This site is not maintained. Click here for the new website of Richard Dawkins.

← "Telling children hell exists is child abuse"

"Telling children hell exists is child abuse" - Comments

jel's Avatar Comment 1 by jel

“I would expect that a chapter on dinosaurs would get a lot of interest, but I don’t have a chapter on dinosaurs,” he says, with the closest thing to a chuckle I’ve heard from him. “Maybe that’s for volume two.”

Get writing Richard, you've got at least one buyer!

Thu, 13 Oct 2011 16:00:27 UTC | #880558

Marcus Small's Avatar Comment 2 by Marcus Small

You can say that again.

I would never tell a child such a thing.

Thu, 13 Oct 2011 16:02:00 UTC | #880559

some asshole's Avatar Comment 3 by some asshole

"Many adults, especially Catholic adults, never really manage to shake off [the fear of hell] and guilt they imbibed as children."

I can attest to that. They made the mistake of trying to raise me Catholic. (I came to my senses, at the age of 13, right before I was to be "confirmed".) I absolutely do not believe in hell, but there is a tiny part of my brain that won't let the concept fully die. I can't explain it. My guess is that a young mind pondering such a horrific concept can cause it to be burned in somehow, where it is inaccessible to rationality. It's literally a mental scar.

Thu, 13 Oct 2011 16:47:42 UTC | #880570

mlgatheist's Avatar Comment 4 by mlgatheist

Belligerent - 2: inclined to or exhibiting assertiveness, hostility, or combativeness

"But if he drops the belligerent tone with which he is often associated "

Is a math teacher having a "belligerent tone" when insisting that 2 + 2 = 4? Is a geography professor having a "belligerent tone" when insisting that the Earth is more than 10,000 yrs old? Prof. Dawkins is no more "belligerent" than these other teachers. Next time the writer should use the word assertive, it is less belligerent a word.

Thu, 13 Oct 2011 17:08:43 UTC | #880572

rocket888's Avatar Comment 5 by rocket888

I was forced to attend Hebrew School as a child, for 4 years, after regular school. My parents never attended temple, and made me go only so they wouldn't be the only family in the neighborhood that didn't indoctrinate their son. My sister, however, didn't have to endure this.

The lesson I learned was the force of punishment - I got to sit in a home made jail when I was bad, and bad included not learning what was taught in Hebrew school. To this day, I still resent the forced indoctrination. It taught me to be wary of anyone in authority especially ones with the power to punish.

This is likely why I rebelled against the government who tried to force me to kill people in far off lands.

Looking back, it was probably the government schools that had the most indoctrination. So, I take it up one level and rail against any group that uses force over others. Compared to any religious groups (today) the biggest threat to peace and prosperity is the US government. It is completely out of control. Being scared of Hell, or scared of the God of the Hebrew Bible, is small compared to being scared of a government that now ignores the bill of rights and kills American citizens it doesn't like, without due process of law. If you get on Obama's list, you're toast.

Thu, 13 Oct 2011 17:43:41 UTC | #880583

calliecparrish's Avatar Comment 6 by calliecparrish

My family is Southern Baptist, but my parents wanted to raise their children outside of the church. My father doesn't believe in religion, but the rest of my family does. The first time I went to "family Christmas" I was six years old and didn't know a thing about God. I was so excited for Christmas because at the time, that meant presents to me. And what child wouldn't be excited about presents? Well long story short, I was very excited. My aunt then asked me, "Callie do you know what Christmas is about?" I of course responded, "Presents!" She was so appalled at what I said that she replied, "No! Christmas is about the birth of your lord and savior Jesus Christ!" I was rather puzzled at this and replied, "Who is this Jesus guy?" and "If it is his birthday then where is he? I'll give him my presents." I swear someone dropped a plate or something breakable when I said that. My aunt was very angry with me and smacked me on the behind saying, "Naughty children go straight to hell!" I turned around and asked her if she was going to hell. She responded, "Why heavens no, I am a Christian and go to church!" I looked her straight in the eye and said, "Well if you're not going to hell, then I guess that hell isn't such a bad place to be then." Good God she was so angry with me after that!

Thu, 13 Oct 2011 17:51:05 UTC | #880585

Bipedal Primate's Avatar Comment 7 by Bipedal Primate

Comment 3 by some asshole :

"Many adults, especially Catholic adults, never really manage to shake off [the fear of hell] and guilt they imbibed as children."

I can attest to that. They made the mistake of trying to raise me Catholic. (I came to my senses, at the age of 13, right before I was to be "confirmed".) I absolutely do not believe in hell, but there is a tiny part of my brain that won't let the concept fully die. I can't explain it. My guess is that a young mind pondering such a horrific concept can cause it to be burned in somehow, where it is inaccessible to rationality. It's literally a mental scar.

I have an underdeveloped hypothesis that this idea is not just a matter of mental programming during childhood. The specificity of eternal hellfire is undoubtedly strictly cultural and memetic, I'd guess, but the notion of reward or punishment after life may not be the same thing entirely. I've never had to suffer through any religious indoctrination myself, and the first time I encountered the Hippie Carpenter Cult I pretty much thought something along the lines of "WTF?" and I doubt I'll ever stop thinking exactly that about this obviously man made system of social control and mass hypnosis. But it's still got it's clutches in my brain, somehow, and I've always been drawn to artworks depicting Hell and it's enhabitants.

Anyways: The thing is this: I've always carried with me this fantasy that I will encounter some kind of judgment after the end of my life, even though I'm not a believer. And I will be told about what I did wrong and where I could or should have done better. That doesn't mean I also think this is true, though.

Aren't we all pretty much hardwired to the thought that at the end of a task we should be rewarded according to our efforts? Isn't life almost automatically perceived as a task by most of us? Can there be some kind of genetic programming going on here? My notion couldn't exist entirely independent of the influence from judeo-christian culture, probably, but still...

Thu, 13 Oct 2011 18:10:31 UTC | #880589

Bipedal Primate's Avatar Comment 8 by Bipedal Primate

@ comment 6

LOL

Thu, 13 Oct 2011 18:13:11 UTC | #880590

drumdaddy's Avatar Comment 9 by drumdaddy

I've just read The Magic of Reality. It's wonderful! I will be donating a few copies to my local library.

Thu, 13 Oct 2011 18:23:11 UTC | #880592

calliecparrish's Avatar Comment 10 by calliecparrish

Comment 8 by Bipedal Primate :

@ comment 6

LOL

Looking back on my life, I have learned to laugh at things such as these... though I swear to you that was no laughing matter at that very moment!

Thu, 13 Oct 2011 18:24:01 UTC | #880594

KenChimp's Avatar Comment 11 by KenChimp

Comment 5 by rocket888 :

I was forced to attend Hebrew School as a child, for 4 years, after regular school. My parents never attended temple, and made me go only so they wouldn't be the only family in the neighborhood that didn't indoctrinate their son. My sister, however, didn't have to endure this.

The lesson I learned was the force of punishment - I got to sit in a home made jail when I was bad, and bad included not learning what was taught in Hebrew school. To this day, I still resent the forced indoctrination. It taught me to be wary of anyone in authority especially ones with the power to punish.

This is likely why I rebelled against the government who tried to force me to kill people in far off lands.

Looking back, it was probably the government schools that had the most indoctrination. So, I take it up one level and rail against any group that uses force over others. Compared to any religious groups (today) the biggest threat to peace and prosperity is the US government. It is completely out of control. Being scared of Hell, or scared of the God of the Hebrew Bible, is small compared to being scared of a government that now ignores the bill of rights and kills American citizens it doesn't like, without due process of law. If you get on Obama's list, you're toast.

Careful. You might wind up on that list. ;-}

But seriously, I empathize with your concerns. It simply doesn't matter in whose hands the power is or in whose name it is exercised, violent force and threat of violent force are not reasonable tools for establishing equality of justice and opportunity.

Jack Parsons put it more eloquently than I can:

"He who believes that the absolute rightness of his belief is an authority to suppress the rights and opinions of his fellows, cannot be a liberal. Liberalism cannot exist where it violates its own principles. It cannot exist when the emergency-monger and Utopia salesman can obtain a suspension of rights, temporary or permanent. Liberty cannot be suppressed in order to defend liberalism."

Thu, 13 Oct 2011 18:25:27 UTC | #880595

Bipedal Primate's Avatar Comment 12 by Bipedal Primate

Comment 10 by calliecparrish :

Looking back on my life, I have learned to laugh at things such as these... though I swear to you that was no laughing matter at that very moment!

Rebellions like yours must always be nipped in the bud, so this is no laughing matter, of course. If only your elders had been more severe in their actions of response they could have made you tremble in fear and the world wouldn't have had to deal with yet another of these here atheists and their subversive behavior.

Thu, 13 Oct 2011 18:43:09 UTC | #880598

blitz442's Avatar Comment 13 by blitz442

Comment 5 by rocket888 :

Being scared of Hell, or scared of the God of the Hebrew Bible, is small compared to being scared of a government that now ignores the bill of rights and kills American citizens it doesn't like, without due process of law. If you get on Obama's list, you're toast

Give an example of an American citizen who was put to death by Obama without due process simply because Obama did not like them.

Thu, 13 Oct 2011 18:45:36 UTC | #880599

calliecparrish's Avatar Comment 14 by calliecparrish

Comment 12 by Bipedal Primate :

Comment 10 by calliecparrish :

Looking back on my life, I have learned to laugh at things such as these... though I swear to you that was no laughing matter at that very moment!

Rebellions like yours must always be nipped in the bud, so this is no laughing matter, of course. If only your elders had been more severe in their actions of response they could have made you tremble in fear and the world wouldn't have had to deal with yet another of these here atheists and their subversive behavior.

Hehe, so very true! Those damned blasphemies and their subversive behavior!

Thu, 13 Oct 2011 18:58:09 UTC | #880601

Bill Salt's Avatar Comment 15 by Bill Salt

Usually these adults that indoctrinate their children with religion, will not allow their children to watch (R) rated movies, but are recklessly willing to install a psychological fear of demons and hellfire that's not easily removed, even in their adulthood.

Thu, 13 Oct 2011 19:05:39 UTC | #880604

blitz442's Avatar Comment 16 by blitz442

I get mixed feelings from this article - I get the sense that the author is a bit of a weasel. She seems less interested in asking the Richard about the contents of the new book, and more interested in her personal opinions on atheism and the motivations of the author.

And then there is this not-too-subtle attempt to introduce her opinion that Richard lacks social skills and might even have a mild psychological affliction:

It has been said – on Dawkins’ own website as well as elsewhere – that there may be a relationship between autism or Asperger’s and atheism. A study from the University of Boston suggested that people with mild forms of autism were more likely to be atheists, while some academics theorise that religious thinking is an offshoot of social cognition – that is, ideas learned from others within one’s social group.

Dawkins undoubtedly has a fierce intelligence, but the way in which he communicates has been a problem for many people – it’s telling that on the letter to persuade the government about teaching evolution earlier in schools, the more cuddly Attenborough was enlisted in order to appeal to a wider group

Tactics like this, which couch personal, tangential and pejorative opinions in passive, seemingly dispassionate language..."it has been said...even on Dawkins' own website....", and are designed to allow plausible deniability of any bad intentions of the part of the author, just scream of hack journalism to me.

Can we get one article about the book that actually asks him a bit about the details of the interesting science presented to the children? Are journalists too intimidated even by this level of science to form decent questions?

Thu, 13 Oct 2011 19:10:14 UTC | #880605

neil pharr's Avatar Comment 17 by neil pharr

According to Ananda Sutram, sanskrit translation: "There is no heaven and there is no hell". Heaven and hell are just dogmas created by certain religious people to exploit the gullible and play upon their fears.

They don't exist other than the heaven and hell we create for ourselves in this world through the consequences or our good and bad actions.

Thu, 13 Oct 2011 19:17:00 UTC | #880606

Bipedal Primate's Avatar Comment 18 by Bipedal Primate

@ comment 16

Ah, finally. I've always wondered why I had to struggle with this atheism of mine, but now I've learned that it's a direct result of my autism! How could I have missed that? Thank you, God, for leading me down this path to final enlightenment. Good to see you have divine plans even for the socially inept professors among us.

Thu, 13 Oct 2011 19:23:21 UTC | #880608

Alan4discussion's Avatar Comment 19 by Alan4discussion

Comment 16 by blitz442

Can we get one article about the book that actually asks him a bit about the details of the interesting science presented to the children? Are journalists too intimidated even by this level of science to form decent questions?

The gentlemen of the press seem to be extinct! The common news-hounds infest today's media!

Thu, 13 Oct 2011 19:26:22 UTC | #880610

blitz442's Avatar Comment 20 by blitz442

Comment 18 by Bipedal Primate

Apparently, Rain Main would have made a great atheist.

Thu, 13 Oct 2011 19:29:49 UTC | #880613

Atheist Mike's Avatar Comment 21 by Atheist Mike

Religion or atheism? Schizophrenia or autism? Tough choice. I guess I'll just call myself an agnostic.

Thu, 13 Oct 2011 19:33:43 UTC | #880617

some asshole's Avatar Comment 22 by some asshole

Comment 15 by Bill Salt :

Usually these adults that indoctrinate their children with religion, will not allow their children to watch (R) rated movies, but are recklessly willing to install a psychological fear of demons and hellfire that's not easily removed, even in their adulthood.

What an excellent point! The same people, of course, shun the human body, and so many other things. It reminds me of my in-laws, who once nearly shit themselves when I once accidentally said "fuck" around their children, but who let the same very young children watch movies like A Nightmare on Elm Street, Scarface, and also let them play shotgun-to-the-head-type "Mature 17+" video games.

Thu, 13 Oct 2011 19:34:08 UTC | #880618

Bipedal Primate's Avatar Comment 23 by Bipedal Primate

@ comment 20 by blitz442

Maybe there's something to it. Both atheists and autists tend to be very fact focused, whether that entails counting matches on the floor or sticking to evolution over creationism.

Thu, 13 Oct 2011 19:36:25 UTC | #880619

blitz442's Avatar Comment 24 by blitz442

Comment 22 by some asshole

It reminds me of my in-laws, who once nearly shit themselves when I once accidentally said "fuck" around their children, but who let the same very young children watch movies like A Nightmare on Elm Street, Scarface, and also let them play shotgun-to-the-head-type "Mature 17+" video

Wait, so its ok that Pacino says fuck about 8 billion times in that movie, but you can't?

Years ago, I was helping an associate out by looking after his kids for a day. The kids wanted to do nothing other than watch DVDs and play video games, and oh man, you should have seen what their parent's deemed permissible. R rated stuff, incredibly violent.

I asked my associate about letting young kids (all were under 10) watch this stuff, and he said he didn't want to sheild them from "real life".

Yeah, people getting blown away with no consequences, zombies...that's all real life.

Thu, 13 Oct 2011 19:41:07 UTC | #880623

ZenDruid's Avatar Comment 25 by ZenDruid

I am fortunate in that I was born a skeptic. My parents didn't even try to push religion on me. I remember having the impression that the iconic Jesus ( you know, Jesus in the garden with kiddies and birdies and bunnies and butterflies) was a bearded lady.

At about 6, I was accosted by a Baptist minister who hit me with that 'bad boys go to hell' shtick, and I came away from that encounter with the realization that there's absolutely nothing stopping grownups from being fucking* idiots.

*No, the word wasn't in my vocab back then.

Thu, 13 Oct 2011 19:41:24 UTC | #880624

Bipedal Primate's Avatar Comment 26 by Bipedal Primate

@ comment 22 by some asshole

Or the Bible thumpers who get their knickers in a twist if someone picks up a virtual shotgun to fight off the evil demons from Hell when the latter invade our own realm in the videogame 'Doom'.

Thu, 13 Oct 2011 19:42:01 UTC | #880625

blitz442's Avatar Comment 27 by blitz442

Comment 23 by Bipedal Primate

Even if there is, it comes out of left field. And it is not just an innocent aside, it is meant to undermine Richard.

If the author was really interested in this, she would present both sides. Maybe another study or expert shows that the connection is completely erroneous.

And as long as we are engaging in innocent musings, if the theory that autism and schizophrenia are opposite extremes on a spectrum of behavior is correct, then it would be appropriate to speculate whether the religious are a bit schizo. Just toss that in the article too.

Thu, 13 Oct 2011 19:43:47 UTC | #880626

KenChimp's Avatar Comment 28 by KenChimp

Comment 13 by blitz442 :

Comment 5 by rocket888 :

Being scared of Hell, or scared of the God of the Hebrew Bible, is small compared to being scared of a government that now ignores the bill of rights and kills American citizens it doesn't like, without due process of law. If you get on Obama's list, you're toast

Give an example of an American citizen who was put to death by Obama without due process simply because Obama did not like them.

I'll give two:

Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Kahn.

Now before I'm slammed for being an advocate for (or propagandist for) al-Qaida or some other such nonsense, let's make it perfectly clear that the laws of the United States do not allow for the summary execution of U.S. citizens accused of crimes.

The drone strike killing these two U.S. citizens was illegal according to U.S. law. I don't care what the two hate-mongers were accused of. It is against the laws of the United States to execute them without a conviction in a court of law for their crimes.

Thu, 13 Oct 2011 19:45:06 UTC | #880627

Bipedal Primate's Avatar Comment 29 by Bipedal Primate

Comment 25 by ZenDruid :

I am fortunate in that I was born a skeptic. My parents didn't even try to push religion on me. I remember having the impression that the iconic Jesus ( you know, Jesus in the garden with kiddies and birdies and bunnies and butterflies) was a bearded lady.

At about 6, I was accosted by a Baptist minister who hit me with that 'bad boys go to hell' shtick, and I came away from that encounter with the realization that there's absolutely nothing stopping grownups from being fucking* idiots.

*No, the word wasn't in my vocab back then.

Isn't it a little puzzling that a man as feminine as Jesus can be the main hero of so many homophobes?

Thu, 13 Oct 2011 19:53:15 UTC | #880628

BigNoboDaddy's Avatar Comment 30 by BigNoboDaddy

The 'unpalatable' truth will always be seen by most as belligerent because it undermines their most cherished beliefs. Face it, most people are ignorant apes and will remain so. Geniuses like Dawkins, Einstein, Hawkings, etc are the exception not the rule. Just say the truth as efficiently as possible those with the intelligence to grasp it will start doubting mumbo-jumbo and eventually discard it. Those that lack the intellect to distinguish truth from hocus-pocus will never give up their childhood imaginary friends and deluded comforts, at best we must ensure that this nonsense, when it appears in the public domain, is always met with a robust dose of scientific antidote and ridicule. This will incentives them to keep their silly beliefs private.

To embark on our quest for truth most of us had first to doubt the cherished beliefs that we were taught as children. That is why we follow science critically to gain an understanding of this mind boggling life world. Believers are not motivated to follow science. Whatever science has to say they already know through Chinese whispers.

Science education should include the scientific method and the history of science. Philosophy in school covering thought hygiene and logic would also help to clear up muddled thinking by adulthood.

Richard keep up the good work.

Thu, 13 Oct 2011 19:56:45 UTC | #880629