Religion and Child Abuse

Lisa Morguess sent me this interesting article titled, The Health Effects of Leaving Religion. It’s a good read if you have the time. There was one story of a girl who was raised as an Evangelical in Nebraska. At 9 years of age, she developed anorexia. Why? Because she was so afraid of maturing into a woman and becoming an object of lust, that she starved herself so that she wouldn’t grow breasts.

All Abrahamic religions teach girls—and boys—that their bodies are bad and sinful. Hell, Mary didn’t even copulate with her son’s father because sex was—ewww–dirty. She is “magically” impregnated.

Religions make children feel anxious and ashamed; they fill them with anxiety, guilt, fear and neuroses. Here are other ways that religions encourage emotional and physical child abuse:

  1. The Bible clearly advises parents to spank and beat their kids. Yet if that same parent goes next door to spank his neighbor or his neighbor’s kid, that’s assault. From Proverbs 23: “Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die.” And “Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell.” First, why the hell are we following the advice of a book that is so old and suspect that it uses “thou” and “beatest”? And why would we hit kids with hands, belts or tree limbs? We’re talking about small children who trust and love us, who are too young to defend themselves or understand why we are hitting them. You know how a dog cowers when it’s been hit? That’s our kids. And we teach by example, so what do we teach our kids to do when someone doesn’t listen? Hit them.
  2. The devil, another one of god’s failed creations. (How does a “perfect” creator miss the mark so damn much?) Satan has got to be one of the worst gimmicks of all time. Most religions teach kids that there is a devil waiting for bad girls and boys, as if kids are capable of committing crimes so heinous that they deserve eternity in hell, a continuous, never-ending fire-pit of torture. If you frighten kids early and often, they will grow up believing in Satan, even though they outgrow monsters under the bed and boogeymen in the closet. That’s what emotional abuse and brainwashing does.
  3. Refusing to seek medical care for your child because god will take care of her. It’s hard to believe that, with all the medical advances we have, parents will choose to pray over their sick children instead. But the parents have a sickness, too. They’re infected with the religion meme.
  4. Hindering a child’s understanding of history and science because it conflicts with your book of myths, legends and folktales. It all seems fine until your kid grows up and enters the real world. Trust me. (True story.) When we come across an adult who says, “Humans were designed to run from dinosaurs,” that person loses her credibility. She seems ignorant. Yet can we blame her? She was taught these things, and unfortunately, she’s now teaching her kids the same sh*t.
  5. Praying. Teaching kids that god is in control makes them feel as if the solution will be handled remotely, by someone else (even if that person is an imaginary superhero). It gives away children’s power to find solution for themselves or to seek help, advice or solace from a living person.

These are just a few of the ways religion damages kids. Are there positive aspects to religion? Sure. Traditions. Family time. Social events. A framework for teaching simple morality. But we certainly don’t need religion to have these either, and the negatives far outweigh the positives.

People are free to raise their children as they want, but are they really doing what is best for their kids or what is best for them and/or the business of religion?

  

GUEST POST: The Openly Secular Movement by Shanan Winters

Today Shanan Winters is sharing her experience on what the Openly Secular movement means to her. Please feel free to join the conversation. What does this movement mean to you? How will it affect your life or your relationships?  Can you even be “open”? Every week I hear from non-theists who are not “out.” Unfortunately, some folks don’t feel they have the choice to be openly secular.

As always, I appreciate the many voices and perspectives. Thank you for guest posting, Shanan!


What the Openly Secular Movement Means to Me

When I was little, we moved to the Key Peninsula outside Gig Harbor, WA. I played a game called “By the Power of Gray Cat” with some other kids in the neighborhood. We loved He-Man and I had a Russian Blue named Gray Cat… we’re so creative. My friends and I would chase the cat through the woods brandishing our stick-swords. We would climb trees, and there was a particularly crumbly stump in my backyard that served as our version of Castle Grayskull. We would stand upon the stump, which was a rather difficult climb, and shout, “By the power of Gray Cat, I have the power!”  And then we’d make the death-defying leap, all four feet, to the ground.

Some of our local religious tribe decided we must be witches (you know, “power”… “cat”… only logical conclusion). My family was relentlessly hounded for weeks by these people, and their kids would jump behind bushes, make hex signs and literally HISS at me when I walked by! They would call us every night during dinner, and just spew bible verse over the phone. They pushed my younger friends around at the bus stop, and made all sorts of derogatory comments. They even suggested to my friend’s little sister, who was five or six at the time, that if the “cat” gives her so much “power”, why doesn’t she prove it by jumping in front of the bus?  Fortunately, she was strong enough of character to tell them to leave her alone. The harassment only stopped when my mother threatened to turn them all into toads. And it didn’t really stop; they just became silent and accusatory in their glances, rather than outwardly aggressive.

I wish I was exaggerating, but I’m not. I fully understand that their behavior is not “All Christians.” Fortunately for us, not all of the kids in the neighborhood were participants in their harassment, thus we did have friends besides each other.  Most of our friends were, in fact, Christian, and some even attended the same church as our harassers. It was a handful of houses… but it was also half of the kids at our bus stop. For me, the Openly Secular movement is incredibly important work. The way I see my children, I have one who is very secular, and another who leans toward belief (not sure in what yet…) Regardless of where they land spiritually, I want them to have every right and opportunity that would be available to anyone who is “conventionally Christian.” The way our political spectrum is shifting, I see this as less and less of a plausible future for them. Hence my thinking that this Openly Secular movement is extremely important. We need to start dispelling fear, and we need to do it now!

My experience with the neighbors of my youth definitely made a bad impression, but it wasn’t life changing. I’ve never been one to accept a Christian belief structure. I’ve tried… I gave it my best shot at one point, just to “fit in” and “keep the peace” with certain people — who are no longer a part of my life. It’s not me, and it never will be. I harbor no resentment toward those who peacefully go about their lives and live by their faith. I just wish the lack of resentment was reciprocal more often than not. I think it goes beyond “judgment” or lack thereof, as well. I’ve known plenty of people who have said, “It’s not my place to judge, and I don’t… but let me tell you all about my life in Christ. Aren’t you interested?” And I’m like… Um… isn’t that being kind of judgmental in itself? At the very least, it’s extremely presumptuous.

The ability to live a life with or without religion should extend to every individual, without fear of harassment, bullying or attempted conversion. We don’t all have to believe the same thing to get along. Learn who a person is rather than what church he attends. Find out a person’s passions rather than judging her based upon her choice in belief, or lack thereof. And for the love of gods (or none), teach your children to be open and inclusive. Maybe we can still turn this ship around.  Maybe if each and every one of us is “Openly Secular,” we will become less of an unknown, and thus less feared.

 

  

No god/know god. No difference.

I was moved to write this piece for Salon.com because of the recent surveys about attitudes toward nonbelievers. A brief look at the comments makes me realize that some folks can’t see the woods through the trees. They get stuck on one or two lines and run in a different direction. The point of this article was that we still face discrimination and that our kids are also vulnerable. The majority of Americans believe that atheist (or secularist or agnostic, etc) = immoral.

Religion causes people to feel certain. Most believers think that their stance is right, not just for them but for everyone. They use their faith as a club, as a weapon. They believe it makes them better people. Not different. Better.

Look. I get it that some folks are convinced god exists. Good for you. I won’t try to talk you out of it. I don’t want to argue. I just don’t give a damn. Go ahead and believe what you want. But for godssake, please don’t tie me or my kids to the bumper of your belief and drag us along in your religious parades. Leave us alone. Allow us not to believe. Accept us. Don’t try to change us or sell your religion to us. We all don’t have to be on Team God to get along.

I was recently talking with another reader about this. If you think, especially in the south, that people don’t discriminate, you’re wrong. I have friends and acquaintances that, once I was out publicly, put a huge distance between us. No more lunch. No more hanging out. A few unfriended me on social media sites. And that’s fine. If that’s who they are, I don’t want the friendship. There are millions of people in the U.S.

Other people–readers here–have family who have ostracized them. For what? For harming them? For stealing from them? No, for being different.

However I do mind if I—or others like me—face discrimination when we apply for jobs. No, businesses aren’t supposed to discriminate, but they can search the Internet. And I do mind that evangelical politicians infuse their religion into our laws. The Merry Christmas bill? Give me a break. Rick Perry’s anti-abortion bill? Please. Doesn’t his god tell him not to judge? These textbook fights in Texas? It makes us look ignorant. The references to god in the pledge and on our money and in our public buildings–ubiquitous, but not in a super-natural way.

Religion, whether it’s here in the US or in the Middle East, grabs us–all of us–whether we believe or not–and infects us in one way or another.  How can we inoculate ourselves?

 

  

Morality of Theism vs. Atheism

First. Welcome to an updated version of Kids Without Religion. There are several reasons why I decided to move the blog, but I won’t bore you with that.

I wanted this site to be a place for anyone without god and/or religion, whether they have kids or not. After reading the latest surveys indicating that atheists are still viewed as suspicious, immoral and untrustworthy by the theist public, I figure we need to stick together. Personally, I’m more apprehensive of believers, but I’ll get to that in just a second. As always, please feel free to contact me if you have a question, comment or would like to guest post. If there’s a particular topic you’d like discussed by the community, just let me know. It’s always better to have the ideas of many when trying to find a solution.

One more thing: I’ve added a “Resources” page, which I’ll continue to update. Please let me know if you have any suggestions.

Onto the post for the day…..

Two recent surveys remind us that atheists are still distrusted and disliked.

In this August 2014 study (and this one a couple months earlier), atheists caused more feelings of “moral disgust” among those surveyed than did “Muslims, gay men and people with HIV,” groups that are also perceived to “threaten” values.

Never mind that America supposedly values individualism. When it comes to belief, we’re supposed to be Stepford theists. Skepticism, the very foundation of science, is not valued as an individual trait.

I understand why we’re a threat. The fear is that if non-believers don’t imagine a god is looking over our shoulders, then we won’t be good boys and girls and play by the rules. God is some sort of adhesive holding together the moral framework of society. Where there is a deity, there is no murder, infidelity, dishonesty, rape or thievery. People do the right thing when they think god is looking, right?

Let’s be honest. It’s theists we should be wary of.

What believers fail to see is their morality is not theirs. It’s not. It requires an invisible god to be “complete.”

Believers are a threat to society because their morality is not self-governing, not independent. They need “guidance” and approval from something outside themselves. And if that something, that God, wants them to kill you—or their kids or their mother—then, like Abraham, they’ve got to man-up and do the deed. This might seem like a joke, but if you believe in God, then you have to obey him and his laws, and that even means doing his dirty work.

These sorts of studies about attitudes towards atheists are always disappointing. They also make me wonder if people like us who don’t believe will be more reluctant to “come out.” I’m certainly concerned about our kids. Will society consider our children untrustworthy or some sort of threat?

This is the reason I wait a little while before telling people that I don’t worship their god. It’s easy to make judgments about people you don’t know, but a helluva a lot harder to make assumptions about the people you do know, especially when they’ve been helpful or kind or they “act just like Christians.”

So how do we overcome these misperceptions? How do we help an uniformed, fearful public understand that people, regardless of what they believe or don’t believe, are capable of doing bad and good and all things in-between? How do we make them understand that we are not a threat to “their morals”?

  

SPAM and a New Site

You guys have probably figured out that someone with too much time on their hands hacked into my account and sent out a post about the Netherlands this morning.

Haha. So funny, right?

It was posted on a separate cached page, so you won’t actually find it on the blog.

I am upgrading the site, and I hope that it will have a lot more to offer.  So, I’m sorry for the spam this morning; I will be back to posting again soon.

  

Talking to Kids about God and Church


It’s been a while since we discussed how to talk with young children about God. Someone recently asked me to address this question. As always please feel free to add your thoughts at the end.

Even if we’re not raising our kids to believe, they will still hear about God. They’ll have questions. A lot. They’ll be curious. God is mysterious, just like monsters under the bed.

When our kids ask us about God, it’s good to ask them first what their thoughts are. “What or who do you think God is?” If kids are asking us questions, they’ve no doubt heard their friends—or perhaps a relative–talking about God.

“God is love” or “God made everything” are statements that a lot of young children will hear and repeat. We can ask our kids, “What does that mean, ‘God is love’? How do people show their love? How does mom and dad show their love for you? How does this God you hear about show love? Does it make sense that God made everything? Who made God?”

We want to keep it simple, yet help our children think through these ideas on their own. It’s best if we don’t make belief seem forbidden or mysterious. We want them to come to their own conclusions. Otherwise, like the preacher’s child who is drawn to what is prohibited, our kids may be drawn to religion for the wrong reasons.

We also want to be careful that we don’t give them language that they will then repeat to their friends. “My mom said that God isn’t real and that people who believe are stupid.” Although I’m sure some of us think this way on occasion, we don’t want our kids to alienate their friends or grow up intolerant of other world views. Young children often parrot what their parents tell them, and that’s why they’re so ripe for programming with dogma.

If your kids are like mine, they will continue with the God questions for many years because they hear a lot of things at school—things that are scary (about the devil or God’s wrath) and things that make God seem like a superhero (he helps everyone), which is an attractive concept for kids.

Kids might ask why people believe. The best response I’ve found is to tell kids that people believe because they want to or because they’ve been told to believe. Believing in God is a choice, whether believers understand this or not. It is a way that many people deal with the world and the fears they have. (“Relax. God’s in control.”)  Just as children have blankets, stuffed animals and imaginary friends, sometimes adults use “God” to help them cope. They pray to God, which means that a person will say out loud or think thoughts in their head and hope that this “God” can hear them, even though there are billions of people in the world. You might ask your child how prayer helps to solve problems and if there are better solutions to prayer. (Here’s an interesting video about what kids pray for.)

Some people believe praying helps and some people do not. But everybody has certain things that they do when they get sad, angry or scared. It helps to share with kids what you do when you feel sad or afraid. Do you call your friend? Get a hug from a loved one? Go for a walk or a run? Meditate? Cry?

I also told my kids that I won’t tell them to believe in things that 1) don’t make sense and 2) have no proof to accept as true. Examples are: 4-leaf clovers bring good luck. It’s bad to open umbrellas in the house. Witches, goblins, monsters, angels, fairies (insert other myths) are real.

There is one thing that I stressed a lot to my kids. They knew that Santa was a fairytale from a young age while many of their friends believed St. Nick was real. I told my kids that they should not tell or argue with friends or classmates about these things. Their friend’s parents were bringing them up to believe in Santa and/or God. It’s not our place to tell them what to believe. God should not be talked about on the playground or in school unless it’s in an educational context, and even then it can be tricky. Regardless, we don’t want our children to have the nation’s religious battle on their shoulders.

Another question our kids might ask is, “Why do people go to church?” As we know, there are now some churches for humanists, atheists and skeptics, but the majority of our kids will know Christians. Here’s how we might address this topic: People go to church because they like to be around other people. Just as there are book clubs and sports teams, some people like to share their interest in God. In some churches, they listen to talks, they pray and they sing. When people pray, they hope for things–happiness, peace or help with a problem. It’s sort of like wishing upon a star. Again, we might also ask our kids: “What sort of things could you do if you have a problem? Talk to mom? A counselor? A friend? Write down what is bothering you? Ask others for help?”

These are my thoughts. Talking about God with our kids will not be a one-time discussion. It will most likely be on-going because, like a superhero, God is everywhere. We want to make sure our kids understand that just because a friend believes in something does not make it real or true. Skepticism and critical thinking will be important skills they’ll need for the rest of their lives.

  

The (In)Efficacy of Prayer

In response to the request for prayers from the family of the 9-year-old who tragically shot her instructor in Arizona, I posted this, which I think many of you will understand:

Dear God: 

As a compassionate American, I was asked to pray for the family of a shooting victim and well as the children affected by the accident. I’m not sure what the hell you’re supposed to do about this, God, or what it even means to pray, but first, a little background.  (Read the rest here.)