Physical versus mental child abuse

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Following a recent report in the Daily Mail, various twitterers are horrified at what I am alleged to have said about child abuse. It was in The God Delusion published in 2006 and distributed in more than 2 million copies and therefore hardly red hot news.


In view of the tweeted responses to the Daily Mail article, I thought it might be helpful to reproduce what I actually said in 2006. Incidentally, I was myself sexually abused by a teacher when I was about nine or ten years old. It was a very unpleasant and embarrassing experience, but the mental trauma was soon exorcised by comparing notes with my contemporaries who had suffered it previously at the hands of the same master. Thank goodness, I have never personally experienced what it is like to believe – really and truly and deeply believe ­– in hell. But I think it can be plausibly argued that such a deeply held belief might cause a child more long-lasting mental trauma than the temporary embarrassment of mild physical abuse.

Anecdotes and plausibility arguments, however, need to be backed up by systematic research, and I would be interested to hear from psychologists whether there is real evidence bearing on the question. My expectation would be that violent, painful, repeated sexual abuse, especially by a family member such as a father or grandfather, probably has a more damaging effect on a child’s mental well-being than sincerely believing in hell. But ‘sexual abuse’ covers a wide spectrum of sins, and I suspect that research would show belief in hell to be more traumatic than the sort of mild feeling-up that I suffered.

Physical versus mental child abuse

Extract from Chapter 9 of The God Delusion (2006) by Richard Dawkins

Once, in the question time after a lecture in Dublin, I was asked what I thought about the widely publicized cases of sexual abuse by Catholic priests in Ireland. I replied that, horrible as sexual abuse no doubt was, the damage was arguably less than the long-term psychological damage inflicted by bringing the child up Catholic in the first place. It was an off-the-cuff remark made in the heat of the moment, and I was surprised that it earned a round of enthusiastic applause from that Irish audience (composed, admittedly, of Dublin intellectuals and presumably not representative of the country at large). But I was reminded of the incident later when I received a letter from an American woman in her forties who had been brought up Roman Catholic. At the age of seven, she told me, two unpleasant things had happened to her. She was sexually abused by her parish priest in his car. And, around the same time, a little schoolfriend of hers, who had tragically died, went to hell because she was a Protestant. Or so my correspondent had been led to believe by the then official doctrine of her parents’ church. Her view as a mature adult was that, of these two examples of Roman Catholic child abuse, the one physical and the other mental, the second was by far the worst. She wrote

"Being fondled by the priest simply left the impression (from the mind of a 7 year old) as ‘yucky’ while the memory of my friend going to hell was one of cold, immeasurable fear. I never lost sleep because of the priest – but I spent many a night being terrified that the people I loved would go to Hell. It gave me nightmares."

Admittedly, the sexual fondling she suffered in the priest’s car was relatively mild compared with, say, the pain and disgust of a sodomized altar boy. And nowadays the Catholic Church is said not to make so much of hell as it once did. But the example shows that it is at least possible for psychological abuse of children to outclass physical. It is said that Alfred Hitchcock, the great cinematic specialist in the art of frightening people, was once driving through Switzerland when he suddenly pointed out of the car window and said, ‘That is the most frightening sight I have ever seen.’ It was a priest in conversation with a little boy, his hand on the boy’s shoulder. Hitchcock leaned out of the car window and shouted, ‘Run, little boy! Run for your life!’

‘Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me.’ The adage is true as long as you don’t really believe the words. But if your whole upbringing, and everything you have ever been told by parents, teachers and priests, has led you to believe, really believe, utterly and completely, that sinners burn in hell (or some other obnoxious article of doctrine such as that a woman is the property of her husband), it is entirely plausible that words could have a more long-lasting and damaging effect than deeds. I am persuaded 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.

Written By: Richard Dawkins
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143 COMMENTS

  1. Thank you for your frank and honest thoughts. The abuse that is carried out every day in the world under the belief of ancient religious doctrine leaves me achingly sad. The obvious physical abuse gets much of the news headlines, yet when I think on all the mental suffering on our planet that these doctrines cause, that can leave a child to think they are cursed to be born a girl, or keep a child in fear of imaginary evil their whole lives, It leaves me wishing for a time machine, so I could move forward enough to when all humans know it to be nothing but ancient supernatural superstition.

    In favour of your point also is the shear number of children subjected to these distorting belief systems. Billions. And that’s just those children alive today.

    Thank you for the difference you are making.

    • In reply to #1 by Petersalole:

      Thank you for your frank and honest thoughts. The abuse that is carried out every day in the world under the belief of ancient religious doctrine leaves me achingly sad. The obvious physical abuse gets much of the news headlines, yet when I think on all the mental suffering on our planet that these doctrines cause, that can leave a child to think they are cursed to be born a girl, or keep a child in fear of imaginary evil their whole lives, It leaves me wishing for a time machine, so I could move forward enough to when all humans know it to be nothing but ancient supernatural superstition.

      In favour of your point also is the shear number of children subjected to these distorting belief systems. Billions. And that’s just those children alive today.

      Thank you for the difference you are making.

      if you have that time machine.. please, please go back in time and kick some serious ass in the past, which will allow for our past after that to be more bright and hence also our future ;)

  2. I totally agree about the sin business and burning in hell for all eternity scam.

    Father Ted and Rowan Atkinson do a very good take on this.

    Raised Roman Catholic in Ireland sin and hell were all we heard as children and of course being sent away to the institutions if we were naughty.

    Our lives were lived in fear of that devil coming for us if we sinned, but the worst part was we were blamed if the men in dressed raped or abused us. it was all our fault for leading the holy men astray. We were the Eve ill children of Eve and all born in sin.

    The only article I ever found to describe child abuse is here
    http://wellbeingfoundation.com/sexual-abuse.html

    Of course the author was not appreciated one iota in Ireland.

    I would not advise comparing mental to physical abuse as the effects are different for each child.

    The sexual abuse leaves its mental scars, its shame, its guilt, its fear, its nightmares.

    The old guilt business- the gift that keeps on giving is the favorite of the men in dresses and the nuns too.

    What a relief it was to escape Ireland and not have to raise children there in that cult like all my siblings.

    The black sheep is hunted like you would not believe. All efforts are made to get black sheep like me back into the fold with the herd mentality, especially the sin and not going to heaven and excommunication.

    Well, I had fun with them in the end, saying I excommunicated myself, so how about that.!! shock, horror.

    Even with all the light of truth shed on the abuse, brainwashing, torture etc inside the cult, sheeple still stay, bonded to their abuser in fear and guilt, hoping he will improve one day, but too scared to leave.

    I asked an old woman once why she remains a member and she said- what else is there? if I leave I have nothing.

    That about sums it all up from Ireland.

  3. In total agreement that scaring the wits out of children with stories of hell is child abuse. I know of someone who was suicidal at five, because she was told that only children are guaranteed a place in heaven. She’d been frightened so badly with stories of the devil and hell, she wanted to die, and spent her early years living under a dreadful cloud of anxiety, unable to articulate her fears to her parents.When they finally learned of it many years later, they were appalled, but by then the damage had been done.

  4. The effects of terrorising children with visions of any kind of hell, with the associated pressure to behave in certain ways ( or not to) can only be utterly destructive. But comparing different kinds of abuse seems unwise as everyone’s experiences are so varied, and subjective to a degree.

  5. And when these practices go hand in hand then the results are truly devastating.
    Unfortunately for my peers when growing up this was the norm and i witnessed it on a daily basis.Thirty years on and these poor souls are still living with the scars.Mark my words this extreme behaviour towards young impressionable minds does not get easily cured.

  6. “…and I would be interested to hear from psychologists whether there is real evidence bearing on the question.”

    It’s worth mentioning a case from Iran where 2 boys ( and close friends ) coming from very religious families, began to masturbate and kept it a secret for a long time but they couldn’t live with the thought of ” this great sin “( as they’ve been told ) and committed suicide. As far as I know, the investigation didn’t continued ( as usual ) when the facts in the case screamed : shame on our mullahs and clerics.

    A painful memory for me from a painful time in my life.

  7. My mom enrolled me in a catholic school from preschool til high-school. It’s ridiculous that religion is part of the curriculum and can actually impede your path to college if you didn’t take it seriously. It was “hell this” and “hell that” everyday for sixteen years. Nobody cared because everyone was too busy being a kid. It was just really annoying and pointless. I still can’t believe those guys got paid to lie to little kids. We probably would’ve learned more about the world from a homeless man than those glorified babysitters.

  8. It’s possible that the part of the brain that’s associated with creating religious experience is also responsible for creating sexual experience. Once this area of the brain is stimulated by either or, both sensations are triggered simultaneously. Another explanation, from the psychological standpoint, could be that religious abuse leads to sexual abuse in the form of decompensation. The best solution for Catholic priests would be to remove themselves from religion.

  9. Most children that have been molested were not exactly aware, at the time, that what was being done to them was wrong, because molesting priests are just as good at persuading a child that molestation is right, as they are good at persuading them that it is wrong, depending on what’s in their interests. Plus, children are usually the most vulnerable prey, and may not be intelligent enough to be able to squirm out of this kind of situation, because of the coercion factor, that priests take advantage of.

    Hypothetically, if children are removed from the priest’s environment, as a potential trigger, during their religious exultation, this might help priests overcome their compulsions, and this whole “culture” of catholic priest molestation, will cease to exist. I think it’s more than just a character flaw that priests can correct with threats of imprisonment or persuasion. It’s a disease of the “soul”, similar to drug addiction, that can only be possible to overcome when treated as an illness.

    It’s outrageous that some people had to go through all that, but I’d blame more those people, who refuse to come up with real solutions to this problem.

  10. The fear is real and horrific for many people. For a time I was a member of an Ex-Christian site (not as an ex-Christian, but in a support role, and some of the stories from ex-believers were enough to persuade me that the indoctrination by “Christian” religions is is repulsive and long-lasting. It’s bad enough telling young children that they are “disgusting sinners”, without additionally threatening them with eternity in a burning lake of fire if they don’t follow the rules of the Church.

    I have tried without success to get UN to get the teaching of hell to children banned, but I remain hopeful.

  11. Seems like there are two main groups who are into this nonsense of threatening people with hell. There are the Catholics. And there are the Evangelicals.

    Listen to the video at the bottom of this page for an example of the sort of bilge pronounced by one of the leading trendy evangies of the age. Mark Driscoll, the “Hell Sucks” bonus clip:

    http://marshill.com/2012/08/08/jesus-gave-us-communion-jesus-loves-his-church-7-sermon-notes

    As he likes to say, and it has been tweeted and RT’d dozens of times:

    “The truth is, hell is hot, forever’s a long time, there is no bar, there is weeping and gnashing of teeth, and there is no dessert. Just worms feasting on your flesh forever.”

    Some propaganda:

    http://marshill.com/2010/05/18/pastor-mark-driscoll-one-of-the-most-influential-preachers-of-last-25-years

    Grim…..

    SG

  12. Especially sad is the reality that it is not necessarily either or. Victims of incest in a deeply religious household, for example, could suffer doubly from the abuse and the belief that the abuse must result in their spending eternity in hell, or at least forever hated by god.

    I wonder if that might be a recipe for ultra-religiosity.

  13. I read the Daily Mail article, underneath which were the predictable frothing-at-the-mouth outraged comments by Catholics wondering how anyone could claim that teaching a child about Hell could possibly be worse than sexually abusing the child.

    What none of them seemed to remember was that officials of the Catholic Church are responsible for BOTH types of atrocity – and that was obviously why that specific comparison was made.

    The article was heavily slanted to give the impression that Richard thought teaching about Hell was always worse than any kind of sexual abuse.

  14. Yes, Professor Dawkins, indoctrinating children with superstitious beliefs about their sinfulness and their need to be saved from hell is a vile form of child abuse. I was brought up and educated that way myself, and I was in my forties when I was finally able to think entirely independently of that pernicious conditioning. It is time to start telling religionists that they are acting immorally when they impose their superstitions on the children under their charge, who have every right to trust in the truth and accuracy of what their carers and educators teach them. Superstition is not knowledge, so they fail in their duty to the children under their care by teaching them superstition. They fail doubly in this respect when the superstition they teach children is frightening, demeaning and coercive through the fear that it induces in immature minds.

  15. I know what you mean. I am currently enrolled in a small Catholic school. Every day in 4th period Religion class, our teacher makes his case in front of the class, but hardly anyone pays him any mind. For the most part, the class is always engaged in hushed conversation or working on something for another class. As the only Atheist in my grade, to my knowledge, I can’t help thinking that religion means just about as much to them as it does to me. The only difference is that I have renounced it entirely and they still cling to it out of fear. It’s as if the negative affects of religion are the only ones present, and the supposed positive affects, such as inner peace, are nowhere to be seen. In reply to #7 by Detective Lazy:

    My mom enrolled me in a catholic school from preschool til high-school. It’s ridiculous that religion is part of the curriculum and can actually impede your path to college if you didn’t take it seriously. It was “hell this” and “hell that” everyday for sixteen years. Nobody cared because everyone was too busy being a kid. It was just really annoying and pointless. I still can’t believe those guys got paid to lie to little kids. We probably would’ve learned more about the world from a homeless man than those glorified babysitters.

  16. To play devil’s advocate, I can remember my first doubts about religion being rooted in what I was taught about hell. I was raised in the Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod, which taught that salvation was available to all who were baptized and believe that Jesus was the savior. There might have been something about confessing one’s sins, but I think there was a general catchall that acknowledging one was a sinner was probably good enough.

    I can remember quite clearly that it seemed unfair and unkind that some kid my age who had the tragic misfortune of having Jewish or Hindu or whatever parents would be eternally damned. I think I actually formulated it in terms of a kid being born in a non-Western country–”Why should some kid born in China who dies go to hell? Its not his fault his parents didn’t raise him Christian!”

    My point is not to defend such awful teachings about hell, of course, but to posit that squishier sorts of religions that don’t bother with hell-talk are perhaps easier for a skeptically-minded kid to swallow.

  17. I don’t think anyone will disagree with what you said. The problem seems to be that some people do accept the doctrines of hell, and given that there is no good reason to believe hell actually exist, and many reasons to suspect that it would be unpleasant to believe in a hell, why encourage children to accept it, and might that be abusive?

    In reply to #17 by Functional Atheist:

    To play devil’s advocate, I can remember my first doubts about religion being rooted in what I was taught about hell. I was raised in the Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod, which taught that salvation was available to all who were baptized and believe that Jesus was the savior. There might have been something about confessing one’s sins, but I think there was a general catchall that acknowledging one was a sinner was probably good enough.

    I can remember quite clearly that it seemed unfair and unkind that some kid my age who had the tragic misfortune of having Jewish or Hindu or whatever parents would be eternally damned. I think I actually formulated it in terms of a kid being born in a non-Western country–”Why should some kid born in China who dies go to hell? Its not his fault his parents didn’t raise him Christian!”

    My point is not to defend such awful teachings about hell, of course, but to posit that squishier sorts of religions that don’t bother with hell-talk are perhaps easier for a skeptically-minded kid to swallow.

  18. The key reason for the perpetuation of religion is that their beliefs are imposed during childhood.
    If religious people were not allowed to abuse this vulnerable stage of life, religion would only survive in a few subjects incapable of developing critical reasoning. This is child abuse.

  19. I read this Daily Mail article.

    I hasten to add that I hadn’t bought the rag, it was on the papers rack of one of my watering holes where I have tea or coffee.

    It was presented completely out of context, as usual, but I’m bound to say that you do sometimes leave yourself open to such attacts Richard.

  20. For me it is with great satisfaction that I read your lines. I was brought up in the strictest catholic belief, during the after – war – time in Germany. It took me enormous efforts to free myself from it. When I went to live in Mexico later on for a total of 38 years, I could gradually see the national damage the catholic church had done and is still doing to the entire population. I finally left the country after trying to fight the system for 10 years. Back in Germany now after 45 years of absence, I am glad to see that the German society seems to have progressed in religious matters. However, the fact that religious instruction is taught in all schools, of course only to those students who participate “voluntarily” (by order of their parents), makes me think there could be too much influence from the different religious sectors on government policies.

  21. I did not study the matter in school, but have work experience with victims. As well I come from a culture where many of my childhood peers were prostitutes, so I don’t take the comparison lightly.

    I fear your argument may fall into limbo (…speaking of the unbaptized). When evaluating sexual abuse harms (emotional disorders, relationship problems, drug abuse, suicidality, PTSD, cognitive/memory impairment, etc), there is a growing understanding that much (if not most) of the harm is inflicted by social reaction and cultural stigma, and not the abuse itself. The amount of intrinsic harm is not known and is under serious review the last couple of decades. For instance, an adult rape victim may be more prone to committing suicide in different societies. We can not separate the social factor from the harm and we can not separate the influence of religion from sexual attitudes (such as shame), so much so that some researchers would argue you are simply comparing two forms of religious mental-abuse.

    That’s the state of the debate last I checked.

    If you want quantified data, you are talking about prolonged-stress (“toxic stress”) as occurs in children and there is tons of data on that. I was not raised Christian, but I believe the fear of Hell produces a prolonged anxiety similar to poverty-stress scenarios, or survivor guilt which is also well studied. You simply need to show the Hell doctrine causes prolonged stress and apply current models. Personally would accept a logical argument for, in absence of a field study but a field study would be very interesting and beneficial to how society treats children.

    Can we say mental abuse can exceed the harm of physical/sexual abuse? Yes, of course. The physiological aspects of mental abuse can last much longer than physical abuse (the impacts of prolonged stress response in children). I don’t think there is any dispute here.

    Can we say the Hell doctrine causes harm? Yes, of course. However, one could argue that it also also benefits children, just as the Huns would slash the faces of newborns to prepare them for a life of pain. Spare the rod and spoil the child. Abrahamism endorse what we now call child-abuse. What we call child-abuse has been a survival necessity in different societies. What can benefit a child in a brutal society, is needless abuse in ours. Do we currently live in such a society? The more honest conversation is one where Christians defend their practices, not redefine abuse. Is the anxiety over Hell currently beneficial to children as (accepting the terms of Abrahamism) beating them once was?

  22. Sexual abuse is a bad thing.
    Indoctrination of children with such unimaginable fear is a bad thing too .
    We should fight against these two forms of child abuse , why bother compare them to decide which one has a worse impact on the child , the point is that these are abusive and should be stopped .
    Every child has had different experiences , I cannot judge who suffered more than whom .
    That’s my opinion.

  23. I read a newsstory about an iranian girl that suffered from threats of “honor” killing. Even her mother was in on it because”she was afraid of God every second of her life”. If that isn’t abuse to be subjected to such a belief, I don’t know what is.

  24. There is a bright spot. With every passing day and with each one of these kerfuffles the general attitude (at least in my neck of the woods – Denver, CO, USA) is that teaching kids about the awful and imaginary pain and suffering of hell isn’t such a good idea. Simply getting the comparison between hell-teaching and child abuse out into the world is a success in my book. Well done as always.

  25. As a sometime Roman Catholic, educated in Ireland by Christian Brothers in the 1960s, I can say with certainty that I cannot recall ever being taught about hell save for some passing references. The whole thrust of the religious teaching was about the need for forgiveness and love. I can only marvel at some of the people who have posted comments here – where the hell were they taught and who the hell were their teachers?

    Dawkins’ comments are vile and ignorant and are an insult both to victims of sexual abuse and to Roman Catholics. I may no longer share that religion’s beliefs – I became an apostate at 15 and am now in my sixties – but at least I know enough about them to know that Dawkins’ cartoon version of Catholicism is misinformed and inaccurate.

  26. Dear Professor Dawkins

    Reading your post ‘Physical versus mental child abuse’ and asking if ‘belief might cause a child more long-lasting mental trauma’ reminded me of something I always meant to tell you in case you thought it was of interest.

    I was ‘cured’ of my Catholic imposed psychological issues regarding my feeling that God was watching everything I did (embarrassing, restricting) and my fear of the supernatural, by reading The God Delusion. And I wondered if other readers have been cured in similar ways?

    To briefly outline my experiences, I went to Catholic schools, was taught by a few nuns and indoctrinated from an early age. My evidence based disbelief started from about the age of 8 when I read about Darwin & evolution in my dinosaur books. But never the less the conditioning (including being forced to go to church) was such that I battled with the thought that God was watching everything I was doing into my 30s. In my 20s I was still fearful enough of the supernatural that I was too scared to stay alone in a ‘scary’ house, something I was mocked for.

    I knew I wanted to embrace atheism completely but battled with the guilt of feeling that I was letting God down by not believing – and that he would know I had chosen not to believe – and that one day I would have to face my choice to reject Him in the afterlife. At the same time I felt that was somewhat irrational and very unlikely. But the effects of the conditioning meant I could not let go.

    Until I read The God Delusion. Your book made me angry at what I realised had been a stitch up by the Catholic Church. And very pleased I had read it. Now I could reject God without guilt & shake off my conditioning with more confidence.

    An unexpected upshot of reading your book was though that almost overnight I no longer had a fear of the supernatural. I could for instance be in the darkest, ‘scariest’ house and I no longer had anything to fear. I wonder if you have heard of anyone else being ‘cured’ in a similar way? That the anxieties put in them by Catholicism (‘fear’ of God, fear of what might happen in the afterlife and therefore a fear of the supernatural) have been relieved by your work?

    My case may be very mild & unimportant but it leaves me wondering what right the Catholic Church has to cause any long lasting mental trauma to children who are then stuck with the effects in adulthood? What does it achieve? Do children have a ‘human right’ to not be traumatised in this way?

    Yours in sincere thanks for writing the The God Delusion, ‘curing’ me & for all your continuing work

    Wellthataboutwrapsitupforgod

  27. When I was about twelve, my parents took up the belief of their current congregation that the area that we lived in was soon to be flooded by God as a retaliation to some form of sin. But, they said that no one would believe them if they spoke up about it, so we quietly left town and headed for a hotel in the mountains, without a word to my adult siblings or any of my more mild Christian friends. My younger siblings were horrifed and crying – I was for some reason more internally manic by that point. But with that and other examples I can attest to the ignorant harm that parents will put on their children when the family is too fascinated by divine justice. This is such a comforting point to see other people making and agreeing with.

  28. Richard, I think your comments on child abuse in the God delusion were actually rather mild and perhaps the horrified tweeters you refer to should be copied to the RDFRS site for comment so they realise the extent of opposition they face.
    As to the issue, a young relation of mine who attended a convent at about age 7-12 had great difficulty sleeping for about two years because of her fear of possibly dying in her sleep and going to the horrendous Catholic hell that was being shown in graphic detail in videos to the children. Now, twenty years later she still cannot get the images out of her mind. If that is not SEVERE psychological abuse, then I don’t know what is!

  29. Thank you with my whole heart, Mr. Dawkins, for all that you do.
    I was raised in a fundamentalist household here in the US and it nearly drove me to the point of suicide on multiple occasions.. I personally believe the brainwashing I experienced is akin to a mental rape. Though I have never experienced the horrors of sexual abuse. I have experienced physical and mental abuse at the hands of, and by the doctrine of christianity. I can personally attest to the long lasting damage suffered by an indoctrination of fear. Specifically, the doctrine of the “second coming” was damaging to me. I could not understand why a “God” would create such beauty simply to come back and destroy it. This was being taught to ma as literal truth by our church and by my parents. Additionally, it was an impossible challenge for any teacher to get me to give any credence to preparing for any kind of future, when the “truth” I was being taught at home and church was that it was all going to end in the year 2000. On top of all that, I would get in trouble for doing badly in school! (if you can believe it.. A true test of my love of irony..). All in all I estimate that I had about nine years of my life stolen by this nonsense, and then I stole another seven from myself, with self destructive behavior arising from my self-hatred and confusion, and the processing out all of the religious foolishness. So I can see your point. Maybe I am an extreme case. Maybe not. But our species has surely lost a lot of productivity to religion. Even if I represent only a couple of percent. That is for sure. The truth is, No one should have to suffer Sexual Abuse, Beatings, or the mental Rape that is religious indoctrination.
    P.S. enjoyed the “debate” on Al Jazeera.. Always fun watching the cell trying to argue with the microscope..

  30. Everyone defending this piece: There’s been a lot of talk about how people critisising Dawkins are trying to take away his free speech. Noone is doing that. But free speech applies to everyone, even – gasp – the people who disagree with what you say. With that in mind, I have some things to say.

    It is absolutely ridiculous to want to quantify human suffering. To me, personally, it probably wouldn’t have made a lot of difference if my abuser had had intercourse with me. I experienced what Dawkins calls “mild” sexual abuse. I thought I would be in pain forever, until I fell asleep one night without crying for the first time in three years. After that I still felt deeply traumatised, and continue to be so in many ways, almost 10 years later.

    What Dawkins did wrong wasn’t saying that religious indoctrination can be child abuse of a very serious kind. I’m not going to say no child has felt worse than I did as a result of that because, again, YOU CAN NOT QUANTIFY HUMAN SUFFERING. And more than that; trying to quantify human suffering inevitably leads to the diminishing of other people’s feelings and experiences – which, especially in the case of abuse is a Very Bad Thing. Dawkins’ experience might have been one of “temporary embarrassment”, but that is not the case for everyone. His experience is valid, but it can’t be used to generalise. Some people might be repeatedly raped in a violent way and feel relatively okay, while some people will experience inappropriate touching and have their lives ruined. Neither of them are reacting wrong.

    I don’t know if there is comment moderation here or what, but I hope people will be able to see this comment. I’m not trying to be aggressive, I’m just trying to make people see why some victims of sexual abuse would be hurt by this.

  31. It frustrates me when I see a brilliant man accused of anything simply because he has been elevated to a higher standing in society.It happens far too often…fame touches someones life and suddenly every thought that is uttered allowed becomes gospel etched in stone for eternity…forever to be judged by all of mankind.Isnt Richard Dawkins allowed a “my bad” occasionally?! If you read his entire comment in context you can most assuredly understand what he is saying.do we really need to try and twist every letter and punctuation in his statement to hold some type of eternal truth or mistake?cant we,as educated humans,just say…we get what you mean Mr.Dawkins…its all good.?

  32. I totally agree with this but the impact of even a minor sexual abuse will depend on the sensitivity of the child as well as the moral codes that have been instilled in them by their parents,the community they live and their religion. The belief in hell is also dependent on these factors but I find it hard to understand how religious people (believing in hell )can act in ways that they know should send them to hell. All I can conclude is that hell is too abstract a concept for them or it has no reality for them as it does for some individuals and they are unable to reconcile cause and effect -their actions and its consequences. This makes them not very bright people, hence very dangerous to others mentally ( peddling visions of hell) and physically ( abusive).

  33. Given the RCC’s love of psychological and real threats, it is no surprise that the conquistadores and their successors were such successful missionaries in central and south America. The sorts of abuses involved in those earlier religions, provided a broad basis of mental preparation for Hell & a bit of stake-burning!

  34. Most decent people would say it’s immoral to show a horror movie to a five / six / seven year old

    So it’s not ok to fill their minds with images of hell (that are supposed to surpass even the most extreme horror movies out there)

    Yes, i think that is abuse / cruel

  35. It is plausible that an inadequate religious parent can cause a great distress in a child from an early age, and I mean it for having witnessed -at work-the case of a girl that cannot think of being alone with her mother, just thinking in antecipation, she would be in a great distress, her mother refused to buy her dolls, because it is sinful, a car toy, because it makes girls homosexuals.

    The repetition of this inadequate behavior of the mother-and others- would cause a serious refuse of the mother by the child, so that I thought the child might have a problem herself, but in fact nothing seems wrong with the child´s mental health from a psychologist´s point of view after having evaluating the child, and the child is spontaneous, happy and very intelligent it seems, and gets distressed only when she knows that she´ll be alone with her mother- curiously enough, the places her mother chooses to meet with her daughter is the garden of a church, what is not thought to be adequate for the child either.

    ( However I cannot think of diminishing any sexual abuse of children by no means, for it is a brutal thing, how resilient a child may be).

    It seems there isn´t anymore an edit button ?

  36. I remember having read in a book of Claude-Levy Strauss a remark about a brasilian indian chief that could no more face jesuit priests, and always use to send a messenger, because he couldn´t forget that the priest spoiled some of his tribal traditions (his marriage celebration I think).

    In reply to #39 by Alan4discussion:

    In reply to #2 by Lilith27:

    I totally agree about the sin business and burning in hell for all eternity scam.

    Father Ted and Rowan Atkinson do a very good take on this.

    On a lighter note:-
    ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X_hcO4N7hM0 )

  37. Thanks for the reminder to read your excellent book again. Interesting, having reached into the mire to find the article in the Daily Mail, it would seem the majority of the reader have “rated” pro Dawkins comments higher than the Widdecombesque variety. Had full doing some rating myself.

    I left a comment, perhaps other may like to as well.

    “I think Richard Dawkins is absolutely right – but I have the advantage of having read the original in a book that was published in 2006!

    The writer of this shoddy piece quotes a tiny part of a chapter out of context and pretends this is a recent “scandal” citing the outrage of politicanS and charitieS. He then gets one charity NACAP and one EX politician to comment. Peter Saunders of NACAP may not have been made aware of the context and Anne Widdecombe.. well, I doubt any context would have been necessary there..

    The real scandal is a Daily Mail writer’s greed and cynicism – a few inflammatory grubby lines – at the expense of the truth and at the expense of all of us either sexually abused as children or abused by religion or, in the worst cases; sexually abused by the purveyors of religion!

    Fortunately – the smarter readers here seem to have detected the bullsh*t – hence the higher ratings supporting Dawkins.”

  38. In reply to #28 by Tertullian:

    I can only marvel at some of the people who have posted comments here – where the hell were they taught and who the hell were their teachers?

    I’ve long since given up trying to figure that out.

  39. In reply to #28 by Tertullian:
    Hell did go out of fashion in Catholic schools in the late 1960s and the 1970s, as one of the results of the Second Vatican Council’s efforts at aggiornamento, and, as you mention, religious instruction focused on the kinder aspects of the religion. But religious instruction prior to that time was much more oppressive and the pedagogic methods were much more violent, both emotionally and physically, in those days before corporal punishment was outlawed in schools. Under the last two popes Catholic education has been returning to its more traditional doctrinal basis but, thanks to legal restraints now in place, with a gentler manner. So the kind of abuse that I and others of my generation and older experienced at school is now, one hopes, mostly of historical interest, yet the superstitions taught in Catholic schools are themselves a form of abuse in that mere humbug (however much dignified by antiquity) is presented as true knowledge, and the potential for undeserved guilt and all the troubles that can arise therefrom remains to disturb the more vulnerable pupils. Given how much the Catholic Church has returned to its traditional dogmatic style under the present pope, this state of affairs in Catholic schools and communities can only be expected to worsen (though Catholic pupils at least need not fear having the backs of their legs caned for not being able to name the seven sacraments or whatever).

    As a sometime Roman Catholic, educated in Ireland by Christian Brothers in the 1960s, I can say with certainty that I cannot recall ever being taught about hell save for some passing references. The whole thrust of the religious teaching was about the need for forgiveness and love. I can only marvel at some of the people who have posted comments here – where the hell were they taught and who the hell were their teachers?

    Dawkins’ comments are vile and ignorant and are an insult both to victims of sexual abuse and to Roman Catholics. I may no longer share that religion’s beliefs – I became an apostate at 15 and am now in my sixties – but at least I know enough about them to know that Dawkins’ cartoon version of Catholicism is misinformed and inaccurate.

  40. Following my father’s sudden death in 1983 I was utterly traumatised by the ‘fact’ (as I thought at the time) of him suffering for all eternity in hell. This affected my whole outlook, as I was convinced that hell was as real as the chair I am now sitting in. It stayed with me for years. I now see the world differently, but I do not blame the church teachers for this, as I believe they were suffering under the same delusion as I was. The damage inflicted on me, however, must have been repeated many, many times over and continues today.

  41. The catholic church are against three things that would reduce one of the biggest problems the world faces, namely overpopulation. These are contraception, homosexuality and masterbation.

    Interestingly encouraging masterbation improves the long term health of men.

    An epidemiological study of 30,000 American men by Michael Leitzman, a cancer researcher at the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Maryland, has found that men who enjoy an active sex life do not risk prostate cancer in later life.

    Leitzmann’s findings were that men who ejaculate between 13 and 20 times a month had a 14% lower risk of prostate cancer that men who ejaculated on average, between 4 and 7 times a month for most of their adult life. Men who ejaculated upwards of 21 times a month had a 33% lower lifetime risk of prostate cancer than the baseline group.

  42. Everyone is entitled to their own belief.
    Who is this man to say that religion is wrong??? Religion doesn’t make someone do anything, a persons desire leads them to do something. Christian and athiests alike.

    What a completely idiotic and reckless (and believe me,I’m clenching my teeth being nice here) thing to say!!!!
    Comparing Christianity to sexual abuse…

    This man is talking out of the wrong opening…

    Saying mild sex abuse is un-pleasant and temporarily embarrassing??? Where is this mans head? Cause its not on his shoulders!!!!!!!!
    ANY child sex abuse is horrific for the true victims, and leaves a perminant mental scar that lasts a lifetime.

    I am a Christian, but even if I wasn’t I would still wish there was a “hell”. To put this stupid, inconsiderate, malicious, menace in.

    Professor Richard Dawkins… PROVE , beyond one shadow of a doubt, that there is no God and THEN come tell us we are wrong… Till then??? I think you can guess what I’m thinking??……

    • In reply to #50 by Christian1978:
      >

      Professor Richard Dawkins… PROVE , beyond one shadow of a doubt, that there is no God and THEN come tell us we are wrong… Till then??? I think you can guess what I’m thinking??……

      how the hell can you prove something does not exist when it does not exist.. proof can be delivered for things which are tangible not for those which are not… proof relies on experiment and falsification.. why don´t you give proof of the existence of your god if you are so sure it exists… you can´t, you only believe it does. .. and it is not on us atheists to prove the non-existence of this deity.. it is on your shoulders to prove it does exist.. so come on.. prove it.. devise an experiment which really proves your god exists beyond a shadow of a doubt, I dare you.. nay, I double dare you along with the whole of the atheist community… if you can prove the existence of this thing called god, I promise I will convert immediately and make myself a strong advocate for this deity.. you and I and a many more people know that I can stay an atheist for the remainder of my happy, god-free life

  43. In reply to #51 by Christian1978:

    In reply to #13 by Jumped Up Chimpanzee:

    Wow, Christian78, did you actually read the article above, because I don’t recognize your references to it. You seem to have pretty strong beliefs, and are (no surprise) blind to lots of relevant evidence, and I doubt you’ve read any of Prof RD’s books?

    From your 1st Comment: “ANY child sex abuse is horrific for the true victims, and leaves a permanent mental scar that lasts a lifetime.”

    All you have to do is substitute ‘religious indoctrination’ for ‘sex abuse’ above, and you’ll understand how faith-free freethinkers see how the two problems compare.

    You make several points that are so distorted by your faith infection that I think it’s a fine example of the “mental scarring” & “frothing-at-the-mouth” that is being rationally discussed here….

    You are obviously angry about this well known & highly researched 2006 opinion, and can hardly contain it as you personally insult the author in several places, all caused by the God virus directing your worldview !!

    The thing is, there is no real evidence that any god has ever existed – including ‘God’. It’s one thing to be molested or abused in real life by some disturbed person, some of whom are RCC employees. It’s as bad or worse to be sentenced to live in a religion cell for life, once locked-in by a meme-plex centered on a non-existent deity.

    Most of the people who read & write stuff here were – or are still – religious (from religious families, societies, services & education) before going from just having doubts, to being totally free of the mental & physical blinkers & filters of faith.

    There are a bunch of very knowledgeable, highly qualified RDFRS Commentators (not me) who can totally dismantle your comments – and your knowledge of your Faith – in many ways, if you come back here again after your ignorant rant.

    Have a Cool Yule, everyone …. 8-)

  44. In reply to #51 by Christian1978:

    Do you really believe that it’s only catholic priest,in a position of trust, abuse children????
    Really????
    So athiests don’t do it too then??????
    For example…
    Teaching kids about gay sex is fine it,as long as it a non religious teacher?? Even though there is no gay gene,
    And medical evidence proves that anal sex damages the anus and can lead to bowel cancer???????

    Religion has been around since the begining. Richard Dawkins hasn’t. I think I’d prefer to take my chance on God then this man,who clearly is lacking something…

    Please tell me you are not blaming homosexuality on the atheists! Homosexuality has been around for “eons” My guess is that they figured out the anal sex on their own. To use “no gay gene” as reasoning against homosexuality can be found in birds, and other animals. (Any scientist here able to speak about genetic switches.) At one time, I counted the number of gay people I have known or met and it is nearing 100. I can honestly say that there is a clear and evident biological/physical cause. Homosexuals share many more qualities of the opposite sex in addition to an attraction to the same sex. I can introduce you to some gay friends and there is something different going on that has nothing to do with sex. Homosexuals can frequently be identified by voice, photo, personality, etc. I realize that you will deny what I am saying; I wish people who deny what is so obvious finally wake up.

  45. Dr. Dawkins:
    Here in the US you would be correctly called a “Grenade Thrower” and considering the responses in the Daily Mail your aim was perfect.
    Although I grew up in a devout Evangelical Protestant family rather than Catholic, my experiences as a child were similar. Every day from age 6 and on I heard the horrors of “Hell Fire and Damnation” and how I personally was guilty of Original Sin and a Miserable Wretch and was bound for Hell if I did not repent and the rest of that garbage. This affected me terribly and it took several years to get over the effects.
    This is a terrible thing to do to a child and certainly qualifies as child abuse.

  46. The mentally traumatic side of Christianity is described quite clearly in the book Leaving the Fold by Marlene Winnell. She has dubbed the psychological trauma that can be caused by Christianity as Religious Trauma Syndrome and is trying to get it recognised as a psychological condition like PTSD. The symptoms can be similar. Its not just the children who are abused by Christianity… adults can suffer too.

  47. I think that the damage of being taught about hell as a child is manifested daily in the threats from Christians that we atheists will burn there forever when we die. When I was a child, eternal damnation was taught and preached by the Catholic Church. My father was an Episcopalian and my mother was Catholic. When he refused to sign that he would raise his children Catholic, my mother agreed to a civil wedding, readily available in the neighboring state of Nevada.

    My first memories of religion are of attending the Episcopal church. But, I’m guessing, Mom let it slip to a Catholic neighbor that she was also Catholic. (I figure she had the typical Catholic guilty conscience about leaving The Church; these were the days of “no salvation outside the church”=”all non-Catholics go to hell”) This woman and her husband interfered in my family’s business, ruined my parents marriage, and blighted my childhood. They started a 30-year religious war between Dad and his siblings on one side and Mom and me and my sister on the other.

    My mother lived in fear of burning in hell forever because she had married a good man who was devoted to his family just because he wasn’t the right religion and had sense enough not to consign his children to something he did not believe in. The terrible irony is that after the radical changes foisted on ordinary Catholics, my mother and I became Episcopalians.

    It is a great comfort to me to know that death brought the end of sickness and suffering for my beloved parents. Thanks to the modern explanations of Evolution, I can now give credit where credit is due: NOTHING I have is God-given. Thanks to my wonderful Mom and Dad for all those healthy peasant genes (not to mention love and care) and to modern science for good medicine and technology.

  48. In reply to #50 by Christian1978:

    Who is this man to say that religion is wrong??? Religion doesn’t make someone do anything, a persons desire leads them to do something. Christian and athiests alike.

    Really??? I think there are inquisitors, jihadists and martyrs who would disagree with you! You should read more history!

    Professor Richard Dawkins… PROVE , beyond one shadow of a doubt, that there is no God and THEN come tell us we are wrong… Till then??? I think you can guess what I’m thinking??……

    Thinking?? – I can guess what you are assuming without thinking!

    The onus of proof and requirement for credible evidence, is on those claiming the existence of their particular god or version of a god!

    Nobody is going to work their way down a list of gods DISproving all of them.
    Then followers of particular creeds, would need to show the benefits their beliefs bring to human societies over and above the ones which ordinary decent humans bring anyway. They would also have to explain the abuses!
    These views are stamped “DEITY APPROVED”, is not a rational or valid argument!

    Alt Text
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  49. Inculcating immature minds with the desultory dogma of religion is as RD says abuse.
    The only saving grace is that the parents of these children are themselves mentally poisoned by the sky firy dogma.

  50. Thank you for honest explanation, answer to Daily Mail article, and similar claim made by a journalist who believes in a horse with wings in recent TV interview.
    Even though I don’t think you have to justify, explain again your views, hope that people who has no tolerance to non believers, will understand where you are coming from. Yet, something tells me that won’t be the case, as their dogmatic views will use any excuse to judge rational thinking and thinkers.
    I also would like to point out that, being raised in a Muslim family, and received strict islamique doctrine education from as early as I can remember, i was too experienced sexual abuse by someone close to family, who was also well respected Muslim in the community. I suppose i was lucky that the abuse was short term, and did not effect me to the degree, I know some people have.
    In the teenage years, I realized that I was gay, and of course homophobic social values made me question, if there was any link between the sexual abuse I have experienced and the being an homosexual. This question made me study psychology and other related sciences to find the answer. Of course, religion came into this questioning as well. Yet, it was horrible and lonely years, I am glad I have experienced as it resulted in who I am today, an atheist and a gay man who is in peace with his sexuality.
    Th thing I would like to say is, even though sexual abuse was not pleasant experience and something effected me, I never thought of suicide or self harm result of it. But realization of being an homosexual and my islamique upbringing resulted in many suicide attempts in the teenage years. I just did not want o burn in hell. The idea of hell, idea of being an homosexual was so repulsive, I ended up self hating.
    I was lucky enough to meet right people who introduced me to rational thinking and scientific thinking that I am where I am now. I had to leave my home country and settle in the UK, where I was able to getaway from dogmatic thinking of Islam and its trully awful values.
    I have worked many years as a counsellor up to now with adults who has been sexually abused as children. Yet attempt to suicide or self hatred is much more higher rate in the people who they are which was not accptable, against to their religion.
    I also would like to say Mr Dawkins, as an ex muslim (being ex Muslim punishable by death according to Quran by the way), please watch out for people who are Muslim, even if they appear to be journalist, intellectual. It is a religion believes that they are superior and every other religion members are inferior to them. And being an atheist is simple evil. It is the duty of a Muslim to get rid off evil.
    Like you said in the Al Jazeera interview that the religion is the evil, and not all the individuals. You are right most of the Mullins I know are nice people, simply have their beliefs and try to live, like everyone else. However, also I know that almost all of these people did not even read the Quran, and not aware of what is said in it. The degree of hatred, disturbed way of thinking, is equal to old tastement.
    Sorry for gramatical mistakes, and poor English in my comments. I am traveling right now and just wanted to share my thoughts with you.
    Thank you for what you are doing for a better world.

  51. What a completely idiotic and reckless (and believe me,I’m clenching my teeth being nice here) thing to say!!!! Comparing Christianity to sexual abuse…

    Go back and read the article again. It specifically speaks out against the teaching of eternal torment (hell) in comparison to sexually abusing children, not the whole of Christian faith. My understanding is that certain denominations don’t even push the idea of hell as part of doctrine, and indeed Hell doesn’t even come up until the NT so attacking one (hell) does not automatically mean attacking the other (Christianity). Hell is not the sum total of all of Christian teachings, just a single unpleasant aspect. At the very least get your outrage straight….

    For example… Teaching kids about gay sex is fine it,as long as it a non religious teacher?? Even though there is no gay gene, And medical evidence proves that anal sex damages the anus and can lead to bowel cancer???????

    Let’s make a couple of things perfectly clear here:

    1. Athiests didn’t create homosexuality, and aren’t the only people that defend people that are homosexual. And if specifically less Catholic teachers were less prone to raping children (boys in particular) perhaps your argument might have more validity. Perhaps, but not likely.

    2. And as for your gay gene claim, are you saying that people are making the choice to be discriminated against, beaten and otherwise abused for the sake of choosing to be gay? I suppose you also believe one can also pray the gay away as well?

    Homosexuality is not something born of any one cause (genetics in your case) There are hormonal and environmental factors that play a part in it, as well as others I’m likely not aware of. No one has conclusively said there is a guaranteed cause, but that doesn’t mean that you have a monopoly on the answers. Stop pretending you do.

    Improper eating leads to damage to the anus as well, and several things lead to bowel cancer that have nothing to do with homosexual behavior. And for the record, anal sex does not automatically mean gay, it is common of gay men but not exclusive to them. If your going to make a case, don’t fill it with false equivocations and straw men.

    Religion has been around since the begining. Richard Dawkins hasn’t. I think I’d prefer to take my chance on God then this man,who clearly is lacking something…

    I don’t recall Dawkins claiming to be eternal, but religion for the record has not been around since the beginning. And the beginning of what exactly? The beginning of recorded time? Humans haven’t existed for that long so religion most certainly did not exist then. Even if we go back to the beginning of man’s history when can you track religion as you know it? Primitive man had animism at best, which is nothing like what you view as your religion. So nothing about this statement is accurate, as any claims about God in general are just that, claims.

    And lastly,

    I am a Christian, but even if I wasn’t I would still wish there was a “hell”.

    And why would you wish for such a hateful thing? And what would make you care about it at all if you weren’t Christian? How do you know this is even true? Now you just sound spiteful.

    Look the notion of sexual abuse vs. Hell is a controversial one, and I imagine Richard can only speak from his experience with it. Had it been far worse as it has been with many other people he might view it differently. I’m not convinced I completely agree with this but I don’t have to agree with everything Prof. Dawkins says. Both are hateful behaviors and I would be hard pressed to decide which one I hated more. And both can lead to long lasting pains and suffering.

    No one here has to agree with him on everything but at least give good reason for your disagreement.

  52. As for myself I was brought up a fundamentalist and I can relate to this. I am now agnostic, but when I was a believer I was terrified of dying because I just knew I was going to hell. Even as a nonbeliever and not really believing, I still cannot totally shake off what I was brought up to believe. I am now in my late seventies and have been a doubter for many years and I am a believer in science and evolution.

  53. I am gradually accepting the truth of abuse to children and to myself as one child, by indoctrinating them into beliefs that have all powerful supernatural beings knowing everything they do and think and the possibility of eternal damnation as a consequence.

    Which is why I was surprised that RD did not take advantage an opportunity in the recent interview on Al Jazeera. When asked by the interviewer if he thought he was guilty of abusing his child by indoctrinating her into Islam, RD said no.

    I thought it was a missed opportunity. And I’m not sure why RD let it go by.

  54. In the deep, fresh stages of grief over losing my Mother I was informed (no doubt in an effort to save me) by my Grandmother that my Mother was in Hell because she didn’t accept God and that I should think about it. Now, I don’t even believe in hell and I was in my 30′s but I experienced a few hours of the most gut-wrenching feelings of desolation. I’ve never forgotten it. How much worse would it be for a young child who is not simply upset by a thought in a very, very vulnerable moment (while grieving) but who really believes it? I can’t imagine. I count those few hours of anger at my Grandmother for stooping so low as to try to convert me while I was deep in grief and the thought of my Mother in unstoppable eternal pain as some of the most painful of my life. What upset me too was how mere words said during a vulnerable time could even upset me at all. I realized then how religion works. Get you when you’re young, or scared, or grieving or fearful. I had found my Mother dead unexpectedly and was very traumatized by all of it. Instead of trying to comfort me she preyed on me. Again, I’ll never forget it. That incident took me from a passive Atheist (not really caring who believed what) to a very adamant, outspoken one. Thanks Nana!

  55. Physical versus mental child abuse

    I don’t think it even makes sense to categorise sexual abuse as “physical” rather than “mental” abuse.

    I would have thought that the consequential long-term trauma that results from sexual abuse is usually mental rather than physical. Very often it must be entirely mental, as it is quite easy to sexually assault someone without physically marking or even hurting them. And people can be sexually humiliated in all kinds of ways without even physically touching them.

    So I don’t think that there is a valid argument at all that sexual abuse must be worse than mental abuse. It doesn’t even make sense as a statement.

  56. Thank you for your thoughts. I have noticed recently that the Daily Telegraph has also published some rather abusive commentary on your views. The most recent is Mary Kenny: Daily Telegraph
    If you feel strongly, as I do, that these opinions should not go uncontested please add your comments on the papers website.

  57. In reply to #70 by pythagoras:

    Thank you for your thoughts. I have noticed recently that the Daily Telegraph has also published some rather abusive commentary on your views. The most recent is Mary Kenny: Daily Telegraph
    If you feel strongly, as I do, that these opinions should not go uncontested please add your comments on the papers website.

    The fumble-brained ramblings of nil-research journalists like Mary Kenny, are not worth comments, unless they are used as deconstruction exercises in analysis of the Catholic induced, mental contortions, known as “theistic reasoning” – where faith over-rules logic, and “evidence” is made up on-the-hoof!

    StephenH – This is being dubbed Higgs v Dawkins – the daily mail again

    Enough said!!

  58. Thank you Erkan for your honest and open comments. I hope you find much peace and love in your lifetime. I strongly believe you are who you are and were born the way you are. Don’t let anyone tell you that you are flawed, unworthy, or lesser than anyone. Your story is sad yet also courageous; I hope it brings courage and hope to someone else who happens to read it. It sounds as if you have triumphed over a challenging situation. Stories like yours are more powerful than any tale in any holy book .

  59. I wish to thank you personally, for being a shining light of logic, amidst a sea of superstitious fear.
    I hope one day humankind will eventually drag itself out of its self-imposed darkness and into the clear brilliance of true understanding.

  60. In this peadogeddon-era of news, you are made to walk a very narrow politically correct line, or else suffer righteous indignation. Especially if your name is Dawkins, and you are the favourite target of tabloid newspapers, themselves the guardians good taste, moral integrity, and topless page-3 titillation.

  61. Hell is designed to threaten the kids as it’s the only sort of “punishment” they can use to threaten the soon to be deluded. It does a good job, an eternity in a lake of fire or something equally absurd is scary, if you’re sucked into believing the dodgy premise. The beauty of the sell is that it’s only proven to be nonsense on death and at that time it doesn’t matter because, well, you’re dead. Hell is purely there to scare the kids and the rest of the godbots into maintaining the belief system because there’s nothing else for it to offer.

  62. In reply to #28 by Tertullian:

    As a sometime Roman Catholic, educated in Ireland by Christian Brothers in the 1960s, I can say with certainty that I cannot recall ever being taught about hell save for some passing references. The whole thrust of the religious teaching was about the need for forgiveness and love. I can only marvel at some of the people who have posted comments here – where the hell were they taught and who the hell were their teachers?

    Lucky you. But surely you read “A portrait of an artist as a young man”? That at least gives you a picture of what Catholic teaching used to be like.

    Michael

  63. For another insight into what damage religious indoctrination in families & schools does, in The God Delusion, ch6, the section ‘Love Thy Neighbour’ shows the results of attitude tests given to faith-filled children. The out-group enmity is blatantly clear, and shows that RD has lots of other evidence for his position on religious mental abuse, in a whole range of areas.

  64. In 2009, I wrote a short blog as a review of this book. I had/have no problem with “religion is child abuse” but took exception to his dismissal of the impact of sexual abuse on the child. Here are some further thoughts:

    It is true that the mild form of sexual abuse that Dawkins describes is probably less damaging than believing, truly believing in hell. However, he had the advantage of being able to talk with his fellow classmates about it – solidarity is a great healer/dismisser. However, has he ever considered what might have happened had he reported this man to the superiors at the school? (Just asking)

    I remember how we used to all talk about staying away from “legs” Hooper, the physics teacher & the French teacher in high school. These incidents are not the stuff of long term psychological destruction (unless one got caught in the web). I just still have this sneaking suspicion that it had more of an impact on his psyche than Dawkins is willing to admit – he does remember it and the feelings that the incident engendered – they apparently have not disappeared. I am pleased to hear him say finally that this too was part of his life-experience. I always use that “hermeneutics of suspicion” approach when people are as angry as he is about religion – that anger does not come from a vacuum or other people’s experiences – the personal is still political. It is what we do with that anger that will change the world over the long run.

    However, this doesn’t give Dawkins the right to dismiss the destructive power of the kind of sexual abuse many of us endured within the Christian system. It feels like I have spent a lifetime talking and writing about the damaging doctrines of Christianity – the subtle and not-so-subtle ones. My contention is that the doctrines make it even more difficult to cope with any kind sexual abuse. A number of commentators on this blog have pointed this out.

    The combination (Christian teachings and sexual abuse) is lethal for many, and a lifetime psychological drain for most of us. And I agree with Dawkins that we would be better off without these horrible religious systems.

    This is the last paragraph from my 1993 dissertation. Twenty years later (I finished it in August 1992 – defended in ’93) and nothing much has changed – I could update the footnotes and the examples in the dissertation but why bother?

    “Theologians have failed to address child development issues and have underestimated the impact of Christian stories on the developing minds of children. These stories, even when stripped of their most virulent content, are still stories of violence. The stories of Ishmael’s banishment, Cain and Abel, Abraham’s intention
    to sacrifice Isaac, David and Goliath, Herod’s murder of the infants, John the Baptist’s death, the stoning of Stephen, the death of Ananias and Sapphira, the blinding of Paul are all violent stories at the behest of a greater good. Nowhere is that made clearer than in the passion narrative of Christianity. From the agony in Gethsemane to the betrayal by Peter, from the scourging of Jesus to the final crucifixion, the resurrection story of Jesus, the central glorifying image of Christianity, is imbued through and through with violence. These stories and many others are burned into the minds of Christian children forever. Supposedly, they are the stories about a loving god and how he cares for his children. What they are, in reality, are stories about a god who does not accept disobedience, requires that his children suffer, and punishes them when they fail. Furthermore, he is not above sacrificing one of them when he thinks it is necessary, whether it is his own son or an eleven-year-old girl. These are not abstract issues like questions of intentionality over which many a
    theologian has written many a page, but concrete issues concerning the lessons Christians are teaching their children about how life is to be lived. I was once asked, after delivering a paper at the American Academy of Religion on this topic, whether there would be anything left of Christianity if the ‘virtues’ I was discussing
    were dropped from the Christian theological agenda. My flippant response was, “Let’s drop them and find out”. My more serious response was that forty years from now we would have a group of people calling themselves Christians, but whose Christianity would bear little resemblance to what exists in the present. After finishing the research for this thesis and writing the dissertation, I now end with a more dire prediction. If Christianity does not reinvent itself, does not renounce the rationale for the necessity of the crucifixion, it will not only help to maintain child sexual assault as a continuing social problem, but it will also be a major factor in its continuing recreation, and the cycle of abuse will not end.”

  65. In reply to #82 by Sheila A. Redmond:

    However, this doesn’t give Dawkins the right to dismiss the destructive power of the kind of sexual abuse many of us endured within the Christian system.

    Do you really think that is what he is doing ? It doesn’t seem that way to me.

    Michael

  66. In reply to #83 by SparklingMoon:

    The life in the hereafter would not be material but a spiritual one.

    What does this mean ? Can you provide evidence for this assertion ?

    Heaven is not a physical place but the name of a spiritual hight or in other words a nearness to the spirit of God .

    Evidence please.

    God has not prepared a hell anywhere to burn people as usually is considered.

    So the priests are wrong and you are right. Evidence please.

    In simple words,the goal of human spirit is to make a journey towards God and the first part of this journey must be completed in this world, through the practice of morals in the love of God that turns human spirit into a live one

    Please provide evidence that there is a human spirit and that it has a goal as you describe. Please also define God and provide evidence for its existence.

    Maybe you should look at

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vrs-Azp0i3k

    which explains why it is not possible that there are souls that continue to exist after we die.

    Michael

  67. In reply to #88 by TrickyRich:

    In reply to #87 by susanlatimer:

    Why do you believe that any of that is true?

    Because of the evidence.

    The existence of the Creator can be known with certainty from the created world by the natural light of human reason.

    Ha, ha, ha, ha, lol. Ah sorry. I’ve been imbibing some of the Creator’s alcoholic beverages for the New Year. As usual the first one has removed the restraints required to resist the second one.

    Seriously you seem to have missed the last 250 years of science. Come back when you have caught up.

    Michael

    PS: Those worms (loa loa) that eat out children’s eyes. Remind me again what the Creator had in mind ?

  68. Interesting, Tertullian, but I distinctly remember being petrified of going to hell because I accidentally ate some bacon- flavoured crisps one Friday. I must have been seven or eight at the time.

  69. In reply to #88 by TrickyRich:

    In reply to #87 by susanlatimer:

    Why do you believe that any of that is true?

    Because of the evidence.

    Ah! “Theistic Evidence”??? Otherwise known as wishful thinking in a believers brain!

    The existence of the Creator can be known with certainty from the created world by the natural light of human reason.

    There are those, certain in the natural light of their indoctrinated delusions, but reason (even when logically applied), is fancy without objective evidence as a starting point.
    There is no scientific evidence of any requirement for a personified “creator” in the formation or evolution of the universe.
    The universe works on the laws of science, as far as the extent of human knowledge takes us. Ignorant assertions about the unknown add nothing to our knowledge.

    The Incarnation of the Creator can be known based on the historical fact of Jesus Christ, who claimed to be the Son of God, sent by the Father, and set out to demonstrate this. The historical record of this demonstration is there for all to study.

    You seem to be confusing Biblical Mythology with historical evidence!
    Have you actually read ANY HISTORY from that period?
    Perhaps you could point out some mention of a “Jesus of Nazareth”, in some previously unknown contemporary Roman record – if you are not just repeating made-up nonsense from ignorant preachers?
    Then there is the matter of a lack of a rational connection between Middle-east History and Cosmology!

    Go ahead, give it a try. It is more satisfying than drugs, sex, gold, wine, etc. It is the ultimate pleasure, the ultimate Good.

    Fundamentalist religion is certainly as strong a drug as many pharmaceuticals – and just as mentally debilitating – as many visitors have shown! This site is however an oasis of clear thinking.

    “Or they say to themselves, with their misguided reasoning:
    ‘Our life is short and dreary,

    Wrong from the start! This is just a strawman assertion for the gullible theist sheep! – Life is not at all dreary for me or atheists like me!
    It is full of good relationships – and an awesome understanding of life and the Universe, which is shut out from those wearing fundamentalist theist blinkers!

  70. Mods’ message

    We have removed a number of posts which were pure preaching and therefore in breach of our Terms of Use. Please remember that this is a site for intelligent, rational discussion. If you wish to argue a case, then please go ahead and argue it, but please do not simply regurgitate what you believe as a matter of faith.

    Thank you.

    The mods

  71. In reply to #89 by mmurray:

    Ha, ha, ha, ha, lol. Ah sorry. I’ve been imbibing some of the Creator’s alcoholic beverages for the New Year. As usual the first one has removed the restraints required to resist the second one.

    Seriously you seem to have missed the last 250 years of science. Come back when you have caught up.

    Michael

    PS: Those worms (loa loa) that eat out children’s eyes. Remind me again what the Creator had in mind?

    Greetings Michael,

    Of course I am aware of the “last 250 years of science”: the contingency of the universe has only been further verified and Darwinian (random) evolution has been effectively falsified. After “250 years of science” it is certainly much more reasonable and scientific to believe in Aquinas’s contingent universe than it is to believe in Epicurus’s eternal universe (multiverse).

    You might want to stick to the “God is to blame for the evil and hell caused and suffered by sinners” argument rather than try to indict God based on the scientific evidence because you are fighting a losing battle on that front. Creation only continues to further verify the Creator. Darwinism is in no way novel, but rather is a necessary and ancient part of the entire materialist creed going all they way back to Epicurus and Lucretius – a creed that the Church refuted long ago. Modern science (aka Materialism) was designed to exclude the Designer. Thankfully, Nature is independent of human opinion. Thankfully, Nature has the last say. And thankfully, there is nothing more likely to lead to the ultimate collapse of Darwinism than the advance of science.

    Happy New Year Michael!

  72. In reply to #93 by TrickyRich:

    Seriously you seem to have missed the last 250 years of science. Come back when you have caught up.

    Michael

    Of course I am aware of the “last 250 years of science”: the contingency of the universe has only been further verified and Darwinian (random) evolution has been effectively falsified.

    Clearly you have no idea of modern science, or you would know that “The theory of evolution by way of Natural Selection” has been confirmed multiple thousand times, and has never been scientifically falsified!
    You would also know that “Natural Selection” is not random!

    After “250 years of science” it is certainly much more reasonable and scientific to believe in Aquinas’s contingent universe than it is to believe in Epicurus’s eternal universe (multiverse).

    Scientists follow the evidence rather than BELIEVING any philosopher’s opinions.

    You might want to stick to the “God is to blame for the evil and hell caused and suffered by sinners” argument rather than try to indict God based on the scientific evidence because you are fighting a losing battle on that front.

    Until someone produces evidence of the existence and properties of their god, there is nothing to refute!
    Scientists have better things to do than search for the numerous gods to refute them all! .wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_deities

    Creation only continues to further verify the Creator.
    Darwinism is in no way novel, but rather is a necessary and ancient part of the entire materialist creed – going all they way back to Epicurus and Lucretius – - a creed that the Church refuted long ago.
    ▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬

    Major churches (CofE & RCC etc) wholly or partially accept the science of evolution, so which church makes this comically incompetent claim?

    Modern science (aka Materialism) was designed to exclude the Designer.

    You ignorance of scientific method is showing again!
    Science does not have “creeds”, – nor does it follow the theist practice of designing circular arguments starting with the made-up conclusion.
    It follows the experimental evidence until a conclusion is found, and then updates it if new evidence reveals errors in details.

    Thankfully, Nature is independent of human opinion. Thankfully, Nature has the last say.

    And science methodically investigates, checks evidence, explains how nature works, and repeatedly retests and checks its results, – while creationists just make stuff up!

    And thankfully, there is nothing more likely to lead to the ultimate collapse of Darwinism than the advance of science.

    Science conclusively binned that creationist wishful thinking over a hundred years ago,
    – and has moved on with evolution as the core element in genetics and biology.
    As Michael says, you have a lot of very basic scientific education to catch up with.

  73. Yes in many parts of the world religion plays a role that hurts societies. Muslim countries are a big example. But you can see this also in africa where people are told that condoms cause aids. Some people kill there children cause they believe them to be witches. A informative book is called Breaking Their Will which talks about the abuse done by religious people. I think its a bit dull but still very informative.

  74. I’ll have a go at sorting something out of this!

    In reply to #95 by SparklingMoon:

    In reply to #85 by mmurray:

    (Heaven is not a physical place but the name of a spiritual hight or in other words a nearness to the spirit of God.)

    Evidence please.

    The Being of God is transcendental and beyond the beyond and is most secret. His ethereal spiritual being can not be perceived through human physical senses.

    So is asserted to be undetectable by anyone! Has no detectable effect on the science of the material world,
    … and yet somehow you have this description of properties (Listed in your comment) of this undetectable entity – presented as “evidence”!
    ( Actually it is detectable by neuroscience – see link below)

    The practice of these attributes makes a print on human nature and prepares a a very ethereal thing that is called spirit. This spirit grows day by day when a person makes a continual struggle to practice these morals on their proper occasion and proper place with the help of bestowed reason.

    Apart from how you could possibly know this, the funny thing about people, is that they are made of physical atoms and molecules and that all communicating energies are detectable by science. So what is not detectable does not exist!

    such a high level by his human capacity that his nature gets a very colour of God’s generosity and this struggle of a man attracts the blessing of God and He bows down to this person with love and shows Himself through a vision or revelation.

    So this “being can not be perceived through human physical senses. “but is revealed in a revelation to a human??? You don’t see a contradiction here?

    This spiritual height that brings a person near to God is called in religious books a heaven. The people who wish to have a heaven in the next life must have to achieve a spiritual height or heaven in this very world, otherwise a spirit who has never tasted the love of God through this source, devised by God Himself,will be like a blind spirit without ability to recognize God.

    The problem with heaven and bandying around words like “transcendental” and “spirituality”, is that neuroscientists actually know what these words mean . They are properties of the brain, so unfortunately for the delusion of “heaven”, spirituality dies and ceases with brain death.

    sciencedaily – Research Reveals Selective Brain Damage Modulates Human Spirituality,

    Although it is well established that all behaviors and experiences, spiritual or otherwise, must originate in the brain, true empirical exploration of the neural underpinnings of spirituality has been challenging. However, recent advances in neuroscience have started to make the complex mental processes associated with religion and spirituality more accessible. – Alt Text

    sciencedaily – Apr. 18, 2012 — Scientists have speculated that the human brain features a “God spot,” one distinct area of the brain responsible for spirituality. Now, University of Missouri researchers have completed research that indicates spirituality is a complex phenomenon, and multiple areas of the brain are responsible for the many aspects of spiritual experiences.
    Based on a previously published study that indicated spiritual transcendence is associated with decreased right parietal lobe functioning, MU researchers replicated their findings. In addition, the researchers determined that other aspects of spiritual functioning are related to increased activity in the frontal lobe. – Alt Text

  75. Actually Michael, I think that he is doing that whether it is his intention or not and he does it once again above. What I would suggest is that you watch “Deliver Us From Evil” or read Honour Our Fathers or just go to my blog (easy enough to find [link to blog removed by moderator]). There is lots of material there – some personal, book reviews, & links to my dissertation and some of my published articles and presentations.

    It is a lengthy issue. One of the issues is that you cannot just separate the physical from the psychological, emotional, the sexual, etc. These things are a unity and trying to separate them is part of dualistic, mind/body split thinking – a longterm “ouzo Platonic”hangover from which the west is still suffering. There is plenty of material on the impact of sexual abuse – these things are all connected & in Christianity this is particularly true since Christianity has an awful lot to say about sex!

    Arghhhhhhhh – it’s New Year’s Eve – Happy New Year everybody – (EST 3 hours & 15 minutes!)

    In reply to #84 by mmurray:

    In reply to #82 by Sheila A. Redmond:

    However, this doesn’t give Dawkins the right to dismiss the destructive power of the kind of sexual abuse many of us endured within the Christian system.

    Do you really think that is what he is doing ? It doesn’t seem that way to me.

    Michael

  76. In reply to #93 by TrickyRich:

    Happy New Year Michael!

    Thank you and to you. Alan4discussion has said everything I would have. I highly recommend this video by Sean Carroll

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vrs-Azp0i3k

    which gives a wonderful discussion of how the LHC has confirmed our understanding of what physicists call the Standard Model. This means we know the basic building blocks for all the physical (and hence chemical, biological etc) processes that affect our lives here on earth. There are some physical things we don’t understand like dark energy and dark matter but they aren’t relevant to our lives here on earth. Nothing in all our research suggests that reductionism is wrong. That is, everything our lives consist of is just a complicated assemblage and movement of these basic fields and particles. There are no “gaps” left for souls, an afterlife, miracles or gods.

    So much as I agree the Problem of Evil is a good argument it isn’t needed.

    Michael

  77. And another thing – you cannot make the kind of comparison between “mild” sexual abuse/annoyance and teaching on hell – maybe teachings on forgiveness or something more innocuous.

    The proper comparison to the teachings on hell is the physical forms of sexual abuse perpetrated on the survivors of “Father O’Grady” or Father Geoghan (see below) – or just go look at some of the tables in the John Jay School of Criminology Reports – particularly the first one called Nature and Scope for details on some of the forms of physical abuse – not pleasant reading.

    In reply to #101 by Sheila A. Redmond:

    Actually Michael, I think that he is doing that whether it is his intention or not and he does it once again above. What I would suggest is that you watch “Deliver Us From Evil” or read Honour Our Fathers or just go to my blog (easy enough to find – http://www.sheilaredmond.com). There is lots of material there – some personal, book reviews, & links to my dissertation and some of my published articles and presentations.

    It is a lengthy issue. One of the issues is that you cannot just separate the physical from the psychological, emotional, the sexual, etc. These things are a unity and trying to separate them is part of dualistic, mind/body split thinking – a longterm “ouzo Platonic”hangover from which the west is still suffering. There is plenty of material on the impact of sexual abuse – these things are all connected & in Christianity this is particularly true since Christianity has an awful lot to say about sex!

    Arghhhhhhhh – it’s New Year’s Eve – Happy New Year everybody – (EST 3 hours & 15 minutes!)

    In reply to #84 by mmurray:

    In reply to #82 by Sheila A. Redmond:

    However, this doesn’t give Dawkins the right to dismiss the destructive power of the kind of sexual abuse many of us endured within the Christian system.

    Do you really think that is what he is doing ? It doesn’t seem that way to me.

    Michael

  78. As someone who grew up under the yolk of Mormonism, I can say that, despite how loving my parents were, there was this expectation of serving a mission. I was expected to go abroad and knock on people’s doors–it just so happens it was in South Korea. Granted I was 19, but the brainwashing started much earlier. I was there with other young men who didn’t want to be there. Once I started seeing that we were exporting patriarchy to a country that regards men over women already I became disillusioned by what I was participating in. I was there with American missionaries whose father’s had promised them cars and paid educations, and high-paying jobs. There is all sorts of abuse going on–mental and physical.

  79. In reply to #95 by SparklingMoon:

    How infrequently is heaven given away. A loving gift from a parent to a child. How often is it a bribe.

    In the once near agnostic days of the Church of England a few decades ago, parents, at least those who were believers in belief, would (needlessly but in kindly fashion) promise their worried eight year old that they would all meet Granny and Fluffy in heaven, and that Granny was very happy and smiling down even now. Heaven was unconditional, a simple kindly balm.

    But all the religious shysters, second hand woo salesmen, every last priest and shaman knows heaven is something to trade. You do this and then you’ll get that.

    Even at that stage real abuse becomes inevitable. Even you threaten children with failure. Childhood cancer…. tough? Too young to complete the course and earn the prize winning god-points….tough? Dangling made up prizes in front of anyone with the prospect of failure is pretty shitty.

  80. Whilst i understand where dawkins was coming from………sexual abuse of any sort by an adult towards a child is a travesty and any adult must be hauled to account by the courts. No question. In response to dawkins stance on religious abuse from adults to children….totally agree. It is one of the most insidious forms of accepted abuse in our age, however it will never be erased for a few generations to come. As a female with a daughter, my biggest and overiding concern is….until in all religions on earth and cultures realise that women are half the human race, then these dilemmas will never solve themselves. I can only hope intelligence and education will win. Until that day im still fighting for it.

  81. Christianity is idol worship, it is not religion. Christianity can be likened to the segregated groups which gathered together causing the crucifixion of Christ in the story in the holy bible.

  82. In reply to #94 by susanlatimer:

    Interesting. Can you explain what Darwinian evolution is and how it’s been falsified?

    By “Darwinian evolution” I am referring to Darwin’s brilliant mechanism: natural selection acting on random mutation. I agree that Darwinian evolution explains many interesting features of life. I disagree that it explains any of the important molecular building blocks of life.

    The best evidence of what Darwinian evolution can do in Nature (where it counts) comes from the studies of E.coli, HIV, and especially the malaria parasite. What do we see? Evolution? No, we see devolution, the breaking and rearranging of existing molecular parts to limited effect. Time is not the primary factor in Darwinian evolution. Population sizes are. There appears to be a mathematical limit to what Darwinian evolution can actually achieve in Nature.

  83. I have tried to post a reply to this discussion several times already, but for some reason, the only message I get is “Sumbitting, please wait…”, and then I wait, and wait, and wait. If it works this time, then maybe I can post my first attempt as well.

  84. In reply to #111 by Homunculus:

    I have tried to post a reply to this discussion several times already, but for some reason, the only message I get is “Sumbitting, please wait…”, and then I wait, and wait, and wait. If it works this time, then maybe I can post my first attempt as well.

    Maybe you’re living in a(the) machine!

  85. In reply to #108 by TrickyRich:

    In reply to #94 by susanlatimer:

    Interesting. Can you explain what Darwinian evolution is and how it’s been falsified?

    By “Darwinian evolution” I am referring to Darwin’s brilliant mechanism: natural selection acting on random mutation. I agree that Darwinian evolution explains many interesting features of life. I disagree that it explains any of the important molecular building blocks of life.

    The geneticists of the world are not really interested in your assertion from ignorance! They are watching evolution happening!

    The best evidence of what Darwinian evolution can do in Nature (where it counts) comes from the studies of E.coli, HIV, and especially the malaria parasite.

    Really? I thought that Darwinian evolution was being tracked in ALL the genomes being studied. It seems a strange claim, to simply assert that the “best” examples do not show it happening, when there are so many which do!

    What do we see? Evolution? No, we see devolution, the breaking and rearranging of existing molecular parts to limited effect.
    Of course we see breaking, rearrangements, and remixing producing diversity for selection to act upon -in addition to other random mutations ! Evolution usually happens a small step at at time.

    Time is not the primary factor in Darwinian evolution. Population sizes are.

    This is a false dichotomy. Both of these are key factors, with other factors also relevant. Time is very much the factor through which transitions in all species take place. Population sizes govern the volume of genetic material interacting.

    There appears to be a mathematical limit to what Darwinian evolution can actually achieve in Nature.

    I have seen no evidence of this! Do you have some evidence.
    Susan asked for evidence of you claim that “Darwinian Evolution had been falsified”. – All you have produced is an unsupported opinion which does not even have any details or links to experimental evidence!

  86. In reply to #108 by TrickyRich:

    In reply to #94 by susanlatimer:

    Interesting. Can you explain what Darwinian evolution is and how it’s been falsified?

    By “Darwinian evolution” I am referring to Darwin’s brilliant mechanism: natural selection acting on random mutation. I agree that Darwinian evolution explains many interesting features of life. I disagree that it explains any of the important molecular building blocks of life.

    The best evidence of what Darwinian evolution can do in Nature (where it counts) comes from the studies of E.coli, HIV, and especially the malaria parasite. What do we see? Evolution? No, we see devolution, the breaking and rearranging of existing molecular parts to limited effect. Time is not the primary factor in Darwinian evolution. Population sizes are. There appears to be a mathematical limit to what Darwinian evolution can actually achieve in Nature.

    You realize that evolution does not mean that a organism is guaranteed to survive, don’t you? E.Coli, Malaria and AIDS are not necessarily going to survive as a matter of evolutionary function. If they they adapt and thrive then we’ll work on other forms of protection against them. If they do not, then they will cease to exist as we know them. That is the nature of evolution. So the breaking and rearranging you refer to is not a direct black eye on the face of evolution itself.

    You’re creating an argument that no one was having to support something you cannot. The OP of the article is not an indictment of science vs. religion. It is discussion of an opinion Prof. Dawkins is posing on differing forms of abuse.

    How precisely does your point pertain to the other?

  87. Wow! How terrifyingly thin is the ice on which this man boldly treads.

    Richard Dawkins is clearly right, but to perceive that self-evident truth requires a certain intellectual capacity and rigour. A characteristic perhaps absent in the readers of the Daily Mail. By definition.

    A story such as this can so easily be twisted by the media to provide astounding headlines: it’s a mischievous subbie’s dream. What was a well-argued analysis metamorphoses into ‘Atheists say that paedophilia is not so bad.’

    Good God! This stuff is dangerous. Caution is indicated.

  88. I was exposed to both the theistic and atheistic views of reality as a child, and both the hell fire and the eternal oblivion view were disturbing – funnily enough the latter one being more so. I guess that must have been because I was exposed to a rather more positive view of Christianity. Still, that won’t stop certain people tarring all Christians with the same brush and also proclaiming that atheism is the answer to all our problems, which common sense tells us cannot possibly be the case. Frankly, I just wish that, sooner rather than later, a more mature and nuanced approach to the atheism – theism so called ‘culture war’ (actually ‘truth war’) could be adopted, as many people – myself included – are rather weary of extreme cases being cited as a means of promoting a particular view of reality. Yes, the actions and attitudes of some Christians are disgusting. We all know that. Everyone with half a brain knows it. But the extreme inducement of guilt by some priests and Christian parents should not mean that atheism becomes, by default, the ‘moral position’ to take. What morality? Where is it to be found within the naturalistic view of reality? How can bringing children up in a worldview devoid of morality be anything other than abuse? Let’s see the other side of the argument, please…

  89. Not to allow any child the freedom to think for themselves and make judgements based on discovery and experience is in itself abuse. In our fascinating world there is so much to be discovered a child who is not encouraged to look outward will always be afraid. Knowledge dispels fear.

  90. that won’t stop certain people tarring all Christians with the same brush

    What brush is that? And which people?

    and also proclaiming that atheism is the answer to all our problems, which common sense tells us cannot possibly be the case.

    I have yet to encounter a single individual who suggests that atheism is the answer to all our problems. Can you give me some examples?

    Frankly, I just wish that, sooner rather than later, a more mature and nuanced approach to the atheism – theism so called ‘culture war’ (actually ‘truth war’) could be adopted, as many people – myself included – are rather weary of extreme cases being cited as a means of promoting a particular view of reality.

    What would you consider a “mature and nuanced approach”? People politely and firmly suggesting that religion be held accountable for its truth claims, including its moral ones, and that it should have no special privilege in the arena of ideas are NOT at war. It seems an immature response to say that it is.

    How can bringing children up in a worldview devoid of morality be anything other than abuse?

    How does not accepting unevidenced assertions about the existence of deities and what those deities want leave anyone devoid of morality? How would accepting those assertions provide us with morality?

    Let’s see the other side of the argument, please…

    I have looked and looked at the other side and there’s nothing there. I am perfectly willing to consider anything new you might like to offer.

  91. In reply to #117 by inoma_ilala:

    I was exposed to both the theistic and atheistic views of reality as a child, and both the hell fire and the eternal oblivion view were disturbing – funnily enough the latter one being more so. I guess that must have been because I was exposed to a rather more positive view of Christianity. Still, that won’t stop certain people tarring all Christians with the same brush and also proclaiming that atheism is the answer to all our problems, which common sense tells us cannot possibly be the case. Frankly, I just wish that, sooner rather than later, a more mature and nuanced approach to the atheism – theism so called ‘culture war’ (actually ‘truth war’) could be adopted, as many people – myself included – are rather weary of extreme cases being cited as a means of promoting a particular view of reality. Yes, the actions and attitudes of some Christians are disgusting. We all know that. Everyone with half a brain knows it. But the extreme inducement of guilt by some priests and Christian parents should not mean that atheism becomes, by default, the ‘moral position’ to take. What morality? Where is it to be found within the naturalistic view of reality? How can bringing children up in a worldview devoid of morality be anything other than abuse? Let’s see the other side of the argument, please…

    You are making the very same mistake you are accusing atheists of doing, which is making broad generalizations about what we think and how all of us judge theism as a whole. You are casting your brush far wider than anyone else here in that fashion.

    But let’s get down to nuance: Atheism isn’t an answer to anything, it is by definition simply a lack of belief. Humanism is more approaching what you’re getting at but even then no one is claiming that it is perfect and for everyone either. So there is no moral position taken from an atheist point of view.

    Moreover, Christianity nor any other faith possesses a superior morality to the non religious. Morality and religion are not synonymous, one did not start with the other. So I fail to see how bringing someone up non religious is in any way “devoid of morality”. Our ethics and morals are based on our societal decisions over the long course, and none are perfect. As we progress, our ability to be better moral people progress is based on how we treat each other and how we teach our young. Theism doesn’t factor into it.

    And I can’t stress this enough: Just because you think you had good exposure to religion from youth does not mean that horrible things happening in it are isolated. The issues in the OP with molestation and abuse in the church are widespread and worldwide, and the RCC is dragging it’s feet to hold people accountable or to stop it. That is a problem borne entirely of religion, and in no way moral. It doesn’t mean that all religion is guilty of the same level of immorality, but it certainly doesn’t mean that’s the only place where it can be found.

    So perhaps we should define what we mean by morality if you for some reason think that one cannot be non religious and moral.

  92. In reply to #117 by inoma_ilala:

    Still, that won’t stop certain people tarring all Christians with the same brush and also proclaiming that atheism is the answer to all our problems, which common sense tells us cannot possibly be the case.

    I don’t know anyone who suggests “atheism is the answer to all our problems”, or that all Xtians are the same.
    Stopping the operation of destructive theist dogmas (and political ideologies) will reduce the generation of totally unnecessary problems, but community planning is needed to solve problems, with scientific evidence needed to identify solutions.

    Frankly, I just wish that, sooner rather than later, a more mature and nuanced approach to the atheism – theism so called ‘culture war’ (actually ‘truth war’) could be adopted,

    A more mature approach to atheism would be welcome. Most atheists simply accept scientific evidence as a basis of “truth” in the material world. The ” war” comes from the bigots of erroneous know-it-all “faith-belief without evidence”. The rest of the differences are the usual human ones, of political interest groups.

    as many people – myself included – are rather weary of extreme cases being cited as a means of promoting a particular view of reality.

    That’s one of the features of discussing laws and morality. You have to address the immoral and criminal elements, along with material evidence. Pandering to wishful thinking or mindless dogma, does not cut it.

    Yes, the actions and attitudes of some Christians are disgusting. We all know that. Everyone with half a brain knows it. But the extreme inducement of guilt by some priests and Christian parents should not mean that atheism becomes, by default, the ‘moral position’ to take.

    Why not? Surely freedom from abusive mental attitudes and irrational thinking processes should be the basis for clear thinking on moral issues as well as material understanding.

    What morality? Where is it to be found within the naturalistic view of reality? Altruistic attitudes are historical in related human communities where there is empathy for others.
    Religions just high-jack this for their own power-building purposes.

    How can bringing children up in a worldview devoid of morality be anything other than abuse?

    You seem to have been listening to bigoted twaddle-mongers who are so narrow minded that they refuse to recognise the moral codes of anyone outside their own cults!

    Let’s see the other side of the argument, please…

    First there are many sides to both theist and atheist moral issues – coming from differing religious and political cultures.

    There are many differing codes of of moral conduct, historically and geographically. Only the ultimate bigots would claim they have all the answers and nobody else follows moral codes.
    The suggestion that the best codes can be found exclusively in the self-contradictory writings of warring bronze-age tribes, is bizarre! – Especially when the “interpretative cherry-picking” sets in!

    The reality is – nobody has absolute moral codes. Its just that atheists usually honestly recognise this, while many theists (using “faith without evidence”) make stuff up (or copy made-up stuff,) and falsely claim it is absolute morality!

  93. You seem to have been listening to bigoted twaddle-mongers who are so narrow minded that they refuse to recognise the moral codes of anyone outside their own cults!

    Alan, I love that. Well put.

  94. Physical child abuse is also mental abuse, at least if these are permanent conditions in the child’s life. But I fully agree that religion often have a very negative influence on a child’s mental development. I remember myself when growing up and hearing about what made Jesus cry, that you wouldn’t get to heaven if you did this or that, and so on. Already then, I couldn’t care less about hell and all that, because I never actually believed in those fairytales. What was far worse for me was that you were not supposed to say certain words, and not supposed to think certain thoughts. Not that I was afraid of the consequences, but I was learned that it was wrong because the bible said so. And I wanted to do everything right, because I had a 100% trust in adults.

    I remember one day, and I was still in kindergarten at that age, I told my mother that I didn’t belive in god and Jesus. It was like the Santa Claus; nobody believed he was real, but they pretended he was. Having said that, I felt an incredible relief, like I could finally breathe free, and think what I wanted without feeling guilty. It was like a heavy burden had been lifted from my shoulders. All that remained was that my mother confirmed what I had just said, that she said something like “you are right” or “did you finally figure it out?”. Then I would finally be free. Instead she said “then you are not going to heaven”. And suddenly I felt the whole burden coming back, and I had to think and act in that restricted way again. Sometime I would think of the words I was not allowed to say or think about, and for that reason it was impossible not to, so I came up with making it sound like quotes inside my head, like “…. is a bad thing to say”. Over and over again, driving me nuts.
    What my mother told me, the way I saw it, was that I had to continue to live the way I had lived so far, with restrictions in my mindset, vocabulary and behavior.

    This had a very negative influence on my personal development, and even if I was finally able to turn my back to christianity and religion in general in my early 20 (it was the result of something that had been growing inside me for a long time), but by then the damage had already been done. I would have been a different and more harmonic person had I been allowed to mature the way I was supposed to, without being affected about what the bible said.

  95. My early experience with religious instruction was in no way as traumatic as those encountered in these comments, however they were troubling nonetheless. In my years before school there was no mention of any deities whatsoever. My earliest recollections of religious instruction at my state run primary school, were of Abraham & his attempt to murder his son and Joseph and his coat of many colours. I found these stories horrifying! They seemed so unfair and completely contrary to any notions of morality that I had garnered in my few years on the planet.

    I cannot begin to imagine how troubling it would be, to be exposed to the sort of hellfire and damnation metered out to a large section of the population in North America (even today). There must be many damaged people out there . The added burden of sexual abuse leaves me speechless.

    How can these manifestations of religious instruction be rationalised? Surely it is time the world moved on. We have perfectly good explanations for the physical laws and a great framework for moral and ethical human interactions. Lets stop warping the brains of minors.

  96. It is interesting you mention Alfred Hitchcock. Hitchcock was raised a Catholic and attended a Jesuit school. He would know what he was talking about in telling the young boy to run for his life.

  97. You are right Richard. Their tactic is old and obvious here – throw enough mud and hope that some of it will stick. The very good point you made is that religious mental child abuse could be very severe, comparable with physical or sexual abuse. It is true, I have experienced these myself and comparing them myself first hand, it was true in my case most definitely.

  98. In reply to #126 by NormallBean:

    To believe that ‘nothing’ “isn’t necessarily nothing” like Lawrence Krauss believes is just as damaging, and reveals just as much damage, as catholicism.

    I think you would struggle to produce ANY evidence for that assertion!!

    There are no known examples of “nothing” anywhere near the Solar System! An “empty” jar on Earth, contains air! Deep space has atoms and molecules, photons, gravitational fields etc.

  99. I was sexually abused when I was 8 or 9 years old (though not by a priest), and while it certainly did affect me, I find the mental abuse I was and still am subjected to much worse. I thankfully realized, by the time I was twelve, that most of what I was being fed by my parents and teachers were false, so I was not unnecessarily traumatized by thoughts of hell. Rather, I went through four years of fighting for the right to learn- something I think deserves the title ‘mental abuse.”
    I think that the fact that I was sexually abused will have little bearing on my future. The fact that I am still deprived of an uncensored education very likely will.
    Thank you, Dr. Dawkins, for stating matters the way they are.

  100. I find this troubling. While I am certainly glad that you managed to survive your instance of sexual abuse so well, not everyone is so fortunate. Many carry the scares of that for the rest of their lives. Many who have been sexually abuse, commit suicide, have long term depression, substance abuse issues and so on due to it. I also realise and know that people suffering from long term religious oppression, like being told there is a hell can be just as damaged. Many suffer long term fear, guilt, poor self-image. I understand that to many the horror for them can be just as bad as sexual abuse.

    I just think its bad to be playing the who got it worse card. At best I understand your trying to point out the harm, threats of hell produce, but at worse it could be taken as diminishing child or any other sexual abuse. i think it important to recognise many would in fact view sexual abuse as being far worse, and they are not wrong in saying that, because they have had both threats of hell and child sexual abuse.

    I think it important to point of the harms of threats of hell, but not to marginalise the sexually abused in the process.

  101. In reply to #34 by sursmiley:

    Everyone defending this piece: There’s been a lot of talk about how people critisising Dawkins are trying to take away his free speech. Noone is doing that. But free speech applies to everyone, even – gasp – the people who disagree with what you say. With that in mind, I have some things to say.

    It is absolutely ridiculous to want to quantify human suffering. To me, personally, it probably wouldn’t have made a lot of difference if my abuser had had intercourse with me. I experienced what Dawkins calls “mild” sexual abuse. I thought I would be in pain forever, until I fell asleep one night without crying for the first time in three years. After that I still felt deeply traumatised, and continue to be so in many ways, almost 10 years later.

    What Dawkins did wrong wasn’t saying that religious indoctrination can be child abuse of a very serious kind. I’m not going to say no child has felt worse than I did as a result of that because, again, YOU CAN NOT QUANTIFY HUMAN SUFFERING. And more than that; trying to quantify human suffering inevitably leads to the diminishing of other people’s feelings and experiences – which, especially in the case of abuse is a Very Bad Thing. Dawkins’ experience might have been one of “temporary embarrassment”, but that is not the case for everyone. His experience is valid, but it can’t be used to generalise. Some people might be repeatedly raped in a violent way and feel relatively okay, while some people will experience inappropriate touching and have their lives ruined. Neither of them are reacting wrong.

    I don’t know if there is comment moderation here or what, but I hope people will be able to see this comment. I’m not trying to be aggressive, I’m just trying to make people see why some victims of sexual abuse would be hurt by this.

    Agree and what is troubling richard himself cant seem to understand why this hurts sexual abuse survivors which is troubling

  102. I’m afraid I have to agree with sursmiley and melissa. The comparison was insensitive and wrong. Yes it was right to point out the horrors of terrifying small children with hell but why the comparison? It is only relatively recently that rape has been seen as the serious assault that it is. It was only last month that the legal system was advised to take into account the long term mental trauma suffered by victims when sentencing. That has been a long hard battle which is undermined by that sort of glib comparisons.

    The letter used to justify it is hardly representive. It sounds like the sort of grab and grope incident that most girls, women and some boys had to put up with as a matter of course in any pub, factory or school until relatively recently from a breed of men that seem to be thankfully dying out. So yes I’m sure it was just yukky in comparison and thankfully not acceptable any more. but it doesn’t compare with what others have suffered. Yes the stories of hell and fear and nightmaresare desperately sad and should not have happened, but how many suicides resulted? How much self harming, alcoholism or drug addictions?

    It wasn’t wrong to bring the notion of psychological harm to peoples attention, what was wrong and ill timed was to make a irresponsible comparisons at a time when we are finally starting to listen to children and finallly starting to take rape seriously. It was also an odd comparison to make at a time when the RCC no longer uses the sort of scare tactics it once did meaning that out of historical context it looks like you’re comparing real ongoing horrors with something that a lot of people won’t be able to understand as they’ll never have experienced it. It was just a very odd to seem to downplay the genuine suffering of one group to illustrate the suffering of another.

  103. I must admit that even though I’ve been at an RC school since I was 4 I’ve never actually heard mention of hell let alone been frightened by the concept. My mum went to an RC school in the 70s and 80s and she doesn’t remember hell or much mention of it. My granny doesn’t seem to be particularly traumatised by it either despite being a proper church going catholic forever. So I have to query why Richard said this was what priests and teachers were ‘doing’ rather than what they had done.

    The teachers in my school are generally brilliant and it just seems very wrong to tar them with the same brush as old abusing catholics from the 50s and 60s or whatever. It really isn’t fair or accuarate to do that when the overwhelming thing they encourage is fairness and respect for all! I can’t imagine any of the teachers I’ve had psychologically torturing any child. Nor can I see how they’d get away with it,or any priest would get away with it, without parents or other teachers complaining or getting them sacked.

    I wouldn’t downplay the suffering of the older people here who’ve been brought up like that at all just because I don’t understand it. But in return I don’t think they or Richard Dawkins should imply innocent teachers nowadays are responsible or still doing it just because they don’t understand that schools aren’t like that any more and the people that abused them long dead. Its like blaming Japanese or German teenagers for what happened in the second world war.

    I think we should be careful not to confuse helping people who’ve suffered something that happened in the past with claiming it still happens.

    Don’t forget the teachers in schools today wouldn’t have been born when a lot of this took place and will have been raised in a different world! I think we need to be more careful about stereotypes as well, and ensure we’re more up to date with things that are happening.

    As for comparisons with sexual abuse, I wasn’t happy with that really. It seemed wrong to make any comparison at all as every case is different and detracts attention away from the fact sexual abuse is still happening from unpleasant gropes through to human trafficking.

  104. You don’t fully understand what child/sexual abuse means if you can still remember it and talk about it….

    You know you have been abused when all those memories gets locked up forever in the deepest recesses of your brain…

    Oh yeah.. and you also tear up at some strange moments, like watching a movie or Thai boxing….

  105. Yeah, yourre right, some good scientific research will easily find, in average, whatever damage child abuse causes to kids in comparison do "Hell abuse". Your genes and upbringing made you deal well with the former, with such a strong will power and privileged mind, capable of facing fanaticism from all over the world, youre special, unique and, thus, not the best example of these damages. In Brazil, catholicism is something people take for granted and few are, nowadays, haunted by the idea of hell. What makes me think, do people really believe in these things, deep down? My grandmother died last year at 102 and she was an old school catholic, who prayed frequently and went to church at least once a week. In the last three years of life, she stopped talking and spent all day shouting: “Praise me, My Lord, help! Im going to die!". Just before losing her mind she told my mother she was worried that she was a sinner and would go to hell (how come? The most compassionate and good-hearted person Ive ever met would go to hell? I guess her “sin” was finding handsome, once, around the ’50s, a man other than my grandfather…). Anyway, as soon as she lost contact with the real world, her worries were not “going to hell” anymore but, simply, “going to the graveyard” like any mortal. OK, there are those terrorist who blow themselves up for the sake of a god. But I see it more as the “Selfish Gene” in action. A mansion with 19 virgins? Thats a good reason to go. Everybody I know who are truly religious fear death as much as I do. Shouldnt they be looking forward to the great day? Anyway, I suggest another scientific research: does the human mind really, truly, without a shadow of doubt believe in god, heaven and all that?

  106. I remember clearly my first doubts about religion when I was a child of about 7 or 8 years old. I was in a Sunday School class, being ‘taught’ about the story of Abraham offering his child as a sacrifice to ‘god’. I remember laying in bed at night desperately worrying about what might happen if my own parents were asked to do the same thing. I worried about which of us they would choose. (myself, or one of my sisters- and would god be so forgiving of my parents?) I was never abused by my parents or any of my religious instructors, but I nevertheless spent quite some time fearful of the repercussions if my parents were asked to sacrifice one of their children. Although, the good outcome of that experience was that, as a child, I began to doubt the ‘goodness’ of a god that was supposed to be loving and forgiving. Many years later, one of the parents of a child in my kindergarten class asked me to remove her child from the school based scripture class, as the scripture teacher had told her (5 year old) students that the devil would come up from the ground and drag them down to hell if they were sinners and did not believe in god. Needless to say, the child was suffering from nightmares! That is child abuse!! Although I’m sure the poor misguided scripture teacher truly believed she thought she was leading her little 5 and 6 year olds to salvation! These days, I refuse to surpervise scripture classes. In fact, I strongly believe that scripture has no place in public education. As a teacher, I refuse to condone religious fairytales. I read other ‘fairytales’ to my students. eg. Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, The Three Little Pigs. (Many of which have excellent moral and personal safety values) However, it is made clear that they are made up stories (narratives) form the author’s imagination. These stories are tame compared to the many sadistic, horrendous bible stories I remember being taught about as a small child.

  107. In reply to #138 by neridahj:

    I remember clearly my first doubts about religion when I was a child of about 7 or 8 years old. I was in a Sunday School class, being ‘taught’ about the story of Abraham offering his child as a sacrifice to ‘god’. I remember laying in bed at night desperately worrying about what might happen if my own parents were asked to do the same thing. I worried about which of us they would choose. (myself, or one of my sisters- and would god be so forgiving of my parents?)
    It’s interesting to see that there’s someone else out there whose rationality was aroused with the same story as mine was. I actually wondered if I would have the courage to fight back.

  108. This is a very emotional issue because we are staring into the eye of some hideous human behaviours.

    I think it’s important to read the OP carefully.

    I don’t think Professor Dawkins is trying to make the point that sexual abuse is harmless,compared to hell. He referred to an icky sexual grope that he was able to discuss with his friends who supported his position on that experience.

    He was very careful to distinguish that from an isolated child being raped in a torturous fashion without recourse to peer or family support.

    Imagine as a child being taught that if you don’t do what Charlie wants you to do that Charlie will eventually pour gasoline on you and set you on fire. And if people you love don’t do what Charlie wants you to do, Charlie will pour gasoline on them and set THEM on fire. And even if you and your loved ones DO do what Charlie wants you to do , perfectly nice people who don’t do what Charlie wants will be doused with gasoline and set on fire. Now, add to that that death won’t rescue them. Because they will burn forever.

    I am ashamed to admit that I believed them although I was sceptical about many other things they asserted. I realize now that I was vulnerable on two levels. One is that they taught it to me in school alongside grammar, math, history and many other things that did have an epistomoligical basis that any child searches for. They were right about those things and I was still learning, so why would they lie about this?

    Two, the only possible way that any adult would teach me that something so unfathomably immoral was true was because they knew for certain that it was.

    It’s important to keep in mind that child rape is finally criminal (this took a long time because no one admitted it happened and even now, religious organizations get away with countless egregious examples of it) but that teaching children that they or others will burn forever is perfectly legal.

    I think Professor Dawkins’ point is that abuse is abuse. There are muslims and christians (and still catholics, despite the experience of many catholics here) who teach the fires of hell to children.

    It is abuse. They are making up the worst kind of nightmare and teaching children that it is true. That reduces questioning to nearly zero or someone is going to get burned.

    Now, consider what a powerful tool that is for a child rapist.

    It’s a perfectly valid point to raise. Hell fucked me up very badly, I’m ashamed to say. I couldn’t sleep. I shouldn’t be ashamed to say it. It is designed to do exactly that.

  109. In reply to #130 by Alan4discussion:

    In reply to #126 by NormallBean:

    To believe that ‘nothing’ “isn’t necessarily nothing” like Lawrence Krauss believes is just as damaging, and reveals just as much damage, as catholicism.

    I think you would struggle to produce ANY evidence for that assertion!!

    There are no known examples of “nothing” anywhere near the Solar System! An “empty” jar on Earth, contains air! Deep space has atoms and molecules, photons, gravitational fields etc.

    It’s completely irrelevant if you have evidence or not of “nothing” any where in the universe. What is relevant is the contradiction of terms. NOT nothing == nothing , cannot be true.

  110. In reply to #141 by NormallBean:

    In reply to #130 by Alan4discussion:

    In reply to #126 by NormallBean:

    To believe that ‘nothing’ “isn’t necessarily nothing” like Lawrence Krauss believes is just as damaging, and reveals just as much damage, as catholicism.

    I think you would struggle to produce ANY evidence for that assertion!!

    There are no known examples of “nothing” anywhere near the Solar System! An “empty” jar on Earth, contains air! Deep space has atoms and molecules, photons, gravitational fields etc.

    It’s completely irrelevant if you have evidence or not of “nothing” any where in the universe. What is relevant is the contradiction of terms. NOT nothing == nothing , cannot be true.

    As I explained absolute “nothing” does not exist anywhere in the universe, and you do seem to have missed the point, that the only “absolute nothing” is in the theist concept of “creation from nothing”!

    Concerning the doctrine on creation, Ludwig Ott in his Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma identifies the following points as essential beliefs of the Catholic faith (“De Fide”):[48]

    All that exists outside God was, in its whole substance, produced out of nothing by God. 
    

    wikipedia.org/wiki/Catholic

    So … believing in mystical creation from ” nothing” IS Catholicism!
    You seem to be foot-shooting!

  111. In reply to #126 by NormallBean:

    To believe that ‘nothing’ “isn’t necessarily nothing” like Lawrence Krauss believes is just as damaging, and reveals just as much damage, as catholicism.

    What exactly is damaging about that? Does believing that ‘nothing’ isn’t nothing compel you to hurt anyone? (And maybe learn some quantum mechanics before you judge Krauss’s statement.)

  112. This sort of comparison is very unhelpful. Potential child abusers could use this sort of comment to justify their actions. I get that the comment is about the mildest kind of sex abuse v the severest kind of religious scaremongering, but even so. A 10 year old girl who’s pregnant by her father probably already thinks she’s in hell.

  113. Sorry Dawkins you’ve lost me as a fan.

    I read your classics and overall found their logic appreciable, but then there was all your untied loose ends sir, and on the fringes you’ve been saying some bullshit that has very little to do with atheism. Like Sam Harris, you’ve crossed the line from atheist skepticism of powerful social and institutional forces trying to superimpose another narrative over what is reasonable, like religion to science to being someone who endorses these forces when it just doesn’t really affect your ego I take it. You got your ego on the line when it comes to atheism but you could give a sh_t about the poor couldn’t you? Those in Africa under dominion of Islamic rule, that they aren’t even worth helping because Islam has doomed them: http://old.richarddawkins.net/discussions/624093-support-christian-missions-in-africa-no-but . That was one issue back in May 2011, but now with the sexual abuse comments and that you get to license future sexual abusers because the victims had trust in these figures who exploited their trust? Are not the mixed actions of abusing trust and sexual abuse real dangers to a safe rational society? The priest sells the story he’s a nice guy so the kid believes him and therefore the molestation can only be internalized by the child at this stage and in all later stages as purely a good act because a good guy did it? Is this not an incredibly naive thing to say? And could not this line of reasoning basically be used against your atheism? That you shouldn’t have a problem with any of it, because the people who sold you your religion also tried to gain your trust by telling you they are nice people? To even be saying that mild pedophilia exists and is fine is to licence pedophilia my safe and secure delusional friend. Some people manipulate and prey on the vulnerable and its unfair to look at a child and say that same sh_t to them and not feel an ounce of guilt over your lack of compassion for childhood experience, especially when they go bad through multiple forms of abuse like goes on with the type of “touching” you are talking about.

    I would rather argue for a safer world, and that was why I found some of your arguments against religion powerful tools, but you’ve again chosen to steer atheism into the category of the “new atheists” as Chris Hedges has termed it. I am not religious like him but I agree with him about the Christian fascists at least and increasingly am understanding this breed of “new atheism” and I want to wrest atheism from the grips of ideas harmful to humanity.

    I am an atheist but socialist and progressive, so abusing the mental and physical health of any societies’ members in not my angle. I have no axe to grind by telling women to just put up and stop whining either, I have no horse in the race to go out of my way to say I don’t give a sh*t about people trying to mentally cope with being violated and feeling not in charge, etc. I think its awful to relish in telling people to stop whining about being sexually and psychologically manipulated and molested as kids, to get over themselves.

    I don’t know what’s gone on since you got so stinking rich but I think you must be sitting atop that giant stack of money looking at everyone as ants and not up close, thinking outside your extensive sphere of security you’ve now developed for yourself, no longer aware of the harm that can be caused in the real world, and how that affects their sense of agency over their own lives.

    Way to go dude for being a douche. Keep it up and lose some more fans, hopefully they’re dropping like flies.

  114. Last time I wrote this I got disabled as a user.Nice free Speech. Here it is again.

    Sorry Dawkins you’ve lost me as a fan.

    I read your classics and overall found their logic appreciable, but then there was all your untied loose ends sir, and on the fringes you’ve been saying some garbage that has very little to do with atheism. Like Sam Harris, you’ve crossed the line from atheist skepticism of powerful social and institutional forces trying to superimpose another narrative over what is reasonable, like religion to science to being someone who endorses these forces when it just doesn’t really affect your ego I take it. You got your ego on the line when it comes to atheism but you could give a damn about the poor couldn’t you? Those in Africa under dominion of Islamic rule, that they aren’t even worth helping because Islam has doomed them: http://old.richarddawkins.net/discussions/624093-support-christian-missions-in-africa-no-but . That was one issue back in May 2011, but now with the sexual abuse comments and that you get to license future sexual abusers because the victims had trust in these figures who exploited their trust? Are not the mixed actions of abusing trust and sexual abuse real dangers to a safe rational society? The priest sells the story he’s a nice guy so the kid believes him and therefore the molestation can only be internalized by the child at this stage and in all later stages as purely a good act because a good guy did it? Is this not an incredibly naive thing to say? And could not this line of reasoning basically be used against your atheism? That you shouldn’t have a problem with any of it, because the people who sold you your religion also tried to gain your trust by telling you they are nice people? To even be saying that mild pedophilia exists and is fine is to licence pedophilia my safe and secure delusional friend. Some people manipulate and prey on the vulnerable and its unfair to look at a child and say that same trash to them and not feel an ounce of guilt over your lack of compassion for childhood experience, especially when they go bad through multiple forms of abuse like goes on with the type of “touching” you are talking about.

    I would rather argue for a safer world, and that was why I found some of your arguments against religion powerful tools, but you’ve again chosen to steer atheism into the category of the “new atheists” as Chris Hedges has termed it. I am not religious like him but I agree with him about the Christian fascists at least and increasingly am understanding this breed of “new atheism” and I want to wrest atheism from the grips of ideas harmful to humanity.

    I am an atheist but socialist and progressive, so abusing the mental and physical health of societies members in not my angle. I have no axe to grind by telling women to just put up and stop whining either, I have no horse in the race to go out of my way to say I don’t give a sh*t about people trying to mentally cope with being violated and feeling not in charge, etc. I think its awful to relish in telling people to stop whining about being sexually and psychologically manipulated and molested as kids, to get over themselves.

    I don’t know what’s gone on since you got so stinking rich but I think you must be sitting atop that giant stack of money looking at everyone as ants and not up close, thinking outside your extensive sphere of security you’ve now developed for yourself, no longer aware of the harm that can be caused in the real world, and how that affects their sense of agency over their own lives.

    Way to go dude for being a douche. Keep it up and lose some more fans, hopefully they’re dropping like flies.

  115. As the atheist champion of global Humanism, Richard Dawkins is now on a world crusade to eliminate the “child abuse” caused by religion, particularly Christianity. However, if Richard is really concerned about the “well-being” of children he should start with Humanism itself. Humanist activists has done more to decimate the well-being of children than any other ideology. Thanks to the agenda advocated, promoted and implemented by Humanism’s pro-abortion activism “millions of children” are now being torn apart by abortionists. With the heads of late term children being crushed as they struggle to exit the womb. Their tiny hearts still beating as they lay dying on abortion clinic benches.

    Then we have Richards alternative education agenda, Where all children are taught that they live in an “indifferent” universe that is devoid of ultimate meaning and purpose. A place where humans are nothing special, being merely the product “selfish genes”. Simply the result of “undirected” chance cosmic events. Along with uncaring evolutionary processes that operates on the “survival of the fittest” and “nature red in tooth and claw”. Of course, Richard wants teachers to encourages children to live otherwise. In the hope that children will not practice what Dawkins and all other like minded teachers preach. However, the headlines of newspapers would daily herald the impact and consequences of this emerging anti-religious godless mindset.

    To this we add the global Humanist movements grand contribution to the legalization and widespread availability of pornography. And the fostering of related lifestyles. Such that porn is being widely viewed by children and young adults alike. Who now largely perceive this “anything goes” environment as the new cultural norm. Everything was now “relative”, they insist, particularly morality. The “absolute principle” of the Humanist utopia is that there are “no moral absolutes”. Thus, there was no ultimate basis for good and evil, right and wrong, or even justice and injustice.. As an indifferent uncaring godless universe had no ultimate place for such invented human notions. It was all about the “well-being” of humanity, they said. And what constituted the “well-being” of individuals and society would be decided by the godless ruling governing elite. As Caesar, the French Revolution, Napoleon, Stalin, Hitler, Mao, Pol Pot, and countless others have well demonstrated.

    Of course, in such a godless utopia, all children would be warned to stay away from Christian views and values. No mention was to be made of the Ten Commands, the sanctity of marriage, sacrificial service and giving, turning the other cheek, returning good for evil, looking after the unborn, or caring for the poor and the needy. As the teaching such values and ideals was “child abuse”, said Richard and co

    • In reply to #149 by johnheno:

      Thanks to the agenda advocated, promoted and implemented by Humanism’s pro-abortion activism “millions of children” are now being torn apart by abortionists.

      It’s women who have abortions, not Humanism. If they are involved in ‘tearing apart’ their children, surely they should be prosecuted for murder? You should be making your accusations to the police if you take yourself seriously.

    • Don’t worry, here is a list of all those civilised god fearing countries where abortion is banned.

      Maybe you have a point about children’s education, the humanist belief that this world is what we make of it is nowhere near as impressive as, say, the christian teaching.

      Not sure pornography is a humanist industry. Perhaps a survey of those working in the industry and the consumers would be interesting but I suspect you would not be very happy with the results. Given your approach re abortion, perhaps we should just make sex illegal, except for the purpose of married religious (preferably christian) couples making babies. In fact that would go a long way to solving the abortion problem. And to show that we are serious, the punishment for sex outside marriage could be stoning to death.

      On christian morals, you seem to be misrepresenting RD’s views, although I’m sure as a good christian you would not be doing that deliberately. Here is a reminder of RD’s views on christian morals and the 10 commandments.

      In reply to #149 by johnheno:

      As the atheist champion of global Humanism, Richard Dawkins is now on a world crusade to eliminate the “child abuse” caused by religion, particularly Christianity. However, if Richard is really concerned about the “well-being” of children he should start with Humanism itself. Humanist activists has…

  116. Well said! I believe that organized religion has probably caused more harm (mental trauma, sexual abuse, murder, etc) than any other organized entity, including governments, and organized crime…
    Keep fighting the good fight!

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