Guest Post: How Children Are Indoctrinated into Religion

Dr. Karen Garst, author of Women Beyond Belief (2016) is the editor of a new book, Women v. Religion. This is an excerpt that gives one woman’s perspective from inside Christianity.

 

People always ask why there are not more women in the “atheist movement.” One of the main reasons is because more of them are sitting in the pews each Sunday morning. A 2014 Pew Research Center survey found that women are more likely than men to say religion is “very important” in their lives (60% vs. 47%). They are also more likely than men to say they pray every day (64% vs. 47%). When I grew up in a Lutheran church, the women also did most of the unpaid work—they cooked for potluck dinners, cleaned up the kitchen afterwards, folded the bulletins on Saturday morning with their children, taught Sunday School and directed the children’s choir. Whew!

But where women have the most impact is in bringing their children to church. My husband’s mother is a devout Catholic. Her husband never attended church. But she was faithful in bringing her children every week to Sunday school. (My husband usually slipped out the back door.) Because of this, indoctrination into religion comes at a very early age when children’s minds are the most malleable. Alexis Record, a frequent blogger and essayist in my new book Women v. Religion: The Case Against Faith—and for Freedom, examines in detail one of the most severe indoctrination methods entitled Accelerated Christian Education. Unfortunately, she got to know the ins and outs of ACE directly as she received 12 years of “education” through this method. Needless to say, colleges didn’t consider it the equivalent of a high school diploma.

One of the ways in which this “education” is effective is the child is surrounded by people who reinforce everything that is taught. As Alexis explains, “The bubble I grew up within was tightly controlled, and most of the influences on my thinking were limited to those that reinforce the conservative Christian worldview.” When a child is young, they tend to believe what their parents tell them and don’t question them or the other adults in their lives. If your whole life is caught up in Sunday services, choir practice, Sunday school and then your entire education is more of the same, it is not surprising that this is your world view. While those raised outside of religion find this a bit hard to understand, Alexis explains it well.

I have often wondered how I could have ever truly embraced a faith that would make any sane person recoil. The answer lies in the fact that I wasn’t simply taught these lessons, I inherited them. They were my upbringing—repeated tirelessly by those who raised me. To reject them would have been to conjure the temerity to reject my family, my community and my own identity. That is a lot to ask of anyone, but grossly unfair to ask of a child. The well-known verse in Proverbs 22:6 is fairly perceptive of the process to follow. “Train children in the right way, and when old, they will not stray.”

Studies have shown the impact of religious activities on the brain. They actually make people feel more and, as Alexis explains, become “aware of themselves less.” The authors of one study—Miron Zuckerman, Jordan Silberman, and Judith A. Hall—cite a significant negative association of intelligence and religiosity. Their definition of intelligence is as follows: “ability to reason, plan, solve problems, think abstractly, comprehend complex ideas, learn quickly and learn from experience” (p. 13). As is evident in Alexis’ description of ACE, the only important aspect is to believe and repeat what is said.

The ACE method also reinforces all of the misogynistic aspects of Christianity. A woman is expected to follow her father’s, then her husband’s wishes. She is to be subservient. Her job is to manage the household (wash dishes and iron!) while her husband is the wage earner in the family. It also teaches that the “wages of sin are death” invoking the punishment of hell as the result of falling off the true path. If a psychologist were to give an honest opinion on this teaching method, he or she could only conclude that it is child abuse.

When Alexis grew up, she was expected to train her children in the same way, thus the cycle repeats itself. When she was expecting her first child, the pastor told her he was excited that she would “raise him up in service of the Lord.” But Alexis came to doubt the precepts of the religion she was raised in and has become a pretty fervent atheist. She, as many others have done, also paid the price of leaving her church behind—they left her behind as well.

I was uninvited to holiday gatherings, was unfriended on social media, lost baby sitters, experienced strained interactions with once-close family members, and had to change my will since those who had previously been selected to inherit my children in the event of my death had disappeared entirely from our lives without a word.

Women v. Religion: The Case Against Faith—and for Freedom contains thirteen essays that deal with the severe impact of religion on the lives of women including African-American, Hispanics, transgender, ex-Muslim, and ex-Jewish women, as well as others. It is available for pre-order on Amazon and Barnes and Noble and will be available in bookstores in May.

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  • epicurus

    The community aspect of Church life mentioned at the beginning of the post is something that is hard to replace when a person leaves Christianity and organized religious life. Or at least for me. I still miss it even though I left many years ago.

    • Karen Gorder Garst

      When my husband and I left the church, we never joined another group but there are now many secular groups including Sunday Assembly in many locales that can replace that sense of community. I miss the music. Walking down the aisle singing “God’s Word is Our Great Heritage” every Sunday in high school was pretty cool.

  • EH

    What do you make of the fact that some religious bodies (including some branches of the Lutheran Church) have female pastors/rabbis, etc?

    • VMWH

      I make of it that in some churches women actually have rights.

      • Karen Gorder Garst

        Rights to believe that there is an all powerful male god. Check out my YouTube channel, The Faithless Feminist. There is a slide presentation entitled, “From Goddess to God: The Elimination of the Feminine Divine.” I think if women knew what really happened when monotheism took over, they might be reticent to embrace it. Besides, the Hebrews copied the Enuma Elish (Babylonian) myth where Marduk, a male god, tells his bros that he will kill Tiamat, a female goddess, if they make him head god. Sound familiar? See Leviathan sea serpent in Bible. But it is still better than the catholics who don’t allow women to be priests I guess.

    • Karen Gorder Garst

      I was raised as a Lutheran and live in a small town where there is a woman pastor. I haven’t had a chance to meet her yet. But it must be even harder for women to talk about the Virgin Mary, the original sin of Eve, all the rampant misogyny in the Bible. Gretta Vosper also wrote an essay for my book and she is an atheist minister!

      • EH

        Part of my family is Lutheran, and my impression is that it’s not a particularly sin-focused religion – something even prominent atheist PZ Myers once admitted. I’m not sure how the story of the Virgin Mary, which not all Christians even take literally, is particularly misogynistic. Obviously, religion, even the more female-friendly branches, is not for every women. On the other hand, I think in every institution you can find misogyny, so I’m not sure religion particularly stands out. I’m kind of with Jewish agnostic writer Cathy Young, who doesn’t necessarily say religion is a “force for good” but doesn’t see it as the source of all evil either.

        Speaking of misogyny, what do you think of Richard Dawkins’ remarks here?

        https://cofferdam.wordpress.com/2013/01/22/why-richard-dawkins-is-batsht-crazy/

        • Karen Gorder Garst

          If two people make a pact, they should both uphold it. Hiring a detective versus having a heart to heart talk seems a bit much. I think if I felt I had to hire a detective, I’d just ask for a divorce. I know several couples who are “polyamorous.” It’s not for me but if that is the pact they have made so be it. I’m not sure we were made to be monogamous. Who knows?

        • EH

          Look, if a female friend or relative of mine told me her husband was cheating on her, I’d tell her just to forget about him because he’s not worth her while. Still, I’d understand why she felt betrayed.

          About Dawkins himself, in some ways I can’t understand the fawning over him by some (by no means all; one woman who goes by the name The Jenome says she was disappointed on meeting her “idol”) atheists/agnostics. Even the Catholics I know don’t fawn over the Pope as much as some members of the secular committee idolize Dawkins. Anyway, to get to the point about women, as a woman myself I’d be skeptical of a movement where a man who called a woman whose husband cheated on her a “terrible wife” was put on such a pedestal. Dawkins also chastised the “public” who sided with Mrs. Tarrant. Frankly, I find the “more enlightened than thou” crowd as obnoxious as the “holier than thou” crowd.

          About “monogamy” versus “polyamory,” I don’t make any moral judgments either way, as long as it’s consensual and the parties involved are adults. Still, I’m skeptical of the “we are polygamous by nature” mindset. For instance, it was once trumpeted that 10% of children were not genetically related to the men they thought were their fathers. Now genetic testing shows that figure is more like 1%-2%. That doesn’t say anything about the morality of polygamy/polyamory, but it shows polyamory is probably less widespread than some people believe (or would like to believe).

        • Karen Gorder Garst

          I also find the “worship” of Dawkins interesting. I think he is brilliant. I have met him personally and he blurbed my first book. But he does make comments a bit too rapidly. (The Muslima quote for example.) This can cause a lot of outrage. I try to stay away from all the accusations in the atheist movement. I just don’t have time for it.

        • EH

          I don’t have any strong feelings about Dawkins as a person; I don’t know him personally. I’d also agree with him that creationism should not be taught in a government-funded school system. I think creationism is an issue in some places, like the “Bible Belt,” whereas where I live – Ontario, Canada – I’m not aware of creationism being taught in any school, at least not in the public or Catholic schools; we have two school systems, the Catholic and the public (used to be Protestant system; now it’s just that everyone-but-Catholic system).

        • Otto

          I am a PI and do that type of work. Many times the spouse is willing to pay a PI just for peace of mind…the cheating spouse has often mentally abused the other person including the use of gaslighting. There are a whole host of reasons to get to the truth of the matter, and many have already decided to get divorced but still want to know what was really going on…even if it is just for closure, though there often can be legal ramifications too.

        • Karen Gorder Garst

          I appreciate your perspective. Thank you.

        • Otto

          >>>”I’m kind of with Jewish agnostic writer Cathy Young, who doesn’t necessarily say religion is a “force for good” but doesn’t see it as the source of all evil either.”

          I think it is unnecessary baggage that just tends to muck up the works.

        • EH

          I guess it really depends. I think religion may have benefits at the individual level (for example, some studies have shown that kids from religious families tend to do better in school), but I strongly believe that church (“church” meaning any religion or belief system) and state should be kept separate.

        • Otto

          If people find comfort in a religion like people find comfort in a hobby I really don’t have an issue, but it does not seem to end there very often.

        • EH

          I think that happens with many private beliefs, religious or not. I must admit that to their credit, the Jehovah Witnesses, however bizarre their beliefs, at least don’t try to impose them on outsiders (example, you don’t see them trying to outlaw blood transfusions at hospitals).

        • Steve Williams

          (example, you don’t see them trying to outlaw blood transfusions at hospitals)

          True, but they do try to kill their children.

        • Otto

          Yes, beliefs inform actions whether religious or not, but non-religious beliefs don’t get the automatic social respect that religious beliefs often get (specifically Christian belief in this country). Non-religious beliefs are more likely to be called out for what they are…good or bad.

          Jehovah Witnesses do seem to stay out of politics, etc. for which I give them some credit.

        • EH

          I really think that respect really depends on the denomination. I don’t think the Jehovah Witnesses, for example, enjoy much respect from so-called “outsiders” (or as they themselves call them, “unbelievers” – a term they use for basically anyone outside the Witness fold). One denomination whose public reputation has really taken a nosedive – and rightfully so – is the Catholic Church after the scandals involving members of their clergy having sex with minors. For non-Christian faiths, again, it really depends. I think most people respect Judaism but not Islam, for example.

        • Otto

          The fact that the Catholic Church yet enjoys undue respect is that it still exists as an organization and has not been held criminally liable for their actions. Imagine if what they did was done by Arby’s…I don’t think Arby’s would exist anymore here and if they did they would have been held criminally responsible. There isn’t much argument that the US Catholic church got off real easy.

        • Jack Baynes, Sandwichmaker

          One thing I remember from Lutheran services was a part where the congregation recites in unison about how they are “in bondage to sin and cannot free ourselves…” kinda creepy when I think back on it.
          But sermons didn’t tend to harp on how evil and sinful the world was, or anything.

          That’ was ELCA Lutherans, though.

          After college (shortly after 9/11), I tried to connect with a Lutheran church in town, but it was Missouri Synod, a different organization, and the pastor’s sermon went on to talk about the televangelists who blamed 9/11 on gays and feminists. When the pastor loudly agreed with them, I was shocked and realized I was not in the kind of Christianity I thought I knew. I now wish I had walked out in the middle of the sermon.

        • EH

          Out of curiosity, where was that Missouri Synod church?

        • Jack Baynes, Sandwichmaker

          Westchester County, New York. Just north of NYC.

        • EH

          Hm. My brother isn’t religious, but he and his wife were married by a Lutheran minister (the father of my sister-in-law’s co-worker) who was pastor of a Missouri Synod-affiliated church in Canada. My brother and his wife attended a few services at the church. My brother didn’t have the impression this man was a fire-and-brimstone type. Then again, I knew an American woman who was raised in an ELCA church. She’s since become a pagan, but she says she didn’t have any problem with her Lutheran upbringing. However, she spoke disparagingly of the Missouri Synod Lutherans, whom she called “Lutheran fundies.” I suppose every church and every pastor is different…

        • Jack Baynes, Sandwichmaker

          Maybe that was not a representative example of the pastor’s sermons, but I never felt the need to give him another chance.

        • EH

          I’m sure the man’s other sermons were probably not much more enlightened either!

    • Joe

      That religion is just a man-made set of observances that people can and do pick from as they see fit.

    • Kit Hadley-Day

      that even the immutable, eternal and perfect word of god seems to change over time to fit with currently accepted behaviours

    • Kevin K

      I think their kilts have to be worn correctly, or the magic doesn’t work.

    • Otto

      That Christianity does change with the times…but often grudgingly.

      • EH

        It also depends on the denomination. Some of the mainline Protestant churches have ordained women for a long time. There is still a controversy in the Catholic Church over whether women should be allowed to become priests. I’m not so sure about Judaism, but my impression is that Orthodox Jews don’t approve of female rabbis but Reform Judaism, for example, does.

    • Greg G.

      I think all religious bodies should get rid of male pastors/priests/preachers/rabbis and not replace them with female equivalents.

    • Jack Baynes, Sandwichmaker

      I was raised Lutheran, but all the churches we attended had male pastors. At college, I briefly attended the on campus Lutheran center’s services, and they had a female pastor. I think I momentarily thought “that’s weird” but shrugged and thought why not. Like the first time you run in to a male teacher in elementary school.

      • EH

        The Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA), which is a fairly liberal body, has female pastors; the “Missouri Synod” Lutherans, who are more conservative on issues like same-sex relations, abortion, etc. do not. I’ve heard that in Sweden, where the majority of the population is at least nominally Lutheran (i.e. parents might get their children baptized, but they might never set foot in a church again in their lives), the majority of pastors are actually female. The United Church of Canada (that’s kind of a conglomerate of the Presbyterian, Methodist and Congregational Churches) has had female ministers since the 1930s.

        In short, I don’t think there’s a single “religious position” on the role of women, even within the same general religion.

  • Lerk!

    It’s amazing to me (and I’m a little jealous) that some kids figure it out by the time they’re 10 or 12, even though they’ve been raised in church. I would no more have thought to wonder if it were real than to wonder whether “blue” was the correct name for the color of the sky. But I’ve read comments by people who said when they were that young they became amazed that their parents and Sunday school teachers really seemed to believe what they were teaching. It is ludicrous on its face, and they knew it!

    My parents always made sure we know that Santa Claus was just for pretending, so I really had no reason to doubt them.

    • Ricky Gervais talked about puzzling over a brief conversation between his much-older brother and his mother, when he was 8. He said he deconverted in about half an hour.

      I’m envious.

    • anxionnat

      Yes–every one of my siblings (there were 6 of us) and I were disbelievers by age 11 or 12. Despite being force fed daily catholic dogma, prayers, etc. My disbelief was pretty much intellectual until I heard the terms “atheist” and “agnostic” in my mid-30s. What a revelation *that* was–you mean there’s actually a word for what I am??? Wow!!!

    • al kimeea

      That was around the age when I read the BuyBull and same reaction – WTF? Really? You’re not serious.

      Yes they are. smh.

  • skl

    “The ACE method also reinforces all of the misogynistic
    aspects of Christianity…If a psychologist were to give an honest opinion on this
    teaching method, he or she could only conclude that it is child abuse.”

    ACE could be made illegal. Also, its past graduates could be
    mandated to go through government-run deprogramming.

    • Karen Gorder Garst

      I am amazed at how much Alexis has learned since she left. She said that in her thirties, she took her first class in science. Plus she learned how to write really well.

    • Otto

      That is rather an extreme take. hmmm…. I wonder why you would jump to that level.

  • katiehippie

    “They actually make people feel more and, as Alexis explains, become “aware of themselves less.”
    This is not my experience but it may be indicative of the church I was raised in. (LCMS) Since I left I’ve been amazed at the callousness of these people. I was raised to ignore my empathy when it came to people outside the church. Poor people must have done something wrong, people in troubled marriages must not have been doing things right and on and on. My mom was telling me about a former church member that had been married several times and was accused of abusing his step children by one of the wives. But mom was more dismissive of him because of the multiple marriages. I told her he should be in jail and she just looked at me.

    • Karen Gorder Garst

      Thanks for sharing your experiences. It is amazing once we leave a community that we look at it with totally different lenses. I was raised in a pretty liberal Lutheran church in the 50’s and 60’s. But the idea of being a virgin when you married and no talk about sex education was alive and well.

      • katiehippie

        My sex education from my mom was pointing to my cousin who got his girlfriend pregnant and saying ‘don’t do that’

        • anxionnat

          My “sex education” in the 1950-60s was watching that despicable Kotex film strip about “Now you are a woman” in 6th grade. I don’t know what the boys were doing, but all the girls got stuck in one room to watch this. It was basically an ad for Kotex *pads*. My mom told me not to ever use tampons because they’d “get stuck up there” (huh? where?) and you’d have to have surgery to get the tampon out. Seriously–she told me this, totally straight-faced–no joke. My first college roommate used tampons, and taught me that my mom’s scare-mongering was just so much BS. Also, the sermons in church (I grew up catholic) from 1963 to 1970, were at least half about the “evils of birth control.” I mostly tuned them out, as I was an atheist by then. Yes, these supposedly celibate men were calling women who used birth control “whores.” In so many words. I understand that sex education in the public schools in California is better now. It couldn’t possibly be worse!

        • Karen Gorder Garst

          I still have the booklet from that movie. You can still see it online. It was produced by Kotex and Disney! My sex education was reading 79 Park Avenue by Harold Robbins, purloined from my sister. A shop keeper rapes a young girl. Oh, that is what intercourse is…. My mother wouldn’t even answer me when i asked her, at the zoo, why the llamas were riding piggyback!

        • Kodie

          Our program in the ’80s offered “Growing Up and Liking It”, which was sponsored by Stayfree, apparently. This blog article mocks it accordingly. I didn’t get a kit either.

          http://byebyepie.typepad.com/bye_bye_pie/2011/06/dear-ginny.html

        • Kodie

          I heard this on NPR while driving to work a few weeks ago about Our Bodies, Ourselves, which I first saw when I was in college:

          https://www.npr.org/2018/04/08/600287546/feminist-health-guide-our-bodies-ourselves-will-stop-publishing

          Seems like a lot of people in those olden days didn’t know anything about how their bodies worked, even if they already had children. For all your mother knew, tampons would get stuck up inside. I made my mom go with me to the 5th and 6th grade sex ed night at our school. Boys and girls together for part, and separated for part, and then anonymous questions answered. Most of what I already knew about sex was from neighbor kids my own age who were allowed to watch rated-R movies on HBO and they were totally wrong. It was a lot of lying together, just like the bible says literally. And Judy Blume books, even if I didn’t really understand what the fuck Deenie was touching. I don’t think my mother ever had any talks with me. I don’t remember ever asking, either.

        • At my kids’ school, the dads attended the (single) sex ed event along with their sons. The idea was that they could discuss it afterwards. Back home, I dutifully asked my son if he had any questions. He said that he listened carefully precisely so that he wouldn’t have any questions.

        • Kodie

          Hi Bob, I’ll be taking a break, just fyi. Hope to be back around soon.

        • Pofarmer

          Take it easy Kodie.

        • OK!

        • Ficino

          What the boys were doing … ha ha. When I was in sixth grade in around 1964, the boys got a lecture from one of the two male teachers. All I remember was, he said we should use a long scrub brush to scrub our back while showering. We had no clue what the girls did. Some years later my sister told me the girls would sit in the dark behind the stage and see a filmstrip about menstruation. The (male) janitor came in by accident, and the teachers shut off the filmstrip. All the girls realized that there are shameful things about being a woman.

        • Ignorant Amos

          A shower?

          We had a bath once a week. The bath was made of tin and usually hung on the yard wall other than a Sunday. The water was blue by the time it was my turn to get in. I’m not even joking. I didn’t have a shower until I was 17 and joined the army.

          http://www.secretspaces.co.uk/USERIMAGES/ST0063.jpg

        • epeeist

          I was fortunate in that we actually did have a real bath, though getting more than four inches of water in it was just about impossible.

          My paternal grandparents though lived in a slum in Castleford, outside toilets (in a block with spiders), gas lighting and a tin bath like yours. This got used rather more often than once per week given that my grand-dad was a coal miner.

          https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/bbcf3aafbeb19e733335fa2ea48716f60e5b3eee5f30072e0844dd80e631055d.jpg

        • Ignorant Amos

          We then had the luxury of electric lighting. Outside loo and the bath filled with a swan necked gas geezer to 4 inches though. The water was luke warm by the time it filled. I now wallow in the luxury of my whirlpool bath. For her indoors fibromyalgia, but why shouldn’t I enjoy such luxury when there are millions of unfortunates that can’t?

        • lady_black

          I’m pretty sure the janitor knew all about menstruation. LOL.
          My husband once told me before we got married that he would never buy me tampons. I said “If you’re out, and I need them, you will. And stop being so silly!”

        • lady_black

          Damn. And I thought my own mother was “precious” for telling me that I should wait until after I got married to use tampons. To which I replied, “HUH??” and promptly began using tampons. I was very active as a teen, and I wasn’t going to give up swimming and other sports for a period.

        • JustAnotherAtheist2

          My mom told me not to ever use tampons because they’d “get stuck up there” (huh? where?)

          Wasn’t there a magical vagina doorway in one of the Narnia books? Maybe that’s what she was thinking.

        • Reminds me of religious objections to the HPV vaccine. “Heck, if there’s one fewer STD, they’ll be more likely to, y’know, have sex!”

    • Brian Curtis

      I think we shouldn’t overlook the in-group aspect of church membership. Religious activities may make people more emotional in general, but encourage empathy and kindness only toward fellow members of the group, while exacerbating hostility and suspicion toward nonmembers.

      • Orange East Yellow

        Yes, but to be fair, that can probably be said about any kind of group, including atheistic groups/forums.

        • Brian Curtis

          Not according to the article. Religious people specifically become more emotional and less self-aware; the in-group effect just ensures that the increase in positive emotions is focused inward, and the increased negative emotions outward.

        • Orange East Yellow

          The article is talking about correlation between religion and intelligence. It does not seem say anything about inward shift of emotions. In my experience, the detrimental effect of in-group effect, or the inward shift of emotions, is not limited to religious groups. The shifting of emations is simply due to the in-group effect. Religiosity has nothing to do with that.

        • Orange East Yellow

          This is the study, that the article has cited. Please see if I am missing something there. http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1088868313497266

        • Orange East Yellow

          In the comments section of the link below, you can see how atheists can quickly lose sympathy towards a heretical or infidel atheist, I mean, towards an ex-atheist. Seems theists and atheists have same sort of emotions towards former members of their groups. The in-group feeling is responsible for the inward shift in emotions, religion has nothing to do with that. Please review the comments section of this link. http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2018/05/03/how-can-a-doctor-possibly-be-an-atheist-asks-catholic-who-did-no-research/

  • VMWH

    I found this very interesting. It represents no church I have ever attended, although more women than men understand trying to keep the kitchen clean.

    • Karen Gorder Garst

      Alexis was brought up in a very conservative religion. Johnny Scaramanga did his dissertation on ACE “Education.” There were no teachers. They just sat at a computer all day. BTW, my husband is getting better, but he doesn’t like to clean the stove…

      • Barry

        It’s actually a bit more dire than that: We sat in cubicles with no Internet access in the school. We completed fill in the blank exercises in workbooks that quoted dogma verbatim for all subjects, including to some degree mathematics! There aren’t any qualified teachers in most of the schools either, and many don’t have a single university educated staff member. Special needs children are especially impacted by this heinous system.

        • Karen Gorder Garst

          So sorry. How long were you in it?

  • sandy

    Nothing upsets me more about religion than childhood indoctrination. It’s so sad to see the JW’s going door to door with children tagging along not knowing what is going on. It is child abuse. Studies have shown the most vulnerable and influential years for indoctrination or influence in general, on a child’s mind, is between the ages of 4 to 6. If those children are in Sunday School ,they are getting told what is “true” and against their will when they are at the most vulnerable to influence. These children are too young to make educated decisions and are trusting adults for guidance. My friend is 6 foot eight and teaches Sunday School. His word is the truth to these kids and it is shameful, in my opinion, but then he himself is part of the indoctrination cycle. I know I’m stating the obvious about childhood indoctrination and how it works.
    If we can keep kids out of Sunday School, I believe we will then see a sharp decline in religiosity and hopefully it’s death. I try to beat home this message to my religious friends that I don’t care what they believe (well I do and challenge them whenever) but leave the kids out of it. Let them make up their own minds on their own time and do not put them in Sunday School..please. Would you force them to take violin lessons?It’s a tough task to ask, but you wouldn’t put your kids in “political school” right? Or why is it so important to get your kids in church when they are too young to make decisions?
    I have a lady friend who is a pastor BTW. Nothing is more indoctrinated than a lady pastor imo.

    • Steve Williams

      Or why is it so important to get your kids in church when they are too young to make decisions?

      https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/4335c98c0e6601b2d7bb5946a6b2241c9c7e9a2c9079662902f4a31faa384885.png

    • EH

      I’m a little hesitant to throw around the term “indoctrinated” with respect to women women. Somehow it seems to have become a buzzword for women who don’t follow the so-called party line. For instance, one Asian woman who was dating a White man was told she was giving into the patriarchy because she wasn’t involved with an Asian man or another “man of colour” – even though her fiance, who was Jewish, probably wouldn’t have been considered White by White Supremacists. Sometimes “indoctrinated” comes down to “not thinking or doing what I think or do.”

  • Brian Curtis

    A review of the book as a whole was recently posted to Rational Doubt:
    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/rationaldoubt/2018/05/women-v-religion-the-case-against-faith-and-for-freedom/

  • There is a great temptation for many people to just obey, take instructions and be freed from the burden of critical thought, clearly most if the beliefs give them deep comfort. Women in most societies are expected not to be critical also, and that probably accounts for much of it.

    • Kodie

      When you are powerless to change the way things are, acceptance also takes some of the bitterness away, you just get on with whatever your life is. It’s sort of zen?

    • Ficino

      I was going to post a video of the hymn, “Trust and Obey,” but then I thought, I can’t trust that shite.

      • That’s pretty on the nose for a hymn.

  • I was thoroughly indoctrinated into fundamentalist Christianity as a child. I had a lot of doubts and questions – I was a kid that figured out Santa was fake when I was 5. I wasn’t buying Jonah and the whale as real. So I was sent to fundie Christian school where the questioning was squelched out of me. By senior year of high school I could start questioning again because school was drawing to an end and I was bound for secular college. I didn’t raise my kids in religion. They think it is all fake. We literally taught them no religious stories, and they have no interest at 18 and 16. Some would say lack of exposure is as bad as indoctrination, but I disagree. They have always been free to explore religion, they just chose not to.

    • Karen Gorder Garst

      We raised our son secular. I tried to teach him the main stories of the Bible – couldn’t do it. I had too many caveats. Good thing he went into engineering instead of literature. He wouldn’t have understood much from Milton’s Paradise Lost!

      • What is interesting is that my daughter is taking a literature course concerning world mythology in literature which includes the bible. She comes home one day talking about what they learned that day and asked, “Who is the dude that made everything bleed and frogs and flies came and they crossed a sea?” I nearly fell out of my chair. Another day she said she stated in class that she didn’t get the point of Jesus. I explained the concept of trinity, and she said, what, is that like the 3 branches of government?

        • Karen Gorder Garst

          That is a hoot!

        • I know! These mythological stories are so silly when you try to explain them to the uninitiated

        • Kit Hadley-Day

          that’s why you have to get them young, as soon as people can think for themselves trying to get them to by the religious stupidity is next to impossible.

        • Wm. Lane Craig was trying to explain to an audience why the noncanonical gospels are rejected. As an example of how nutty they were, he mentioned the giant talking cross in the Gospel of Peter.

          I thought to myself, “Dude, have you read your holy book??”

      • Zeta

        I have a very young relative who was baptized as a Catholic when she was an infant. From age 6 she attended a Catholic school, so she had formal religious lessons in school and she was given bible story books by family members and friends. I have never believed in any religion and I was concerned about her religious indoctrination.

        While going through some bible stories with her, I told her that what she was reading and what adults were telling her were not the complete stories. Those people including her teachers were hiding something from kids like her. She was told that god flooded the whole Earth because people had become evil. What the books and her teachers hid from kids is that god also killed all the children and babies who were obviously not evil.

        About the 10 plagues and other atrocities inflicted on ordinary Egyptians, I showed her the exact bible verses where god purposely hardened Pharaoh’s heart so that it was impossible for Pharaoh to let the Israelites go. Shouldn’t her god love children, and be honest and sincere? If god wanted Pharaoh to release the Israelites, he could have easily softened Pharaoh’s heart instead thus avoiding all the sufferings and killings. She agreed.

        I have emphasized to her a few times that she should question everything others told her and demand evidence. If evidence is not yet available or too advanced for her to understand, then just keep that in mind. Don’t simply believe things adults told her. I also taught her the word “skeptic”, a word that she had not learned at that tender age.

        • Karen Gorder Garst

          What did her parents think? You are one brave woman.

        • You go, Zita.

    • Steve Williams

      I remember writing Santa a Christmas list when I was five. By the time I was six I realised he was fake news and addressed my list ‘Dear Mum and Dad’.

      • Greg G.

        If you don’t believe in Santa Claus when you die, you get sent to the South Pole and all the toys are at the North Pole. If you send me 10% of your income, I will assure you that you will not get sent to the South Pole when you die.

        • Steve Williams

          Well, either way I won’t be burning so that’s a plus.

    • I agree, OC. Religion perpetuates because of constant indoctrination and reindoctrination reinforced by family and close adult friends and authorities throughout childhood. Without that it would never take hold,and attention to reality would be the default.

  • MadScientist1023

    I think a lot of us here grew up in the church, were indoctrinated from a young age, experienced something similar to what Dr. Garst did, but then realized how much of it was garbage when we got older. I know I wrested with a few issues when I was at my Catholic high school, but still considered myself religious until not long after leaving that protective bubble.

    The story of the atheist who grows up religious but rebels at some point is really common. It’s also not unusual to hear about people who were brought up non-religious who suddenly find religion and become zealous believers. It’s almost enough that I sometimes wonder if I should raise my future kids as nominal members of a religion just so they have something to rebel against. I worry a bit that if they are brought up with no significant exposure to religion they’ll be easier marks later in life.

    • Karen Gorder Garst

      Oh but with Trump, there are a multitude of other issues they can rebel against.

  • Really interesting post, Bob. I believe that the quickest way to dilute the effects of religion in American culture is to rigorously keep it away from children and even more rigorously teaching critical thinking in schools with the same attention as math and science. Otherwise it will just keep perpetuating as it always has.

    • Wouldn’t that be nice?

      If you think of the Christian meme as a living thing, it will strive to prevent your plan. In Christians’ heads, the simple challenge, “Look–if this is all correct, as you say it is, just teach kids to be critical thinkers; then they’ll be more eager to soak up Christian teaching when they’re adults” won’t work because the meme sees that as a threat.