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Lest his readers misunderstand him, or dismiss this rather shocking statement as mere off-the-cuff hyperbole, Dawkins goes on to clarify his position. "I am persuaded," he explains, "that the phrase 'child abuse' is no exaggeration when used to describe what teachers and priests are doing to children whom they encourage to believe in something like the punishment of unshriven mortal sins in an eternal hell."

I think Dawkins is actually correct to put these two concepts in the same room.

My parents weren't fire and brimstone types, but our church was - and it was a pretty standard Lutheran church. I spent most of my childhood and much of my teenage years convinced I was going to be living in a fire for infinity after my death, because as much as I tried, I didn't love jesus, and I simply knew I didn't have what it takes to get into heaven. You can't get by on a daily basis with this at the top of your mind, so there was a fair bit of mental suppression involved in my daily routine. I had frequent nightmares in which I was rejected by god at the pearly gates, cast down in to hell, and had my guts eviscerated by demons. On occasion I'd wake up screaming with my parents running into my room asking what was wrong - of course I couldn't tell them what really happened in the nightmare, because they then might find out I wasn't a good christian, and I couldn't let them down. Dealing with this dominated a lot of my early life.

Life is difficult, and hard lessons will be learned simply through existing. Children should not be subjected to this for the same reason they shouldn't be sexually abused.

Why Dawkins refuses to take this idea to its logical conclusion--to say that raising a child in a religious tradition, like other forms of child abuse, should be considered a crime punishable by the state--is a mystery, for it follows directly from the character of his atheism.

This is a fantastic, feel good statement written for people terrified by atheists, and framing this in terms of punishment verifies exactly which audience this article was written for. Sexual abuse is rightly punished by jail time, but to throw an entire culture in jail for their standard practices? Madness.

Fear is a component of why people believe in X, and it it undermines this argument:

Contrary to what Dawkins thinks, religious belief is not perpetuated by infection and incapacitation of the intellect.

Pascal's wager is a powerful artificial viral tool.

It is primarily perpetuated by perpetuating the institutions of religious belief. That, I would guess, is mainly a story of power and social control.

You are describing inertia, not origin.

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Mon Jan 21st, 2008 at 07:24:09 PM EST

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