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  1. Excellent speakers and discussion – Government could legislate for the seperation of religious education as an extracurricular option for the parents to choose, with government run secular education for all citizens and at least some contact with state for home schooled children. The isolationist religions who segregate themselves should be a red flag to child protection for the abuse of children and women – Why are they allowed to continue without regular check or intervention. I’m all for peoples freedom to choose lifestyle, but even the minimum of state contact is better for the safety of children. The government has a duty to protect every citizen and even more duty to the powerless children. How can ordinary people pressure the government together ?

  2. Christians say, “My father beat me to a pulp. I am living proof it good for the child.” or “My grandmother scared me silly with hellfire. It has made me an upstanding person.”

    I respond “No it didn’t. It made you into a pathetic shell of a person with your ability to reason cauterised, your compassion excised and your joy for life exterminated. You have Stockholm sydrome and do not realise it.”

    • In reply to #3 by Roedy:

      Christians say, “My father beat me to a pulp. I am living proof it good for the child.” or “My grandmother scared me silly with hellfire. It has made me an upstanding person.”

      I respond “No it didn’t. It made you into a pathetic shell of a person with your ability to reason cauterised, your comp…

      Wow man, it’s like you’re describing my life! My Christian dad beat me every night with a baseball bat if I would forget some verses from the prayer, and my Christian grandmother vividly described how demons would disembowel me and rape me with spiked clubs if I said naughty words. I haven’t talked to them in years of course, because since I’ve told them I have doubts about the whole thing and eventually described myself as an atheist, they have a contract on my head. Because that’s totally how most Christians are! I remember there was a kid in the neighbourhood that only got beaten once a month, and dude, was he was the envy of all the rest of us. Ever seen or read “Carrie”? This isn’t just an extreme tale from the dark and twisted imagination of Stephen King, it’s, dare I say, a documentary about the life of the typical Chistian family. Most Christian parents are exactly like that. Yeah. Definately. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a William Blake painting I need to swallow.

      PS: (it’s easy to win an argument when you’re making up both sides).

  3. The circumcised elephant in the room, of course, is the most widespread child abuse of all: genital mutilation.

    In the United States the government sanctioned torture of thousands of children per day continues routinely. The physical effects of which -the forced and unnecessary amputation of perfectly healthy highly sensitive tissue – accompany the victim for a lifetime. As do the psychological effects of having been betrayed, as a child, by those most responsible to protect the child from harm: the parents.

    And all this just for the purpose of physically being branded and scarred into membership of a religious tribe, another sheep in the flock beholden to a bronze age god.

    • In reply to #4 by godsbuster:

      The circumcised elephant in the room, of course, is the most widespread child abuse of all: genital mutilation.

      In the United States the government sanctioned torture of thousands of children per day continues routinely. The physical effects of which -the forced and unnecessary amputation of perf…

      It doesn’t help that Dawkins sees no problem and refused to condemn it

      • In reply to #5 by Albanist:

        It doesn’t help that Dawkins sees no problem and refused to condemn it

        This is a serious accusation. Could you please provide a link or reference where he is in fact on record in this regard?

        • Professor Dawkins has been asked explicitly about non-therapeutic male genital cutting(circumcision) and he doesn’t seem to think it has any lasting harm. A retired nurse, Iris Fudge, has asked him about his views on this matter and this is her story of that interaction- Youtube: Iris Fudge Questions Richard Dawkins on Circumcision In reply to #15 by godsbuster:

          In reply to #5 by Albanist:

          It doesn’t help that Dawkins sees no problem and refused to condemn it

          This is a serious accusation. Could you please provide a link or reference where he is in fact on record in this regard?

          • In reply to #26 by Sweetgrass:

            Professor Dawkins has been asked explicitly about non-therapeutic male genital cutting(circumcision) and he doesn’t seem to think it has any lasting harm. A retired nurse, Iris Fudge, has asked him about his views on this matter and this is her story of that interaction- Youtube: Iris Fudge, has asked him about his views on this matter and this is her story of that interaction…

            Thanks for that, but that’s hearsay and will remain so until we read or hear Professor Dawkins himself on the topic fully and in context.

            It would be an absolutely staggering display of cognitive dissonance, a rogue rubbishing of a tsunami of evidence and inexcusable for a scientist of his stature where he to wave it off in such a cavalier fashion. Unthinkable. If you consider naming a child a Christian, Jewish or Muslim child child abuse – as insidious as forcing that on a child is – then on top of that the psychological and physical impact of circumcision should at least cause you to consider circumcision as bad if not worse. Add to that the flagrant violation of human rights and the Hippocratic Oath circumcision constitutes.

            That said, it would be helpful and urgent for Professor Dawkins to make a clear statement -hopefully on the evidenced based side. If only to dispel doubt on where he stands. Let him first inspire himself by 17 merciless minutes of Hitch (PBUH) on the topic. Just to be on the safe side.

          • I agree regarding hearsay. I fully agree with your post, too. Of the ‘Four Horsemen’ Hitch has been the only one in highlighting this predominantly religious- and religiously inspired- sexual assault on male children. Medical professionals are placing themselves in the position of engaging in non-therapeutic genital cutting but calling it ‘medicine’ regardless of the lack of pathology. They use culturally biased studies in peer-reviewed medical journals to bolster their authority and reap the profits at the expense of the rights of the child- all with ‘science’ behind them. Raping children in the name of pseudo-science apparently hasn’t quiet reached Professor Dawkins’ radar yet. Hopefully one day it will. In reply to #27 by godsbuster:

            In reply to #26 by Sweetgrass:

            Professor Dawkins has been asked explicitly about non-therapeutic male genital cutting(circumcision) and he doesn’t seem to think it has any lasting harm. A retired nurse, Iris Fudge, has asked him about his views on this matter and this is her story of that interacti…

      • In reply to #5 by Albanist:

        It doesn’t help that Dawkins sees no problem and refused to condemn it

        How on earth did you come to that particular conclusion?.

        Dawkins is avidly against any and all child-abuse. Your comment makes no sense.

    • In reply to #4 by godsbuster:

      The circumcised elephant in the room, of course, is the most widespread child abuse of all: genital mutilation.

      In the United States the government sanctioned torture of thousands of children per day continues routinely. The physical effects of which -the forced and unnecessary amputation of perf…

      It always amazes me that there is HUGE public outcry against female genital mutilation, but hardly a murmur where male genital mutilation is concerned. It seems to be accepted in many areas as being normal and necessary. I’m so thankful that my parents didn’t even consider it for me, my brother or my sisters.

  4. Male circumcision is nothing like female “circumcision” which is actually mutilation.
    Male circumcision is a routine medical procedure often carried out for valid medical reasons, like prepupal adhesions or phimosis, with no or occasionally minimal negative affect on the child. This is probably why male circumcision for religious reasons isn’t so frowned upon.
    Except maybe when they keep it strictly “traditional” and don’t use proper aseptic techniques.

    • In reply to #7 by Seraphor:

      Male circumcision is nothing like female “circumcision” which is actually mutilation.
      Male circumcision is a routine medical procedure often carried out for valid medical reasons, like prepupal adhesions or phimosis, with no or occasionally minimal negative affect on the child. This is probably why…

      An amputation of a limb when carried out for non-medical reasons is not mutilation either, however I would have a problem with it being sanctioned on religious or cultural grounds. Cutting off a kids earlobes would be less painful and safer than male circumcision would you condone that in children also on religious or cultural grounds?

      I fully agree with the fact that in terms of pain and long term consequences male circumcision is nothing compared to that caused by female genital mutilation but it is cutting off perfectly good body parts long before the boy in question has any say in the matter and pointing this out does not diminish the horror of female genital mutilation. They are both wrong for the same reason because they are both actual mutilation. The Masai as adults subject themselves to circumcision as the final part of their initiation as warriors. So as young adults they stand there and have someone cut their foreskin off (actually not completely off), they must not flinch of show pain or they cannot be a warrior, now if this procedure causes no pain it wouldn’t make much of an initiation would it. Now I have no problem with this they are adult and can choose to not be a warrior if they want.

      And I grant that in hospital I’m sure they rub some anesthetic on the poor babies penis, but you’ll still be looking at days of pain when it wears off, that the child can’t tell you it hurts doesn’t mean it doesn’t. Again ask a Massi. But unless there is some medical reason to do so, choosing a permanent fashion statement or religious statement for your child is in my mind as wrong as tattooing your child, also mutilation. If it was so fantastic to have part of your willy cut off why aren’t adult males who weren’t circumcised as children beating down the doors to have the procedure done?

      • In reply to #10 by Reckless Monkey:

        In reply to #7 by Seraphor:

        An amputation of a limb when carried out for non-medical reasons is not mutilation either…

        Could you give us an example of the amputation of a limb carried out for non-medical reasons that is not mutilation?
        According to Websters even when done for medical reasons it would seem to be considered mutilation.

        Definition of MUTILATE
        1
        to cut up or alter radically so as to make imperfect
        2
        to cut off or permanently destroy a limb or essential part of
        • In reply to #17 by godsbuster:

          In reply to #10 by Reckless Monkey:

          In reply to #7 by Seraphor:

          An amputation of a limb when carried out for non-medical reasons is not mutilation either…

          Could you give us an example of the amputation of a limb carried out for non-medical reasons that is not mutilation?
          According to Websters e…

          You may be right, but I feel you are arguing semantics here.

          I’ll clarify what I mean in relation to the post I was responding to. The claim made (and you can look up the thread yourself) is that male circumcision is not mutilation and that female genital circumcision was.

          I was making the case while female genital mutilation is mutilation and unjustified so is male circumcision for the same reason. As the poster had tried to put male circumcision in the medical category and argued that it was therefore not mutilation I was using mutilation with the emotional weight it has in the context of being unnessecary. That is unnecessary mutilation and therefore bad.

          So in arguing with the poster I have drawn a link between necessary amputation of other body parts eg. a limb would be considered necessary and humane if carried out to save a life but unnecessary mutilation (with all the emotional weight it carries in this context) if done due to some whim of fashion, culture or religion.

          So my argument is that male circumcision is bad if carried out for non-medical reasons but okay if necessary, and you should argue that because female circumcision is worse that that make male circumcision okay. I hope this clarifies my position.

    • In reply to #7 by Seraphor:

      Male circumcision is nothing like female “circumcision” which is actually mutilation.
      Male circumcision is a routine medical procedure often carried out for valid medical reasons, like prepupal adhesions or phimosis, with no or occasionally minimal negative affect on the child. This is probably why male circumcision for religious reasons isn’t so frowned upon. Except maybe when they keep it strictly “traditional” and don’t use proper aseptic techniques.

      Where would we be without Dr. Seraphor clarifying for us which is and which is “actually” not mutilation.

      The vast majority of circumcisions in the United States are not carried out for valid medical reasons but for legalistic, commercial (the US has the most rabidly for profit health care system in the industrialized world), cultural “we have always done it that way” and of course religious reasons.

      In fact, circumcision in cases of phimosis is rarely indicated. It is remarkable how the incidence of circumcision varies by country e.g. China, Finland and Japan each show less than 1% of men circumcised.

      Recently a court in Germany outlawed circumcision for non-medical reasons. One guess which quarters the ensuing shitstorm emanated from: It was truly endearing to watch the bearded patriarchs of perverse piety – chiefs of the otherwise mortal rival faiths of Islam and Judaism unite in almost brotherly ecumenical single issue love.

  5. How do people get taken in by people like Mary Baker Eddy and such ridiculous beliefs?

    Leaves me shaking my head.

    I have requested UNICEF to ban the teaching of hell to children. I have not received a reply.

    • In reply to #8 by ArloNo:

      How do people get taken in by people like Mary Baker Eddy and such ridiculous beliefs?

      Leaves me shaking my head.

      I have requested UNICEF to ban the teaching of hell to children. I have not received a reply.

      Yes, she is dead after all as are all the people who where early adopters. How do they explain it when grandma and grandpa die?

  6. Katherine Stewart made some very strong allegations about really nasty teachings and practices by the Good News Club.

    Is there any evidence (ideally video evidence) of very young children being taught the things she alleges?

  7. I agree with Richard 100% upon this point.

    Abuse of children is a legal matter, and should be unhindered by any form of excuse derived from religion – or any other doctrine or culture.

    I attended a girls’ public school in England (for Americans, that means a ‘private school’) and it is only in recent years that corporal punishment in the private sector was declared illegal – around 1998 I believe. It followed the banning of it within state school environments by around a decade. It is never acceptable.

  8. I watched this session live the other day. Dr. Dawkins raised the issue of religious labeling of children many years ago. I am glad to see that this issue has been moved to the spotlight.

  9. Congratulations–fine presentations by everyone! They contained a lot of substance.

    There’s a thorough book focusing on the history of child victims of faith healing. As Liz Heywood’s example so powerfully shows, there are faith healing sects in the U.S. that reject medical science and are zealous about exclusively using religion-based nonsense. They won’t take their kids to a doctor; instead, they often rely on James 5:13-15, which calls for anointing and prayer. The courts allow adults to treat themselves in this way, and I agree with that right. However, parents in these sects handle their kids using the same dogma–with gruesome results: they may kill several of their kids this way and yet do it again. Their faith is unshakable. This is the subject of a book I recently finished: (amazon link) When Prayer Fails: Faith Healing, Children, and the Law (2008) by Shawn Francis Peters. The book takes a look at the barking-mad religion at the base, the history of nightmare tragedies, and the legal difficulties in prosecuting the parents. One of the most outrageous roadblocks came from U.S. government pressure–during the Nixon years–on states to put religious exemptions into their child abuse laws. Before this happened, Peters says that fewer than 12 states had exclusions; after Federal pressure, most states complied. The Federal requirement was rescinded in 1983, but most states kept the exemption. One also gets a picture of just how much faith healing is part of the Xn religion. This is a detailed scholarly work with 28 pages of notes, 12 pages of bibliography, and an 8 page index. According to the book’s flap, Shawn Peters teaches writing and U.S. history at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. I looked in the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s directory; he’s still at the University, so, perhaps he would agree to speak at future events.

    James 5:13-15, quoted from the online “Skeptics Annotated Bible:

    5:13 Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms.
    5:14 Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray > over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord:
    5:15 And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if > he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him.

    This is exactly what they do.

    Religious liberty–and intellectual liberty in general–includes the right to think what we want, but does not give us the right to do anything we want. The right to action ends when the rights of others are violated. Rights of children are upheld by converting them into obligations of the parents. The pious have gotten into the habit of whining about religious liberty when they can’t carry out their wishes.

  10. There will always be tensions between societal aims and personal freedoms. For practical reasons, people have to be free to raise their own children, even though in many cases they get it wrong. Surely the danger of the government control of child rearing outweighs the often clumsy and foolish practices of modern parents.

    • In reply to #21 by johnnyred:

      There will always be tensions between societal aims and personal freedoms. For practical reasons, people have to be free to raise their own children, even though in many cases they get it wrong. Surely the danger of the government control of child rearing outweighs the often clumsy and foolish pract…

      I don’t now about this, I’d just like to see some consistency in government regulations. That is currently, you are not allowed to (against the law) withhold medical treatment for your child for any but religious reasons. All that is being argued here is that the rights (currently held by all but religious children) should be held by all children. For practical reasons as much as any other no-one is saying don’t raise your child this way or that. What Richard is suggesting in his we shouldn’t label children is not some legislation but rather social pressure to not do so. This is my understanding anyway, he can speak for himself he has discussed this a number of times.

  11. What? Government run child rearing? All I saw in Sean’s comments was the aim of getting religion out of the government; I saw nothing about trying to put government in control of child rearing. Since anything the government has control of becomes political, all this would do is apply the current popular child rearing fad to the whole country. The government is not omniscient or infallible; all it does is coerce and when everyone is forced into an idiotic idea, expect the worst results. Let the researchers and thinkers figure it out and parents apply it in a way that doesn’t violate a child’s rights. Just because some abuse a right doesn’t mean that it should be taken away from everyone.

    Should Sean’s political program wander away from his stated agenda of “Get religion out of government,” e.g., banning homeschooling, I would drop support immediately. By keeping a clean and sharply focused agenda, the program will gain the most support. Maybe, first, it would be best to get rid of the pernicious religious exclusions for faith healing. Shawn Peters has documented this outrage so thoroughly in his book, “When Prayer Fails:…,” that this should be a relatively easy target–the research is already done. With the info from his book, no sane person could continue the exclusion. Another target should be the Good News Club; this is an extremely dangerous bunch because of its pathetic morality of obedience. It’s a perfect preparation for some kind of “army of God.” Anyway, I’ll look at Sean’s program when it’s ready to launch; hopefully I’ll be able to support it, but, frankly, I’m a bit antsy.

  12. I am so glad that ‘liberal religious’ groups are to be involved in the campaign to ‘get religion out of government’. We, and I count myself among their number in the UK, have been battling religious fundamentalism from within. I think there is much we have in common. We believe in scholarship and the critical examination of ancient texts like the Bible; in not being locked-in to Bronze Age morals; in not being locked into ancient ways of understanding the universe; in hearing the many voices, some very humane, within the ancient texts and not treating them as a monolithic whole and so on. It is truly diabolical what happens in the name of religion. My own community takes the safeguarding of children extremely seriously. I watched this seminar with great interest – a chastening experience. I wish you every success.

  13. The 2001 Supreme Court decision that turned the disgusting Good News Club lose in U.S. public schools is named “Good News Club v. Milford Central School. The decision’s Wikipedia page is here and is worth reading. Milford had opened itself up to after school instructional programs and other civic events. The Court’s decision (from Wikipedia):

    … held that when a government operates a “limited public forum,” it may not discriminate against speech that takes place within that forum on the basis of the viewpoint it expresses—in this case, against religious speech engaged in by an evangelical Christian club for children.

    The majority opinion referred to prior decisions. However, maybe there is yet a chance to get it overturned on the grounds that the Milford case is different in an important way. In the minority opinion, we see (from Wikipedia):

    Furthermore, Souter disagreed that this case was so similar to Widmar and Lamb’s Chapel as the majority claimed. Widmar involved a university student group, one of over a hundred on campus, that used university space for religious worship. In that case, Souter pointed out, the risk of the university being seen as endorsing the worship was low in light of the number of student groups on campus and the level of maturity of the students. The film in Lamb’s Chapel was open to the general public and aimed at adults, not children, and the school facilities had been used by a wide variety of private organizations, just as there were a large number of student groups in Widmar.

    Although these public schools had opened there facilities for speech, there were no grounds for the participants (adults or mature college students) thinking that the schools were endorsing religious speech. For elementary schools, however, this is exactly what Katherine Stewart is contesting in her book, “The Good News Club:…” The kids see this teaching just like the other things they learn in school–and they trust it.

    It’s sad to think that a school would allow its students to pursue, after hours, competent instruction in other interests (IMO, a great idea), but end up having to allow facilities for the loathsome Good News Club.

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