Dismantling the “Religion as Child Abuse” Argument

Back in July 2016, atheist Zoltan Istvan laid out his position concerning “the religious indoctrination of children.”

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.

This is a position that is not uncommon among the atheist activists.  In fact, my guess is that many readers have encountered this position, or something very similar, when interacting with atheists on the internet given the seeds of this position were planted in Richard Dawkins’ God Delusion.  So let’s have a closer look at it.

First, it is misleading to focus on “indoctrination.”  Not just because one person’s idea of education is another’s idea of indoctrination (underscoring the subjective nature of the accusation), but because something more is going on here than mere “indoctrination.”  The more accurate term is socialization.   According to wikipedia:

Socialization is a term used by sociologists, social psychologists, anthropologists, political scientists, and educationalists to refer to the lifelong process of inheriting and disseminating norms, customs, values and ideologies, providing an individual with the skills and habits necessary for participating within their own society. Socialization is thus “the means by which social and cultural continuity are attained”.

What happens in a religious upbringing is not mere education/indoctrination, but a process of inheriting and disseminating norms, customs, values and ideologies.  And it occurs not solely in the context of a teacher/student relationship, but involves all other aspects of life.  For example, a family that prayers together , celebrates a religious holiday together, shares their feelings about religious topics, or attends a religious gathering together is doing more than “indoctrinating.”  They are socializing with each other , and connecting with each other, and those around them.

Atheist activists want to characterize this as child abuse, probably because they think if society can disrupt religious socialization, society will then become progressively more atheistic.

We had another atheist comment on this blog shortly afterward, who argued

” 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. A few questions/points have invited me to elaborate on this. I am not encouraging parents to act as atheists around their children. 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 think religious education is terribly important, something kids everywhere aren’t getting enough of. I think children should be taught about the major world religions in their schools in an unbiased way (not encouraging any of them as correct or even encouraging atheism as correct).”

Clearly, the atheist activists think they are staking out some more high ground.  They argue that children are not intellectually developed and impressionable.  Thus, the child cannot truly decide for himself whether the religious claims of his parents are true.  As a result, the child is being socialized in ways that shape his views on the world.  It’s better to refrain from this, allow the child to intellectually mature, and then present him with objective information so that the child can decide for himself what religion to embrace (or reject).

At all sounds reasonable from a superficial perspective.  But when you begin to think more about it, there are two fatal flaws with the reasoning.

1.By attempting to disrupt religious socialization in a family where the parents are religious, the atheist position is potentially disrupting the healthy psychological and emotional development of the child.   The most important component of parenting is not the intellectual development of the child, but the emotional and psychological development of the child.  When it comes to learning what is true, the parent is replaceable.  When it comes to developing a secure and healthy emotional/psychological state of mind in the child, the parent is irreplaceable.  To develop such a mentally healthy state, the child needs to form secure attachment bonds with their parents.  It is far more important that parents bond with their children than it is to create an environment where children “can make up their own minds” about such things as religion.

Kathryn Kuehnle and Tracy Ellis explain the importance of bonding in an article from The Florida Bar Journal:

Children who develop secure attachment relationships with their parents are at an advantage cognitively, socially, and emotionally compared to peers who have not developed secure attachments.

When discussing the relationship between parents and children, attorneys and judges often use the terms “bonding” and “attachment”; however, these terms typically are used in a loose and imprecise manner. It may assist the legal professionals in their consultations and decision making if they gain an understanding of the precise social science meaning of affectional and attachment bonds. A child’s affectional “bond” is determined by five factors: 1) persistent; 2) enduring; 3) linked to a specific person (not interchangeable with anyone else); and 4) emotionally significant. The child must also 5) maintain proximity to or contact with the significant person because distress will likely be experienced at involuntary separation.  The attachment bond that forms between a child with his or her parent includes these five criteria, plus an additional critical factor, which is the child’s pursuit of security and comforting in the relationship. Seeking security is the defining feature in the parent-child “attachment bond.”

To ensure safety and security, close physical proximity to the attachment figure is the set goal of the attachment system for very young children. Infants and toddlers use physical contact with the attachment figure as a secure base from which to explore and learn about their world. In school-age children the availability of the attachment figure, rather than the physical proximity, becomes the set goal of the attachment system. This attachment behavioral system is no less important than for infants or toddlers, in that school-age children still are not competent to make decisions completely on their own regarding their activities, supervision, or protection. Secure attachments for both younger and older children are based on children’s confidence in their primary caretakers as available, responsive, and protective providers.

There is a significant link between insecure attachments and inadequate styles of parenting, such as disturbed family interactions, parental rejection, inattentive or disorganized parenting, child maltreatment, and marital violence.

Children who develop secure attachment relationships are found to score higher on intelligence and academic achievement tests, be more popular with their peers, and have better internal emotional controls compared to children who have developed insecure attachments.

All of this is significant in that the atheist position would have religious parents detach from their children and thus disrupt the development of healthy attachment relationships.  When the children are excluded from all aspects of their parents religious lifestyle (attending church, attending religious social events, praying at the table, etc.), day after day, week after week,  this amounts to “parental rejection” and “inattentive parenting”  from the perspective of the excluded child.   The atheist position thus would force the parents to chose either to abandon any serious devotion to religion or detach, and thus harm, their children. Any government attempt to impose the need for such a choice would be pernicious.

2.What makes the atheist position even more disturbing is that religion alone is singled out for this treatment. Religious socialization is not the only form of socialization that shapes the beliefs of children.  The same dynamic applies with political socialization.

Here is a nice description of the process:

People acquire political culture through a process known as political socialization. Although the bulk of political socialization occurs during childhood, adults continue to be socialized. Political socialization occurs in many ways:

Family: Young children usually spend far more time with their families than with anyone else and thus tend to acquire the family’s habits, beliefs, behaviors, and attitudes. For this reason, family tends to be the most important source of political socialization. Families mostly impart political culture unintentionally by acting as examples for the children. Very often, people end up with political beliefs similar to those of their parents.

Or, from here:

Our first political ideas are shaped within the family. Parents seldom “talk politics” with their young children directly, but casual remarks made around the dinner table or while helping with homework can have an impact. Family tradition is particularly a factor in party identification, as indicated by the phrases lifelong Republican and lifelong Democrat.

Wikipedia describes it like this:

Political socialization is the “study of the developmental processes by which people of all ages and adolescents acquire political cognition, attitudes, and behaviors”.   It refers to a learning process by which norms and behavior acceptable to a well running political system are transmitted from one generation to another. It is through the performance of this function that individuals are inducted into the political culture and their orientations towards political objects are formed…..

Sound familiar?

What all this means is that all the arguments against religious socialization equally apply to political socialization.  In other words, if the atheist position is to be held in an intellectually honest and sincere fashion, it must not be selectively restricted to the topic of religion.  It must be extended to all forms of socialization that involves beliefs.  If religious indoctrination is child abuse, political indoctrination is child abuse.  If taking your children to church is child abuse, taking your children to a Bernie Sanders rally is child abuse.  If praying with your children is wrong, talking about politics at the dinner table with children present is wrong.  If you can’t “force” religion on children, you can’t “force” politics on children either.

Thus, atheists who insist that religious parents not instill their religious beliefs in their children have the same obligation to refrain from instilling their own political beliefs in their children.  Such atheist parents should remain completely apolitical around their children.  A reasonable society should not have to indoctrinate its children; its children should discover and choose political paths for themselves when they become adults, if they are to choose one at all.  When the atheists’  children are 16, atheist parents can then provide information about the various political parties and what they stand for in an unbiased way.

Of course we know that no atheist activist would be willing to commit to an apolitical life around their children for at least sixteen years.  And what this would clearly expose is that the atheists are not opposed to religious indoctrination because it is indoctrination.  They oppose religious indoctrination only because it is religious.  In other words, the seemingly reasonable position of the atheists is just cleverly disguised bigotry.

Summary: Atheist activists commonly argue that religious indoctrination is a form of child abuse and thus religious parents have a moral obligation to refrain from instilling their religious views in their children.  This position is fatally flawed.  It ignores the findings of social science that demonstrate a healthy bond between parent and child is essential for the development of a person’s emotional and psychological well-being.  By trying to thwart religious socialization in families headed by religious parents, the atheists are advocating that harm be done to the children.  What makes this even worse is that the atheist position is grounded in hypocrisy, given that the arguments against religious socialization apply equally to political socialization.  That is, while atheists argue that religious indoctrination is child abuse, they have no problem “abusing” their own children with political indoctrination.   The atheist position is essentially nothing more than disguised bigotry that has the potential to do great harm.   Reasonable and ethical people should oppose it.

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47 Responses to Dismantling the “Religion as Child Abuse” Argument

  1. Regual Llegna says:

    Atheist Zoltan Istvan => the “wanabe your political leader” transhumanist that sell people non-real/never developed/stratorferic costly hightech-inmoratlity (for the elites first).

  2. mechanar says:

    but religion is like totally harmfull and makes war and stuff.

    by the way I have a good idea for your next topic the “religion is responsible for responsible for most wars in history” claim, because it is factualy inccorect most wars in history were fought because a king or a emperor wanted to expand his nation. see “the encyclopaedia of war”

  3. Regual Llegna says:

    That is a good topic, Gnus Atheist, when talking about The Crusades, they leave the topics of feudalism, imperialism and monarchy and never talk about the impact of those socio-political systems that exist at that time, they talk as if religion was the only ideology in the times of the feudal kings and lords.
    *E.g.: How a group of monarchs and lords that hate each at other all the time joint their armies for a roman catholic-byzantine cause, even the ones that were never catholics, againts the islamic empire military conquests for expansionism (A.K.A. the ever present Islamic religious doctrine and socio-political cause for Islam: Jihad)?

    The romans, pre-christian romans, were not famously know for their religious fervor but for they famously militaristy idiology of expansionism and military campaings.

    And of course they really never talk about COMMUNISTS REGIMES, they totaly deflec the talk saying that communism is a “personality cult”. They forget that their scientism MOST OF THE TIME they talk about science as a personality cult for famous dead scientist above others scientists, whose work really save millions of lives and continue to do so (remember Darwin dedicated Science Day and the evolutionary theory, and is book: Of the Origin of the Species “for Means of Natural Selection”, Dawkins love to forger those last words in the name of that book/haha).

    As SWJs activists the Gnus Atheist live of and for the victismhood status, BUT AS SWJs THEY FALL PREY OF OTHER GROUPS WITH MORE VICTIMHOOD STATUS (like the feminists). Most of the victimhood satus of gnus atheist come mostly from activism for the “humanitarian cause” of gay rights (gay marriage only issue, because people see marriage as a religious thing), they clash with feminists (some gnus say that women are less smart as a fact), they clash with religious humanists (gnus want all the marked, but religious activists don’t claim victimhood status when they do activism campaings), they clash with traditionalists (the gnus want to change the goverment, they are obvious in this, they don’t want “separtion of church and state” they want “state control over the church or else destruction of the church by goverment hands”) and if they are consistant with what they talk (almost never) they clash with the Islam is the “religion of peace” socio-political activism, that objetively speaking they help to create in their christian centric critics and religious relativism (christians/jews/muslims believe the same things and act the same way) for that reasons their critic againts that activism is weak, hell even MOST OF THE GAY RIGHTS ACTIVISTS SIDE WITH MUSLIMS AND THE “RELIGION OF PEACE” FREE PASS.

    Note: Do you remenber that Dawkins want to give the eugenetics a pass because is scientific and the NAZI regimne don’t exist anymore (Yet the SWJs, wich includes most gnus atheist, claim that Trump and the “white male, mostly christians people” are nazis by default).

  4. mechanar says:

    @Regual Llegna good that you mentioned the personality cult in communism because I believe those that put it forward dont even know its implications, gnus say we must get rid of religion and there was a totalitarian state that tried to do exactly that only that its non faith got replaced with another so what chance do the gnus have? They dont even want to use violence.

    But more important than that is that it follows logicly that if religion can not be eradicated than the only solution for violence within faith is not no faith but better faith.

  5. Great post Michael, couldn’t have said it better myself.

  6. Jeff says:

    I assume atheists have no problem teaching children to be atheists. Hypocrisy much?

  7. itsonlyphotos says:

    The heartless attack on an Islamic Center in Quebec City is still under investigation, so it’s not clear right now what motivated the shooter, although it appears he may be a white nationalist (interestingly, he listed in the likes page for a social media profile that he is interested in both Richard Dawkins and Edward Feser, a strange combination to say the least). The reason I mention this is that based upon my online experience, the alt-right, white nationalist, save the west, Pepe the Frog crowd contain a not insignificant amount of atheists. Many of them base their racialism in part on evolutionary theory and anthropology – two unfortunate victims in their crusade. This is of course not to say that their lack of belief is what primarily motivates them. Nevertheless, their crudity and desperate obsessions are reinforced by the idea that we are but effluent, drifting in a dirty cosmic sewage stream. Doubtless some of them will indoctrinate their children in this way of thinking. I can’t help but feel that is also the way many people who see nothing wrong with snuffing out the lives of the unborn feel. If life is so meaningless, why bother caring about anything? Do we really think that raising children to have no curiosity about the possibility of transcendence is a preferable option than to having them share in a faith community with their family? People believe for a whole range of reasons that is often very personal and specific to the individual. Plenty of people eschew the faith of their childhood only to return to it later in life when the strangeness of existing at all causes them to seek and perhaps find what they see as meaning and purpose. This idea that bringing your child to mass will warp their minds is idiotic and undeserving of any serious consideration. Ours is a culture that is fixated on stuff like the new iPhone or the acquisition of newer, better products. It probably gets more and more like that each year. That only seems to add more misery in our lives. So isn’t a little searching for the transcendent better than nothing? Would seem that if nothing else, it gives people a little hope and a little less reason to give in to helplessness.

  8. Kevin says:

    I’m not surprised if many of the same people who were attracted to the New Atheist movement are also attracted to the edgier side of the alt right movement. Both encourage open mockery of a prevailing cultural standard, so there is likely a psychological desire they are fulfilling.

  9. pennywit says:

    I raise my children without religion. If somebody tries to interfere with or undermine that, I would have to exercise a great deal of restraint not to commit violence. I suspect a religious person feels the same about somebody who interferes with raising his children in a faith. Seems to me that unless a parent asks for advice on the topic, it’s not up to others to weigh in.

  10. Vy says:

    I raise my children without religion

    So not as Atheists? BTW, didn’t you say something different about your step-children or something like that?

  11. pennywit says:

    BTW, didn’t you say something different about your step-children or something like that?

    Indeed. Stepson’s father has him go to church. I’m not sure if it’s for religious reasons or social reasons, but it’s not my place to interfere with that. So I don’t, out of basic courtesy and respect.

    Something with which, as I recall, you are unfamiliar.

  12. Vy says:

    Something with which, as I recall, you are unfamiliar.

    So you claim. But carry on.

  13. Occupy Reality says:

    “…It must be extended to all forms of socialization that involves beliefs. If religious indoctrination is child abuse, political indoctrination is child abuse. If taking your children to church is child abuse, taking your children to a Bernie Sanders rally is child abuse. If praying with your children is wrong, talking about politics at the dinner table with children present is wrong. If you can’t “force” religion on children, you can’t “force” politics on children either….”

    One false equivalence after another.
    Shame.

    Name a single form of political indoctrination that threatens pre-age of reason children with burning in hell in a mythical after life for not believing nonsense.

    You don’t seem to understand the kind of indoctrination of children that occurs in most religions.
    It is in no sense the same as attending a political rally.

  14. Vy says:

    One false equivalence after another.
    Shame.

    Asserting it doesn’t make so.

    Name a single form of political indoctrination that threatens pre-age of reason children with burning in hell in a mythical after life for not believing nonsense.

    Comprehension is key, you seem to be lacking it. Cherry-picking the part of Christianity that makes you all butthurt and trying to use that as a standard to deny the equivalencies drawn by Mike is just sad.

    As for political indoctrination based on threats, here ya go.

    You don’t seem to understand the kind of indoctrination of children that occurs in most religions.

    YOU don’t seem to understand anything Mike said.

  15. Kevin says:

    “Name a single form of political indoctrination that threatens pre-age of reason children with burning in hell in a mythical after life for not believing nonsense.”

    Yawn. The question is whether teaching beliefs to children is child abuse. Do you believe that the teaching of parents’ beliefs to their children is child abuse?

    It does appear that reality is occupied by a foreign entity.

  16. pennywit says:

    It strikes me that “Do X/Don’t do X or your’e burn in Hell” is one approach to a religious upbringing.

  17. Vy says:

    It strikes me that “Do X/Don’t do X or your’e burn in Hell” is one approach to a religious upbringing.

    For me, it was “Do X and get that thing you wanted/because I asked you to” and “Don’t do X else you’ll lose that Y/you’re not going to like me”. Hell was an absolute non-topic, except on sunny days.

  18. pennywit says:

    For me, it was “Do X and get that thing you wanted/because I asked you to” and “Don’t do X else you’ll lose that Y/you’re not going to like me”. Hell was an absolute non-topic, except on sunny days.

    I’m sure some parent, somewhere,uses the line. That doesn’t mean every religious parent does it. As I said above, I don’t think a religious upbringing is child abuse unless it actually involves child abuse. I will say, though, that every so often I read a news story about religious parents (typically from the religious fringe) who deny their kids necessary medical treatment because of their religious beliefs. I know such parents are a minority, but that sort of behavior infuriates me.

  19. Occupy Reality says:

    {“One false equivalence after another.
    Shame.”}

    “Asserting it doesn’t make so.”

    LOL
    Exactly.
    Thanks for supporting my case.

    Mikey says:

    religious indoctrination = political indoctrination

    church attendance = Sanders rally attendance

    talking to an imaginary friend in front of kids = talking about very real political realities

    And he implies that people are forcing politics on children in the same way the christers are forcing religion on them.

    All bare assertions.

    Fail.

    {“Name a single form of political indoctrination that threatens pre-age of reason children with burning in hell in a mythical after life for not believing nonsense.”}

    “Comprehension is key, you seem to be lacking it. Cherry-picking the part of Christianity that makes you all butthurt and trying to use that as a standard to deny the equivalencies drawn by Mike is just sad.”

    LOL
    So you can’t name any then.
    I thought as much.

    Here, educare yourself on the informal logical fallacy you insist on repeating:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Appeal_to_motive

    “As for political indoctrination based on threats, here ya go.”

    Hilarious.
    A single, not quite sane mother in Texas. Is that really the best you can do?

    {“You don’t seem to understand the kind of indoctrination of children that occurs in most religions.”}

    “YOU don’t seem to understand anything Mike said.”

    Ad hominem. No response.
    Duly noted.

    Have you actually been to a christian Sunday school class for pre-adolescents recently?
    I think not.

  20. Occupy Reality says:

    “Yawn.”

    Sorry, you don’t get to pretend you’re bored until you demonstrate understanding of the subject at hand.

    “The question is whether teaching beliefs to children is child abuse.”

    No, the question is whether parents allowing and participating in the forced indoctrination of children using the threat of an mythical hell in a mythical after life is child abuse.
    Please try to keep up.

    “Do you believe that the teaching of parents’ beliefs to their children is child abuse?”

    I believe that forcing children before the age of reason to believe anything without examining it critical is damaging.
    Whether it rises to the level of child abuse depends on the extent of the damage inflicted.
    A life time of subconscious/semi-conscious fear definitely qualifies.

    “It does appear that reality is occupied by a foreign entity.”

    LOL
    Let me check around for a moment.
    Nope, no imaginary friends here in reality.

    “I’m not surprised if many of the same people who were attracted to the New Atheist movement are also attracted to the edgier side of the alt right movement. Both encourage open mockery of a prevailing cultural standard, so there is likely a psychological desire they are fulfilling.”

    I personally despise the alt right/nazi movement for it’s denial of reality which has become f=very much like a religion for most of them.
    Naziism, being a religious movement at its core, doesn’t seem to attract many atheists.

    And invoking a “prevailing cultural standrad” is crass argumentum ad populum.

    Shame.

  21. Occupy Reality says:

    “It strikes me that “Do X/Don’t do X or your’e burn in Hell” is one approach to a religious upbringing.”

    I can’t argue with that.
    There are, however, many religions that don’t do that and very few denominations of christianity’s 33,000 + that don’t do that in varying degrees.

  22. Occupy Reality says:

    “For me, it was “Do X and get that thing you wanted/because I asked you to” and “Don’t do X else you’ll lose that Y/you’re not going to like me”.”

    Sounds like you were one of the lucky ones.
    Are you letting your own experience color your opinions on the broad subject here?

    “Hell was an absolute non-topic, except on sunny days.”

    What is relevant is did you know about “hell” and did you believe in “hell”?
    Christians have a couple of millennia’s practice in applying just the right amount of argumentum ad baculum to achieve the desired result.

  23. Kevin says:

    “Sorry, you don’t get to pretend you’re bored until you demonstrate understanding of the subject at hand.”

    You are not qualified to judge whether I have demonstrated such, based on what you’ve shown so far.

    “No, the question is whether parents allowing and participating in the forced indoctrination of children using the threat of an mythical hell in a mythical after life is child abuse.”

    Given that only anti-religious bigots use this sort of terminology, I certainly see no reason to agree. Feel free to try again, in more rational language.

    “I believe that forcing children before the age of reason to believe anything without examining it critical is damaging.”

    Forcing children before the age of reason…in other words, before they are able to examine critically…so a re-write would be “I believe that forcing children to believe anything without examining it critically, before they are able to examine critically, is damaging.” In other words, children should figure things out for themselves without any input from their parents or teachers? I’m sure you don’t mean something this stupid, so explain how my re-wording is incorrect.

    “Whether it rises to the level of child abuse depends on the extent of the damage inflicted.
    A life time of subconscious/semi-conscious fear definitely qualifies”

    So for the vast majority of Christians, not child abuse. Thank you.

    “Nope, no imaginary friends here in reality.”

    Bigots tend to have a very distorted view of reality. Perhaps if you weren’t blinded by your disdain for religion, you could approach the subject in a rational manner.

    “And invoking a “prevailing cultural standrad” is crass argumentum ad populum.”

    It’s so cute when someone finds the list of fallacies and tries accusing people of using them, while also completely missing the point.

  24. Vy says:

    Sounds like you were one of the lucky ones.
    Are you letting your own experience color your opinions on the broad subject here?

    Says the guy beating a strawman based on his immense fear of hell and delusions about what a many Christian parents teach their kids.

    What is relevant is did you know about “hell” and did you believe in “hell”?

    What is relevant is why do you think that red herring is relevant?

    Christians have a couple of millennia’s practice in applying just the right amount of argumentum ad baculum to achieve the desired result.

    Keep beating that strawman.

  25. Occupy Reality says:

    “…You are not qualified to judge whether I have demonstrated such, based on what you’ve shown so far.”

    Uhm, yea, I am.
    I demonstrated that you did’t understand what the topic of conversation was.
    Case closed.

    {“No, the question is whether parents allowing and participating in the forced indoctrination of children using the threat of an mythical hell in a mythical after life is child abuse.”}

    “Given that only anti-religious bigots use this sort of terminology, I certainly see no reason to agree. Feel free to try again, in more rational language.”

    There is nothing irrational in that statement.
    And there is nothing rational in an ad hominem.
    If you have no argument or rebuttal why bother posting?
    Are you here just to get some warm fuzzy fee fees by defending ‘jesus’?

    {“I believe that forcing children before the age of reason to believe anything without (teaching them how to) examine… it critical(ly) is damaging.”}

    “Forcing children before the age of reason…in other words, before they are able to examine critically…so a re-write would be “I believe that forcing children to believe anything without examining it critically, before they are able to examine critically, is damaging.”

    I clarified it since you don’t understand the principle of “charity” in logical argument.
    And don’t pretend that you didn’t understand what I meant.
    It is damaging to be forced to believe anything-at any age.

    {“Forced worship is the worst hell imaginable.”
    Thomas Jefferson

    And not being taught or allowed to think critically is damaging as well.

    “In other words, children should figure things out for themselves without any input from their parents or teachers? I’m sure you don’t mean something this stupid, so explain how my re-wording is incorrect.”

    Not even close to what I meant or said.
    And I’m sure you didn’t mean to say something so stupid as pretending I said that children
    would learn critical thinking without being taught….

    {“Whether it rises to the level of child abuse depends on the extent of the damage inflicted.
    A life time of subconscious/semi-conscious fear definitely qualifies.”}

    “So for the vast majority of Christians, not child abuse. Thank you.”

    So you mistake bare assertion for argument once again, Thank you.

    {“Nope, no imaginary friends here in reality.”}

    “Bigots tend to have a very distorted view of reality. Perhaps if you weren’t blinded by your disdain for religion, you could approach the subject in a rational manner.”

    Hilarious coming from the guy who just posted:

    “…Given that only anti-religious bigots use this sort of terminology…”

    …and went on to claim that perfectly rational arguments are irrational simply because they violate his received opinions.

    I couldn’t invent stuff this funny if I tried.

    “And invoking a “prevailing cultural standard” is crass argumentum ad populum.”

    “It’s so cute when someone finds the list of fallacies and tries accusing people of using them, while also completely missing the point.”

    Hahahahahahahahaha…..

    Says the guy who tried to conflate ‘indoctrination’ with ‘teaching’ and missed the point completely.

    Sorry, an appeal to “prevailing cultural standards” is indeed argumentum ad populum.

    If you don’t understand that get an adult to explain the big words.

  26. Vy says:

    As to this mess, is there some kind of bug in your device that inserts large swaths of space in your comment when you hit the “Post Comment” button?
    Quite impressive how you manage to be the direct opposite of Nic wrt text formatting.

    Anyways…

    LOL
    Exactly.
    Thanks for supporting my case.

    Mikey says:

    [… strawman …]

    Fail.

    Fail indeed.

    LOL
    So you can’t name any then.
    I thought as much.

    Sorry I don’t pander to your delusions about religious upbringing being indoctrination. Perhaps Jerry Coyne’s minions might help you with that.

    Here, educare yourself on the informal logical fallacy you insist on repeating:

    You have to take yourself a little bit more seriously.

    Hilarious.
    A single, not quite sane mother in Texas. Is that really the best you can do?

    Of course she’s not quite sane, I wonder how what seems to be her digital brother found this blog.

    Ad hominem. No response.
    Duly noted.

    Selective blindness and medalist in Victimhood Olympics. Got it.

    Have you actually been to a christian Sunday school class for pre-adolescents recently?
    I think not.

    Can your mind come up with something actually relevant to the post or are you gonna post another comment demonstrating how terrified you are of hell?

  27. Occupy Reality says:

    Vy

    “….Says the guy beating a strawman based on his immense fear of hell and delusions about what a many Christian parents teach their kids.”

    It was a serious question-not rhetorical.
    Can you be certain you are not?

    And I have no fear of hell-sorry, you’re projecting.
    And I have a great deal of data not only from my own life but other sources on what and how christers teach their children.
    I’m quite convinced that if the indoctrination of children by the religious were not allowed religion would die out completely in two generations.
    That said, I’ve never heard of this Zoltan Istvan guy and don’t agree with him. He doesn’t speak for me. Outlawing parents indoctrination of children would be completely unworkable. We, the rational, will have to be content to deal with the wrecks they create and heal society as well and as widely as we can.

    {“What is relevant is did you know about “hell” and did you believe in “hell”?

    “What is relevant is why do you think that red herring is relevant?”

    You offered your own experience as argument. I did not.
    And it’s relevant, not a red herring, because the answer to those questions would reveal whether you fell to the fear….or not.

    {“Christians have a couple of millennia’s practice in applying just the right amount of argumentum ad baculum to achieve the desired result.”}

    “Keep beating that strawman.”

    Sorry, it’s a fact.
    Until just 300 years ago in christendom, ‘heresy’, which included atheism, would get you banned banished or burned. You’d best conclude that parents took their responsibility to keep their progeny off of the pyre very seriously indeed and that rebellion against Kevin’s “prevailing cultural standards”
    was bred out of populations in rapid order.

    No strawman-just logic which you are free to dispute if you can.

  28. Vy says:

    Uhm, yea, I am.
    I demonstrated that you did’t understand what the topic of conversation was.
    Case closed.

    Surely you kid. Kevin doesn’t understand the topic at hand but you, the one so terrified of hell he thinks that’s all virtually every Christian tells their kids about, understands the topic at hand? LOL!

  29. Vy says:

    Can you be certain you are not?

    Can you point out where “hell” is mentioned in the article?

    And I have no fear of hell-sorry, you’re projecting.

    Riiiiiiight. Please try to be a little more subtle when you’re trying to do stuff like that.

    And I have a great deal of data not only from my own life but other sources on what and how christers teach their children.

    Well I’d love to meet a “christer” whatever that is.

    I’m quite convinced that if the indoctrination of children by the religious were not allowed religion would die out completely in two generations.

    Take a history lesson. Atheist zealots lose every time they try to end non-Atheistic religions.

    That said, I’ve never heard of this Zoltan Istvan guy and don’t agree with him

    That is the first relevant thing you’ve said. Congrats.

    He doesn’t speak for me. Outlawing parents indoctrination of children would be completely unworkable.

    Meanwhile, “I’m quite convinced that if the indoctrination of children by the religious were not allowed religion would die out completely in two generations”.

    We, the rational, will have to be content to deal with the wrecks they create and heal society as well and as widely as we can.

    You, the irrational, would fit quite nicely with your Atheist brethren of the past who would do anything to promote their beliefs.

    You offered your own experience as argument. I did not.
    And it’s relevant, not a red herring, because the answer to those questions would reveal whether you fell to the fear….or not.

    I was responding to a comment by another poster. Your lack of comprehension is completely unsurprising. And yes, your post is a complete red herring wrt to the OP. Your fear of hell is still adorable though.

    Until just 300 years ago in christendom, ‘heresy’, which included atheism, would get you banned banished or burned.

    You mean like the League did with the religions that threatened theirs? Or is it their predecessors?

  30. Occupy Reality says:

    Oh, Vy, Vy, Vy….

    I’m sorry I made you angry.

    Are you going to go back and try to fisk every comment I’ve made?

    What a waste.
    Are you lonely?

    Sorry, dear, the percentage of christers who don’t believe in hell and indoctrinate their children to fear hell is pretty small.

    {“…58% of U.S. adults also believe in hell…”}

    http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2015/11/10/most-americans-believe-in-heaven-and-hell/

    And it’s far, far higher in Latin America and Africa.

    Kevin’s understanding, or rather deliberate misunderstanding is clear.
    Go back and read it again.

    And I’m jocularly amused at your insistence that I fear your imaginary after life and threats of burning forever. It shows that you were indeed indoctrinated with the concept.

    Do you understand the term “projection”?
    You used it on me, remember?

  31. Vy says:

    I’m sorry I made you angry.

    LOL! I’m sure there’s an Atheist out there who can make me angry, a butthurt Atheist who can’t get past the thought of hell is no way near one of them.

    What a waste.
    Are you lonely?

    Do you need something to collect your thoughts? Last time I checked, Cortana, Siri and Now were free.

    “…58% of U.S. adults also believe in hell…”

    And 40+% are creationists, 60+% are not Atheists, there is no country that has a population of 50% Atheists. Ya see, I can post red herrings too.

    Do you understand the term “projection”?
    You used it on me, remember?

    Do you?

  32. Occupy Reality says:

    Vy, oh sad, sad, Vy,

    “As to this mess, is there some kind of bug in your device that inserts large swaths of space in your comment when you hit the “Post Comment” button?”

    I assume I’m writing for people who have trouble with big words and following thoughts longer than sound bites. Experience here bears that out.

    “Quite impressive how you manage to be the direct opposite of Nic wrt text formatting.”

    We aim to please. LOL

    “Anyways…”
    … (snippage)

    “Mikey says:

    [… strawman …]

    Fail.”

    Calling something a strawman without demonstrating it is….what was that you used again….
    a “bald” assertion.

    “Fail indeed.”

    Yup, and now you’re doubling down.
    I’m sad for you once again.

    {“LOL
    So you can’t name any then.
    I thought as much.”}

    “Sorry I don’t pander to your delusions about religious upbringing being indoctrination. Perhaps Jerry Coyne’s minions might help you with that.”

    A personal attack instead of an argument-this is getting old, dear.

    {“Here, educare yourself on the informal logical fallacy you insist on repeating:


    (snippage)

    “You have to take yourself a little bit more seriously.”

    And you need to take yourself waaaaay less seriously, dear.

    {“Hilarious.
    A single, not quite sane mother in Texas. Is that really the best you can do?”}

    “Of course she’s not quite sane…”

    And of course she is so rare that she is the single instance you could come up with. LOL
    And this doesn’t bother you at all? Doesn’t make you question your position?
    Wow.

    “I wonder how what seems to be her digital brother found this blog.”

    I would never, ever treat a child that way under any circumstances.
    Nor would I tell them they will burn forever if they don’t love ‘jesus’.

    {“Ad hominem. No response.
    Duly noted.”}

    “Selective blindness and medalist in Victimhood Olympics. Got it.”

    Ad homnem and “bald” assertion.

    As I said, I think we’re done here since you’ve got nothing.

    {“Have you actually been to a christian Sunday school class for pre-adolescents recently?
    I think not.”}

    “Can your mind come up with something actually relevant to the post or are you gonna post another comment demonstrating how terrified you are of hell?”

    If you don’t see the relevance of defining exactly how christian indoctrination is performed I really can’t talk to you anymore.

    ‘Bye.

  33. TFBW says:

    @Occupy Reality:
    Let’s assume for a moment that everything you say is correct, including this highly unsubstantiated claim (which most of the Christians present can testify against from their own experience):

    There are, however, many religions that don’t do that and very few denominations of christianity’s 33,000 + that don’t do that in varying degrees.

    As I say, let’s assume it’s all correct. If it’s all correct, then you have done nothing to refute the original post, which debunked the “religion as child abuse” argument. In fact, you have supported it. It’s your contention (a la Dawkins) that the threat of hell is abusive, and also that “many religions don’t do that.” Therefore, although some religion might be abusive, religion is not abuse — not unless you can demonstrate that all other religions have some similar essential element, and you’ve made no attempt to demonise anything but Christianity so far.

    What you’re arguing for is a totally different proposition: that (a) the doctrine of hell is psychological abuse as applied to children, and (b) the doctrine of hell is a core tenet of Christianity, therefore (c) raising a child in Christianity entails child abuse. That argument is arrant nonsense for many reasons, of course, but those reasons are not elucidated in this article. Maybe Michael could write a separate article debunking Dawkins’ “teaching hell as child abuse” position specifically. There’s probably one in the archives already, in fact.

    Offhand, though, the biggest flaw in the argument is that it’s contradicted by data. If it’s all true (that the idea of hell is harmful and also core to Christianity), then why is there no evidence that kids raised in Christianity have suffered psychological abuse? On the contrary, they are (as a demographic) generally well-adjusted. The empirical data would seem to falsify the theory that the upbringing entails abuse of any kind.

    So much for occupying reality.

  34. Occupy Reality says:

    Oh, Vy….

    You can’t even remember the conversations you’re cutting and pasting from now.

    Really, we are so very finished here.

  35. Vy says:

    Vy, oh sad, sad, Vy,

    I’m about to go to bed but if you keep that up, I’m gonna wake up somebody because of the laughs.

    I assume I’m writing for people who have trouble with big words and following thoughts longer than sound bites

    Yet another demonstration of your abysmal reading comprehension.

    Read: “is there some kind of bug in your device that inserts large swaths of space in your comment when you hit the “Post Comment” button?”.

    We aim to please. LOL

    Seeing as Nic’s comments had words begging for breathing space, you sure have. So congrats on that “rebuttal” to my comment you posted. LOL!

    If you don’t see the relevance of defining exactly how christian indoctrination is performed I really can’t talk to you anymore.

    Please, do define exactly what Christian indoctrination is and how it is performed. Mind you, there are actual Christians here so your fear of hell need not apply.

  36. Vy says:

    You can’t even remember the conversations you’re cutting and pasting from now.

    Wow, what other demonstration of clairvoyance can you offer?

    Really, we are so very finished here.

    You continue to blurt that out like it means anything. Hmm, you don’t have any more hell fearmongering to offer?

  37. Occupy Reality says:

    TFBW

    “There are, however, many religions that don’t do that and very few denominations of christianity’s 33,000 + that don’t do that in varying degrees.”

    Which part are you claiming is unsubstantiated?

    “As I say, let’s assume it’s all correct. If it’s all correct, then you have done nothing to refute the original post, which debunked the “religion as child abuse” argument. ”

    Have you read all my posts here?
    What you quote was intended as a response to ‘Vy’, poor girl, not as a response to Mikey.
    It is, of course a part of my argument but please don’t take it as the whole.
    Unless you can come up with examples of political parents or institutions that use anything comparable to the threat of eternal burning to “indoctrinate” (and I will exclude communism here because in my studied opinion it as an irrational religion and not what we’re discussiing at present)
    I have indeed shot a major hole in Mikey’s arguments.

    “In fact, you have supported it. It’s your contention (a la Dawkins) that the threat of hell is abusive….”

    Correct.
    And for the record, I was saying it 10 years before Dr. Dawkins said it.
    And yes, it is my opinion that it is a form of abuse. Not the equivalent of rape, molestation or beating and not causing as severe effects but nonetheless, abuse.

    “…..and also that “many religions don’t do that.”

    Yes.
    “Buddhism, Hinduism, even some forms of Mormonism do not.

    “Therefore, although some religion might be abusive, religion is not abuse — not unless you can demonstrate that all other religions have some similar essential element, and you’ve made no attempt to demonise anything but Christianity so far.”

    Did I say all religion was abusive?
    Can you quote me saying that?

    And let’s be honest here, we are discussing christianity because I’m talking to christians, no?

    “What you’re arguing for is a totally different proposition: that (a) the doctrine of hell is psychological abuse as applied to children, and (b) the doctrine of hell is a core tenet of Christianity, therefore (c) raising a child in Christianity entails child abuse.”

    Pretty close.

    “That argument is arrant nonsense for many reasons, of course…”

    Of course……many….
    But I’m sure you’re much to busy to list and elucidate them. LOL

    “……but those reasons are not elucidated in this article.”

    As I state above, it’s absurd not to mention the threat of eternal suffering by burning since that is the central tool christians use in indoctrination. the ‘500 pound gorilla’ in the room as I metaphorically described it above.

    “Maybe Michael could write a separate article debunking Dawkins’ “teaching hell as child abuse” position specifically. There’s probably one in the archives already, in fact.”

    Maybe you could link me to such if it exists-I will read it and respond.
    And perhaps Mikey can explain how that near universal threat in christianity has any political equivalent outside of communism.

    “Offhand, though, the biggest flaw in the argument is that it’s contradicted by data.”

    Only if you accept Mikey’s definition of child abuse as that with creates quantifiable behavior deviations. I do not. Some things don’t leave visible scars but are still abuse.

    “If it’s all true (that the idea of hell is harmful and also core to Christianity), then why is there no evidence that kids raised in Christianity have suffered psychological abuse?”

    How do you know there isn’t?
    How would you know it if you saw it?

    {“…Like computer viruses, successful mind viruses will tend to be hard for their victims to detect….”}
    Richard Dawkins

    “On the contrary, they are (as a demographic) generally well-adjusted. The empirical data would seem to falsify the theory that the upbringing entails abuse of any kind.”

    It’s not the “upbringing”. You’re buying into Mikey’s equivocation.
    Indoctrination and socialization are not the same thing.
    Sorry.

    And again, as I said above and as you can easily verify with a bit of google research (I’d do it for you-(we atheists are generous that way, but I’m getting fatigued,) religious conclaves (at least in the US) are much more frequent users of porn, anti-dpressants and tend to be more xenophobic and authoritarian.

    “So much for occupying reality.”

    Uhm, you really think your case was that strong dude?
    Hilarious.

  38. TFBW says:

    @Occupy Reality:

    Have you read all my posts here?

    Hell no. I started outright skipping the puerile exchange between you and Vy some time ago. If you want me to read more of what you say, stop writing in the style of pre-teen schoolyard jeering.

    Only if you accept Mikey’s definition of child abuse as that with creates quantifiable behavior deviations. I do not. Some things don’t leave visible scars but are still abuse.

    Okay, then, we’re done here. If you want to occupy your own special reality with your own special definition of abuse which is the equivalent of an invisible pink unicorn in terms of its empirical consequences, then have at it. I’m not going to fight it, just so long as we’re clear about it being “abuse” in your subjective judgement, and not abuse in any kind of sense that actually produces evidence of harm.

  39. Michael says:

    Long, hard day for me. Check in on the blog and I see that Occupy has flooded the blog with over 20 comments in less than 12 hours. All of the comments seem excessively combatative and hostile. I’ve been around the internet long enough to know how all this ends. So I nipped it in the bud and banned Occupy. Like I said, it’s been a hard day so patience is paper thin. So if anyone thinks I have been too hasty and would like to see Occupy hang around, let me know.

  40. Kevin says:

    “Uhm, yea, I am. I demonstrated that you did’t understand what the topic of conversation was.”

    No you didn’t. You’re trying to pretend that there is a difference between a parent raising their children as a Christian and a parent raising their child as a progressive – there isn’t. What works for one, works for the other.

    “There is nothing irrational in that statement.”

    It isn’t based in reality, since I see no evidence that it accurately describes a religious upbringing in a general sense. Would you prefer “delusional” to “irrational”? It’s probably more appropriate, so yes, I retract “irrational” and replace it with “delusional”.

    “And there is nothing rational in an ad hominem.”

    I suspect you don’t realize that you just shot down almost every single statement you’ve made since coming to Shadow to Light.

    “Are you here just to get some warm fuzzy fee fees by defending ‘jesus’?”

    Was this another attempt at being witty? Also, Jesus is a name. It’s capitalized, for those who want to look intelligent.

    “It is damaging to be forced to believe anything-at any age.”

    Evidence?

    “Forced worship is the worst hell imaginable.” – Thomas Jefferson

    “I am so thankful that my parents raised me and my brother, C.J. to depend on God’s guidance and our faith in Him, and to always be thankful for what we receive.” – Chris Paul

    Boy, is that guy showing all the telltale signs of child abuse, or what?

    “And not being taught or allowed to think critically is damaging as well.”

    This I agree with.

    “So you mistake bare assertion for argument once again, Thank you.”

    My rebuttal rises to the level of your assertion. I may have missed it, but I have yet to see you offer any evidence to back up your claims. If I missed it, please point it out.

    “Says the guy who tried to conflate ‘indoctrination’ with ‘teaching’ and missed the point completely.”

    You are the one doing the conflating, by trying to force “teaching” into “indoctrination”, because Michael says in the OP that it is not indoctrination. I am keeping them separate, as appropriate. If you are arguing against Michael’s assertion that it is not indoctrination, and that there is a legitimate difference between raising a child with religious and political beliefs, then you need to make that case. Hell is not making your case for you. I have no reason to doubt that a parent raising their child to believe that the police and white people are racist against them and will always hold them down is going to be far, far more damaged psychologically than just about any child who hears the doctrine of hell.

    “Sorry, an appeal to “prevailing cultural standards” is indeed argumentum ad populum.”

    Do you even know what it means to appeal to something as a fallacy? Just because I mentioned the phrase “prevailing cultural standards” does not mean I was making an appeal to them. Let’s analyze, so you can learn about a new fallacy along with basic grammatical rules.

    To commit this particular fallacy, one must be using the fact that something is, say, a prevailing cultural standard, as evidence that the standard is true, by virtue of being held by a majority of people. You will notice that my exact usage was as follows:

    “I’m not surprised if many of the same people who were attracted to the New Atheist movement are also attracted to the edgier side of the alt right movement. Both encourage open mockery of a prevailing cultural standard, so there is likely a psychological desire they are fulfilling.”

    Notice now, if you reverse my first sentence, what I said was “If many of the same people…I’m not surprised.” Meaning that if indeed that is true, I would not be in the least bit surprised.

    Moving on, I state a fact (both encourage open mockery of a prevailing cultural standard). In this case, New Atheists encourage each other to openly mock religious beliefs, which are held by the majority of people and is thus the primary cultural standard. The alt-right encourages mocking of progressives and political correctness, the latter of which is also currently a cultural standard. So, combining the two sentences, if many of them are indeed attracted to both ideologies, it would not surprise me in the least, and my guess would be that mocking majority opinions appeals to some psychological desire on their part.

    Here’s the tricky part – nowhere did I appeal to some notion that because religious beliefs or political correctness are the general cultural standard, that they are therefore true. I said that they are the standards, and New Atheists and the alt-right mock them.

    Please, read up further on your fallacy list before trying to attack with it. I’m not the one getting humiliated here.

  41. Kevin says:

    “So if anyone thinks I have been too hasty and would like to see Occupy hang around, let me know.”

    No, but it’s a shame since I feel like I was on the very cusp of teaching him grammar and the proper identification of a fallacy. Oh well.

  42. Vy says:

    I get why he’s probably dedicated to writing g rather than G but “jesus”? “christian”?

    * I talk about Atheists that have a hard time capitalizing God and voila, the perfect specimen gets delivered on a platter.

  43. Vy says:

    “I’m not surprised if many of the same people who were attracted to the New Atheist movement are also attracted to the edgier side of the alt right movement. Both encourage open mockery of a prevailing cultural standard, so there is likely a psychological desire they are fulfilling.”

    Exactly my experience when I discovered the “Skeptic” community on YouTube, although it’s not really particularly hidden as the links start to appear after you watch a few of them. They’re almost entirely “God’s not real”, “Trump is better”, “SJWism and PC needs to die” Atheists.

  44. Dhay says:

    > Buddhism, Hinduism, even some forms of Mormonism do not.

    The first two teach rebirth and reincarnation into another body. Depending on your karma accumulated by the end of your current life the Hindu or Buddhist — and their children — expect to become a human who will find advancement towards final extinction easier to achieve in this next human life.

    Or become an ant or other lower life form.

    This is taught to children. Go figure whether this avoids the charge of child abuse.

    *

    Carolyn Porco has famously said, and the 2016 Reason Rally threw its weight behind her by repeatedly quoting these same words, that:

    All the atoms of our bodies will be blown into space in the disintegration of the Solar System, to live on forever as mass or energy. That’s what we should be teaching our children, not fairy tales about angels and seeing grandma in heaven.

    https://shadowtolight.wordpress.com/2016/05/31/reason-rally-loses-depp/#comment-12495

    Porco really should refrain from promoting teaching children (especially younger children who struggle with adult concepts such as the eventual disintegration of the Solar System) that they are going to be blown up and blown into space; this sounds like the stuff of child nightmares; and child abuse.

  45. FZM says:

    Dhay,

    All the atoms of our bodies will be blown into space in the disintegration of the Solar System, to live on forever as mass or energy. That’s what we should be teaching our children, not fairy tales about angels and seeing grandma in heaven.

    She seems to advocate teaching some kind of pan-vitalism, if things like mass and energy can be considered to be ‘alive’ and ‘living’. Teaching children that everything made of mass and energy should be considered ‘alive’ and will live forever might have some interesting effects, if any emphasis is placed on the idea.

  46. pennywit says:

    So if anyone thinks I have been too hasty and would like to see Occupy hang around, let me know.

    Your blog, your call. He got to be long-winded and not very interesting, so I stopped paying attention to him. That said, I know from experience that a blog where 80 percent of the regulars agree with each other is incredibly boring.

  47. Dhay says:

    pennywit > I know from experience that a blog where 80 percent of the regulars agree with each other is incredibly boring.

    Allow me to entertain you. Occupy Reality’s first post above included:

    Name a single form of political indoctrination that threatens pre-age of reason children with burning in hell in a mythical after life for not believing nonsense.

    While I rather doubt that in doing so I will disagree with 80% of the regulars, I’ll put it on record that I support Occupy Reason in opposition to anyone performing the emboldened part.

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