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?


13 responses to “Religion and Child Abuse

  1. Debbie, first of all, thanks so much for posting a link to the fundraising page for my brother:) Much appreciated!!

    This column brings back an old memory of when I was about 9 or 10 and the sermon was about how wrong it was for people of the same sex to “lay together.” I was quite obsessed and worried if I had sinned because when my female cousins came over to spend the night, we “lay” together. Witnesses are big believers in demons and demon possession. I had many a nightmare about that. Even worse though was when I had to throw away my ‘troll’ dolls because they could possibly be “possessed.” There is a scripture in Zechariah that Witnesses say describes Armageddon, about ‘their eyes will fall from their sockets and their flesh will rot from their bones.” (rough paraphrase:) Raising any child with a steady diet of such grotesqueness, all in the name of god, is abuse and all the more so when it’s a child who is extra sensitive. I’m so glad I wised up and left religion when my own daughter was about 6-9 months old.

  2. Trishia–You’re welcome. I hope that helps. Good luck with fundraising for your brother’s medical bills.

    That is awful–the things you were told as a kid. And I imagine that was scary as hell. (haha) But actually, it’s not funny.

    My son went to a religious preschool. At the time, that’s all that was around here. You know what the preacher used to represent Jesus? A troll doll! He still remembers it.

  3. Once again you are slipping into diatribes against religion instead of promoting how to survive in the world as an atheist. You would be appalled if I wrote similar things about being atheist. I believe that blaming all of our problems on religion is severely misguided. As is saying that religion solves all of our problems. It was sad to note the part in the story where the person left his religion and his former friends sent angry emails. That is not what is taught in our religion. On the other hand, is it surprising that when he left a religious university that he also lost his university sponsored job and housing?

  4. Kidnike, I see critical articles all the time about atheists, and as you know, society in general considers nontheists as “suspect.”

    I am not in any way “blaming all of our problems on religion.” However, it is a big factor in many of society’s ills. If you want to tell me which points in particular were unfair, we can discuss.

  5. Kidnike … Does you religion consign all non-believers in said religion to an eternal hell? Then what you pretend to say is mere lip service. In fact, you diatribe your faith against all others, but you do it while hiding the fact. So, you are not upfront about what you really believe. Please, fill me in on what you really cling to as truth for those who do not believe as you do.

  6. Thank you Deborah for this post. I have been thinking alot about this particular subject. I have come to the conclusion that exposing kids to trigon is not only dangerous and detrimental to their development, but fundamentally a disservice to then as a parent.

    I have experienced all of the stuff you mentioned above, with an extra dipping of self inflicted guilt over things that I did in my childhood.

    • deborah mitchell

      @EMil Wentzel Even the “softer” religions are big on the guilt. After all, even before we’ve taken our first breath, we’re sinful and destined for hell unless we are “saved” or “baptized.” And then, only if we continue to please god. I noticed that a lot of people who left religion are actually pretty angry at all the time they’ve wasted.

      • I’m not particularly angry about anything within religion. My experiences have given me much insight into life and how living without religion is so much more. I have also been able to help others who are struggling, not just with doubting their faith or leaving religion, but in many other respects. This would not be possible if I had not gone through the pain of revealing my atheism and the fall out it created.

        The fact is, in many ways, having been through and reject indoctrination, I have come out a stronger, more robust, but fundamentally kinder and more empathetic.

        As for that double dipping of guilt, I’m working through my issues, which is healthy and freeing in itself.

  7. So very sad how this treatment/abuse of children is generally thought of as ‘mainstream.’

  8. If religion is so terrible for children, what do you make of studies like this?

  9. Any comments on the above-mentioned study? Would you like a full version of it?

  10. Why aren’t you responding to my question? I feel tempted to play a certain Roy Orbison song…

  11. What sect did these people grow up in since none of this was my experience being raised in a Christian family and attending church? Most churches I know of do not teach that sex is dirty but that it is one of God’s wonderful creations within the context of marriage. We also are not opposed to medical care even though the actual healing is out of human hands once the doctor treats the patient. There are some diseases that are incurable e.g. diabetes, kidney disease, but treatment may still be possible to extend life expectancy. Where I was born in Holland child birth was often taking place at homes with a midwife unless there was a medical emergency. True science is good but is not life threatening if a person may be taught something different than what is mainline. In my case I was taught science in the Canadian public school system, but also am open to a creationist perspective. Not everybody goes into science but some may go for the trades, or art, or music or some other field. That’s how I see it.

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