise children by acting as if atheism was true.

    Views like those of the young Gnu in the O/P seem to be expressed pretty frequently (like the idea that teaching anything religious to children is ‘brain washing’ and ‘indoctrination’ of a particularly effective kind). I wonder if much thought goes into them or whether they are just repeated to often that they have become, for people with the relevant inclinations, some kind of received wisdom or common knowledge. I remember thinking that about Travis’ comments.

    As far as I can see a decent attempt to justify or explain this kind of view should involve addressing questions like this: What is the difference between secular and religious beliefs is, and what the difference between religion and secular world views and belief systems is? Who or what is the authority that parents should look to on that? Why must children be raised in one and be raised to take certain kinds of belief for granted (the secular world view and secular beliefs) and kept ignorant of all the others? How are children who have been raised to take a secular atheistic world view and belief system for granted supposed to make an informed choice about the nature and content of any of the other ones? And so on.

    If it doesn’t, maybe it’s just an empty talking point or some kind of soundbite aiming to create the impression that whatever the person putting it forward identifies as religious is harmful to children, dangerous to their upbringing and well being, mysteriously influential in a sinister way etc.

  7. FZM says:

    I made another typo (sorry!):

    This:

    What is the difference between secular and religious beliefs is, and what the difference between religion and secular world views and belief systems is?

    Should read:

    What is the difference between secular and religious beliefs, and what is the difference between religion and secular world views and belief systems?

  8. jbsptfn says:

    A certain someone seems to have something to say about this post:

    http://theskepticzone.blogspot.com/2016/10/religionist-frothing-at-mouth.html

  9. TFBW says:

    Does that post contain anything which can be described as factually accurate? It starts with the assertion that “Gnu Atheist” is a pejorative (rather than a term coined and promoted by atheists), and seems to maintain that level of projection throughout.

  10. jbsptfn says:

    He also seems to imply that Atheists don’t do any indoctrination, and that most Christians only came to their beliefs through indoctrination, as this statement seems to show:

    So what’s the real reason for Mikey’s visceral objection to secularism? I think it’s because he knows what all his fellow Christians know. Deep down inside, they understand that the only way to ensure their child will grow up to have their faith is to indoctrinate him while he’s young, just as they have been indoctrinated when they were young, before they had the intellectual capability to make a rational choice. Mikey sees the writing on the wall. He knows that failure to indoctrinate children makes it much more likely that they will not carry on the faith, and will not pass it down to their own children. That’s what Mikey fears. That’s what he’s foaming about.

  11. FZM says:

    Does that post contain anything which can be described as factually accurate?

    Maybe not? I notice that he also writes that the USSR was not a secular state.

    This would have been news to the guys responsible for writing the 1977 constitution of the USSR, article 52 of which reads:

    ‘Freedom of conscience, that is, the right to profess any religion or not to profess any religion, to perform religious rites or to conduct atheist propaganda shall be guaranteed for all citizens of the USSR. Incitement of hostility and hatred on religious grounds shall be prohibited. The church in the USSR shall be separated from the state and the school from the church’.

    And in Pravda in September 1982 Dr. V. Klochov, a Soviet law professor who was a specialist in religious-legal issues was writing:

    ‘… there are people abroad who regard the noble work of enlightenment , of educating and bringing up Soviet citizens in the spirit of the humanistic ideals of communism as allegedly ‘spiritual violence’ against believers, as ‘violation of human rights’. It is difficult to imagine the true state of affairs in a more distorted way. Communists and all advanced Soviet citizens, acting in strict accordance with the democratic norms of socialist law, come forward as active champions of all-round social and cultural progress, as defenders of the most lofty moral ideals founded on scientific knowledge and responding to the deep rooted interests of working people, to the demands of the free and all-round development of members of society.’

    …with some small changes in terminology I guess many Gnu secularists could sign up to this description of what their ideal secular state and education system would aim to achieve.

    I’ve seen atheist secularists make the claim that the USSR was not a secular country in the past (which I think is weird). At the same time often they seem to aspire towards making sure the place of religion in society is similar to that in the Soviet model. For example, freedom of conscience and some freedom of worship is permitted under government supervision (to limit the threats religious belief poses to society at large) at the same time as freedom to engage in atheist and anti-religious propaganda is emphasised. Education, politics and public life is exclusively the preserve of ‘scientific’ and ‘enlightened’ rationally grounded beliefs which may just necessarily entail adopting an atheistic world view in relation to everything of significance.

  12. TFBW says:

    It’s also the case that he’s (re)defining “secular” and “secularism” to suit his argument, rather than adopting the common meaning of those words. Look up “secular” in any dictionary, and the theme which unites the variations is “not pertaining to or connected with religion”. Somehow our commentator manages to extend it into “freedom of religion”. It ain’t so: totalitarian states can be completely secular and outlaw religion without contradiction. Likewise, “secularism” requires that the government itself not be attached to a religion, but says nothing about freedom of religion as such. It’s dead wrong to claim, as im-skeptical does, that “secularism is a neutral position with respect to religion” — it’s a negative position in relation to the government itself, and a non-position in relation to public freedom of religion. The harder core of secularism wants the division to go further, such that religious beliefs are not permitted any influence over government at all (which you may as well call “atheocracy”).

    All our sensible young YouTube atheist wants to do is apply that theory of government at the domestic level. What could possibly go wrong? Let’s add representative democracy while we’re at it. Why should parents have all the authority just because they’re older?

    In any case, those are things which I can identify as clearly wrong in im-skeptical’s article. Most of it isn’t even wrong, and none of it is interesting.

  13. Dhay says:

    I’ve now watched the video through, and find I quite like Cosmic Skeptic. He expends rather more time and emphasis on recommending a live-and-let-live don’t look for a fight attitude towards religious people. He’s an atheist, and keen on his atheism, but doesn’t come across to me as a Gnu.

  14. jbsptfn says:

    I’ve now watched the video through, and find I quite like Cosmic Skeptic. He expends rather more time and emphasis on recommending a live-and-let-live don’t look for a fight attitude towards religious people. He’s an atheist, and keen on his atheism, but doesn’t come across to me as a Gnu.

    Skeppy could learn a lot from him. I told him that on his blog.

  15. pennywit says:

    Hmph. I do happen to think that parents ought to raise their kids non-religiously. If a religious friend or family member asked me, “Do you think I should I raise my child in my religion?” I might say “No, I don’t think you should.” But I would never dream of actually enforcing that view on somebody, or of interfering with somebody else’s right to raise his kids however he wants. (In point of fact, when my 10-year-old stepson told me he didn’t like “the boring part of church,” I told him to pay attention during the “boring part of church” because that’s where the important stuff is).

    And that whole “raising your kids religiously is child abuse” stuff is ridiculous. Unless you’re raising your kids in a compound or you’re denying your kid access to medical care or a proper education because your religion sez so (see, e.g., Scientology), it’s really none of my business, or the state’s business what you do.

  16. Kevin says:

    “Hmph. I do happen to think that parents ought to raise their kids non-religiously.”

    If you are a (good) Christian, then your belief in God is the core of your life. It is the foundation. It informs every aspect of your life – purpose of the universe, purpose of life, purpose of death and beyond, morality, parenthood, marital relationship…everything. There is nothing more important to a (good) Christian than a personal relationship with God.

    Why in the world would a (good) Christian raise their children non-religiously, if they actually believe in the god of the Bible? A (good) parent does not let a child play near deep water to “let them figure it out for themselves”, or stick their hand in some random hole outside to “let them discover for themselves if something is in it”, or poke a fork in an outlet, or take the belongings of other children, or disobey their parents at will, etc. So again, why on Earth would a (good) parent who is also a (good) Christian withhold the most important aspect of existence from their children?

  17. TFBW says:

    pennywit, how are religious parents supposed to raise their children non-religiously? Are they supposed to get babysitters while they go to church? When children ask “why” in relation to moral guidance, are the parents supposed to answer, “because I say so?” Excluding the religious aspect from an upbringing is a kind of anti-religious upbringing, because it holds a certain attitude towards religion — namely, that it should be excluded from normal life. I find it hard to see this as anything but anti-religious bias masquerading as concerned and mildly indignant child-rearing advice.

  18. Pennywit says:

    What, you can’t stand for somebody to have another opinion? If I am not interested in enforcing my opinion on someone, what difference does it make?

  19. jbsptfn says:

    What, you can’t stand for somebody to have another opinion? If I am not interested in enforcing my opinion on someone, what difference does it make?

    No, I think that TFBW is calling it like it is when he said that it is anti-religious bias.

  20. jbsptfn says:

    BTW, Skeppy has a new comment on the provided link (with a criticism for TFBW):

    This post has generated some discussion in which Mikey’s followers have grossly distorted Cosmic Skeptic’s intended meaning of “secular”. They insist that it implies being ideologically aligned with an atheistic worldview. TFBW even goes so far as to say that I’m (re)defining “secular” and “secularism” to suit [my] argument. But that’s exactly what TFBW is doing. Yes, I did look it up. It means not being governed by any religious authority or rules. It means being outside the auspices of the church and the clergy. In the manner that Cosmic Skeptic used it, it certainly does not imply favoring any particular worldview. He used the word in a sense that is consistent with the way we speak of governments. A secular state is one that has freedom of religion and doesn’t impose any one belief system over another. This is exactly what Cosmic Skeptic means when he says he thinks that parents should be secular in raising their children. The whole point of that discussion is allowing the child to make up his own mind, not having it imposed on him. But Mikey wants to twist the truth and make it sound as if it is an authoritarian enforcement of atheistic thinking. And it appears that TBFW is trying to do the same thing. Bullshit. That isn’t what Cosmic Skeptic is saying at all.

  21. TFBW says:

    pennywit said:

    What, you can’t stand for somebody to have another opinion?

    Give me a break. The world is full of worthless opinions, plus the occasional one worth hearing, even if one happens to disagree with it. I asked some questions about your opinion, and had some criticisms of it, so I’m still open to the idea that your view might have some value. I just see problems with it, as I’ve mentioned. If your opinion really is anti-religious bias masquerading as concerned and mildly indignant child-rearing advice — still an open possibility as far as I’m concerned — then it’s worthless in my view, but I’m inviting you to defend and support your opinion with an argument on the good-faith assumption that there may be more to it. If there isn’t any more to it than that, then sure, you’re entitled to your opinion, and I’m entitled to consider it worthless anti-religious flatus.

  22. TFBW says:

    For the record, I have no response for im-skeptical. He’s added nothing to the discussion, but simply re-asserted that which I already argued against. As such, he’s still wrong for all the reasons I brought up the first time. Nothing to see here.

  23. pennywit says:

    OK, I’ll defend, then. In the first case, I suspect that most religious folks would like to see atheists raise their kids in a faith. This can be an issue w/ religious in-laws (something I may have to deal with in the near future).

    Outside of an atheist or agnostic home, I think it’s worth raising kids without faith because I happen to think it’s better for a person to learn about a religious faith when he’s old enough to approach it critically. If a person is mature enough to ask questions about his faith — serious questions, evaluate the answers, and still maintain that faith, then he’s come to his religion as a thinking person.

    If he’s raised from an early age to believe in one particular faith rather than coming to a faith through critical thinking, then I think the child is denied the opportunity to make the journey himself.

    And for the record, I’ve made it my business not to be the interfering stepfather, in-law, or uncle myself. If kids come to me with questions about my lack of religious faith, I’ll answer honestly. But I’m certainly not going to push the issue. I would raise holy hell with anybody who interferes with how I raise my kids.

  24. pennywit says:

    To specific questions:

    pennywit, how are religious parents supposed to raise their children non-religiously? Are they supposed to get babysitters while they go to church?

    They could do that. Or they could tell their child, “These are called religious observances. Someday, you will have to decide what you believe.”

    When children ask “why” in relation to moral guidance, are the parents supposed to answer, “because I say so?”

    Parents have been using that line for millennia. Also, there’s some evolutionary psychology research that suggests human beings are already wired for certain kinds of decisions.

  25. Kevin says:

    Pennywit,

    Why would a parent whose Christianity is central to his or her life – in other words, nothing is more important – not teach that to their kids? If they truly believe it, that would make them horrible parents. Like letting a child decide for himself whether he wants to eat candy or vegetables, despite the parents believing candy is very unhealthy.

  26. TFBW says:

    Point is, pennywit, that raising the kids without religion in the first place is a form of religious indoctrination in and of itself. It’s a subtler form, because it’s defined by what it excludes, rather than what it mandates, but it’s still a positive influence. Raising kids without religion isn’t as neutral as some would like to pretend it is.

    How about people raising kids in the manner they deem fit, religious or not, with the added aspect of raising them to think about what they believe and why they believe it, with the further added aspect of encouraging them to change their mind about things if good reasons arise for doing so? Is that a programme you could get behind, or would you still want the little-uns shielded from dangerous religious ideas?

  27. pennywit says:

    That’s what I think is the most workable program: people raising their kids as they see fit. As I said far above, I have my personal opinions, but in effect I don’t care about how others raise their kids religiously as long as it doesn’t involve a compound or denying their kids medical care.

  28. FZM says:

    jbsptfn,

    Re: what I’m-sceptical was saying:

    He used the word in a sense that is consistent with the way we speak of governments. A secular state is one that has freedom of religion and doesn’t impose any one belief system over another.

    There doesn’t seem to be any general or universally accepted understanding of what, at the political level, the specifics of ‘freedom of religion’ and the state ‘not imposing one belief system over another’ should involve in the first place.

    As I was posting above, the Soviet government (and the Chinese and Cuban governments still I guess) could talk in broadly similar language to liberal secularists in the Anglo-Saxon tradition, while in more specific and practical terms meaning something quite different.

    This is exactly what Cosmic Skeptic means when he says he thinks that parents should be secular in raising their children. The whole point of that discussion is allowing the child to make up his own mind, not having it imposed on him.

    I agree that TFBW’s criticism here is relevant to this:

    Excluding the religious aspect from an upbringing is a kind of anti-religious upbringing, because it holds a certain attitude towards religion — namely, that it should be excluded from normal life.

    I think it’s difficult to see how beliefs about the nature of religion, about what imposing religion or indoctrinating children with religious beliefs involves, why this is bad and shouldn’t be done, what exactly ‘making up your own mind’ about something involves and why it is so valuable etc. can be anything other than part of some specific world view or belief system. And this belief system or world view is supposed to shape how parents raise their children. Then, there is the question of what world view and lifestyle (presumably free of any religious or theistic content) a child is going to be taught and raised within until they are deemed old enough to make a rational choice about the religious ones, and how this is going to be something other than imposing a non-religious world view and lifestyle on children.

  29. Vy says:

    Or they could tell their child, “These are called religious observances. Someday, you will have to decide what you believe.”

    A (good) parent does not let a child play near deep water to “let them figure it out for themselves”, or stick their hand in some random hole outside to “let them discover for themselves if something is in it”, or poke a fork in an outlet, or take the belongings of other children, or disobey their parents at will, etc.

    Also, there’s some evolutionary psychology research that suggests human beings are already wired for certain kinds of decisions.

    Absolute nonsense.

    There’s “some” evodelusionary research story on practically everything from the usefulness of rape/murder/bullying/lying to imaginary planetesimals magically evolving into planets.

  30. Vy says:

    Or they could tell their child, “These are called religious observances. Someday, you will have to decide what you believe.”

    Does that really answer:

    A (good) parent does not let a child play near deep water to “let them figure it out for themselves”, or stick their hand in some random hole outside to “let them discover for themselves if something is in it”, or poke a fork in an outlet, or take the belongings of other children, or disobey their parents at will, etc.

    ?

    Also, there’s some evolutionary psychology research that suggests human beings are already wired for certain kinds of decisions.

    Absolute nonsense.

    There’s “some” evodelusionary research story on practically everything from the usefulness of rape/murder/bullying/lying to imaginary planetesimals magically evolving into planets.

  31. pennywit says:

    A (good) parent does not let a child play near deep water to “let them figure it out for themselves”, or stick their hand in some random hole outside to “let them discover for themselves if something is in it”, or poke a fork in an outlet, or take the belongings of other children, or disobey their parents at will, etc.

    I didn’t address this metaphor because it is hyperbolic and ridiculous. Religion is not deep water, a hole, or an electrical outlet. It’s a social construct and a cosmology. If a kid learns about it when he’s a little older, he’s not going to be in any physical danger.

  32. G. Rodrigues says:

    @pennywit:

    “If a kid learns about it when he’s a little older, he’s not going to be in any physical danger.”

    This assumes, like the typical secularist would, that physical dangers are the worst dangers or even the only kind of dangers. Which is precisely what is denied by Christ himself, and therefore by his disciples that are also fathers.

  33. Doug says:

    @pennywit,

    . Religion is … a social construct and a cosmology.

    This is another typical secularist assumption.
    The Christian perspective is a little different.

  34. TFBW says:

    @pennywit:

    Religion is not deep water, a hole, or an electrical outlet.

    You have it backwards: the world itself provides the analogies to those threats, mostly in the form of social influences. Religion is supposed to be, among other things, safety training against such threats. A parent, bringing up a child in the received wisdom of any particular religion is, in part, teaching life skills: what things are dangerous, and how to deal with them. Not teaching a child about religion could well be like not teaching them about the dangers of electricity, or not teaching them how to swim. Sure, they can learn these things later in life, should they decide to do so (and not meet an untimely end before then), but that doesn’t mean early training is harmful indoctrination.

  35. Kevin says:

    “I didn’t address this metaphor because it is hyperbolic and ridiculous.”

    You view it as those things because you are not putting yourself in the shoes of a parent who views a personal relationship with God as the absolute most important thing in life. Things that are critically important in a parent’s mind should be transmitted to a child as soon as they are old enough to understand the concept, otherwise either the parent doesn’t believe it’s important, or they are horrible parents.

    You don’t leave important things to chance.

  36. pennywit says:

    You have it backwards: the world itself provides the analogies to those threats, mostly in the form of social influences. A parent, bringing up a child in the received wisdom of any particular religion is, in part, teaching life skills: what things are dangerous, and how to deal with them. Not teaching a child about religion could well be like not teaching them about the dangers of electricity, or not teaching them how to swim.

    OK, if we’re talking about social influences and life skills, isn’t it possible to transmit the defenses against social influences without also transmitting the more unverifiable (that is, faith-based) religious doctrines? It seems to me that notions like “Don’t kill,” “treat other people the way you want to be treated,” and “friends don’t let friends be Cleveland Browns fans” can be taught without involving the more supernatural aspects of religion.

    It also occurs to me that if religion provides a defense against social influences and such, the defense lies not in the religion itself, but in the fact that the religion itself is a social grouping that provides its own influence.

    I spent a bit of time turning this over in my head, by the way, and I think that “social grouping” lies at the heart of my skepticism of bringing up kids in a religion. On one level, I absolutely do not care whether a particular person is a HIndu, a Muslim, or a Christian. But on another level, it seems to me that you can trace a certain amount of hostility and petty cruelty in this world to people who are raised with the idea of their religion as the one true way, but without empathy for individuals of other faiths, including respect for them to practice their faith as they see fit.

    I think this runs the gamut from wars (for example, long-running Sunni-Shia conflicts in the Middle East) to petty cruelties that you can find, for example, in Lane v. Sabine Parish School Board..

  37. Kevin says:

    “OK, if we’re talking about social influences and life skills, isn’t it possible to transmit the defenses against social influences without also transmitting the more unverifiable (that is, faith-based) religious doctrines?”

    Yes, but again, why would a Christian parent want to do this? To a Christian, should “letting them decide for themselves when they are old enough to think about it” be of more value than God? From a Christian perspective, what greater good is being served by not raising their children to know God?

  38. TFBW says:

    @pennywit:
    I’d quote exactly what Kevin quoted and respond slightly differently. Yes, absolutely, you can teach any values and doctrines you want to teach, but what on earth do you mean by “unverifiable” in this context? Since when is any kind of value “verifiable” by any means, except on the basis of prior values or beliefs (subject to the same verifiability problem)?

    But I suppose what you really object to is the teaching of moral values based on beliefs about the existence of God, the divinity of Jesus, and so forth, on grounds of non-verifiability. Well, your opinion is duly noted. Suffice it to say that lots of people are satisfied with the weight of evidence relating to the divinity of Jesus and so forth, and your lack of satisfaction on that front doesn’t establish a fact; it merely expresses an opinion. I’ve already said you’re entitled to those, but they don’t impose any obligations on anyone else.

    Of course, one could teach values such as “treat other people the way you want to be treated” without reference to the kinds of supernatural matters you find so objectionable, but not without cost. If you don’t have grounds for such teaching outside of your own opinions and subjective sense of right and wrong, then you’re ultimately teaching your kids (by example) to operate on the basis of their own opinions and subjective sense of right and wrong. Perhaps that’s what you want — even if their attitudes turn out to be vastly different from yours — and in that case, there’s no problem. If, on the other hand, you aren’t a subjectivist about morality, or consider it rather important that the guidance be accepted as given for some other reason (as you would in the case of basic street-crossing safety training, for example), then you need external grounds for the teaching, or else it simply fails to convey the necessary concepts. As such, reference to Jesus and the Bible are non-optional for a Christian upbringing: they are the foundations which the child ultimately accepts or rejects.

    Your views about human conflict are noted, but “social grouping” (as you put it) is just as much effect as cause. Sure, if we all had similar attitudes about everything, there wouldn’t be much basis for conflict, but religious views aren’t the only source of differences. John Lennon wanted us to imagine no heaven, as though that would solve something. The in-fighting among prominent atheists (who all agree on the non-existence of heaven) tells me what a silly concept that is. It’s just more projection: a jaundiced eye turned towards religion, which perceives it as the cause of many ills, despite the fact that the same problem occurs with the same frequency in secular contexts.

  39. pennywit says:

    I’d quote exactly what Kevin quoted and respond slightly differently. Yes, absolutely, you can teach any values and doctrines you want to teach, but what on earth do you mean by “unverifiable” in this context? Since when is any kind of value “verifiable” by any means, except on the basis of prior values or beliefs (subject to the same verifiability problem)?

    “Unverifiable,” in this context, refers to things that can’t really be tested in the objective sense — i.e., Christ’s death and resurrection, existence of deities, and so forth. I’m not trying to impose an opinion (one way or the other) on somebody about the existence of a deity. But I am raising the question of why it’s necessary to invoke the divine in raising children.

    Of course, one could teach values such as “treat other people the way you want to be treated” without reference to the kinds of supernatural matters you find so objectionable, but not without cost. If you don’t have grounds for such teaching outside of your own opinions and subjective sense of right and wrong, then you’re ultimately teaching your kids (by example) to operate on the basis of their own opinions and subjective sense of right and wrong.

    It strikes me, however, that if you base moral instruction on a deity, then you’re just substituting one kind of “because I said so” for another. And I’m not making a subjectivist argument. Rather, it seems to me that experiential learning can be just as valuable, if not more so, then an inculcation of value through appeal to divine authority.

    Your views about human conflict are noted, but “social grouping” (as you put it) is just as much effect as cause. Sure, if we all had similar attitudes about everything, there wouldn’t be much basis for conflict, but religious views aren’t the only source of differences. John Lennon wanted us to imagine no heaven, as though that would solve something.

    Oh, people will find reasons to pick on each other and be general bastards. I don’t argue that. But it seems to me that instilling religion as a deep social identity has promoted that tendency, rather than ameliorating it.

  40. Doug says:

    @pennywit,
    You may indeed be correct that “instilling religion as a deep social identity has promoted [the tendency to pick on each other, etc]”, but the point of Jesus reaction to the Pharisees is that “deep social identity” is not what he had in mind at all. In fact, his little brother James, giving the only canonical Christian summary of “religion”, puts it this way:

    Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

  41. Doug says:

    …on the other hand, there is actual evidence that a good dose of (the right variety of) religion is actually beneficial to society:

  42. FZM says:

    pennywit,

    But on another level, it seems to me that you can trace a certain amount of hostility and petty cruelty in this world to people who are raised with the idea of their religion as the one true way, but without empathy for individuals of other faiths, including respect for them to practice their faith as they see fit.

    I think this is true to some extent, but if it was really significant I’ve always thought that human societies in which polytheistic, syncretic, non-creedal religious traditions (which maybe have no concept of ‘faith’ at all) are dominant aught to be more peaceful and less warlike, generally nicer societies in which to live, than ones in which there is thought to be one true faith to which all others are inferior. However, I don’t see any evidence that there is/was a significant difference between these different kinds of society. Nor between these societies and secular atheist, ostensibly highly egalitarian, peace promoting universalism ones (the USSR, Communist China etc.)

  43. TFBW says:

    @pennywit:

    “Unverifiable,” in this context, refers to things that can’t really be tested in the objective sense — i.e., Christ’s death and resurrection, existence of deities, and so forth.

    Just about anything that’s remotely interesting is “unverifiable” in this sense, so I don’t see why it should be used as a criterion. Can you verify every proposition to which you hold? I’ll bet not, and that would indicate application of a double-standard on your part if I’m right.

    It strikes me, however, that if you base moral instruction on a deity, then you’re just substituting one kind of “because I said so” for another.

    I think you missed my point. If your grounds for whatever you teach are your own sentiments and opinions, then you are teaching that sentiments and opinions are the proper grounds for such things, regardless of the other specifics. Under these conditions, teaching “be nice to others” is effectively the same as teaching “do whatever seems best to you”, since that’s the basis you have for the former instruction. If your child happens to share your sentiments, or respect you enough to think that your sentiments are worth emulating, then you get the desired effect. If they don’t, then maybe they’ll adopt some other attitude, such as bullying — and this is the important part — without having really rejected your teaching, or at least without rejecting the grounds on which it is based (“do whatever seems best to you”). It’s a fairly impotent sort of thing to teach, in terms of actually producing a specific outcome. People tend to do that anyway, without instruction. Usually that’s the problem.

    If you teach that moral matters are grounded in something external, such as the nature of God as revealed in Jesus through the Bible, then they can accept or reject that, but if they accept it, the parameters are much more narrowly defined than “do whatever seems best to you”.

    But it seems to me that instilling religion as a deep social identity has promoted that tendency, rather than ameliorating it.

    That depends on the specifics of the religion — or the specific beliefs of the ostensibly non-religious, as the case may be. As such, I’m still not convinced that this is anything more than confirmation bias on your part, and I doubt you have carefully-collected data to back up your position. You see ill in religion because you think ill of it. Why should I think there’s more to it than that?

  44. FZM says:

    It seems to me that notions like “Don’t kill,” “treat other people the way you want to be treated,” and “friends don’t let friends be Cleveland Browns fans” can be taught without involving the more supernatural aspects of religion.

    I don’t know, if I was defining ‘natural’ in terms of what knowledge the natural sciences (Physics, Biology, Chemistry) can provide us with, I’d say that there is no clear natural basis for teaching these kind of things as truths which aught to provide a normative model for human behaviour.

    “Unverifiable,” in this context, refers to things that can’t really be tested in the objective sense — i.e., Christ’s death and resurrection, existence of deities, and so forth. I’m not trying to impose an opinion (one way or the other) on somebody about the existence of a deity. But I am raising the question of why it’s necessary to invoke the divine in raising children.

    I think what you mean by verifiable objectively here may be important. If it’s defined in terms of the natural sciences and what is testable/verifiable empirically, the moral norms mentioned above about killing people been wrong aren’t verifiable, nor is the moral norm or value judgement behind the idea that imposing an opinion on someone is a bad thing to do.

    If verifiable objectively has a wider meaning than verifiable empirically/by the natural sciences then the idea that the existence of deities is not verifiable objectively becomes more open to question, so whether there is any basis for excluding this possibility from a child’s education is in consequence more doubtful.

  45. Vy says:

    I didn’t address this metaphor because it is hyperbolic and ridiculous.

    No, that’s pretty much the description of your responses.

    Religion is not deep water, a hole, or an electrical outlet.

    Did you say you were a Christian? Have you ever come across Mark 9:42:

    Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea.

    ?

    It’s a social construct

    Really?

    and a cosmology.

    Say what?
    Religion – Atheism/Secularism, Christianity, Islam etc. – are cosmologies? Since when?

    If a kid learns about it when he’s a little older, he’s not going to be in any physical danger.

    In addition to the verse above, have you ever come across Proverbs 22:6:

    Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.

    ?

    When is “a little older”? What if the s/he dies before that time? Would God be justified for punishing his/her parents for indoctrinating their child with Atheopathic religious idiocy because of their deluded belief that “[s/]he’s not going to be in any physical danger if [s/he] learns about it when [s/]he’s a little older”?

  46. Vy says:

    But I am raising the question of why it’s necessary to invoke the divine in raising children

    And why is there a problem with invoking God? Would you rather they invoke the “naturalistic” probablymaybecouldness god?

  47. pennywit says:

    I think you missed my point. If your grounds for whatever you teach are your own sentiments and opinions, then you are teaching that sentiments and opinions are the proper grounds for such things, regardless of the other specifics. Under these conditions, teaching “be nice to others” is effectively the same as teaching “do whatever seems best to you”, since that’s the basis you have for the former instruction. If your child happens to share your sentiments, or respect you enough to think that your sentiments are worth emulating, then you get the desired effect.

    I think we’re missing each other’s points, then. I’m not saying “be nice to others,” for example, would be taught as opinion. It would be, at first. But I think over time, you’d demonstrate that one should be nice to others because it creates good and makes them smile, or because you get a good feeling from helping others, or because being nice to others means they’re more likely to be nice to you.

    I’m not saying that in the absence of religious instruction, morals exist in a vacuum. Rather, I’m saying that in the absence of religious instruction, there are several bases (reasoning, rational self-interest, social contract theory) for building kids’ morality.

    Now, the interesting thing I was referring to earlier — is that there’s been some research into evolutionary psychology and toddlers’ moral inclinations. From what I understand of the research, it seems that there’s at least some rudimentary morality hardwired into the human brain. A theist, particularly one who has read CS Lewis’s Mere Christianity, might call that rudimentary morality the voice of God. I would call it a simple case of evolution.

  48. pennywit says:

    FZM, re: this:

    I don’t know, if I was defining ‘natural’ in terms of what knowledge the natural sciences (Physics, Biology, Chemistry) can provide us with, I’d say that there is no clear natural basis for teaching these kind of things as truths which aught to provide a normative model for human behaviour.

    Robert Heinlein’s Starship Troopers had some problems, but in dialogues from the main character’s History & Moral Philosophy class, Heinlein propounded an interesting theory. He said that morality is an adjunct to the instinct to survive. Much of human morality, are ways to enhance overall human survivability. I don’t think I agree 100 percent with the theory. But I do think there’s a core precept there that’s useful: Certain morals evolve because they work and they help people live together. It’s not exactly a transcendental truth, but I think there’s a little truth there.

    And incidentally, I do think morality evolves alongside human society as we develop stronger community connections and our standards of behavior change. A couple centuries ago, for example, it would have been considered entirely appropriate to directly exact vengeance — sometimes physical vengeance — against a neighbor who wronged you. These days, the prescribed — dare I say moral — response is to take the person to court, or to attempt to resolve the decision peacefully.

    And while I’m thinking about it, aren’t certain morals established as a practical solution to problems? The old precepts of hospitality and guest right, for example, are accompanied by stories of either a pagan deity (as I recall, Odin was fond of this sort of thing) traveling the land to test whether people honor the rules of hospitality, or Christ and angels in disguise doing the same thing. You were told to treat a guest a certain way because that guest might be Christ (or Odin).

    From a practical standpoint, however, you would treat a guest — even your greatest enemy — with courtesy and so forth because if you don’t, you’ll be constantly at war and fearing betrayal.

    Pardon me for meandering, by the way. I’m actually finding this train of thought (and this discussion) incredibly fascinating.

  49. goldrushapple says:

    Cosmic Skeptic’s view isn’t knew at all. It’s been bandied around by secularists and, oddly enough, it was warned by a newspaper clip that hangs on my parent’s fridge. The “12 Commandments for Parents (who wish to raise juvenile delinquents)” clip writes, as its #3, “Never give him any spiritual training. Wait until he is 21 and then let him ‘decide for himself.'” The clip was originally written by the police department of Houston, Texas.

  50. pennywit says:

    Vy, I am an agnostic, and I find this deeply insulting:

    Would God be justified for punishing his/her parents for indoctrinating their child with Atheopathic religious idiocy because of their deluded belief that “[s/]he’s not going to be in any physical danger if [s/he] learns about it when [s/]he’s a little older”?

    In comments on this blog elsewhere, I have routinely criticized religions, religious precepts, and the behavior of certain religious individuals. But aside from my “asshole atheist” phase when I was in junior high, I have never, EVER referred to theists’ “deluded beliefs” or referred to religious doctrine as “religious idiocy.” I do my best to extend a certain level of courtesy to religious individuals, and I would prefer that you extend the same courtesy to me, please.

    As to your substantive questions:

    1) I refer to religion as a “social construct” because, regardless of the question of divinity, each religion constitutes a set of precepts and norms agreed upon by a particular of people, with claims that are disputed by another set of people, and with no satisfactory resolution as to their truth or falsity. In this sense, Christianity, Islam, Greek paganism, and Scientology are all social constructs.

    2) I use the word “cosmologies” because each religion constitutes a theory regarding the origin of the universe and how the universe runs. Atheism, in itself, does not seem to qualify as a cosmology because it’s largely silent on the way the universe runs, apart from the conviction that there are no deities.

    3) As for your Bible verses, I would suggest to you that while a Christian might consider them a controlling authority, I regard the Christian Bible as an important part of my heritage with parts that are valuable, but not something that is the final authority on any particular question.

    4) On the question of “when is older,” I think the age varies with a particular child. It’s not an objective thing, but rather the age at which a child is capable of raising questions about what his parents taught him, including religion. Among the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day saints, baptism occurs at the “age of accountability,” which the Mormons define as age 8. I started to think about religion critically when I was 10. Some kids start thinking about God when they’re as young as 6.

    5) Keep in mind that I’m not one of those folks who says that raising children religiously constitutes child abuse, and I do not queston a parent’s right to raise a child rleigiously. Rather, I question whether it’s the best way to instill moral values. And given that I think divinity is an open question, I consider religion a shaky foundation for moral education.

    6) If you believe God would slay a child because his parents “Atheopathic religious idiocy,” then I think you have a particularly cruel conception of God.

  51. goldrushapple says:

    @TFBW: “I think it’s funny that he rates his own opinions about child-rearing so highly, given his rather limited experience in the subject.”

    The kid’s 17 who comes across as the typical modern day atheist so of course he thinks he’s wise. Also, this what he wrote in his bio –

    “I was born and raised in Oxford, an educational epicentre of the UK, yet I admittedly failed to appreciate the value of a knowledgable mind until I was introduced to the works of secular intellectuals such as Hitchens, Harris and Dawkins in my early teens, who along with irreversibly shaking my then-existing Christian faith to its core, opened my eyes to the world of critical thinking and rational debate.”

    Before that he admits that his journey was from a “Roman Catholic juvenile to a heretic adolescent.”

    He also writes that the aforementioned men are his idols. He goes to –

    “As for my religious inclinations, I suppose that the abandonment of the pernicious and alarmingly peremptory faith that plagued my upbringing is attributable to two factors: my stern arrogance against the priests and so called ‘educators’ who attempted to justify my helpless indoctrination into their cult, and my immediate family’s less than steadfast religiosity.”

    There’s more –

    “the Church’s condemnation of contraception, which is single-handedly responsible for the untold pain and suffering (and eventual death) of millions of faithful people across the globe (particularly in the third world).”

    This is what he wrote on a post dedicated to his thoughts on contraception –

    “yes, contraceptives disallow the inception of life, but the denial of creation is not the same thing as destruction, and so cannot be reasonably looked upon with an equivalent distaste. The Catholic Church needs to get with the times and alter its approach to birth control, even if just to rectify the awkwardly contradictory ethical principles vocalised by its popes.

    So in other words, Alex O’ Connor is a complete idiot when it comes to religious matters. He thinks he’s smart and is at good at arguments, but proof in the pudding shows he’s not. Then again many of The Horsemen’s followers are rather bad at arguments (many of the comments on Alex’s posts are, well, sadly embarrassing, so it comes full circle).

    http://www.cosmicskeptic.com/

  52. pennywit says:

    Hitchens’ main virtues were that despite his hostility toward religion in general, he was able to a) articulate his arguments with panache; b) maintain friendships with religious individuals, even if he detested their religions; and c) turn away from the topic of religion on occasion.

  53. Kevin says:

    Hitchens is the anti-theist with whom I am the least familiar, but he is also the only one that I have seen even Christians praise as a thinker. I’m very familiar with Dawkins, Harris, Coyne, Boghossian, etc, and they might be able to achieve “embarrassingly ignorant” if they pooled all their knowledge about religion and objective thinking together.

  54. TFBW says:

    @goldrushapple:

    The kid’s 17 who comes across as the typical modern day atheist so of course he thinks he’s wise.

    To be fair, at age 17 you don’t have to be an atheist to consider yourself wise. However, idolising the New Atheists isn’t going to do anything to promote epistemic humility, to put it mildly.

  55. pennywit says:

    Kevin, here’s a pretty good article from Hitchens, from his “Topic of Cancer” series, published not long before he passed away:

    http://www.vanityfair.com/culture/2010/10/hitchens-201010

  56. TFBW says:

    @pennywit:

    I’m not saying that in the absence of religious instruction, morals exist in a vacuum. Rather, I’m saying that in the absence of religious instruction, there are several bases (reasoning, rational self-interest, social contract theory) for building kids’ morality.

    And my point is that those bases are still highly subjective, which is fine if you are teaching subjectivism, but not so much if you aren’t. “Reasoning” is variant on what seems most subjectively reasonable (and is prone to become rationalisation of a desired course of action). “Rational self-interest” suffers the same problems, with additional reliance on one’s ability to judge what outcomes will eventuate, and how these will ultimately align with self-interest. “Social contract theory” is fragile, since social contracts are broken all the time, and you’re off the map when that happens.

    Anyone who intends to teach non-subjective moral concepts like “stealing is wrong” needs to provide a non-contingent basis for that concept, or else it simply isn’t what it claims to be. Stealing can be in one’s rational self-interest, after all, given the right circumstances.

  57. Vy says:

    Vy, I am an agnostic

    Sure could have fooled me. What then did you mean by:

    (In point of fact, when my 10-year-old stepson told me he didn’t like “the boring part of church” I told him to pay attention during the “boring part of church” because that’s where the important stuff is)

    ?

    and I find this deeply insulting:

    Feel free to do that but the words I used perfectly describe their positions.

    In comments on this blog elsewhere, I have routinely criticized religions, religious precepts, and the behavior of certain religious individuals. But aside from my “asshole atheist” phase when I was in junior high, I have never, EVER referred to theists’ “deluded beliefs” or referred to religious doctrine as “religious idiocy.”

    Given the fact that numerous Atheists/Secularists have openly admitted that they are incapable of living their lives in ways that their religious beliefs logically demand because it would cause them to be rightly labelled psychopaths (thus the reason I refer to those that come close as Atheopaths) or sent to prison, I see no reason why I should rescind my comments.

    It’s one thing to have a religion but it’s another to openly admit that your religion requires you to believe and live your life in a way that is fundamentally incompatible with reality and humanity, and yet dogmatically hold onto such a religious worldview because you feel your religion is “not really a religion” and that believing in the alternative would be “irrational, anti-science, blind-faith, [insert typical Atheopathic vomit]”.

    That is certifiable idiocy.

    I do my best to extend a certain level of courtesy to religious individuals, and I would prefer that you extend the same courtesy to me, please.

    In your own words, you’re an agnostic, not an Atheist though I will say based on my experience with them, the line between those two tends to be a matter of situation.

    1) I refer to religion as a “social construct” because, regardless of the question of divinity, each religion constitutes a set of precepts and norms agreed upon by a particular of people, with claims that are disputed by another set of people, and with no satisfactory resolution as to their truth or falsity.

    Satisfactory according to who? Also explain why you advocate the indoctrination of a child with the precepts and norms of one social construct (Atheism/Secularism) and not the other (e.g. Christianity).

    Keep in mind that adult Atheists admit that living according to what their beliefs logically entail, thus not poaching morality, meaning etc. from other religions, would a one-way ticket to psychoville.

    2) I use the word “cosmologies” because each religion constitutes a theory regarding the origin of the universe ,strong>and how the universe runs. Atheism, in itself, does not seem to qualify as a cosmology because it’s largely silent on the way the universe runs, apart from the conviction that there are no deities.

    From Dawkins:

    An atheist before Darwin could have said, following Hume: ‘I have no explanation for complex biological design. All I know is that God isn’t a good explanation, so we must wait and hope that somebody comes up with a better one.’ I can’t help feeling that such a position, though logically sound, would have left one feeling pretty unsatisfied, and that although atheism might have been logically tenable before Darwin, Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist.

    Given the proliferation of evolutionary mumbo-jumbo to even cosmology, Atheism definitely has:

    “a theory regarding the origin of the universe” in the form of the spontaneously generated and completely random big bang from which nothing magically created everything for no reason. There’s a reason a significant amount of Atheists you meet on the net today seem to think the multiverse is a valid explanation of the origin of the universe and it’s not because of science.

    “a theory regarding … how the universe runs”, an answer which you can easily get and usually amounts to chance + stuff happens + the spontaneously generated laws of nature randomly creating and controlling everything + time, shake and stir.

  58. Vy says:

    3) As for your Bible verses … I regard the Christian Bible as an important part of my heritage with parts that are valuable, but not something that is the final authority on any particular question.

    No surprise there.

    4) On the question of “when is older,” I think the age varies with a particular child. It’s not an objective thing … Among the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day saints, baptism occurs at the “age of accountability,” which the Mormons define as age 8.

    You must be kidding, Mormonism?!

    I started to think about religion critically when I was 10. Some kids start thinking about God when they’re as young as 6.

    I’m glad you know.

    5) Keep in mind that I’m not one of those folks who says that raising children religiously constitutes child abuse, and I do not queston a parent’s right to raise a child rleigiously.

    Good for you and to know.

    Rather, I question whether it’s the best way to instill moral values. And given that I think divinity is an open question

    That you )and others) consider divinity an open question does not mean it’s genuinely an open question.

    I consider religion a shaky foundation for moral education.

    I’ve gone down this road numerous times and they all end up the same. So please explain what you base your morality on. Warm feelings? Popular opinion? The laws of the land? Your thoughts?

    I also hope you do realize that as I have pointed out before, Atheism/Secularism is a religion so your comment applies to it.

    6) If you believe God would slay a child because his parents “Atheopathic religious idiocy,”

    Those verses were warnings against leading a child astray not declarations of punishment for children. How did you miss that?

    then I think you have a particularly cruel conception of God.

    Until you provide evidence that you can logically determine the difference between good and bad, this unfortunately doesn’t mean much.

  59. pennywit says:

    I think one of the problems with your own position, TFBW, is that religious texts don’t change, but certain norms do. To use an (admittedly extreme) example, in the 19th century, American positions on slavery varied from abolition to a view that slavery was God’s will for man — all positions held by men and women of learning, who cited to favored passages of the Bible to justify their views. It seems to me that even if you hold that the Bible and God are the ultimate source of morality, as a matter of practicality that morality as as vulnerable to subjectivism as any other basis for morality.

  60. pennywit says:

    OK, Vy, let me see if I can enlighten you a little bit.

    In point of fact, when my 10-year-old stepson told me he didn’t like “the boring part of church” I told him to pay attention during the “boring part of church” because that’s where the important stuff is

    My stepson likes the games at Sunday school, but he thinks the Bible lessons are boring. I tell him to pay attention to these “boring parts” because his natural parents want to raise him to be religious, and it is not my place to gainsay it. So I’m going to do my damnedest to encourage him to be learn about his religious faith, even if I disagree with it.

    Your ruminations about atheists living religiously (or nonreligiously) make zero sense to me. If I’m reading you correctly, you believe atheists are all psychopaths who should be locked up or something. I’m not sure you understand — I can live reasonably morally for any number of reasons and through any number of theories, whether I take the approach of a social contract, or if I approach life as a consequentialist, or a utilitarian; for the record, my own moral philosophy lies somewhere between consequentialism and rule utilitarianism.

    As far as your speculations on atheism as a “religion,” I think you’re conflating a number of unrelated concepts. Atheism, the theory of evolution, theories of abiogenesis, and the continuing inquiry into the origins of life and the universe can be related, but they are hardly synonymous.

    I’ve gone down this road numerous times and they all end up the same. So please explain what you base your morality on. Warm feelings? Popular opinion? The laws of the land? Your thoughts?

    Yes.

  61. TFBW says:

    No, it’s not as vulnerable, because there is an external point of reference. People can have disagreements of interpretation, but these are arguments which can be analysed in terms of the quality of exegesis. Contrast that with “enlightened self-interest”, which is enormously subjective and value-laden from the outset. A scriptural basis to morality by no means makes it immune from disagreement — the desire to justify one’s prior beliefs in terms of the text is very strong — but the possible scope for disagreement is much narrower, and it’s usually fairly clear when someone is bending the text to fit the interpretation rather than vice versa. The key difference is that arguments are measured against the backdrop of the text itself, not against personal intuitions.

  62. Michael says:

    But I am raising the question of why it’s necessary to invoke the divine in raising children.

    But the question itself is unnecessary and misses the point.

    First, the reason I am a Christian is because I think it is true. I have thought it through. So why in the world am I supposed to keep my mouth shut about this around my kids? It’s a natural human tendency for parents to share truth with their children.

    Second, being a Christian means that Christianity is part of my identity. It informs my values, my outlook, and my priorities. It’s part of who I am. Why am I supposed to hide that part of myself from my children instead of share that with them?

    Look, the most important thing a parent can provide their children is love. Not the squishy feeling, but the willful act of love. And one way to love your children is to become part of their life and allow them to become part of your life. This whole idea that I am supposed to hide my Christianity around my children is not only absurd and without justification, but actually advocates that I push my children away from my life. And that is what is harmful.

    Look, I can just go back to the most important point of my blog entry:

    So while I have never accused atheists of child abuse for raising their children in a secular world view, multiple atheists have accused religious people of child abuse for raising their children in a religious world view. And while I have never insisted that atheist parents should behave as Christians when raising their children, atheists have insisted that religious parents should behave as atheists when raising their children. The New Atheists not only want to poke their nose in other people’s bedrooms, but also their kitchens, their living rooms, their dining rooms, and their family rooms.

  63. TFBW says:

    Michael’s comment hits the mark better than I do. I’m arguing like a philosopher; he’s arguing like a parent. Both pennywit and I are treating the matter far too abstractly: parenthood should be an intimate, loving relationship, not just a sterile training exercise to be judged by its effectiveness.

  64. FZM says:

    Pennywit,

    He said that morality is an adjunct to the instinct to survive. Much of human morality, are ways to enhance overall human survivability. I don’t think I agree 100 percent with the theory. But I do think there’s a core precept there that’s useful: Certain morals evolve because they work and they help people live together. It’s not exactly a transcendental truth, but I think there’s a little truth there.

    I was mainly thinking about how claims about morality might be considered objective in a way that religious claims can’t be, and why claims about what constitutes moral behaviour might be treated as different to supernatural claims. This is because, from what I understood, you were arguing that teaching children some kind of ‘naturalistic’, non-religious (objective?) morality and value judgements was a justifiable or necessary thing, whereas teaching children anything religious wasn’t and should be avoided.

    I’m not seeing how it is obvious that, say, your thoughts about morality presented above, while interesting, are of a clearly different quality and nature to religious thoughts and ideas about the same subject in such a way that only thoughts or a perspective like yours can be legitimately included in the education of children. They seem to involve value judgements, emotional judgements and things which are not the product of and don’t lend themselves to purely objective empirical testing. (I think this is hard to avoid given the nature of the subject by the way.)

    I can recognise the idea that holding certain moral beliefs contributes to the survivability and perpetuation of our genetic material. But this is different to these beliefs being true, unless truth is being defined mainly in terms of whatever beliefs, via natural selection, contribute to the survivability and perpetuation of our genetic material.

    I can also see that evolution may explain to some extent human inclinations to form ideas of morality. But, moving from there to say that evolution predisposes humans to follow one particular specific moral code, or that the fact that evolution disposes us to behave in such and such a way is a strong argument that we should/need to behave in that way, I think there are a lot of potential problems with that. So I don’t think that teaching children that they should behave in certain ways because evolution dictates it aught to be the norm, whereas teaching children any religious beliefs should be prohibited.

  65. pennywit says:

    So I don’t think that teaching children that they should behave in certain ways because evolution dictates it aught to be the norm, whereas teaching children any religious beliefs should be prohibited.

    I wouldn’t teach that, per se. I happen to think that a consequentialist approach (although not in that way) probably makes sense.

  66. Vy says:

    My stepson likes the games at Sunday school, but he thinks the Bible lessons are boring. I tell him to pay attention to these “boring parts” because his natural parents want to raise him to be religious, and it is not my place to gainsay it. So I’m going to do my damnedest to encourage him to be learn about his religious faith, even if I disagree with it.

    That’s rather interesting.

    Your ruminations about atheists living religiously (or nonreligiously) make zero sense to me. If I’m reading you correctly, you believe atheists are all psychopaths who should be locked up or something.

    This is yet another example of you misinterpreting my post. I never said “all psychopaths who should be locked up or something”, I said “Given the fact that numerous Atheists/Secularists have openly admitted that they are incapable of living their lives in ways that their religious beliefs logically demand because it would cause them to be rightly labelled psychopaths (thus the reason I refer to those that come close as Atheopaths) or sent to prison, I see no reason why I should rescind my comments”.

    I’m not sure you understand — I can live reasonably morally for any number of reasons and through any number of theories, whether I take the approach of a social contract, or if I approach life as a consequentialist, or a utilitarian; for the record, my own moral philosophy lies somewhere between consequentialism and rule utilitarianism.

    And a lion can be made a vegetarian. Sorry but “your own moral philosophy” amounts to nothing more than perpetual goodness which is essentially NOT morality.

    As far as your speculations on atheism as a “religion,” I think you’re conflating a number of unrelated concepts.

    It’s not speculation.

    Historically, Atheism is a religion.
    Legally, Atheism is a religion.
    – Again, legally, Atheism is a religion.
    Using what religions share in common, Atheism is a religion.
    Using Smart’s seven dimensions of religion, Atheism is a religion.

    The constant proselytizing by Atheists on practically every site should make this fact obvious enough.

  67. Vy says:

    From ENV:

    Westerners pride themselves on holding noble ideals such as equality and universal human rights. Yet the dominant worldview of our day — evolutionary materialism — denies the reality of human freedom and gives no basis for moral ideals such as human rights.

    So where did the idea of equal rights come from?

    The 19th-century political thinker Alexis de Tocqueville said it came from Christianity. “The most profound geniuses of Rome and Greece” never came up with the idea of equal rights, he wrote. “Jesus Christ had to come to earth to make it understood that all members of the human species are naturally alike and equal.”

    The 19th-century atheist Friedrich Nietzsche agreed: “Another Christian concept … has passed even more deeply into the tissue of modernity: the concept of the ‘equality of souls before God.’ This concept furnishes the prototype of all theories of equal rights.”

    Contemporary atheist Luc Ferry says the same thing. We tend to take the concept of equality for granted; yet it was Christianity that overthrew ancient social hierarchies between rich and poor, masters and slaves. “According to Christianity, we were all ‘brothers,’ on the same level as creatures of God,” Ferry writes. “Christianity is the first universalist ethos.”

    And one of many Atheists openly admitting Atheism (and by extension agnosticism) is morally bankrupt and thus shamelessly freeloads from Christianity and other religions:

    A few intrepid atheists admit outright that they have to borrow the ideal of human rights from Christianity. Philosopher Richard Rorty was a committed Darwinist, and in the Darwinian struggle for existence, the strong prevail while the weak are left behind. So evolution cannot be the source of universal human rights. Instead, Rorty says, the concept came from “religious claims that human beings are made in the image of God.” He cheerfully admits that he reaches over and borrows the concept of universal rights from Christianity. He even called himself a “freeloading” atheist: “This Jewish and Christian element in our tradition is gratefully invoked by freeloading atheists like myself.”

  68. Vy says:

    Here’s another that highlights Atheists admitting the incompatibility of their religion with reality and humanity.

    Is this what you would rather have parents teach their children because “religion” is [stuff]?

  69. Vy says:

    Atheism, the theory of evolution, theories of abiogenesis, and the continuing inquiry into the origins of life and the universe can be related, but they are hardly synonymous.

    I wasn’t arguing for synonymity. Saying that evolution and the big bang are the origin stories of Atheism doesn’t make them synonymous for the same reason that saying “God created” is not synonymous with Christianity. Then again, I doubt we’re understanding the words the same way.

  70. Vy says:

    Yes.

    Thought as much.

    As far as warm feelings go, your “morality” changes like the wind. One minute it’s not OK too murder/steal/etc. and the next it is perfectly okay. “I haven’t eaten for x days. …Warm feelings: Steal some food from place/person x … Stealing…”. You cannot say anybody that does this at anytime is wrong because their warm feelings and yours are entirely different. I’m pretty sure the prospect of wiping out religion must have made the League of Militant Atheists have sweet dreams and really warm feelings.

    With popular opinion, much like warm feelings you essentially get your “morality” the same way the “cool kids” get their day-to-day dressing; if it’s not in vogue, it’s immoral. Today much of society has been gullible enough to swallow the myth of “I was born this way” so speaking out at them is a big no no. What happens when the case is reversed? Is it wrong that several countries rightly outlaw LGBTQIUOPKL propaganda and such laws are supported by their popular opinions or do you consider your preferred popular opinion more right than others? How about slavery that was once and still is very legal in certain places?

    Same thing goes for the laws of the land which seem to change as fast as the cool kids change their clothes. When the loudest portion of public says it’s (evolutionarily) A-Okay to murder, bully, steal, etc. the laws of the land will have to budge much like how they unfortunately have with the “I was born this way” propaganda.

  71. pennywit says:

    With popular opinion, much like warm feelings you essentially get your “morality” the same way the “cool kids” get their day-to-day dressing; if it’s not in vogue, it’s immoral.

    Vy, you know precisely squat about me or my morals, so please, kindly take your assumptions, and cram them where the sun doesn’t shine, K?

  72. Vy says:

    Vy, you know precisely squat about me or my morals, so please, kindly take your assumptions, and cram them where the sun doesn’t shine, K?

    Certainly expected this emotional outburst. Still doesn’t answer my questions though.

  73. Vy says:

    Vy, you know precisely squat about me or my morals

    Well, duh? That’s why I asked this:

    So please explain what you base your morality on. Warm feelings? Popular opinion? The laws of the land? Your thoughts?

    Your answer? A big ol’ Yes. The truth hurts.

  74. pennywit says:

    Actually, Vy, there’s an answer up there, if you bother to look for it. I tend to adhere a mix of rule utlitarianism and consequentialism.

  75. pennywit says:

    I think you and I have reached the “closing arguments” phase of this discussion, so I’ll move to my own wrap-up.

    Theists of whatever stripe believe in the truth of their faith and its moral underpinnings. I understand this mode of thought, but religious faith also strikes me as an insufficient basis for educating a child morally. Setting aside questions of truth (or Truth, if you will), religious commitment in the United States is a majoritarian view, but it it is receding in the United States. Surveys consistently indicate that while the Millennial generation has not embraced atheism or agnosticism, it is nevertheless moving to some form of “-ism” or “-ity” that neither you nor I would recognize as conventional religion. If young adults actively critique their religious faith and find it wanting, then where does that leave their moral education?

    In the second place, I question the transmission of moral values that are bound up in cultural identity. If you raise your children to be of Religion X, are you teaching them that individuals of Religion Y are evil and must be destroyed if they don’t convert? If you raise your children in Religion Y, are you teaching them that members of Religion X are good people, if misguided? And if you’re raising them in Religion X, Y, or Z, what are you teaching them about atheists and agnostics? And how are you teaching them to treat individuals who critique your religious faith?

    I don’t think we need to get into intellectual wankery about the sources of morality to conclude there’s a serious problem with Saudi Arabia’s decision to continue to flog Raif al-Badawi for advocating a secular society, or that Sanal Edamaruku had to retreat to Finland to avoid prosecution after he investigated a crying statue at a church in India.

    You might submit to me that those actions constitute a man-made perversion of religious doctrine, but I would argue that this doesn’t matter from a practical standpoint — these people cite to their religion when the justify the persecution of others, and they were no doubt educated in their religions’ morals from a very early age.

    I would very much prefer a situation in which kids puzzle out “Hurting somebody because he has a different religion is wrong” over having “You must persecute people who dare challenge your religious faith” as part of their religious dogma. If they’re taught early on that this sort of thing is God’s will … they may never find their way out of this moral cul-de-sac.

    First, the reason I am a Christian is because I think it is true. I have thought it through. So why in the world am I supposed to keep my mouth shut about this around my kids? It’s a natural human tendency for parents to share truth with their children.

    Second, being a Christian means that Christianity is part of my identity. It informs my values, my outlook, and my priorities. It’s part of who I am. Why am I supposed to hide that part of myself from my children instead of share that with them?

    I think it comes down to what you’re teaching your kids, and how you react (and how you encourage your kids to react) when life conflicts with the ideal religious upbringing. To use an example, I’ve known gay people whose religious parents completely rejected them. On the flip side, I have also known Christian parents who resolved to teach their gay teens to be good, loyal people, regardless of whether those teens like boys or girls.

    Look, the most important thing a parent can provide their children is love. Not the squishy feeling, but the willful act of love. And one way to love your children is to become part of their life and allow them to become part of your life. This whole idea that I am supposed to hide my Christianity around my children is not only absurd and without justification, but actually advocates that I push my children away from my life. And that is what is harmful.

    In this arena, I think my chief value — overriding all — is the right of the individual to decide his own religious faith. I think my parents tried to raise me in our Protestant faith for a while, but I discarded it and started to refuse to attend church once I was old enough to express my thoughts. I turned out agnostic; my sibling turned out mainline Protestant with a taste for ascetic services.

    If I love my own children, I want to preserve for them the ability to explore religious faith on their own, when they are ready. I’m sure I’d be thrilled if they turned out to be little religious skeptics just like Daddy Pennywit. But I’ll be even more thrilled if they start down the path to their own conclusions, and reach some conclusion on religious faith that is sensible to them. I really don’t want to push them one way or the other, even if a certain amount is inevitable because I don’t take them to church.

    So while I have never accused atheists of child abuse for raising their children in a secular world view, multiple atheists have accused religious people of child abuse for raising their children in a religious world view. And while I have never insisted that atheist parents should behave as Christians when raising their children, atheists have insisted that religious parents should behave as atheists when raising their children. The New Atheists not only want to poke their nose in other people’s bedrooms, but also their kitchens, their living rooms, their dining rooms, and their family rooms.

    This has been an interesting discussion. I am not interested in poking my nose into how you raise your children. As long as you’re not raising them in a compound, denying them medical care or education, or teaching them to smite the unbeliever, it’s really none of my business. But I am interested — and continue to be interested — in discussing the issue in general.

  76. pennywit says:

    A final thought to Vy: I’ve patiently tried to answer your questions, only to deal with a mix of ad hominem and reductio ad absurdum arguments from you, to the point where, yes, I have lost my temper, as anyone will. I’m not filled with Christlike patience.

    You seem to have a stereotype of how atheists and agnostics behave and think — a round hole fillled with any number of preconceptions, and you want to hit at me until I fit into your round hole. Unfortunately, Vy, I’m a square peg, as most people are. And it’s fairly clear to me that continued engagement with you is neither productive nor entertaining.

  77. Vy says:

    Actually, Vy, there’s an answer up there, if you bother to look for it. I tend to adhere a mix of rule utlitarianism and consequentialism.

    I did see it and respond to it, if you bothered to look for it. I also saw the “Yes” in direct response to my question.

    I’m not sure who your next comment is responding to but there are some serious problems in there.

    In the second place, I question the transmission of moral values that are bound up in cultural identity. If you raise your children to be of Religion X, are you teaching them that individuals of Religion Y are evil and must be destroyed if they don’t convert? If you raise your children in Religion Y, are you teaching them that members of Religion X are good people, if misguided? And if you’re raising them in Religion X, Y, or Z, what are you teaching them about atheists and agnostics? And how are you teaching them to treat individuals who critique your religious faith?

  78. Vy says:

    I’ve patiently tried to answer your questions, only to deal with a mix of ad hominem and reductio ad absurdum arguments from you

    This will be the second time you’re accusing me of this and you’re still incapable of pointing it out.
    I’ve supported pretty much all my claims.

    Atheists openly admitting Atheism is incompatible with reality? Check.
    Atheism as a religion? Check.
    Atheopathy and Atheistic ideological idiocy? Check.
    Incapability of Atheists/Agnostics to justify their morals despite having them? Check.

    Wish I could say the same for you.

    to the point where, yes, I have lost my temper, as anyone will. I’m not filled with Christlike patience.

    Having dealt with numerous Atheists, I know the feeling.

    You seem to have a stereotype of how atheists and agnostics behave and think — a round hole fillled with any number of preconceptions, and you want to hit at me until I fit into your round hole.

    Sorry but this is a strawman.

    Unfortunately, Vy, I’m a square peg, as most people are.

    So you continue to claim but are unable to support.

    You say you have morals as an Atheist/Agnostic, fine. I have no problem with that. I do have a problem with you claiming you can justify those morals.

    And it’s fairly clear to me that continued engagement with you is neither productive nor entertaining.

    Carry on but I’m still not gonna let bald assertions fly.

  79. I think we might have Richard Dawkins’ successor here. Lets look at similarities:
    1. He owns a gnu website/YouTube channel.
    2. He has an army of gnus on said website/YouTube channel.
    3. His fans engage in what we call “ass kissing.” Most of the comments demonstrate them bowing down to his as if he is a God.
    4. He asks for money from his fans, as demonstrated here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s72c2Gn-kN8.
    5. His fans are more than willing to give all their money to him (a few comments say so in all caps).
    6. He is close-minded.
    7. He agrees that parents raising their kid to be religious (mainly Christian) is child abuse. I know he doesn’t literally say this, but it is safe to assume he thinks it.
    8. He practices cherry-picking.
    9. He uses little, if any evidence to back up his claims (unless you would count gnu books as evidence).
    10. He has a twitter account.
    11. He tweets on the twitter account often, and such tweets have little thought put into them.
    Well, that is about all I can think of. All he needs to do is write a gnu book and we have ourselves Richard Dawkins 2.0.

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