I Participated In A Video Conversation On Atheist Parenting

I just had a total blast hanging out with Kylie Sturgess, Ophelia Benson, PZ Myers, and Russell Glasser talking about atheist parenting for an hour. Forgive the echo on the audio early on, it should go away:

I would love it if you would watch the video and offer Your Thoughts!

Here are some more posts where I have explored the sorts of issues about atheism and values inculcation that I focused much of my discussion on. I am also including in these links posts about my religious upbringing and its affects on me since I discussed my extensive experience with emotionalistic religious indoctrination at religious camps:

Faith As Corruption Of Children’s Intellectual Judgment

Answering Greta: My Goals As An Atheist Writer (in this post I argue for the need for constructive non-theistic communities that inculcated values with alternative deliberateness to religious communities).

On Atheism and Parenting: An Interview With George Waye

Christopher Hitchens and Freethinking Parenting At Its Best

Before I Deconverted: Ministers As Powerful Role Models

My Fundamentalist Preacher Brother, His Kids, And Me (And “What To Do About One’s Religiously Raised Nieces and Nephews”)

Before I Deconverted: I Was A Teenage Christian Contrarian

Before I Deconverted, I Already Believed in Equality Between the Sexes

Addressing Skepticism About Atheism’s Value For Skepticism

Atheism and Tradition Building

Against Accommodationism: Religion Has NO Proper Magisterium of Its Own

Also, as usual, let me recommend you read Richard Wade’s “Ask Richard” column which often features humane, nuanced, pragmatic, sage advice about particular quandaries that atheist parents find themselves in—most involving negotiating relationships with religious relatives, spouses, or children.

Your Thoughts?

About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.

  • http://www.facebook.com/thelaymanatheist thelaymanatheist

    I think I really like hangout being used like this… Great job everyone!

  • brenda

    “I would love it if you would watch the video and offer Your Thoughts!”

    I think everyone should raise their children as they see fit and that no one should ever interfere with parental rights with regard to religion.

    • http://homeschoolingphysicist.blogspot.com PhysicistDave

      Brenda wrote:
      > I think everyone should raise their children as they see fit and that no one should ever interfere with parental rights with regard to religion.

      Ummm, Brenda, are you aware that many preachers and religious parents threaten children with horrific pain and torture (indeed, eternal pain and torture) if the kids do not give in to the religious demands made upon them?

      Would you accept parents threatening to burn their kids, in a constant and excruciating manner for a long time, with, say, a hot fireplace poker, if the kids did not join the Boy Scouts, or get all As on their report card, or practice harder on piano?

      If not, why is it acceptable for preachers or parents to threaten kids with eternal burning in Hell if the kids do not conform religiously?

      (And, if you do not think there are many preachers and parents who do this, you need to get out a bit more!)

      Dave Miller in Sacramento

    • brenda

      PhysicistDave spoke: — “Ummm, Brenda, are you aware that many preachers and religious parents threaten children with horrific pain and torture (indeed, eternal pain and torture) if the kids do not give in to the religious demands made upon them?”

      Ummm… yeah. The actual infliction of pain and torture is abusive. One’s eschatology, even very a stupid one, is not.

      “If not, why is it acceptable for preachers or parents to threaten kids with eternal burning in Hell if the kids do not conform religiously?”

      Because actually burning your children with hot pokers is inhuman but teaching them atheist strawman versions of Christianity is not.

      “And, if you do not think there are many preachers and parents who do this, you need to get out a bit more!”

      I am a liberal. I am not a reactionary. So I see diversity as a value even when that diversity means that people will believe things I find unacceptable. I do not run around with my hair on fire just because some guy in my building who, aside from being a decent person most times is also a devout Catholic and believes that abortion in immoral. Or the other who is a Tea Party global warming denialist. Or those who believe the government is secretly in league with the grey aliens and is suppressing free energy and anti-gravity technology.

      And when I walk out my door there are Somalian women in their hijabs waiting for the bus, Ethiopian men at the local Starbucks and twenty something hipsters learning how to square dance at the organic coffee shop across the street.

      There are gangster wannabes with their pants half way down, Native American panhandlers, illegal Mexicans puking last nights drinking binge in the alley next to the Hmong shop keepers and the Vietnamese Pho restaurants. And yes, there’s even a fundamentalist waving a Bible preaching hellfire and damnation and atheists next to him holding a sign telling passersby “<—This guy is lying."

      All is good. So get over yourself. The mirror of the internet tends to make the monsters you see appear larger than life. They are not.

    • http://homeschoolingphysicist.blogspot.com PhysicistDave

      Brenda wrote to me:
      >Ummm… yeah. The actual infliction of pain and torture is abusive. One’s eschatology, even very a stupid one, is not.

      You are misquoting me: I referred to threatening to burn their kids, not to the actual infliction of such torture.

      That is an exact analogy to the threatening by religious folks.

      Seriously making such threats in a non-religious situation is a serious crime – people go to jail for this.

      Why the exception for religion (yes, I know the historical reasons)?

      Brenda also wrote:
      >All is good. So get over yourself. The mirror of the internet tends to make the monsters you see appear larger than life. They are not.

      You are a real jerk. I was one of those kids threatened with Hellfire and I had nightmares for many years over it: You do not know what you are talking about.

      No, not monsters on the Internet. Real monsters in real life who threaten real children. I was one of those children. You should be deeply ashamed of yourself.

      But you won’t be. Because you think you are a “liberal.”

      No, not a liberal. You are an immoral monster.

      A monster who blames the victims.

    • brenda

      @ PhysicistDave said: “You are misquoting me: I referred to threatening to burn their kids, not to the actual infliction of such torture.”

      Your original sentence was ambiguous. As for actual threats… well, you are being very vague. Obviously threatening children with corporal punishment is not as bad as really doing it and I would think that both are ineffective. It would also depend on how realistic the threat is. “Mom’s gonna kill us when she finds out” does not mean that the kids actually believe they will be killed. If they do believe the threat is credible that is most likely because their parents have actually abused them or they have seen others abused by their parents. So it would be part of the natural pattern that abusive families take.

      “Why the exception for religion (yes, I know the historical reasons)?”

      There is no exception for religion and I know of no child protection agency, and certainly no therapists or social workers who would ignore obvious abuse. In fact, not reporting abuse is illegal most places.

      “You are a real jerk. I was one of those kids threatened with Hellfire and I had nightmares for many years over it: You do not know what you are talking about.”

      You are being unfair to me. You were making a general argument. You cannot logically take your single data point and make sweeping generalizations about everyone from that. As horrific as your own single anecdote is it does not count as evidence that all Christians raise their children the way you were.

      “You should be deeply ashamed of yourself.

      But you won’t be. Because you think you are a “liberal.”

      No, not a liberal. You are an immoral monster.

      A monster who blames the victims.”

      You have become like your abusers. You have no cause to accuse me of ignoring your past abuse because you never mentioned it. You said:

      are you aware that many preachers and religious parents threaten children with horrific pain and torture?

      To which I responded appropriately that I did not know of any, that I value diversity and that it is wrong to claim that all Christians are like your strawman version of Christianity.

      If your parents were as horrible as you say and actually did torture you then you have legal recourse and should look into that. But they are not Christians and you were not raised in a Christian household. They were or still are criminal perpetrators who used a perverted understanding of religion to rationalize their abuse.

      Get some therapy so you do not continue the circle of abuse.

  • Alex D

    Well done to all. Nice discussion and viewpoints the topic. I’m often the curiously “absent dad” at religious functions and do my best to raise inquisitive and reasoning daughters. PZ’s point about the value of letting your children experience a diverse set of religions/services was spot on from my own upbringing. I believe that having the opportunity to see different religious practices led me to eventually question why all of these various religions thought that they had an exclusive lock on “The Truth” (though the geology, physics, and astronomy thrown in by others in my family certainly helped a great deal too). Point taken as well about the perils inherent in the various indoctrination elements, “children’s church”, etc. It’s a fine line to be sure – though when it’s blatant I pull my daughters away without question.

    One additional thought – atheism was mentioned once or twice in the context of those who “choose to be atheist” or children “choosing to be atheist” (OK, I admit skipping around the recording a little). For myself, I’m not sure I ever had a choice regarding being an atheist… if someone follows something blindly that makes no rational sense, that hurts others, that discards science… is it really a “choice” to embrace the opposite of that? Granted, it takes the proper education, exposure, and freedom to pose questions in order to develop that mindset but from my early teens, at a core belief level, I don’t think my brain would let me be anything but an atheist. Given some patience and teaching my hope is that it will be the same with my own kids. Thanks and keep up the good work!

  • Suido

    @Brenda:

    Do you think the children should have the right to a childhood without abuse? If not, why not?

    Where do you put the line between ‘parental rights with regard to religion’ and child abuse?

    Fred Phelps is an extreme example of ‘religious parenting’ which I hope we agree should be called child abuse.

    The recent cases of pastors recommending that children should be beaten with various implements, quoting bible scripture. I think that’s child abuse, what do you think?

    Keep in mind, I’m deliberately only talking about physical abuse to keep this topic as simple and straightforward as possible.

    • http://homeschoolingphysicist.blogspot.com PhysicistDave

      Suido wrote:
      >Do you think the children should have the right to a childhood without abuse? If not, why not?

      Unfortunately, a lot of people who comment online on this subject ignore this central point, perhaps because their own experience with Christianity has been with a watered-down, sanitized, “liberal” Christianity.

      However, for tens of millions of American Christians – and, their children – and for many, perhaps most, Christians throughout history, liberal, watered-down Christianity is not what Christianity is all about.

      To put it simply, for very, very many children raised in “Christian” families, a religious upbringing means constant, ongoing, vicious threats of horrible punishments if the kids happen not to cooperate with the rather bizarre demands of the church.

      Think about it: suppose I managed to tell a bunch of kids, in a way that was convincing to them, that unless they joined my club, committed themselves to regularly paying money to me, believed what I told them to believe, etc., then my Big Boss was going to come by and cause them enormous pain and suffering.

      Adults who pull that game on other adults are engaged in the crime of extortion: organized crime has pursued this sort of “protection racket” over the years, and people can be and have been sent to jail for this sort of crime.

      But, change the Big Boss from the local Mafia capo to the Christian God, and the victims from adults to children, and all of a sudden it is perfectly legal and even protected by the First Amendment!

      I’m afraid I do not get it (yes, I do know the historical evolution that has led us to this bizarre point): if it is highly illegal to engage in an extortion racket against adults in this way, why is it not only legal but also perfectly acceptable socially to do the same thing to children?

      Dave Miller in Sacramento

    • brenda

      @ Suido said: — “Do you think the children should have the right to a childhood without abuse? If not, why not?”

      Freedom of conscious and of religion is a fundamental human right. That you would so blithely disregard it is deeply alarming. Even Richard Dawkins was man enough to walk back his undemocratic petition calling for taking parental rights away from people on the basis of religion. I wonder if you can muster the same level of integrity.

      “Where do you put the line between ‘parental rights with regard to religion’ and child abuse?”

      Child abuse is well defined in the legal code. You are free to look it up for yourself. Raising one’s children into your religious and cultural heritage is not abuse. It is the opposite of abuse.

      When Christians took Native American children away from their parents and raised them to the Western standards of their day was that abuse? If they had not indoctrinated native children in Christianity but instead gave them a secular education would that have been acceptable in your eyes?

      “Fred Phelps is an extreme example of ‘religious parenting’ which I hope we agree should be called child abuse.”

      Fred Phelps is not a Christian. He is the leader of a personality cult and is very probably actively delusional, possibly psychotic.

      “The recent cases of pastors recommending that children should be beaten with various implements, quoting bible scripture. I think that’s child abuse, what do you think?”

      Of course it is and in most jurisdictions striking your child with implements falls under the legal definition of child abuse regardless of whatever justification for it is made.

      On the other hand, I have two beautiful children and while I used time out to great effect there were times, very rare times, when I had to resort to a quick smack on the butt. Anyone who tells you you must never ever resort to corporal punishment is a fool or has never had children.

      “Keep in mind, I’m deliberately only talking about physical abuse to keep this topic as simple and straightforward as possible.”

      Actually you are not because the topic is whether or not raising one’s child in your religious/cultural heritage is abuse and it is not even close to physical abuse. It is in fact what religious freedom looks like.

      That they would take fundamental human rights, such as freedom of religion or freedom of speech, away from people to satisfy their political/philosophical ideology is why I reject the New Atheist movement.

    • brenda

      PhysicistDave spewed: “perhaps because their own experience with Christianity has been with a watered-down, sanitized, “liberal” Christianity.”

      Actually, sexually liberal, egalitarian and communitarian Christianity is closer to what the original Christians believed than to that of fundamentalists. Who are a very recent creation from about 150 years ago and are mainly a reactionary response to modernism.

      The original Christians were called atheists because they didn’t believe in god or heaven or souls or life after death or hell. Those things all came later when John imported Platonism into Christianity. They were dirty fucking hippies who shared *everything*, lived in communes, slept with god knows who, held no property, believed in universal love and even, gasp! treated women and slaves as equals to men.

      It’s fundamentalists who are new. They are also guilty of heresy, Biblical literalism is idolatry of the text because the Bible is not god or even the word of god. I was raised Lutheran (now agnostic) and taught that Biblical inerrancy and literalism is idolatry. That the word of god is found in the spirit of the law rather than the letter of the law is standard issue Lutheranism for the last 500 years.

      “for very, very many children raised in “Christian” families, a religious upbringing means constant, ongoing, vicious threats of horrible punishments”

      Bullshit. You don’t know jack about what you’re talking about. However, the fact that you actually believe in your strawman does tell us a great deal about you.

      “Adults who pull that game on other adults are engaged in the crime of extortion”

      Adults who send other adults to their room are guilty of kidnapping. Adults who take money away from other adults and force them to live on a small weekly allowance are guilty of theft. Adults who force other adults to wash the dishes or mow the lawn against their will are guilty of SLAVERY!!!

      Are you always this thick or did you have to work at it?

    • http://homeschoolingphysicist.blogspot.com PhysicistDave

      Brenda wrote to me:
      > The original Christians were called atheists because they didn’t believe in god or heaven or souls or life after death or hell.

      They were called “atheists” because they denied the pagan gods! Do you really, really think they denied the God of Judaism?

      Brenda also wrote:
      > B*******. You don’t know jack about what you’re talking about.

      Oh, I most certainly do know what I am talking about: I was one of those kids. I was threatened, again and again and again, in great and loving detail, with how I would burn in Hellfire for all eternity, and I had nightmares for many, many years as a result.

      It is you who are fantasizing.

      Brenda, the foul-mouthed, also wrote to me:
      > Are you always this thick or did you have to work at it?

      You have proven yourself to be simply a vicious, ignorant, filthy-mouthed, nasty liar.

      We have calibrated you morally and we know what you are.

    • brenda

      @ PhysicistDave said: ” Do you really, really think they denied the God of Judaism?”

      They did not believe in the kind of god most people believe in today. A sort of deistic god outside of space and time. They really thought god was real material person actually living in this world. Someone you could reach out and touch if you met him. In other words, a kind of materialistic god.

      “Oh, I most certainly do know what I am talking about: I was one of those kids.”

      It is a logical fallacy to take your single experience and generalize from there to include everyone. That would be like you saying that all blacks are violent criminals, then me saying that is bigoted and unfair, then you yelling at me for ignoring the reality of your experience of violence at the hands of a person of color. You making the same sweeping generalization here only with religion instead of race.

      “You have proven yourself to be simply a vicious, ignorant, filthy-mouthed, nasty liar.

      We have calibrated you morally and we know what you are.”

      You are abusing me. You are an abuser like your parents were abusers. I am not your parents. You need to stop accusing anonymous innocent people on the internet of abuse. It is unfair and wrong to set up people so that you can then attack them and accuse them of things they did not do to you.

      Please stop abusing me.

    • brenda

      @ PhysicistDave

      Oh, I now see by your profile that you are a Ron Paul, Austrian economics, Ayn Rand nut case.

      Maybe it’s not your parents. Maybe it’s just you.


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