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← New British Petition: Stop the Nightmares

New British Petition: Stop the Nightmares - Comments

DamnDirtyApe's Avatar Comment 1 by DamnDirtyApe


Wed, 11 Jun 2008 07:47:00 UTC | #182012

decius's Avatar Comment 2 by decius

Why not allowing foreign citizens to sign, perhaps on a secondary list?

Wed, 11 Jun 2008 07:49:00 UTC | #182015

Border Collie's Avatar Comment 3 by Border Collie

Hell exists. It exists in the actions, proclamations, threats and abuse of the hell-fire-and-damnation fundamentalists.

Wed, 11 Jun 2008 07:55:00 UTC | #182018

vertigo25's Avatar Comment 4 by vertigo25

We would not tolerate it if religion were not involved.


Doesn't that kind of ignore generations of folk tales such as Little Red Riding Hood, The Boy Who Cried Wolf, Chicken Little, etc.; as well as a ton of popular media that have nothing to do with religion?

Scaring children with stories both true and fictional is not synonymous with religion, nor is it exclusive to it.

Should we attempt to pass laws that prevent parents from telling their children to finish their peas because there are people starving in other parts of the world? Or how about telling them things like "I swear Timmy! If you don't get in this house right this instant, you are *never* going out again! Do you hear me?"

I'd say it's a safe bet that most people on this forum have been exposed this "disgusting" "child abuse."


Nothing irritates me more when I see people whose stance I agree with making horrible arguments for their case.

Wed, 11 Jun 2008 07:56:00 UTC | #182019

humanist's Avatar Comment 5 by humanist

Doesn't that kind of ignore generations of folk tales such as Little Red Riding Hood, The Boy Who Cried Wolf, Chicken Little, etc.; as well as a ton of popular media that have nothing to do with religion?

If your parents presented these stories to you as fact, they're just as guilty of abuse as the religious parents in my eyes.

Wed, 11 Jun 2008 08:04:00 UTC | #182025

NormanDoering's Avatar Comment 6 by NormanDoering

If they'd like some testimony on how growing up with Hell preaching effected me, here's a two part essay I wrote over a decade ago -- when there was not net as we know it today:

Wed, 11 Jun 2008 08:10:00 UTC | #182027

mordacious1's Avatar Comment 7 by mordacious1

If you sign this, you will burn in Hell!! Your skin will peel off for eternity (don't worry they have lots of extra skin down there).

For those of you up north:

If you sign this, you will freeze in Hell!

edit: So where's the american version?

Wed, 11 Jun 2008 08:15:00 UTC | #182031

Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 8 by Steve Zara

Comment #191575 by vertigo25

For there to be any equivalence, you would need to have children living in communities who base their lives on the Chicken Little story. Who have elders who preach the truth of that story once a week. There would need to be schools of Chickeners where every morning, children are read sections of the story, and told how this should effect their behaviour.

Wed, 11 Jun 2008 08:15:00 UTC | #182032

HourglassMemory's Avatar Comment 9 by HourglassMemory

You have to be a british citizen?....
oh well.
Why not create a new one where you accept the signing of everyone who wants to sign?
After all this form of child abuse isn't ONLY happening in Britain.

Wed, 11 Jun 2008 08:21:00 UTC | #182035

errm...'s Avatar Comment 10 by errm...

I signed, but they'll weasle their way out of it with definitions and political correctness. Would anyone want to go as far as the USSR which, according The Gulag Archipeligo, had very severe penalties for parents indoctrinating children so long as it wasn't Marxism/Leninism? How far is it fair to go? Let's concentrate on exposing the lies that they tell for what they are!

Wed, 11 Jun 2008 08:35:00 UTC | #182037

82abhilash's Avatar Comment 11 by 82abhilash

Truth is not democracy. I do not see any co-relation between the number of signatures on this petition and the validity of what is claimed in it.

Personally I think threatening children with hell fire is child abuse. But that is my ethical intuition speaking. And it has been wrong at times.

So I pose questions, are there studies documenting the long term ill effects of threatening children with hell fires? And what do those studies show?

Wed, 11 Jun 2008 09:24:00 UTC | #182050

Eric Blair's Avatar Comment 12 by Eric Blair

I find it disturbing that a scientist like Richard Dawkins would support a vague measure like this that is apparently unsupported by evidence-based research ("talk to people who have experienced it"?) and that capitalizes on our visceral emotional response to the suffering of children.

I am not concerned that any government would actually do anything with this as it's far too vague, and the issue would be a political minefield even if a government had an inkling as to how a revised law would deal with the issue of "religious bullying."

By all means, let's do the research and see what the true connections are between psychological trauma in children and adults, and their religious upbringing.

Then we could look at what proportion of the population it affects who wouldn't be addressed through existing measures.

And finally we could look at how to address the remaining issue, in realistic, pragmatic ways that don't open the door to abuse through overreaction from whatever agency would enforce such measures.


Wed, 11 Jun 2008 10:44:00 UTC | #182068

Mat's Avatar Comment 13 by Mat

I was terrified by extreme tales of pain, hellfire, damnation etc as a child at school (an American school). They worried me greatly at the time, and yes, I believe they ARE abusive. However, in my case it hastened my conversion - the severity of the punishments were just totally crazily wrong for pretty much anything a normal 8-year old could get up to. So I realised that it was all bull - helped by having 100% athiest parents of course!

But I also think that it is the wrong place to start, trying to involve the government. More dubious laws to go with the severe restrictions on privacy and liberty that the UK already suffers? I'm not entirely convinced that it's the right point of attack.

Although I DO believe this issue should be publicised and debated openly, far and wide, because mental cruelty is as bad, if not worse, than physical.

I even took my 4-year old daughter out of a school here in South Africa because she came home scared of the devil, and had difficulty sleeping etc. So I've seen the effect it can have - on me, and on my daughter. But to turn to the government? Not sure.

Wed, 11 Jun 2008 11:05:00 UTC | #182077

Cartomancer's Avatar Comment 14 by Cartomancer

But many psychological studies on the mental health effects of frightening children HAVE already been undertaken. Just ask any child psychologist. I think it's a fairly unremarkable fact that repeatedly threatening children with horrible punishments is very damaging to their development. The point is that religious teachings have always gone under the radar as far as this is concerned thanks to the undue respect religion wishes to claim for itself in our societies.

As such this petition is not trying to substitute democratic vote for psychological study, it's trying to remove unthinking hypocrisy from the way we deal with mental health issues. I think it is a very appropriate too for the purpose.

Wed, 11 Jun 2008 11:16:00 UTC | #182084

Prankster's Avatar Comment 15 by Prankster

I'd gladly sign-however the level of religious mental torture or abuse or otherwise,inflicted on children, needs to be measured or proved surely?

Sorry but the premise while laudible, is a little too vague for to sign this petition at present.

Prof Dawkins et al may say religious indoctrination is a form of abuse, but there's no tangible evidence or published proof I can find at present to make me want to sign for now. However give me proof or evidence and I'll step down from my metaphorical fence sitting and decide what to do

Wed, 11 Jun 2008 11:25:00 UTC | #182091

Paula Kirby's Avatar Comment 16 by Paula Kirby

I agree that it's horribly vague and highly unlikely to result in any government action. I've still signed it, though, for the simple reason that it's an opportunity to let the government know that an increasing number of us are fed up to the back teeth with religion. Being supportive of religion has tended to be seen as the safe option for governments - the more of us who sign petitions such as this one, the sooner I hope they'll realise that times have changed and that standing up to religion will not necessarily be a vote-loser.

Wed, 11 Jun 2008 12:00:00 UTC | #182105

Prankster's Avatar Comment 17 by Prankster

Comment #191686 Paula Kirby

I see you've signed but are people doing this as a reaction against religious indoctrination as a form of abuse or religion as a whole?

I think this distinction needs to be made, still too vague for me I'm afraid so I wont be signing.

Wed, 11 Jun 2008 12:09:00 UTC | #182109

alexmzk's Avatar Comment 18 by alexmzk

i won't sign this.

in fact, i'm against the idea of making this a law. of course i don't respect the idea of parents teaching their children Hell, but i will fight for their right to do so.
i will also fight for my (and everyone else's) right to tell the parents why they must stop doing such a needlessly immoral thing, and i'll fight for the rights of those parents to try and justify their reasons for doing so.

i will also fight for their right to PARTY, should the issue arise.

Wed, 11 Jun 2008 12:11:00 UTC | #182110

phil rimmer's Avatar Comment 19 by phil rimmer

This is politically dumb and may weaken otherwise good laws. First, and trivially the mention of damnation etc. is way too narrow. Examples related to harm by witchcraft would help here. Rather better than charging in like this, which smacks of grandstanding, it would be better to test the existing laws and see if a real case of such mental torture could be found. If one can, a test case could show if the law was deficient and needed any amendment. A sad failure might also demonstrate from the evidence collected that real harm is being done out there.

Politically more astute, and probably more effective in stopping the problem would be to petition for a more coherent RE & Philosophy program in schools. (As I understand it, RE is the only subject where the curriculum is decided locally by "Interested Parties"....) Terrorised kids may find more help from terror inoculating lessons at school.

"Dawkins fights for better RE lessons in school" has legs.

PS. Remember an Established (read Nationalised) Church is a crippled church. (You really don't want a free market in this instance.) Lets get a good RE and philosophy section in the National Curriculum.

Remember also that it may be very difficult to prove to the child herself that she has been damaged by such mental bullying. (Broken limbs are a lot easier here.) Any punishment of the parent will heap damage upon damage. The child may think its all her fault for being disobedient and wicked. It could be hell.

Wed, 11 Jun 2008 12:49:00 UTC | #182129

Frankus1122's Avatar Comment 20 by Frankus1122

Comment #191585 by NormanDoering's a two part essay I wrote over a decade ago -- when there was not net as we know it today:

And then from the site linked to:

Only 5.25" DSDD floppy disks are available at this time.

Holy cow!
I remember those. They were actyually flopply.
That was only 15 years ago.
I have a 4cmX 1cm 4G flask drive around my neck.

As to this petition:
It is interesting to note there are good arguments on both sides here. Unfortunately, I can't find any reference to it in my Atheist Handbook and I am at a loss as to what to do about it.
Although I do like this from philrimmer:

Terrorised kids may find more help from terror inoculating lessons at school.

Wed, 11 Jun 2008 13:12:00 UTC | #182137

notsobad's Avatar Comment 21 by notsobad

I am not concerned that any government would actually do anything with this as it's far too vague, and the issue would be a political minefield even if a government had an inkling as to how a revised law would deal with the issue of "religious bullying."

I agree.
And finally we could look at how to address the remaining issue, in realistic, pragmatic ways that don't open the door to abuse through overreaction from whatever agency would enforce such measures.

Indeed. We need diplomacy not force. Talk about it (in schools no less).

Wed, 11 Jun 2008 13:20:00 UTC | #182142

Goldy's Avatar Comment 22 by Goldy

Maybe I'm lucky - parents not too religious. But all the Goddites had nothing against what i got as a child.....Struwwelpeter!

Wed, 11 Jun 2008 13:25:00 UTC | #182145

rod-the-farmer's Avatar Comment 23 by rod-the-farmer

Re Comment #191726 by Frankus1122
You have a flask drive around your neck ? Wow. You must be one of those transitional fossils we read about, the one between a human and a St. Bernard. Wait....wait....Dog !!!!! I bow-wow down before you.

Wed, 11 Jun 2008 13:27:00 UTC | #182146

Kentrel's Avatar Comment 24 by Kentrel

I would really like some hard evidence that this really is child abuse. I was raised Catholic before I became an atheist and I don't even see any kind of harmful psychological effects that can be sourced back to a "hellfire" religious upbringing. My experience is only anecdotal of course, but we really really need hard evidence from psychologists before we repeat this "child abuse" claim, ad infinitum.

Its hard for people who don't think religion is the "root of all evil" not to roll their eyes at that. Just think of your reaction when you see this ad from PETA

Does it make you roll your eyes? Can you spot the obvious fallacies in the advertisement? Now, think for a moment how a similar ad about religion might look without hard evidence from the psychological research community.

What would your responses be when someone pointed out some research like this in response to that petition?

Ask yourself honestly, is there really evidence to back up that claim?

I'm no fan of religion, but I would like hard evidence to demonstrate it is indeed child abuse before I sign any petition.

Wed, 11 Jun 2008 14:34:00 UTC | #182161

Frankus1122's Avatar Comment 25 by Frankus1122


You have a flask drive around your neck ?

Yeah, hic!
However, due to its small size (1cm X 4cm) it does not really hold a lot of booze.

Wed, 11 Jun 2008 14:46:00 UTC | #182164

Szymanowski's Avatar Comment 26 by Szymanowski

Ergh, that's a horrible petition. "Harassment"?! Only if people are not free to walk away.

He who would trade liberty, etc.

Wed, 11 Jun 2008 15:38:00 UTC | #182177

Vaal's Avatar Comment 27 by Vaal

Good points here, both for and against. You could argue that the parents want their children to be aware of Hell. They honestly deeply believe that they will go to Hell, as they were taught to believe the same by their parents and religious leaders, and would do everything they can to prevent such a horror come to their beloved child.

However, I was bought up with the threat of Hell from our local preacher, and although I recognized it as utter cods wallop from a bullying and nasty proselytizer, I saw the effects on some of my friends, who were genuinely traumatized.

There was also an appalling TV program recently showing a Jesus camp in America, where very young children were put through a disgusting evangelical boot camp where adults gloried in terrifying the poor kids by leaving them in no doubt they were going to Hell unless they believed God loved them. All carrot and stick, in a vulgar, sick and very effective propaganda campaign. That these children were crying and petrified meant nothing to the adults who were only concerned about recruitment, in a vile campaign the Nazi's would be proud of.

So, yes, I have signed the petition. Not that I think government legislation will come of it, but that hopefully the meme of threatening children with Hellfire will be regarded as repugnant and unacceptable by all responsible adults. If it raises the Zeitgeist, all well and good.

Wed, 11 Jun 2008 15:39:00 UTC | #182178

Andrew Stich's Avatar Comment 28 by Andrew Stich

I'm surprised by how negative the response has been. It's vague, and that is a problem, but not a very big one. Even if successful, it might not have any use, but even so, it has good intent, and I do not see that there could be any negative consequences to signing it. And while, in general, it may (MAY) be said that religion is psychologically beneficial, one can see very clearly that earnest belief in hell is not.

I'm very open to refutation, as always. Go ahead.

As a sidenote, I'm not British.

Wed, 11 Jun 2008 16:40:00 UTC | #182189

mordacious1's Avatar Comment 29 by mordacious1

I've always thought that threatening your kids with hellfire or anything else that isn't true like this, is a sure sign that the parents lack any parenting skills whatsoever. This goes for corporal punishment too. The problem is, these guys are not as smart as their kids, so they have to result to something "scarey" to get CONTROL. It backfires later when the kid realizes the parent can't control him/her that way anymore and metaphoricaly gives the parents the finger.

With a rational upbringing the child will grow into adulthood respecting their parents.

Unfortunately, I don't think you can legislate away stupidity. If you outlaw corporal punishment, then they make threats. If you outlaw threats, then they will use something else just as abusive. Therefore: IQ tests for parents!

Wed, 11 Jun 2008 17:00:00 UTC | #182190

utelme's Avatar Comment 30 by utelme

If I was a British citizen I'd sign the petition in an instant. The hell concept has obviously affected many adults who were once children themselves and are now having to cope with the guilt and fear imposed on them in their childhood. Once the sting of this poisonous concept has been felt, it's extremely difficult to permanently erase. One only has to read some of the comments on this blog to see that many here have been affected in this vile way.

Wed, 11 Jun 2008 17:28:00 UTC | #182194