Dawkins and Hitchens have overstated their case on "child abuse"
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29-08-2011, 10:53 AM
Dawkins and Hitchens have overstated their case on "child abuse"
On pages 217-218 of "God is not Great" Christopher Hitchens describes a priest lecturing children on the horrors of hell. He calls this "child abuse". Dawkins does the same. Now I am with Hitchens on this. To teach a child that they must not think for themselves least they spend an eternity being roasted in hot batter is surely child abuse.

But Peter Hitchens (the prodigal brother who returned from Trotskyland to the bosom of the Anglican church) seems to have taken this as implying that all religious education is child abuse. Having just read his book ("The rage against God") I can see where he is coming from. A lot of his thinking is based upon his experiences in the Soviet Union (anyone rememeber that?), where the Soviets treated Christians every bit as badly as Torquemada treated the Spanish Jews and Muslims. The particular cruelty of the Soviet system was to prevent parents discussing their religion with their children and instead to indoctrinate the Children in a parent-hating communism. Much of this was thoroughly approved of by many atheist intellectuals of the time. So P. Hitchens point is that by calling religious education "child abuse" atheists are trying to prevent parents telling their children what they learnt in their lifetime.

So I am with Christopher in saying that children's rights to come to their own conclusion should be respected. But I am with Peter in saying that it is a natural and proper thing for parents to present their beliefs to the children.
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29-08-2011, 12:36 PM
RE: Dawkins and Hitchens have overstated their case on "child abuse"
It's true, they sound overzealous in calling it "child abuse". But it certainly isn't loving or responsible parenting.

I was raised as a Christian. I wasn't told that there were any other options, and it wasn't presented to me as what my parents "believed". It was fact, and things that are facts like evolution were presented as worthless. I didn't even learn about evolution until I lost my fear of it a few years ago, and I picked up Dawkins' book The Greatest Show on Earth.

Also, many converted atheists still fear Hell. We know it's silly and nonexistent, but our previous teaching planted seeds of doubt. I no longer fear Hell, but I know that many of you still do. We may debate whether that's child abuse, but it is - by definition - terrorism.

My girlfriend is mad at me. Perhaps I shouldn't have tried cooking a stick in her non-stick pan.
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29-08-2011, 01:02 PM
RE: Dawkins and Hitchens have overstated their case on "child abuse"
(29-08-2011 12:36 PM)Starcrash Wrote:  It's true, they sound overzealous in calling it "child abuse". But it certainly isn't loving or responsible parenting.

I was raised as a Christian. I wasn't told that there were any other options, and it wasn't presented to me as what my parents "believed". It was fact, and things that are facts like evolution were presented as worthless. I didn't even learn about evolution until I lost my fear of it a few years ago, and I picked up Dawkins' book The Greatest Show on Earth.

Also, many converted atheists still fear Hell. We know it's silly and nonexistent, but our previous teaching planted seeds of doubt. I no longer fear Hell, but I know that many of you still do. We may debate whether that's child abuse, but it is - by definition - terrorism.

Exactly and our point has been lost by overstating the case. As Peter Hitchens points out "child abuse" is a terrible accusation to make. I
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29-08-2011, 01:32 PM
RE: Dawkins and Hitchens have overstated their case on "child abuse"
The problem disappears if you add one little word to the premise: some. Some religious education is child abuse.

If a 6-year-old kid is told by an authority figure that mommy, who has just died of cancer and was not a believer, is currently roasting in hell in unquenchable fire and will remain in that state for the rest of eternity, that poor kid has been abused. Inflicting needless pain on a child is abuse. Period. End of story.

But not all religious education is like that. When I was young I had something like 8 or 9 years of Hebrew School in addition to my regular secular education, and I don't regret it. Eventually I made my own decisions about religion and turned away from belief. But as I've stated elsewhere, if you're going to reject something, it's a good idea to know what it is you're rejecting.

I should add that Jewish education is famously (or notoriously, depending on where you're coming from) silent on the afterlife. There's something like the World to Come, but I don't think my teachers ever so much as mentioned it. What was important was action and behavior in this life. So we were never threatened with hell if we turned away from the straight and narrow. No, we spent our time discussing such urgent matters as what to do if you were up in a tree and it was time for a certain prayer: Could you say it up in the tree, or did you have to come down? <sigh>

(Actually, we also discussed other things that were a lot more interesting and relevant. Smile )

Religious disputes are like arguments in a madhouse over which inmate really is Napoleon.
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29-08-2011, 01:56 PM
RE: Dawkins and Hitchens have overstated their case on "child abuse"
Sorry, this whole thread lost me as soon as I saw the comment that preventing people from discussing religion with their children was on the same footing as the tortures overseen by Torquemada during the Inquisition.

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29-08-2011, 02:01 PM
RE: Dawkins and Hitchens have overstated their case on "child abuse"
(29-08-2011 01:56 PM)BnW Wrote:  Sorry, this whole thread lost me as soon as I saw the comment that preventing people from discussing religion with their children was on the same footing as the tortures overseen by Torquemada during the Inquisition.

I was comparing Soviet persecution of Christians with the Spanish Inquisition. I think that's fair enough.
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29-08-2011, 02:08 PM
RE: Dawkins and Hitchens have overstated their case on "child abuse"
Look... I know a lot of people hate religion and blame it for, well, a lot. But pick your battles. The idea that teaching your child what you believe is child abuse is a perversion, not only of the meaning of the word, but of the act of child abuse. Child abuse is a serious thing and needs to remain a serious thing. This hijacking of the word is a great demagogic argument, but it debases true child abuse, which, to me, is unacceptable. I'm not saying that it's impossible for a religious parent to abuse their child and I am certainly not saying that there is nothing questionable about religious doctrine, but the idea that teaching cultural beliefs is child abuse is just sick. And speaking of the widespread abuse of a word to the point of absurdity, the suggestion that it's a form of terrorism is just a sad commentary on our time.

Peace and Love and Empathy,

Matt
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29-08-2011, 03:33 PM
RE: Dawkins and Hitchens have overstated their case on "child abuse"
(29-08-2011 02:08 PM)Ghost Wrote:  Look... I know a lot of people hate religion and blame it for, well, a lot. But pick your battles. The idea that teaching your child what you believe is child abuse is a perversion, not only of the meaning of the word, but of the act of child abuse. Child abuse is a serious thing and needs to remain a serious thing. This hijacking of the word is a great demagogic argument, but it debases true child abuse, which, to me, is unacceptable. I'm not saying that it's impossible for a religious parent to abuse their child and I am certainly not saying that there is nothing questionable about religious doctrine, but the idea that teaching cultural beliefs is child abuse is just sick. And speaking of the widespread abuse of a word to the point of absurdity, the suggestion that it's a form of terrorism is just a sad commentary on our time.

Peace and Love and Empathy,

Matt

Matt,

I'm trying to understand where, if anywhere, you draw the line between imparting culture and damaging children.

Suppose a couple of skinhead parents raise their kids to believe that Jews, blacks, Hispanics, and homosexuals are sub-human. Or, for real examples, take a look at this and this. Surely you're not saying all this crap is perfectly OK, since the parents are exercising their right to impart their cultural beliefs to their children?

I'm not implying that this kind of indoctrination is equivalent to daddy sodomizing his son or putting out cigarettes on his daughter's chest. But isn't it doing clear harm to the kids? And isn't harming kids child abuse, by definition? Just because one thing is more egregious than another and they lie on different points of a scale doesn't mean they don't both belong in the same scalable category.

Religious disputes are like arguments in a madhouse over which inmate really is Napoleon.
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29-08-2011, 04:07 PM (This post was last modified: 29-08-2011 04:31 PM by BnW.)
RE: Dawkins and Hitchens have overstated their case on "child abuse"
(29-08-2011 02:01 PM)angry_liberal Wrote:  I was comparing Soviet persecution of Christians with the Spanish Inquisition. I think that's fair enough.

I disagree. While Stalin and his followers are certainly guilty of crimes on par with the what went on during the Inquisition, preventing people from teaching their religion is not one of those crimes. Is it repressive? Certainly. Is it on par with the tortures laid out by the Grand Inquisitor? Hardly. The very idea is insulting.

And, while this may seem like a trite point to pick at, I think it does highlight the point. I agree with Ghost on this one: when you start throwing all these things together and label them as "child abuse", you diminish the meaning of the phrase and do a disservice to the real victims. Words and phrases have actual meanings and things like "Nazi", "Fascist" and now even "child abuse" get thrown about so casually as to take all relevant meaning, and associated horror, from those words and phrases.

I agree that telling a child that his mother who just died is going to hell is a form of abuse. But, raising a child to believe as you believe when it comes to religion really doesn't reach that criteria. It's not the same thing. It's not even close. And, claims that it is are insulting to people who are actual victims of abuse.

Edit: I did not notice cufflink's response. I think that is a little more of a grey area but is it abuse? I'm not so sure. You certainly won't be winning any parenting awards for that type of behavior but I'm not sure I agree it counts as "abuse". I can see the argument, though. Still, I don't think that's quite the same thing as raising a child to believe in god or even teaching him or her that not following god's law gets you sent to some place really warm.

Shackle their minds when they're bent on the cross
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29-08-2011, 04:37 PM
RE: Dawkins and Hitchens have overstated their case on "child abuse"
Hey, Cufflink.

There is no line for me to draw because I consider all of this worthy of ridicule (this, not you).

By saying that telling a child there's a hell is child abuse, you ARE implying that it's the same as beating a child. I refuse to accept that.

For anything you're saying to make sense, you have to redefine everything. It's an argument that relies 100% on reframing things and appealing to the emotions.

I don't think raising a child as a racist is child abuse. I think that notion is ridiculous. I don't think that it's clear harm to the child. I’d be interested in hearing an argument for why it’s so clear.

I'm not saying racism is fine and, like I said already, I'm not saying that nothing is questionable about religious doctrine. Saying that it's not abuse is not saying that it's perfectly OK. It's problematic, it's disagreeable, we can address it, but it's a legal right and it's not abuse.

Suggesting that teaching your children these things is child abuse is suggesting that it is a criminal act, which is what child abuse is and that the children should be taken from their parents by the state and that the parents should go to prison. I'm sorry, but as far as I'm concerned that's depraved.

Peace and Love and Empathy,

Matt
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