Is bringing your child up with religion simply child abuse?

 

The greatest gift my parents bestowed on me was to not encumber me with either religion or politics. It enabled me to become a free thinker.

 

My parents took the view that childhood was a time to play and learn about nature. They brought me up with morality and a sense of awe and wonder at the world. They took the view that I could explore religion and politics when I was an adult.

 

I think they were right.

 

I used to think that human beings are able to think for ourselves but now I am not so sure. We are the products of our culture and the principles instilled into us.

 

The human brain appears hopelessly inept to me at thinking for itself. We tend to blindly accept what we are told. The ideas that are fed into us as children seem to solidify into concrete. We are immensely susceptible to indoctrination.

 

‘Give me a boy until the age of seven and I will give you the man’ – the Jesuit motto.

 

All too true, I am afraid.

 

All over the world parents and religions are busy feeding concepts of god and religion into young receptive minds that have no facility to evaluate or reject. Those concepts are neatly injected into the grey matter to solidify. It seems to me that once entrenched they are impossible to remove.

 

I see people like Jerry Lee Lewis and Little Richard whose lives vacillate between extremes and are racked with guilt. I find that sad.

 

What are we doing to our children?

 

Shouldn’t we be educating them to explore and question rather than saddling them with guilt?

 

Surely we can teach our children morality and awe and wonder without burdening them with medieval concepts that have no foundation?

 

When they are old enough to make up their minds they can then explore religion, can’t they? Shouldn’t it be a personal choice rather than imposed?

 

What god demands this blind obedience under pain of everlasting torture?

 

Are we not abusing our children?

Comments

The Burghal Hidage Added Jul 19, 2017 - 8:28am
I agree that these are matters best left to the development of an adult mind, but despite a religious upbringing most people gain the reasoning required as adults to make more objective judgements on what they were taught as children.
 
Along with the responsibilty of raising their children parents also have the right to determine how they may do so. Not all religious people use this to bludgeon their children with guilt. Many simply choose the morality lessons presented in biblical scripture as a means of illustrating the broader concepts, be honest, be charitable, treat others as you would wish to be treated yourself. All of these ideas seem to be compatible with many of the things you espouse yourself.
 
I agree with your general sentiment here, but I surely hope that you do not suggest that parents should not be free to exercise that choice. If you are that's where I get off the train.
Dave Volek Added Jul 19, 2017 - 8:37am
Opher: There are various degrees of religiosity within practitioners of faith. I suspect you are looking at people with inflexible mindsets and a superiority complex. Your article seems to be based on them.
 
I think the North America evidence is that many children of religious families abandon their family religion in their young adulthood. Some might return later in life; some might join another religion; some stay away entirely. I'm not seeing the connection between being raised in a religious household and becoming an unthinking zombie for that religion as an adult.
 
 
 
 
 
The Burghal Hidage Added Jul 19, 2017 - 8:44am
The premise implied in your title would suggest that the state knows better how children are to be raised?
 
I find another contradiction in your reasoning. How is it that the human brain can be hopelessly inept at thinking for itself while at the same time we are so intelligent and significant as a species that we can act to alter the course of something so elemental as the climate?
 
We are immensely susceptible to indoctrination? I might suggest that you are living proof of this.
 
In any legitimate court of law you are going to have one hell of a time making the case that a parent who chooses to give their children a religious upbringing is guilty of child abuse.
 
I like you Opher. I may not often agree but I still like reading your posts. I like our discussions. But honestly? Sometimes I have to wonder if you werent cloned right out of the pages of 1984
Dino Manalis Added Jul 19, 2017 - 8:46am
It's good morals and values in a good society, not extremism or domination, while child abuse is a lack of morals or values.
opher goodwin Added Jul 19, 2017 - 11:21am
Burghal - it is a difficult one and something that I have spent time thinking about.
I am sure most parents are not too extreme but I am disturbed by some of the scenes I witness of children being made to recite verses of the Koran or Bible. I am concerned with children being threatened with hell-fire. It does go on.
Should parents try to indoctrinate their children with their own faith? I think not. Even the psychological impact of assuring them there is a god is a disturbing thing to me.
I have no problem with morality tales or parables.
opher goodwin Added Jul 19, 2017 - 11:26am
Dave - I suppose one is drawn in to the more extreme religious expressions but my concern is wider than that.
Yes I agree - there is often a rebellion in teenage years but I am less reassured than you about the impact of those early years. I think there is a tremendous psychological impact that lasts through life. Once the concept of god is implanted I think it has quite a dramatic effect.
opher goodwin Added Jul 19, 2017 - 11:43am
Burghal - I think you are reading too much into that. I wasn't really implying that the state knows best. I was merely opening a debate about whether this early exposure to religion was a good thing or an infringement of human rights? Is indoctrinating children with religion a form of child abuse? I think there are things to discuss.
I see no contradiction. We are intelligent but we easily fall into patterns of thinking which restrict our own thoughts. I find that a trap. Many people do free themselves of those traps and are creative thinkers - most don't.
Those small number of creative thinkers have been responsible for the huge strides made in science and technology. It is that technology which has been responsible for our burgeoning numbers and huge impact on the planet. I see no contradiction there.
Yes, we are all susceptible to indoctrination and are indeed products of our culture and times. Our free thinking is limited. I am aware of that and agree that I am indoctrinated in many ways. That is a dilemma for free thinkers.
I don't think I'd have a snowball's chance in hell of convincing a court (as of yet) that teaching religion to children is abuse. But this is early days in the debate. At one time evolution had a rough time in the courts. At one time courts delivered death sentences to people who believe the sun was the centre of the solar system and not the earth. At one time courts tortured and burnt women for witchcraft. Things change. I am confident that in a couple of hundred years it will be seen as abuse.
I'm not really sure what you mean by me being out of the pages of 1984? I certainly am not in favour of the state controlling people. I think you may have got the wrong impression on that one. But I too enjoy discussing these issues with you and look forward to more exchanges.
opher goodwin Added Jul 19, 2017 - 11:46am
Dino - child abuse takes many forms - sexual abuse - physical abuse and mental/psychological abuse.
My contention is that imposing a religious belief on a child is taking away an important element of choice. Indoctrination is abuse in my book.
Religion is not about morals; it is about power and control. Morality does not require religion.
The Burghal Hidage Added Jul 19, 2017 - 12:44pm
Opher -
 
Relax friend, just taking the piss out of you
The Burghal Hidage Added Jul 19, 2017 - 12:46pm
I had more to say, but I got an error and lost everything I typed. This seems to happen frequently. Does it happen to you too?
The Burghal Hidage Added Jul 19, 2017 - 12:46pm
Maybe I'll try to reconstuct it later
The Burghal Hidage Added Jul 19, 2017 - 12:47pm
Earlier I was actually going to ask you where you had been. Hadn't heard from you in a few days
opher goodwin Added Jul 19, 2017 - 2:05pm
Burghal - that's OK. Cold words on a page often sound different to what was intended. I did not intend to come over uptight.
It would be good to hear your words. It is extremely frustrating when that happens. I once was working on one of my books and had typed eleven pages and had a glitch and the whole lot was lost.
I've been to the Isle of Mull (Scotland) to a good friend's birthday party. We were buddies from college days. Had a great time and caught up with things. Beautiful place, great people, nice wine, weather was superb - what could be better?
The Burghal Hidage Added Jul 19, 2017 - 2:28pm
Sounds like a hoot. I havent got away anywhere in some while, just a recluse on my own little oasis. My younger son comes around sometimes, but at 23 he has better things to do than hang out with dad
opher goodwin Added Jul 19, 2017 - 2:45pm
Your son will learn. Dad can be fun. Let's hope he learns soon.
We had a great time - much laughter and reminiscence.
Stone-Eater Friedli Added Jul 19, 2017 - 3:24pm
Opher
 
I got 3 daughters, 26, 23 and 14 years old. None of them have a religion, because I have none, and here the kids are registered as the father is. We never talked about that, it was and still is no subject.
 
After all those years, my oldest entered the protestant church and got baptised, the middle one is atheist like me, and the youngest is undecided. Her mother (my wife) is Muslim, but cannot explain WHY she is Muslim other than by birth.
 
My daughter asks WHY on any question she doesn't understand, and even at 14, she wants a clear reply on that which my wife can not deliver. 
 
I just kept quiet and told her: "Listen, your mom and me are not the same. She needs her religion, I don't. But you have to find out for yourself what to believe, and what seems logical for you. You mother and me are married since 21 years, and we let each other's beliefs because we simply love each other as human beings. We both think that there's more important things than religion in life."
Leroy Added Jul 19, 2017 - 3:28pm
Opher, you seem to go at it with the assumption that there is no God.  And, you may be correct.  The vast majority of people believe otherwise.  That doesn't mean there is a God any more more than there is Global Warming. 
 
Having said that and to play the devil's advocate, wouldn't it be child abuse to not teach a child about God, assuming there is one?
 
Could the same be said about teaching the child any moral based system?  We could go further and say that teaching the child anything is bad.  Of course, that is absurd, but, taking something to the extreme can sometimes expose the flaw.
 
I have conflicts with my in-laws about how to raise my son.  They believe that he will be force to conform at some point, so, as a child, he should be completely free to do whatever he want, no rules, no punishment, no discipline.  It is the job of the schools to conform him.  So, do you believe that the parents should not form the child and that it should be left to the state?
Bill H. Added Jul 19, 2017 - 4:02pm
Religion is one's choice. There are many to choose from, and I am sure in the end they are all wrong when it comes to what really happened. I have always despised when a certain religion states that they are right and all other religions are wrong. This is the case with a family member of mine who attends a local Calvary Chapel and constantly states that his church is the only one that is right and the rest have it all wrong. I find this very hypocritical.
I personally believe that we the result of an alien kid's science fair project from some lost planet way out in space. Works for me!
Tubularsock Added Jul 19, 2017 - 4:18pm
“Shouldn’t we be educating them to explore and question rather than saddling them with guilt?” YES, YES, YES A THOUSAND TIMES YES!
 
Tubularsock agrees with you Opher and no where in your work here do I assume you are saying that the “state” should be called in to take over the parent’s teaching role. If anything you are saying, Let Them Be Free To Think!
 
The great thing for Tubularsock is that he IS God and thereby all is good. Now Tubularsock hopes the God concept is settled for everyone now.
Tubularsock Added Jul 19, 2017 - 4:24pm
Bill H ........ Damn! Tubularsock knows that alien kid and you are correct!
Funny side note, that alien kid got an "F" on that project for creating such dumb ass humans! He followed a formula his father had taught him rather than thinking on his own and in there happens to be the lesson!
opher goodwin Added Jul 19, 2017 - 4:37pm
SEF - that sounds pretty healthy to me. Your three daughters will know their own mind and you've done right by them.
I have three sons and a daughter. None are religious but all are tolerant and respectful.
opher goodwin Added Jul 19, 2017 - 4:40pm
Leroy - if there is a God I'm absolutely certain that he/she wouldn't be found/confined to any man-made religion. I taught my children about nature. That's where God would be.
I believe a decent moral system is acceptable and open to question/discussion and refinement. That is healthy to me.
opher goodwin Added Jul 19, 2017 - 4:41pm
Bill - I agree with you. I dislike that intolerance. It is blinkered.
That is some science project isn't it?
opher goodwin Added Jul 19, 2017 - 4:42pm
Settled for me Tub!!
opher goodwin Added Jul 19, 2017 - 4:43pm
An F? There's some pretty spectacular stuff on this planet. So they fucked up a little with humans - still - that must be a B+ surely.
The Burghal Hidage Added Jul 19, 2017 - 5:52pm
Ok Opher, I think I got it regrouped. It may not be exactly as before, but....
 
You and I may not be that far apart on this. I think it is more a matter of the approach to the question. If your purpose was to stir debate on the topic the way youve presented it is sure to accomplish this. Look at it this way. If there is already a fire the best way to stoke it is not to throw a can of petrol into the flame. Whether you find some nuance in what you are saying or not, when you suggest that any religious upbringing constitutes indoctrination and therefore abuse? BUUZZZZZ! Wrong. You have alienated half of the audience from the discussion. Even if you have good points yet to be made they wont be heard. With an opener like that many people, for right or wrong, are not going to hear another word you say. Thats not ideology talking, thats reality talking.
 
Speaking for myself, and I believe this to be true for most people, I have no love of zealots of any stripe. You and I have discussed the difference between religion and spirituality before and I believe we are in agreement. Does morality have to be imparted via a religion?Well, certainly no, but many choose this as a means of doing so. This does not instantly equate to an indoctrination. You are an educator, you know there are different methods of teaching just as there are different ways of learning. Do strict orthodox indoctrinations occur? Sure they do. Some people raise their children to be Nazis. Not many, but some. You're attempting to paint with a very broad brush...
The Burghal Hidage Added Jul 19, 2017 - 6:02pm
I am in agreement that it is better for people to approach these matters in adulthood. There are millions of what I call recovering Catholics around the world. I know as I can count myself in their number. I was given the cathchism, learned and observed the sacraments, what verse to day, when to stand, when to kneel, yadda yadda yadda. We all did it with no idea why or what any of it meant. I outgrew it. I grew up, I learned history and I figured out what it was all about and it didnt seem to me to have anything to do with god. I chose not to raise my boys in the church, but this was my choice, just as some other parents chose to raise their children in the church. Whether they are right or not the perception will be that in branding it as child abuse it is a veiled attempt to deprive them of that choice
The Burghal Hidage Added Jul 19, 2017 - 6:13pm
In the US Constitution there is a specific provision barring the state from establishing a religion. You can believe what you want. You can believe nothing if that is your choice. Whether by stating it in so many words or by inference by classifying religious training for children as abuse (codifying it in law) this is the state sponsorship of a religion. By declaring religions as child abuse under the law the state in effect is banning the free practice of religion. By declaring no religion they are creating a state sponsored religion. The reason for this provision comes from the lessons learned in state sponsored church in your own country a century before our founding. Sadly most Americans are blissfully ignorant to this and pervert it into the sacrosanct "seperation of church and state". It does not say that religion can not have a part. It says the state shall not establish a state-church
The Burghal Hidage Added Jul 19, 2017 - 6:17pm
Long and short of it is that youll catch more flies with honey than vinegar
Patrick Writes Added Jul 19, 2017 - 8:47pm
The most basic right a person has is raising their children in the way they know best. It's not the state's job. It's not your job. It's the parent's job. 
 
If you feel strongly about your beliefs, go have 25 kids and raise them how YOU see best. 
 
As it stands you're simply railing against people raising their kids in ways you don't like. But guess what? You have the right to raise your kids in ways I and other individuals don't like.
 
In my opinion. the Big Bang is a lot of stupidity that's unsupported by much of anything. It's not testable in a lab. It's simply a theory that unless you're a quantum physicist you have to take on faith. What do we call things that people believe on faith without evidence again? 
 
The Big Bang as it applies to the average Joe could be called a religion. 
 
And I don't know much about Jesuits, but I know that a whole heck of a lot kids raised in Christian households today grow to be non-believers. So I think, perhaps, the Jesuits may have literally done a bit of brainwashing that American parents do not. 
Patrick Writes Added Jul 19, 2017 - 8:53pm
So much of what's called science in popular media are lies anyway. 
 
They show schoolkids movies like 'Inherit the Wind' in school which is a fictional account that is loosely based on the Scopes Monkey Trial. But changes so much, and the people who made knew what they were doing, they even changed the names of those involved, it's just propaganda to make Christians look dumb. But this is what passes for "science class" in thousands of school across the country, propaganda for the Left side of politics and the religion debate. 
 
If you consider what schools have to teach kids today (in America), who is brainwashing who? Do you know how many people at my university, who were seriously not very smart and went onto to be PhyEd teachers and the like, looked me dead eyes and swore to me that evolution was a fact. This is what they were taught in high school. 
Patrick Writes Added Jul 19, 2017 - 8:55pm
Motto of the American Left: "Give me the schools that educate the children from age 5 to 18, and I'll give you the man". 
Saint George Added Jul 19, 2017 - 10:18pm
The human brain appears hopelessly inept to me at thinking for itself.
 
Does that statement apply to your brain, too?
 
We tend to blindly accept what we are told.
 
Does that statement apply to you?
 
The ideas that are fed into us as children seem to solidify into concrete. We are immensely susceptible to indoctrination.
 
Did the ideas that were fed into you as a child solidify into concrete? Are you susceptible to indoctrination?
 
If not, why not.
Dr. Rupert Green Added Jul 19, 2017 - 10:30pm
Train a child in the way s/he should grow and when s/he is old s/he will not depart from it? The adage speaks to writing on the blank mind/slate at those receptive years. OK! Lets say we waited. Can old dogs be taught new or any tricks? When does the teaching of morality and the regard for the sanctity of life begin? Will children who place the cat in the microwave, squash any bugs and small animals seen benefit from early lessons of morality, or would they at a later age? 
 
I was exposed to various religions, but at this age I question what they teach. However, there is a healthy fear and respect for the unknown of which they speak. Additionally, there is a respect for people, and love for what is good.  Many teachers believe the decadence and disrespect in school from youth is a failure of moral upbringing. What institution is responsible for such upbringing?
Tamara Wilhite Added Jul 19, 2017 - 10:38pm
Many so called atheists are turning to Earth worship (environmentalism as a faith) and social justice as a cult. That's aside from the Singularity (there is no God so we'll invent a benevolent AI that will save us and give us digital heaven) and aliens as angels/gods argument I often hear.
Banning religion doesn't end irrationality. The investment of emotion and devotion simply shifts to something else, whether a political ideology or science fiction.

Crichton: Environmentalism is a religion
http://principia-scientific.org/crichton-environmentalism-religion/

This Week in Stupid (24/04/2016) - Social Justice is a Cult Edition!
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vN0oKIMlHyI
Saint George Added Jul 20, 2017 - 12:20am
What god demands this blind obedience under pain of everlasting torture?
 
"According to the 2003 World Health Organization's report on international male suicides rates (which compared 100 countries), of the top ten nations with the highest male suicide rates, all but one (Sri Lanka) are strongly irreligious nations with high levels of atheism. It is interesting to note, however, that of the top remaining nine nations leading the world in male suicide rates, all are former Soviet/Communist nations, such as Belarus, Ukraine, and Latvia. Of the bottom ten nations with the lowest male suicide rates, all are highly religious nations with statistically insignificant levels of organic atheism."
 
See, also, American Journal of Psychiatry study showing higher correlation of suicides from depressed atheists than from depressed believers, here:
 
http://ajp.psychiatryonline.org/cgi/content/abstract/161/12/2303
ABSTRACT:
 OBJECTIVE:

Few studies have investigated the association between religion and suicide either in terms of Durkheim's social integration hypothesis or the hypothesis of the regulative benefits of religion. The relationship between religion and suicide attempts has received even less attention.
METHOD:
Depressed inpatients (N=371) who reported belonging to one specific religion or described themselves as having no religious affiliation were compared in terms of their demographic and clinical characteristics.
RESULTS:
Religiously unaffiliated subjects had significantly more lifetime suicide attempts and more first-degree relatives who committed suicide than subjects who endorsed a religious affiliation. Unaffiliated subjects were younger, less often married, less often had children, and had less contact with family members. Furthermore, subjects with no religious affiliation perceived fewer reasons for living, particularly fewer moral objections to suicide. In terms of clinical characteristics, religiously unaffiliated subjects had more lifetime impulsivity, aggression, and past substance use disorder. No differences in the level of subjective and objective depression, hopelessness, or stressful life events were found.

CONCLUSIONS:
Religious affiliation is associated with less suicidal behavior in depressed inpatients. After other factors were controlled, it was found that greater moral objections to suicide and lower aggression level in religiously affiliated subjects may function as protective factors against suicide attempts. Further study about the influence of religious affiliation on aggressive behavior and how moral objections can reduce the probability of acting on suicidal thoughts may offer new therapeutic strategies in suicide prevention.
 
Tubularsock Added Jul 20, 2017 - 1:40am
Opher, you are an easier grader!
Saint George Added Jul 20, 2017 - 4:18am
Surely we can teach our children morality and awe and wonder without burdening them with medieval concepts that have no foundation?
 
The very purpose of teaching theology in the Middle Ages (not religion, but theology) was to use logical disputation to show that the concept of a Prime Mover or Universal Creator does have a foundation in reason. One of the main ways this was done was to show just how limited reason really is in being able, in principle, to answer certain kinds of questions.
opher goodwin Added Jul 20, 2017 - 4:34am
Burghal - that is a good point. But I am a victim of my personality. My wife says I have only got two buttons. Hence I do tend to give the extreme view because I react to the extremes I see. A more nuanced approach might be less confrontational and create more constructive debate.
opher goodwin Added Jul 20, 2017 - 4:36am
Burghal - I am sure that most people, like you, reach adulthood and re-evaluate their thoughts about religion and chose. My point is that a sizeable portion, due to the nature of the indoctrination they have experienced, do not have that choice.
opher goodwin Added Jul 20, 2017 - 4:42am
Patrick - I don't want the State to raise kids, or for my views to be foisted on them. I want a serious debate about what constitutes child abuse. It used to be the case that parents could whip their children. That is no longer allowed and is considered abuse. Stopping parents from physically abusing their children does not mean that the State has taken control.
Indoctrinating children with ideas of God, Heaven and Hell (straight out of medieval fantasy) with threats and fanciful supernatural beings - angels, cherubs and demons - is in my view abusive.
opher goodwin Added Jul 20, 2017 - 4:45am
Patrick - there is plenty of evidence for the Big Bang and evolution. There is no evidence for heaven, hell or god.
I am all in favour of spirituality and a oneness with nature. I find the concept of god in most religions rather puerile and extremely unsettling. I have no doubt those religions are man-made. They are about control.
Exposing children to these ideas is dangerous and self-perpetuating (that is the intention). It is a virus passed down to our children.
opher goodwin Added Jul 20, 2017 - 4:48am
Patrick - evolution is not a fact - but the evidence is overwhelming. Creationism (amazingly taught in some schools) is complete bunkum and propaganda. That's what you should be worried about. Those creationist distorters are after getting their hands on our children.
opher goodwin Added Jul 20, 2017 - 4:50am
Saint George - of course it applies to me and you. We all are susceptible to the ethos of the culture we swim in. We are indoctrinated and manipulated.
That's is why I constantly try to question the views I hold and think about where they emanate from and who stands to prosper by me believing them.
opher goodwin Added Jul 20, 2017 - 4:53am
Dr. Rupert - you stray on to moral education here I believe. I believe a community has the duty to instil moral education - parents, relatives, friends, schools and other institutions.
My beef is not about morals it is about the indoctrination of children with manmade religions.
opher goodwin Added Jul 20, 2017 - 4:55am
Tamara - I don't worship nature - I respect life. Life on this planet began as an amazing phenomenon. The range of life on this planet is stupendous. Human consciousness is awesome. The universe is astounding.
I am blown away by it but I don't turn that into any god replacement.
opher goodwin Added Jul 20, 2017 - 4:57am
Saint George - Yes. I do believe that religion can be succour for the disturbed.
There's an area that society needs to address. We need to develop our support networks.
opher goodwin Added Jul 20, 2017 - 4:58am
Tub - I like to encourage.
Patrick Writes Added Jul 20, 2017 - 7:05am
One premise you could boil this whole topic down to is whether you think human beings are born good at heart, without any outside encouragement (carrot or stick). I most certainly do not think people are born good. Anyone who's had children knows that disobedience, selfishness, and foolish choices come quite natural to young people.
 
So I think personally if you tell humans they are accidents and life has no purpose and it matters not if they live a righteous selfless life or a horrible selfish life, then you are in for big trouble.
 
Even something as basic as being there for your children. That's a conscious choice you make, as a father. You could be doing stuff that's much more fun or interesting for yourself, but you don't because they need you more. But I do that partly because I believe I'll have to stand before my maker one day and give an account for how I raised them. With that "encouragement" I might not be there for them like I am.
 
Also, this premise oversimplifies the world down to science, molecules, nerve ending, and evolutionary traits.
 
Does evolution make me love my wife of 12 years? Is love just some chemicals in my body reacting to stimuli? What about justice? Is evolutionary survival of fittest somehow?
 
I think your premise is pretty close to asking religious people if they stopped beating their wives yet. (For those not acquainted with that question, by asking a trick question of the sort, no matter what the person answers, they are implied to beat their wives.)
opher goodwin Added Jul 20, 2017 - 7:31am
Patrick - I think humans are a mixture of good and bad and require plenty of love and direction. We are extremely fragile psychologically. I see nothing wrong in giving good direction to our children about what is right and wrong. I have always 'preached' compassion, empathy, tolerance, respect, responsibility and love. All good things.
Yes I do believe we are accidents and there is no fundamental purpose. But that does not negate the wonder of the universe and our lives in any way. Indeed it makes me appreciate and marvel at it all the more. I would not suggest that you bring up children to think it's pointless. It isn't. We have the wonder of life and should appreciate every second of it. The chances of it happening are stupendously tiny. I don't need some idea of a superbeing with some unfathomable reason for us in order to find purpose in life. There is much to be done, to love and enjoy. There are problems to solve and things to create - enough to fill a lifetime or two.
Yes, as a biologist I can tell you the brain chemistry that causes love, why it evolved and what its purpose is.
I don't think there is anything at all simple about the world, the universe or life. It is remarkably complex, sophisticated and mysterious. That's what I love about it. Understanding it is ecstatic. It is fulfilling. Once again - I don't need any supernatural construct in order to understand it - that, to me, is simplifying it down to something a lot less. This concept of god comes straight out of our primitive past when we understood very little. It was a result of our problem solving minds. We created it to explain the inexplicable. It merely replaces one unknowable with another.
I did not require any motivation of 'judgement' to do good things or be a good father. I am highly moral. I want to build a better world and I have striven for that all my life. I find that fulfilling. I love my children and revelled in being with them. That too is basic biology. I find it strange to think that anybody needs the impetus of some judgement in order to do these things. They come naturally. They are part of our chemistry.
I've been with my wife for 50 years. It wasn't any god that kept us together but good biology.
Many religious people do 'effectively' beat their wives. The misogyny of the Abrahamic tradition (straight out of tribal Arab culture) creates a second-class citizen of women - who are expected to obey, to walk behind, to be segregated, to wear head coverings, face and body coverings and not participate in decision making.
It is only recently that Christianity has been dragged out of the Dark Ages to ordain women.
The Burghal Hidage Added Jul 20, 2017 - 7:54am
So you dont step on another land mine...
 
That is recent in relative terms.
 
If you view religions as a whole in a historical context and look at their structure, their hierarchy, they are nearly if not all patriarchal in nature. Even most theological scholars have concluded from study of ancient texts and other recording of events that the early christian "church" ( for want of a better term ) held a significant role for women. This was a radical departure from Judaic custom. The the Romans decided it was convenient to their aims to co -opt this new faith, turn it into a patriarchal political entity and that is where the exclusion of women began.
 
Islam is still stuck back in the eighth century. Women are property, subject to honor killings( for offending the man's honor, never mind her own ) aaannd.....
 
Opher here is where you will have my wholehearted agreement as to something which constitutes child abuse, the common practice of "female circumcision". In Michigan, where there is a large muslim population around Detroit, they have recently passed a law providing for criminal punishment of physicians who will perform this practice. There was a group of Islamic doctors who operated an underground clinic where muslim families (usually the father, surprise surprise) could bring their daughters to have this performed. Personally I think they should cut off the dicks of those doctors, but you know what is even worse? One of the doctors was a woman, who ironically in most of the Islamic world would not even be permitted to practice medicine!
opher goodwin Added Jul 20, 2017 - 8:46am
Burghal - fascinating. I've heard nothing of any important role for women in the early Christian church. I'll have to look into that. But then it was only a minor sect, one of many Judaic cults, prior to Constantine adopting it for political reasons. I'm not sure how much was recorded about it.
I am completely with you on the barbaric practice of female circumcision. The name itself is a complete misnomer. It is female mutilation. The aim is to remove the clitoris and so remove all sexual satisfaction. The role of the woman is to please the male and produce children - her own pleasure is to be excised. It is a pre-Islamic abomination.
I suggest those doctors should have their balls cut off as well.
The incredulous thing about it is that in Africa it is the women who foist this excruciatingly painful mutilation on their little girls. 
Stone-Eater Friedli Added Jul 20, 2017 - 9:53am
Opher
 
The incredulous thing about it is that in Africa it is the women who foist this excruciatingly painful mutilation on their little girls. 
 
That has nothing to do with religion. It's an old and archaic and cruel "tradition". I know all about it. My wife had an excision as a young girl. Luckily the family kids now are spared of that (at least that's what I'm being told....).
opher goodwin Added Jul 20, 2017 - 9:57am
SEF - Yes you are right - more cultural than religious - but none-the-less adopted by Islam for some obscure reason. It's a tradition that needs stamping out. I'm sorry to hear that your wife had to suffer that. I can only imagine.
I'm not too sure that it has been eradicated though. I hear that millions of poor girls are suffering.
Stone-Eater Friedli Added Jul 20, 2017 - 11:53am
Opher
 
Yes. In the Sahel predominantly. Sudan, Chad, Mali, Niger....you name it....:-(
Shane Laing Added Jul 20, 2017 - 4:32pm
FGM has been a criminal offence in the UK since 1985.  How many prosecutions have there been? Zero. West Midlands Police said that the parents should not been prosecuted but "educated." Personally I think they should be locked up. 
Stone-Eater Friedli Added Jul 20, 2017 - 4:39pm
Yep. Or being mutilated themselves. A lasting experience.
Stone-Eater Friedli Added Jul 20, 2017 - 4:39pm
....but in Africa it's like here: We've always done that, so what's wrong with it......
Doug Plumb Added Jul 20, 2017 - 5:00pm
I am a statist. You must sacrifice some individual liberty to obtain the freedom which can only be attained by the State. Mans transition from understanding to the use of reason requires the state.
  The aetheits and other wack job political idealists are filled with crowds of people that have never read a book on political theory, law or religion. Their myths are dumber than AGW.
  History shows us that we obtained political freedom with the birth of the state and this is what got us these fundamental human rights that we now have (had) most people prefer rule by compliance rather than rule by law.
 
Doug Plumb Added Jul 20, 2017 - 5:02pm
The state is the target of the NWO. The state is and always will be an instrument of freedom. Our banks have bamboozled us, have us passing around their funny money and taking our rights in the process. A debtor has no rights.
opher goodwin Added Jul 20, 2017 - 6:15pm
SEF - and families over here actually take their poor daughters back to those countries to be mutilated. Most of the mutilators being women!
We need a coordinated approach to eradicate the practice.
opher goodwin Added Jul 20, 2017 - 6:16pm
Shane - I agree - they should be locked up.
opher goodwin Added Jul 20, 2017 - 6:17pm
SEF - they need re-educating.
opher goodwin Added Jul 20, 2017 - 6:24pm
Doug - the freedom we have was surely won through social protest and not freely given by the state.
If we don't have legislation we do not have protection or freedom. The Grenfell fire is an example - no legislation on materials - the place was inside the law and went up in flames. BSE - relax the law and we get animal feed manufacturers reducing temperatures and infecting the herd. Bring in antismoking legislation and pubs and restaurants, clubs and public areas are safer and more pleasant.
The state has to be a power for good - not an instrument of the rich and powerful. That requires good democratic systems and accountability.
Saint George Added Jul 20, 2017 - 6:29pm
We need to develop our support networks.
 
The secular state already has already done so. They're called prescription meds and euthanasia clinics.
opher goodwin Added Jul 20, 2017 - 6:49pm
Saint - well they need to do better don't they? They need more counselling and care and support. They exist. They need to be properly funded and promoted. It's not all medication and assisted suicide. The Samaritans, psychiatrists and counsellors are part of a caring network that needs developing. If that happens there will not be any need for religion. The job will be done better.
Doug Plumb Added Jul 20, 2017 - 7:10pm
re "Doug - the freedom we have was surely won through social protest and not freely given by the state."
  Social protest hasn't won a thing but public approval for oligarch ideas and ideals.
  re "The state has to be a power for good - not an instrument of the rich and powerful. That requires good democratic systems and accountability."
  States devolve and are circular (Aristotle) They start with a king, then a republic then democracy then anarchy (despotism). The state operates by law and democratic citizens tend to know nothing about law and get lead into compliance as the system devolves.
 
 
Doug Plumb Added Jul 20, 2017 - 7:11pm
After despotism you get a good philosopher king and the cycle repeats. USA has devolved from a republic to a democracy as a result of atheism.
The Burghal Hidage Added Jul 21, 2017 - 5:34am
There is a maxim that admonishes us to avoid discussing religion and politics. Obviously that has been chucked out the window here. I never was one much for following the rules.
 
Religion, like a good number of political ideologies, consistently trys to deny human nature and that is the achilles heel of each.
 
The most glaring example of this that I find in christianity is this:
 
We have, thanks to the Romans, a historical record other than scripture to tell us that there was a man, Jesus of Nazareth. So I wont dispute that he lived and walked the earth. He may very well have been a swell guy and offered some wise teachings. Its that whole divinity thing where I get off the bus.
 
Christianity asserts that god, the divine being, made the divine spirit incarnate upon the earth in the form of a son begotten from a human womb. Why? So that the divine spirit could live as and speak to human beings as another human being. Subsequently the church, a product of man and not the divine, creates the narrative that as the divine walking among us Jesus was the perfect being. He did not take a wife, the implication being that he did not defile himself through carnal human relations.
 
This is really curious to me. As any other mortal creatures on the planet we are possessed of the innate need and desire to propagate our species. We are sexual creatures, it is an integral part of what we are. So if the plan was for the divine to walk among and live as a human being why exclude one of the main characteristics of the human experience?
 
The scriptures offer an account of Jesus on the cross calling to his heavenly father " why have you forsaken me?" Maybe it was something more like this: " Holy shit, pops! You send me down here to go through all this shit and I couldn't even get laid? WTF!"
 
opher goodwin Added Jul 21, 2017 - 7:16am
Doug - I think you will find that there is a long history of social protest dating right back to the Swing riots, diggers, Peterloo and suffragettes. It did force change, democracy and unionisation.
opher goodwin Added Jul 21, 2017 - 7:21am
Burghal - a very witty take on those last words and Jesus's supposed celibacy.
I did read some speculation that he did have a sexual relationship with Mary Magdelene. I guess we can only speculate. The historical details are very scant. Not much was written about him. At the time he was seen as a minor character. Shame really. I would like to have known more about the man.
My own take on those last words was that he finally realised that what he'd believed was not true. There was no god.
The Burghal Hidage Added Jul 21, 2017 - 7:31am
Opher you cite some fine examples from your history. There is that place in Manchester with the mural depicting the Peterloo massacre, the Briton? Anyway...
 
Our rights are not bestowed upon us by the the benevolent grace of the state, sorry to inform you Doug. Our rights are inherent. You'll probably find few here to characterize them this way, but they are what some call "god given" rights.
 
Our protests are an assertion of our rights. The state does not give rights that are not theirs to give. Historically states have more often taken rights away, hence the protests. Where we seem to continually find ourselves in trouble is that, as someone once wisely stated, "Every revolutionary is a revolutionary until the day after the revolution is achieved; then they become reactionaries"....
 
Or words to that effect. I'm being lazy not looking it up. Opher? Do you recall the author of those words?
opher goodwin Added Jul 21, 2017 - 9:16am
Burghal - Hannah Arendt of the New Yorker said something like that.
 
My own view is that we do not have rights. As I am an atheist I do not believe in god given rights. I believe that rights, like morality, come out of the consideration of intelligent people. They are enshrouded in philosophies of justice, fairness, compassion, equality and empathy. The best example is the UN charter of Human Rights which has been carefully thought through and constructed.
 
History shows that the powerful have always taken what they could. The rights of ordinary people have been well fought for and won with much bloodshed.
 
As I believe in fairness, equality and justice I stand by the UN Charter.
The Burghal Hidage Added Jul 21, 2017 - 9:43am
My own thought on that last point, friend, is that while that charter may represent an ideal, the UN as a body has been co-opted by the majority membership of rogue states and bad actors.
 
My own belief is that my rights are not god given. My rights are my rights as I choose to exercise them. The state has a reasonable expectation that I respect the rights of others. If the exercise of my rights do not harm or infringe upon those rights of others the state has no legitimate authority to restrict my rights. This must be the rule for all or it can be the rule for none.
The Burghal Hidage Added Jul 21, 2017 - 9:45am
On your prior topic...
 
There was in fact a gospel recorded by Mary Magdelene. The Roman Church, in its infinite wisdom, determined at the Nicean council that this gospel would not make the cut for the final edition. Couldnt allow that if the church was to remain a boys club.
The Burghal Hidage Added Jul 21, 2017 - 10:01am
Opher -
 
My next post ( Saturday, maybe Sunday) will deal with the many questions surrounding faith, religion and the roles these play in western society. Not an endorsement, but an analysis.
 
I may at varying times through today take a moment to engage in some further discussions, but may be silent for a while. I always have a good deal of outdoor work to occupy my time in this season, which will cause me to neglect some other projects. Especially since I began spending more time here!
 
I am rained in today and will try to make some further progress on my book. Talk later!
opher goodwin Added Jul 21, 2017 - 10:53am
Burghal - I do accept that. The UN needs a big overhaul. But it is a body that has the global perspective I believe we need and it has stated aims that I fully endorse. I am hoping it will rise up to have its day. Maybe we need a big rise of people power to ensure that it is made into a working model?
I do believe that wise people can put forward rights and morality that can be more effective than anything stemming from the often ambiguous or contradictory messages from religions.
opher goodwin Added Jul 21, 2017 - 10:56am
Yes that council took it on itself to decide which were the exact words of god and which weren't. Strange that. A lot of material was burnt as heresy. Some of it has resurfaced. I wonder what will come out of the Dead Sea Scrolls when they are all finally revealed?
Mary Magdalene was obviously not considered kosher.
opher goodwin Added Jul 21, 2017 - 10:56am
Burghal - I look forward to your next post. Mine will likely be on neotony.
Dr. Rupert Green Added Jul 21, 2017 - 12:38pm
Dr. Rupert - you stray on to moral education here I believe. I believe a community has the duty to instill moral education - parents, relatives, friends, schools and other institutions.
My beef is not about morals it is about the indoctrination of children with man made religions."
 
Is the foundation of morality not religious precepts?
opher goodwin Added Jul 21, 2017 - 12:43pm
Dr Rupert - No I do not believe so. Religion is fundamentally about a relationship with god. I do not believe in god. I also do not believe that our morality stems from religion - I think they stem from human nature. At our best we are clearly moral creatures who display compassion, empathy and a sense of right and wrong. I believe that morality is philosophically based and that humans have produced a much clearer, less ambiguous, less contradictory, set of morals than any church has produced. It is enshrined in the UN Charter of Human Rights.
The Burghal Hidage Added Jul 21, 2017 - 2:32pm
So it could be said that you have only traded one church for another?
 
You believe what you believe, as is your right. Where one differs with others in their beliefs and finding that the two can not be reconciled to some common accord the only remaining question becomes: Do you support the other party's right to believe what they believe? You can not preach tolerance and inclusiveness if you are unprepared to accept the right of others to practice a creed different from your own.
 
There are many differing ideas that can co-exist within the same space. Most variants of christianity, whether you happen to support them or not, can inhabit the same space with other faiths or with those of no faith. The exception that I find to this are those who embrace Sharia law and radical Islamism. When the conversation begins with " We will kill you " there is not a lot of room left for any accommodation.
 
Now one can counter with " It is intolerant to characterize Islam as being intolerant". That might be a legitimate counter if this were a gratuitous assertion, but it is not. There is more than ample evidence to support the assertion. I am no more intolerant in making this assertion than you are in making the assertion that those who provide religious instruction to their children are guilty of child abuse. Can you see what I am saying?
Dr. Rupert Green Added Jul 21, 2017 - 5:46pm
@ Opher. "At our best we are clearly moral creatures who display compassion, empathy and a sense of right and wrong. I believe that morality is philosophically based and that humans have produced a much clearer, less ambiguous, less contradictory, set of morals than any church has produced. It is enshrined in the UN Charter of Human Rights."
 
From where do we derive the notion of what is right and what is wrong, what is good and what is bad?
If one see goodness in child molestation or genital mutilation, why stop him or her  because it is "wrong?"
Would a child growing up with animals have the qualities in bold in the preceding?   It is not human nature that gave us the crusades, the Inquisition, WW2, and past and current barbaracy in the Middle East?  It was Human nature that had Americans killing Americans, and engaged in abhorrent practices involving hate based on our different characteristics?  
So the matter transcends simple allusion , analogies, and philosophical underpinning.
opher goodwin Added Jul 21, 2017 - 6:23pm
Burghal - I am tolerant. I fully accept the right of an individual to believe whatever they want. I would not obstruct their faith. I would merely point out the flaws in it.
I have a number of caveats - firstly that they should not indoctrinate children. Secondly that they should not force their faith on others. Thirdly that their practices should not be cruel or inhumane.
Seems reasonable to me. So I am intolerant of certain views and practices - particularly when it comes down to misogyny, child abuse or violence.
opher goodwin Added Jul 21, 2017 - 6:29pm
Dr Rupert - the implication in your statement is that morality came out of religion. I do not accept that. As I believe religion came out of man I believe we put our morality into it, not the other way round.
Human beings have a duality. We are capable of great compassion and altruism and great cruelty and callousness.
I believe it is intrinsic in our nature to understand which is good and which is bad. By looking at what is good; what produces harmonious relationships that create the maximum happiness and fulfillment, I believe we can produce a code of moral ethics that are far better than we produced in our primitive years through our religions. Back then we did not have such advanced psychology or philosophy. We have improved.
Morality is about living a life that does the least harm and most good. That is evident through examination.
The Burghal Hidage Added Jul 22, 2017 - 9:32am
LOL....Ok Opher. We are mostly in agreement I think. I would just circle back to one of my earlier statements in this thread.  If your purpose is only to state your opinion then say what you like. If your purpose is to foster discussion/debate then you might want to dial it back a little :) Otherwise people just tune you out.
 
Its never my intent to be contentious with you. We frequently disagree, but we've kept on talking and begin to find that there is some common ground. I don't come here to only talk with people that agree with my point of view. If I wanted that I could just sit around and talk to myself all day, but how boring would that be?
 
As much as we may differ what I like about you is that we can have a discussion. You are not a "knee jerk". I hope you know the expression, not sure if they use that on your side of the pond. You cant have a conversation with anyone who can only resort to labelling,  name calling or citing a set of pre-scripted talking points. You are able to state a case. You're still wrong, but...... just taking the piss!
opher goodwin Added Jul 22, 2017 - 2:45pm
Burghal - I agree. There is no point in discussing if you only ever get agreement. The point is to be challenged, to be made to think and reassess and to do it all with politeness and respect. I enjoy our little exchanges. Thank you. I do sometimes change my mind - though usually I think I'm right.
Dr. Rupert Green Added Jul 23, 2017 - 8:35am
@goodwin. "Burghal - I agree. There is no point in discussing if you only ever get agreement. The point is to be challenged, to be made to think and reassess and to do it all with politeness and respect. I enjoy our little exchanges. Thank you. I do sometimes change my mind - though usually I think I'm right."
 
True on above. The framing of post generates varied response or conformity/group think.  Asserting facts generate no discussion. 
Saint George Added Jul 23, 2017 - 8:29pm
If that happens there will not be any need for religion.
 
Deny, deny . . .
 
"If only my ideas and the guys I approve of had lots more money! Then, everything would be great and we wouldn't need the things I disapprove of."
 
Yet somehow, the need of the public always outstrips the supply of help available to it, no matter how "properly" the latter is funded (and the word "properly" is a giveaway that you don't have any specific amount in mind; you just want to keep siphoning money into your cause until you get the effect you desire . . . even if you never get that effect).
 
There's actually a social law which explains that but somehow I don't think you'd understand it.
opher goodwin Added Jul 24, 2017 - 8:42am
Dr Rup - I agree. Discussion is what is called for.
opher goodwin Added Jul 24, 2017 - 8:45am
Saint - sorry I don't see where this stems from? Who was the put-down aimed at?
Dave Volek Added Jul 24, 2017 - 10:36am
Opher: Sorry for not getting back to your comment of July 19. I can see you have had some interesting discussion with others.
 
"I think there is a tremendous psychological impact that lasts through life."
 
I have to agree with you on this statement. Our experiences in our formative years indeed carry through the rest of our lives. "Bad religion" can blight a person's lifetime growth--even if they leave that religion in their youth.
 
But we also need to acknowledge when religion does produce some excellent leaders who are shaping the world for better. Many of these people seldom make the news and seemingly live ordinary lives. They are working in worthy occupations, raising good families, and paying taxes. If their religion has somehow brought them to this point, is this not a good thing? 
 
The trouble is, as I see, the difficulty of identifying "good" and "bad" religions. Perhaps this quote might be a good lodestone to determine how well a religion is working:
 
"The fundamental purpose animating the Faith of God and His Religion is to safeguard the interests and promote the unity of the human race, and to foster the spirit of love and fellowship amongst men."
 
 
 
 
 
opher goodwin Added Jul 24, 2017 - 11:02am
Dave - glad you got back to me. I can see your point but I still maintain that all religions are made by man. Even if they do some good the bad exceeds it. There have been some good religious leaders who have taken a very principled stance. But it all comes down, at the end, to whether there is or isn't a god. I believe there isn't and that makes rather a mockery of the whole thing, doesn't it? I am opposed to indoctrinating kids before they can think for themselves. It seems wrong to me.
Is there good and bad religion? Or is some less harmful, more tolerant, more inclusive and less dogmatic?
Dave Volek Added Jul 25, 2017 - 3:38pm
Opher: If not religion, we are being indoctrinated by something else. In my mind, materialism is an important religion of many people. That is why it is so important for youth to ask a lot of good questions about the value systems they currently hold. 
 
I was raised Roman Catholic and have moved away from this faith. I do not begrudge the time I spent as a Catholic as there were important life lessons that needed learning. It's kind of hard to see where I could have got those lessons elsewhere in my formative years.  
 
As for god or no god, consider the complex arrangement of atoms that go into create a human being. All that carbon, oxygen, hydrogen, phosphorous, etc could have easily created much more stable molecules. Instead these complex combinations give you and I the ability to discuss religion. I call it a Master Engineer at work!
 
opher goodwin Added Jul 25, 2017 - 4:16pm
If you see some force working through atoms as evidence for god. I don't. The universe is a vast mystery. I don't explain it by creating another mystery of some supernatural force and I certainly see no evidence of a god who created humans or the universe for them. That is arrogant stupidity as far as I can see. Heaven and hell? Man-made ideas to scare the shit out of people.
Religion is about power. It was created and run by men. Time it was done away with and we got used to the universe and life as it is.
Music is the nearest thing I get to religion. But I don't think it's watching me and judging me.