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  1. #1
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    Why Religion can be Harmful towards Children

    One of the biggest reasons why religion is still prevalent today is because of childhood indoctrination. It's not necessarily a bad thing that people believe in certain religions, but that people believe in these things not because they sincerely believe it to be true, but because they were taught as children never to question it, or else they will face eternal damnation.

    Children should be taught to think for themselves, and choose their own religious views. Parents never force their political views on their children, so why should religion be any different? I also live in Ontario, where Catholic Schools are publicly funded by the province, which only makes matters worse. Instead of encouraging thinking and reasoning skills, they are teaching them to have unquestionable faith in something that is too controversial to be considered true, and threatening them with things like hell if they don't.

    Most religions, especially Christianity, teach that things that are completely normal and healthy are evil and immoral, such as homosexuality. This can put a lot of stress on children, and makes them feel guilty for something that is outside of their control.

    Even worse is that religion also encourages immoral actions, such as homophobia and discrimination, which according to holy books such as the bible, are perfectly acceptable, and in some cases, encouraged. I'm not saying that everyone that is religious is immoral, but many are, and it is because of their faith.

    Instead of indoctrinating children with religion, we should teach them to think for themselves, after all, if one really believes their religion to be true, there is no reason why their children wouldn't come to the same conclusion based on the evidence that their given.

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    Re: Why Religion can be Harmful towards Children

    Quote Originally Posted by Lirtossanya View Post
    people believe in these things not because they sincerely believe it to be true, but because they were taught as children never to question it, or else they will face eternal damnation.
    Thank you Lirtossanya for presenting a position that is commonly held by atheists yet often times insufficient addressed by non-atheists. However, as it is currently argued and worded, it is highly problematic and faces numerous challenges in passing that reason "litmus test".

    For example...

    1) You say "religion", yet many religions (most) do not believe in any sort of eternal damnation. So why the condemnation of all religions when this statement cannot be applied to most of them?

    2) Where is the evidence that "people do not sincerely believe their religion is true" and "people face 'eternal damnation' if they question their religious beliefs"?

    This seems like emotional language that lacks any actual credibility. Without credibility, there is no reason to believe it. Without a reason to believe it, we do not need to consider as a part of the objection against religion.

    Children should be taught to think for themselves, and choose their own religious views.
    Do children need to think for themselves about all things, or just some things? For instance, if we take your statement to be true in all things, children would die, be maimed, psychologically damaged for indefinite periods of time due to great trauma born from horrible events that parents are obligated to protect their children from.

    It seems like such a statement is in agreement with the Frank Gallagher (from Shameless) philosophy on child raising "The best gift you can give [a child] is neglect. Neglect fosters self-reliance."

    Parents never force their political views on their children, so why should religion be any different?
    Support that parents never force their political views on children. Do you mean to say "My parents did not force their political views on me, and I don't know of anyone personally whose parents forced their political views on them?" Otherwise, you'll need to provide a study for us to accept yet another unsupported premise.

    Also, what does it mean to "force"? Be specific.

    I also live in Ontario, where Catholic Schools are publicly funded by the province, which only makes matters worse. Instead of encouraging thinking and reasoning skills, they are teaching them to have unquestionable faith in something that is too controversial to be considered true, and threatening them with things like hell if they don't.
    In what ways are students threatened?

    Do religion based schools not have the right to teach their religion? Or should it be the case that religious schools should be secular? Or even religious schools should teach that which contradicts their religion?

    It doesn't seem like this objection was thought out very well, or at least, not stated clearly.

    Most religions, especially Christianity, teach that things that are completely normal and healthy are evil and immoral, such as homosexuality.
    In what way is something said to be "normal" and "healthy"? What qualifies something to have such characteristics?

    Is it the case that only religions hold this view? Or is it the case that people have these views independent of religious beliefs? That is, if religion is what determines what is healthy and normal, then all those who practice little to no religion, should believe the opposite, no? What study led you to believe this is the case?

    This can put a lot of stress on children, and makes them feel guilty for something that is outside of their control.
    Children experience a variety of stress throughout their childhood about things which are beyond their control. Is this stress particularly special that it needs to be addressed and others do not?

    Even worse is that religion also encourages immoral actions, such as homophobia and discrimination, which according to holy books such as the bible, are perfectly acceptable, and in some cases, encouraged.
    Yet another ambiguous and unsupported statement it seems.

    1) Not all religions address homosexuality or make a value one way or another. Yet they are thrown into the "anti-religion" argument here for some reason. This is obviously, the fallacy of biased sample. The same fallacy was committed above, early in the argument.

    2) How do religions "encourage homophobia" or "discrimination"?

    3) What books specifically, and where in said books are such instances of "homophobia" and "discrimination" acceptable?

    I'm not saying that everyone that is religious is immoral, but many are, and it is because of their faith.
    I'm not saying that everyone that is not religions is immoral, but many are, and it is because of their lack of faith.

    Such statements are far to emotional and misleading to be considered as a reasonable case to believe something.

    Instead of indoctrinating children with religion, we should teach them to think for themselves, after all, if one really believes their religion to be true, there is no reason why their children wouldn't come to the same conclusion based on the evidence that their given.
    How does one "indoctrinate" their children? What makes you think that they are not taught to think for themselves? Should parents hire babysitters when they attend religious events (church and church outings for example) if the child doesn't feel like going? If so, does this disenfranchise the poor or those who simply do not have a budget for this type of expense?

    You've made a lot of claims about what "religion" (as if it is a collective agreement of all those of faith) value and say (without supporting any of it of course). So what does "religion" say about raising children in a religious household? Is it virtuous for one to ignore and even be contrary to what one believes to be right or moral?

    Do you have children? If so, do you objectively teach them every religion in existence? If so, what are your qualifications? If you do not do this, why not? You are indoctrinating your children (current or future) in non-religion, and therefore guilty of what you charge others of.

    I appreciate your position Lirt. It's a popular position held by many atheists. We've had this discussion a few times here at ODN (links at the bottom of the page may show you those discussions as this thread progresses). But it seems like a position born of emotion, ignorance, bias, and contempt instead of any reason.

    I look forward to the many clarifications, explanations, and supporting studies/research data that show such a position (as the one you have offered here) to be grounded in reality and reason. I don't recall atheists being able to support their case with logic and evidence the last few times around. Perhaps since we have some new atheists here now (in addition to some potential new and recent data), that may change.
    -=]Apokalupsis[=-
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    I never considered a difference of opinion in politics, in religion, in philosophy, as cause for withdrawing from a friend. - Thomas Jefferson




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    Re: Why Religion can be Harmful towards Children

    Quote Originally Posted by Lirtossanya View Post
    Parents never force their political views on their children, so why should religion be any different?
    They don't? Parents don't teach their children values that correspond to a specific political background?

    Quote Originally Posted by L
    I also live in Ontario, where Catholic Schools are publicly funded by the province, which only makes matters worse. Instead of encouraging thinking and reasoning skills, they are teaching them to have unquestionable faith in something that is too controversial to be considered true, and threatening them with things like hell if they don't.
    Which is say different from teaching controversial subjects like sex practices and threatening them with social stigma and the status of an outcast if they balk at it?
    "Suffering lies not with inequality, but with dependence." -Voltaire
    "Fallacies do not cease to be fallacies because they become fashions.” -G.K. Chesterton
    Also, if you think I've overlooked your post please shoot me a PM, I'm not intentionally ignoring you.


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    Re: Why Religion can be Harmful towards Children

    Quote Originally Posted by Apokalupsis View Post

    1) You say "religion", yet many religions (most) do not believe in any sort of eternal damnation. So why the condemnation of all religions when this statement cannot be applied to most of them?

    2) Where is the evidence that "people do not sincerely believe their religion is true" and "people face 'eternal damnation' if they question their religious beliefs"?
    Your right. Many religions don't believe in eternal damnation. I suppose I could have made the assumption due to my Catholic upbringing. However many religions do promise some sort of salvation, which can lead children to believe that not receiving this salvation is as bad as suffering for eternity, as described in Christianity. Many religions also assert that the only way to achieve this salvation is to be a believer in that religion, returning to my point of teaching children to have unquestionable faith in something, or else face the consequences, whether that be eternal damnation or lack of salvation or life fulfillment.

    Now onto your second premise. Most religious people don't believe in their religion because the evidence points to it, but because that's how they were raised. If the Aztec's knew that the sun was actually a ball of hydrogen gas, would they have been as willing to make sacrifices to it? You also asked for evidence that people who question their beliefs will face damnation, according to their religion. For this I will refer to Christianity, being the religion that I'm most familiar with. A good example of this is the 10 commandments, particularly commandments 1 and 3.

    "I am the lord thy god. Thou shall not worship strange gods before me"
    "Do not use the lord's name in vain"

    These two commandments state that one must worship the christian god, Yahweh before all other gods, and that you are not allowed to ridicule, offend, or be blasphemous in any way towards that god, and many include questioning god as a form of blasphemy. The bible goes further to state that anyone in violation of these commandments is to be put to death, and will most likely suffer in hell for their sin unless god forgives them before death. I'm sure similar things can be found in the holy books of other religions, although I say that loosely as I'm not entirely familiar with all other religions that people believe in, and I'm sure you aren't either. I believe that qualifies as evidence, as for many fundamentalists the bible is literal truth and one can assume that if one violates anything written in the bible, the resulting punishment is eternal damnation, according to the christian religion.
    Do children need to think for themselves about all things, or just some things? For instance, if we take your statement to be true in all things, children would die, be maimed, psychologically damaged for indefinite periods of time due to great trauma born from horrible events that parents are obligated to protect their children from.
    There is a reason why children believe everything that their parents tell them. Children naturally have gullibility because it is necessary for them to learn important skills from their parents. It is like how bugs are attracted to light. Most insects navigate using the light reflected by the moon, which gives them a sense of direction. This, however, can backfire. Since insects can't distinguish between lunar light and other light sources, when they see something such as a candle flame, they use that light to navigate and then fly through the flame, thus killing itself.

    The same principle can be applied to the gullibility of children. What is usually a useful trait can backfire. When a parent teaches a child how to hold a fork, that is useful. When a parent teaches a child that he/she must sacrifice a goat at sundown, that is not useful in any manner and is a waste of time, however the child can't distinguish between the two because he/she believes everything that their parents tell them, not because they want to, but because it is biologically necessary for survival.

    It is one thing to teach children things that are required to function properly in society, but it is another thing to teach children your religious views simply because that is what you believe to be true.

    Support that parents never force their political views on children. Do you mean to say "My parents did not force their political views on me, and I don't know of anyone personally whose parents forced their political views on them?" Otherwise, you'll need to provide a study for us to accept yet another unsupported premise.
    How often do you hear people say things like "Catholic child" or "Muslim child". I'm sure a fair amount. Now, how often do you hear people say things like "liberal child" or "Marxist child". Almost never. People don't label children like this because they know that they can't possibly be old enough to decide their political views, yet people do this with religion all the time. It is as if religion is a special exception, that the religious views of children is determined by their parents, and not by them. Children can't possibly be old enough to decide what their theological beliefs are, because they aren't educated enough. Yet since their parents believe in a particular belief system, so must their children. People never do this with politics, so why is religion any different?

    Do religion based schools not have the right to teach their religion? Or should it be the case that religious schools should be secular? Or even religious schools should teach that which contradicts their religion?
    It is not that religious schools don't have right to teach their religion, it is that they shouldn't be funded by taxpayer's money, including that of the non-religious. Children are not "threatened" with the idea of hell, but simply the idea is imposed onto them with the purpose of scaring them into believing in that religion. Perhaps I didn't word that properly. I object to religious education because they avoid teaching what contradicts their religion. This is what makes religious education bias; children deserve to know all the facts so that they can make up their own mind, as opposed to having contradictory facts kept from them in an attempt to lead them in a direction preferred by those in authority.

    Children experience a variety of stress throughout their childhood about things which are beyond their control. Is this stress particularly special that it needs to be addressed and others do not?
    This kind of stress is easily preventable, and is completely unnecessary. A child should not feel guilty about his/her sexual orientation, which they were led to believe is immorally wrong by their religion.
    2) How do religions "encourage homophobia" or "discrimination"?

    3) What books specifically, and where in said books are such instances of "homophobia" and "discrimination" acceptable?
    By stating things such as the immorality of homosexually, those who feel the need to "spread the word of God" so to speak, end up preaching against these things and openly say offensive things towards these groups, such as calling them "sinners". This kind of intolerance is unacceptable, and is a result of peoples interpretation of holy scripture. Atheists face this kind of intolerance quite frequently, and it is because the people who are intolerant were taught that people who disagree with their religion are "evil", which is untrue.

    Their are several instances in the bible that denounce homosexuality and other groups. For example:

    "You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination" (Leviticus 18:22)
    "If there is a man who lies with a male as those who lie with a woman, both of them have committed a detestable act; they shall surely be put to death. Their bloodguiltness is upon them" (Leviticus 20:13)
    "Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything." (Ephesians 5:22-24)

    These are just a few examples. There are many other things in the bible that one would consider immoral, but the bible promotes as being appropriate or moral.


    Do you have children? If so, do you objectively teach them every religion in existence? If so, what are your qualifications? If you do not do this, why not? You are indoctrinating your children (current or future) in non-religion, and therefore guilty of what you charge others of.
    Greek mythology is often taught in schools, but children are not required to believe in it. I think you are forgetting that non-religion, or atheism, does not consist of a set of beliefs, but the single belief that there are no gods. There is no creed or set of rules in which all atheists adhere to, which means that even if one were to teach their children that there is no god, the effects that would have on a child are limited. They would still be able to form their own stances on issues such as abortion, birth control, and other issues that are religiously motivated. I do not have children, but when I do, I believe the best course of action would be to teach them the facts that are known for sure, and then let them form their own opinions based on those facts. I do not need to teach my children every religion known in order to raise them free of religious indoctrination.

  5. #5
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    Re: Why Religion can be Harmful towards Children

    Quote Originally Posted by Lirtossanya View Post
    A good example of this is the 10 commandments, particularly commandments 1 and 3.

    "I am the lord thy god. Thou shall not worship strange gods before me"
    "Do not use the lord's name in vain"

    These two commandments state that one must worship the christian god, Yahweh before all other gods, and that you are not allowed to ridicule, offend, or be blasphemous in any way towards that god, and many include questioning god as a form of blasphemy. The bible goes further to state that anyone in violation of these commandments is to be put to death, and will most likely suffer in hell for their sin unless god forgives them before death.
    That's not really a good example. All those two commandments are saying is not to use God's name arrogantly and not to worship other gods over Him.

    And as far as questioning belief, the Bible has more example of people questioning God directly and suffering no penalty than it does (if it has any) of people being punished for questioning. For instance:

    The angel of the LORD came and sat down under the oak in Ophrah that belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, where his son Gideon was threshing wheat in a winepress to keep it from the Midianites. 12 When the angel of the LORD appeared to Gideon, he said, “The LORD is with you, mighty warrior.”

    13 “Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but if the LORD is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonders that our ancestors told us about when they said, ‘Did not the LORD bring us up out of Egypt?’ But now the LORD has abandoned us and given us into the hand of Midian.”

    14 The LORD turned to him and said, “Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?”

    15 “Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.”

    16 The LORD answered, “I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites, leaving none alive.”

    17 Gideon replied, “If now I have found favor in your eyes, give me a sign that it is really you talking to me. 18 Please do not go away until I come back and bring my offering and set it before you.”

    And the LORD said, “I will wait until you return.”

    Judges 6:11-18

    The bolded portions are where Gideon is directly questioning God. He asks firstly why God would abandon them and even doubts that God's with them to begin with. THen questions God about how he can save Israel. Then, still not satisfied, and not even convinced that he's NOT just crazy, he wants some proof from God that he's actually talking to God.

    Genesis 18 is packed to the absolute brimmy-brim with questioning. First, Abraham's wife laughs at the idea that she'll have a kid. Then, we have Abraham questioning God's moral authority over Sodom and Gomorrah (Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?). He even goes so far as to talk God from sparing Sodom if He can find 50 righteous people allllll the way down to 10.

    Habakkuk also questions God. Particularly, he questions Him about not answering prayers and the existence, and success of, evil people in the world.

    THen we've got Job..who's brought to his absolute knees for what appears to absolutely no reason other than to test his faith to prove a point.

    Or, perhaps the most poignant of anyone questioning God:

    From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over all the land. 46 About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli,[c] lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).
    Matthew 27:45-46

    Yeah, that's Jesus, who KNEW he was going to die a painful death and that this was part of the plan, assuming God's abandoned him and asking WHY He's done so. There's no last minute repentance there. Those are the dying words of the man. His last, actually. His last words are a direct questioning of God.

    And there's more. Moses' entire story is a series of people questioning God. "Are you sure I should lead?" "Are we there yet?" "Talk water out of a rock?" "Really? For hitting a freakin rock I can't get in the Promised Land?" "Yeah sure, he can part a river but he won't even stop and ask for directions. 40 years in the desert and I was six days from retirement. Some savior."

    Their are several instances in the bible that denounce homosexuality and other groups. For example:

    Quote Originally Posted by Lirtossanya
    "You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination" (Leviticus 18:22)
    "If there is a man who lies with a male as those who lie with a woman, both of them have committed a detestable act; they shall surely be put to death. Their bloodguiltness is upon them" (Leviticus 20:13)
    "Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything." (Ephesians 5:22-24)

    These are just a few examples. There are many other things in the bible that one would consider immoral, but the bible promotes as being appropriate or moral.
    Yeah! Take THAT you uppity homasexickles! And women! Get. BACK. IN. THE KITCHEN! But seriously.



    I'll tell you why!

    “Teacher,” said John, “we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.”
    39 “Do not stop him,” Jesus said. “For no one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, 40 for whoever is not against us is for us. 41 Truly I tell you, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to the Messiah will certainly not lose their reward.
    Mark 9: 38-41

    So Jesus is basically referencing religious tolerance. The individual is using God/Jesus to cast out demons, but he's not a disciple or follower. And Jesus responds, "That's cool, bro. Let the man work."

    If people do not welcome you, leave their town and shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.”
    Luke 9:5

    If people aren't welcoming to you, don't hurt them or curse them. Accept it and leave.

    Matthew has the infamous, "Judge not lest ye be judged" scripture, which is probably the most explicit statement of tolerence in the entirety of the Bible. And here's the thing about the Bible's push there on tolerance: It's not a "let everyone do whatever and don't judge them ever" tolerance. Tolerance, in the context that Jesus refers to it is pretty much, when you see something disagreeable or immoral try to help the person act right or encourage them to do right. But don't hate, mock, or deride them for it, and don't think ill of them.

    Remember that you're criticising Christianity here, and Levitical Laws are OT...they predate Christianity. That's some Hebrew litigation right there. Stark contrast to pretty much everything Jesus says (which forms the basis for Christianity).
    But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.
    1 Peter 3:15-16

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    Re: Why Religion can be Harmful towards Children

    Quote Originally Posted by Lirtossanya View Post
    How often do you hear people say things like "Catholic child" or "Muslim child". I'm sure a fair amount. Now, how often do you hear people say things like "liberal child" or "Marxist child". Almost never. People don't label children like this because they know that they can't possibly be old enough to decide their political views, yet people do this with religion all the time.
    There are a lot of problems with this argument:

    1) You assume that just because Apok has never heard parents label their children politically means that parents do not label their children politically. But why do you assume that one person not hearing Y means that Y does not happen? If I told you that I have never read a book or an article by a scientist which defended evolution, would that prove to you that there are no such articles or books?

    Or, how about this? What if Apok said "Yes. The people I know frequently label their children as 'liberal children', 'conservative children', etc." Would you believe then that people do label their children politically? Would you retract your argument?

    2) I'll admit that I'm nitpicking a bit here, but if we can assume that labeling a child politically means you are forcing your political opinions on them, wouldn't labeling children politically "almost never" (as you admitted in the post I am quoting) contradict your claim that people "never force their political views on their children . . ." (as you claimed in your opening post)? Doesn't "almost never" mean "there are times (though very few)" while "never" means "there are not times"?

    3) Why exactly do you assume that just because someone does not label someone as X does not mean they are enforcing X on others? If I forced my children to hate black people (I'm white), but refused to call my children racists, would you argue that I am not forcing racism on them? Aren't political ideas independent of labels?

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    Re: Why Religion can be Harmful towards Children

    Quote Originally Posted by Lirtossanya View Post
    One of the biggest reasons why religion is still prevalent today is because of childhood indoctrination.
    I rather think it's because mankind is obsessed with finding answers. Which is why many people become religious in other stages of life and not just in childhood.

    Quote Originally Posted by Lirtossanya View Post
    Children should be taught to think for themselves, and choose their own religious views....

    ...Instead of indoctrinating children with religion, we should teach them to think for themselves,

    It's funny that you say children should be taught to question, which implies that they should seek and have access to knowledge of all kinds and yet you seem to have a problem with them learning about religion. Is that really fair? I am not religious myself but grew up with several religions and ultimately made my own decisions about what to believe, based largely on my experiences with religion as a child. But LOTS of people become religious as adults.

    I do feel that children should be taught to question, but part of that also means teaching them reason so that they can make decisions for themselves in an informed manner. So while I appreciate your argument that teaching them religion and not allowing them access to anything else is potentially harmful, it's also not any better to say that they shouldn't be taught religion at all. You're just arguing for the opposite extreme. They're just going to end up questioning why they were kept from religion and then go from there.

    Quote Originally Posted by Lirtossanya View Post
    after all, if one really believes their religion to be true, there is no reason why their children wouldn't come to the same conclusion based on the evidence that their given.
    Now that's just not right. You can't say that if the religion is really true, the child will inevitably follow it anyway because if that were the case, there would only BE one religion and EVERYONE would follow it. Now, if you were saying that if the child were given the opportunity to learn about a particular religion and then consequently felt compelled enough by the arguments that religion puts forth that he/she makes their own decision to follow it (as I suggested above), that would be different. Because none of us can say we have the answers, no matter how sure we may be, and that goes for those of us who are not religious.
    My brain is trying to kill me...

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    Re: Why Religion can be Harmful towards Children

    @Lirtossanya

    I'm not sure if your premise is a good one. How can you expect a parent not to teach their kids the best way to live their lives? It's like asking a Chinese immigrant family not to teach their kids anything about the Chinese culture. It's actually impossible to do so - something always leaks out!

    It's akin to teaching your kids how to cross the road safely or handling electronics or any of a myriad of life lessons. You're not going to let the kids figure it out for themselves because they are too young and the risk is too great that serious harm could be done if not taught properly.

    Children should be taught to think for themselves, and choose their own religious views.
    I disagree, I send my kids to Catholic school but I expect them to come out atheists. They have already seen first hand some of the prejudices religious people have towards atheism, other religions and even other denominations (I'm sure the homophobia comes later). On the other hand there is nothing wrong with learning about a religion and religious practices and my daughter loves singing in the choir. Some of it is good stuff and it's good to know the dominant religion of the country your born in - just being able to understand the various cultural references is a necessary thing even if one doesn't fully believe.

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    Re: Why Religion can be Harmful towards Children

    I actually don't think that childhood religious indoctrination is much of a problem in our current society. While it may have been problematic even half a century ago, when parents exerted very much control over what information their children had access to, this doesn't seem to be as much of an issue today.

    I've observed that modern teenagers (which I encounter often, as I have several siblings still in the public school system) are much less likely to be influenced by the views of their parents. It would seem that the vast increase in available information granted by the internet and social media has shifted childhood indoctrination into a much weaker position. In my town, while the current parental generation is overwhelmingly Italian/Irish Roman Catholic, their children are surprisingly agnostic. Despite a growing population, the public schools' religious clubs have almost completely vanished.

    These trends are even more significant when you consider the fact that approximately 25% of my town's students attend a private, nominally Catholic high school. These students end up learning about evolution just like everyone else. They have AP Biology classes, which rely heavily on Darwin's theories of heredity. At least in Massachusetts, Catholic schools aren't what they used to be. The only real difference between the local Catholic school and the Public one is that the Catholic one costs money in tuition.

    Modern youth can access information over the internet, and can obtain it from sources they likely consider to be much more authoritative than their own parents, so indoctrination ends up being much less of an evil than it would seem.
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    Re: Why Religion can be Harmful towards Children


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    Re: Why Religion can be Harmful towards Children

    Quote Originally Posted by Lirtossanya View Post
    One of the biggest reasons why religion is still prevalent today is because of childhood indoctrination.
    I always find this to be such a strange argument. Almost everything about a person's worldview and personality has some root in his childhood. Why should religion be any different? Are parents supposed to teach their children nothing and let them become social deviants, out of a fear they may "indoctrinate" them?

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    Re: Why Religion can be Harmful towards Children

    Quote Originally Posted by DeviantNorm View Post
    I do feel that children should be taught to question, but part of that also means teaching them reason so that they can make decisions for themselves in an informed manner. So while I appreciate your argument that teaching them religion and not allowing them access to anything else is potentially harmful, it's also not any better to say that they shouldn't be taught religion at all. You're just arguing for the opposite extreme. They're just going to end up questioning why they were kept from religion and then go from there.
    Teaching a child about a religion, and requiring them to believe in that religion I believe are two completely different things. Children are taught about Greek Mythology in school, but they aren't required to believe in it, nor should they be. I think that it is the parents responsibility to expose their children to the facts so they are educated enough to form their own opinions, which can, and should include teaching them about world religions, but not requiring them to believe in any one in particular.

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    Re: Why Religion can be Harmful towards Children

    Quote Originally Posted by Lirtossanya View Post
    Teaching a child about a religion, and requiring them to believe in that religion I believe are two completely different things. Children are taught about Greek Mythology in school, but they aren't required to believe in it, nor should they be. I think that it is the parents responsibility to expose their children to the facts so they are educated enough to form their own opinions, which can, and should include teaching them about world religions, but not requiring them to believe in any one in particular.
    Do you mean "we" as in the school system or "we" as in parents? The former I would agree with the latter poses some problems. If you are arguing the latter, should parents not be instructing morals and values into their kids?
    Also, what about politics? Schools are pretty biased politically, is that something you object to as well?
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    Re: Why Religion can be Harmful towards Children

    Quote Originally Posted by Lirtossanya View Post
    Teaching a child about a religion, and requiring them to believe in that religion I believe are two completely different things. Children are taught about Greek Mythology in school, but they aren't required to believe in it, nor should they be. I think that it is the parents responsibility to expose their children to the facts so they are educated enough to form their own opinions, which can, and should include teaching them about world religions, but not requiring them to believe in any one in particular.
    True enough, but if you are arguing that religion can be harmful to children, they probably shouldn't be exposed to it all, right? I mean, if I teach my son about various religions, he still might choose to believe in one that, as you said yourself
    Quote Originally Posted by Lirtossanya View Post
    encourages immoral actions, such as homophobia and discrimination
    I more or less agree with your assertion that children should be raised to be open-minded, but it does inevitably conflict with your assertion that religion can be harmful to children because some religions encourage ideals you consider to be immoral (not just you obviously, you for the sake of this argument)
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    Re: Why Religion can be Harmful towards Children

    You should teach your kids what you believe, you should also encourage them to think for themselves and to seek out knowledge.

    That's it. It would be loony I think not to teach your kids what your faith is. Atheists don't have a lot to teach their kids in that regard, just stick to good science, your sense of morality, and an introduction to the idea of religious belief.

    The only real harm you can do is if you lie to your kids or indoctrinate them such that they are distrustful of anyone else that doesn't exactly match your beliefs. Heck I don't even mind if you tell your kids Atheists are dangerous, when I actually meet them I will enlighten them that we are people too.
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    Re: Why Religion can be Harmful towards Children

    If all people grew up in a society in which religion, in all of the forms it takes, was not even touched upon, where kids had no exposure to the stories of the different faiths (to quote John Lennon "imagine"), and then as adults, as part of a continuing education, the religions of the world were unveiled to them, I wonder what the reaction would be...

    I know that this is a hypothetical situation in the extreme, considering how much religion permeates human culture, but that doesn't make it impossible to imagine realistically.

    My assertion is that when viewed through the eyes of adulthood (college age), that these religious systems that we consider credible now, would be viewed with a great deal more skepticism and incredulity. There would be little difference between the stories of our gods and tales of fiction in the minds of those who were not brought up to simply accept fantastical stories as the truth. Tales of Noah and the ark, Mohammed and his night journey to heaven, Jonas in the big fish for 3 days, Jesus born of a virgin and thousands of others from the worlds religions would sound like what they are (yes, in my opinion. Forgive me for seeming to attack your faith...) man made tales from a time when we didn't understand much about the world we live in.

    It takes a great effort of will to break free from the faith of your parents and society. Maybe not for all, but speaking for myself, it was a long, hard process to go from someone brought up accepting a fundamentalist form of Christianity, to the day when I finally was able to relieve myself of the last vestige of theism.

    I will look for relevant studies or statistics to back up this claim, but I think it is probably certain that the great majority of people in the world keep the religion of their parents. Transplant even the most fervent Christian of today back in time to infancy and place them in a Muslim family and they would almost certainly grow up absolutely convinced that Mohammed is the Prophet, that Christians and Jews and all other faiths were in error and bound for hellfire. The Muslim child transplanted to a Christian home would believe the opposite. When I began to question my faith, this was one of the facts that shook my belief that any religion actually could claim to know the "truth". That God would let innocent children be born in the home of false faiths, knowing full well that by being born there, they were destined to burn in hell, was something that I couldn't accept as truth. Your place in the afterlife then becomes more an accident of birth rather than a choice of your own.

    Having grown up in Christian theology, I know full well the arguments brought forth in response. "Jesus is revealed to all, and all have a choice to accept him or deny him...God is a just God.... etc." but I believe that is a statement that attempts to absolve the speaker of any uncomfortable thoughts that arise when you consider that the Lord you worship and love is essentially condemning to hell the rest of the world simply because they were born in the wrong part of it. I remember all too well the feelings that I had dodged a cosmological bullet by being fortunate enough to be one of the "believers" who knew the "truth", and while I felt for the condemned, I sure was glad I was not one of them.

    This dehumanizing and divisive tendency in religion, that casually allows us to separate the people of the world into "saved" and "saved not" piles, one destined for mansions in heaven, the other to eternal burning, is one of the tenets of religion that I think is most damaging to young minds. It is my belief that it is cruel to allow children to formulate this idea of "us" and "them", and that it only sets them up to see divisions in all people, rather than similarities.

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    Re: Why Religion can be Harmful towards Children

    Quote Originally Posted by Tanus Barbarus View Post
    This dehumanizing and divisive tendency in religion, that casually allows us to separate the people of the world into "saved" and "saved not" piles, one destined for mansions in heaven, the other to eternal burning, is one of the tenets of religion that I think is most damaging to young minds. It is my belief that it is cruel to allow children to formulate this idea of "us" and "them", and that it only sets them up to see divisions in all people, rather than similarities.
    Humans by their nature group other humans together into "us" and "them" categories. This is not a vestige of organized religion, its a reflection of who we are. Perhaps it would be appropriate to say that Religion channels this force into the "us" (saved) and "them" (unsaved) in a manner that drives the "us" to reach out to, minister to, take care of the the "them." The idea that "they" can become "us" is a far healthier concept than the us/them relationships that arise in arenas outside of religion, say nationalism or political ideology, where identities are inherent and fixed.

    Importantly, Religion posits that the consequences of this us/them breakdown will be suffered in an afterlife (usually as the natural consequence of one's own actions), not this life. While Christians might actively pursue conversion, they are not generally, as can happen with non religious categorization, attempting to exterminate their opponents. You can convert an agnostic to Christianity, you cannot convert an Albanian to be Serbian.

    The latter offers no possibility of "redemption" and if this arises from a secular or atheistic view of the universe, no hope of justice in a next life so the natural consequences suddenly become very limited and unattractive.
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    Re: Why Religion can be Harmful towards Children

    Quote Originally Posted by Tanus Barbarus View Post
    I will look for relevant studies or statistics to back up this claim, but I think it is probably certain that the great majority of people in the world keep the religion of their parents
    I don't know about the world, but in America I don't think the trend has not been so much with people keeping in step with the religion of their parents. In the past few decades I would say the adult seeker has been more interested in the experience of the Divine instead of just the idea of some one telling them about the Divine. In 2005 Newsweek published an article based upon some research and polling they did on this subject.

    In Search of the Spiritual
    "Move over, politics. Americans are looking for personal, ecstatic experiences of God, and, according to our poll, they don't much care what the neighbors are doing." [including their parents - my comment]

    Aug. 29 - Sept. 5, 2005 issue - The 1960s did not penetrate very deeply into the small towns of the Quaboag Valley of central Massachusetts. Even so, Father Thomas Keating, the abbot of St. Joseph's Abbey, couldn't help noticing the attraction that the exotic religious practices of the East held for many young Roman Catholics. To him, as a Trappist monk, meditation was second nature. He invited the great Zen master Roshi Sasaki to lead retreats at the abbey. And surely, he thought, there must be a precedent within the church for making such simple but powerful spiritual techniques available to laypeople. His Trappist brother Father William Meninger found it in one day in 1974, in a dusty copy of a 14th-century guide to contemplative meditation, "The Cloud of Unknowing." Drawing on that work, as well as the writings of the contemplatives Saint John of the Cross and Saint Teresa of Avila, the two monks began teaching a form of Christian meditation that grew into the worldwide phenomenon known as centering prayer. Twice a day for 20 minutes, practitioners find a quiet place to sit with their eyes closed and surrender their minds to God. In more than a dozen books and in speeches and retreats that have attracted tens of thousands, Keating has spread the word to a world of "hungry people, looking for a deeper relationship with God."

    ....

    History records that the vanguard of angst-ridden intellectuals in Time, struggling to imagine God as a cloud of gas in the far reaches of the galaxy, never did sweep the nation. What was dying in 1966 was a well-meaning but arid theology born of rationalism: a wavering trumpet call for ethical behavior, a search for meaning in a letter to the editor in favor of civil rights. What would be born in its stead, in a cycle of renewal that has played itself out many times since the Temple of Solomon, was a passion for an immediate, transcendent experience of God. And a uniquely American acceptance of the amazingly diverse paths people have taken to find it. NEWSWEEK set out to map this new topography of faith, visiting storefront churches in Brooklyn and mosques in Los Angeles, an environmental Christian activist in West Virginia and a Catholic college in Ohio—talking to Americans of all creeds, and none, about their spiritual journeys. A major poll, commissioned jointly with Beliefnet.com, reveals a breadth of tolerance and curiosity virtually across the religious spectrum. And everywhere we looked, a flowering of spirituality: in the hollering, swooning, foot-stomping services of the new wave of Pentecostals; in Catholic churches where worshipers pass the small hours of the night alone contemplating the eucharist,and among Jews who are seeking God in the mystical thickets of Kabbalah.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Squatch347 View Post
    Humans by their nature group other humans together into "us" and "them" categories. This is not a vestige of organized religion, its a reflection of who we are. Perhaps it would be appropriate to say that Religion channels this force into the "us" (saved) and "them" (unsaved) in a manner that drives the "us" to reach out to, minister to, take care of the the "them." The idea that "they" can become "us" is a far healthier concept than the us/them relationships that arise in arenas outside of religion, say nationalism or political ideology, where identities are inherent and fixed.
    Simply because there are many different ways in which humans segregate themselves, does not mean that religion gets a pass because "we do it in other ways, too". That is a spurious argument at best, like saying that rape is alright because people rob and murder too.

    I believe that our tendency to group ourselves is merely a vestige of a more primitive time in human development that has few advantages in the connected world of today.

    To say that religion is a "lesser" form of division because it causes people to reach out and help others of differing faiths is to disregard 1) that the vast majority of religious people the world over make no attempt to "help" those of other faiths, 2) that religion acts more as a barrier to people coming together (Jews and Muslims, Muslims and Hindus, Shia and Sunnis, Protestants and Catholics) 3) and that religion is not required for people to reach out to each other.

    If someone is reaching out to another group only out of an intention to convert them and make them like oneself, that could hardly be construed as bringing people together. Far better would it be for people to reach out and help each other for purely humanitarian reasons, with no desire to change that person.

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    Re: Why Religion can be Harmful towards Children

    Quote Originally Posted by Tanus Barbarus View Post
    Simply because there are many different ways in which humans segregate themselves, does not mean that religion gets a pass because "we do it in other ways, too". That is a spurious argument at best, like saying that rape is alright because people rob and murder too.
    That is a strawman I believe. I'm not arguing that by default any identification as a group is ok. I was arguing that group identification by itself is not an evil, actions taken because of that identification can be evil or good.

    My argument is more akin to saying: "Don't outlaw marriage (during which people usually engage in sex) because a single male once raped someone," which is more akin to the argument I believe you are making.

    Quote Originally Posted by TB
    I believe that our tendency to group ourselves is merely a vestige of a more primitive time in human development that has few advantages in the connected world of today.
    Really? So there is no advantage to modern humans in recognizing that other self-identified groups of humans have different value systems than we do?

    Quote Originally Posted by TB
    To say that religion is a "lesser" form of division because it causes people to reach out and help others of differing faiths is to disregard 1) that the vast majority of religious people the world over make no attempt to "help" those of other faiths, 2) that religion acts more as a barrier to people coming together (Jews and Muslims, Muslims and Hindus, Shia and Sunnis, Protestants and Catholics) 3) and that religion is not required for people to reach out to each other.
    This is also a strawman, I did not argue that all religions are inherently good. But some religions being bad does not make the institution itself bad.

    Quote Originally Posted by TB
    If someone is reaching out to another group only out of an intention to convert them and make them like oneself, that could hardly be construed as bringing people together. Far better would it be for people to reach out and help each other for purely humanitarian reasons, with no desire to change that person.
    Do you have a secular example of this?

    USAID (who I used to work for) certainly looks to alter behavior, UNICEF does as well, the Red Cross, etc. They all look to alter behaviors they believe are harmful. In fact most humanitarian organizations look at simple "relief" giving as far more damaging to local economies and societies than outreach, education and development.

    You only see conversion as a negative because of your assumption about religion. What if it could be shown (and I'm not arguing that it can) that converts to religion X lived longer, happier, healthier lives, were more educated, treated their environment better, had lower rates of absolute poverty, and less social schisms within their society? Would that still be a negative outcome?
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