Sunday, October 24, 2010

Call it what it is: Hate

Brian: I argued in a set of previous posts that Dawkins' charge that raising children to be a particular religion is child abuse worse than that of pedophilia. He didn't restrict it to religious parents who scare kids with Jonathan Edwards-type hellfire threats, he made the claim general to all religious people who raise their children in a religious faith. In other words, he is referring to most parents who have ever walked on this earth. Now child abuse is, quite rightly, criminalized by law, and pedophiles are put in prison. They are forcibly prevented from continuing their abuse. If raising a child as a Methodist, for example, is worse than pedophilia, then whether he draws the conclusion or not, the only logical conclusion is that such parents should be forcibly prevented from raising their children in the way that they do. So this is NOT just an anecdote. This is someone taking Dawkins' position and drawing the only logical conclusion possible.

I had a talk with my old friend and sometime commentator here, Bob Prokop, and he said that when he was in England, and there was some kind of terrorist threat going on at the time, there were several letters to newspapers that he read which echoed this "child abuse" line. It's out there. Dawkins can't put the genie back into the bottle without recanting his position.

Of course, whether he realizes it or not, Dawkins made a scientifically testable claim, since we can measure the effects of pedophilia on its victims as opposed to the effects of religious upbringing. We can look at scholastic success, suicide rates, and other indicators of how healthy people who were raised in religious households are as opposed to the victims of pedophilia. The results, I strongly suspect, will not bear out Dawkins' claims.

In any event, let's call this what it is. It's hate. Pure and simple. To my mind, it deserves no more respect than racial hatred, or hatred of homosexuals. Atheists of good will need to repudiate it.


Mr Veale said...

I've commented at length on the previous thread. A good analysis can be read here:

Mr Veale said...

Poole isn't the first chap you'd expect to get stuck into Dawkins!

Tom Gilson said...

You're right, Victor. The science does not bear out Dawkins' claim.

PatrickH said...

Dawkins has no interest in studies on the effects of religion, or anything else about religion. In The God Delusion he stated that belief in God is like belief in Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy. There is of course an immediate problem with the claim, that is, that no adult who believes in God believes in either Santa or the TF. So it's not even clear what point Dawkins was trying to make: how can a belief be like an non-belief?

Dawkins had no studies or evidence to back his assertion...but he did have pictures: one of Santa, one of the TF, and one of "God". They were right next to one another one the page, all the same size, the pictures cropped around the figures in them so they looked kinda the same. They even had a similar colour scheme!

So that's the level Dawkins has been operating at for some time now. For a scientist, he's awfully uninterested in science. But that's okay, he's got soundbites and he's got pictures.

The sad decline of a once courageous and determined intellect.

Anonymous said...

If atheism should ever gain power, then you know it's only a matter of time before the irrational "secular humanists" in power are replaced by the more rational atheistic nihilists, rallying around one leader, who will fully recognize that there is nothing above his will and no penalty in the hereafter for whatever expression he feels like giving his will in the here and now. Of course, their nihilism will rest upon the foundation of the quite unexceptional and even typical "Realism" that we're all too familiar with -- the common faith in "science," "progress," and "enlightenment" (though not, of course, in "democracy"), together with a practical materialism which scorns all theology, metaphysics, and any thought or action concerned with any other world than the "here and now." To this extent, I firmly believe that modern atheism is inherently fascistic.

Blue Devil Knight said...

That is crazy. Where did he say that? In his Delusion book?

PatrickH said...


I don't remember reading anything like that in tGD. I do remember him making the point about religious education of children being harmful indoctrination (can't recall if he explicity called it "abuse") in that video series he did a few years back.

And wasn't he involved in (or at least approving of) of that billboard campaign about letting (as in requiring) kids grow up "free" of any religious tradition?

Anonymous said...

Bob Prokop writing:

To BDK - I've read his statements on the matter in The Guardian, and seen his appearances on British television, explicitly equating religious education in the home to child abuse, and strongly hinting that there should be laws in the UK prohibiting it.

Walter said...

Although I am not religious now, I was brought up in a religious household, and I don't feel the slightest bit abused. My parents were simply trying to teach me what they felt was right.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Even if he wants to say it is "abusive" at some level, that might be a fun discussion. And I know he does say that. But to say it is worse than pedophilia? That's just crazy attempt to be provocative. If he actually said it, I find it so hard to fathom that he'd say it that I want to see the reference so I can see the full context and what he actually said (for instance was he talking about the Catholic church sex scandals and made an off-hand quip about it).

Bobcat said...


Here you go:

Anonymous said...

Bob Prokop writing:

For those wanting exact quotes from Dawkins, here is one from his own website. "Priestly groping of child bodies is disgusting. But it may be less harmful in the long run than priestly subversion of child minds."

There, he said it. Religious upbringing is worse than pedophilia.

Mr Veale said...

He's comparing his own, very brief, experience of child abuse (he was "fondled", once, briefly, by a Priest) to the "abuse" of indoctrination, in that article.

Mr Veale said...

A few quotes from TGD

"It is said that Alfred Hitchcock, the great cinematic specialist in frightening people, was once driving through Switzerland when he suddenly pointed out the car window and said "That is the most frightening sight I have ever seen!"It was a Priest in conversation with a little boy, his hand on the boy's shoulder. Hitchcock leaned out the window and shouted "Run, little boy! Run for your life!"

TGD p357

[Personal note: we may hope the boy, and the Priest, spoke English]

Mr Veale said...

Referring to an interview with Jill Mytton.

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

[Personal note: it's nice to see a good empiricist like Dawkins affirming a belief in the "true self"]

Mr Veale said...

The previous quote was from p366

On p367 he quotes Nicholas Humphrey

"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"

[Personal note: this would make a child's religious education a matter of CRIMINAL law]

shiningwhiffle said...

To be consistent, Dawkins needs to also say that teaching kids false political views (as he defines it) is abuse and should be punished. After all, parents can be just as abusive in the name of politics as in the name of religion — imagine being told how stupid, evil, and crazy the other side is as a kid and then, in your teenage years, you find you come to agree with that side.

I think all but the most totalitarian atheist can see that allowing the state to punish teaching "wrong" views in that case of politics would be a bad idea. That they can't see that with religion speaks to either their intelligence or character.

Mr Veale said...

These quotes are meant to provide evidence for Dawkins "off the cuff" assertion on p 356.

"Once, in the question time after a lecture in Dublin, I was asked what I thought about the widely publicised cases of sexual abuse by Catholic Priests in Ireland. I replied that, as 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."

[emphasis mine, obviously]

Mr Veale said...

"But, you know, Dawkins is flying the flag for empiricism and truth. Isn’t he?"

Stephen Poole, reactive racism

Mr Veale said...

One more personal note - anyone raised in Protestant Fundamentalist circles in Ulster will recognise this sort of sectarian rant. It's just coming from an unthinking atheism, rather than a 'loyalist' community.

Blue Devil Knight said...

That article from Dawkins is pretty disgusting. I have worked with many victims of sexual abuse, and the way he is willing to pass off fondling of a boy by a priest as minor abuse is very troubling.

Yes, there are some cases of sexual abuse that are probably not as damaging as the psychological abuse from some crazy church family or the strange neglect fostered by Christian Science. But these are both so far in the tails of the distribution, to focus on them as any kind of representative samples, as if the overlap in consequences is pretty much the same, is INSANE.

As everyone has pointed out, this is an empirical question ultimately, thank goodness we don't have to consult our intuitions.

Mr Veale said...

The idea that Catholic teaching on hell led to a psychological anguish, that led to the Reformation, was considered in a much more sophisticated form by Steve Ozment.

Later study of letters and confessionals from the period showed that this was not the case. Most people - with MEDIAEVAL religious beliefs - seemed to be at peace with them. Luther was the exception, not the rule. There was no widespread horror of damnation.

This discussed by Euan Cameron in his "The European Reformation" (Oxford University Press, 1991)

J said...

equating religious education in the home to child abuse

Dawkins may be doing his usual alarmist schtick, but religious education--or be raised in a theocracy-- can certainly be dangerous and/or sadistic, in some circumstances. Can we say Brigham Young, and the Holy Nephite state of Utah? (and much of AZ for that matter) Yeahh. You put on yr magic mormonic undies, Jed Jr and Sarah...

many other examples might be found--WASP, catholic, jew, or muslim. And given the priestly scandal in Ireland I don't think his remarks are that extreme.

Mr Veale said...

I'm sorry? You think being a Roman Catholic leads inexorably to paedophilia? Even Dawkins denies this?
And being raised as a Mormon causes harm commensurate with a sexual assault?

Or are you making another point - that Religious Convictions shouldn't give protection from Criminal Law? So, suppose, for example,you consider beating your wife to be a Religious Duty. This obviously shouldn't give a jot of protection before the law.

Of course there could be an intrinsically evil religion - Heaven's Gate springs to mind. Or the personality cults that spring up around certain political leaders. But criminal law does not exist to eliminate evil, or to protect us from spiritual or intellectual harm. The state should not have the power to police family life.

But Dawkins' contention is that a religious upbringing can cause psychological harm commensurate with child sexual abuse. And that would give the state a duty to police a child's upbringing.

J said...

I'm sorry? You think being a Roman Catholic leads inexorably to paedophilia? Even Dawkins denies this?
And being raised as a Mormon causes harm commensurate with a sexual assault?


Good writers avoid Hypothetical questions . Anyway, I don't quite think that (well...Moroni-ism might :]). Nor did Dawkins say that exactly. It's another generalization, but anecdotally speaking, many people raised in fundamentalist families (including catholic) have nightmares they could relate. The article posted on Dawkins' site features a catholic lady speaking of her being abused in a priest's vehicle when she was 7. I know of similar cases, both catholic and protestant (and frankly, many WASP and Mormon scandals go unreported, for whatever reason)-.

So from a pragmatist POV I would say religious education does often entail abuse of various sorts--perhaps not always sexual, but including violence, or various types of sadism--e.g., a few months ago in a Baptist warehouse near Palmdale a kid was forced to run a gauntlet for being suspected of being a "sissy' or something, and the teachers are known to box ears, use corporal punishment etc (I myself was subjected to corporate punishment by baptists and mormons when young, even in public school---that often happens when hick protestants control school boards and run schools....well, maybe you can connect the dots)

shiningwhiffle said...

And being raised as a Mormon causes harm commensurate with a sexual assault?

As someone raised Mormon, I can vouch for the harm Mormon culture inflicts. Maybe not as bad as sexual assault in all cases, but still quite abusive emotionally.

You're taught that God loves you conditionally, and that every sin you commit adds to what Jesus suffered in the garden of Gesthemene. Some sins can get you "disfellowshipped" — forbidden to partake of communion for months or even a year or more — during which time you're considered unworthy to be go to the highest kingdom of heaven should you die.

You're pressured to get married ASAP, and more than one couple have gotten married young just so they could have sex. If you don't get married and sealed in the temple (God help you if you get married in just a civil wedding so non-Mormon friends can attend), you'll be denied the chance to be married in heaven and become a god with your own world and spirit children. Men are told if they're not married by 25, they're a menace to the church.

You're also basically told not to read anything that goes against church teachings, to the point my mother was once reprimanded for reading vampire novels, and told she should stick to church-published fiction.

And that's just for starters.

J said...

If you don't get married and sealed in the temple (God help you if you get married in just a civil wedding so non-Mormon friends can attend), you'll be denied the chance to be married in heaven and become a god with your own world and spirit children.

There you have it, Mr. Veale. LDS insists that you either marry young in the Temple, or no celestial Star-Kingdom for you, or your star-seed receptacle, and/or Nephite offspring. Might as well join the ...Lamanites. that case, religious indoctrination did result in negatives.

(bad joss, S-whiff.)

Blue Devil Knight said...

I'm not arguing that religious upbringings can't be psychologically damaging, but comparing it to sexual abuse is over the top: it's a credibility killer.

Again, lots of people with anecdotes, this is an empirical statistical question. Could it turn out that Dawkins is right? In theory, yes. In practice, I'd say zero.

Mr Veale said...


My goodness, I wouldn't claim to be a good writer. I wouldn't even claim to be moderate. I'm an Ulsterman. We just about manage English on the best of days.

I think that I would like to see empirical data that "fundamentalist" beliefs are a strong predictor of physical or sexual abuse.

If you read CS Lewis' autobiography, or Roald Dahl's for that matter, you get an insight into the casual brutality and sexual abuse that took place in English public schools. So religious belief isn't necessary for abuse to occur.

J said...

As I just pointed out, that an educator works in a public school doesn't mean that he's not a fundamentalist of whatever type. The catholics have their own private schools, for the most part. The WASPs and Mormons on the other hand just take over the school district.

As far as ye olde empirical confirmation/verification goes, it would be difficult to prove without relying upon a great number of anecdotal reports--and there is a danger with false accusations (which has happened with some catholic parishes).

I think Dawkins meant that one incident of sexual abuse, however horrible, hardly compares to years of indoctrination under sadistic priests or preachers, of whatever type.

Mr Veale said...

Oh, call me Graham. (I use "Mr" as I'm a High School teacher, and I've used blogs in the past with my students.)

I'm also with BDK. The sort of intellectual and spiritual harm described here is real harm. But it does not seem commensurate with the harm caused by sexual abuse, and I think that the quotes from TGD show that this is Dawkins' contention.

I would also add that a secularist morals could harm children. In fact, as a High School teacher, I don't have any doubt of this at all.
Sexual liberty threatens their health, violent and nihilistic entertainment damages their psyche, and "affluenza" causes psychological harm.
But that does not imply that most families with a secular outlook expose their children to violent and nihilistic entertainment, encourage sexual experimentation or endorse consumerism.

(And, let's be honest, we've all read right wing Christian commentators who allege that a secular childhood, and a secular education, will necessarily be hedonistic, materialistic and nihilistic.)

Bottom line - we need to look beyond a families belief system to ascertain the quality of parenting.

Mr Veale said...

"I think Dawkins meant that one incident of sexual abuse, however horrible, hardly compares to years of indoctrination under sadistic priests or preachers, of whatever type"

1) I don't think that's true if we leave out the sadism, and stick to mere indoctrination.
2) It's the sadism, not the religious belief, that is doing the damage. Indoctrination by sadistic psychologists and therapists would be just as damaging.

J said...

Yes, I agree that a statist or totalitarian regime might in principle be as bad as theocracy--yet that's not really the comparison. In a sense, one might say...educators (usually males...but not always) often take advantage of their position of power over students, and abuse kids (female and male), but that it seems more common in religious schools (for various reasons).

I just heard a report of a SD priest who molested 12-13 year olds. He was an educator as well. 7 mil. bail. Some of us try to be charitable--on the whole, I find catholics , at least the laypeople,generally more intelligent than the WASP-bots--but with these sorts of scandals happening every day, you start to sympathize with some of the somewhat virtuous secularists, even the fiendish Dawkins, regardless if you have the official/hackademic data on abuse or not.

muddleglum said...

Interesting, I checked into Mr. Dawkin's blog about a week ago on the same subject. I wouldn't want to push it too hard, but I don't trust his thinking.

BTW, I had the secretary of a national humanist society (I think) as a teacher in High School. He indoctrinated the students with his thinking, but also treated me like a leper. I didn't realize it at that time, but he made me much more depressed than I was. I became a Christian years later. I'm sure he did NOT realize what damage he did to me.

I'm not saying that a secular humanist will necessarily be like that, but that Dawkins should remember not to throw stones in glass houses.

Mr Veale said...

1) If you are alleging that conservative religious beliefs lead to child abuse, then the data is all important. (a)It's an empirical claim that can't be tested by gut feelings (b) the alternative to rigorous testing is trial by media (c)It's redolent of Nazi claims that the Jews must be behind German woes, or Stalinist beliefs that there must be Trotskyite or capitalist conspiracy at work in Russia.

2) In any case, the argument is not about a link between conservative religious belief and rates of abuse (in fact Dawkins dismisses such a link in TGD). Dawkins assertion is that a religious upbringing causes as much harm as sexual abuse. This is so EVEN IN CASES WHERE THERE IS NO ACCOMPANYING PHYSICAL OR SEXUAL ABUSE!
On the "gut feeling" test that you accept, this just seems hateful nonsense. So there is a strong burden of proof on Dawkins.
So far he has cited an interview with a psychologist/therapist, some applause in Dublin and an apocryphal story about Alfred Hitchcock.

(apologies for the caps, I can't work html tags)

J said...

IN a legal or academic context, perhaps, but as far as the American public goes, they hear about a few horrible reports of molestation (whether catholic, or protestant) and begin to form opinions and doubts, so forth. How many reports/cases/incidents would suffice to call into question religious education? There have been many reports.

Really I'm not a big fan of Dawkins, Hitchens and Co--their suggestion of arresting the Pope was fairly nutty--, but the sex scandals have provided the neo-atheists with quite a bit of ammunition--and I don't always disagree with 'em. Better virtuous skeptics (even somewhat virtuous) than corrupt sleazy believers and clergymen. Jefferson and Bertrand Russell over Falwell or Hagee or ...Cardinal Mahoney for that matter, any day of the week (and if Christ somehow... exists, he probably agrees...or JC himself's a tyrant.)

Mr Veale said...

Actually, you're onto something...speaking to preachers

Luke 17

1Jesus said to his disciples: "Things that cause people to sin are bound to come, but woe to that person through whom they come. 2It would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around his neck than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin. 3So watch yourselves."

Mr Veale said...

Has a post been removed here?

Arthur said...

Tried posting this twice yesterday.This time will post it in a number of smaller posts instead to see if that works..

Mr Veale said -"I'm also with BDK. The sort of intellectual and spiritual harm described here is real harm. But it does not seem commensurate with the harm caused by sexual abuse, and I think that the quotes from TGD show that this is Dawkins' contention."

Well its not something i enjoy being open about,but the truth is ive been subjected to both types abuses in my youth ,sexual and spiritual .And one thing for certain i cant help feeling sexual abuse would be far easier to deal with with the help of some family.Yet childhood inforced fear of hell often leads to family becoming enchained within cults and faith beliefs, where by family then really seems to become almost no longer available or even interested in the problem of the sex abuse.

Hense why in so many cases of sex abuse within faith, often it dont even get reported, sadly even by the abused persons very own family.I can also personally vouch for this very situation too.And this part is what led to me not receiving any counciling until years and years later when in reality it was really become to late.

To be honest i cant really agree with the thoughts of BDK on this matter.Sexual abuse does not ? inforce a thought into the mind of the abused, that the sexual abuse is going to possible be life threatening and maybe even possibly be everlasting in some eternal ! afterlife also.

Where as threats of hell and eternal damnation forced upon the very young brains of the youth ,can most definatly seem possibly very likely eternal ! when imposed by certain faiths.

Its partly why whole groups of people can even willfully follow faith leaders even in the face of their own death, as had happened in Jonestown .And its this very real fear of posibility of eternal hell that still forever enchains many GROUPS of folks in some abusive faith groups worldwide.Its why fear of hell and eternal damnation stops some family members from even caring enough about those around them, to bother to report sex abuse.

Arthur said...

Id like to know where abouts in the whole wide world it can actually be said that sex abuse has the effect of being able to enchain whole GROUPS of people in such real paralyzing fear ?.BDK would you care to be the one to provide this type evidence ? ,as it seems maybe you personally tend to feel the effect of this faith abuse can be downplayed when compared up against the effect of sexual abuse.

Like others here i dont always agree with all that Dawkin says either , by i sure do fully agree with his suggestion that these threats of hell imposed on the minds many youth is very wrong and can sure as hell be extremely abusive and psychologically damaging extra longterm. Often with little hope of posibilty of ever making any real break through to really fully remedy the problem of the effects.

And whats the very utmost worst about it is it can effect whole families and whole groups of people all at once.And to be truthfully honest if i had to choose between the effect of the sexual abuse and the longterm psychological effects imposed on many through these threats of hell.

The choice for me would be extremely easy and i wouldnt need to even think twice .Sexually abuse me in youth if i must really need to deal with some sort of abuse .But please please dont let them threaten the young minds of my whole family and all friends i grew up with, with thoughts of hell in their youth and then turn them into human flesh that is sadly cast rock solid in the cold stone of faithful fear of eternal hellfire and damnation.

Personally i think its a very sad thing that the pride of faith still sees so many faithful seem to be far prefering to try to keep denying the longterm abusiveness that these threats of hell can have on many young minds.Rather than bear to admit it as possibly being very true.

Phobias imposed on minds in youth is well known can be extremely hard situations to remedy,and i doubt the idea of ETERNAL damnation in some nasty hot extremly painful and tormenting burning place called hell, could ever be honestly suggested as any less of a phobia, than the very worst of the worst phobias that ever existed.

And yet here we still have faithful people trying to deny it out of pride of faith and dislike of Dawkins.

To me thats a very sad thing.