[FoRK] reas. conv. 12/4: Beyond Faith

Stephen D. Williams < sdw at lig.net > on > Mon Dec 11 11:17:16 PST 2006

Thanks for sharing this.  It is an excellent list of the ill effects 
that many, if not most, traditionally raised children go through to 
various degrees.  The unfortunate thing is that many spin out of that 
indoctrination state in far less productive shape than you did.

I have long thought of religious indoctrination as child abuse, since I 
was a teenager.


Jeff Bone wrote:
> On Dec 5, 2006, at 4:04 PM, Jeffrey Winter wrote:
>>> I've come around to the point of view that
>>> religious indoctrination of children is
>>> child abuse.
>> Good Lord.
>> I still think Dawkins and his acolytes need to justify
>> this escalation of rhetoric.
> (Note the use of the term "acolyte.")
> This isn't about Dawkins;  frankly, for me this is quite personal.  
> Recent events like Dawkins supporting this line of thought and the 
> release of the movie "Jesus Camp" merely reinforce a long-standing 
> personal opinion.  (BTW, in case you haven't seen "Jesus Camp", you 
> should;  the full movie was available on YouTube for a few days before 
> being pulled in the last 18 hours...  but pay to see it, support the 
> documentarian --- I did.)
> I wasn't really aggressively indoctrinated;  I was sort of passively 
> second-hand indoctrinated by being dragged along to church on (most) 
> Sundays by my parents.  They meant well, but not the kind of 
> over-the-top fanatical well-meaning of *many* mainstream Christian 
> parents, cf. aforementioned movie.  The church we attended was The 
> Church of Christ --- a particularly unpleasantly dour if 
> middle-of-the-road denomination, if you're not familiar with it;  
> Calvinists w/o quite the nihilism of predetermination.  No musical 
> instruments in the church, members shouldn't ever drink / dance / 
> etc.  Pretty middle of the road.
> However...
> One summer aged four or five I spent several weeks running outside 
> every hour or so just to make sure the sky hadn't cracked open and 
> started filling up with angels, thus heralding the end of the world.
> I cried at every funeral I attended before age 11 or so --- and there 
> were many, I had many living ancestors early on --- not from grief 
> over the death per se, but rather because the relative in question had 
> not managed to last until the Rapture, and had to go through the 
> anguish of bodily death.
> I could've told you every detail of both the experience of being in 
> Hell and the experience of being Crucified, so many times had these 
> things been SHOUTED at me on various Sundays from some pulpit.
> For over a year, between the time I was about 9 and 10, I was 
> afflicted with almost-nightly "night terrors."  The subject of the 
> nightmares was, inevitably, religious in nature.  Demons in my room, 
> premonitions of my own certain place in Hell.
> I grew up with constant feelings of inadequacy as a Christian due to 
> my occasional skepticism about my own faith, or my failure to live up 
> to the standard I believed I needed to in that regard.
> By the time I was 10, I had a proto-ulcer from worrying over 
> eschatological concerns and, particularly, my own fate on the no-doubt 
> soon-to-happen Judgment Day.  I spent a year eating bland foods and 
> drinking fruit nectar (no sodas) to get that whole thing straightened 
> out, gastrically-speaking.  I was the only kid in grade school with a 
> nuclear attack / second coming "emergency response plan" for my 
> family.  (And that didn't come from the parental units, either --- 
> that was my own get-out.  They actively discouraged it, and that 
> pissed me off --- how could they be so cavalier?)
> I'm not making this shit up.
> By the time I was 12 or so, I had been told --- by various ministers 
> --- such outrageous lies as follows:  one claimed to have *personally* 
> witnessed a demon, here on earth, in his own home.  Another claimed 
> --- upon learning of my interest in science and particularly dinosaurs 
> and early hominids, that "cavemen" had never existed and that the 
> dinosaurs had lived in Eden with Adam and Eve.  (Never mind how 
> dinosaur remains might have ended up all over the planet.)  Another 
> claimed that the water from the flood was known to have come from the 
> bursting of a water-bubble around the planet, as we had observed these 
> bubbles around all the other planets in our solar system.
> Another, spectacularly, claimed that in order to send men to the moon 
> NASA had to navigationally account for the divine stopping of the sun 
> in its course in some hoary old Jewish conflict or other, related in 
> the Bible.  (That was just about the one that broke the camel's back 
> of credulity, even for a kid.  Nonetheless I continued to believe this 
> until some time in early high school when I had the good fortune to 
> actually meet somebody who worked at NASA.  And, kindly, they didn't 
> just laugh in my ignorant, brainwashed face.)
> Every time I had even internal doubts about the veracity of any of 
> this bullshit, it was attended by a rush of guilt and a twin rush of 
> absolute fear of eternal damnation.  My father, particularly, was 
> open-minded enough about such things that we openly discussed them, 
> often until the wee hours of the morning through my high school 
> years;  looking back, I believe that he's in effect an agnostic.  But 
> we were both then, and he still is, too cowed by family and community 
> to frankly dismiss all the bullshit openly, much less call bullshit on 
> it.
> One of the more amusing events is as follows:  despite the church's 
> admonition on drinking alcohol, my grandmother had a heart condition 
> that her doctor recommended she address in part by a daily glass of 
> red wine.  (She resisted, but ultimately gave in.  My own parents were 
> not tea-totallers, but everyone else in the extended family was.)  
> Now, the CoC takes communion every Sunday.  My extended family goes on 
> a fishing trip every year, and we leave on Sunday.  But rather than 
> miss communion, my aunt and uncle would "check out" a "communion 
> travel kit" from their church and bring it with us.  Communion in the 
> CoC consists of an unsalted cracker, broken into little bits and 
> nibbled, and a little plastic thimble full of Welch's grape juice.  
> But one year we forgot the Welch's.  Rather than break the prohibition 
> on alcohol and simply give everybody a thimbleful of my grandmother's 
> red wine, my uncle actually got in a car and made an hour-plus round 
> trip into Taos (the nearest town) to buy *1 single 6 oz bottle* of 
> Welch's grape juice so that communion could proceed.
> I mean, give me a fucking break.  Really.
> The onset of puberty led, of course, to its own dramatic and traumatic 
> set of sins and associated guilt...  And so finally, what reason alone 
> could never do, nature --- in particular hormones --- accomplished:  
> they helped me finally break free of faith.  I was honest enough with 
> myself to recognize that I had neither the will power nor the desire 
> to stifle my newfound urges, nor could I reconcile them with my 
> religious beliefs as I understood them at the time.
> Spurred on by a need to understand the rules as clearly as possible so 
> as to know exactly what the boundaries were and push the envelope as 
> far as possible, I sat down to read the Bible in its entirety.
> And having done that, I laughed my ass off.  Long before Dawkins ever 
> pointed it out, it was entirely clear to me:  NO sane so-called 
> Christian can both have actually read the Bible *and* take it 
> literally and seriously.  No way.
> ---
> I've managed, at great effort and no small cost in friction in 
> familial relationships, to rid myself of as much of that childhood 
> religious baggage as possible.  I was effectively an agnostic by my 
> mid-to-late teens, and effectively an atheist by my mid-20s.  And 
> during that agnostic phase, I burned countless hours trolling through 
> world religion, looking for some evidence that somebody else had done 
> it "better" --- if only I'd been working that hard those years to 
> digest topology or linear algebra or category theory!  But it's been a 
> difficult struggle to get where I knew I needed to be with respect to 
> faith.  And I can't account for the vast amounts of intellectual 
> energy I must have wasted throughout my life desperately struggling to 
> reconcile the "faith" of my childhood --- really of my family --- with 
> the products of my senses and reason.  Vast amounts of time and energy 
> spent merely to silence those guilty little pangs, those pernicious 
> little fears, those childhood nightmares.  Intellectual contortions;  
> "rationalization" of all kinds.  Ultimately futile, absolutely 
> unnecessary but for the relatively mild indoctrination I experienced.
> My parents were spankers, too.  Not beaters, but spankers --- and not 
> in any particularly aggressive or eager or frequent way.  It was 
> always a matter of last resort, I'm sure, and I'm equally sure that I 
> was probably about as trying as any child could possibly be.  And I 
> don't harbor them any ill will for any of how they brought me up;  
> we're friends now.  And indeed, they *also* gave me many of the tools 
> I needed to become a free enough and inquisitive enough thinker to 
> break free from the shackles of my early religious education.
> But if I had to "indict" them for one or the other offense, the 
> psychological and intellectual trauma and other costs of even a 
> passive Christian indoctrination of a bright kid is, without a doubt, 
> the greater crime by far.
> It's child abuse.  Done with the best intentions --- but child abuse 
> nonetheless.
> I have no doubt of it.
> jb

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