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Can Religion be considered to be child abuse?

Discuss philosophical questions regarding theism (and atheism), and discuss religion as it relates to philosophy. This includes any philosophical discussions that happen to be about god, gods, or a 'higher power' or the belief of them. This also generally includes philosophical topics about organized or ritualistic mysticism or about organized, common or ritualistic beliefs in the existence of supernatural phenomenon.
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Grecorivera5150
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Can Religion be considered to be child abuse?

Post by Grecorivera5150 » June 23rd, 2012, 1:32 am

Can religion be considered a form of child abuse? The use of fear tactics and imposed guilt on a young mind in a coercive way can have debilitating affects. I was not forced to go to church until I was 11 so I was in the middle of puberty and had already shrugged off Santa Claus the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy by this time and in so doing had developed an intuition towards empiricism. Throw in familial pressure to conform on top of the emotional coercion and you have a potential recipe for massive amounts of existential angst during critical years of human development.


If a child must submit to the whims of the parents under our current laws should they have standing upon reaching adult hood to try and redress their grievances with their parents in a court of law and seek damages for emotional distress?

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Re: Can Religion be considered to be child abuse?

Post by Spectrum » June 23rd, 2012, 1:58 am

I think Dawkins claimed it is a kind of child abuse.
richarddawkins.net/articles/118-religio ... hild-abuse
I agree with Dawkings but religion it is not the physical violent kind but rather mental.
There is also the plus side of religion which relevant for the majority in this phase of our evolution.
At the present, I don't see real good alternative to religion (especially the need for theistic beliefs).

The way to get rid of this sort of 'child abuse' is to come out with better and acceptable alternatives to enable individuals to deal with the despairs, anxieties, existential crisis associated with the inherent instinctual fear of death impulse. This alternative approaches should not reinforce the fear, rely on immutable laws, lies, illusions, and all sort of negatives that hinder the progress of humanity.
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Re: Can Religion be considered to be child abuse?

Post by Grendel » June 23rd, 2012, 3:46 am

I would guess how extreme the version of religion is would be the major factor in determining whether it's child abuse.

I can see sending your kid to bible camp just cause to be considered a lousy parent but to raise them moderate C of E, how is this any worse than any other belief system. Parents inflict radical politics, militant veganism, environmentalism, new atheism, junk food diets, conspiracy theories and all other stuff on kids. The government forces them to go to school to be indoctrinated. On the scale of it a religion would need to be to a certain degree of fanaticism till it can be any worse than the aforementioned.

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Re: Can Religion be considered to be child abuse?

Post by Invictus_88 » June 23rd, 2012, 7:40 am

Anything which is done abusively 'can be considered' abusive, because it is an abuse.

This tautology has no bearing on the status of religion in the world, no matter what Dr Dawkins might preach.

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Re: Can Religion be considered to be child abuse?

Post by Misty » June 23rd, 2012, 7:46 am

All things available to humans have the potential for abuse. Medicines are good unless abused. Love is good unless abused. Parenthood is good unless it is abused. Religion is good unless abused - on and on. Common sense in all things - opps - not everyone's common sense is good sense. What a mess!
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Re: Can Religion be considered to be child abuse?

Post by Scott » June 23rd, 2012, 9:33 am

Isn't abuse usually defined by the parent's intent rather than the actual overt act? For instance, yelling at a child, hitting a child or really any forms of punishment such as locking a child in a room can be considered a form of good-intentioned discipline if the parent is in a clear state of mind when administering it. Isn't what turns it into abuse NOT that it is ineffective from some third party point of view but that the parent commits the act out of anger or selfishness as opposed to a sober thoughtful decision on what the parent thinks is best for the child?

Religion might be child abuse if a sadistic atheist sent their child to Church as a punishment not because the atheist thought it would be a good lesson for the child but because he his mean, selfish, bad parent.

The question of whether it is bad for the children is different. Just because something is bad for children, especially only arguably so, does not make it child abuse. The parent seems to have to know, even if hidden behind an act of willful ignorance, that something is inexcusably bad for their child for it to be abuse.

Still, the question of whether religion is bad for children is interesting. However, I suspect it is not so simple. It can be broken down into at least several questions at least varying by the following:

(1) the age of the child - For instance, it must be more destructive to try to actually convince a 13 year old that Santa Claus or gods exist than to try to convince a 4 year old of the same.

(2) the degree and fanaticism of the religion - For instance, consider that many self-identified Christians don't regularly go to Church and celebrate Christmas the way non-Christians do with materialism, pagan decorations and traditional non-biblical stories of brotherhood. It must be different to send your 16-year-old gay child to a religious anti-gay group that attempts to "cure" him by beating him over the head with homophobic religion, even though that line of thinking is shown false by science, than to go to occasionally drop in to the worship center of your religion for social gatherings especially near holidays.

(3) the falsehood of the religion - For atheists like I this question is moot, but for people who adhere to one of the countless religions and sects in the world, they presumably would only suspect teaching any of the many others besides their own would be abuse since presumably teaching a true religion if there was such a thing wouldn't be bad for children.

(4) the evidence that the specified religion and/or all religions is/are false - It seems more harmful to teach a child a less delusional false belief than one that is more arguable. It seems more harmful to force a child to believe something without evidence and also something that is thus more clearly false, then to use some evidence for something presumably still false to justify teaching the child it is true. For my part, after reviewing the evidence for and the evidence against, it seems clear to me that there is no significant, non-rebutted evidence that any gods exist and there is evidence and convincing arguments that no gods exist.

(5) the effect of lying on children (of the specified age and to the specified degree) in general, not just about religion -This question can likely be answered scientifically. I'm not certain on the facts of it, but until someone finds those facts I might extrapolate from what we know about shielding kids from sex and using abstinence-only sex education which while only bordering on full-blown lying I still find similar to why and how parents would lie to their children. It doesn't cause them to have less sex, but rather they have sex the same amount but get STDs and pregnant way, way more.
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Re: Can Religion be considered to be child abuse?

Post by Jjpregler » June 23rd, 2012, 10:07 am

I am a fan of Richard Dawkins. I also worked in the field of child Social Services in the Law Department. Having seen real child abuse and the results first hand, I have to say that I dislike Richard Dawkins making this analogy.

Child abuse is when a person responsible for the care of a child takes an action that a reasonable person would understand that the action is likely to harm the child. It takes form of physical abuse, mental abuse, sexual abuse, and severe negligence.

Is raising your child in a faith that you believe to be true likely to harm the child? Not really. Some decisions made due to your faith may ber harmful your child, like the example given above about sending your child to a camp to "straighten" the gay out of him. But for the most part, most families never do anything harmful to the children by taking them to church.

It obviously will not raise the children to be "free" thinking individuals, but in our present culture, this is more acceptable than me teaching my son skepticism towards all things superstitious. It will probably raise the child in ignorance, but a socially accepted ignorance.

I understand the "shock" that Richard Dawkins (and other New Atheists, as I think I read Hitchens say that as well) wants to invoke, but aren't well reasoned arguments able to stand on their own without resorting to cheap parlor tricks to induce emotional responses.

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Re: Can Religion be considered to be child abuse?

Post by Grecorivera5150 » June 23rd, 2012, 1:22 pm

There is no way to avoid emotion in discussing religious issues if we want to make a serious inquiry into its affects. This is the paradox of trying to have a logical discussion on religion.

When considering the age when a child is exposed I think another door that opens up is broken homes and poverty . My mother who was struggling with three kids as a single mom found a man who she felt was a caring person who would be a good provider ,remarried and then through consensus with my mother this new step father imposed his religious teachings on us. Its just my intuition but I feel that if my mom was not struggling so much financially to raise three kids that she would not have been attracted to this man.

I believe in so long as your not hurting other people you should be free to do as you choose. So following this line parents should have the choice to raise there kids as they see fit as long as there is no intent to do harm.

I do think though that putting the premise out there that it is or can be considered abusive is legitimate.

This is one of those times that exploring a philosophical question through art such as a novel or a movie might give people an opportunity to explore this moral question for themselves . Start from an obviously emotional struggle to expose the point of view and then those who experience the story can back into their position through their own means of reasoning.

This premise I put forth in this thread

" If a child must submit to the whims of the parents under our current laws should they have standing upon reaching adult hood to try and redress their grievances with their parents in a court of law and seek damages for emotional distress?"

would likely make for a good plot in a book or or movie so if there are any skilled writers out there that can sympathize with this concept, have at it.

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Re: Can Religion be considered to be child abuse?

Post by Misty » June 23rd, 2012, 2:13 pm

Grecorivera5150 wrote:Can religion be considered a form of child abuse? The use of fear tactics and imposed guilt on a young mind in a coercive way can have debilitating affects. I was not forced to go to church until I was 11 so I was in the middle of puberty and had already shrugged off Santa Claus the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy by this time and in so doing had developed an intuition towards empiricism. Throw in familial pressure to conform on top of the emotional coercion and you have a potential recipe for massive amounts of existential angst during critical years of human development.


If a child must submit to the whims of the parents under our current laws should they have standing upon reaching adult hood to try and redress their grievances with their parents in a court of law and seek damages for emotional distress?
The courts would never get done and no one would be qualified to raise children. However, there are abuse laws which consider people after they have grown up that would bring an offender to justice. The OP question would have to include all organizations to be considered as abusive to be fair to religion. Abuse can not be applied to all in any given organization.
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Re: Can Religion be considered to be child abuse?

Post by Grecorivera5150 » June 23rd, 2012, 3:31 pm

So each case would have to be judged on its own merits. It could only be undertaken in a looser pays system in the courts. Of course I am just as interested in the idea as a hypothetical emotional Deus ex Machina.

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Re: Can Religion be considered to be child abuse?

Post by Misty » June 23rd, 2012, 7:11 pm

Grecorivera5150 wrote:So each case would have to be judged on its own merits. It could only be undertaken in a looser pays system in the courts. Of course I am just as interested in the idea as a hypothetical emotional Deus ex Machina.

HI Greorivera5150,

I don't know what a 'looser pays system' is. ?

-- Updated Sat Jun 23, 2012 6:49 pm to add the following --
Grecorivera5150 wrote:So each case would have to be judged on its own merits. It could only be undertaken in a looser pays system in the courts. Of course I am just as interested in the idea as a hypothetical emotional Deus ex Machina.
Could you explain in more detail sentence two? Are you still talking in reference to the courts? Do you want some kind of god to solve it? Not sure what you are after.
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Re: Can Religion be considered to be child abuse?

Post by Grecorivera5150 » June 23rd, 2012, 8:34 pm

My mistake! If these type of lawsuits were aloud to be pursued it could overwhelm the system. A loser pay system would be one where if you were going to bring a specific type of lawsuit the loser of the case would have to pay the court costs of both plaintiffs.

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Re: Can Religion be considered to be child abuse?

Post by Misty » June 23rd, 2012, 8:53 pm

Grecorivera5150 wrote:My mistake! If these type of lawsuits were aloud to be pursued it could overwhelm the system. A loser pay system would be one where if you were going to bring a specific type of lawsuit the loser of the case would have to pay the court costs of both plaintiffs.
OK - I now know what you mean. Thanks
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Re: Can Religion be considered to be child abuse?

Post by Xris » June 24th, 2012, 12:27 pm

I think it has to be at some stage acceptable for churches to give their flock the opportunity for a more open debate on the concept of god. I know many Christians have accepted that jesus is not holy but has great benefit in his teachings and moral guidance. We as atheists can not dictate nor condemn a parent for honestly wanting their children to be instructed on the message of Jesus. I just wish they could accept that their children do need a balanced forum to exert their freedom of choice. I must have influenced my three children because all three are confirmed atheists even after they all attended church primary school. We can not help ourselves.

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Re: Can Religion be considered to be child abuse?

Post by Misty » June 25th, 2012, 12:40 am

Scott wrote:Isn't abuse usually defined by the parent's intent rather than the actual overt act? For instance, yelling at a child, hitting a child or really any forms of punishment such as locking a child in a room can be considered a form of good-intentioned discipline if the parent is in a clear state of mind when administering it. Isn't what turns it into abuse NOT that it is ineffective from some third party point of view but that the parent commits the act out of anger or selfishness as opposed to a sober thoughtful decision on what the parent thinks is best for the child?
Scott,

One thought at a time - According to your above statement a caring parent can beat the hell out of their child so long as they have good intentions from a sober thoughtful decision as opposed to being angry or selfish when they do their horrific act? A good resourceful parent will never hit their child. Adults look huge to kids and seeing that coming after them to hit them is such unfair advantage for the adult. When kids are hit and screamed at, it is ABUSE, I don't care what mood the parent is in. Hitting and screaming at children just shows an out of control adult.

Who hits and screams at parents or other adults when they misbehave or make a mistake?

So, parents, the lesson for today is just be in a good mood and be nice with good intentions when you abuse your child and that makes it OK. Dumb.
Things are not always as they appear; it's a matter of perception.

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