What Christians Teach Their Children

A couple of years ago, Seth Andrews, The Thinking Atheist, released a video about what Christianity teaches “our youngest and most impressionable.” Now, Andrews has released an updated version of the terrifying video:

When he puts it like that, you have to wonder why anyone would put those ideas in their children’s heads. Traditions have a powerful way of perpetuating themselves even when they no longer make any sense.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the chair of Foundation Beyond Belief and a high school math teacher in the suburbs of Chicago. He began writing the Friendly Atheist blog in 2006. His latest book is called The Young Atheist's Survival Guide.

  • Karen Loethen

    This is absolutely excellent!
    I love Seth’s podcast!

    http://taytayhser.blogspot.com.au/
    Homeschool Atheist Momma, Karen

  • indorri

    That video really does illustrate the moral defectiveness of many Christian doctrines.

    • http://www.facebook.com/john.lindgren.3762 John Lindgren

      Not just the moral defectiveness, but just how darn cruel telling this stuff to kids can seem. Christianity is, at its heart, a religion about sacrifice — Jesus sacrificed himself because you (yes, you) are an irredeemably evil person regardless of anything you’ve done or even how old you are. “Children are innocent?” More like “From the moment you’re born, you are destined to be tortured forever simply because you had the misfortune of being born human. But, hey, if you dedicate your entire life wholeheartedly to the person who sentenced you to that horrible fate, you *might* get the reward of spending eternity worshiping him instead!”

      It’s like, man, who *wouldn’t* want to sign up for that?

  • http://www.facebook.com/paul.grimm.14 Paul Grimm

    How about this. We will indoctrinate our kids into our own beliefs and you indoctinate your kids into your beliefs.
    Oh that’s right atheists don’t have kids.

    http://www.scilogs.eu/en/blog/biology-of-religion/2010-06-03/religions-and-fertility-in-the-us-gss-data

    • C Peterson

      Yes, it’s certainly a societal problem the way that some religions encourage their members to spawn. The problem is also related to the correlation between fertility, intelligence, and education. With the least intelligent and the least educated being the most attracted to religion- especially the fundamental religions- it really becomes a two-front problem.

    • baal

      If your beliefs were consistent with a reasonable interpretation of reality you may have a point. Also, we suspect that you are anti-birth control and pro-children at all costs since the poverty (or at least econonic hardship) limits educational opportunity and we all know that the more educated a population, the less religious it is. Given those factors, we’ll keep converting more of you than you will of us.

      • http://www.facebook.com/paul.grimm.14 Paul Grimm

        Lets say that you convert the whole world. With a subreplacement fertility rate eventually the human race will be no more. So what all of the fundamentalist say is correct – the end of religion will be the end of the human race.

        • pRinzler

          Have you really played out your scenario to the end, instead of just imaging where a line on a graph will end? You’re not thinking of the possibility that that line on the graph would change under different circumstances.

          • http://www.facebook.com/paul.grimm.14 Paul Grimm

            Obviously not. I do not think that religious people are ignorant. But I do believe that a belief system that does not maintain a self sustaining replacement rate will die out. See Jainism.

            • http://www.facebook.com/paul.grimm.14 Paul Grimm

              Or stoicism

            • http://twitter.com/docslacker MD

              There are still Jains, ya know.

            • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=569655551 Dan Davis

              I don’t think we need to worry about running out of people anytime soon. http://www.worldometers.info/world-population/

            • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-W-Busch/578120211 Michael W Busch

              No.

              You are confusing biological replacement rate with cultural replacement rate. The former is not applicable to religion and other cultural phenomenon. For example: most irreligious people in the United States were raised by religious parents. And some children of irreligious parents become religious. Cultural demographics can and do change even with a fixed total population size.

        • C Peterson

          The human race needs a subreplacement fertility rate for a few centuries. Beyond that… what would make you think such a rate would extend to true zero population?

        • C Peterson

          The human race needs a subreplacement fertility rate for a few centuries. Beyond that… what would make you think such a rate would extend to true zero population?

          • http://www.facebook.com/paul.grimm.14 Paul Grimm

            Try reading what to expect when no ones expecting

            • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-W-Busch/578120211 Michael W Busch

              Will there be economic challenges and changes associated with an aging population? Yes. Is that necessarily a “demographic disaster”? No.

          • RobMcCune

            He posted a link to a piece about how the religious have greater evolutionary fitness. I somehow doubt he’s thinking about this in anything other than an overly grandiose, “precious bodily fluids” kind of way.

            • baal

              Only if you want to be a mustard seed. I think the coconut is a better example.

        • Sunny Day

          Wait what? Is that supposed to be an argument for keeping people uneducated and steeped in religion, because we need the purposefully ignorant to keep the race from dying out?

        • RobertoTheChi

          We’re supposed to keep people uneducated so they breed like rabbits? Makes sense…

        • baal

          Current trends in the educated population of the west apply to the whole world? Or we could have declining or flat populations with a higher standard of living for everyone. There is more then enough productivity per capita that no one needs to live in ignorance or poverty. The problem is one of politics.

          • smrnda

            Thanks for pointing out per capita productivity. The whole alarm over population decline is that it’s going to be impossible for the elderly to be supported if the next generations are smaller, but this seems to ignore the fact that productivity per person can increase drastically, as it has been for some time. There is plenty, just goods are poorly distributed because of people control resource allocation not to meet human needs, but to make money or carve out spheres of influence.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-W-Busch/578120211 Michael W Busch

      You have the causality wrong.

      It’s not that atheists don’t have kids. As a whole, the average number of children born to irreligious people in the US right now is ~20% lower than that of the general population, but even that is not a causal relationship. The two simply are correlated, and share some common likely causes. Current US demography shows that people who are better educated tend to
      have fewer kids. It also shows that people who are better educated are
      more likely to be irreligious (not the same as being atheists, by the
      way).

      If the entire world (_not_ just the US) population were to have a total fertility rate of 1.64, then the population would decrease by ~20% per generation. Taking 30 years per generation (current US average is 29.4), then it would take around 130 years for the population to decrease to 50% of the current value and 230 years for it to decrease to 25%. Given that we’re currently over 7 billion people, a few centuries of slowly decreasing population is entirely reasonable.

      Also, the goal of most irreligious people is _not_ to indoctrinate their children into their particular form of disbelief. It’s usually more like trying to raise successful, well-educated, and ethical members of society.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=569655551 Dan Davis

      Atheists don’t have kids? WTF! “Indoctrinate” is not what educating children about reality by showing them physical, falsifiable evidence is called. Indoctrination is needed when the evidence is against you.

    • http://twitter.com/docslacker MD

      Crap, are you telling me my kids are a figment of my imagination?

      I don’t indoctrinate my kids, I teach them to think critically and they are free to be religious or not.

      The household rule is: don’t be a jerk.

    • RobMcCune

      Let me guess you can’t dispute any of the content in the video but you’re still irritated by it. Of course it’s going out on a limb to assume that you watched the video in the first place.

  • BigDavz0r

    If this isn’t a mischaracterization of Western Christianity, then it makes me extra glad to be Orthodox.

    http://www.orthodoxpress.org/parish/river_of_fire.htm

    • C Peterson

      This isn’t a mischaracterization of western Christianity. But it applies equally well to Orthodox Christianity. The ideas presented in this video apply to all of Christianity, and you will find parents teaching this regardless of which sect they subscribe to.

      • BigDavz0r

        Are you sure it applies to all of Christianity? On what basis do you say that? I am an Orthodox Christian and the Orthodox Church doesn’t subscribe to these views.

        It seems to espouse an Augustinian view of original inherited guilt, an Evangelical view of “heaven and hell,” the need to pray a special prayer for forgiveness when one comes of age akin to Baptist theology, a command to tithe income, just to name a few major stark differences from the Orthodoxy.

        I applaud the video, really, for pointing out such things in much Western, especially Evangelical, Christian thought, hence the reason for my link as well.

        • C Peterson

          Which Orthodox church do you belong to that doesn’t espouse these views? Conventional Eastern Orthodoxy believes in original sin, that the sins of Adam and Eve propagate to all humans, who suffer death as a result. Eastern Orthodoxy also preaches the existence of Hell, differing mainly from the Catholic view in philosophical details. These things are fundamental to nearly all Christian belief systems, which includes most Orthodox sects.

          Perhaps yours is especially liberal, but I’d say the video broadly covers Christianity (not that all parents teach this, of course- there are plenty of Christians who properly recognize the batshit that defines much of their dogma, even if they don’t consciously or publicly acknowledge it as such).

          • BigDavz0r

            I belong to the Antiochian, but all Orthodox Churches worship the same way and teach the same dogma. And liberal and conservative labels only add confusion because Orthodox Churches don’t think or act according to the conservative-liberal spectrum.

            What Orthodox mean by original sin is quite different than Catholic or Protestant views, which are heavily influenced by Augustine, Anselm, and Aquinas. Here are succinct explanations: http://oca.org/questions/teaching/st.-augustine-original-sin
            http://www.antiochian.org/node/25140

            In the same vein, what Orthodoxy lives and teaches about heaven and hell is quite different, and not just differing in details. The following is well known among the Orthodox in America.
            http://www.orthodoxpress.org/parish/river_of_fire.htm

            At the risk of being imprecise, to use Western terms, Orthodoxy might fall between the Annihilation and Universalist “views of hell”. There is no dogma and we confess it’s a mystery, but we certainly don’t believe in hell as some horrible place you “go to” after you die.

  • Carpinions

    This video encapsulates perfectly what Christopher Hitchens’ was always using as the bedrock of his anti-theist argument: The notion that you are, as he put it, “created sick, and command to be well.” What should engender the most moral indignation is the corrupt bit, that a child is corrupt because of what they are, rather than who they’ve become. What religious behavior is more dehumanizing a base than that? It ensures humanity is never and should never rise above what it is.

    Telling a child they are corrupt when they had no say in the matter, when they were born, indeed where they were born, how, etc., is abuse straight out of the gate. It’s just not couched that way because literally billions of people think teaching kids this crap is just fine.

    • pRinzler

      This is an aspect of Christianity that is often not emphasized, for obvious reasons, but it is still central to the theology. And sick–very sick.

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/chidy/ chicago dyke

    i’m starting to think a lot of atheists are missing the point with these critiques of theological claims and how they relate to “why are you a christian (or muslim, or whatever)?

    simply: i don’t think most people are members of a religious community for the theology. how many believers can actually recite their particular faith and sect’s creed? reason for being? not even many educated atheists can accurately and completely define why ‘xtian group x is different than xtian group y.” and studies have shown we know more about religion than they do.

    nor do i think most believers are part of their religious group for the recitation of the holy text(s) and seminal, foundational writings/sermons of their sect. few methodists today are like the original groups, catholics today are light years different than those from the 12thc, etc. to be perfectly honest, i doubt most believers spend much time at all thinking about “why i am a lutheran” or whatever.

    i think, when they attend services, they are thinking things like:

    -i just know my new potato salad is going to be a hit at the potluck after services. Betty Believer will be so jealous!

    -dood, this chick is so hot! maybe if i come to enough of these baptist sermon thingees, she’ll let me in her pants.

    -i wish mommy wouldn’t bring me here anymore. the man in the funny dress hurt me the last time she left me alone with him.

    -i am not gay. i am NOT gay. if i keep coming, and praying, i will not be gay.

    -i hope my boss notices i’ve been here every week since he told the office someone is going to get laid off at the end of the quarter. maybe this way it’ll be Benson, even though my productivity numbers are lower than that atheist heathen’s.

    etc.

    sure, they listen to the sermon, mostly, sometimes. they may read the bible once, maybe not, and they get a few selected parts read to them, maybe weekly. but they don’t sit around and think, “wow, is it just me, or are there two stories of human creation? and did i get that incest stuff at all? gosh no. oh well.” or even “this doesn’t make any sense.” deep theological critique and analysis are not the habits of most believers. they rarely ‘spell it all out’ in one sitting, like this fictional mom does to her son.

    it’s a disconnect and way in which we fail to understand them, i’m thinking.

  • E.H.

    A question: what do you think of studies that show children who attend church, whose parents are more religious, might be better-adjusted than their peers? Out of curiosity!


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