Joined: April 2005
Is extreme religious indoctrination child abuse?
Over on PT Nick Matzke posted a reaction to the writings of Nancy Pearcy:
In that post, we see Nancy describe both her "early struggles" with her religious beliefs, as well as her current recommendations for how to indoctrinate children.
Nancy tell us what it was like to grow up orthodox Lutheran, and how much she struggled with it in high school; note the last sentence. No, I didn't clip anything out, it really is a stark transition:
|I grew up in a Lutheran home where I was taught orthodox Christian doctrine from an early age. I went to a Lutheran grade school. I knew the word “evolution” and I knew in some vague fashion that “they” were wrong and “we” were right. But the how’s and why’s, specific scientific theories and evidence, I was never taught.|
Halfway through high school, I realized I did not believe the Christianity I had been taught for so many years. I was hanging onto it out of respect for my parents. But I personally had no reasons for believing it to be true. I had no criterion for holding to creation instead of any other world view. I decided the only honest thing to do was reject the faith. I embarked on a tumultuous and painful search for years through agnostic philosophies and eastern religions.
What I had was a borrowed faith. I was a “second-generation Christian.” I believed because my parents and teachers told me to. My borrowed faith lasted only until I found out other young people believed opposite things because their parents and teachers told them to. Without being able to put it into words at the time, I realized that this was not an adequate reason to belive.
I did eventually become convinced of the truth of the Bible and accept Jesus as my Lord.
OK, so she was born again. Let's move the current day, where she now profers this as the best way to indoctrinate (er, i mean teach) kids:
|It is a major concern of mine to help children make creationism their own. That happens only when the child, on whatever level he is able, thinks the issue through for himself. I hope not only to teach the subject of creationism, but to teach children how to think.|
To help our young people find their way through the creation-evolution debate, we need to teach them how to handle basic scientific concepts. What is the difference between a fact and a theory? Between data and interpretation? How can the same data be explained by different conceptual schemes? What constitutes evidence? What does it mean to say a piece of datum is evidence for or against a theory? How can we misuse evidence, or mislead with statistics?
It is not enough to teach children to memorize individual proofs for creationism. It is good to know, for example, about the implications of the contemporaneity of man and dinosaurs.
do note the last sentence again.
This got me thinking. First, that parents who expose their children to extreme religious viewpoints, while not preparing them for how those views differ from observable reality set them up for the kind of mental dissonance that Nancy describes in the first quote. I don't know just how extreme it was, but it's not like I (nor I'm sure most of you) haven't seen this kind of reaction before, and watched teenagers (and older) suffer as they struggle to reconcile an early set of taught beliefs with what they actually see and learn as they get older. Second, that the way Nancy describes the way she wishes kids taught reminds me of descriptions of some brainwashing cults.
It's probable that if we actually asked Nancy to detail what she really wants wrt teaching kids, it wouldn't look so odd. However, on the surface at least, there are some disturbing things in what is quoted above. What I see is someone so convinced of their worldview, that they would be willing to distort information and out and out lie to kids to "prepare them for us evilutionists" (to borrow from our favorite AFDave). Which got me thinking that that sounds an awful lot like cultism.
Further, if we think about the implications of cultism on children, one could make an argument that this is a form of mental abuse, and therefore child abuse.
Now just to be specific, I’m not talking religion in general here, but working back from extreme examples of cultism, and eventually locating exactly where the kind of indoctrination profered by Nancy fits on that scale. Moreover, our own AFDave has provided examples of the places he is indoctrinating his kids at (and proud of it). Are these examples of cultism?
so let’s start with the most extreme example i can think of that actually DOES happen:
If your neighbors had kids and submitted them to a brainwashing cult, would you consider that child abuse or not?
To steal a post from that thread, Registered User had this to offer as a place to start:
|Posted by Registered User on May 24, 2006 01:16 AM (e) |
There are four forms of child maltreatment: emotional abuse, neglect, physical abuse and sexual abuse.
Emotional Abuse: (also known as: verbal abuse, mental abuse, and psychological maltreatment) Includes acts or the failures to act by parents or caretakers that have caused or could cause, serious behavioral, cognitive, emotional, or mental disorders. This can include parents/caretakers using extreme and/or bizarre forms of punishment, such as confinement in a closet or dark room or being tied to a chair for long periods of time or threatening or terrorizing a child. Less severe acts, but no less damaging are belittling or rejecting treatment, using derogatory terms to describe the child, habitual scapegoating or blaming.
i.e., “That’s God’s punishment for what you did;” “When you do that, you make Jesus sad” “Do you want to go to ####?” etc., when spoken to 3-6 year olds.
Whether that sort of stuff can constitute child abuse hasn’t been addressed directly, as far as I know. The big bad atheism-promoting ACLU hasn’t gone there, to my knowledge.
Many people — even self-identifying “libertarians” — believe that parental autonomy is a fundamental right. It’s an interesting and (IMHO) an important political issue but one that this country is far far away from ever seriously addressing.
well, if we're far away from seriously addressing this issue in general, perhaps we should get started here.