Religious Indoctrination is Child Abuse

You’ve probably heard someone say it before. In a discussion forum or a debate, or twitter, or really anywhere in the world where vitriolic hate can be expressed with minimal repercussions (AKA the internet):

“Religious Indoctrination is Child Abuse”

(I could cite sources for you, but if you found this website, chances are you know about Google!)

But, if you actually examine this idea, it just simply doesn’t hold up very well.

If you believe that religious indoctrination is child abuse, you’re stating that your atheist beliefs, values and parenting abilities are superior to that of all religious persons. This is, of course, simply advocating for only your own form of indoctrination. Because you know what’s best for everyone else’s children.

The logic being used is that if religion isn’t true then it is child abuse to teach children that it is. If religious values are flawed, then it is child abuse to share those values with children. The conclusion of this logic is that anyone who teaches anything that MIGHT be incorrect is abusing their child. In which case, the CPS should be called on every single parent who has ever existed, regardless of their religion or lack thereof.

Unless you believe that indoctrinating children at all is bad. That would mean that you don’t believe in teaching children anything, because any education is itself a form of indoctrinating children with the idea that knowledge is good. Teaching children anything from the knowledge acquired by humanity or personal experience is indoctrination, and should be avoided at all costs.

In order to remain logically consistent, the person making this statement must either be the only person in the entire planet to have every single thing figured out, or they must believe that children should be left to their ignorance for as long as possible.

 

You’re missing the point, Chris. Religion teaches fear!

That’s one of the first objections. Because, you know… Hell! “If you don’t obey the Bible, you’re going to HELL!”

First off, not all Religions teach Hell. In fact, not all Christians teach an eternal Hell (a discussion for another time). So you’re narrowing it down to what many would call the “fundamentalists.” Fundamentalist simply means someone who sticks to the fundamentals –the foundations– of their beliefs. Unfortunately, in large part due to the behaviors of many so-called “fundies,” the term has come to mean “the ignorant, racist, borderline terrorist fringe of a given religion.” But if you’re a true fundamentalist, with a solid understanding of what Christianity’s true fundamentals are, you’ll know better than to let fear be any sort of motivator in your religion.

The point of Christianity is that we don’t need to live in fear, guilt or condemnation, because God frees us from all of that. Yes there are Christians who do live in fear, and do spread that fear to their children, but they do so in direct conflict with the gospel they claim to believe.

So then, it’s not really religion that is being called abusive. It’s the fear factor: Don’t teach children to fear something they shouldn’t fear. That’s abuse.

The problem is, a statements like “Religious indoctrination is child abuse!” translates directly to “Fear all religions!” and if you’re going to attack people for teaching their children about religions (which, as we know, are all up on the fear-mongering), the only alternative is to fear-mongeringly (totally a word) teach them that religion is something to fear.

It’s not only fear-mongering; it’s hypocritical, and it’s a sweeping generalization akin to lumping all atheists together with Stalin.

 

You’re still missing the point, Chris. Religions teach bigotry!

I could analyze this statement in much the same manner as I did above. I could address all the assumptions and generalizations made by this statement, but instead, I’ll focus on the word bigotry.

bigotry • nounintolerance toward those who hold different opinions from oneself

Don’t make me spell out the irony of using the word “bigotry” to make a sweeping generalization about those whose beliefs differ from yours.

 

No, no, no! I’m talking about just the people who hate the gays!

Oh! Okay. So… when you say “Religious indoctrination is child abuse!” What you really mean is “People who teach children to blindly hate a people group are abusing their children.” Abuse is a strong word, but I get where you’re coming from.

Just make sure you’re not confusing hate with disagree or disapprove. Hating on people simply because they disagree with you would be sort of like doing the very thing you’re saying is hateful to do… right?

But if you actually mean HATE “hate” and not difference of opinion “hate” then,  like I said, I kinda get ya, but you should probably be more specific when you say things like “Religious indoctrination is child abuse.”

Here, I’ll fix it:

Religious Hateful indoctrination is possibly child abuse, which is why I would never make a blanket generalization about religious people simply based on the inappropriate behaviors of a minority that does not in any way represent the whole.”

 

Cool, I think we’re on the same page, now!

 

So… before anyone accuses me of hastily generalizing that all atheists are advocates of this hypocritical claim, I’d like to say that I’m thankful to all the atheists who are smarter than that, many of whom I know personally.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I just remembered it’s time for my family’s daily “How to properly hate the gays while fearing the eternal torture that is sure to come if you don’t brush your teeth thoroughly” indoctrination session…

 

  • Kat

    Great article with some good points. However I feel that what those people really disagree with is the failure to teach children to think critically and question the truth for themselves. I have no problem with indoctrination because that is what my parents did and I know they were doing it with the full belief that it was for my good, and I am in fact thankful to them. Brainwashing however is another matter, and a completely different thing to indoctrination. That is what people are getting mixed up.

    • I’m sure the line between indoctrination and brainwashing can be a bit fuzzy. In any case, the word “abuse” is incredibly overrused.

      I agree that there are many cases within the religious community where critical thinking is somewhat discouraged (trust me… I hate few things more than that). But, to call that “abuse” is an abuse of the word.