Letter to a Wiccan Nation

Sam Harris has a hilarious article at the Huffington Post where he takes the negative reviews written of the various atheist books on the market and replaces some of the words…

“Religion” becomes “Witchcraft.”

“God” becomes “the Devil.”

“Atheist” becomes “skeptic.”

Harris’ point is clear: Look at how ridiculous the reviews seem now.

And this, my friends, is what it’s like to be an atheist, listening to people talk about religion.

One example of Harris’ revised review:

“[None of these authors] takes time to consider contemporary [witchcraft] in the light of some of its most sophisticated and heroic practitioners…. Moreover, none of them ever put their weak, confused, and unplumbed ideas about [the Devil] under scrutiny. Their natural habit of mind is anthropomorphic. They tend to think of [the Devil] as if He were a human being, bound to human limitations… [These] authors pride themselves on how science advances in understanding over time, and also on how moral thinking becomes in some ways deeper and more demanding. They do not give any attention to the ways in which [magical] understanding also grows, develops, and evolves… It hardly dawns upon them that [witches and warlocks] have been, from the very beginning, in constant–and mutually enriching–dialogue with [skeptics]… The path of modern science was made straight and smooth by deep convictions that every stray element in the world of human experience–from the number of hairs on one’s head to the lonely lily in the meadow–is thoroughly known to [the Devil and his familiars] and, therefore, lies within a field of intelligibility, mutual connection, and multiple logics. All these odd and angular levels of reality, given arduous, disciplined, and cooperative effort, are in principle penetrable by the human mind… [Skepticism] cannot be true, because it is self-contradictory. Moreover, this self-contradiction is willful, and its latent purpose is pathetically transparent. [Skeptics] want all the comforts of the rationality that emanates from rational [sorcery], but without personal indebtedness to [the supernatural]. That is why they allow themselves to be rationalists only part of the way down. The alternative makes them very nervous.” –Michael Novak, National Review

And there are plenty more where that came from.


[tags]atheist, atheism, Sam Harris, Huffington Post, God, Devil, skeptic, Michael Novak, National Review[/tags]

  • http://gretachristina.typepad.com/ Greta Christina

    Hilarious! And very much to the point.

    But just so we’re all clear: Modern Wiccans don’t worship the Devil. That’s a myth. It’d be more appropriate to replace “God” with “the Goddess” than with “the Devil.”

    Not that I’m defending any of it. I think it’s all bullshit. I’m just sayin’, is all.i

  • Maria

    I kinda wonder how Wiccans are going to feel about these reviews……

  • Miko

    Oh, I’m sure the Wiccan complaints will start rolling in soon enough. Especially from the Wiccans who “see that Christianity is absurd but object to having their beliefs lumped in the same category.”

  • Bryan

    I came across this website from buying the book I sold my soul on ebay. I am only on the second chapter, and I do not really want to put the book down! Yes, I am a born again Christian, but I agree with Hemant Mehta’s points quite well.

    I have become frustrated with the Christian church, I am not looking to lose the religion by any means, but in all honesty, is the church really communicating what they were or are called to share?

    All to often people in the church do become narrow minded, warming the same pew Sunday after Sunday, and not doing anything about it!! How do we expect to live up to the command of making disciples which Christ called us to do if we are just sitting in a church pew?!

    I have just recently graduated Bible college with a degree in Biblical Studies and a minor in philosophy. I want to and have felt led to be a youth pastor. All to often, we as Christians think that knowing the Bible we can lead people to Christ… WRONG!! yes, it helps but we need to know the people, their culture, and their environment, this is where just attending a church will do us absolutely NO good!

    I have felt this anger in my heart for awhile, and I studied a semester of Darwinism, I have read through the Koran, and have done research on the Hindu and Buddhist faiths. In the Darwinism class we looked at a book by Michael Ruse, a Darwinist who was also raised in the Christian tradition. All to often as Christians we tend to become holier than thou, and do not want to learn about others and their belief.. How do we expect to share our faith if we do not develop a genuine relationship WITHOUT judging someone?!

    I will be willing to explain more about what I have learned and why I chose and continue to choose the Christian faith if they so desire. Thank you Hemant for writing this book, and I look forward to continue to reading it!

  • http://globalizati.wordpress.com globalizati

    Bryan,
    Thanks for stopping by. Hopefully you’ll find a place here where you can learn by reading the opinions of others, and we’ll learn something from you. It’s good to hear that you want Christians to be open-minded and such. I’m curious what that means to you?

    It’s interesting (and unfortunate) that you lump Darwinism in with Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism. I hope your semester of studying Darwinian thought allowed you to read enough of the work of evolutionary biologists to appreciate that it is a field of biology that is well-respected with good reason. You should supplement your reading of Michael Ruse (who is in actuality a philosopher, not a scientist) with Francis Collins’ The Language of God and Richard Dawkins’ The Blind Watchmaker. That would give you some very disparate views on evolution and religion, and you might begin to see the common facts even those with very different religious beliefs can agree upon, because of the overwhelming evidence.

    Also, finally; can one develop a truly genuine relationship with someone if one’s intent is to “share your faith”? I think so, but it would depend on what you mean by sharing your faith.

  • Pingback: Defending Witchcraft « globalizati

  • Maria

    Hi Bryan, glad you are here, and thanks for being open-minded :)

  • Anthony

    have felt led to be a youth pastor

    Any possibility you’ll only indoctrinate mature adults rather than kids? It seems to me that they are little young to be making decisions about the nature of the universe.

  • Steph

    Any possibility you’ll only indoctrinate mature adults rather than kids? It seems to me that they are little young to be making decisions about the nature of the universe

    It depends on what they are taught. Not all religious education is “indoctrination”, especially if exposed to many differering views. How about we not stereotype?

  • Nick

    anyone else not been able to access Huffpo? Its been bunk on both browsers (Firefox and IE) for the last couple days for me.

    Weird

  • Anthony

    Not all religious education is “indoctrination”

    Speak for yourself :) The way I see it: telling children that paranormal entities float around them is harmful to their cognitive development and emotional well being. I wish you and yours would wait until they are mature adults before confusing them about such complex matters as the nature of the universe.

  • Donna

    Speak for yourself The way I see it: telling children that paranormal entities float around them is harmful to their cognitive development and emotional well being. I wish you and yours would wait until they are mature adults before confusing them about such complex matters as the nature of the universe.

    So would you deny parents the right to teach their kids about their religion? Even if it was done liberally and they were exposed to alternative ideas? I hope not. Kids ask stuff about the universe way before they are “mature adults”. The key is to not make them feel like they are imprisoned and to isolate them with only one answer.

  • Donna

    Speak for yourself The way I see it: telling children that paranormal entities float around them is harmful to their cognitive development and emotional well being. I wish you and yours would wait until they are mature adults before confusing them about such complex matters as the nature of the universe.

    So would you deny parents the right to teach their kids about their religion? Even if it was done liberally and they were exposed to alternative ideas? I hope not. Kids ask stuff about the universe way before they are “mature adults”. The key is to not make them feel like they are imprisoned and to isolate them with only one answer.

  • Darryl

    So would you deny parents the right to teach their kids about their religion? Even if it was done liberally and they were exposed to alternative ideas? I hope not. Kids ask stuff about the universe way before they are “mature adults”. The key is to not make them feel like they are imprisoned and to isolate them with only one answer.

    This is a pointless thread to pursue. You might as well ask whether we ought to deny parents the right to beat their children with homemade paddles, or teach them to be rascists, or gay-haters, or feed them junk food, or ignore them, or verbally abuse them, or fail to teach them manners, or encourage them to act like Paris Hilton. Do parents have the “right” to do all these things to their children? No, of course they don’t. But, we permit them. Keeping your children in ignorance by convincing them of false notions is no more acceptable than depriving them of access to knowledge. Having a head full of fictions is no better than having a head empty of facts.

  • Anthony

    So would you deny parents the right to teach their kids about their religion?

    Not via government. As Darryl said, parents may teach their children how to hate black people. Parents may teach their children to find false truth in fiction/religion/etc.

    And when those parents do such, others and I will judge them as abusive towards their children’s cognitive development and emotional wellbeing.

    Even if it was done liberally and they were exposed to alternative ideas?

    I would love for parents to teach children about the human proclivity towards delusion, and the many delusions that have arisen throughout history. Children need to understand this phenomena, and its output, to navigate the world.

  • Maria

    Okay, this is a little strong. I was raised liberally religious (and exposed to other religions), and though I’m not religious today, I certainly DO NOT consider myself abused. And I know several others like me. And I certainly don’t think someone like Mike C. is abusing his kids just b/c he is a Christian. I certainly agree there are way too many abuses done in forcing religion on kids, but saying that being exposed to it AT ALL is abuse and equating it with stuff like racism is not right, and sounds stereotypical to me. Before you judge, maybe get to know some of us who don’t consider ourselves “abused” just because our parents believe in a god. I will take serious issue with anyone who calls my parents abusers-and so will many people I know. And telling us we are “deluded” b/c we don’t think our parents are child abusers is not going to get you very far.

  • http://globalizati.wordpress.com globalizati

    As an atheist who was raised a Christian, I certainly don’t feel abused. My parents taught me what they believed (thoughtfully, but ultimately, in my opinion, wrongly) to be true, and it encouraged me to be an outgoing, socially-conscious individual, albeit with a very narrow view of who would receive eternal salvation. I think if you want to say that raising a child with any level of religous belief is detrimental to “cognitive development and emotional wellbeing,” say it that way, but don’t use a blanket label like “child abuse.” There are many things that may not be best for a child’s development (not teaching them to always follow a healthy diet, for example) that aren’t necessarily abuse, unless taken to an extreme (feeding your kid til they’re a 9 year old 300-lb. diabetic). I guess I’m trying to say that labelling any religious teaching as “child abuse” is a rather unproductive strategy, but I’m not sure what your goals are.

  • Anthony

    detrimental to “cognitive development and emotional wellbeing,”

    “detrimental to their development” is okay while “abusive to their development” is not okay. To be honest, my concern is the core idea – indoctrinating innocent children into immoral, anti-empirical delusions is harmful to them and society.

    And I certainly don’t think someone like Mike C. is abusing his kids just b/c he is a Christian.

    Of course you wouldn’t think such. You are a friendly atheist. I am an anti-delusionist. Your strategy is diplomacy, my strategy is zero-tolerance. You build relationships, I draw lines in the sand. “Yes, but..” vs “No more!” Baltic Singing Revolution vs. American Revolution, etc, etc.

  • Donna

    Of course you wouldn’t think such. You are a friendly atheist. I am an anti-delusionist. Your strategy is diplomacy, my strategy is zero-tolerance. You build relationships, I draw lines in the sand. “Yes, but..” vs “No more!” Baltic Singing Revolution vs. American Revolution, etc, etc.

    Then why are you on a friendly atheist board that is supposed to encourage dialouge between people of different backgrounds? When a hard core Christian comes on here and starts preaching it’s very intolerant. Yet you think it’s okay to make blanket statements and tell people you don’t even know and know nothing about that their parents are child abusers? I gotta tell ya, you are not going to get people to agree with you by telling them that. You’ll only drive them away. I’m really glad there are people like Hemant to show us not everyone thinks this way. You don’t like it when people assume stupid things like all atheists are devil worshippers…..how about not labeling all non-atheistic parents?

  • Anthony

    Yet you think it’s okay to make blanket statements and tell people you don’t even know and know nothing about that their parents are child abusers?

    Indoctrinating innocent children into immoral, anti-empirical delusions fits somewhere on the scale between benefitical-to-detrimental. I have never seen data that shows why delusions are more benefitical than reality, but I have seen many horrible things that required a delusion for justification.

    Seeing harm in the indoctrination (no matter how cute and cuddly you make it) of young children is my interpretation of this data. If you have data that shows the benefit of delusion over reality, please share it and I will adjust my conclusions.

    you are not going to get people to agree with you by telling them that.

    Truth is not a popularity game.

    I’m really glad there are people like Hemant to show us not everyone thinks this way.

    I appreciate his work as well. He builds relationships with the liberal, open minded deluded and hopefully lays seeds for them to snap out of it. He should be commended for this work.

    You don’t like it when people assume stupid things like all atheists are devil worshippers…..how about not labeling all non-atheistic parents?

    What makes the statement “all atheists are satanist” stupid is the lack of evidence supporting it, not that it is culturally offensive. Same goes with wild preachers who visit this blog condemning everyone to hell.

    Atheists have data for why they see paranormal fantasies as false beliefs (delusions), as immoral in their content, and as anti-empirical in their formulation. Immoral, paranormal delusions cannot be something that are proudly taught to children, and are definitely not something I can just passively tolerate. To the contrary, it is offensive to the core and should be called out for the harm that it is. If you have data that, for example, helps balance out millions of Creationist children who are denied reality, I am willing to change my conclusions.

    Then why are you on a friendly atheist board that is supposed to encourage dialouge between people of different backgrounds?

    We’re dialoguing, and my background is firm anti-delusionism. There ya go.

  • James

    Just found this website. I must say, it is very interesting. I think I will buy the “Sold my Soul” book. Anyone care to tell me how good is the book?

    Now to comment on what I’m reading here: Donna, globalizati, and Maria: don’t bother trying to change these guys’ minds. It’s people like this that give all of us atheists a bad name and give morons like Bill OReilly room to attack us. Luckily they are in the minority. I personally, and I can also speak for many other atheists and agnostics that I know- certainly don’t think someone’s family is abusive just because they believe in god. Honestly to say that is pretty shallow. Yes, I do think the beliefs are wrong and silly, I admit, and I think families could spend their time better, and I certainly don’t want it in my face or in my government. However, I do see a noticeable difference between a belief system like that of Richard Harries, Bishop of Oxford, vs. say, Ted Haggard. One is definitely an improvement over the other. Richard Dawkins himself said that about Mr. Harries. We have to start somewhere. Any rational person should be able to see that. Just blanketing it all as “abuse” is not only irrational and counterproductive, it’s pretty low.

    I will take serious issue with anyone who calls my parents abusers-and so will many people I know. And telling us we are “deluded” b/c we don’t think our parents are child abusers is not going to get you very far.

    I don’t think your parents are abusers or that you’re deluded. Wrong, yes, but not certainly not abusive. I agree with Hemant that if you’re not getting in the way of human rights, science, persecuting those of other “faiths” or peoples’ right not to believe, I really don’t care what you believe.

    I think if you want to say that raising a child with any level of religious belief is detrimental to “cognitive development and emotional well being,” say it that way, but don’t use a blanket label like “child abuse.”

    I can see your point, but I would say how detrimental depends on the level. Richard Dawkins seemed to think his anglican childhood was pretty harmless. He doesn’t seem to consider himself abused or cognitively impaired (well we can certainly see that the last one isn’t true!):) Also if you read his arguments he focuses more on stuff heavy stuff like creationism, anti-science, and intolerance and says teaching these types of things is the really abusive part. I certainly don’t see how being exposed to many beliefs and being taught to be tolerant and to make up your own mind is “immoral”. My friend who is Unitarian is raising her kids this way and I think it’s great.

    If you have data that, for example, helps balance out millions of Creationist children who are denied reality, I am willing to change my conclusions.

    Uh, telling your child that you believe in god is not the same as preaching creationism. Personally, I’ve seen “real life” data of people from moderate/liberal religious backgrounds that seem pretty okay to me. They’re doctors, lawyers etc. and quite fine emotionally.

    You also have to consider that maybe the above commentators who are saying all religion is abuse themselves had negative childhoods that were abusive when it came to religion, or perhaps they live in the bible belt-so this is going to color their thinking and it’s a natural reaction. I’m fortunate to live in CA and I was raised in a non-religious home, but I’ve interacted with people of all backgrounds, including what you call “liberal believers”, and we usually get along just fine. None of them seem “abused” to me, a bit silly at times, yes, but not abused. My aunt lives in the bible belt and I can tell you it’s not easy; that’s one reasons atheists from there tend to come off as more angry-they unfortunately have reason to be. It’s an unfortunate situation. Hopefully with more dialogue going on and more cooperation between atheists and non-atheists, thinks will change. This website is a great step in that direction.

    Don’t worry about it; just ignore the comments.

  • http://friendlyatheist.com FriendlyAtheist

    I think I will buy the “Sold my Soul” book. Anyone care to tell me how good is the book?

    It’s the best book ever written :)

  • http://globalizati.wordpress.com globalizati

    It’s the best book ever written :)

    It’s great! But only the second best (after KJV Holy Bible, of course).

    James–you quote me saying this:

    I think if you want to say that raising a child with any level of religious belief is detrimental to “cognitive development and emotional well being,” say it that way, but don’t use a blanket label like “child abuse.”

    I think my meaning would’ve been clarified if I had emphasized “that”:

    say it that way, but don’t use a blanket label like “child abuse.”

    I was trying to get him to clarify what he meant in a wide variety of circumstances, not endorsing the opinion expressed. Cheers!

  • Mriana

    I think some people are defining abuse too loosely. In defence of Maria, Anglicans, and others, abuse is when one person forces another person to do (or believe) something by force (be it mental, physical, emotional, or what have you) and/or confining them. Religion therefore becomes abusive when it does not allow free thought and free inquiry. It becomes abusive when one person forces their beliefs on another, telling them what they must believe or else, and confining them within that religion. Therefore, many Fundies force belief and confine people, but many liberals allow for freedom of inquiry and are not abusive.

    Look up the symptoms of cults and then reflect on the various religious extremist groups. Then look up abuse, which uses words like force, confine, etc. and then reflect again of what you know of religion. Cults, religious extremists, and abuse overlap greatly by definition, but I think one would find that the more liberal religious groups do not overlap or at least not as much.

  • Anthony

    Religion therefore becomes abusive when it does not allow free thought and free inquiry.

    Like I said, I’m very supportive of parents teaching children about the human proclivity toward delusions and all the diverse outputs of that proclivity throughout history – censor nothing. What I think is harmful is teaching children that a particular delusion is truthful. Particularly so when the content of that delusion is rather scary or hateful.

  • Mriana

    I agree, Anthony. That’s basically what I was trying to say.

  • Darryl

    The problem here it seems is a matter of language. If Anthony is generalizing, so are his critics. To abstract parents is to lose all the particulars that define the shades of gray. Not all parents are equal; not all experiences of their children are equal. People who see red when they hear the word abuse associated with religious indoctrination are likely abstracting. I don’t give a damn about Bill O’Reilly and what ammunition atheists provide him. He’s going to find ammunition no matter what we do or don’t do. Diversity of opinion is a virtue among atheists just as it is everywhere else.

  • monkeymind

    Anthony:
    Have you been around little kids much? You seem to see them as empty little receptacles in which adults pour information – either information polluted with religious delusions or your preferred brand of factually true information.

    In my experience, kids start thinking about big ideas like death, the meaning of life, etc. very early on. They aren’t always able to articulate their world views but they are usually a mixture of the extremely concrete and the fanciful. Imaginative play involving the creation of counter-factual realities is extremely important to proper development, as is exposure to the natural world, being allowed to run and play and make a mess. Most kids have a worldview that parallels that of “primitive” religion. Everything is alive, inanimate objects and animals are given human characteristics. The child relates to the universe in the mode of “mystic participation.”

    My parents are staunch fundamentalists, but by limiting our access to mass media, encouraging reading, and letting us take over the backyard and family room with various creative projects, they managed to raise 5 kids who all have professional degrees and don’t seem cognitively impaired. We had to go to Sunday School, yes, but we also had a bookcase in the dining room with the encyclopedia and various dictinaries to consult during our dinnertime debates.

  • Mriana

    monkeymind, when they start asking the hard questions, you not only tell them what you believe, but you get several books on the topic- preferably ones you can read to them and not the same POV. You then discuss it further with them after reading to them. Once they start asking questions, it’s time to teach them how to research the answers. They formulated the question, it’s then time to seek the answers.

    Of course, my older son was reading when he was 3 and when he was around 8 he was reading my college text books. If he had a question at that age, he hit the books. Eventually he hit the books, the internet, and other sources to find the answers. He learned the technique well. Needless to say, he wants to be a marine biologist.

    My younger son didn’t take to this approach as well, but now that he is 16, he’s beginning to practice that approach. Even so, I did the same with him when he began asking questions.

  • James

    I was trying to get him to clarify what he meant in a wide variety of circumstances, not endorsing the opinion expressed. Cheers!

    Gotcha , globalizati sorry I misintepreted that. I totally agree with you. I just ordered the book……:)

  • Maria

    I think some people are defining abuse too loosely. In defence of Maria, Anglicans, and others, abuse is when one person forces another person to do (or believe) something by force (be it mental, physical, emotional, or what have you) and/or confining them. Religion therefore becomes abusive when it does not allow free thought and free inquiry. It becomes abusive when one person forces their beliefs on another, telling them what they must believe or else, and confining them within that religion. Therefore, many Fundies force belief and confine people, but many liberals allow for freedom of inquiry and are not abusive.

    Look up the symptoms of cults and then reflect on the various religious extremist groups. Then look up abuse, which uses words like force, confine, etc. and then reflect again of what you know of religion. Cults, religious extremists, and abuse overlap greatly by definition, but I think one would find that the more liberal religious groups do not overlap or at least not as much.

    I agree Mriana. Thanks for explaining that

  • Anthony

    In my experience, kids start thinking about big ideas like death, the meaning of life, etc. very early on. They aren’t always able to articulate their world views but they are usually a mixture of the extremely concrete and the fanciful. Imaginative play involving the creation of counter-factual realities is extremely important to proper development, as is exposure to the natural world, being allowed to run and play and make a mess. Most kids have a worldview that parallels that of “primitive” religion. Everything is alive, inanimate objects and animals are given human characteristics. The child relates to the universe in the mode of “mystic participation.”

    I agree with all of this. Natural brain development doesn’t require parents to teach – as truth and fact – delusions, particularly those with content which is scary, hateful, or immoral. My guess is children can develop quite fine without the extra spin.

    We had to go to Sunday School, yes, but we also had a bookcase in the dining room with the encyclopedia

    I feel overwhelmingly confident at the cleansing power of rational empiricism. We are all lucky that secular knowledge found its way into your life, for good secular knowledge will always defeat delusional knowledge. Thank god you had access!!! :) I am troubled to think what might have happened if you did not have access to the power of secular, empirical knowledge, and all you got was Sunday School. But thankfully, that was not the case.

  • monkeymind

    Well, Anthony, it might enhance your street cred as a rational empiricist if you cited some actual data in support of your hypothesis that a religious upbringing (discounting parent’s income and education level) has negative effects on cognitive development.

  • Miko

    Well, Anthony, it might enhance your street cred as a rational empiricist if you cited some actual data in support of your hypothesis that a religious upbringing (discounting parent’s income and education level) has negative effects on cognitive development.

    I’m not sure how one would demonstrate conclusively that religious upbringing is causing the negative effects, but Mensa did a review of 43 studies on the subject (published from 1927 on) and found that all but four concluded that there was an inverse correlation between intelligence (measured in the various studies by IQ, SAT scores, and education) and religiosity. Of course, stand correlation vs. causation disclaimer: it could just be that intelligent people are more likely to reject religion, etc., etc.

    Bell, Paul. “Would you believe it?” Mensa Magazine, Feb. 2002, pp. 12–13

    Those don’t quite address the question at hand, of course, since education especially relates more to later life than to development (although since the religious are less likely to attain higher education, there is some connection). Regan Clark did a study on “Religiousness, Spirituality, and IQ: Are They Linked?” that got more at the development angle by considering parents as a factor as well. The results weren’t completely conclusive–for example, Buddhists don’t fit the standard religious mold–, but again demonstrated the same basic inverse relationship.

    http://undergraduatestudies.ucdavis.edu/explorations/2004/clark.pdf

    Disclaimer: I’m just providing data. I’m not necessarily advocating any of Anthony’s opinions.

  • monkeymind

    Miko: I’m not disputing that religious belief is inversely correlated to education level/IQ.

    To suggest that a religious upbringing is inherently harmful to child development, you’d need a study that compared outcomes for children of parents of similar education and socio-economic levels, comparing religious parents with non-religious. I haven’t found one.

    A recent study suggests that religious parents correlates with some positive behavioral outcomes in 1st graders, but the study seems kind of weak, as discussed here: http://humaniststudies.org/parenting/mercer.html

    The second study you cited is mostly to do with the differing effects of religion as opposed to spirituality, and measure the effects of parents’ religion only indirectly. It asked how many years spent in a religiously affiliated school, but the rest of the questions related to the participants’ religious beliefs, not the parents’. The only “parental effect” in the study was an inverse correlation between father’s education level and Quantative SAT scores and the participants’ self-reports of “prayer fulfillment” – defined in the study as “the joy and contentment that arise from communion with ‘a transcendent reality.’”

    Actually the correlation between father’s education level and quantitative reasoning was pretty interesting.

  • Darryl

    I feel overwhelmingly confident at the cleansing power of rational empiricism. We are all lucky that secular knowledge found its way into your life, for good secular knowledge will always defeat delusional knowledge. Thank god you had access!!! :) I am troubled to think what might have happened if you did not have access to the power of secular, empirical knowledge, and all you got was Sunday School. But thankfully, that was not the case.

    If I had to guess, I’d say that children can’t discriminate between sacred and secular knowledge if they are raised in a religious household. These two kinds of knowledge are in some way integrated, or at least juxtaposed, in their thinking, and only later do they struggle, if they experience intellectual dissonance, with a rational disposal of the problems posed by their understandings. I suppose that children whose parents have given them a healthy respect for questioning, study, and what they find in the encyclopedia stand a better chance of pondering these matters as they arise in their subsequent experience, and knowing how to resolve the conflicts that arise.

  • Mriana

    I agree Mriana. Thanks for explaining that

    You’re welcome, Maria.

  • http://emergingpensees.blogspot.com/ Mike C

    back on topic… (sorry, I’ve been out of town)

    “Religion” becomes “Witchcraft.”

    “God” becomes “the Devil.”

    “Atheist” becomes “skeptic.”

    Harris’ point is clear: Look at how ridiculous the reviews seem now.

    Perhaps I just have more respect for the beliefs of my Wiccan friends, but these altered reviews don’t really strike me as very “ridiculous” or even very clever.

    Slightly offensive (towards Wiccans) maybe, since, as Greta pointed out, Wiccans don’t actually worship the Devil, but not ridiculous. At least not IMHO. Harris still just sort of seems to miss the point and demonstrates an unwillingness to actually engage intelligently with his critics.

  • Anthony

    To suggest that a religious upbringing is inherently harmful to child development, you’d need a study

    Interesting. “Prove to me that teaching my immoral paranormal delusions to children is unhealthy”. Is this what I have to do in the world? How many paranormal delusions do I need to prove are harmful before I can extrapolate? Ten? One thousand?

    Not only will I not prove to you that paranormal delusions are based on false beliefs, but I also will not prove to you that teaching children immoral delusions are harmful. I could spend a lifetime doing this for the myriad delusions on this earth, but I will not even start.

    Why? Because the “theist” carries the burden of proof. They are the one tacking on wacky claims to the evidence. They are the one saying there is a deity that I cannot see or touch. This is their little world, not the real world.

    “You cannot disprove my delusion” is the most absurd argument. If that worked, then *every* wacky claim imaginable is acceptable. “You cannot disprove the benefits teaching children immoral paranormal delusions” – are you kidding me? When would immoral delusions be healthy???

    I think you are better off arguing that “theism” isn’t delusional, or that it is not immoral. Because once someone concludes that it is an immoral paranormal delusion, *of course* they won’t want young children to be exposed to it. Only sadists would proudly trick children into beliving in immoral delusions.

    And arguing the use of the adjectives ‘delusional’, ‘paranormal’, and ‘immoral’ is an Internet classic debate that I always enjoy. I’d start there if I were you.

  • monkeymind

    Hey Anthony, I guess at this point I could try to give you my perspective on child development, such as that children, especially young children, learn a lot more from how they are taught than what they are taught. That encouraging confidence, curiousity, creativity, and good social skills is more important than stuffing kids full of factually correct information, and that lots of theist parents manage to foster those attitudes quite well. Also that there may be some things to be learned in life that cannot be stated as true/false propositions.

    It’s kind of what Austin Cline was getting at in the this thread:

    To put it another way: it’s not your position that matters as much as your methodology. Your position, atheist or theist, isn’t as important as the methodology you use to arrive at it, evaluate it, and support it.

    I don’t know how much you’re really interested in hearing other people’s perspectives though. I for one am not too keen on “Internet classic debates” if by that you mean discussions where people talk past each other, loudly, about points that I find essentially beside the point. We could argue that the content of all the worlds religions does not consist entirely of “immoral delusions” but I suspect it would be tiresome for most of the visitors here.

    I do know that you would probably be low on my list of potential babysitters, despite your superior grasp of the “facts”, because of your poor understanding of child development and tendency toward black/white thinking. In fact, I think our token theist, Mike C. would be a better choice.

  • Mriana

    Guys, once again, IF the child is free to think and explore and is NOT confined to that parent’s or parents beliefs, it is NOT abuse. Only when a parent says, “This is not Christian.” and takes the material from them does it become confinement, because they are not free to question and explore. I have not read anything here that I would consider religious abuse.

    I wish Mike C. were here too. I think he would say almost the same thing.

  • Mriana

    One more thing concerning stuffing children with infactual info. In the Episcopal church, which I raised my sons in, we are told that what is in the Bible are JUST stories. So, yes, kids are told both factual and infactual info. They get both, but they are NEVER told that what is in the Bible is literally “The word of God”. Bishop Spong even wrote an article recently titled, “This is NOT the word of the Lord.”

    Kids can and do get the truth in some churches. I would not have taken my sons there when they were young if it was taught as being literal. Needless to say, I have one son who calls himself Buddhist and the other gives himself no title at all.

    Spong calls himself a non-theist, Bob Price is an atheist/Humanist who attends the Episcopal Church, Dawkins stated he was culturally raised Anglican, and I’m a Humanist. This is NOT unusual in the Episcopal church, although I don’t attend anymore for various reasons. Even so, if you were to look into the Episcopal/Anglican church you would find the individual beliefs are as varied as the U.U., people are allowed free inquiry, and if they find the right minister, their questions are answered honestly.

    Not all Christian sects or religions in general are the same in which people are stuffed with nothing but infactual info. I think every parent gives kids both as they are growing up because we read bedtime stories like the Lorax and Bambi to them as well as teach them about science and alike. I think if a parent tells the child, “This is a story,” even concerning the Bible, they will know the difference of which is fact and which is not.

  • Anthony

    because of your poor understanding of child development and tendency toward black/white thinking

    “Anthony doesn’t believe children should play – keep kids away from him”. This is your response, monkey? Is this all there is?

    I won’t repeat my earlier comments supporting the normal, healthy play children use to learn about the world. I also won’t repeat my support of zero-censorship. I will repeat, since you don’t seem to understand my position, that I do not believe “theism” should be taught as *true*.

    Unless you are implying that “theism” is an integral aspect of child development?

    IF the child is free to think

    Praise be to god.

  • Anthony

    if a parent tells the child, “This is a story,” even concerning the Bible, they will know the difference of which is fact and which is not.

    And that’s what I would call an amazing, outstanding parenting job.

  • Mriana

    That is what I’ve always told my sons and the book is full of nothing but stories. None are actually true.

  • monkeymind

    Unless you are implying that “theism” is an integral aspect of child development?

    I am implying nothing of the sort. I pointed out that there are other factors that are vitally important to healthy development which theist parents are just as capable of providing to their children as atheist parents. To suggest that all religious parents without exception are harming their children’s development is absurd. A lot depends on the content of the religious belief, and how they are presented. Many believers besides the denominations Mriana mentions do not believe in Biblical inerrancy.

    Also, I think you are focusing too narrowly on religious delusions. Many religious delusions are plainly less harmful than some secular delusions such as:

    -happiness lies in acquiring more and more stuff (the main message of advertising, which kids are exposed to at much higher rates than religious instruction in all but the most separatist households.)

    -violence is a good way to resolve conflicts (the main message of a lot of tv and movies, see above)

    -margarine is good for you

    -women have no value unless they are young and attractive (the main message of MTV)

    -Americans are always the good guys (the message of most American history curricula in the schools)

    etc, etc,

  • http://emergingpensees.blogspot.com/ Mike C

    I wish Mike C. were here too. I think he would say almost the same thing.

    I’m here, I’m just not interested in getting into this same old debate one more time. Sorry. :)

  • Mriana

    I know the feeling.

  • Anthony

    Many religious delusions are plainly less harmful than some secular delusions such as … margarine is good for you

  • monkeymind

    Wow, my attempt at humor seems to have silenced Anthony. :-)

    Seriously, margarine is not good for you. Which reminds me, I have to go take some flax oil.

  • Maria

    Wow, my attempt at humor seems to have silenced Anthony.

    Seriously, margarine is not good for you. Which reminds me, I have to go take some flax oil.

    LOL


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