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Is indoctrination of children child abuse?


Chloe Ze Übermensch
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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.

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You're making the incorrect assumption that religion is entirely negative, and that therefore teaching children religion is therefore harmful. Your conclusion follows from a false premise and is therefore invalid.

 

Let's put aside for the moment the obvious atheist bias here.

 

I'd love to know where teaching children the major themes of loving their neighbors and contributing positively to their families and society (themes in virtually every major religion) is a bad thing. I'd love to know where promoting peace and positive moral values is bad. I'd love to know where religions that encouraged the study of medicine, science, and mathematics, particularly Astronomy (Islam), developed hospitals (Christianity), schools (Christianity), encouraged literacy (Judaism, Christianity and Islam), basic food safety and sanitation (Judaism), inspired major art movements (Hinduism, Christianity), and advances in philosophical thought (Judaism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, etc.) are bad.

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*Hot Topics senses tingling*

 

but less so when it teaches them what to think.

The line between the phrases 'how to think' and 'what to think' is very thin. Studying mathematics clearly tells us 'what' to think when we see two objects together - it instructs to believe in the existence of an entity called 'TWO'. Similarly, learning addition teaches us to believe that adding 'TWO' to 'TWO' invariably creates 'FOUR'. If you break every logical process down, you will find that all thought and communication is based on a system of agreement to believe in certain non-concrete ideas. (Cue our local Wittgenstein-quoter)

 

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 it must no doubt make sense in your context, I should let you know that you're thinking of religion in a very Christian sense (well, Abrahamic sense). Buddhism for example, does not talk about any voyeuristic, punishing god and does not require its followers beg for forgiveness. Besides, the hell sentence in Hinduism and Buddhism isn't even eternal.

just several million years long

 

In the Christian context, you have to remember that this is something the parents themselves likely believe. They may be trying to scare their kids, but this is probably something they believe in too. So how can it be said to be damaging the psyche, if you have no "normal" frame of mind to compare against? We know a schizophrenic by comparison to a normal person, so who is the "normal" person to contrast against (the very wide-ranging) crowd of people afflicted by religion? And how is the religious person's psyche affected compared to Mr. Normale?

 

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!

Neat observation, but God isn't human and won't be jacking off watching someone naked, or laughing at someone while, they, erm, ahem.

 

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.

Doubtful, there's plenty of people around who've turned atheist after growing up in religion while they were adults.

 

I believe that indoctrination discourages reasoning and damages critical thought; furthermore, it fosters guilt which is NEVER a good thing.

Again, this is a very Christian thing. Besides, indoctrination without critique is actually discouraged many religions (and not just the Buddha, whom I'd be quoting right about now if it weren't for Tysy's thread earlier). Islam for example, developed a highly sophisticated science of inquiry, criticism and information verification that the West embraced so tightly in the Reformation.

 

Religious teaching is different from religious indoctrination. It's about as different as a person converting of his own free will to a person being forced to convert. Whether parents are teaching kids their religion, or indoctrinating them is not something the State can dive into and inspect.

 

Indeed, the whole idea of faith is to discourage thinking and foster acceptance.

I disagree, I think the 'whole idea' of faith, as it were, is to instil hope where there would otherwise be none. It isn't about discouraging thinking at all. Scientists throughout history have held faith, and yet never given up on their work.

 

Anything that makes the mind worse or causes emotional pain may be characterized as harm, and its' inclusion as abuse.

Emotional pain can only occur if one chooses to be emotionally pained. If that isn't true, then by god, I'd have jailed a bazillion people by now. ;)

 

...here be words...

Jae, she's talking about religious indoctrination specifically. We're talking fundies and Wahabbis here.

 

march on atheist brigade chairman mao stands by you

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Jae, she's talking about religious indoctrination specifically. We're talking fundies and Wahabbis here.

Right, but her premise appears to be that religious teaching of any kind=indoctrination. Taking my kids to church, reading the Bible, instilling faith in them to better their lives and give them hope in a hopeless world, and discussing religion (including questions about other religions, which I try to answer as accurately as possible) in order to help them develop a moral and religious framework for their lives and learn to love their neighbors and develop some healthy morals is hardly abuse.

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Right, but her premise appears to be that religious teaching of any kind=indoctrination. Taking my kids to church, reading the Bible, instilling faith in them to better their lives and give them hope in a hopeless world, and discussing religion (including questions about other religions, which I try to answer as accurately as possible) in order to help them develop a moral and religious framework for their lives and learn to love their neighbors and develop some healthy morals is hardly abuse.

 

I didn't mean to imply that all religious teaching is bad - sorry if it did - I meant that if you're going to back up your Christian morals with threats (and that is what they are) of eternal damnation, rather than an explanation of the consequences - that is abuse.

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I meant that if you're going to back up your Christian morals with threats (and that is what they are) of eternal damnation, rather than an explanation of the consequences - that is abuse.

 

But then this eternal damnation will only occur post-death, and hence does not constitute any mortal threat. It's about the equivalent of someone threatening to hex someone else. I'd probably chuckle if someone did that me, but if they threatened to cut every vein in my body with a rusty knife, then I'd probably be spooked.

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But then this eternal damnation will only occur post-death, and hence does not constitute any mortal threat. It's about the equivalent of someone threatening to hex someone else. I'd probably chuckle if someone did that me, but if they threatened to cut every vein in my body with a rusty knife, then I'd probably be spooked.

 

That may be, but Matthew 10:28 says "Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell."

 

Assuming the child has been taught that the soul lives on after death, I'd still be pretty scared.

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I like to think that parents are allowed to teach them whatever they feel right as long as they don't violate a set of rules established where they live. Children are in formation and don't have the means to assess what they really want to do. When they mature enough to think for themselves they may either embrace of shun what they were taught. Religious teaching is not indocrination as long as it respects children and teenagers regulations (whih here include religious freedom).

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I didn't mean to imply that all religious teaching is bad - sorry if it did - I meant that if you're going to back up your Christian morals with threats (and that is what they are) of eternal damnation' date=' rather than an explanation of the consequences - that is abuse.[/quote']

 

You seem to make the assumption that the religion is false. You assume that belief in eternal damnation is incorrect. As there is no way of knowing whether that damnation is true or not(religion being about faith instead of provable fact) then you cannot determine that such beliefs are harmful. In fact it may be viewed as abuse to not teach about the failures to follow the religious doctrine should such damnation exist.

 

Oh and if trying to instill guilt guilt is a form of abuse, then I'm suing a few dozen advertisers for abuse.

Edited by Tommycat
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So I should teach my children the consequences of not giving any money to Ron Hubbard once Lord Xenu returns?

 

I make no claims that any religion is correct. In fact I believe most to have no real logic involved. However, if your beliefs are such that you believe in damnation of some form or another, then how can I tell you not to teach your children how to avoid such damnation. There is no evidence to the contrary(because it's purely faith, and as such cannot be proved to be false any more than it can be proven true). So we cannot tell people not to practice their religious beliefs any more than they should be able to force you to believe in theirs.

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But then this eternal damnation will only occur post-death, and hence does not constitute any mortal threat. It's about the equivalent of someone threatening to hex someone else. I'd probably chuckle if someone did that me, but if they threatened to cut every vein in my body with a rusty knife, then I'd probably be spooked.

Yes, but, irregardless of the validity of that threat of eternal damnation, telling a child that they may burn for eternity unless they do this, this, and that is most definitely psychological abuse when taken to the extremes it sometimes is.

 

It's one thing to tell a child your religious views and how to live right according to those views, but it's an entirely different situation when you are exposing a young person to the often draconian punishments espoused in many religious texts. In the same way that I wouldn't show a young child an explicitly violent or pornographic movie or story, I also wouldn't expose them to the more extreme and blatantly immoral passages of some religious texts. The fact that these stories are religious in nature is no reason to differentiate them from secular displays of violence, especially if you are implying these acts of violence may one day happen to them.

 

In short, I fully support the right of parents to teach their children their religion and protect them from any sort of divine punishment they may perceive, however, just as anything else, this can be done to a degree which may cause serious psychological trauma. This is especially true in the long term, such as one's entire childhood.

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I'd love to know where promoting peace and positive moral values is bad.

 

Peace? You do realise that there have been many wars started in the past over which religion was praising God the right way right?

When you say positive moral values which bible are you referring to? If (for example) you think what the old testament was proposing was good moral values then i'd strongly disagree. But I keep forgetting that the church can review their "Papal infallibility" and change their views to keep up with society whenever it suits them.

 

@ Topic: Yes, it is child abuse. If you're religious the decent thing to do would be to not poison your childs mind.

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Peace? You do realise that there have been many wars started in the past over which religion was praising God the right way right?

 

Wars are made by men. Not religion.

 

@ Topic: Yes, it is child abuse. If you're religious the decent thing to do would be to not poison your childs mind.

 

What poison is that, may I ask?

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You're making the incorrect assumption that religion is entirely negative, and that therefore teaching children religion is therefore harmful. Your conclusion follows from a false premise and is therefore invalid.

 

Let's put aside for the moment the obvious atheist bias here.

 

I'd love to know where teaching children the major themes of loving their neighbors and contributing positively to their families and society (themes in virtually every major religion) is a bad thing. I'd love to know where promoting peace and positive moral values is bad. I'd love to know where religions that encouraged the study of medicine, science, and mathematics, particularly Astronomy (Islam), developed hospitals (Christianity), schools (Christianity), encouraged literacy (Judaism, Christianity and Islam), basic food safety and sanitation (Judaism), inspired major art movements (Hinduism, Christianity), and advances in philosophical thought (Judaism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, etc.) are bad.

And, can we please put aside your obviously Christian bias? Just being fair Jae, but please, let's call an apple an apple.

 

I was raised Christian, Lutheran to be precise, and although I learned a great number of valuable morals from that upbringing, I also had an irrational fear of doing evil due to the repercussions of an angry God.

 

I wouldn't go so far as the OP and say that any religious "indoctrination" is irresponsible or abusive, but I would agree with much of the original post. A good parent teaches concrete things concretely: 2+2=4. A good parent teaches things that are not absolute or certain with a grain or two of salt: No daughter, all Muslims are not bad and are not destined for Hell for believing in a different version of the same God that we(sic) do. No son, President Reagan is not trying to blow up the planet or start world war, he is trying to draw a hard line.

 

The second example is an actual discussion I had with my Dad as a child: my grandmother and mother were staunch Democrats and had planted that seed in my head, that Reagan was sending us to Armageddon with his policies. My Dad was and is a staunch republican, but for one time in his life he treated me like a young intelligent mind rather than the idiot he has generally assumed me to be, and gave me a good answer.

 

Parents more than anyone else need to be critical thinkers, and be accutely aware of the difference between what they know for fact, and what they believe, and also be aware of the great divide between those two places.

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Would you not agree, though, that men act on their beliefs?

 

I would. Science brought us the study of nuclear energy, and men made nuclear weapons which brought death to many people. Is science to blame? I wouldn't say so. Same with religion.

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Peace? You do realise that there have been many wars started in the past over which religion was praising God the right way right?

I imagine something in mankind's baser substance would find many things in even an eggshell to war over.

 

I would. Science brought us the study of nuclear energy, and men made nuclear weapons which brought death to many people. Is science to blame? I wouldn't say so. Same with religion.

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Wars are made by men. Not religion.

 

Religion was made by men, not god(s), to advance whatever the founders thought was important. I won´t go as far as to say that there definetely are no gods or such, but those possible beings had nothing to do with the birth of any religion. Religions were born from man´s curiosity and will to explain what was around him, and to teach others their views.

 

I see indoctrinating children with religion as a form of abuse because the parents teach the child to limit their thinking. But religious indoctrination is different from religious upbringing, which teaches the child to treat others the way the religion sees fit, and familiarises the child with the theory of the religion. Most people taking part in this conversation don´t seem to separate these two...

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You seem to make the assumption that the religion is false. You assume that belief in eternal damnation is incorrect. As there is no way of knowing whether that damnation is true or not(religion being about faith instead of provable fact) then you cannot determine that such beliefs are harmful. In fact it may be viewed as abuse to not teach about the failures to follow the religious doctrine should such damnation exist.

 

Oh and if trying to instill guilt guilt is a form of abuse, then I'm suing a few dozen advertisers for abuse.

 

Full disclosure: I'm what I suppose is an apathetist. Not an agnostic, they wonder, but are indecisive; I've come to the conclusion that whether or not there is a god, my actions would be the same, and thus due to a complete lack of any effect on my life, I simply don't care. (Cue Kreia: Apathy is death)

 

 

Ok, with that out of the way. I agree with Tommycat. Let us consider a world where God does exist, as does the Christian conception of Hell.

 

In that world, telling a child that bad actions will send them to Hell might scare them, or even cause a bit of psychological harm. However, it would be irresponsible to not warn the child of the dangers in such a situation, as that would be risking their eternal torment. It would be like living in a world where eating chicken would get you summarily executed, and not telling your child not to eat chicken. In fact, not 'indoctrinating' the children would be the most abusive act possible in this case.

 

One must recognize that the world where God and Hell exist is the world that the truly religious (not to be confused with those exploiting religion for their own gain) believe this world to be. From their perspective, they would be abusing their child if they did not 'indoctrinate' them.

 

One might claim "Well, they're delusional, and delusions are no excuse to abuse children.". However, that would be making the judgment that your understanding of the universe is inherently superior to theirs, based on very little factual evidence. That sounds like the action of a zealot.

 

Note: I'm using the word 'indoctrination' here as the thread has defined it; a synonym for any upbringing portraying religion as truth. I place it in quotes because I'm not convinced that this is the true definition.

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@ Topic: Yes, it is child abuse. If you're religious the decent thing to do would be to not poison your childs mind.

 

What if their religion is correct then? Not saying any religion is correct, BUT to them it is. To the parents the religion is the truth. A failure to teach your kids that playing on the freeway will get them killed would be borderline abusive behavior. Would it be wise to tell your kids never to listen to what a cop tells them?

 

Full disclosure: I'm what I suppose is an apathetist. Not an agnostic, they wonder, but are indecisive; I've come to the conclusion that whether or not there is a god, my actions would be the same, and thus due to a complete lack of any effect on my life, I simply don't care. (Cue Kreia: Apathy is death)

We're probably close to the same page. Though my belief is there is a god(or gods), but that the belief structures we have created are most likely incorrect. I still try to live my life as I want though as I feel that if he(they) does(do) exist, chances are he(they) want me to live as I have, otherwise I would be struck down somehow.

Edited by Tommycat
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I would. Science brought us the study of nuclear energy, and men made nuclear weapons which brought death to many people. Is science to blame? I wouldn't say so. Same with religion.

Sorry, but the two cannot be equated, as any modern, reputable scientific text doesn't contain commandments related to who should be put to death for what. Science simply is; it is the amalgamation of facts based on what we as a species can perceive about our universe. Religion is a doctrine based, not on fact, but faith, that, in certain cases, calls for the deaths of people who by modern ethical and legal standards are completely innocent.

 

I agree with Pavlos that man is inherently prone to conflict, however it cannot be denied that religion -- or any other belief system that commands acts of violence be committed -- can incite violence.

 

What if their religion is correct then? Not saying any religion is correct, BUT to them it is. To the parents the religion is the truth. A failure to teach your kids that playing on the freeway will get them killed would be borderline abusive behavior. Would it be wise to tell your kids never to listen to what a cop tells them?

There is a difference, however, between telling a child that if they play on the freeway they'll get hurt and telling a child if they play on the freeway they'll die in a fiery wreck and suffer for all eternity.

 

In addition, if a schizophrenic raised their child to believe that everyone was out to get them and shirts were demons, and that child ending up having some "issues", the parent's belief in those things is no excuse.

Edited by Det. Bart Lasiter
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