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Tag Archives: Richard Dawkins

Yes Paul, Religious Instruction is Child Abuse

Those who watched Q&A on Monday night might have been taken aback by US Biologist and Ecologist Dr Paul Ehrlich’s claim that religious instruction is child abuse.

Host Tony Jones had asked Dr Ehrlich whether he sang the US national anthem when he was at school. “We did, but we didn’t have child abuse required in those days. We didn’t have any religious instruction in the schools,” Dr Ehrlich said. 

He went on to say, “That’s what Richard Dawkins and lots of other people have said; that you teach people details about non-existent supernatural monsters and then behave in reaction to what you think they are telling you. That’s child abuse. You don’t raise your kids that way,” Dr Ehrlich said.

If there is one thing I feel I am qualified to comment on, it is Catholic religious instruction in the 1950s and 60s. Make no mistake, it was child abuse and I am one of those “lots of other people” Ehrlich was referring to and I have been saying it for years.

Imagine if you will, an eight year old in grade three at a Marist Brothers’ College in Melbourne in 1953. Every day we had one 40 minute period set aside for Religion, i.e. Catholic instruction.

Fundamental to that period was to learn the Catechism, a simplistic question and answer booklet that gave the brothers the authority to brainwash, bully, threaten and physically punish us for not learning.

mayThe particular version we were taught was approved by the Irish hierarchy in 1951, and was specially intended for teaching primary-school children, who were required to memorize each prescribed answer by rote.

You can view it here.

That teaching, delivered as it was with all the certainty and ferocity of a tyrant stayed with me for decades before I was finally able to shake it off.

At a recent catch up with some old school friends, I found that I wasn’t alone. While some were able to dismiss it as superstitious rubbish from the moment they left school, others like me weren’t so lucky.

But we all agreed it was psychological abuse, deliberate and unyielding. So, when I listened to Paul Ehlrich describe it for what it was, I said, ‘Bravo’.

One of the Catholic Church’s principle teachings is that of free will. We choose either to resist temptation or succumb to it. More rubbish.

It took some time to realise that all our actions are determined by a long chain of prior causes in our lives; for example, bad genes, an unhappy childhood, good or bad experiences, good or bad education.

Am I exercising free will writing this article? No, I am responding, perhaps reacting to a comment heard on Q&A. This article is written conditional to that. If it is conditional, it cannot be free.

Religious instruction is meant to instruct us into believing something and to react accordingly, bypassing free will. When that instruction is based on a false foundation, unsupported by science, it is psychological abuse.

For any govnorwayernment to sanction such instruction in the classrooms of our most vulnerable, is unconscionable. Unfortunately, Ehrlich then stated that we should respect people who want to do that and in saying so, he let the monster back in the classroom.

Why should we respect people who want to fill our childrens’ heads with such rubbish as the Catholic catechism? Why should we allow our children to be taught human values dressed up as divine instruction?

Are there not enough nut cases out there who, on the basis of false information have reacted in ways that have caused untold damage and heartbreak to otherwise normal, gentle law abiding citizens?

When will we learn?

 

The Ten Commandments

Image from travisjmorgan.com

Image from travisjmorgan.com

The Ten Commandments

I cannot ever remember reading a book that has not in some way left an impression on me. It might just be the absurdity of a poorly written novel that adheres it to one’s memory. Alternatively, it may very well be the profound sense of goodness that books like To Kill a Mockingbird (Harper Lee) or The Grapes of Wrath (John Steinbeck) do for your thoughts on social justice. Or even the boredom that a text book might bring in research or study. On the other hand, it may be writers like Tim Winton and Marcus Zusak who compose sentences that send one’s head into a divine heaven of literary bliss.

Even a poem can leave you with beguiling sense of awe. I recently read a poem that a friend sent me that painted a masterpiece with words that still occupy the labyrinth of my thoughts. The residue it leaves speaks of the power that imagination has.

This then brings me to the book by Richard Dawkins titled “The God Delusion”. It left me reconsidering many personal philosophical and theological concepts. However, with regard to impression. What has remained indelible in my mind is his short discourse on ‘The Ten Commandments.’ I have long held the view (Even at the zenith of a past theological acceptance) that in a modern day society where science and reason have superseded literal Biblical thought, that they hold little if any relevance. By relevance I mean directly connected with, and important to a modern twenty first century society.

In his book Dawkins advocates a replacement set of values drawn simply from a Google search and adds in a few of his own for consideration. He points out that they are not the work of any great sage or prophet or professional ethicist but rather from ordinary citizens.

Listed below are the original Ten Commandments and the suggested alternatives. I will say no more other than with your reason and logic decide which have the more relevance and are therefore more applicable for the world of today.

1. ‘You shall have no other gods before Me.’

2. ‘You shall not make for yourself a carved image–any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.’

3. ‘You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain.’

4. ‘Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.’

5. ‘Honour your father and your mother.’

6. ‘You shall not murder.’

7. ‘You shall not commit adultery.’

8. ‘You shall not steal.’

9. ‘You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour.’

10 .’You shall not covet your neighbours’ house; you shall not covet your neighbours’ wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbours’.’

Or these as alternatives.

1. Do not do to others what you would not want them to do to you.

2. In all things strive to cause no harm.

3. Treat your fellow human beings, your fellow living things and the world in general with love, honesty, faithfulness and respect.

4. Do not overlook evil or shrink from administering justice, but always be ready to forgive wrongdoing freely admitted and honestly regretted.

5. Live life with a sense of joy and wonder.

6. Always seek to be learning something new.

7. Test all things; always check your ideas against your facts, and be ready to discard even a cherished belief if it does not conform to them.

8. Never seek to cut yourself off from dissent; always respect the right of others to disagree with you.

9. Form independent opinions on the basis of your own reason and experience; do not allow yourself to be led blindly by others.

10. Question everything.

And some further alternatives from Dawkins.

1. Enjoy your own sex life (so long as it damages nobody) and leaves others to enjoy theirs in private whatever their inclinations, which are none or your business.

2. Do not discriminate or oppress on the basis of sex, race or (as far as possible) species.

3. Do not indoctrinate your children. Teach them how to think for themselves, how to evaluate evidence and how to disagree with you.

4. Value the future on a timescale longer than your own.

In conclusion. The purpose in writing this is my contention that the Bible is the only ‘How To” book ever written never to have been updated. If the Bible is the supposed literal (or inspired) word of God why then did he stop dictating or even revising? Now that’s something to think about.

‘The ability of thinking human beings to blindly embrace what they are being told without referring to evaluation and the consideration of scientific fact and reason,never ceases to amaze me. It is tantamount to the rejection of rationale explanation’.
John Lord.

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