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Imagine a Christianity Without Indoctrination

Suppose we re-categorized Christianity as an adult activity. It would be like smoking, alcohol, voting, driving, sex, marriage, and (in some states) pot—things that you must be mature enough to handle wisely.

How long would this adults-only Christianity survive? My guess is that, starved of its primary source of new members, it would die out within a few generations.

We all have inside us what could be called a BS Detector—that common sense that helps us believe as many true things and reject as many false things as possible. For example, present most American adults with a case for Islam or Hinduism or Sikhism, and they will be extraordinarily unconvinced in the same way that claims for miracle cures, alien abduction stories, and great deals on swamp land in Florida would typically be rejected.

As adults, we’re far better at sifting truth from BS than we were as children. And that’s why Christians must be indoctrinated as children, before their BS Detectors are mature. This is the idea behind the Jesuit maxim, “Give me a child until the age of seven and I will give you the man.”

(The full version ends with “… but give me the man, and he will say, ‘Dude, are you insane? Who would believe that??’”)

Getting a 50-year-old who’s never smoked hooked on cigarettes is like getting a 50-year-old who’s never heard of Jesus hooked on Christianity. It’s possible in both cases, but it’s far easier when you make the appeal early in life.

Imagine this conversation between the father of a 6-year-old child and the grandmother.

Grandma: “Little Johnny is old enough for me to take to Sunday School now.”

Dad: “You can take him when he’s 18, but I’d prefer he stay out of church until then.”

Grandma: “But 18 is too late! By then he’ll be set in his ways. He won’t accept the truth then.”

What kind of “truth” is it that must be taught before people are mature, before their BS Detectors are fully functioning? Grandma realizes that only before someone’s BS Detector is operating correctly can the beliefs of religion be put into someone’s head. This is a very poor stand-in for truth.

Many Christians will agree that Christianity needs access to immature minds to survive. But what does this say about the evidence behind the Christian claim that God exists?

The first principle is that you must not fool yourself—
and you are the easiest person to fool.
— Richard Feynman

(This is a modified version of a post originally posted 9/8/11)

About Bob Seidensticker
  • MNb

    Oh, I would take this a few steps further. My son went three years to a catholic school and then three years to an islamic school (both liberal, not of the fanatic kind). He knew from the start that I was an atheist.
    At the age of 13 he began to ask questions. But he didn’t go to me for answers; he found the necessary information on internet. By himself. Based on this he decided that he was an atheist too and only then he began to question me.
    So I am actually in favour of religious education at primary schools, provided it pays attention to Pastafarianism as well. Typically believers don’t think that a good idea.
    According to psychology it’s the teenagers who have the sharpest BS-detectors. That’s confirmed by my experience as a teacher. So offer them a choice and when 13, 14 they will start to think for themselves.

  • Greg G.

    I’m a proxy for the Devil’s Advocate. If you outlawed religion until age 18, it might become a “forbidden fruit”, so to speak. Kids couldn’t wait until they got old enough to replace Santa Claus with this mysterious being only certain people get to experience. They’d be hiding hymnals under their mattresses. They’d be sneaking crackers and grape juice out behind the barn.

    Maybe they should be forced to read the parts of the Bible they don’t talk about on Sunday before they can get a license to attend church. That would innoculate them, for sure!

    • J-Rex

      That might happen if religion was made illegal for them until they reached 18. It’s doubtful that would happen if they simply weren’t taught about it until they were 18.

  • J-Rex

    It’s sad that the indoctrination doesn’t always end when a person stops believing in that particular religion. There can be immense damage done to critical thinking skills of someone who is brought up to trust feeling over fact.
    I’ve got siblings who believe in ancient aliens, conspiracy theories, and pseudoscience. My mom hears them talking about it and wonders why they believe such strange things? Where did she go wrong? I just want to tell her: They believe in this because you taught them to ignore the science, ignore the logic, ignore any reasonable explanation. You can feel in your heart if a belief is correct.
    Of course, my parents assumed that people only feel their belief is correct if they believe in Christianity. Turns out, people feel good when they believe what they like to believe.

  • JohnH

    First, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;”.

    Second, Parents have rights and the family is the basic unit of society. Groups that act against this fact tend to disappear.

    If you are assured that your position is right and true then all you should have to do is present what you see as the truth and trust that people will recognize the truth. There should be no need to trample on the rights of parents, overthrow the constitution, seize children from their parents, and forcefully indoctrinate them to your beliefs.

    • Bob Seidensticker

      John:

      What I’m proposing is not legislation but just a thought experiment.

      • JohnH

        Then you are proposing a thought experiment that cannot happen as long as the parents actually believe in the religion they belong to. If someone believes their religion is true then keeping their children from it is just as hard to fathom as teaching children religion is for you.

        If someone does not believe in their religion then I think being honest about that lack of belief to their children would probably lead to a higher percentage ending up believing then the parents being hypocrites and teaching a religion that they themselves do not believe. Of course, that is my hypothesis and it runs contrary to yours so we would need to conduct an experiment to determine which is right. We might be able to get some sort of approximation through statistical analysis based on religious surveys; if anyone knows of a data set that contains data on the subject could someone let Bob know so that he can test his hypothesis?

        • J-Rex

          The point here is not: “This is what must/should be done!” or “I don’t think anyone who believes their religion could refrain from passing it on to their children.”
          The point is that if someone is raised without hearing about any religion (not raised atheist, just raised without the topic ever being brought up), they would likely find a story about a man walking on water and being raised from the dead just as strange and silly as you would find a story about any other mythology.

        • JohnH

          The point is that you are making an assumption with that; that is your hypothesis that you have faith in.

          It might be possible to test that hypothesis using surveys and so I suggest you stop saying how strange and silly it is that someone believes such and such and look for data sets that might be useful in testing your hypothesis

          ” strange and silly as you would find a story about any other mythology.”

          A few problems with this, first that the truth is not strange or seemingly silly. That all objects fall at the same speed is something that is very silly and strange (don’t even try to say that it isn’t, there are enough studies of cognition showing that it is to prove that it is), it is however true. Are you even passingly familiar with Quantum Mechanics? Or unmeasurable sets?

          Second, that one should find any mythology silly shows a near complete lack of understanding of mythology. That one thinks that they are not part of a mythology because they are not religious further shows the lack of understanding of what mythology is.

          Third, when a child asks why? on any number of subjects or when they ask where a dead pet or relative is then the subject matter of religion is automatically brought up. Whatever the one trying to explain any such subject does they will be imparting a belief, a faith. So what you propose is impossible even in theory, even if one were to try to shield children from all suffering and distract them from all such question that would still be teaching a belief.

          Fourth, that you think religion is all about the stories or even more so the miracles shows a lack of understanding of religion. True religion is not believing in silly stories but in serving others and in keeping oneself unspotted from the world. Religion isn’t something that happens one day a week but it is what one lives every minute of everyday and often times what one professes to believe has nearly nothing to do with what one demonstrates one believes by how one acts. If I were forbidden by law to take my children to church on Sunday that would have nearly no impact on my ability to share my religion with my children.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          J-Rex: Yes, thank you. Your focus is correct.

          We can talk about childhood religious indoctrination and the role of society in the raising of children, but this wasn’t my point.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          John:

          when [children] ask where a dead pet or relative is then the subject matter of religion is automatically brought up.

          Not in my household. And surely not in most atheist households. If Grandpa died, he just died. He goes to the same place that Fido went to (or a cow made into hamburger or a mosquito)–nowhere.

          If you’re saying we don’t know that there’s no afterlife, I agree. The point is that that’s where the evidence points. There’s no evidence of an afterlife, so we don’t claim that it exists.

        • JohnH

          Bob,
          Precisely my point, you are indoctrinating your children with the unknown that Fido, a cow, a mosquito, and Grandpa all cease to exist at death. That is a belief, one that you see as justified based on what you see as a lack of evidence of the afterlife.

        • JamesB

          JohnH,

          I’m trying to understand how not knowing is the same as believing, and how telling our kids we don’t know is “indocrinating”. I can’t speak for Bob, but in my experience, admitting I don’t know something is generally a great learning opportunity for my kids in that they are forced to think and investigate for themselves, thus reaching their own conclusions.

        • JohnH

          Saying that you don’t know is different belief from saying that they cease to exist, but is still imparting your particular world view. I think Ignatius Theophorus below covers the topic better then I have.

        • JamesB

          I’m asking you, not Ignatius Thephorous. How is not knowing the same as believing?

          If my child asks me, for example, whether or not intelligent life exists somewhere in the universe, how is me telling him we don’t know for sure the same as imparting a belief or indoctrinating him?

          I’m also curious what your evidence for an afterlife is.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          John:

          Precisely my point, you are indoctrinating your children with the unknown

          We start with the null hypothesis. In this case, that there is no afterlife. When we have the extraordinary evidence, we’ll accept that extraordinary claim.

          No indoctrination at all, just following the evidence.

        • J-Rex

          1) I never said that we should dismiss ideas because they sound strange. I mean that some things are strange specifically because they contradict science. You’re fine with believing someone walked on water because it’s something you’ve grown up believing, but you wouldn’t believe in a miracle about someone from another religion because it would sound strange to you.
          2) Do you have your own personal definition of what a myth is? Because you’re not making any sense. I actually love mythology, but no, I do not believe in any of it, and I’m assuming you reject most of it.
          3) Yes, people who believe in an afterlife often bring it up to children because they know it is comforting to a child, but not everyone does. If someone explains that death is a natural process and that the body breaks down and becomes part of the earth again, that is simply explaining what everyone knows. Stating scientific fact isn’t indoctrination.
          4) I would like for you to point out where I said that religion is all about silly stories. That never happened. I was religious and I know there is a lot more to it than just that. However, you can admire kind beliefs inspired by religion while still being unable to believe it completely because the stories behind it are too strange and do not have any evidence to back them up.
          And once again, any point about whether we could ever forbid the teaching of religion or whether people would still choose to teach it is irrelevant. It’s a thought experiment. We’re saying, *if* children were never brought up believing in any religion, would they still buy into it as adults.
          It’s like if someone was saying “What if we lived in a world without gravity? What would daily life be like?” and you kept insisting, “Well that’s not possible!” Thats. Not. The. Point.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          John:

          Then you are proposing a thought experiment that cannot happen as long as the parents actually believe in the religion they belong to

          Right. It’s just a thought experiment.

          And my conclusion is that Christianity is something that is sticky only because it is taught to children. Take that away, and the religion would wither away. That’s the point.

        • JohnH

          Because Christianity in the first and second Century was primarily spread by indoctrinating children and the morality, ideals, and commands have no appeal to anyone anywhere.

    • plutosdad

      You completely miss the point.
      If it’s true, then why do YOU need to train your children to believe what you believe?
      He is not saying “teach them atheism is true until they are 18″ he is saying, do not try to convince them which is true. And that is what most atheist parent I know actually do. They don’t teach their kids to only believe what they believe, because they don’t want to repeat the mistakes their own christian parents made when they were young. So they teach their children instead how to think and decide and judge truth, and let them come to their own conclusions. Some atheist parents have theist children, but it’s not some horrible thing that means they can’t love or accept them anymore.

      • JohnH

        I am not trying to tell you what to do with your children, you don’t try and touch mine, thanks.

        Please don’t base all judgements off of the worst theist example that you can find. It is very petty and unless you have forgotten that the Soviets were atheist kind of a shortsighted precedence to set, comrade.

        If I know my faith is true why do you expect me to withhold that knowledge from them? Should I likewise withhold a knowledge of Mathematics from them?

        • Jason

          Unless you are a Pythagorean, you are probably not teaching your children to worship numbers. So you can’t compare mathematics to religion.

        • JohnH

          Worship has nothing to do with it; Knowledge of the truth is what I am comparing it to, knowing that my religion is true then why should I keep that knowledge of the truth from my children, it is for me exactly like a knowledge of Mathematics.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          John:

          Please don’t base all judgements off of the worst theist example that you can find. It is very petty and unless you have forgotten that the Soviets were atheist kind of a shortsighted precedence to set, comrade.

          Both the church and the Soviet citizens were victims of the Communist dictatorship, Comrade. No one was killed in the name of atheism.

        • JohnH

          And the teachings of Jesus and the Apostles nowhere say to cast out children that may have gone astray or that believe differently then you, and your point is arguable.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          John: You’ve lost me.

          I’m imagining a thought experiment, with the conclusion that Christianity is false. Nowhere do I encourage casting out children.

        • Little Magpie

          John: As Bob said, it’s a thought experiment. No one’s dictating to anyone else how to raise their children, any more than any real cats have ever been put in real sealed boxes with a radioactive source, Geiger counter and poison gas. That’s why we call it a “thought experiment.”

  • Jason

    “Getting a 50-year-old who’s never smoked hooked on cigarettes is like getting a 50-year-old who’s never heard of Jesus hooked on Christianity. ”

    Well said, Bob! I really like this post. The only thing I will add is that I hope amist all the joking about making Chritianity illegal for children under 18, we don’t forget that the most important point is that children need to learn how to be free thinkers who can evaluate evidence on their own. This means that if I am an Atheist and my child wants to go to church for his/her own legitimate reasons (not coerced by some other adult), the true spirit of Atheism should encourage this exploration. Otherwise Atheism just becomes indoctrination of another kind. It’s the problem solving process and the ability to evaluate evidence that children need to learn, not their parents prepackaged answers to life’s question.

    JohnH, it sounds like you are taking the impost to imply that some people here really would like to legally prevent parents from being able to raise their children however they want. I don’t think that’s the case, but maybe I’m wrong. I think the point is that religion is serious business and children shouldn’t be indoctrinated before they have the ability to answer questions on their own.

  • DrewL

    My guess is that, starved of its primary source of new members, it would die out within a few generations.

    Let me do the statistical research you should have done for this post. We’ll start here:
    http://www.internetmonk.com/archive/michael-bell-looking-at-the-pew-forums-changes-in-religious-affliliation-data

    As you can see, childhood faith affiliation is a strong predictor of adulthood faith, so your “guess” is supported to an extent. However, glance over at those “religious nones”: over half of them (54% percent) are opting out of a religion-less childhood for some sort of faith in their adult lives. Keep in mind, only a small percentage of these “nones” were actually atheists, a point generally lost on many pro-atheism blogs who want to claim all the religious nones as atheists. But if we comply with this generalization and consider those with no childhood religious a rough proxy for your fantasy of “unindoctrinated” children, your “guess” turns out to lack empirical support. As the PEW report says, “At the same time that the ranks of the unaffiliated have grown, the Landscape Survey also revealed that the unaffiliated have one of the lowest retention rates of any of the major religious groups, with most people who were raised unaffiliated now belonging to one religion or another. ”

    In other words, if we all experienced indoctrination-free childhood you fantasize about, 54% of us would be gladly jumping into the arms of organized religion later in life. Turns out “mature” minds are more likely to choose religion than stay in their non-religion.

    The problem with online atheist communities is you quickly lose sight of how small and insignificant the American atheist population actually is: roughly 3-4%, of the population and not necessarily growing. And because you live in an echo chamber of people who think like you, you suffer from the same epistemic closure that FoxNews viewers suffer from. Thus, despite living in a country where 96-97% believes differently than you, you come up with theories (completely detached from empirical reality, apparently) on the level of “how could anyone BUT A LOWLY CHILD believe this stuff?” How, indeed.

    Please: hit the library, pull up some stats, go talk to a pastor, do something to break out of the bubble. You can do better than this, Bob.

    • Bob Seidensticker

      Let me do the statistical research you should have done for this post.

      Ah, my little breath of rationalism! How refreshing to have your contribution.

      Keep in mind, only a small percentage of these “nones” were actually atheists, a point generally lost on many pro-atheism blogs who want to claim all the religious nones as atheists.

      Those pro-atheism blogs! We both know how moronic those writers are.

      But I do fear that you’ve missed your own point. Nones are, indeed, mostly “spiritual,” “religiously seeking,” “religious but not in any category you’ve showed me,” or something similar.

      So some of these people start out spiritual and wind up Christian. OK–I don’t see how this undercuts my hypothesis.

      Looking at the multi-colored chart, the vast majority of those who start out Christian are Christian as adults (as I said), but half of the Nones are still nones as adults (which also fits). If we imagine the Atheist category (not shown in this chart), I imagine that the retention would be even higher.

      So I guess we’re back with my post as a decent working hypothesis?

      The problem with online atheist communities is you quickly lose sight of how small and insignificant the American atheist population actually is: roughly 3-4%, of the population and not necessarily growing.

      (1) Yes, I’m aware of this information, but thanks for condescending to remind me.
      (2) 3-4%–sounds like roughly the size of Jews and Mormons put together. That would seem to be a substantial voting block worth wooing by politicians.
      (3) The “Nones” category is growing very rapidly. My own guess is that this is more people being honest about their beliefs than new rejection of Christianity. I think I’ve seen surveys about the Atheist fraction growing, but I’m not sure.

      And because you live in an echo chamber of people who think like you

      Oh, yeah! Why actually inform myself about reality? It’s nicer in my bubble.

      You can do better than this, Bob.

      Encouraging yet condescending–nice touch!

      • DrewL

        If we imagine the Atheist category (not shown in this chart), I imagine that the retention would be even higher.

        Ah so it comes down to our imaginations? Here’s my imaginative working hypothesis: the major difference between the expansive but fluid “religious nones” category and self-identified, daily-blogging atheists is the latter are still dealing with anger toward childhood authority figures. Now we’re both reasoning from our own gut intuitions rather than statistics!

        Atheists who care about statistics–the type who choose peer-reviewed academic social science over their own gut “beliefs”–would recognize your thesis can’t possibly account for education and religiosity being positively correlated in this country. Every additional year of education actually predicts a person goes to church more. If you believe aging also gives us wisdom, you have another problem of the elderly being more religious. Since education surely isn’t curbing or inhibiting our “BS detectors,” your hypothesis is going to need a significant qualifier to account for society’s most mature minds choosing religion over non-religion. But again, not a problem you’d likely recognize if you only interact with people who think like you.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Drew:

          Now we’re both reasoning from our own gut intuitions rather than statistics!

          No need to “reason from the gut.” I shredded your argument using your own statistics.

          your thesis can’t possibly account for education and religiosity being positively correlated in this country. Every additional year of education actually predicts a person goes to church more.

          I agree. My thesis had nothing to do with education. I’m glad we’re on the same page.

          But your claim is startling. It is the opposite of what I’ve read. (Source: “Intelligent people ‘less likely to believe in God’:
          People with higher IQs are less likely to believe in God, according to a new study”).

          But again, not a problem you’d likely recognize if you only interact with people who think like you.

          A snarkiness drive-by? That’s what I love about you!

        • DrewL

          All I can say here is…if you think you “shredded” my argument by introducing a non-empirically verified premise to the analysis of the data, (“If we imagine the Atheist category (not shown in this chart), I imagine that the retention would be even higher”) your standards of argumentation have dropped tremendously.

          You’re citing Richard Lynn research? Might want to check the wikipedia article on that one. Or simply read all the scholars cited in the article who pointed out how poor his study was.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Drew:

          All I can say here is…if you think you “shredded” my argument by introducing a non-empirically verified premise to the analysis of the data, (“If we imagine the Atheist category (not shown in this chart), I imagine that the retention would be even higher”) your standards of argumentation have dropped tremendously.

          Dropped from basically zero in your eyes? Wow–I must really be at rock bottom now!

          I agree with your point–the part where I didn’t discuss your argument isn’t where I shredded your argument.

          The part where I shredded your argument is where I shredded your argument. Look above for the three paragraphs starting, “But I do fear that you’ve missed your own point.”

          You’re citing Richard Lynn research? Might want to check the wikipedia article on that one.

          I’m unfamiliar with criticism of that study. It would seem to be a pretty basic poll to take, but if there’s criticism, I’d like to see it.

        • DrewL

          Ah now I see. You’ve retreated to: I have no empirical evidence for this claim about atheists.

          It’s a Bob faith belief then. Very nice. That’s generally my cue to let all these other commenters take over the thread: I don’t personally argue with fideists, particularly on non-falsifiable hypotheses.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          You’ve retreated to: I have no empirical evidence for this claim about atheists.

          No, not really. I’ve retreated to: you made a claim that wasn’t backed up by evidence, and I pointed that out.

          Y’know, being corrected wouldn’t hurt as much if you dropped the attitude.

          That’s generally my cue to let all these other commenters take over the thread

          So instead of ” Yeah, good point–I should’ve seen that,” you say, “Well, if you’re just going to be mean about it, then I’m taking my football and going home”?

      • DrewL

        MIght I also add you’ve got yet another non-falsifiable hypothesis emerging:

        Religious childhood, religious adulthood? Ah indoctrinated at a young age, as I suspected.
        Religious childhood, atheist adulthood? Ah a mature mind breaks free! As I suspected.
        Atheist childhood, atheist adulthood? See, cut away indoctrination and everyone’s an atheist! My very point!
        Atheist childhood, religious adulthood? I will just “imagine” this never happens.

        You win again Bob. It’s the heads-I’m-right-tales-you’re-wrong approach to argumentation.

      • JohnH

        “3-4%–sounds like roughly the size of Jews and Mormons put together. That would seem to be a substantial voting block worth wooing by politicians.”

        Which is a matter of concentration more then numbers. No one really cares about the Mormon vote outside of certain areas (intermountain west) and no one cares about the Jewish vote outside of certain areas.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          The Jewish voting bloc is pretty powerful, due, I imagine, to decades of careful work. The atheist (or the much larger Nones) blocs have little cohesiveness. Perhaps with time that will change.

        • JohnH

          No one in state office in say Kansas or Idaho cares one bit about the Jewish voting bloc.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Uh, OK.

          I think my point stands: the Jewish voting bloc, after years of hard work, is disproportionately important. Yeah, in a town where there are no Jews, this doesn’t matter. In a town where there are no Nones, they wouldn’t matter either.

    • plutosdad

      “a point generally lost on many pro-atheism blogs who want to claim all the religious nones as atheists. ”
      I have not seen anyone interpret it that way anywhere

      • DrewL

        I can show you in a single post, and you don’t even have to leave Patheos.
        http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2012/10/09/new-report-a-third-of-adults-under-30-have-no-religious-affiliation/

        Notice the “not only are we…” and “we’re also spreading…” and the “our numbers are growing!” statements. Then Hermant has done us a great favor in lining up all the other organizations trying to claim unaffiliated people under their atheist umbrella too. Boy are they going to be disappointed to learn the majority of those non-affiliated identify as religious or spiritual, and about a third pray daily and believe in a personal God. Sloppy poll analysis all around.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          are they going to be disappointed to learn the majority of those non-affiliated identify as religious or spiritual

          Show me that this realization would surprise him.

        • DrewL

          It’s going to be hard for me to show you a realization that hasn’t happened yet.

          But you yourself know religious nones do not equal atheists, why don’t you inform Mr. Friendly Atheist and the four secular organizations he cites who make that mistake? Then we can see the realization for ourselves.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          It’s going to be hard for me to show you a realization that hasn’t happened yet.

          I hear you. But don’t bother with that–you could just respond to my challenge instead of dodging it.

    • markinator

      You might wish to temper any statistics you cite in support of your claims regarding affiliation or non-affiliation. If non-affiliation does not indicate preference for atheism, and non-affiliates are leaving that brand to seek organized religion, it can be interpreted that the reason for such an exodus just might be the many and varied clergy and religious leaders recruiting efforts to their particular strain of snake oil. Having also read all of the reports and supporting documentation, I believe it indeed demonstrates that the increase in non-affiliation is directly due to people finally getting disgusted with ALL of the various religions and their respective false promises, so they simply state that they wish to not associate with any of them. Finally, the fear of non-belief in an extraordinary religious claim leading to eternal damnation will cause at least a few people to say openly they belong to a religion, when the complete truth is that they only say that as a caveat, in the very remote chance that the religion’s fantastic claims might be correct. The promise of seeing a person’s dear deceased loved ones will have a strong impact on those who otherwise might reject religion openly, with common sense telling them that overall, religion is a dangerous control mechanism, and really nothing more.

  • Stefan

    Great post, i wholeheartedly agree.

    I would be more than surprised if over 95/100 adults in this hypothetical world you’ve presented chose Christianity because of its truth value as opposed to maintaining their naturalistic one. I’ve seen on reddit 3 or 4 times before adults that have converted from atheism to Christianity, and the funny thing is that EVERY individual converted because ‘they liked the message,’ or because ‘it made them feel good.’ Never did the person say ‘because the Bible is the Word of God and therefore infallible (etc).’

    • Stefan

      Woops, i meant under*95/100 adults…

  • avalon

    “Humans are born with brains designed to make sense of the world and that sometimes leads to beliefs that go beyond any natural explanation. To be true they would have to be supernatural. With scientific education children can learn that such beliefs are irrational but because they operate at an intuitive level they can either be resistant to reason or lie dormant in otherwise sensible adults.
    Therefore it is unlikely that any effort to get rid of supernatural beliefs, or the superstitious behaviors that accompany them, will be entirely successful. We are inclined from the start to think that there are unseen patterns, forces and essences inhabiting the world. This way of thinking is unavoidable, and it may be part of human nature…”
    Bruce Hood (http://brucemhood.wordpress.com/about-supersense/)

    avalon

  • smrnda

    I’m actually pretty uncomfortable about the indoctrination of children. People make a case that parents have the right to choose to take their children to worship services. However, if an atheist parent refused to allow their child to attend church with a religious friend, I’m thinking that thought most religious people would agree that this is right of that parents, they would admit that this is a case where a child is being prevented from making a free choice. I’ve actually had conversations with Christians where they both argue that they should have a right to force their children to attend church, but that children raised in atheist or ‘other’ households shouldn’t be prevented from attending a Christian worship service. It’s that ‘parents right to make kid go to church’ and ‘child’s right to make a choice’ – whichever one is convenient is invoked.

    My own opinion is that the family can be a pretty oppressive institution, and that alternative ways for children to be cared for and socialized should be made available.

    But that’s enough of that. I disagree that all people are equally open to truth at all stages of life. Something can be ‘true’ but a person can be unpersuaded because of years of conditioning that have damaged their ability to evaluate truth claims.

    To religious people – if your religion is so obviously true, then an adult raised with no religious influences should accept it. I’d say that, to demonstrate how true one’s religion is, a person should agree that preventing kids from being indoctrinated is a good thing since it removes the possibility that a person only believes because of early indoctrination.

    I would also say that an absence of religious upbringing isn’t equivalent to an atheist upbringing. I wasn’t indoctrinated with any religion, but I wasn’t raised to actively disbelieve in anything. That would be different than if some adult figure had openly told me religion or religions are actually false.

    • JohnH

      I take it you do not have children based on your second paragraph.

      You are making a generalization in your first paragraph. For many it is a fair generalization, but not for all.

      “Something can be ‘true’ but a person can be unpersuaded because of years of conditioning that have damaged their ability to evaluate truth claims.”

      The prayer of the atheist:

      We thank thee oh great non-God that we the chosen few rationalists have overcome the superstition of our deluded brethren and seen in thy great non-Goodness to endow us with undamaged ability to evaluate truth claims! Oh great non-God bless us as we attempt to force our brethren to see they great non-light and know that Thou are not! As thy great prophet Nietzsche has said of us, we art thy ubermensch, they the untermensch, and Thou art dead!

      ———
      I wonder if you are familiar with the concept of humility? What evidence, outside of them believing in religion while you do not, do you have that their ability to evaluate truth claims is any more or less damaged then your own?

      “a person should agree that preventing kids from being indoctrinated is a good thing since it removes the possibility that a person only believes because of early indoctrination.”

      Did you know that you are contradictory and just as bad (or worse?) as the Christians that you were denigrating earlier? You are saying that not only should you be able to not take your children to worship but that all children should be forced to likewise not attend services, not even given the option to attend if they wish to.

      • smrnda

        I should clarify my own views. I think it is wrong to force a child to attend a worship service. However, I think it’s also wrong to force a child not to attend if they’re curious. I’m just uncomfortable with the power adults have over children, though I admit that there is no good way to fix this problem. =

        On ‘preventing indoctrination’ I was (more or less) proposing another thought experiment and not advocating any actual actions. Let’s take two religions – A and B. People in A were mostly raised in A, with some people leaving and some people converting later. Now, let’s take B. Nobody is ever ‘raised’ in B since there’s some prohibition against converting anyone except a grown adult. A believer in B is far more likely (to me) to believe in B for some kind of reason than someone in A, since nobody could say that a B believer only believes in B because they were indoctrinated when they were young.

        My take on the family is that I think I had a better life because my parents took a nearly totally hands-off approach to raising their own children, and I felt like I got a much better deal than the other kids I knew who were stuck with parents who wanted to govern almost every aspect of their existence. I also worked in the child welfare department for a few years. I just think it would be nice that if a young person got sick of their family, they could just check in at some well-run residential facility where as long as they don’t do anything illegal or horribly destructive, they can stay living there and get material support and an education. I got this idea when I noticed that when I worked with children in a residential setting, there was much less conflict than I saw in families, and the reason (more or less) was that we saw ourselves just as workers there to meet the needs of kids. The parent/child relationship is more characterized by power and authority – parents feel a need to ‘win’ and it’s a one-sided relationships. It isn’t like a marriage where the people should be equal and both have the power to end the relationship.

        There’s a lot of reasons I don’t have kids, but I also believe that my hypothetical children would have a right to reject me as an authority figure. I also think it’s difficult for a parent to be objective about ‘you have to do this because it’s right’ and ‘you have to do this because it’s what i want you to do.’ I’m very skeptical of the ability of any authority figure to actually really be acting in the interests of those below them. There’s no way to do it without being at fault.

        I didn’t mean to single out religion as an area where a person’s ability to evaluate truth claims could be damaged and I apologize if I made it seem that I was singling out ‘religion.’ I’ll provide an example of another area; when laws were being passed which were going to ban smoking in public places and businesses for health reasons, I would run across smokers who were all contending that the idea that second-hand smoke was bad for you was ‘bad science’ and the rules unjustified. None of them could point to any evidence, but in that case it’s probably a question of bias. The person wants convenience for themselves, so they discount compelling medical evidence that there is a good reason to restrict their behavior. I see this where people support keeping drugs illegal when making them illegal clearly does nothing to reduce their consumption, but costs a lot of money. It just ‘feels wrong’ to legalize drugs to many people. Many American politicians can’t seem to figure out how people in other nations will react (like when people assumed that once we went to Iraq, everybody would love and welcome us) even when they’ve got lots of evidence that when we show up, we aren’t automatically the ‘good guys’ to the people living there.

        My own ability to evaluate truth claims depends on the area, and how confident I feel in my assessments depends on how much information I’ve been able to obtain. I also try to be consistent in the level of evidence that I demand so when I start trying to decide something, I ask how consistent I’m being.

        This is one reason why I don’t state that I can say there is no way any gods or goddesses or deities or spirits can exist. The arguments made in favor of their existence appear unfalsifiable to me, and I consider unfalsifiable claims to be outside the realm of systematic knowledge. I also believe that something that is true needs to be able to be proven to be true in spite of a person not believing it, and religious proof usually requires a level of pre-existing belief. The other thing is that I consider subjective experiences to be inadequate for establishing certain truth claims. I have a friend who is a pagan who literally thinks that various gods and goddesses have spoken to him and he can point me to things that happened in his life where clearly thinks he had divine guidance. I think the whole thing is all in his head, but I also admit a bias where I *feel* that his beliefs are a bit more preposterous than the beliefs of many monotheists, even when I admit that polytheism is a way out of the theodicity problem. I can only credit living in a place where monotheism has been dominant for why I feel like these experiences are easier to dismiss for me.

      • Makoto

        I’ve read a bunch of your posts on this thread, and I’m a bit late to the party, but as an atheist, I thought I’d share my prayer, since you seem to have a misconception about it. Here we go..

        “…”

        I don’t pray. I’m not convinced there is something to pray to. That doesn’t mean I don’t live my life to the fullest – in fact, the opposite, since I’m not convinced there is an eternal afterlife for me to spend my time in. Instead, I have to do everything here – do my best, help others, and so on.

        Hope that helps.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Makoto: Thanks for the comments and welcome.

          Did you know that I participated in a 40-day Atheist Prayer Experiment? I documented that in posts several weeks back.

  • kenneth

    Childhood indoctrination is one manifestation of a larger phenomenon within Christianity: They fear critical thinking and people thinking for themselves. It’s like kryptonite to them and their claims of truth. They rush people into baptism and confirmation long before they have the tools to make a fully informed choice. They work very hard to make sure they are never drawn into a fair and open debate on any subject. As one example, I’ve been pressing the “save marriage” folks for over a decade to give a secular argument against gay marriage. They refuse, saying I’m too blind to see it or they don’t have time etc., then they just ban you from that forum.

    Their religions have only ever thrived in those times and places where they had the coercive power of government to control the channels of speech and to enforce orthodoxy of practice. That grip began to slip the second the printing press was invented and governments began to secularize. Christianity has been in absolute free fall in the West since the rise of the Internet, which allowed many people to see the world and world of ideas beyond their own geography.

    • DrewL

      Generally I don’t take the time to fact-check comments on here, but it’s your lucky day:

      They fear critical thinking and people thinking for themselves.
      Who is “they”? Trace back critical thinking far enough and it originates from a religious person. Descartes, Locke, Bacon, Reid, Kant all held religious beliefs. Aristotle and Plato were deeply embedded in the supernatural beliefs of their time. Outside of your imagination, there is no reason-faith divide: the medieval church and churchgoing Enlightenment philosophers basically invented reason you use today, and they invented the University system that you were educated in. You need to check your history. And who is “fearing” critical thinking? Please, provide me with data or perhaps an anecdote from your own experience that would make you say such a thing.

      They rush people into baptism and confirmation long before they have the tools to make a fully informed choice.
      Ahh, so we’re picking on the Catholics and some types of Protestantism eh? What if I told you there are 1-2 billion Christians who don’t believe in child baptism or confirmation? You probably would find another reason to dislike them, but whatever…

      They work very hard to make sure they are never drawn into a fair and open debate on any subject.
      Citation needed. Seems like you are dealing with some anger at Catholicism, can you give me an example of this? And perhaps non-religious parents exemplifying the opposite tendency with their children? I’d take something from your childhood if you want to share.

      As one example, I’ve been pressing the “save marriage” folks for over a decade to give a secular argument against gay marriage. They refuse, saying I’m too blind to see it or they don’t have time etc., then they just ban you from that forum.
      Ahhh here’s a personal anecdote. Not data, but at least you’ve got some basis for your claim! You probably didn’t look very hard though: most anti-gay marriage people would gladly give you a natural law argument (google that if you want) that supposedly appeals to secular grounds of reasoning. I personally hate such arguments, but nevertheless they fit your criteria of a “secular” argument.

      Their religions have only ever thrived in those times and places where they had the coercive power of government to control the channels of speech and to enforce orthodoxy of practice.
      Is this even supposed to be taken seriously? How many Christian theocracies are there today? And how many Christians are there? Clearly there is Christianity outside theocracies, did you even think before you wrote that? And what are you going to do with China, which in 1950 had about 500,000 Christians and today has somewhere around 70 million? Certainly looks like thriving directly AGAINST a very coercive state power. Please, share some evidence.

      Christianity has been in absolute free fall in the West since the rise of the Internet, which allowed many people to see the world and world of ideas beyond their own geography..
      Christianity has been declining in Europe long before the internet. But it certainly didn’t start at the time of the printing press, nor did the internet have a noticeable effect on the trends. America? Well let’s see, weekly church attendance, beliefs in afterlife, membership in a church congregation, and self-reported daily prayer today are about the same as they were in the 1940s. Doesn’t sound like an “absolute freefall.” Let’s try out your thesis of internet=atheism: since the mid 1990s we have seen an increase in people identifying as not affiliated with religion, but Bob above admitted these people are largely “religious” or spiritual”; many of them will report they just haven’t found the right religion for them. And a major study of the non-affiliated revealed that about 1/3rd of religious nones actually joined a religion in a two year period of observation.

      Again, you may suffer from the same epistemic closure problem that Bob has: there is no “absolute free fall” of Christianity in the West due to the internet. Atheism is not growing in America. Christianity has actually grown the most in countries where governments were either indifferent to or hostile to faith; it is hardly being propped up by theocratic regimes. And no one outside anti-intellectual fundamentalist circles fears critical thinking; there has been a flood of Christian philosophers in the past 20-30 years operating at the highest levels of critical thinking and convincing very secular minded people of their arguments (Rorty, Habermas, and the late Rawls come to mind as people who have been convinced of Christian thinkers’ arguments).

      I know this may come across a little sharp, but please, take some time to think through your claims. And as always, if anyone would like to read more on these subjects I’d be glad to make recommendations of non-religious/secular-thinking books and thinkers–you all deserve better than the weak Christian apologists that Bob reads.

      • Bob Seidensticker

        Drew:

        Generally I don’t take the time to fact-check comments on here, but it’s your lucky day

        Any day that you deign to educate us is my lucky day.

        Outside of your imagination, there is no reason-faith divide: the medieval church and churchgoing Enlightenment philosophers basically invented reason you use today, and they invented the University system that you were educated in.

        How about non-Christian cultures–were they able to use reason? Or just Christian ones?

        most anti-gay marriage people would gladly give you a natural law argument

        Heck, I’ll listen to any persuasive argument. So far, I’ve seen none.

        weekly church attendance, beliefs in afterlife, membership in a church congregation, and self-reported daily prayer today are about the same as they were in the 1940s.

        I could believe these except the first one. My understanding is that church attendance in the US is about as high as it is in Europe. (Now, reported church attendance–I’ll agree that that’s quite high. But that’s another matter.)

        you all deserve better than the weak Christian apologists that Bob reads.

        Here you might be on to something. I agree that they’re pretty weak. Who would you recommend?

        • DrewL

          Glad to see you steered us briefly back into the empirical realm. For Europe vs. American religiosity and the lack of a “absolute free fall of Christianity” I would recommend this book:
          http://books.google.com/books?id=dto-P2YfWJIC&lpg=PP1&pg=PA5#v=onepage&q&f=false

          I’ve already made recommendations for books on other threads, Bob, you didn’t seem interested. If you want to name a topic, however, I’d be glad to recommend respected work in that area that I’m aware of.

    • Bob Seidensticker

      kenneth:

      They rush people into baptism and confirmation long before they have the tools to make a fully informed choice.

      But if they want to leave, their Christian friends push apologetics books on them. “Don’t take this step lightly!” they caution.

      • DrewL

        I enjoy seeing this mythical “they” constantly creep into many atheists’ conceptions of organized religion. It makes it clear this is much more personal than rational or empirical.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          The Christians who’ve lost their faith have broken bread with many Christians and have made many friends. Yeah, I know that Christians have a Make-Believe Friend, but we’re not talking about that. We’re talking about their flesh-and-blood friends. No myth necessary.

  • Veronica

    I am a mother who spends time with many young children every day. You obviously don’t have much experience with children, and that makes it a pity that you write with such great “wisdom” about how to raise them. Christians believe that the love God has for us should be made known to all people, regardless of age. Children find deep satisfaction contemplating this love, as well as the existence of angels. Children who lose a loved-one (be it a pet or a parent or whoever) find comfort believing in Heaven and the eventual reunification of all people of good will. Children find great comfort and peace being able to pray for the people they love or for the people of the world who are suffering – it helps them to not feel powerless or helpless. Children have a strong instinct to believe in goodness and justice. They know instinctively that humans are different from all of the other animals, because we love and imagine and create. In your “thought experiment” have you considered how much comfort and hope you strip away from the vulnerable children of our world by not discussing these things with them? “What father gives his child a rock when he is asked for bread?” There is no harm in letting children believe. Nothing stops them from changing their minds when they grow older.

    • smrnda

      I think you’re missing the point of Bob’s article, which is that given that children don’t know as much as adults and are in many ways more vulnerable emotionally and tend to be more trusting, that you can take advantage of this and get kids to believe in all sorts of things because the primary appeal is not to reason, but to emotion. Yeah, you can tell kids lots of things and they get some benefit, but the issue is whether or not this makes kids eager to believe things because they don’t have the intellectual apparatus to evaluate it.

      I’m not going to argue against your beliefs, but let’s say that a person (whether they believe it or not) teaches their children to believe in the Norse gods because it provides certain emotional benefits. Kids don’t feel afraid since they feel that, with the proper ritual, they can summon the strength of Thor. After people die, they’ll banquet in Valhalla, or else they’d end up in Elysium. Or, to foster a child’s sense of justice, someone teaches them the Buddhist notion of karma? What if children find comfort in these beliefs? Would you be all for telling kids these things?

      I’m assuming that the answer would be no because, regardless of the level of comfort the children receive, you don’t believe those things are true. But what good is telling a child something is true when they can’t evaluate the claim?

      If there’s anything I remember vividly about being a young girl, it was I really found adults patronizing. Many adults have a tendency to lie to kids, to avoid telling them the straight facts about life, or to get them to believe in fairy tale nonsense because apparently there’s something cute about getting someone smaller than you to believe in absolute nonsense. Adults like the fact that kids haven’t yet acquired an instinct to fact-check, question and be skeptical – it’s a power trip for the adults, but because the kids seem so happy it’s a power trip adults enjoy guilt-free.

      Years of working with kids just leaves me terrified with how readily children trust and listen to adults. If my parents did anything right, it was they didn’t try to indoctrinate me with anything, and never shielded me from unpleasant realities and they didn’t pretend to have answers about life. The easy way out is to give kids the fairy tale version. It sets people up to feel that the fairy tale version they got as kids is better than real life.

      I grew up an unbeliever in god though I did do a few religious holidays, and it never really made me think life was hopeless or terrible. I learned some good lessons, like adults were fallible, and people will try to sell you on easy answers, and that you can’t fix real problems without being able to look at reality how it is.

      As for religion giving kids hope, I knew a few kids who were raised Catholic who told me they spent most of their childhoods terrified of going to hell, or kids whose Protestant parents beat them over things that would have been non-isues in my non-religious non-authoritarian family. Or plenty of girls who got pregnant not so much because they had sex, but because their parents couldn’t just openly talk about safe sex.

      With anything, the benefits and possible harms have to be weighed, along with motives. If I had children I’d want to give them hope, but I’d be cautious about telling them to believe in anything I didn’t know was true, and I’d carefully evaluate claims for their truth, and not their comfort factor, before passing them on.

      • plutosdad

        it was I really found adults patronizing. Many adults have a tendency to lie to kids, to avoid telling them the straight facts about life
        That drives me crazy. Once kids are about 8 or so, you can talk to them about anything, since that’s when they can finally understand abstract concepts pretty well. But even before that, I have met so many people that wave away children’s questions with bs, not even about religion but anything at all, like people think children’s questions don’t matter, meaning they think the children don’t matter. And these are parents, nannies, with with degrees in education…. seriously what is wrong with them

      • JohnH

        You keep making the assumption that religious believers are not evaluating their own claims of religion as truth but that they all evaluate the godless position of atheism as truth and are following a fairy tale not because they think it is true but for some other reason. That isn’t a good assumption to make as it is easy to falsify by actually reading what the comments of theists are saying, instead of what you wish they were saying.

        • smrnda

          I was only responding to the comment, which focused entirely on the emotional benefits of religious beliefs and did not address their truth value. The person who posted the comment didn’t in any way suggest that they were telling kids religious ideas because they were true, but because they gave kids comfort.

          I know for certain that many people believe what they do because of reasons. Even when I don’t find the reasons persuasive, a theist who believes because of reasons is at least believing not because faith satisfies an emotional need.

          I just think it’s dangerous to defend telling kids anything on the grounds that ‘it makes them feel better.’ To me, that’s the fairy tale attitude, whether you’re telling kids about religion or telling them that anybody who works hard enough can become a millionaire or lying about the pet fish that died. If you’re going to tell your kids about religion, tell them because you think it’s true and tell them why. That’s why I posed the question of *if* pagan or Buddhist beliefs made kids feel good, would that poster be all for telling kids about Thor? I was hoping the original poster would admit that they don’t really believe in an ‘ends justify the means’ in terms of what you tell kids.

          Just to put it in writing, yes, many believers have reasons for believing what they do. I’ve heard a lot of the reasons and they don’t persuade me, but many believers do, at least, believe because of reasons.

        • JohnH

          smrnda,
          A very good response, I am sorry I misunderstood what you were saying.

    • Bob Seidensticker

      Veronica:

      Christians believe that the love God has for us should be made known to all people, regardless of age.

      And what does it say about the validity of your supernatural claims that they would be far, far less convincing if you told them only to adults?

      Children find deep satisfaction contemplating this love, as well as the existence of angels.

      And Santa Clause and the Easter Bunny, but we tell them that these are fiction after a while. Kids are shielded from reality, so false beliefs that get them through tough times might be justifiable. But when they get to be adults, they need to see reality as clearly as possible so that they can take care of their own children as skillfully as possible.

  • http://theophor.us Ignatius Theophorus

    Just out of curiosity, but is it even possible for a child to be raised without some form of religious indoctrination (for or against)? I know that there are a lot of things I teach my kids about the nature of mankind which are all informed by my theological output. Questions like “What is man?” and “Who should I share with?” must be answered, and questions like, “where did the universe come from?” can’t just be swept under the rug. My guess is that if you raised kids with an allowance for the possibility of the supernatural and the idea that there is an objective morality, you would still get a theist when the person is exposed to religion.

    Or are you suggesting that children would be popped out at 18 without having actual formative years? Because barring that, I think your experiment boils down to, “Say we were to indoctrinate children with non-theist ideas for their first 18 or so years. I will wager that they will not become theists.” This makes your point, “I believe that however a child is indoctrinated, that is the way he will remain” (which isn’t really anything new: it can be found in any psych text and does not need a thought-experiment)

    • smrnda

      I think this would be something worth investigating and there may be material out there already. I think the problem is assessing what would be a proper ‘non-theistic’ upbringing. Parents might just take part in no religious rituals and offer secular reasons for moral questions, but to me this would probably count more as religion neutral than religion opposed, and lumping those two in the same category (to me) would be a mistake. Plus, even religious parents differ in the level to which they try to get their kids to believe what they do.

      I’m only capable of speaking for people I know, but I haven’t known many people to become religious whose parents weren’t religious, except a few cases where the person married a theist, and then the ‘conversion’ seemed more for show. I think that a main issue is worldview – I think you can provide satisfying secular answers for most of life’s big questions (or at least answers that are at least as satisfying as anything religions have come up with) and once a person is satisfied they can find answers within a worldview, they quit shopping around for a new one. I don’t think most Christians spend too much time researching other religions on the off chance they find one that’s better.

    • Bob Seidensticker

      IT:

      Or are you suggesting that children would be popped out at 18 without having actual formative years?

      Relax–it’s just a thought experiment.

      The point is: If Christianity relies on indoctrination, what does that say about the truth value of its claims?

      Say we were to indoctrinate children with non-theist ideas for their first 18 or so years

      So indoctrination is impossible? That’s a weird concept. I’m suggesting that we avoid indoctrination.

      I would certainly encourage science education and show how powerful the scientific method is. Is pointing out the success of this approach indoctrination?

  • http://industrialblog.powerblogs.com IB Bill

    Responding to the Original Post: Bob, could you be any more Christ-haunted? Love ya, Bill

    • Bob Seidensticker

      IB Bill: I’m not following. Are you saying that I’m obsessed?

  • arkenaten

    Popped over too late to catch all the fun.
    Spot on.
    And as usual your detractors deviate from the point you make and try to establish another point.

    “Many Christians will agree that Christianity needs access to immature minds to survive. But what does this say about the evidence behind the Christian claim that God exists?”
    I smiled broadly at this remark. Stuff like this must scare the crap out of Christian parents who are too inculcated to realise the irony.

    • Bob Seidensticker

      :)

  • smrnda

    Something I think I should add is, let’s say instead of raising a child up in a particular faith you just expose them to the widest range of religious belief and practice possible, along with as many arguments for and against for any particular one or none at all. To me, this is different from ‘no exposure to religion’ but also not indoctrination in any one. The kids are going to encounter adults who fervently believe in a diversity of worldviews, many of which would be incompatible. Would this count as a neutral upbringing? Just wanted people’s thoughts.

    • Bob Seidensticker

      I reject the idea proposed by some that any view is biased. Christian indoctrination is biased, and a secular upbringing is biased (toward atheism). I think that’s nonsense. I think a neutral (unbiased) upbringing is reasonable to shoot for and not too hard to achieve.

      • plutosdad

        why would it be biased towards atheism? I know plenty of people who call themselves “spiritual” who have many ideas of god, gods, etc. There are people who blog on Patheos like that who are not atheists.

  • Daniel O

    The basic assumption is wrong. Raised a Christian is no more indoctrination than say raising a Man United Fan or Celtic fan. It is upbringing/ learning, what goes on in the family circle which is the primary place where learning is done. Unless you have assumed that relgious indoctrination is like brainwashing, and what the child goes through is an emotionally coercive, mind controlling, ongoing exercises that aim to create a Christian.
    So to even consider a Christianity without indoctrination you have already passed judgement on what you see constitutes Christianity which is obviously negative coming from your upbringing. Which is quite surprising coming from what I thought was a critical atheist blog. You might aswell ask, let us imagine a world without any learning, until you are 18. In the words of Lluis Duch, it would be a crisis.

    • Bob Seidensticker

      Raised a Christian is no more indoctrination than say raising a Man United Fan or Celtic fan.

      I’ll agree with that to some extent. Both categories can be pretty minimal, or they can be all-consuming.

      So to even consider a Christianity without indoctrination you have already passed judgement on what you see constitutes Christianity which is obviously negative coming from your upbringing.

      Is the word “indoctrination” the problem? Then give me another word.

      And this doesn’t address the point of the post, which is to ask the question: if Christianity won’t work if it is only taught to adults, what does that say about the truth of its claims?

  • http://www.yeshua21.com Wayne

    The thought experiement is a good one, but there is no such thing as raising children without conditioned points of view. We are all fed, to one degree or another, a healthy dose of the forbidden fruit (the “knowledge” of “good and evil” — the cultural and political categories that give us our world — much of which is little more than shadows on our cave’s wall — a la Plato). What is particularly pernicious about (some) religious categories is not simply that they are taught, but that they are taught in isolation from any kind of respect for free and open inquiry and in a manner that ridicules those who disagree without giving them a fair hearing (which also instills a sense of superiority in the “faithful”). But religion is by no means the only sourceof such teachings, nor are the teaching of religon all bad, IMO. Examined more closely, a myth is (often) a story that is true on the inside, even if does not happen to be true on the outside. As such, maybe there we should look for a middle way!?

    http://jeshua21.wordpress.com/skeptics-corner/critical-reflections-on-bible-based-belief-systems/

  • Bob Seidensticker

    This fragment of a recent cartoon at The Oatmeal is nicely relevant:

  • Torcan

    It is not just children that are needed to keep Christianity going, there are countless individuals who have converted later in life, for example St Augustine converted to Christianity at the age of 33. As you used the example of Hinduism and Islam, there are legitimate reasons as to why some may denounce those religions as “BS” for example in Hinduism there are 330 million gods and Islam was started by a man who took a child bride of 6 years old and consummated the marriage when she was 9. Now why are the Atheists so intent on dismantling Christianity? How about the state indoctrination of children at school, including the promotion of homosexuality. Why not keep the child’s mind free from any outside influence.

    • Bob Seidensticker

      Torcan:

      Well, not “countless individuals,” but sure, adults convert into Christianity. My point remains: without indoctrination of children, Christianity would die out. What do we make of the truth of Christianity from this?

      Now why are the Atheists so intent on dismantling Christianity?

      Few atheists are intent on dismantling Christianity; they’re more focused on Christian excesses. If Christians didn’t misbehave, atheists wouldn’t have to keep them in line.

      And I think you’re trying to say that Christianity is a good religion, unlike all those other ones? I’m focused on whether it’s true or not. So far, it doesn’t look like it.

      How about the state indoctrination of children at school, including the promotion of homosexuality.

      So homosexuals are annoying you for existing? Complain to God for making them. Or complain to their straight parents for making them.

      If you don’t like the idea of schools encouraging children to become homosexual, I don’t like that either. Why do you bring it up? Is this happening?

      • Torcan

        Well without education of the following generation anything would die out. If Science or maths were to not be taught they would also die out and technological advancement would come to a halt. However over time man would surely regain his scientific abilities, but just as he would regain them so would he regain his notion of God, of othernesss, a sense of the divine. Because, just as the intellect is an important aspect of human nature so is God and the soul. The basic truths of Christianity are eternal, it seems as if many western Atheists want to do away with them though as it allows them to lead a life free from any moral restraint. Atheism has usually focused its attention on Christianity, with the purpose of dismantling it, often with dire consequences This was evidenced in Soviet Russia, a fact that is over looked by atheists. The west was built on the moral values of Christianity, it has only been within the last 20 years or so that large scale immigration has brought people of various beliefs into contact with western culture. Now Christians feel they are on the defensive. Also my point about homosexuality is that if religious morals are removed from the home then the state has free reign to indoctrinate children with whatever it likes without a counterbalance. I don’t find homosexuals “annoying” and I am not complaining, I just think that homosexuality and the homosexual lifestyle should not be promoted to children. Which it is in modern state schools.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Torcan:

          Well without education of the following generation anything would die out.

          And that’s not what we’re talking about. Rather, it’s: do you indoctrinate children (so they believe simply because they were raised that way) or do you teach adults who can bring critical thinking skills (unavailable to children) to the matter?

          The basic truths of Christianity are eternal

          I doubt that. Imagine a World War III that wipes out every trace of every religion. When humanity rebuilds society, they will probably reinvent religion and they will surely rediscover the same science that we know, but they won’t reinvent Christianity.

          it seems as if many western Atheists want to do away with them though as it allows them to lead a life free from any moral restraint.

          Check the prisons and see if the percentage of atheists is unusually high there. I think you’ll find that it itsn’t.

          This was evidenced in Soviet Russia, a fact that is over looked by atheists.

          Nope. I’ve already debunked the notion that Stalin et al bring anything to the conversation here.

          The west was built on the moral values of Christianity

          Democracy was introduced by Christianity? I didn’t know that.

          the state has free reign to indoctrinate children with whatever it likes without a counterbalance.

          If homosexuality is natural or if homosexuality doesn’t cause social harm, then schools will teach these to children. Doesn’t trouble me at all having schools teach the truth. If you want to argue that homosexuality is sinful, whatever, but don’t pretend that society should help you out.

        • Torcan

          If a parent chooses to pass on values to a child that have a grounding in God or Religion it is the choice of the parent, the government, or atheists have no right to intervene. Moral values that have no substance or grounding in religion are built on air. I agree that young people should be taught to critically analyse evidence and develop the ability to think for themselves. However this is rarely taught with respect to any subject in the education system. Young people are expected to retain information and regurgitate it to pass exams. Prisoners are often liars and will say things which they think will present them in the best light, so why not claim you are a good Christian boy to win favour with the parole board? Oh okay I see you have debunked the theory that militant atheism has had anything to do with genocide with that short paragraph you wrote. I was convinced as you also added that argument used by Richard Dawkins that Stalin had a moustache.
          I said the west was built on the moral values of Christianity, I understand that democracy was developed in ancient Greece. The values of helping people, caring for the hungry, the sick and the poor. With the growth in atheism we will see the values of greed, selfishness and crass materialism increasing amongst people. Regarding homosexuality, it is not my place to judge anyone or to tell them how they should live their lives but as you say young children have not developed the faculties to critically think for themselves, so why promote homosexuality. I suppose that says more about atheists if they have a problem with parents teaching their children about decent religious values, while seeing no problem with children being indoctrinated with the state sponsored “truth” of homosexuality.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Torcan:

          Moral values that have no substance or grounding in religion are built on air.

          Oh? Prove it to me with the dictionary.

          I see you have debunked the theory that militant atheism has had anything to do with genocide with that short paragraph you wrote.

          Great. Glad to hear that we’re on the same page.

          The values of helping people, caring for the hungry, the sick and the poor.

          Helping the needy was introduced by Christianity? I didn’t know that.

          With the growth in atheism we will see the values of greed, selfishness and crass materialism increasing amongst people.

          Any evidence to support this wild claim? Or do you just know it like you just know that Yahweh exists?

          why promote homosexuality.

          You’ve yet to explain what this means. What are schools doing, specifically, that you object to? If it’s simply stating that homosexuals exist and that homosexuals are entitled to their lifestyle as long as they don’t hurt anyone (same rules for you and me), then I don’t see the problem.

          I suppose that says more about atheists if they have a problem with parents teaching their children about decent religious values

          Religion is protected by the First Amendment. Assuming you live in the US, you can drop the siege mentality.

  • http://meta64.com/wclayf Clay Ferguson

    Excellent article! I have had this exact same thought before, and was glad to be pointed to this article today. I think if there was ever one single generation without religion then religion would die out in ONE generation. With the internet and information awareness of the common man that it brings about, I think it would be impossible for any adult to believe religion over science, without being insane to begin with.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      Perhaps like me you’ve heard stories from people still in a confining religious environment who are able to use modern technology to grapple with questions that they can’t ask within their community. The person with the Kindle could be reading the Bible or The God Delusion.

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