Saturday, February 7, 2009

Sound Off 02-07-09

At the risk of swaying anyone's answer to today's question, I'd like to state up front my view on the religious indoctrination of children. I feel that, if we teach young children that they are evil by nature, and that only through God's word can they be spared a fate worse than death in the fires of Hell, then the likely upshot is we have retarded their moral development. As a human child matures mentally, she is naturally inclined to acquire and fine-tune a sense of moral reasoning; but the admonishments of religious morality ("thou shalt not... or else") represent a less advanced stage of moral development and, since they are presented as absolutes and beyond questioning, they delay or even preempt more advanced stages of development. When such a child reaches adulthood, she may very well be incapable of restraining her "base and evil" nature, should her fragile bubble of faith burst.

Today's question: Is it wrong of adults to indoctrinate children into religion? Why or why not?


  1. Hello Philo,

    The earliest stage of moral development is characterized by fear of punishment. To develop a moral system founded on the "fear of God" is morally arresting as it defaults the devotee to fear of retribution and personal excision as the grounds for observance.

    According to Kholberg's and Piaget's stages of moral and cognitive development, early stages of development are characterized by concrete thinking. Initially, all objects are only thought of as seen--there is no sense of object permanence. As language is developed, symbolic thought and the potential for abstraction surfaces. Moral and cognitive maturity is then characterized by optimized abstraction. Moral abstraction recognizes the importance of understanding that the "spirit of the law" supersedes the "letter of the law" to the point that mere observance of the law is not always the ethical high road. Rote allegiance to precept observance holds the risk of superseding morality and ethics in this context.

    So, yes, I agree that religion holds the potential of retarding moral and, of course, cognitive development.

  2. Hi Scrip,

    So, are you saying it is wrong for adults to indoctrinate their children into religion? There are likely arguments to be made besides that of religion stunting development... or are there?


  3. You guys are reading my mind. I've got a blog scheduled about how your questions is a dilemma for me. I've got two kids that I want to keep "un-indoctrinated", but I'm in the closet. So, if I openly, actively prevent their indoctrination, family members get suspicious.

    I don't go to church, so that helps. And, I try to plant seeds of doubt.

    Anyway, yeah, I think indoctrination isn't good in the end. I made a lot of premature choices, bad choices, and missed a lot of opportunities because I had such adherence to my faith.

    But, I think this YouTube clip by GoGreen18 says it best:

    A "Deconversion": Part IV, A Child's Testimony

    She has a lot of interesting video clips, but this one speaks directly to your sound off question.

  4. Hey Philo,

    Wrong? I guess that I might be willing to say that. But, as part of the human experience, I am willing to allow parents the right to decide how to raise their children. Just as though the Muslim or Christian fundamentalist would consider it wrong for me not to teach my kids about Allah or Jesus, I would expect them to allow me the right to be wrong.

  5. Hi Uruk,

    I've seen this girl on YouTube before; it's fascinating to watch a young mind starting to think for herself... almost makes me wish I had kids. Almost.

    As for being in the closet and watching your own kids get indoctrinated, I think perhaps you and Scriptulicious could start a support group.


    We don't always allow parents the "right" to raise their kids in ways they see fit, especially if we know they are raising kids wrong. That's why the county takes kids away from drug addicts. On the other hand, no parents are perfect parents, so where do you draw the line? Would you allow parents to indoctrinate their children into Satanism? into Naziism? into militant Islam?


  6. Hello Philo,

    I believe in free market ideologies. That is, all ideas should have their way in/through society for individuals to decide on in good conscious.

    It is a fact of life that the mind of a child is highly malleable on a neurological scale. By the end of a child's first five years, most of her neurological foundations for personality are already in place. A child that is exposed to an enriched environment during the developmental years (before and after age five) is going to have a broad neuro-network with which to encounter the world.

    A dogmatic family belief system could potentially stifle the development of a child, but *it does not have to.* Even if a child is raised in a fundamentalist home, it is possible for the broad-minded parent to provide a breadth and depth of enrichment to allow a child the eventual cognitive ability to depart from the cognitive limitations of her dogmatic rearing.

    Consider the family that we saw on Wednesday at the Field Museum. We saw a classic homeschooling family composed of three children and two parents. The women all wore dresses or skirts and had their hair up in conservative hair ties. Though, no doubt, this family was filtering the input that their kids were receiving, the experience will still open up capacities in their minds that may come to full maturation.

    I think that my parents did a great job educating me in a fundamentalist context. I knew much more about evolution and nature than about creationism before I officially was "born again" at age 12. My parents had allowed me a lot of learning opportunities that fell outside of the pail of orthodoxy.

    You are right about Uruk and me with our kids. My three children are being raised fundamentalist. I am not taking direct and/or combative measures against their training. I am teaching them to think and to question. I rarely, if ever, tell them what I thin--I generally prompt them to question and think even when I agree with what they share.

    So, though religious indoctrination or indoctrination in any dogma can be a source of moral and cognitive developmental retardation, educated parents will hopefully understand the value of a broad-based education in which the child is not limited to just one sight or one perspective.

  7. Well said, guys. Well said.

    Hearing all this was helpful for me.


    Now I know that if I just teach my children to think for themselves, everything else will fall in place, regardless of what they embrace.

    I don't mind if my kids choose to become Christian (or any other faith), just as long as they don't allow their lives to be controlled to the extent that they are not truly being themselves. Nor, do I want them to adopt dogmatic beliefs that will cause them to harm others just for the sake of spreading their doctrine.

  8. Scrip:

    I don't disagree with you on any particular point. But, reflecting on my own indoctrination, which was entirely done by the priests and nuns of Catholic schools, I can't help but wonder how my education would have differed if, instead of a half hour of daily catechism and several minutes a day of prayer, that time had been instead divided up among other subjects such as science, math, history, etc.

    As you and I have talked about, religion consumes a great deal of our time, money, and calories that might have otherwise been spent on... well, to be blunt, useful things. So, is the "free market" of ideologies being threatened by a monopoly of religion? The US is quite behind the curve on education among industrialized nations, and fundies aren't really helping in this respect. A poor education system could very likely have an impact on our future economy.

    Just a thought.


    I look forward to your post. I think the "seeds of doubt" you try to sow will bear fruit. On my old blog, I wrote a post called "the virtue of doubt" (or something like that), in which I relate a story about my family. An instance of collective credulity on our part led to some near-disastrous results. Doubt is a good good thing.


  9. Hello Philo,

    The secularization of education in America is healthy for the fundamentalist and for the is a necessary protection against the hijacking of the rights of others. I know that you agree with this, jut wanted to put it in writing. More later...

  10. Uruk:

    I am reading your blog with fascination....from the beginning. May I have permission to re-post “A Broken Friendship” on my blog, as part of an article I am writing? Your posts provide important insights into the process of de-conversion. As you may gather from reading my posts, I am still a believer, plan to remain so, and do not wish to follow in your footsteps to doubt and unbelief. Your testimony is instructive for avoiding such a crisis of faith. I have heard one atheist state that it is impossible to read Dawkins, Shermer, etc. and retain faith in God. While I might want to argue that someone with superior Biblical knowledge, intellectual ability, and independent thinking would not fall into such a trap, I cannot say that.....because I know Mr. Scrip. So I will take heed and stay away from these books and the video you mention that did you in. It is dangerous enough to my soul to frequent this blog, but I am on “special assignment” and try to stay prayed up and Biblically defensive with the whole armor of God protecting me. I expect ridicule and am learning to deal with it. It is not going to go away I now realize, and I cannot expect fair treatment. My ideas are considered illogical merely on the basis of my belief in the supernatural, so I have no room to speak supposedly. To believe in God is illogical it is claimed here. Since no-one else seems to be willing to step up to the plate to attempt to defend God’s reputation, I will have to play Davey to the Goliaths on this blog, as time allows. Just realize, everyone, you are dealing with a “little old lady” as you heap on the abuse. Not that I should get special treatment because of my age or gender, but just so you know who you are dealing with. I hope Zee feels good about dissing someone like me with such vulgarity. Does he talk this way to his grandmother as well? Oh well, now that there is a cussbucket category, maybe I won’t have to hear it going forward. I will be your “token fundamentalist punching bag” and see how long I can tolerate staying without being driven away once again.

    Shalom to all.

  11. Tandi:

    I thought my name was "Little Shit" when I was young because thats what my grandmother called me. I talk the same to her as I do to anyone else. Last week I walked my grandmother to her car with her holding on to my arm from church because it was slippery out. She told me she heard it was going to get colder yet and I responded with, "Fuck that." My grandmother is a great Christian woman who doesn't get hung up on piddly shit. I look up to her a lot of ways.

    I don't understand why you are so offended since I don't recall ever refering to you. But if you have any more questions, about how I talk to my grandmother or anything else then feel free to ask.

  12. Hello Tandi,

    Up front, I'd like to say that I have no intent to express any malice towards you. I may disagree, but I'll try to "agree to disagree" in a civil manner.

    And I honestly don't think that the intent of the people on this site is to attack people specifically. I realize that many non-Christians and atheist do bash Christians. But passions on either side of the augment can get the better of us at times.

    I generally don't say vulgar things. But, I do now and then. And of all my posts, I do have one that is quite vulgar. But, you'd know it from the title . . . and it's rather recent post at that.

    If you're reading from the beginning, you won't run into it by accident.

    Also, I try to be open with discussion. I don't mind opposing view points.

    You said:

    "May I have permission to re-post “A Broken Friendship' on my blog, as part of an article I am writing?"

    Forgive me, but I'm not quite clear on your request. I'm sort of new to all the blogging terminology. Forgive my ignorance. I've had my blog up for a while, but I never really had much interaction until lately. So, cross posting and re-posting-- I don't always know what people are talking about.

    Did you want to re-post your article on my blog? I don't mind. And, you're welcome to quote something or re-post something from my blog and make any rebuttals that you wish. Help me understand what you wanted to do and we can work something out.

    I should warn you, Tandi, I set out to do the very thing that you are doing. And that is another reason why I stay in the closet. I don't share my new feelings with any believers in my microcosm because I don't want to influence them. I'm not on a mission to deconvert others. Even with my children, I want them to have the opportunity to choose what they believe, but I don't want them to end up in a cult, either.

    I use my blog as my outlet. I didn't really expect anyone to find it or read it, but just in case, I tried to make it coherent.

    If you figure out how to dismantle the doubts we have, I sure would be interested in knowing what you come up with. But, just be careful and prayerful. Why do I say that since I don't pray? I know that you pray and that prayer is meaningful to you. So, if that helps keep you strong, by all means.

    My blog may start to slowly echo a lot of the material that you want to ultimately avoid. So, you might inadvertently soak in material that you want to avoid reading. If you're reading my blog from the beginning, just be mindful of that possible, unintentional progression.

    So, be warned of that, too.

    One last warning, I can be verbose at times. I'm trying, I'm trying, but I just can't condense my words sometimes-- like I'm doing now.

    Sorry . . .

  13. My very first pastor preached a sermon one time and quoted an unbeliever (whom he had invited to church but had declined the invitation because of hypocrisy). “Everyone knows Christians don’t drink, smoke, or cuss” he said, “but I have seen church people drink, smoke, and cuss. They are all a bunch of hypocrites.”

    When I heard this “...drink, smoke, or cuss” I came under strong conviction. The LORD had delivered me and my husband from drinking and cussing, but we both still smoked cigarettes. When I heard that Christians were not supposed to smoke, that was it. We quit cold turkey. It was horrible. I spent several days in bed in misery getting over the addiction. It did not come easily like the miracle of the deliverance from my alcohol problem. But I was serious about following Jesus. Whenever I learned something was displeasing to God, I dealt with it. I was so glad to finally know the difference between right and wrong, because I had spent so many rebellious, agnostic years having no clue what was right and wrong. Had I known that there were members of this charismatic/mennonite church that still smoked, I would probably have been emboldened to continue. At that moment, I thought I was the only Christian on Earth that still smoked!

    Today, things are far different. Christians not only drink, smoke, and cuss, they choose gay lifestyles, promiscuity, abortions, and tattoos. It is even harder to differentiate Christians from non-Christians by lifestyle choices these days. What does it mean to be a Christian? Is it a set of beliefs? Which set? Take your pick at the buffet table that is Christianity today.

    Uruk, I like your attitude very much. Thank you for the warning as I read your well-written and insightful blog entries....and don’t worry about being seems to be contagious....and we all seem to need the catharsis of expressing our sentiments and life stories.

    With that in mind, I will try to be more tolerant and understanding of Zee, (though his words continue to make me cringe). Perhaps he will get beyond expletives to tell us what is really bothering him. We are all a bunch of hurting people, and this is good therapy for us all. I do not hold myself up as “holier than thou.” I may not drink, smoke, or cuss......but I have far to go along the path of holiness. I just wish I could find someone to share the journey with. I thought I found someone, but he defected to the other side. That’s why I am here...and hope somehow everyone on this blog will become convinced of the awesome truth of God’s Word and discover, or rediscover, the path of life.

  14. Tandi,

    What makes you think something is bothering me?

  15. Hello Urek,

    What I would like to do is quote you in an article I am writing for my blog, tentatively called, "An Open Letter to My Christian/Messianic Friends." I will give you more details before I publish. The article is just a draft at present. I am concerned that friends and family are falling into this epidemic of unbelief that seems to be going around like a bad cold or something. I don't understand it. How can believers lose their faith by reading a book or watching a video? Why is it so easy to believe the atheist evangelists? What makes their words ring true and not the Bible's words? Scary....very scary.

  16. Zee:

    You remind me of Trinket, the main character from the book The Deer and the Cauldron.

    If you've read the book, then you know I am not making an insult against you.

    If you haven't read it, well . . .

    Trinket would say anything to anyone. Even his "mum". And she was the same way with him. And though he always found himself chased down by the greatest and deadliest of Kung Fu masters (Trinket couldn't fight worth a flip), he could s* talk himself out of any situation (sorry, Tandi).


    I still didn't get what you wanted to do with your article. Did you want me to post it on my site, or did you want to cross post something from mine. Either way, jut let me know.

  17. Tandi:

    I understand now. OK. That's fine.

  18. Hello Zee,

    Just a hunch maybe? I don't know you....and I tend to get to know people online through their words. When words are few, the clues are few....and I tend to imagine my own storylines as I try to connect the dots. Just a bad habit I have as a writer wannabe. I'm sorry if I have read too much into your comments. Just hearing that you are a divorced dad is enough to tell me you are probably hurting. Why not tell us more about yourself. Like for example, what brings you to this blog? What is your connection and purpose? Are you here to defend your faith? You have made some good points. Or are you testing the agnostic/atheist waters? Are you experiencing cognitive dissonance? I hope you will share your feelings and this blog could be a dangerous place to be for you and me both if we are not careful.

    Grace and peace......

  19. Hello Philo and Scrip,

    I will answer your question with a question. Is it wrong of atheists to indoctrinate vulnerable, hurting friends into atheism? Why or why not?

    I like the approach Uruk takes, in not wanting to hurt the faith of others. Yet how can he live a double life like this?

    Tough questions all around.

  20. Tandi,

    I have a stronger relationship with God now then before I was divorced. I have had my trials in life just as anyone has and God has always provided me everything that I need. I am not hurting as a result of being divorced.

    I started reading this blog because a friend suggested it. I continue to read this blog because I like to be intellectually stimulated. I am not here by any "special mission" and I have no agenda.

    I find the continueing claim that this blog is a dangerous place somewhat dramatic. You have my vote for a Daytime Emmy though.


    I have not read The Deer and the Cauldron but if I am Trinket then who is the greatest and deadliest of Kung Fu masters?

  21. Tandi:

    I think I know what your first question is driving at, so I will let Scrip answer it, if he so chooses. The answer may surprise you.

    But treating that first question as a general question, and not as referring to anyone in particular, I will say this: atheism is the lack of belief, so there is nothing to "indoctrinate"; it's not a sect or a cult, as we've said many times before. Most of us have come to an atheistic viewpoint on our own through thoughtful examination of the available evidence.

    But, how does one live a double life? That truly is a difficult question.

    One book that's high on my wishlist is called Godless: How an Evangelical Preacher Became One of America's Leading Atheists by Dan Barker. I suspect that he may have some insights about living the double life.


  22. Zee:

    The deadliest Kung Fu master?

    Kung Fu isn't just limited to fighting. Kung Fu is really "skill". Cooking skill can be called Kung Fu in the right context. Trinket's "Kung Fu" wasn't with his fists, but with his words. So, I guess Trinket actually had the greatest and deadliest Kung Fu in the end.


    After all, he's the one that came out on top!

    He was crafty and full of wit. Now and then we did have to fight, but usually someone came to his rescue when fists were required.

    I wasn't picking at you or anything. Trinket is a fun character-- his story was a great read for me.

    As far as the double life is concerned, I'll have to get back to everyone about my perspective.

    In my time zone, it's getting to be bed time. I gotta get some sleep. I'm too verbose to stay up and comment about that.

    I'll talk about it tomorrow.

  23. My question came from your description of Trinket:

    "Trinket would say anything to anyone. Even his "mum". And she was the same way with him. And though he always found himself chased down by the greatest and deadliest of Kung Fu masters (Trinket couldn't fight worth a flip), he could s* talk himself out of any situation"

    Ah, I guess it really doesn't matter.

  24. Zee:

    Ah, sorry. Guess I wasn't clear.

    All I was trying to say was that your openness with cussing reminded me of the character, Trinket. The way you talk to your grandmother and the way she talks to you, reminded me of Trinket and his mother. And despite all the cussing, your relationship sounds solid with your grandmother-- at least, that's the impression I got.

    Trinket was foul mouthed. He'd cuss his mom and his mom would cuss him back-- but they loved each other. That's just what he was exposed to growing up, as you suggested about your own childhood.

    Trinket was born in a whore house and his mom worked there, so . . .

    He was fearless, though he couldn't fight. He'd say anything to anybody if they insulted him. He wouldn't back down. And so his adventures began. The meat of the story starts off with him standing up for his mom while in the brothel after someone gets violent her. From that event, his mouth and his impulsiveness carry him on an epic adventure across all of China. He crosses paths with the greatest of Kung Fu masters in his fictional world. Some of these great masters tried to teach him or fought at his side.

    Others tried to ring his little neck.

    But, we could always seem to smooth talk his way out of any deadly situation.

    I wasn't trying create an analogy that suggested someone here represented an antagonist towards you. Sorry about that, if that's how it sounded.

    OK, for real, this time, I'm going to bed.

  25. So now you are calling my mom a whore?

  26. Hello Philo,

    I seldom think in terms of one specific thought. My thoughts are usually scattered and nuanced. Thus, I was not thinking of only myself being “indoctrinated” to atheism or “de-converted” if that is a more accurate term, but I was also thinking of Zee and any other Christians that frequent this blog and are urged to read suggested blogs and books or watch certain videos, etc. I was also thinking of Scrip and how he has been influenced over the course of the past several years by others, including you, Jamie, etc. I was also thinking of Jamie and whoever influenced him towards atheism. I was also thinking of whoever influenced Uruk, although I have not gotten to that part of his life story yet if he relates it. So it was a multi-faceted thought process. My point is we all influence one another towards whatever we believe. Book authors especially influence us towards their point of view.

    It is only natural that Christian parents would instill Christianity in their children. Not to worry, kids often grow up to do and think the complete opposite of their least for a while. Then, hopefully, they strike a balance as they think through ideas for themselves. if they are not unduly indoctrinated in college where the REAL indoctrination problem lies in my view.

    My kids were not raised in a Christian home until they were 10 and 13 years of age. Then an abrupt change came; new rules, home schooling, etc. We had our struggles.....good times and difficulties....I only wish I had begun sooner in “indoctrinating” my children. The Scripture says, Train up a CHILD in the way he should go...and he will not depart from it. I missed the prime time of childhood (to age 10) to instill Biblical values. The open-mindedness I taught them, however, allowed them to embrace Christianity easily and try it on for size. They have not strayed too far as adults from what they were taught in their teens, although I wish they were more zealous and less compromising. Neither attends church any longer, and neither have I for many years. I would venture to guess that more Bible believers stay home than attend church these days because the churches are so lukewarm, compromising, boring, or grieving to the spirit.

    Uruk: Thank you for permission to post your words on my blog...and for your continuing very interesting commentaries.

    Zee: Thank you for the daytime emmy nomination. I suppose it fits. This blogosphere does seem like a serial I am following daily and you are all my cast of characters. You especially are quite a character. I wish I could tell if you were smiling or scowling at times. : )

  27. Zee:

    Naw, man, I'm not calling your mom a whore.

    You know, I don't like the way my toes are tasting right now.

    Maybe I should just be quiet from here on out.


  28. Tandi: Chances are I'm smiling. I laughed my self to sleep after the comment to Uruk last night about my mom being a whore. It was clear that was not what he was saying which is why I found it funny.