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I had a few thoughts recently, regarding religious indoctrination of children. It's a fairly controversial topic so I suspect there will be a large amount of negative commentary on this thread, but I really would like views from all sides. I personally think that bombarding an uninformed mind with religious dogma is a form of abuse. Dictionary.com defines Child Abuse as: Mistreatment of a child by a parent or guardian, including neglect, psychological bullying, beating, and sexual molestation. Most rational and intelligent people would agree that hitting a child is abuse. But though many places call spanking abuse, many parents believe it's not. Burning a child with cigarettes is also (obviously) considered abuse, but smoking around children - even though it is known second-hand smoke causes cancer - is not so clear. Other grey areas, such as shouting (a normal action in many households) is not abuse, but carried to extremes it can be. Calling children names or threatening them (even if the threat is not carried out), can be classed as abuse, depending on who you listen to. But the grayest of grey areas is the teaching of children. Can religious education of children be abusive? Teaching is clearly valuable, as it prepares children for life, more so when it teaches them how to think, derive answers from evidence and make decisions, but less so when it teaches them what to think. I've come to the conclusion that indoctrinating children with religion is abuse. Of course, it depends on what you teach them, but if you say 'Now Jimmy, the Bible says 'do X' and if you don't, 'Y' will happen.' What Jimmy is being told may be good, but he's being threatened with x, and that was the only reason given for doing what he was told. Most parents believe that they should teach their children what they believe. In a never ending cycle, parents who were brainwashed with religious dogma in turn brainwash their own children, whether it has been helpful or harmful. Rather than teaching children that some behaviours are harmful, religion teaches that their very natures are evil, their thoughts are impure and that they are so vile they deserve to be tortured for all eternity, unless they continually beg for forgiveness. They're told that an implacable god is watching them at all times, and he knows what they're doing constantly and will punish them for it (like a Santa-esque bully). While many adults resent the proliferation of surveillance cameras, they teach their children that a being who can see through walls is constantly watching them. It's a wonder that most people given that type of upbringing aren't schizophrenic! Stuffing immature minds with religion when they haven't the means to sort through it critically damages the developing psyche. No amount of post-adult reasoning completely frees the subconscious from all the ecclesiastical baggage. I believe that indoctrination discourages reasoning and damages critical thought; furthermore, it fosters guilt which is NEVER a good thing. However, while some teachings may be damaging, it doesn't constitute abuse in that the parent or teacher intends to harm the child, or is indifferent to the consequences. The end result is the finale of a cycle. Unfortunately, most adults never reason with what they've been taught, which means it carries on from generation to generation. Indeed, the whole idea of faith is to discourage thinking and foster acceptance. Anything that makes the mind worse or causes em otional pain may be characterized as harm, and its' inclusion as abuse. I'll be very interested to hear your comments.