Taking Richard Dawkins’ Concerns Seriously

At least someone is taking Dawkins seriously:

China will crack down further on what it calls “cults” with a new judicial interpretation released on Wednesday mandating harsh punishments for groups proselytising to government officials or children or linking up with foreign groups.

China’s officially atheist Communist Party does not tolerate challenges to its rule. It prizes social stability and religious activities must be state sanctioned.

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36 Responses to Taking Richard Dawkins’ Concerns Seriously

  1. unclesporkums says:

    Dawkins’ wet dream.

  2. Mechanar says:

    ah yes the glorius live of communism If it wasnt for this stupid pope maybe we still had the UDDSR

  3. Mechanar says:

    Udssr”

  4. Regual Llegna says:

    Actions of a Atheism Maxism Comunism goverment.

    “China’s officially atheist Communist Party does not tolerate challenges to its rule. It prizes social stability and religious activities must be state sanctioned.”

    * 1.- Religious activities are a challenge to a openly atheists goverment. This make you think.
    * 2.- It prizes social stability. But no social justice of any kind. This is performance above free will, of the population, not the people that work/control the government decisions.
    * 3.-Religious activities must be state sanctioned. The answer to the why of this action is what is in the gap between atheism-materialism-utilitarianism-humanism, they think that they can decide and control the destiny of all humanity or else destroy it at will.

    In all known history this is the only kind of society that people following the atheism-materialism-darwinism have created. If you are not useful to the goverment you don’t really exist and they apply this mentality to God or anything and anyone you say is superior than they are, in any form.

  5. Nolan says:

    Dawkins wrote an article in Time relatively recently about religion and children. I think everyone can see it as a reasonable argument, regardless of how much or how little they agree with it. He wishes to raise consciousness about the issue, and of course he’s written about it before.

    It is interesting to see the Dawkins-is-coming-for-your-kids meme resurface after over a decade, though. Here is Dawkins answering a couple questions about it:

    Is my above understanding correct, i.e., that you read the petition in the second sense that I described [restricting the British government’s promotion of religion in the government schools]?

    Yes. In my all too cursory reading of the petition (if I had read the whole thing more carefully, I would have noticed the coercive phraseology and would not have signed it) I of course assumed that it referred to schools, not parents in the privacy of the home. I am sure that was also the intention of the petition organizer. The very idea of giving that control freak Tony Blair any more power over people than he already has appals me, and probably appals the author of the petition too. The problem in Britain is that Blair and his colleagues are hell bent on increasing the influence of religion in British schools. I want to reduce the power of religion in the schools. Blair wants to increase it. I now see that, since the petition lamentably failed to mention that it referred to schools, it can all too easily be read as an attempt to expand government power beyond the schools and into the home.

    Incidentally, another reason why I would not have signed, if I had read the supporting statement as well as the petition itself, is that I am positively in favour of two aspects of religious education. I advocate teaching the Bible as literature. And I advocate teaching comparative religion as an important anthropological phenomenon. Schools should teach: ‘Christians believe X, Muslims believe Y, Buddhists believe Z.’ But a teacher should never say something like ‘You are a Christian child and we Christians believe . . .’

    Obviously you are opposed to theism and think it is harmful. But do you actually think it would be a good idea for a government to make it *illegal* for parents to teach their religion to their children? (e.g., taking them to church, sending them to Sunday school, giving them private religious instruction, etc.)

    Of course I don’t think it would be a good idea. I am horrified by the thought. My entire campaign against the labelling of children (what the petition called ‘defining’ children) by the religion of their parents has been a campaign of CONSCIOUSNESS-RAISING. I want to educate people so that they flinch when they hear a phrase like ‘Catholic child’ or ‘Muslim child’—just as feminists have taught us to wince when we hear ‘one man one vote’. But that is consciousness-raising, not legislation. No feminist that I would wish to know ever suggested a legal ban on masculine pronouns. And of course I don’t want to make it illegal to use religious labels for children. I want to raise consciousness, so that the phrase ‘Christian child’ sounds like a fingernail scraping on a blackboard. But if I dislike the use of religious words to label children, I dislike even more the idea that governments should police the words that anybody uses about anything. I don’t want a legal ban on the use of words like nigger and yid. I want people to feel ashamed of using them. Similarly, I want people to feel ashamed of using the phrase ‘Christian child’, but I don’t want to make it illegal to use it.

  6. Nolan says:

    Small world. The blog post I quoted links to telicthoughts.com. Aren’t you the same Mike from that site, Mike? It’s been a decade since I followed this stuff!

  7. Regual Llegna says:

    Nolan says:
    “Here is Dawkins answering a couple questions about it:”
    At the end:
    “… I don’t want a legal ban on the use of words like nigger and yid. I want people to feel ashamed of using them. Similarly, I want people to feel ashamed of using the phrase ‘Christian child’, but I don’t want to make it illegal to use it.”

    “…I want people to feel ashamed…”, so the political correcness tactic, and to make it worse nigger (african american/black ethnonym) and yid (Jewish ethnonym of Yiddish origin), making “christian child” comparable to some words that the PC people consider racist, maybe this is the reason why he and manny others gnus are so bad in deflect the claim that “islamophobia is about a race issue”.

    So he want to religious people to feel ashamed to make public that their family members are religious and want childs and others young people to feel ashamed to be associated with anything that is religious. He want to eliminate religion by making religion something that should make people “feel shame”, “feel shame” (attention to the emotional control over others people), let that sink in.

    Note: The gnus accuse religious people to using emotional control over others people lives, but Dawkins want to make people to feel ashamed, like teaching people that they should be ashamed (a emotinal response) to be associated with anything they (the gnus) say that is religious/religion. They (the gnus) never talk shit about any paganism, in fact atheists pages are plagued with people that say that they are “pagan”, whatever that really means for them.

  8. TFBW says:

    @Nolan: Dawkins; fulminations against “labelling children” are objectionable in that they are a thinly-veiled piece of anti-religious propaganda. This part highlights the rhetorical slight of hand fairly well:

    “Their” beliefs? The “beliefs” of four-year-old children? Did it not occur to this spokesperson that children who are too young to realize the importance of “their” beliefs might also be too young to possess those same beliefs in the first place? How can the “beliefs” of a four-year-old child be “important” to her if she doesn’t even know what her beliefs are?

    If he’d stop being obtuse for a moment, he’d give the obvious answer: these are not the beliefs of the child, but the beliefs of the parents which they are trying to instil in the child as part of the whole child-raising process. Children have to be taught what to believe. Even Dawkins does this with his “Good and Bad Reasons for Believing” (a letter to his daughter on the subject of what to believe). But his obtuse interpretation frames it as “labelling”, and then objects to that, in order that his audience might miss the fact that he’s actually opposing a religious upbringing in general in the same breath. As such, he’s either a loud-mouthed blockhead with no understanding or desire to understand the issue, or he’s a cynical propagandist who knows exactly that he’s framing the positions of his ideological opponents in a crass way to portray them as intrinsically deplorable. Possibly a bit of both: I wouldn’t want to accuse Dawkins of consistency.

    But whatever the case with his “labelling” propaganda, it’s not the primary source of the complaint here. Oh no, that would be his fondness of equating a religious upbringing with child abuse, and his infamous declaration that it’s worse than “mild” sexual abuse. Let me just copy-paste some of my prior research on that subject here for you.

    Dawkins’ interest in the doctrine of hell goes back a long way: he mentions it in chapter eleven of his first book, The Selfish Gene, where he calls it, “a particularly nasty technique of persuasion, causing great psychological anguish throughout the middle ages and even today.” In a 2002 article called Religion’s Real Child Abuse (Free Inquiry, Volume 22, No. 4), he describes the threat of hell as worse than sexual abuse, saying, “the mental abuse constituted by an unsubstantiated threat of violence and terrible pain, if sincerely believed by the child, could easily be more damaging than the physical actuality of sexual abuse. An extreme threat of violence and pain is precisely what the doctrine of hell is.” The theme is repeated in chapter nine of The God Delusion … This is not an exhaustive list of citations where Dawkins refers to the doctrine of hell as psychologically abusive; it is just a representative sample, with The God Delusion being the best-known instance.

    So join the dots with me. Dawkins says that the kind of religious upbringing which includes the doctrine of Hell (not exactly rare in Christian circles) is worse than some forms of sexual abuse. We expect governments to intervene in matters of children being sexually abused. If this kind of upbringing is worse than some forms of sexual abuse, then Dawkins is either calling for the arrest of the perpetrators, or he is saying that the milder forms of sexual abuse aren’t sufficient cause for government intervention. I get the feeling that the latter explanation might actually be the case, but most people are going to be appalled by the idea that there is a tolerable level of sexual abuse, and understand him to be advocating the former.

    If you can point to any source where Dawkins clears the air on this whole “child abuse” issue, that would be great. Meanwhile, it’s perfectly reasonable to interpret Dawkins as wanting something like China’s policy on the matter.

  9. Michael says:

    Small world. The blog post I quoted links to telicthoughts.com. Aren’t you the same Mike from that site, Mike? It’s been a decade since I followed this stuff!

    LOL. Saw your comment earlier in the day and thought, “Does this guy really want to bring up that old story?” Yeah, I could provide some interesting context to Dawkins’ spin. For example, here is the petition he signed and promoted on his web page back then:

    We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to Make it illegal to indoctrinate or define children by religion before the age of 16.

    In order to encourage free thinking, children should not be subjected to any regular religious teaching or be allowed to be defined as belonging to a particular religious group based on the views of their parents or guardians.

    But there is too much other fresh news out there. Hoping to get the time this weekend to blog about the recent developments in the atheist wars. 🙂

    BTW, I’ll also try to blog about the fatal flaw in Dawkins’ argument.

  10. Michael says:

    But his obtuse interpretation frames it as “labelling”, and then objects to that, in order that his audience might miss the fact that he’s actually opposing a religious upbringing in general in the same breath.

    Spot on. The whole “labelling children” argument is silly. I’m not sure what circles he travels in, but I do not hear people around me commonly talking about “Christian children” or “Muslim children.” And in those rare cases when I do, it’s usually a shorthand way of saying those are children of devout Christians or Muslims. What’s more, does anyone really think Dawkins would not have a problem with religious indoctrination of children as long as all people refrained from using the labels?

  11. Nolan says:

    Mike: It’s hard to imagine that you were unaware of Matzke’s post on Panda’s Thumb, as you were blogging about the issue and he linked to you. Did it slip your mind?

  12. Michael says:

    Mike: It’s hard to imagine that you were unaware of Matzke’s post on Panda’s Thumb, as you were blogging about the issue and he linked to you. Did it slip your mind?

    I did forget about the actual PT posting (and was surprised to see PT is still alive). I did not forget how Matzke gently guided Dawkins’ attempt to walk the whole thing back. Put simply, I don’t believe Dawkins. I think he was happy to embrace Matzke’s spin in order to put the whole thing behind him at the time. Are you implying that I am supposed to believe the spin?

    Check this out:

    Matzke: But do you actually think it would be a good idea for a government to make it *illegal* for parents to teach their religion to their children?
    Dawkins: Of course I don’t think it would be a good idea. I am horrified by the thought.

    Er, what was it that the petition called for? Oh yeah:

    We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to Make it illegal to indoctrinate or define children by religion before the age of 16.

    C’mon. Is there something hard about defining the word “illegal” here? I’d be “horrified” to see the government make it illegal for parents to indoctrinate their children in their religion. What’s that you have there? A petition? Let me see. “We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to Make it illegal to indoctrinate or define children by religion before the age of 16.” Where’s my pen?! Oh, and let me promote that on my web page too to get some more signatures.

    Please.

    What’s interesting is to read Dawkins’ initial explanation (without the leading questions from Matzke). A day before that PT blog posting, Dawkins was commenting on Brayton’s blog. Here is his initial explanation:

    I did sign the petition, but I hadn’t thought it through when I did so, and I now regret it. I have asked the organizer to remove my name. Unfortunately, it seems that the list has already gone off to Downing Street but the organizer, Jamie Wallis, has kindly asked their web manager to remove my name. I suspect that he himself may be having second thoughts about the wording, and I respect him for that. It isn’t always easy to get the exact wording right.

    I signed it having read only the main petition: “We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to make it illegal to indoctrinate or define children by religion before the age of 16.” I regret to say that I did not notice the supporting statement with the heading, “More details from petition creator”: “In order to encourage free thinking, children should not be subjected to any regular religious teaching or be allowed to be defined as belonging to a particular religious group based on the views of their parents or guardians.” If I had read that, I certainly would not have signed the petition, because, as explained in The God Delusion, I am in favour of teaching the Bible as literature, and I am in favour of teaching comparative religion. In any case, like any decent liberal, I am opposed to the element of government coercion in the wording. Furthermore, the Prime Minister, thank goodness, does not have the power to ‘make’ anything ‘illegal’. Only parliament has the power to do that.

    I signed the main petition, because I really am passionately opposed to DEFINING children by the religion of their parents (while ‘indoctrination’ is such a loaded word, nobody could be in favour of it). I was so delighted to hear of somebody else who cared about the defining or labelling of children by the religion of their parents (how would you react if you heard a child described as a ‘seclular humanist child’ or a ‘neo-conservative child’?) that I signed it without reading on and without thinking. Mea culpa.

    As Dawkins admits, the only thing he read was “We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to make it illegal to indoctrinate or define children by religion before the age of 16.” That’s what he signed off on and tried to promote. He only withdrew his signature when he interpreted the rest to mean people would not be able to teach religion from an atheistic perspective.

    You can believe the Dawkins/Matzke account if you want. It makes me no difference. I simply don’t believe it. You admit “It’s been a decade since I followed this stuff!” Well, during that decade, Dawkins has continued to make it clear he is trying to create a culture where religious people should be shamed for giving their children a religious upbringing. Didn’t you notice the title of that essay you labeled as reasonable?
    Dawkins: Don’t Force Your Religious Opinions on Your Children

  13. Dhay says:

    Is this Edward Brayton comment relevant?

    MikeGene responds to my post about his typology and offers some information I was completely unaware of. He points me to this petition, which Richard Dawkins has signed and is promoting on his website, as evidence that Dawkins does indeed favor coercion to stop religious belief:

    We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to Make it illegal to indoctrinate or define children by religion before the age of 16.

    In order to encourage free thinking, children should not be subjected to any regular religious teaching or be allowed to be defined as belonging to a particular religious group based on the views of their parents or guardians.

    This I was completely unaware of, and I find it highly disturbing. And I agree with him, this is absolutely evidence that Dawkins does indeed favor coercion to try and stamp out religion

    http://scienceblogs.com/dispatches/2006/12/29/dawkins-and-the-religion-petit/

    Richard Dawkins is quoted on the Panda’s Thumb linked post:

    Bloody hell! All that storm in a teacup for nothing! If only the petition had been worded properly in the first place . . . And if only I had read it more carefully . . . And if only Brayton had read it more charitably . . . No wonder lawyers and diplomats need special training. I’m out of my depth here.

    Richard Dawkins

    Dawkins signed the petition as it was worded. There is no excuse for not reading it carefully before signing, least of all from a leading public intellectual who should know better than to sign something he hadn’t read and considered — especially when adding his signature and approval was certain to create much publicity and discussion.

    He’s a fool, or dissimulating, take your pick.

  14. Dhay says:

    Nolan > It is interesting to see the Dawkins-is-coming-for-your-kids meme resurface …

    Michael has been told:

    Shame on you. Your parents should be arrested for indoctrinating such fear in you.

    https://shadowtolight.wordpress.com/2015/11/30/4-dawkins-admits-nothing-can-persuade-him-god-exists/#comment-10669

    They’re not just coming for your kids, they’re coming for your parents, sight unseen, knowledge unknown.

    There’s other posts on S2L which boil down to, Christians shouldn’t be allowed to be teachers, Christians shouldn’t be allowed into elite universities.

    It’s a bit more than a meme: there’s some nasty prejudice out there.

  15. Michael says:

    Dawkins signed the petition as it was worded. There is no excuse for not reading it carefully before signing, least of all from a leading public intellectual who should know better than to sign something he hadn’t read and considered — especially when adding his signature and approval was certain to create much publicity and discussion.

    He not only signed it, he was something like the 3rd or 4th person to sign it. Then, he took it and prominantly displayed it on the top of his web page at the time.

    How many Christians out there would make the “mistake” of signing and promoting a petition that read as follows?

    We the undersigned petition [your government leader] to Make it illegal to indoctrinate or define children by atheism before the age of 16.

  16. Michael says:

    They’re not just coming for your kids, they’re coming for your parents, sight unseen, knowledge unknown.

    Ah, a classic. Glad you remembered. Those of us who have been reading and commenting here the last few years know we have seen several atheists come here to argue that it is child abuse when a parent gives their child a religious upbringing.

    Remember Gary from the Muskogee Atheist Community?

    “You are the child abusers, liars, and bigots. I won’t even say you are a “know-nothing bigot” because I believe you know exactly what kind of hate you are spreading. You are the bigot, period.”

    And then there was Travis, who tried the calm, analytical approach:

    As for Michael’s first point, yes I believe that forcing these beliefs onto a child is very harmful. Some describe it as child abuse, and sure, I’m inclined to agree. ….. 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.”

  17. unclesporkums says:

    Just can’t keep their Soviet beliefs from rising to the surface. Little do they realize that throughout history, their attempts to shame and imprison Christians only tends to embolden them to continue to spread their faith.

  18. Nolan says:

    Mike, are you saying that you were aware that Dawkins expressed the very opposite view of what you’re suggesting in the blog post (“…I am horrified by the thought…”), and that you didn’t mention that on purpose?

  19. Michael says:

    Mike, are you saying that you were aware that Dawkins expressed the very opposite view of what you’re suggesting in the blog post (“…I am horrified by the thought…”), and that you didn’t mention that on purpose?

    No, I was not consciously aware of Dawkins PT spin at the time I posted the blog entry such that I had to purposely not mention it. I posted a little after midnight on Jan 26 after a long day’s work. Was doing some brief late night surfing just before bed, ran across the article, and decided to share it on this blog. Took me a few seconds to come up with title and type seven words to introduce it. Quickly settled on using Dawkins as a metaphor/poster child for the New Atheists, since he and they have long been arguing a religious upbringing is a form of child abuse. Then went to bed.
    Put it this way. At the time I wrote it, I was not consciously aware of the existence of Panda’s Thumb, Nick Matzke, and his effort to help Dawkins walk it back.

  20. Nolan says:

    Ah, I see. Well it often happens that someone pushing an agenda will omit facts that contradict what is being pushed. This usually isn’t intentional or malicious, it’s just part of the usual biases that accompany agenda-pushing. Some grace can be afforded here. However once you realized the discrepancy between what your blog post suggests and what Dawkins’ actual stated position is, why didn’t you update the post? You don’t wish to intentionally mislead readers, right?

  21. Michael says:

    Nolan, I think your fixation on the 10-year-old “stated position” is causing you to miss the point here. Note the title of the blog post: Taking Richard Dawkins’ Concerns Seriously. Note that my only words in the post were ” At least someone is taking Dawkins seriously.” Didn’t it occur to you to ask just what concern of Dawkins is being taken seriously here? For the last 10 years, Dawkins has been “concerned” that a religious upbringing, or giving a child a religious identity, is a form of child abuse , an abuse worse than the sexual abuse of children. As many of us have noted over the last 10 years, Dawkins’ position entails that the government get involved, as the State has a duty to step in and intervene when children are being abused. That he cannot overtly advocate for that is easily explainable by the current fringe status of his views. Thus, the need for CONSCIOUSNESS-RAISING (quoting Dawkins all caps). If you can get a culture to the point where the phrase ‘Christian child’ sounds like a fingernail scraping on a blackboard, you have a culture much closer to having the government intervene in cases of discomforting experiences.

    Well, that’s what the atheists in China are doing. They are effectively taking his concerns seriously. The point of this blog entry. Now, of course it’s sloppy, as I don’t know if the Chinese atheists buy into the actual “religion as child abuse” position (their Soviet counterparts did). But they clearly view such indoctrination as harmful to their society, a position that is shared by Dawkins and the New Atheists.

    As for his stated position, I have already told you I don’t buy it and explained why it doesn’t pass the smell test for me. I’m not sure why you think I’m supposed to accept the activist’s words on faith, especially when a PR savvy guy was leading him by the nose. But that’s all beside the point, as it remains a fact that that he, and many of his followers, have been pushing this “religion as child abuse” idea for some time and that idea entails the government needs to get involved. So, it would simply mean that if his “stated position” from a decade ago was sincere and still applies, that Dawkins is not taking his own “religion as child abuse” position seriously (which would not surprise me, as he doesn’t take several of his own positions very seriously). Thus, ” At least someone is taking Dawkins seriously.”

  22. TFBW says:

    Or, the short version: Dawkins speaks out both sides of his mouth, and Nolan wants us to focus exclusively on one side. Nolan, have you considered whether any of your remarks regarding “agenda-pushing” might apply to you? It seems like they might.

    In any case, Dawkins’ primary concern with government intervention seems to be that the Wrong People are in power: “The very idea of giving that control freak Tony Blair any more power over people than he already has appals me, and probably appals the author of the petition too.” Maybe he was just taking the opportunity to snipe at Blair, but maybe he’d be singing a different tune if the PM were a more kindred spirit.

    No doubt he’d prefer that religion could be done away with without government intervention, but he lets his authoritarian side show in moments of vexation — then back-pedals if needs be.

  23. Nolan says:

    Mike, in writing the blog post you, not me, brought up the old saw about Dawkins wanting to make it illegal to indoctrinate children. The meme is still quite popular on Internet blogs and forums where misinformation flows freely, unfettered by the reality that Dawkins said precisely the opposite.

    Rather than accept Dawkins’ stated position—held by virtually every person living in Western democratic countries—you have launched into conspiracies about how Dawkins secretly does wish to conscript governments into doing his evil bidding. His clear and unequivocal statements to the contrary—indeed his saying that such an idea horrifies him—are merely ruses to throw us off the trail. And a staff member at the National Center for Science Education, Nick Matzke, facilitated the cover-up. Question: Do you believe that Matzke is merely one of Dawkins’ unwitting pawns, or does the conspiracy go deeper, with the NCSE being secretly in league with Dawkins’ evil agenda? After all, the NCSE was instrumental in throwing out the teaching of intelligent design in public schools. Who knows what other dark deeds are on their docket?

    The psychology of conspiracy theorists is quite interesting and continues to be studied. A common thread among them is the inference of hidden intent or grand design in events that are otherwise mundane. Where others see coincidence and human foibles, conspiracy theorists see overarching design. 9/11 conspiracists are a great example of this, but rather than get into those specifics let’s examine the conspiracy you have put forth.

    All of us, at one point, have misread something. And all of us, after realizing the mistake, know what it’s like to look back on the text we misread and think, “Jeez! How did I miss that?” Sometimes this is caused by a wrong assumption about the context. For example if you thought a passage was about Paris, after reading it you might think it mentioned the Eiffel Tower when it only said “tower”. If the subject of religion in schools is the hot topic of the day, with (then) Prime Minister Tony Blair driving the news on it, then misreading the start of a petition about religion and children in that context seems quite possible.

    But not to a conspiracy theorist. To them, there can’t be simple human mistakes. There’s a plan. There’s an agenda. To argue that someone couldn’t possibly have misread something, and to show the text as “proof”, is to endow that person with hindsight not accessible at the time. No matter. The person can’t possibly have made a such a mistake. To conspiracy theorists, there are no mistakes and there are no coincidences. The unfolding of events in history are not contingent but part of an overall design, often sinister in nature.

  24. Michael says:

    Mike, in writing the blog post you, not me, brought up the old saw about Dawkins wanting to make it illegal to indoctrinate children. The meme is still quite popular on Internet blogs and forums where misinformation flows freely, unfettered by the reality that Dawkins said precisely the opposite.

    You keep missing the point. Note the title of the blog post: Taking Richard Dawkins’ Concerns Seriously. Note that my only words in the post were ” At least someone is taking Dawkins seriously.” Didn’t it occur to you to ask just what concern of Dawkins is being taken seriously here? For the last 10 years, Dawkins has been “concerned” that a religious upbringing, or giving a child a religious identity, is a form of child abuse , an abuse worse than the sexual abuse of children.

    Here’s an example of Dawkins from 2012:

    ‘Horrible as sexual abuse no doubt was, the damage was arguably less than the long-term psychological damage inflicted by bringing the child up Catholic in the first place.’

    Now, as many of us have noted over the last 10 years, Dawkins’ position entails that the government get involved, as the State has a duty to step in and intervene when children are being abused. It’s a simple fact that the State does intervene when it comes to the sexual abuse of children. If, as Dawkins claims, raising a child as Catholic is an abuse worse than sexual abuse, the logic of his position entails that State needs to likewise step in when it comes to raising children as Catholics.

    We’re focused on the logic of his position and what it entails. For it is the logic of the position that inspires and shapes the thinking of his followers. For example, Dawkins fan Zoltan Istvan recently wrote:

    Like some other atheists and transhumanists, I join in calling for regulation that restricts religious indoctrination of children until they reach, let’s say, 16 years of age. Once a kid hits their mid-teens, let them have at it—if religion is something that interests them. 16-year-olds are enthusiastic, curious, and able to rationally start exploring their world, with or without the guidance of parents. But before that, they are too impressionable to repeatedly be subjected to ideas that are faith-based, unproven, and historically wrought with danger. Forcing religion onto minors is essentially a form of child abuse, which scars their ability to reason and also limits their ability to consider the world in an unbiased manner. A reasonable society should not have to indoctrinate its children; its children should discover and choose religious paths for themselves when they become adults, if they are to choose one at all.

    Atheist and neuroscientist Giovanni Santostasi has said, “Religion should remain a private endeavor for adults. An appropriate analogy of religion is that’s it’s kind of like porn—which means it’s not something one would expose a child to.”

    I told you that in this post, Dawkins functions as a metaphor/poster-child for an attitude that is shared widely among the New Atheists. But you don’t seem able to grasp that point. Okay, then.

    Do you agree with Dawkins that horrible as sexual abuse no doubt is, the damage is arguably less than the long-term psychological damage inflicted by bringing the child up Catholic in the first place?

    As for the rest of your comment, LOL! Gotta appreciate that attempt at psychological warfare. 😉

  25. TFBW says:

    1. If X is worse than Y, and X is legal, then Y should be legal.
    2. Dawkins thinks that a Catholic upbringing is worse than mild sexual abuse of the child.
    3. Dawkins thinks that a Catholic upbringing should be legal.
    4. Therefore, Dawkins’ position entails that mild sexual abuse of children should be legal.

    Dilemma: does he follow his own logic, or not?

  26. Vy says:

    Dawkins from the Militant Atheist wall of fame:

    It is evil to describe a child as a Muslim child or a Christian child. I think labelling children is child abuse and I think there is a very heavy issue, for example, about teaching about hell and torturing their minds with hell.”It’s a form of child abuse, even worse than physical child abuse. – Dawkins

    So we should no more allow parents to teach their children to believe, for example, in the literal truth of the Bible or that the planets rule their lives, than we should allow parents to knock their children’s teeth out or lock them in a dungeon. – Nicholas Humphrey (quoted in Dawkins’ God Delusion)

    Sir: It is good of the Pope to apologise for the sexual abuse of children by priests (report, 23 November). But such physical abuse, unpleasant as it is, may do less permanent damage to the children than bringing them up Catholic in the first place. To take just one example, it is hard to see the threat of hell fire as anything other than mental child abuse. – Richard Dawkins

    But we gotta ignore that because he backpedaled?

  27. Kevin says:

    Somehow, I don’t think even those quotes will matter when someone is determined to defend one of their personal inspirations.

  28. Michael says:

    Rather than accept Dawkins’ stated position—held by virtually every person living in Western democratic countries— you have launched into conspiracies about how Dawkins secretly does wish to conscript governments into doing his evil bidding.

    And how many people living in Western democratic countries have signed and promoted a petition that read as follows?

    We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to Make it illegal to indoctrinate or define children by religion before the age of 16.

    It’s a simple fact of history that Dawkins not only signed it, but put it on the top of his web page to solicit more signatures. And no reasonable or sane person is going to believe that Dawkins did not read and understand “Make it illegal to indoctrinate.”

    Illegal.

    He signed it. Not me. I would never sign something like that. Why? Because it would horrify me.

    And Vy (above) just reminded me of another key piece of context.

    Dawkins signed and circulated the petition to make it illegal in Dec 2006, two months after his God Delusion came out. Back then, he was pretty cocky. Given the surprising popularity of the book, and the seeming ascendency of the New Atheist movement, it’s not hard to believe he had convinced himself he was on “the right side of history.” Now, in his book, he devotes a whole chapter to his “religion as child abuse” argument. In that chapter, he approvingly quotes Nicholas Humphrey, a “colleague” he admires. Humphrey argues that we should be opposed to censorship…….with one exception:

    I am talking about moral and religious education. And especially the education a child receives at home, where parents are allowed—even expected—to determine for their children what counts as truth and falsehood, right and wrong.

    Children, I’ll argue, have a human right not to have their minds crippled by exposure to other people’s bad ideas—no matter who these other people are. Parents, correspondingly, have no god-given licence to enculturate their children in whatever ways they personally choose: no right to limit the horizons of their children’s knowledge, to bring them up in an atmosphere of dogma and superstition, or to insist they follow the straight and narrow paths of their own faith.

    In short, children have a right not to have their minds addled by nonsense. And we as a society have a duty to protect them from it. So we should no more allow parents to teach their children to believe, for example, in the literal truth of the Bible, or that the planets rule their lives, than we should allow parents to knock their children’s teeth out or lock them in a dungeon.

    So two months after Dawkins approvingly quotes his colleague arguing that we should no more allow parents to teach their children to believe in the literal truth of the Bible than we should allow parents to knock their children’s teeth out, Dawkins comes out with a petition that states, “We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to Make it illegal to indoctrinate or define children by religion before the age of 16.”

    Looks to me like the cocky Dawkins jumped the gun by being a little too overzealous with his agreement with Humphrey during the ascendency of New Atheism.

    His clear and unequivocal statements to the contrary—indeed his saying that such an idea horrifies him—

    Which must be viewed through the context of having signed and circulated a petition to make it illegal to indoctrinate children two months after publishing a book where Dawkins approvingly quotes a colleague advocating for government intervention.

    are merely ruses to throw us off the trail.

    No. What happened is that Ed Brayton, who was a very significant player at the time, threw a fit:

    PZ, you really are just about the biggest asshole I have ever known, and you are lying through your teeth. What I have defended in private, and will do so in public is well, is that my post was correct given the information I had. Dawkins did, in fact, sign a petition that clearly endorses a coercive, totalitarian policy to stamp out religious belief. He has now repudiated his signature on that petition and admitted that he made a mistake, but that fact supports my post – I said it was wrong to support that petition and he now agree. And you are simply lying when you claim that I am still arguing that Dawkins supports “coercion to stop religious belief”; I am not arguing that at all. I accept his retraction that he does not support that. But his signature on that petition did support that kind of coercion and I am happy that he has now thought better of it. But the very fact that he has thought better of it shows that my criticism of that petition was right, not wrong.

    Dawkins needed to walk that back because it started a firestorm among the atheist activists.

    And a staff member at the National Center for Science Education, Nick Matzke, facilitated the cover-up.

    No “cover-up.” Dawkins was struggling to explain why he ever signed and promoted that petition in the comments section of Brayton’s blog. Matzke was just a good PR guy who helped Dawkins walk it back in a face-saving manner. This is standard media relations. Ever see a celebrity say something that damages his/her public image? Often, a PR person will help them come up with an approach that helps put out the fire and gets people to move on. Things like plausible deniability.

    Question: Do you believe that Matzke is merely one of Dawkins’ unwitting pawns, or does the conspiracy go deeper, with the NCSE being secretly in league with Dawkins’ evil agenda?

    Silly question. Matzke greatly admired Dawkins and probably wanted to help out. Not only help Dawkins, but to put out the fire among the atheists. Back then, when there was a common enemy, the various factions were united.

  29. Michael says:

    1. If X is worse than Y, and X is legal, then Y should be legal.
    2. Dawkins thinks that a Catholic upbringing is worse than mild sexual abuse of the child.
    3. Dawkins thinks that a Catholic upbringing should be legal.
    4. Therefore, Dawkins’ position entails that mild sexual abuse of children should be legal.

    Dilemma: does he follow his own logic, or not?

    Interesting. That is an alternative explanation. And Dawkins has a history of trying to soften people’s negative views of pedophilia.

    Richard Dawkins Defends ‘Mild’ Pedophilia, Again and Again

  30. Dhay says:

    So Richard Dawkins is a poor-little-me victim of those silly people who created

    How petitions work

    2. You get 5 people to support your petition. We’ll tell you how to do this when you’ve created your petition.

    https://petition.parliament.uk/help

    Dawkins, quoted by Michael:

    I did sign the petition, but I hadn’t thought it through when I did so, and I now regret it. I have asked the organizer to remove my name. Unfortunately, it seems that the list has already gone off to Downing Street …

    The upshot of this is that Dawkins signed the petition prior to it being sent of to Parliament to be put online; he was one of those “5 people”; the upshot of that is that Dawkins wasn’t a mere one signer along many, someone unable to change or influence wording already set in stone — he seconded and “owned” the petition and its wording.

    And he also seconded and “owned” that “supporting statement with the heading, “More details from petition creator”.”

  31. Dhay says:

    > So Richard Dawkins is a poor-little-me victim of those silly people who created … created a stupidly badly-worded petition which he’d never have signed had he realised what it said.

  32. FZM says:

    China will crack down further on what it calls “cults” with a new judicial interpretation released on Wednesday mandating harsh punishments for groups proselytising to government officials or children or linking up with foreign groups.

    In the Soviet Union the right of parents to teach religious beliefs to their own children was protected by law; on the other hand it was illegal for anyone else (priests, monks, other adults) to provide any religious education to children. This may be more what the Chinese Communists are aiming at (the quote states ‘…harsh punishments for groups proselytising…to children’.

    Dawkins idea that religious education in schools and public institutions should be restricted to comparative religion/anthropology lessons and religious texts as literature seems to reflect Soviet practice.

    And while teaching anything that the Soviet Communist Party identified as ‘religion’ in schools and educational institutions was illegal, instilling secular morality and a secular world view and values was regarded as very important; also, the right to engage in anti-religious propaganda and activities was protected by law. This part of the law was actually enforced, whereas the parts protecting religious freedoms usually weren’t.

    From what he writes about religion and religious belief, Dawkins adopting something like the Soviet approach would seem logical.

  33. Dhay says:

    Richard Dawkins, at Panda’s Thumb:

    The problem in Britain is that Blair and his colleagues are hell bent on increasing the influence of religion in British schools. I want to reduce the power of religion in the schools. Blair wants to increase it.

    Odd, that Dawkins should see Tony Blair’s New Labour as wanting to increase the power of religion in schools. The Church of England has famously been described as ‘the Conservative Party at prayer’, whereas the Labour party has Socialist and openly Marxist roots and was probably the most likely of the three main parties to get dissent and splits within its ranks at any suggestion of increasing the power of religion — in schools or elsewhere — so New Labour was the least likely party to want to draft such measures, least likely to introduce them into Parliament as a Bill, and least likely to be able to push such measures through Parliament into law.

    It reads like hypocritical rationalisation; as does this:

    I now see that, since the petition lamentably failed to mention that it referred to schools, it can all too easily be read as an attempt to expand government power beyond the schools and into the home.

    If the petition didn’t refer to being limited in its relevance to schools, that’s because it wasn’t limited in its relevance to schools. What dimmock can’t see that! Are we seriously being expected to swallow that a clever and educated man, himself an educator in the public — ie not just adult — understanding of science, missed that. It beggars belief.

    *

    The Cabinet Minister with the Education brief is the person responsible for initiating Bills concerning the education of schoolchildren, not the Prime Minister: the absurdity of the wording of the petition is obvious.

    *

    From Nick Matzke, from the Panda’s Thumb post linked:

    Divided by a common language:…

    … an ID blog that likes to think the worst about Dawkins freaked out, Ed Brayton freaked out because the plain reading of the petition (to American ears; see below) seemed anti-civil liberties …
    … the petition had a clear meaning on its face. But it seemed to me that the problem was that the petition meant very different things in British vs. American contexts.

    I’m British: born and bred, stock and culture. What an American (or Canadian, etc etc) context might be, it would be silly for me to hazard.

    We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to Make it illegal to indoctrinate or define children by religion before the age of 16.

    In order to encourage free thinking, children should not be subjected to any regular religious teaching or be allowed to be defined as belonging to a particular religious group based on the views of their parents or guardians.

    What I can declare is that the plain reading of the petition (to British ears) is, em>is, is anti-civil liberties.

    Now let’s look at British context: the petition’s so strongly anti-Human Rights that legislation (“Make it illegal”) based on the petition could never conform to Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights, and would be shot down by British courts or by appeal to the European Court of Justice; being a lost cause from the word go, I think any movement towards enacting legislation in Parliament would never get past the stage of an initial legal opinion (if indeed it got past a breakfast table conversation with Blair’s very clued-up human rights lawyer wife.).

    Protocol 1 of the Convention (added later) is very directly relevant:

    Article 2 – education
    Article 2 provides for the right not to be denied an education and the right for parents to have their children educated in accordance with their religious and other views.
    (Wiki)

    And there’s yet another absurdity: Britain was and is a member of the EU and conforms to EU law; the petition has to overturn not just British law but the European law to which British law conforms; it’s not the Prime Minister, it’s not the Secretary of State for Education, it’s not the political party in power, it’s not Parliament who can make or rescind the relevant laws, it’s the European Parliament

    For the petition to succeed, it had to overturn European law enforcing that Protocol 1, Article 2, which has the directly and expressly opposite effect to the petition’s demands; the petition had an ice-cream’s chance in hell of becoming law; it wasn’t even targeted to the right Parliament.

    *

    Given that Dawkins was apparently asked to second the petition (one of five seconders), I wonder whether Dawkins was set up to be shot down (or in other words, Poe’d.)

    But there’s another possible explanation for the outrageous wording, and for Dawkins going along with it, willingly, protests otherwise or not: if the wording is not confined to schools and has general application, it will provoke outrage; and publicity; and “consciousness-raising”.

    *

    As regards Matzke’s:

    Well, I know that it is far more fun to spend endless threads bickering about what Richard Dawkins probably meant and whether or not it is good or evil, but as PZ noted, it really is better to email the guy.

    Allallt e-mailed two years ago, asking for a clarification regarding Dawkins’ Hate Mail videos; either Allallt got a reply but decided not to share the reply with us at S2L — I think not — or Dawkins and his staff never replied.

    https://shadowtolight.wordpress.com/2015/01/23/dawkins-poed-again/#comment-7312

  34. Dhay says:

    TFBW > But whatever the case with his “labelling” propaganda, it’s not the primary source of the complaint here. Oh no, that would be his fondness of equating a religious upbringing with child abuse, …

    The Children Act 1989 states that children’s welfare should be the paramount concern of the courts. (And the concept of ‘parental rights’ was replaced by ‘parental responsibilities’.)

    If Richard Dawkins — or indeed any other atheist, or indeed any person whatsoever — wishes to allege that a particular British child is suffering, or has suffered, from abuse, abuse of any kind, including emotional abuse, he has but to contact the Local Authority’s Social Services department, or the NSPCC, or the local Police, and report to them his suspicions and the facts as he knows them.

    The allegations will be taken seriously, investigated, the welfare of the child safeguarded by putting the child on the At-Risk Register for monitoring and supervision, the abusive carers (or other adults) “educated” appropriately; and in more serious cases the child’s welfare will be ensured by a Family Court judge, who will consider the child’s welfare paramount over the adults’ wishes and interests, perhaps ordering removing the child temporarily or permanently; additionally but separately, in more serious cases of abuse the abusers will receive jail or other sanctions after a Criminal Court trial.

    This was already available at the time of the petition, it is available now. There was and is no excuse for anyone to mutter privately or only to mates that Christian children are being emotionally abused; for anyone who knows or suspects that a particular child is being abused (in any way) the rules are very simple:
    1. You never do nothing;
    2. You immediately contact one or another of the organisations I have named above, whose staff have the training and experience (and legal authority) to investigate and to take appropriate safguarding action.

    Note that “You never do nothing”: it’s a summary paraphrase, but accurate; it has an important corollary, that any person — Dawkins or any other atheist included — who knows of but ignores and fails to report child abuse is guilty of neglect of a child’s welfare, is guilty of what is also child abuse, is also an abuser.

    Squawking to newspapers (etc) that bringing up a child as a Christian is tantamount to child abuse is mere snide insinuation. If Dawkins can instantiate actual child abuse he has a duty to report the instance to the appropriate legally designated authorities — failing which he is himself a child abuser and is obstructing justice (itself a crime in Britain.)

    The long and the short of it is: if Dawkins or any other person wants to accuse any British person of child abuse he should be taking immediate action. He should shut up vague generalities, shut up unsubstantiated, unevidenced claims, and instead act by reporting the abuse.

    Surely your own countries have something similar?

  35. Dhay says:

    When I was young it was taken for granted that public school ** masters often “loved” the boys (physically); not all of the masters, but it was so common it passed for normal and got not outrage but passing mention; boy-on-boy abuse seemed to have been rife, too.

    With that in mind, arguably Richard Dawkins’ parents were child abusers when sending their boy away, separated for long periods from home and family, to a public boarding school. Dawkins tells us all he suffered (physically) was a brief fondling at age 19; he was lucky, or he remains discreet about worse.

    Or as the notorious AtheistMax might have put it, Dawkins’ “parents should be arrested …” for that.

    ( ** As Nick Matzke says, British “public schools” would be called “private schools” in the US.)

  36. Dhay says:

    Nolan > Dawkins wrote an article in Time relatively recently about religion and children. I think everyone can see it as a reasonable argument, regardless of how much or how little they agree with it. He wishes to raise consciousness about the issue, and of course he’s written about it before.

    More important than Richard Dawkins’ views a decade or more ago is his view a year ago, as per that Time article. Dawkins starts:

    Last week the local government council of the London borough of Islington was reported in the Islington Gazette as having banned pork products from primary school dinners. The rumor of an outright ban has since been denied, and the truth is unclear. …

    http://time.com/3711945/children-religion-parents-school-policy/

    Actually, the truth is very clear even just using the Islington Gazette as a source: a local butcher wants to sell pork to Primary Schools (children ages 4-11), to make more profit; but although it’s “a very affordable and nutritious meat”, some parents don’t allow their children to eat it, and it’s prohibitively expensive to provide supervision to ensure the kids don’t – “Monitoring each child, every day ensuring they are avoiding pork, is an unnecessary cost at a time of tight budgets.”

    My heart’s not going to bleed for the avaricious butcher who instigated this story, probably to get pork, and himself as a local butcher, publicised – I see no practical end-result possible other than advertising; nor for the pork industry represented by the special-interest spokesperson the Gazette contacted, who added his own bit of advertising of pork.

    Dawkins then launches off on a tangent, into a certainly insincere discussion of the intelligence of pigs and the “good case” which could be made “on humanitarian grounds” for not killing them: which comes over to me — a fellow Briton – as a misplaced attempt at witty sarcasm.

    Dawkins likes sarcasm:

    What these critics miss in Dawkins’ rhetoric is the humor at play, dry or harshly satirical though it may sometimes be. Satire, inevitably, is a dangerous terrain, one littered with potential landmines when considering purpose and effect.

    http://www.popmatters.com/column/richard-dawkins-and-the-need-for-a-new-science-populism/

    Dawkins seems to value witty sarcasm (or satire, by another name), but to me his intelligent pigs sarcastic drivel looks juvenile, insincere and condescending, and he comes across as an irritating berk.

    The Council hadn’t actually banned pork, we find, they’d just ceased ordering it – years ago. It continues to be ordered and cooked for Secondary Schools, where teenagers are old enough to understand dietary issues and the different varieties of meat, and are old enough to make an informed choice. And at that age “Muslim” children definitely already are Muslims, an occasional rebel excepting.

    Having pretended in his first paragraph not to have read and understood The Independent‘s report, Dawkins’ second paragraph then shows that he has both read and fully understood it; it’s nothing to do with intelligent pigs, it’s because of Muslims, Hindus – it’s to do with religious people. Yep, his intelligent pigs drivel looks juvenile, very insincere and condescending, and he definitely comes across as an irritating berk.

    But that’s tone; what of the content, when he gets round to it: apparently, there’s no such thing as a four-year old child with “Islamic” beliefs. I can readily concede that if a four-year old child were to be asked what their beliefs are, “Out of the mouth of babes and infants …” might well apply to the response; yet these are children raised – immersed – in Muslim families and in a Muslim culture; the beliefs they do have, and certainly the beliefs they are acquiring and developing, are Islamic beliefs.

    Dawkins parodies the idea of “Muslim” child by saying “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. …””. Hmm, I have only to substitute “is raised as” for “is”, where I have added my asterisks, for this to make excellent sense (apart from Dawkins’ deliberately nonsense names of philosophies.) The children are being labelled according to how they are being brought up.

    Towards the article’s end Dawkins sums up his preceding paragraphs with:

    Let us all raise our consciousness, and the consciousness of society, about the religious labeling of children. Let’s all mind our religious language just as we have learned to over sexist language. “Catholic child,” “Muslim child,” “Hindu child,” “Mormon child” — all such phrases should make us cringe. Whenever you hear somebody speak of a “Catholic child,” stop them in their tracks: There’s no such thing as a Catholic child. Would you speak of a “Postmodernist child” or a “States Rights child”? What you meant to say was “child of Catholic parents.” And the same for “Muslim” child etc.

    Actually, what I ‘meant to say’ (as Dawkins puts it) by “Muslim child” was “child being raised as a Muslim”; the same applies to “Hindu child”, “Catholic child”, etc – and would even apply to Dawkins’ fanciful “Postmodernist child” and “Kantian Neo-platonist child” piss-taking examples, should there be sufficiently outlandish primary carers – perhaps there is nowadays many a child being raised as a “SJW child” or as an “Intersectional Justice Advocate child”.

    *

    “It takes a village to raise a child” goes the African proverb; the child grows up in a community, to be a community member, shaped by and shaping the community. I don’t see what’s wrong with describing a child brought up in a community of Muslims as being a Muslim child.

    Let’s look sideways at a parallel with genes, genes which Dawkins assures us are “selfish”:

    In describing genes as being “selfish”, Dawkins states unequivocally that he does not intend to imply that they are driven by any motives or will, but merely that their effects can be metaphorically and pedagogically described as if they were. The contention is that the genes that are passed on are the ones whose evolutionary consequences serve their own implicit interest (to continue the anthropomorphism) in being replicated, not necessarily those of the organism. – Wiki.

    And I am sure they can be understood as “self-ish” in that they are the smallest unit of replication, a sort of “individual”.

    Thing is, these “selfish genes” never come alone, they are not viable alone, they always come as a full village community of genes, in the form of eg a Dhay, a Dawkins, an Edith Piaf or a mollusc. They work together, they pull together, they fit in with each other in beneficial and complementary ways; those communities which don’t are called spontaneous abortions, or congenitally diseased.

    “Selfish genes” are always found in teams, team-working, acting for the benefit of the team. It makes less sense to call any gene “selfish” or “self-ish” than it does to call a four-year old child “Muslim”.

    *

    I can sort of see what Dawkins is arguing, but it seems to be a bit of pratting-about sarcastic silliness which fails as soon as I reject his mind-reading of what I ‘meant to say’ as being just his wishful fancy. It would be convenient for his argument if I did ‘mean to say’ what Dawkins wishes I ‘meant to say’: except I don’t, and I don’t see why anyone else should accept it; so his argument fails to be reasonable.

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