Secular Parenting and the Problem of Indoctrination

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Discussion by: danarel

The fear of teaching ones children to be atheist is a fear known by many atheist parents. Most believe atheism is a place you should find on your own; critical thinking, knowledge, logic and other means of rational thinking lead people to reject the idea of man made gods and consider themselves atheist. This is not something atheist parents wish to indoctrinate into their children.

How though, do you instill these values as an atheist parent without force feeding your children? The answer should be rather simple; Education. Parents must teach their kids about questioning assumption and social norms, showing their kids how to think critically and be a skeptic of claims that sound too good to be true. Instill logic and how to apply it to life’s problems, and claims made by those around them. Teach them about as many religious beliefs as possible, and also about disbelief. Explain why Christians believe in Jesus, Muslims in Mohammad, teach them what Buddha believed. Explain how God and Allah are the same, how different parts of the world and different types of religions think about the texts differently. Explain creation myths, but at the same time, instill scientific truths.

Contrary to the religious claims, teaching your kid that evolution is a scientific fact is not indoctrination, no more than teaching that 2+2=4. Explain the big bang, how stars and planets formed, and compare those to stories from world religions. Do not shy away from calling these stories myths, especially if they are, as in creationism. Again, teaching your child the scientific truth to the origins of life is not indoctrination, it’s education.

The fear of teaching ones children to be atheist is a fear known by many atheist parents. Most believe atheism is a place you should find on your own; critical thinking, knowledge, logic and other means of rational thinking lead people to reject the idea of man made gods and consider themselves atheist. This is not something atheist parents wish to indoctrinate into their children.

How though, do you instill these values as an atheist parent without force feeding your children? The answer should be rather simple; Education. Parents must teach their kids about questioning assumption and social norms, showing their kids how to think critically and be a skeptic of claims that sound too good to be true. Instill logic and how to apply it to life’s problems, and claims made by those around them. Teach them about as many religious beliefs as possible, and also about disbelief. Explain why Christians believe in Jesus, Muslims in Mohammad, teach them what Buddha believed. Explain how God and Allah are the same, how different parts of the world and different types of religions think about the texts differently. Explain creation myths, but at the same time, instill scientific truths.

Contrary to the religious claims, teaching your kid that evolution is a scientific fact is not indoctrination, no more than teaching that 2+2=4. Explain the big bang, how stars and planets formed, and compare those to stories from world religions. Do not shy away from calling these stories myths, especially if they are, as in creationism. Again, teaching your child the scientific truth to the origins of life is not indoctrination, it’s education.

sec_parenting

If you child is young enough, you can bake cookies in the shape of religious symbols, the cross, star of David, the Islamic star and crescent. Explain what these symbols mean, why they are important to some people. If they are older, you can read to them, or they can read on their own. Books such as Richard Dawkins’ The Magic of Reality, which offers great scientific stories and compares them with myths from around the world.

By telling your child about these beliefs, stories, and myths, you will expose them to the world we live in and allow them to ask questions and reflect on what they have learned. These tools will allow them to make informed and educated decisions about what they believe.

Let them explore these beliefs, even if they do not align with your own. This does mean you need to let them foster hateful beliefs; if you see that their beliefs are leading to bigotry and intolerance, as any good parent should, this is when you should intervene. But allow your child to read and learn about beliefs and religions they may find interesting, be there to answer questions for them. Foster their curiosity.

You must also teach them about science and the scientific method. You do not have to be a scientists or even understand all of the theories and laws that make up our universe, but show them how to trust, and at the same time question science. Show them science versus pseudoscience, how to tell the difference, and why people make pseudo-scientific claims. Teach them about the beauty of evolution, the wonder of the big bang and just how massive and undiscovered much of our universe is. The truth about the wonders of our universe are far greater than any mythological story you can conjure up from any religion.

Every parent instills his or her beliefs, values, and morals into their child, and it is important that parents do this, but the lessons do not need to come from a book or a higher power. As atheists, secularists, and or humanists, we know these morals come from empathy, understanding, and the desire to increase happiness and reduce suffering. The most important thing you can do is teach them your beliefs and values, while making sure they understand as they grow, they do not have to be their beliefs and values. One of the most important things a child can do is to grow up and question their parents beliefs. They may or may not come to the same conclusions as you, but this is okay, many do not share all of their parents values. This is how society and cultures evolve and hopefully, improve.

So teach your kids who you are, and how you became who you are, teach them about others and what others think. Educate them to the fullest, so they are not sheltered from beliefs that would be otherwise foreign to them. This alone will instill critical thinking and lead to better logical reasoning. This will give your child the skills they need to make informed decisions throughout their life and you can rest easy knowing they have these tools at their disposal for whatever challenges life brings their way. Most importantly, teach them to be curious!

Each parent will find their own path on this road, but these are tools to help light the way. If you have suggestions or ideas, please comment below and share. Atheist and secular parents need to be in constant dialogue and growing this community.

53 COMMENTS

  1. This article goes wrong right from the first sentence. No one teaches their children to be atheists. You teach your children to be rationalists. The atheism naturally follows. The notion that this is indoctrination is silly. Why would anyone have a fear of doing it?

    • In reply to #2 by mrluigi:

      This article goes wrong right from the first sentence. No one teaches their children to be atheists. You teach your children to be rationalists. The atheism naturally follows. The notion that this is indoctrination is silly. Why would anyone have a fear of doing it?

      I doubt many atheists would do this, but in theory they might say “I don’t want any discussion of God is this house. It is nonsense because I say so. End of discussion.”

    • In reply to #2 by mrluigi:

      This article goes wrong right from the first sentence. No one teaches their children to be atheists. You teach your children to be rationalists. The atheism naturally follows. The notion that this is indoctrination is silly. Why would anyone have a fear of doing it?

      I taught my children that they had to wait till they were older and had learnt a lot about different things and then they could make up their own minds. To raise them as atheists from the start would have been indoctrination I guess. It had to be their considered choice otherwise not only would it be meaningless but they would have been easy pickings for later religous conversion by the less scrupulous religious nutters. You teach your children to think really.

      They do RE at school and learnt the various beliefs of various groups and that, more than anything else, is clinchilng it. How could they all be right? They couldn’t. And how could people believe such silly ideas? And when one was taken to a lunatic fringe church by her friend, she was not bamboozled by the free pizza and trips to lazer quest but thought about it and realised they were talking nonsense (though continues to go for the free pizza and laser quest whilst simultaneously questioning the nonsense).

      • In reply to #12 by PG:

        I taught my children that they had to wait till they were older and had learnt a lot about different things and then they could make up their own minds. To raise them as atheists from the start would have been indoctrination I guess.

        So presumably, if you didn’t raise them as atheists, you must have raised them as theists, and that wasn’t indoctrination!???!

        • Mrluigi, I think what you present as logical isn’t and, also, appears to suggest that however one raises children could be called indoctrination. Was that your intention?. I’m guessing that you’re not a parent since bringing kids up, in my experience, seldom allows of such clear-cut distinctions anyway.In reply to #23 by mrluigi:*

          In reply to #12 by PG:

          I taught my children that they had to wait till they were older and had learnt a lot about different things and then they could make up their own minds. To raise them as atheists from the start would have been indoctrination I guess.

          So presumably, if you didn’t raise them a…

          • In reply to #24 by jburnforti:

            Mrluigi, I think what you present as logical isn’t and, also, appears to suggest that however one raises children could be called indoctrination. Was that your intention?. I’m guessing that you’re not a parent since bringing kids up, in my experience, seldom allows of such clear-cut distinctions any…

            That’s not what I intended at all, jburnforti. I was, in fact, trying to show that PG’s claim (“To raise them as atheists from the start would have been indoctrination I guess.”) is ridiculous. How can not teaching your children about something for which there is no evidence be indoctrination?

            Your guess is incorrect. I have three kids and four grandchildren, all raised as rationalists who see no evidence or need for gods (although a few of them still believe in Santa Claus and the tooth fairy).

        • But my comment in 24 (sorry to be doing this the wrong way round) refers to your assertion that if danarel didn’t raise them atheist, he must have raised them theist. I can’t see that that follows. I didn’t raise my children as anything, nor my parents me

          In reply to #23 by mrluigi:*

          In reply to #12 by PG:

          I taught my children that they had to wait till they were older and had learnt a lot about different things and then they could make up their own minds. To raise them as atheists from the start would have been indoctrination I guess.

          So presumably, if you didn’t raise them a…

          • In reply to #29 by jburnforti:

            But my comment in 24 (sorry to be doing this the wrong way round) refers to your assertion that if danarel didn’t raise them atheist, he must have raised them theist. I can’t see that that follows. I didn’t raise my children as anything, nor my parents me

            Perhaps this is because our concepts of atheism seem to differ. I see atheism as the complete absence of a serious concept of gods or any other supernatural beings (except perhaps as characters in fiction). Your stance seems to be more like anti-theism, the active belief that gods do not exist.

            If you don’t raise your kids without the concept that gods exist (and that includes telling them that the gods they hear about from others are fictional characters, for which there is good evidence), then surely you must raise them with the concept that gods could possibly exist.

            Re: your

            but an assertion about something, even that the something lacks evidence, can be construed as indoctrination; even more so, where someone claims there IS evidence or, at least, an opposing argument.

            But in the case of gods, although there are plenty of claims of evidence, there is no evidence, and there’s plenty of evidence supporting the fictional side.

          • I didn’t raise them with either or any concept about God, gods or religion/s; if the subject came up, which I don’t remember it doing, we must have passed over it very quickly. Ditto my parents and me. My family has not shown any interest one way or another and my own fairly recent interest is as much intellectual as anything else. I really think it’s possible, and worthwhile, to leave children alone on this subject. My only exceptions to that would be if I felt they were being pressured elsewhere or were becoming rigid or dogmatic (for either side) – in which case, I’d offer support and discussion. I don’t feel that having to choose should be the only choice which is why, I repeat, I haven’t raised them to have any convictions, one way or the other, about these subjects.
            My own atheism is of the religion is total twaddle but First Cause could be anything type. In reply to #38 by mrluigi:

            In reply to #29 by jburnforti:

            But my comment in 24 (sorry to be doing this the wrong way round) refers to your assertion that if danarel didn’t raise them atheist, he must have raised them theist. I can’t see that that follows. I didn’t raise my children as anything, nor my parents me

            Perhaps thi…

  2. Do you feel guilty about telling your child there are no fairies or leprechauns even though there are nutters who claim they exist without evidence?

    So long as you teach the evidence rather than just the conclusion, I see no reason you should feel guilty about teaching atheism.

  3. Imagine a world without religion. What would you teach your kids? Just because there are some nuts who have opinions with no facts to substantiate them should not influence what you consider truth.

    Should you avoid teaching spherical geometry because there are still some flat earthers?
    Should you teach the Santa Controversy because there are a few fruitcakes who think Santa is real?
    Should you teach your kids that fossil fuels might well be infinite just because a few kooks think they are?

  4. @OP The fear of teaching ones children to be atheist is a fear known by many atheist parents.

    This is a flawed concept picked up from theists. Theist parents and priests teach the children atheism towards all religions except their own, so this claim is just a suggestion, that some specific theist dogma, is a default, and the failure to teach it, is “indoctrinating children in atheism”!

    Most believe atheism is a place you should find on your own; critical thinking, knowledge, logic and other means of rational thinking lead people to reject the idea of man made gods and consider themselves atheist.

    Very young children are not capable of rational thinking, and do indeed indulge in fantasies as part of their development. Rejecting these fairy-stories as they mature, is part of the development of rationality and critical analysis.

    Many modern atheists came to atheism from a previously indoctrinated condition, but that does not make this the norm for the next generation!

    This is not something atheist parents wish to indoctrinate into their children.

    As explained above, this sounds confused! We are born atheists! Atheists are not preoccupied with banging on about “no god”, unless they live in an area infested with intrusive god-botherers pestering them. They just get on with understanding life in the material world.

    How though, do you instill these values as an atheist parent without force feeding your children?

    The suggestions in the OP linked “Magic of Reality” provide a good basis, for considering the various supernatural beliefs past and present, with the intention of letting children build up a balanced view as they learn the skills of science and thinking.

    The concept of “force-feeding atheism”, is as flawed, as the concept of “forced” debunking of, Flat-Earthism, Hob-goblinism, magic-wandism, magic curses, or astrology!
    Debunking nonsense is, and should be, a natural process, which does not need to be “forced”!

    “Forced” is a theist strawman.

  5. Danarel seems to have a good handle on this topic. I would further enlarge that perhaps it’s not even a question of ‘teaching’ children to be atheists, rationalists etc. Children brought up in an environment where they feel secure enough to question, may investigate atheism, naturalism – and perhaps even spiritualism and religion. Just as a literalist religionist would fear their child studying and perhaps embracing evolution, so too would a committed atheist fear their child studying and perhaps embracing a religion. A child with an upbringing in an environment where (either given consciously or unconsciously) he/she has ‘permission to question’ will find their own answers – whether we like their decisions or not. Unfortunately, any type of fundamentalist background can be so restricting it may just produce a confused, rebellious child.

  6. Pardon my amusing myself, but this article is totally wrong-minded and up its own ass. It accepts the terms of many anti-atheist arguments. It’s almost like a theist pretending to be an atheist (like that episode of House where he talks about abortion with the rape victim). I don’t mean to be uncivil, and I’m mostly motivated by the hope that this is like The Last Star Fighter, and if I pwn this hard enough, Dawkins will ask me to tea.

    Most believe atheism is a place you should find on your own; critical thinking, knowledge, logic and other means of rational thinking lead people to reject the idea of man made gods and consider themselves atheist. This is not something atheist parents wish to indoctrinate into their children.

    No need. Everyone is born atheist.

    How though, do you instill these values as an atheist parent without force feeding your children? The answer should be rather simple; Education. Parents must teach their kids about questioning assumption and social norms, showing their kids how to think critically and be a skeptic of claims that sound too good to be true. Instill logic and how to apply it to life’s problems, and claims made by those around them.

    Right, which is all you need to do. This is not indoctrination.

    Teach them about as many religious beliefs as possible, and also about disbelief. Explain why Christians believe in Jesus,

    Because they are ignorant and lack intellectual integrity. To put it more kindly is to lie. Why are people racist? Why do some people shave their heads and bang tambourines in an airport? Tell children the truth. Some people are nutters. There are dangerous memes, cults, political extremists, etc. To teach children to accept Nazis for some virtue of pluralism or charity, is in itself indoctrination into an extremist viewpoint. That being said…

    Muslims in Mohammad,

    If they stop believing, all other Muslims are vowed to kill them. Islam exists because of violence, war, and terror.

    teach them what Buddha believed.

    There is no god. There is no afterlife or reincarnation. Only believe in things that appeal to your best reason.

    Explain how God and Allah are the same, how different parts of the world and different types of religions think about the texts differently.

    Explain how God/Allah used to have a wife (Asherah), and that it is just like Greek mythology.

    Explain creation myths, but at the same time, instill scientific truths.

    To instill scientific truths, reject myths as false, historical curiosities, fun stories.

    If you child is young enough, you can bake cookies in the shape of religious symbols, the cross, star of David, the Islamic star and crescent.

    Dude, Buddhist Swastika snooker-doodles. I’m so on it.

    Explain what these symbols mean, why they are important to some people.

    The Cross, ancient torture and execution device. Xians actually show the death to their kids and make them pray to effigies of a bloody, twisted carcass nailed to boards, so go ahead and explain that. Ancient people, like our Aztec ancestors, practiced human sacrifice, and so do Xians, but not anymore. Star of David, it’s a witchcraft symbol, they think it’s magic like Harry Potter. Crescent Moon, something about a bakery saluting the cavalry and made bread shaped like a stirrup… or am I thinking of bagels?

    Let them explore these beliefs, even if they do not align with your own. This does mean you need to let them foster hateful beliefs; if you see that their beliefs are leading to bigotry and intolerance, as any good parent should, this is when you should intervene. But allow your child to read and learn about beliefs and religions they may find interesting, be there to answer questions for them. Foster their curiosity.

    If a kid is reading The Turner Diaries before Voltaire, yeah that’s failing as a parent. If a kid entertains any form of Abrahamism, that is akso evidence of failing as a parent, same as if one’s kid becomes a Scientologist or Moonie. Kids should be taught about STDs and cults, maybe even in separate conversations.

  7. Oh dear.

    Article says: Teach them about as many religious beliefs as possible, and also about disbelief. Explain why Christians believe in Jesus.
    Commenter says: Because they are ignorant and lack intellectual integrity. To put it more kindly is to lie.

    If this is what daddy says or implies, guess what kiddy believes? You may think you’re not ‘indoctrinating’ them but it would be an extraordinary child who replied “but daddy, I think they might be right”.

    It is difficult to leave children free to form their own opinions, as the article says and as these comments prove.

    • In reply to #9 by YHWH:

      Oh dear.

      Article says: Teach them about as many religious beliefs as possible, and also about disbelief. Explain why Christians believe in Jesus. Commenter says: Because they are ignorant and lack intellectual integrity. To put it more kindly is to lie.

      If this is what daddy says or implies, guess what kiddy believes? You may think you’re not ‘indoctrinating’ them but it would be an extraordinary child who replied “but daddy, I think they might be right”.

      Would you think a child extraordinary if they asserted 2+2=5? What if they thought Nazis were right? Would that be admirable? Diversity of thought and rebellion is not a virtue in itself, just as genetic variation is not a virtue in itself as most variations are harmful. Productive variations are most precious and valuable. We know that racism and belief in Abrahamism are pathological and only harmful.

      Pascal’s Wager is intuitive to children, and so the fear mongering of Xianity is a bit of a challenge.

  8. Oh dear, again.

    “Very young children are not capable of rational thinking, and do indeed indulge in fantasies as part of their development. Rejecting these fairy-stories as they mature, is part of the development of rationality and critical analysis.”

    Or to put it another way – When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things.

  9. You are worrying too much about nothing. Are you worried you are indoctrinating your kids if they figure out the tooth fairy isn’t real? Probably not. I don’t worry that teaching my kids facts about the world is indoctrination. My kids don’t collect stamps and that happened without indoctrination also.

    You are still taking religion seriously. It isn’t something to be taken seriously except as history, sociology, and anthropology.

    I do teach my kids about religious belief, for example that Christmas is Jesus Christ’s birthday. I teach them that lots of people are religious and take these old myths very seriously so please be courteous when dealing with the religious. I teach them science, I teach them to think. We discuss events and world events at dinner – I don’t just lecture them.

    Facts and science are not indoctrination. They are tools for finding out how the world really is.

  10. I flatly don’t like the OP. Despite the fact that it’s atheist, apparently, it’s a sermon and, as such, no matter how sincere, no more entitled to be here than a religious one. However, it is, so here goes. My parents not only didn’t discuss religion, I cannot remember ever hearing it mentioned. My mildly C of E boarding school made Sunday efforts to improve on that. At age 7, I was conscious of thinking religion junk and that has never changed. I thank my parents for teaching me to read when I was still very young and think this was all I needed. My children have had similar treatment from me and, similarly, have had no great interest in something they think stupid. Why make such a big deal about it unless it looks like becoming a big deal for the children. Even then, they have rights but you have the right to argue with them. Make sure you reason well and win the arguments by that – more than that, I don’t think you should or are entitled to attempt.

    • In reply to #13 by jburnforti:

      I flatly don’t like the OP. Despite the fact that it’s atheist, apparently, it’s a sermon and, as such, no matter how sincere, no more entitled to be here than a religious one. However, it is, so here goes. My parents not only didn’t discuss religion, I cannot remember ever hearing it mentioned. My…

      I don’t understand what the big deal is with religion either, atheism, kids, blablabla. All I was interested in was the Tooth Fairy and if Santa Claus will be on time for my Birthday (yes, indeed). Just go with the flow.

      In reply to #10 by YHWH:

      When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things

      Ah! Ghost in the Shell (Bible, what’s that?) reference is apt enough, if a little spartan :)

  11. The fear of teaching ones children to be atheist is a fear known by many atheist parents.

    I’ll take a sideways look at the OP and consider it as evidence for the situation for atheists in San Diego, Southern California: which seems to be pretty grim, if there is such fears are realistic for atheist parents and young people.

    Not being American, I’ll have to rely on others as to how general or how justified such fears are, but I have imagined San Diego to be more liberal than say, Kansas, and on that basis it seems the intolerant religious have the upper hand. If it can’t tolerate proper education, is the US on a slow walk to intellectual, maybe economic oblivion?

    Or, perhaps this fear stems from the religious reaction to the rise of atheism, ie, counter-intuitively, the OP is evidence for atheism’s growing success?

  12. A lot of hate is coming out against this discussion, seems to me you have touched on a nerve!

    The disagreements seem to center around whether this is actually a common worry or not, which really comes down to opinion or personal experience. I agree that indoctrination is a big concern with people nowadays, especially atheists and secularists. How do you teach your children how the world works without inadvertently forcing them to believe what you believe?

    Your points are thought-provoking, and necessary in these ambiguous times where truth seems ever relative.

    To me, the replies to the OP really show why education on religious matters is necessary even when the parent is an atheist. The anger and lack of empathy displayed by people here, the insulting way they describe religious people, these are simply lazy ways of thinking about the world. Religious people are indoctrinated, they need to be treated like victims of child-abuse because they have essentially had mental illness programmed into them and this makes their lives extremely confusing and difficult. If you do not teach your children what billions of children around the world are taught, your child will be absolutely baffled by these strange beliefs, and could come to bad conclusions like these people are genetically inferior or something of that nature, which is why parental guidance is so crucial. The conversation needs to be kept going!

    • In reply to #16 by utopia:

      A lot of hate is coming out against this discussion,

      I’m not sure I’d go that far

      seems to me you have touched on a nerve!

      The disagreements seem to center around whether this is actually a common worry or not, which really comes down to opinion or personal experience.

      ok

      I agree that indoctrination is a big concern with people nowadays, especially atheists and secularists.

      really? I don’t think I know anyone who is consumed by fear of “indoctrination”. And as an atheist, I can definitely say it doesn’t worry me.

      How do you teach your children how the world works without inadvertently forcing them to believe what you believe?

      I object to “force”. To certain extent children are going to pick up their parents beliefs and opinions. As they get older they start to disagree with some of them – and then all of them when they become teenagers! At some point they become adults and form their own opinions, heavily influenced by their upbringing.

      No child can be raised in a knowledge vacuum. You have to tell them something! Why not tell them what you believe rather than lie or prevaricate? Unless you’re a very good dissembler kids are going to spot when your lieing anyway.

      Your points are thought-provoking, and necessary in these ambiguous times where truth seems ever relative.

      since when?

      To me, the replies to the OP really show why education on religious matters is necessary even when the parent is an atheist.

      well I didn’t get any from my parents. Some from school (the UK has Religious Education). And came to the conclusion ~7yrs that I didn’t believe it. Though I was smart enough to mostly keep my mouth shut on the subject. I’ve done some reading about various religions since. And I’m still an atheist. Sometimes overly “aggressive” atheists irritate me. Generally people can get on and believe whatever they please. Though I regard religious people on my doorstep as fair game.

      The anger and lack of empathy displayed by people here,

      not sure I saw any anger. But the lack of empathy seems typical of some of the posters on this forum.

      the insulting way they describe religious people, these are simply lazy ways of thinking about the world. Religious people are indoctrinated,

      whoa! if that isn’t a lazy, insulting and patronising way of speaking about religious people then I don’t know what is! Many people derive comfort from their religion. It provides support in difficult conditions and many religious people have thought quite deeply about their beliefs.

      But no, only Atheists (someone proposed calling them Brights!) have Freed Themselves From the Chains of Indoctrinated Beliefs. I’m suspicious of any group that thinks they are smarter than everyone else.

      they need to be treated like victims of child-abuse because they have essentially had mental illness programmed into them and this makes their lives extremely confusing and difficult.

      I’m trying to work out if you are being sarcastic at this point. And I honestly don’t know! I’d find it really scary if you believed this.

      If you do not teach your children what billions of children around the world are taught, your child will be absolutely baffled by these strange beliefs, and could come to bad conclusions like these people are genetically inferior or something of that nature, which is why parental guidance is so crucial. The conversation needs to be kept going!

      I think this nonsense

  13. I’m a secular Pagan (which many of you may find ridiculous) living in a very Christian society. my daughter self-identifies as agnostic. It’s not something I consciously “did” – I raised her to be inquisitive and skeptical, and not to believe things just because they are oft-repeated. Not having been indoctrinated with any particular set of beliefs and fears, I think it is a natural outcome for her. I do teach her that many people believe certain things because they derive comfort from it, or for various other reasons, but that the universe is too awe-inspiring to need made-up stories to make it somehow more impressive,and that truth is ultimately better than comforting lies. I think that in all regards, arming our children with knowledge and strong powers of discernment will probably serve them well in all areas of their lives. If they find atheism to be the logical outcome, it would not have been due to any “indoctrination”, it would be an authentic worldview.

  14. Just to be fair, can anyone give an honest and complete explanation for belief in Xianity that does not involve ignorance and compromise to the intellect? Jesus could fly and do magic tricks. The moral instruction is monstrous.

    “Daddy daddy, why are those men walking like that?”
    “Those are Nazis, sweetie. They’re brainwashed gits. They are racists and filled with hate. They are idiots and emotionally disturbed.”
    “Daddy daddy, who’s at the door.”
    “These are Mormons. They worship aliens.”
    “Daddy daddy, what’s that thing on that man’s head?”
    “That’s a yamaka. Jews wear them.”
    “What’s a Jew?”
    “They believe in a ghost, and that they are better than everyone else.”
    “Why daddy? Why do the Jews think they are better than us?”
    “Well sweetie, remember the Nazis? They have the same emotional problems.”
    “Daddy daddy, what’s wrong with that man?”
    “That’s a junkie, they do drugs and become insane.”

    The world is ugly and full of danger. It’s a question of revealing that to children or lying. I also think revealing ugly truths helps people see beauty, and to accept those around them. I value philosophical charity, and the best I can make of Abrahamic worshipers is unflattering, same for junkies and Nazis. Just to prove I got charity, I think steve_hopker is right. The OP is from a highly theistic region, and the infection shows in their noble effort. It is laden with needless guilt.

  15. There are numberless theories about how to bring up children – does any one of them have the ultimate Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval? Why not have faith that one’s love for them will be as wise a guide as any other, let them learn from the best example you can give them which is what they will do anyway and leave the didactic stuff for theorists? And not care too much that, like you, they won’t be perfect. As if it matters. I don’t especially believe that advice is much heeded but, if one’s desperate to influence children or to counter pernicious influences, good questions IMO are a lot better than good answers and, anyway, tend to elicit them.

  16. Since we’re talking about parenting and children, this is for Prof. Dawkins:

    Just as I’m gaining ground as a humanist promoting the benefits of a secular orientation, even among the religious, THIS article found its way to me. Its being rampantly shared on Twitter:

    http://www.salon.com/2013/09/10/richard_dawkins_defends_mild_pedophilia_says_it_does_not_cause_lasting_harm/

    Its my assessment that such a statement is highly irresponsible, inflames deep-seated fears in the religious and even noncommittal ‘nones’ regarding we ‘godless pagans’, cannot be empirically verified (the majority of people who were violated as kids feel quite harmed) and opens the door to rationalization of such behavior by those predisposed to pedophilia.

    Moreover, as a gay man, a parent and a humanist who has been maligned on similar grounds related to the similar assumptions about gay men, I must condemn your comments in the strongest way possible.

    Sexual experimentation among adolescents and even pre-pubescent children is to be expected and is natural. Adult sexual interaction with adolescents, especially pre-pubescent children, is developmentally harmful, proliferates unhealthy premature sexualization and is repugnant. Sexuality should be allowed to unfold naturally in an age appropriate fashion not imposed because an adult thinks it really doesn’t cause that much harm.

    To conclude, as a parent if ANYONE decides to fondle my kids or any child for that matter, I just might try to fucking kill them.

    You need to get out in front of this and make it right for secularists of all stripes and most especially for potential victims and survivors of childhood sexual abuse.

    Tobias Fox
    Los Angeles, CA

  17. In reply to #21 by Foxtobias:

    Since we’re talking about parenting and children, this is for Prof. Dawkins:

    There’s a thread for this posted on the front page, you self-promoting, co-opter of other people’s suffering. If the comment is deleted, will you actually delude yourself into thinking it’s because you gave criticism, not because you are off topic and vitriolic? You speak for no one but yourself, and you happen to be dead wrong.

  18. The fear of teaching ones children to be atheist is a fear known by many atheist parents. Most believe atheism is a place you should find on your own; critical thinking, knowledge, logic and other means of rational thinking lead people to reject the idea of man made gods and consider themselves atheist. This is not something atheist parents wish to indoctrinate into their children.

    You are making a meal of this. It’s really simple. My children were born atheists (they held no beliefs in gods). As they grew up neither their mother nor I mentioned gods to them so they remain atheists at ages 17 and 22. It’s the natural position to hold.

    Of course it helped that we live in Australia where not many people give a stuff about religion. Had we lived in the US I’d have been a bit more proactive to make sure they were inoculated from religion. It’s not teaching them atheism it’s protecting them from catching a disease.

    Michael

  19. I don’t think NOT teaching something is indoctrination, but an assertion about something, even that the something lacks evidence, can be construed as indoctrination; even more so, where someone claims there IS evidence or, at least, an opposing argument. Re the grandfather bit, I stand rebuked.

  20. Comment by This Is Not A Meme “Just to be fair, can anyone give an honest and complete explanation for belief in Xianity that does not involve ignorance and compromise to the intellect?”

    Thanks for the invite, I’ll have a go at an alternate explanation, try this;

    Jesus (if he existed) was trying to say that all human beings exhibit a commonality, humans exhibit a pattern of behaviour that has them believe their own thoughts to be the truth regardless of the content of those beliefs. Look to see that this is the pattern in every thread on this website.

    He (if he existed) was trying to say that this pattern of behaviour (believing oneself to be correct) is determined at an unconscious level that precedes logical judgements and ‘dialogue based thoughts’. That is, we are each pre-disposed to believe our own mind. We then herd into comfort groups of individuals with similar thought patterns and then nod our heads in agreement that the other mob over there are wrong. Therefore a paternal mind (the ‘Father’) guides the logical mind (the ‘son’) of all those who are human in the search for comfort. So in this regard, we are ‘paternally’ all the same – brother and sisters.

    It seems to me he (if he existed) was trying to say, be careful not to absolutely believe any word you say to yourself because your own thoughts are lorded over by an unseen pattern based part of the mind (the unconscious). And this ‘pattern based mind’ is tethered to emotion. In effect, we are never as rational as we think we are because at the fundamental level, we are emotional… and this truth is very, very hard to bear. This is especially difficult to accept by one who prides himself on his ability to reason (which is all of us). And to see this under-pinning truth, one has to let go of their ‘reason’ (judgment) to see what is under. That which is under, is the ‘invisible father’ of all thoughts. This underneath realm can only be felt, not ‘thought’, it is literally ‘unthinkable’.

    So the whole Xianity thing is just a big metaphor that has been poorly translated and catastrophically misunderstood. Yet most of us have come to understand this concept of the ‘mind and the master mind’ by other means. That is why some of you reading this will say, whoa.. Surely this whole debacle could not really be that simple?!

    So in short the:
    ‘Paternal’ pertains to the metaphorical unconscious mind – the Father

    ‘Logic’ pertains to rational thoughts (the logos – ‘the word’). That is, our internal dialogue or, our ‘sound mind’ comes from the father. In Latin, Sonus simply means ‘to make noise or sound, to speak’ – the Son

    When allow ourselves to become aware of this entwined relationship via the use of an elevated level of awareness, the trinity is complete. We suddenly we feel lighter. The halo symbolises this higher level of awareness.

    That’s it in a nutshell. So he (if he existed), seems to have cracked the code, as can anyone.

    Let your logic now attack, I am ready for the bullets :)

    • In reply to #30 by twostories:

      Comment by This Is Not A Meme “Just to be fair, can anyone give an honest and complete explanation for belief in Xianity that does not involve ignorance and compromise to the intellect?”

      Thanks for the invite, I’ll have a go at an alternate explanation, try this…

      Let your logic now attack, I am ready for the bullets :)

      Wel I’m not sure what exactly I’d be aiming at. Others (I’m thinking here of perhaps the more ‘mainstream’ Christians) will have better grasp of the NT and better placed to comment on that aspect than me, but I can’t say I can recall anything vaguely like it, save maybe John 1 if you screw your eyes up and make it blurry. I certainly I don’t find this post at all simple.

      I suppose holding such views of Jesus (if he existed) would lead one to conclude that he (if he existed) has been misrepresented (if one can misrepresent someone who did not exist) as this post seems very long way indeed from the Nicene Creed, etc

      So my response boils down to – ??

    • Jesus (if he existed) was trying to say that all human beings exhibit a commonality, humans exhibit a pattern of behaviour that has them believe their own thoughts to be the truth regardless of the content of those beliefs.

      Is this a bible quote or your interpretation of a bible quote or your guess or a guess of your paternal mind?

      Look to see that this is the pattern in every thread on this website.

      If you have read more than a few of the discussions, you will find plenty examples of people admitting fault and/or changing their minds.

      He (if he existed) was trying to say that this pattern of behaviour (believing oneself to be correct) is determined at an unconscious level that precedes logical judgements and ‘dialogue based thoughts’. That is, we are each pre-disposed to believe our own mind.

      We make a judgement based on the available evidence. If there is no available evidence then we have to rely on first impressions and previous experience to come to a decision or judgement which is liable to change.

      We then herd into comfort groups of individuals with similar thought patterns and then nod our heads in agreement that the other mob over there are wrong.

      Certainly true that we tend to feel comfortable with people of similar beliefs.

      Therefore a paternal mind (the ‘Father’) guides the logical mind (the ‘son’) of all those who are human in the search for comfort.

      No. There are instinctive automated processes of the mind which we perform without concious decision. This is often referred to as the unconscious mind, but it’s still your mind. Its seems you refer to your unconscious mind as the ‘Father’.

      So in this regard, we are ‘paternally’ all the same – brother and sisters.

      Now it seems you are suggesting everyone’s unconscious mind is actually the same mind, ie. the Father or you could even say God?

      It seems to me he (if he existed) was trying to say, be careful not to absolutely believe any word you say to yourself because your own thoughts are lorded over by an unseen pattern based part of the mind (the unconscious). And this ‘pattern based mind’ is tethered to emotion.

      The Father is emotional?

      In effect, we are never as rational as we think we are because at the fundamental level, we are emotional… and this truth is very, very hard to bear.

      We certainly have to make a conscious effort to ensure we are not making decisions/judgements based on emotion or existing biases.

      This is especially difficult to accept by one who prides himself on his ability to reason (which is all of us).

      Not likely to even have been thought about by someone who does not value reason. I wouldn’t assume it’s especially difficult for the rest to accept that they may sometimes over estimate their reasoning and under estimate emotional influences.

      And to see this under-pinning truth, one has to let go of their ‘reason’ (judgment) to see what is under.

      Certainly not.

      That which is under, is the ‘invisible father’ of all thoughts. This underneath realm can only be felt, not ‘thought’, it is literally ‘unthinkable’.

      What you mean is, when some people communicate to you what they have discovered via conversations with the paternal Father (or God) they may sound like they are talking absolute bollocks. What they are telling you may seem literally unthinkable.

      So the whole Xianity thing is just a big metaphor that has been poorly translated and catastrophically misunderstood.

      You mean it’s not bollocks?

      Yet most of us have come to understand this concept of the ‘mind and the master mind’ by other means.

      What other means? Have you got a third mind?

      That is why some of you reading this will say, whoa.. Surely this whole debacle could not really be that simple?!

      Maybe some people would think it more complicated, but I expect most would indeed think it that simple. ie. some people find it difficult to distinguish between reality and their imagination.

      So in short the: ‘Paternal’ pertains to the metaphorical unconscious mind – the Father ‘Logic’ pertains to rational thoughts (the logos – ‘the word’). That is, our internal dialogue or, our ‘sound mind’ comes from the father. In Latin, Sonus simply means ‘to make noise or sound, to speak’ – the Son.

      What’s the Latin for bollocks.

      When allow ourselves to become aware of this entwined relationship via the use of an elevated level of awareness, the trinity is complete. We suddenly we feel lighter. The halo symbolises this higher level of awareness. That’s it in a nutshell. So he (if he existed), seems to have cracked the code, as can anyone.

      So you have got a third mind (the trinity), and this one has elevated awareness levels. Unfortunately most of us have to make do with the one.

      In reply to #30 by twostories:

      Comment by This Is Not A Meme “Just to be fair, can anyone give an honest and complete explanation for belief in Xianity that does not involve ignorance and compromise to the intellect?”

      Thanks for the invite, I’ll have a go at an alternate explanation, try this;

      Jesus (if he existed) was trying t…

    • In reply to #30 by twostories:

      In effect, we are never as rational as we think we are because at the fundamental level, we are emotional… and this truth is very, very hard to bear. This is especially difficult to accept by one who prides himself on his ability to reason (which is all of us).

      Some minds are better educated in reasoning than others – some never learn reasoning at all, but never-the-less assume their thinking exhibits this process. Essentially they are too ignorant of logical reasoning to recognise their failure to use it. Even the most able can occasionally succumb to biases.

      And to see this under-pinning truth, one has to let go of their ‘reason’ (judgment) to see what is under.

      That is nonsense! The failure to keep a grip on reason is the failure to progress logically from evidence to truth. – Or as near to truth as current scientific methodology will permit.

      That which is under, is the ‘invisible father’ of all thoughts. This underneath realm can only be felt, not ‘thought’, it is literally ‘unthinkable’.

      This sounds like an attempt to describe the unconscious mind, but is confused, as the unconscious mind is not self accessible.

      So the whole Xianity thing is just a big metaphor that has been poorly translated and catastrophically misunderstood. Yet most of us have come to understand this concept of the ‘mind and the master mind’ by other means. That is why some of you reading this will say, whoa.. Surely this whole debacle could not really be that simple?!

      Oh but it is! Those who let their emotional spirituality dominate their thinking are dominated by the god-delusion. – making up whatever metaphors, personal interpretations, or semantic contortions, they need to match their inputs to their preconceptions!

      So in short the: ‘Paternal’ pertains to the metaphorical unconscious mind – the Father

      I think this describes it using the science of neuropsychology:

      http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/04/120419091223.htm
      “We have found a neuropsychological basis for spirituality, but it’s not isolated to one specific area of the brain,” said Brick Johnstone, professor of health psychology in the School of Health Professions. “Spirituality is a much more dynamic concept that uses many parts of the brain. Certain parts of the brain play more predominant roles, but they all work together to facilitate individuals’ spiritual experiences.”

      So there you have the root of the paternal god-delusions.

      ‘Logic’ pertains to rational thoughts (the logos – ‘the word’).

      That is the bridge from evidence to deduced accuracy of information – when its modern meaning is used.

      That is, our internal dialogue or, our ‘sound mind’ comes from the father. In Latin, Sonus simply means ‘to make noise or sound, to speak’ – the Son.

      This is a muddle of semantic confusion. “Sound” mind, (as in rational and competent) is being confused with “sound” (noise) and then the “SON” whatever connection that is supposed to have. – Clearly a demonstration of illogical semantic shuffling!

      When allow ourselves to become aware of this entwined relationship via the use of an elevated level of awareness, the trinity is complete.

      Is this mystical feeling achieved without the use of alcohol or hallucinogens?

      We suddenly we feel lighter. The halo symbolises this higher level of awareness.

      It sounds very like a shaman’s mystical dream,- irrational and intoxicated with something! Internal emotional feelings of delusional SENSATIONS of heightened awareness, while detached from normal sensory inputs from reality.

      In other words, mystical experiences are mediated by several brain regions and systems normally implicated in a variety of functions (self-consciousness, emotion, body representation). The study published in the current issue of Neuroscience Letters was conducted by Dr. Mario Beauregard from the Department of Psychology at the Université de Montréal

      Much to do with emotive introspection, and certainly nothing to do with objective perceptions relevant to the material world.

      • Comment by Marktony. What other means? Have you got a third mind?>

        I enjoyed your post and that of ‘Alan4Discussion’ and ‘This is Not a Meme’

        “Third mind?” No, not exactly. I am suggesting that the ‘whole mind’ comprises of three components. 1. The ‘conscious’ at the forefront and seemingly in control. 2. The unconscious is the maker of the conscious (it stores past emotional past events). And as Alan4discussion deftly put it, this is “not self accessible”. It has an impenetrable shell. That is why neither side of a heated theistic debate can use logic to convince the other he is wrong. Yet this ‘inaccessible’ paternal component is evident by inference in our emotional reactions to circumstances in any given moment (eg. getting upset at seeing the damage caused by ignorance, or a dumb post); and 3. The THIRD component is this hard to pin down capacity to ‘observe’ without reaction and without affect or thought.

        It is this observational capacity that we all have in spades that leads to affect which leads to logic which leads to acts.

        Eg. ‘Acts’ include things like tapping hard on a keypad to correct someone else’s errant point of view. If we step back just a bit to see we are puppets to this triune process no further action is necessary. We are no longer bound. We can turn the computer off and go to bed, or we can keep playing… it is enough just to know it is all a cyclic game and then one-day, we all fade to grey anyway… Thus there is no point in all the fighting. I am pretty sure that’s what JC was trying to say. We are all dead men and women walking so arguing the toss about who has the highest version of the truth is pointless primate one-upmanship. As far as the story goes, he came, he said what he needed to say, and then went back to where he/we came from… to death.

        So again, no matter how smart a man thinks he is on either side of the debate, he is peeing into the wind. That said, I suppose attempting to convince others how right we are by spinning words round and round gives our kind of monkey something to do whilst we all await the big return to zero ;)

        • In reply to #43 by twostories:

          That is why neither side of a heated theistic debate can use logic to convince the other he is wrong.

          That depends on the attitude, prejudices or biases of the participants. In our discussions -particularly science debates, members of this forum often review errors in the light of new information from others.

          Yet this ‘inaccessible’ paternal component is evident by inference in our emotional reactions to circumstances in any given moment (eg. getting upset at seeing the damage caused by ignorance, or a dumb post); and 3. The THIRD component is this hard to pin down capacity to ‘observe’ without reaction and without affect or thought.

          There are various aspects of mental processes and chemical, or hormonal effects, but you explanations don’t seem to match up with neuropsychology.

          It is this observational capacity that we all have in spades that leads to affect which leads to logic which leads to acts.

          Not sure about that, logical reasoning is a learned skill. Objective observation is another but separate one.

          Eg. ‘Acts’ include things like tapping hard on a keypad to correct someone else’s errant point of view. If we step back just a bit to see we are puppets to this triune process no further action is necessary.

          That would be a hormonal emotive response, rather than a reasoned one.

          We are no longer bound. We can turn the computer off and go to bed, or we can keep playing… it is enough just to know it is all a cyclic game and then one-day, we all fade to grey anyway… Thus there is no point in all the fighting.

          That depends on if you only debate for ego-points or amusement. Science debates are usually about applying knowledge to the real world, where there are consequences from getting it wrong!

          I am pretty sure that’s what JC was trying to say.

          I think this is pure imagination! There is no evidence that such a person existed, and plenty of evidence that the stories/myths were written decades/centuries after supposed events mainly by anonymous authors using false names! If such a person existed, anything he may have said is most unlikely to have any means of being communicated to you.

          We are all dead men and women walking so arguing the toss about who has the highest version of the truth is pointless primate one-upmanship.

          Unless we are talking about scientific knowledge which is actually used in the real world – In which case getting it right is very important.
          There are written accounts of people using wish-thinking and faith-thinking to decide scientific issues – they are called ACCIDENT INVESTIGATION REPORTS!.

          As far as the story goes, he came, he said what he needed to say, and then went back to where he/we came from… to death.

          A bit like the stories of Zeus, Poseidon, Aprodite, Hercules, Jason, Argo, Harry Potter, and others.

          So again, no matter how smart a man thinks he is on either side of the debate, he is peeing into the wind. That said, I suppose attempting to convince others how right we are by spinning words round and round gives our kind of monkey something to do whilst we all await the big return to zero ;

          This is spinning semantics falsely equating word-shuffling with evidenced science. All opinions are not equal, and absence of evidence CAN be taken as evidence of absence.

          • In reply to by Alan4discussion:
            Unless we are talking about scientific knowledge which is actually used in the real world – In which case getting it right is very important.
            There are written accounts of people using wish-thinking and faith-thinking to decide scientific issues – they are called ACCIDENT INVESTIGATION REPORTS!.

            I’m not sure you’re quite getting it Alan, nearly though. The things you’re putting forward are most certainly logical though remember, we investigate accidents and apply the knowledge we gain to avoid accidents because we fear them. It always come back to this. Therefore, gaining knowledge, scientific or otherwise, gets us away from our fears… the big one being death. Its as simple as that. Objective analysis is not about getting to the truth, it is about getting away from something we do not accept. Humans have a great deal of trouble giving up the chase and accepting ‘not knowing’. So instead we build this hazy network of interwoven concepts. But when you get to my age, some pruning is necessary, its the only thing to do. Then it becomes clear that there is no knowledge seeking that does not stem from an emotional aversion of some sort.

            Medical scientists seek knowledge to improve health because we/they fear poor health and dying young etc. ITS ABOUT FEAR.

            Psychologists seek knowledge of the mind to help stabilise minds because we fear, or are averse to unstable mental states (grief, violence, narcissism, depression etc) ITS ABOUT FEAR.

            Engineers apply logic to draft plans to construct dams because we are averse to relying on normal weather patterns for water. We fear not having enough water. ITS ABOUT FEAR.

            Warriors war because warring is less frightening that not (being overrun, killed and controlled). Weapons too, are built on fear. ITS ALL ABOUT FEAR.

            An atheist fears the implications of an all perceiving ever present sky daddy because it implies life is wasted because he has no free thought or free will. Yet if all things in the universe are subject to immutable mechanistic cause and effect relationships this is the only possible conclusion. Reason will take you there.

            A theist fears the implications that there is no god because it implies his life and toil are pointless. Yet if there is a god that perceives all and has a perfect and unyielding plan we surely cannot trick him with false ‘goodness’ to get into the big house. Therefore if there is a god then life and all ‘good’ endeavors ARE actually pointless.

            Am I really alone on this? Does anyone else get this? We are just a ‘fear monkey’ that is too fearful to let go of the left brain because when we do, we get all emotional AND WE FEAR THAT TOO.

            So we’re a stuck monkey pretending its one the job of getting somewhere.

            So there are two stories both true. Both stories are logically valid and both stories eat their own head off.

            So pick your story, note the negative implications of the one you choose, and crack on with it. And don’t fret, while the clock is still ticking, you get to be right either way, since all is delusion – that’s everyone. Beyond that nothing matters much.

          • In reply to #47 by twostories:

            In reply to by Alan4discussion:

            Unless we are talking about scientific knowledge which is actually used in the real world – In which case getting it right is very important.
            There are written accounts of people using wish-thinking and faith-thinking to decide scientific issues – they are called ACCIDENT INVESTIGATION REPORTS…. …

            Many religions are based on fear, but it does not follow that rational scientific thinkers are so motivated.

            The things you’re putting forward are most certainly logical though remember, we investigate accidents and apply the knowledge we gain to avoid accidents because we fear them. It always come back to this. Therefore, gaining knowledge, scientific or otherwise, gets us away from our fears

            Scientific knowledge is about using stuff which works to improve our lives. The multiple checks of scientific methodology avoid messing up on this by using faulty perceptions.

            … the big one being death. Its as simple as that.

            Death is inevitable for all living things. I accept it, but concentrate on the quality of my life prior to that time coming. I am certainly not concerned about my eventual death, although I will make efforts to preserve my quality of life up till that time.

            Objective analysis is not about getting to the truth,

            This is simply wrong. Objective science is about understanding and using reliably predictable features of nature. False perceptions fail! – and cause accidents, breakdowns and suffering.

            it is about getting away from something we do not accept.

            That is subjective delusion, using circular thinking from preconceptions. It is the opposite of objectively starting with scientifically confirmed evidence and reasoning forward to a conclusion.

            Humans have a great deal of trouble giving up the chase and accepting ‘not knowing’.

            Science recognises where we lack knowledge and investigates. It does not give-up! It is dogmatists who pretend they know about the unknown and look no further.

            After a few decades of using these approaches, there is a yawning gap in the levels and quality of knowledge between the followers of the contrasting approaches.

            So instead we build this hazy network of interwoven concepts. But when you get to my age, some pruning is necessary, its the only thing to do.

            Some are hazy, but others take care to keep their thinking clear and based on well evidenced information. That is how science has built the technologies of the world and images of the universe.

            (If you drive a vehicle, safety is an important consideration which has been improved over the years, but the primary objective is transport. – People do not build vehicles because they are afraid of crashes- early attempts were very dangerous but curiosity drove inventors on – not fear of crashes.)

            Then it becomes clear that there is no knowledge seeking that does not stem from an emotional aversion of some sort.

            You seem to be demonstrating this emotion based approach which starts with emotional attachments to preconceptions, but it is a mistaken view when applied to others.

            It is a common problem with theists who have deeply embedded preoccupations with Hell and various imagined supernatural threats.

            Many atheists have a much more confidently positive approach to living and seeking useful knowledge.

            An atheist fears the implications of an all perceiving ever present sky daddy

            This is a common theist misconception of atheism, based on the preconception of a (chosen) deity as a default view. I have no fear whatever of this – I decided decades ago on the basis of probabilities that no such entity exists. It does not feature in my life, apart from accommodating my relationships with theists and dealing with the effects of their beliefs.
            I wonder if theists making such claims are in constant fear of the numerous other gods they have rejected?

            because it implies life is wasted because he has no free thought or free will.

            I have never considered my life wasted. Life’s objectives are what you make of them.
            Those who have been indoctrinated to be dogma dependent, have usually been discouraged from developing the free-thinking skills to arrive at life objectives, – without being spoon-fed them as dogma!
            Consequently they have no concept of such skills, and can only project the emptiness of the gap in their world-view with their dogmas removed!

            “Free-will” is a very confused concept with its proponents usually showing very little understanding of the psychology, instincts, or reasoning.

            Yet if all things in the universe are subject to immutable mechanistic cause and effect relationships this is the only possible conclusion.

            Not at all. Machinery does not cease working because people understand, or fail to understand, its mechanisms. It is the homo-centric, deity-centric, thinking which cannot comprehend mechanisms, so chooses magical dogmas as an explanation, in order to pretend to know! I can live happily without knowing ALL the answers, but I do know quite a few!

            Reason will take you there.

            Reason takes you nowhere, without an evidenced basis as a starting point. (Hypothetical stuff is just fantasy “castles in the air!”)

            A theist fears the implications that there is no god because it implies his life and toil are pointless.

            Strangely very few theists fear they have been following the wrong god! After all there are thousands of gods according to their followers!

            That is why there is such an emotional reaction of denial, to science, archaeology or historical research, which debunks biblical mythology.

            The believers really! really! really! don’t want to admit to themselves that they have wasted their lives pursuing myths, for rewards and punishments they are never going to collect – or that the people they trusted, have sold them this dud information.

            Their rulers and oppressors also like to preserve the delusions that death will give them a better “afterlife”, if they put up with the manipulative abuses in the present one!

            (Think jihadist suicide bomber or servile starving peasant!)

          • In reply to #48 by Alan4discussion:

            Life’s objectives are what you make of them.

            Thanks for the enlightenment Alan, you happen to be right yet again, its uncanny. Yes, correct, life’s objectives have to be MADE because there are none in the first place… Life begins empty, I get it! So, everyone makes the meaning up…. unfortunately that means you too.

            So prepare for robust circular debate.

            But first, I agree, the obsession with one’s own meaning and one’s own refusal to release preconceptions is the common dogma, and our obsession with extrinsic cause (Who am I?, What am I?, What’s this all about?) is personal dogma ‘projected’ (be it theistic or scientific). It all gets now-here. These questions all pre-assume we each have no place and need to fix that. The questions are all pretend, they are fictional, because you are the authority, you are the ’cause’ and have always been the cause and have never not been the cause… You/we, are each self-built smack bang at the dead center of everything. So what’s it all about? It always comes back to you, and it always has. We’re all born knowing this and then venture far.

            And yes, as you put it, reason is exceptionally good for knowing what goes on in the world we can see so we get more purchase on it… But as agreed, we cannot see the back of our own heads. So what goes on in the back of each of our heads may (does) hold the key. By all definitions, and regardless of the knowledge or language each man finally attains, and regardless of the laws we define, you are the creator, you are the common denominator, you are god…. and if so, there is no absolute death, merely a transformation. The Egyptians worked this out ages ago. Yes I know, big pill huh? Bite it off bit by bit.

            Now if I’ve made my life’s objectives up and cannot give them up, I am dogmatic. If indeed YOU CAN give up the MADE UP objective of ‘establishing truth via seeking knowledge and applying reason’ then cease the talk and prove it. Give up reason. That is the challenge forwarded by socrates and the possibly fictional jesus. It doesn’t matter who says it, either way, letting go of reason is the final challenge. If you are not frightened to do so then do it, let go and fall! Do not offer reasons why you won’t, dispense with the reasons, just do it.

            Since I am one who is mostly unwilling to truly let go of reason as a pacifier, I see little point in telling a theist to release his grip on faith. Both transitions are intimidating because they move away from pacification. I sometimes hear new atheists say “Everything became clearer when I left the faith, I feel so much better, smarter, free!” Well any true scientist ought reply, “This is not about feeling better!, we scientists don’t care how you feel, or whether you like the truth or not, and nor should you, so spare us the affectations and go back if you want comfort, believe in god.”

            Those who have been indoctrinated to be dogma dependent, have usually been discouraged from developing the free-thinking skills to arrive at life objectives, – without being spoon-fed them as dogma!

            Oh?… So scientists are free thinking huh? Here we go. Even ‘Doing the maths’ without looking up the is just another dogma. As you say, to verify our mathematical models and theories we must take the model out to the real world and look for verification. If there is no verification the model is to be discarded. If one does not discard the model, one is being dogmatic.

            “Do the maths!” says free thinking Lawrence Krauss.

            I’m not sure if you’re following what the physicist Lawrence Krauss is saying but he is saying that ‘nothing created everything’. Reason cannot account for this. Reason calls for cause then effect. If ‘nothing’ is the cause then all bets are off.

            Now given that logic does not allow for nothing to create something, Krauss is now ascribing qualities to the ‘nothing’ that made everything. Sound familiar??? Sound old???…. Its the ‘gaps’ argument re-packaged!. The full loop is complete. It is logic gone loopy.

            Scientists far and wide are hanging on his next word. You gotta be kidding Lawrence, just give up the model! But no…

            Instead this idea is dogmatically pursued and leads to the idea that billions of multi-verses may exist but we so happen to have popped out in this one. This one was somehow ‘chosen’ and here we are. Of course, there is no evidence for a multi-verse however, nor can there ever be. But the complete absence of evidence doesn’t matter “Do the maths!!”

            And when queried about his magnificent, but completely unverifiable claim he just barks “Don’t look at me!… Do the maths!”. He shows no regard for the absence of evidence. Sound familiar???

            So for Pete’s sake, we’re watching a man allow his anti-theistic bent to move him so far as to suggest instead and without evidence, that billions of universes exist outside of the this one. To cap it off, this particular universe is our lucky fluke. He postulates that this is more plausible than an invisible ever watching guiding presence. Again, this is not postulated on evidence and nor on proof but strictly because some dogged beavering at a mathematical solution finally told him so. Since reason requires evidence, this silly idea is bereft of reason. There is no free thought to be found anywhere here. This is dogma in its purest form.

            I say forget your maths, let go of the maths! It is running us off a cliff. Someone please bang me on the head if I ever go this far into the wilderness just to be right. Future people will laugh at us “Ha!… They believed there were other imaginary worlds!”. So mathematical models are just that, models, they can be made to say anything as is tragically apparent here.

            So, in summary to this novel, I suggest the probabilities of both this recent embarrassment to science, and the story of an invisible all seeing maker, are equally remote and are thus equally likely…

            By way of logic it is a 0 or a 1 proposition.

            But forget the models, forget the theories, forget the reasons. If our divided brain were able but for a moment, to hold in it two opposing truths at once, the source of our questions (our doubts) and our answers to them (our certainties), would be finally seen and reconciled into one. The wise man would see he has been a fool to his insatiable hunger for knowledge and the timid would see his emotions have dominated him, and the arrogant would see himself as weak to his fear of subordination. And if this were so, there would be little hunger left to go out to gain more knowledge, another selfish purchase of ‘the truth’. As this is just a another dominance trick played by evolution. It is yet another act of subordination to a war being waged in the back of our heads.

            So decide… decide who is the real boss of you, and who is the real slave, and flip your thinking to verify you are free… if you do not suffer, you are faking it.

          • In reply to #49 by twostories:

            In reply to #48 by Alan4discussion:

            Life’s objectives are what you make of them.

            Thanks for the enlightenment Alan, you happen to be right yet again, its uncanny. Yes, correct, life’s objectives have to be MADE because there are none in the first place… Life begins empty, I get it! So, everyone makes the meaning up…. unfortunately that means you too.

            That’s not strictly true. Humans, like other animals come with some evolved, built in, instinctive programming. It is modified by copying role models in early childhood and continues later by experience and reasoning.

            (Who am I?, What am I?, What’s this all about?) is personal dogma ‘projected’ (be it theistic or scientific). It all gets now-here. These questions all pre-assume we each have no place and need to fix that.

            It is possible to go round in circles playing with well worn, hypothetical, philosophical deepities, but to make progress in understanding the real world, some assumed axioms are needed. Natural forces punish those who choose badly. (Such as acting on disbelief in gravity).

            The questions are all pretend, they are fictional, because you are the authority, you are the ’cause’ and have always been the cause and have never not been the cause… You/we, are each self-built smack bang at the dead center of everything.

            To escape the egocentric circular delusions, objective observations and scientific methodology give us the best way of using team-work to avoid mistakes from personal biases, and find out what works in the material world. Survival has evolved individual and group self interest, but this should not be allowed to cloud objective judgement. As I pointed out elsewhere, emotive wish-thinking causes accidents and disasters.

            But as agreed, we cannot see the back of our own heads. So what goes on in the back of each of our heads may (does) hold the key.

            That is why we need to use peer-reviewed independent work by neuroscientists, and psychologists. We can’t look inside our own heads, but we can look at each others.

            By all definitions, and regardless of the knowledge or language each man finally attains, and regardless of the laws we define, you are the creator, you are the common denominator, you are god.

            Indeed! I have often pointed out the work of neuroscientists identifying the “god” areas of the human brain. Some people let these areas dominate their lives, others can keep them in balance.

            … and if so, there is no absolute death, merely a transformation.

            This is whimsical assertion. Brains die along with the body. There is no evidence supporting other views.

            Now if I’ve made my life’s objectives up and cannot give them up, I am dogmatic.

            That is only the case of people who are not prepared to modify views in the light of experience. – Usually those taking their dogmas from ones made-up in old books.

            If indeed YOU CAN give up the MADE UP objective of ‘establishing truth via seeking knowledge and applying reason’ then cease the talk and prove it.

            Personal and social objectives are not “truths” they are cultural conventions balancing different forms of self-interest. Only dogmatists regard them as fixed “truths”. Ones like the “Golden Rule” and reciprocal altruism, benefit the parties concerned in maintaining their lives. Reasoning can evaluate outcomes, but judgements apportioning responsibilities and resources are political issues. Hence the diversity of moral codes and state laws.

            It doesn’t matter who says it, either way, letting go of reason is the final challenge. If you are not frightened to do so then do it, let go and fall! Do not offer reasons why you won’t, dispense with the reasons, just do it.

            People do this quite often. It is called getting drunk, or going on a high trip! It is a short term emotional buzz, – usually with longer-term detrimental consequences. It does nothing for understanding the world or maintaining quality of life, and over an extended period reduces them to a mental shambles unable to cope with reality!

            Since I am one who is mostly unwilling to truly let go of reason as a pacifier, I see little point in telling a theist to release his grip on faith.

            This is an utterly false dichotomy. Faith cannot be equated with reason, or evidence based reason. “Faith” consistently fails all practical tests, while evidence based reason allows accurate prediction of outcomes which are used to support our lives.

            I sometimes hear new atheists say “Everything became clearer when I left the faith, I feel so much better, smarter, free!” Well any true scientist ought reply, “This is not about feeling better!, we scientists don’t care how you feel, or whether you like the truth or not, and nor should you, so spare us the affectations and go back if you want comfort, believe in god.”

            The feeling of relief at having a thought process which works in the real world, rather than one which gives fixed wrong answers most of the time, should not be confused with the actual benefits of using a working system. It is actually having the right answers, not the incidental feeling of being smarter from having them which counts. Theist-thinking is frequently preoccupied with feelings while in denial of material effects. It is the dominant god-delusion in the brain suppressing their reason.

            Oh?… So scientists are free thinking huh? Here we go.

            Scientists following scientific methodology are free thinking. They start with objective observations and evidence – independently confirmed – and follow the evidence using reasoning to progress to conclusions.

            Theists start with preconceived conclusions (god-did-it) and go around contorted semantic circular arguments to try to produce the appearance of reasoning as they produce rationalisations and fallacies to arrive back where they started.

            You gotta be kidding Lawrence, just give up the model! .. . . .
            So, in summary to this novel, I suggest the probabilities of both this recent embarrassment to science, and the story of an invisible all seeing maker, are equally remote and are thus equally likely…

            Not a scrap of evidence for assuming a maker, and serious contra-indications from Occam!
            Speculative science at least suggests (as has been proved) a balance of matter and anti-matter = nothing.
            There is no reason to assume all speculations about the unknown “are equally likely”! The hindsight of history should teach us that they are not!

            On God the Creator, the Vatican Council was very clear. – If anyone does not confess that the world and all things which are contained in it, both spiritual and material, were produced, according to their whole substance, out of nothing by God;

            In view of the above claim of “a universe from nothing”, I find it quite comical that theists make a big deal out of speculations on the quantum physics of “nothing”, and commit the usual fallacy, that if science does not have a definitive answer, “god-did-it-by-mysterious-magic”, somehow, without evidence, becomes a default position! (BTW: “Nothing”, does not exist anywhere in the observed universe.)

            If our divided brain were able but for a moment, to hold in it two opposing truths at once, the source of our questions (our doubts) and our answers to them (our certainties), would be finally seen and reconciled into one.

            This is simply wrong! Brains can hold opposite contradictory positions, but this is simply the compartmentalisation of;
            cognitive dissonance

            For example, when the cults’ prophecies were proved to be wrong, the followers’ faith didn’t diminish; to the contrary, it strengthened, because it is much easier to simply disavow pieces of evidence as “false”, put up an excuse and keep on believing, than to change a belief that has grown to be an individual’s entire soul, fiber and character.

            New “Truths”, are made up to explain away the conflict. but these have nothing to do with reality and much to do with the god-delusions.

            As this is just a another dominance trick played by evolution. It is yet another act of subordination to a war being waged in the back of our heads.

            There is no war in my head. My rationality won the argument with god-delusions decades ago, as I matured beyond childish thinking.

            So decide… decide who is the real boss of you, and who is the real slave, and flip your thinking to verify you are free…

            .. . .A long settled issue! I am a free and rational thinker, and not a slave to any of the thousands of different conflicting god-delusions which afflict others on this planet. My children also seem happily free of them.

    • In reply to #30 by twostories:

      Comment by This Is Not A Meme “Just to be fair, can anyone give an honest and complete explanation for belief in Xianity that does not involve ignorance and compromise to the intellect?”

      Thanks for the invite, I’ll have a go at an alternate explanation, try this;

      That’s gold. Thank you.

      Let your logic now attack, I am ready for the bullets :)

      Okay… Unitarians don’t count! Nuanced, enlightened revisions of Jesus lore could be made of any body of fiction, though harvesting the original intent of spiritual insight may be more valid from Bible than say the Beowulf… granted. I think it’s fair, by de facto and academic standards, to say Xians believe in supernatural events, vicarious redemption from a Hell dimension, and other such nonsense often accompanied with monstrous immoral stances. If we don’t split hairs on definition, Mormons and Branch Davidians are Xian. If we do split Nicean hairs, what you describe is not Xianity.

      When Billy Graham said all people are in the Body of Christ, thus all are saved (even atheists), he was denounced by the Xian mainstream. These more thoughtful interpretations, even from leaders, don’t carry much traction amongst believers.

  21. I think you’ve taken ‘extraordinary’ to mean special or particularly valuable and thereby missed the point that a child is not going to go against such powerful statements (“Because they are ignorant and lack intellectual integrity”) of opinion whether or not they are factually correct.

    But the remainder of the reply suggests an such urgent need impress your authority on mistakes (genetic or intellectual) that perhaps you have more in common with the Christians and Nazis in your example than you imagine?

    One of the point of this excellent articles is that there is a risk, in not impressing your opinions on your children, that they may very well come to the ‘wrong’ conclusions.

  22. Purely anecdotal, but I “indoctrinated” my kids into non-belief, by telling them I didn’t believe in any God, and that I thought religion was a load of nonsense. As far as I know, they never had any problem with that approach.

    • In reply to #33 by Mr DArcy:

      Purely anecdotal, but I “indoctrinated” my kids into non-belief, by telling them I didn’t believe in any God, and that I thought religion was a load of nonsense. As far as I know, they never had any problem with that approach.

      Many children from religious families have no problem with their parents’ approach either.

      There needs to be more to differentiate your approach from that of religious fathers other than the fact you are right and they are wrong. Because they would say exactly the same and that is therefore not actually a difference but something you have in common.

    • I agree wholeheartedly with that approach and hope I don’t misunderstand the inverted commas which I take to be ironic. You were honest with them since they were entitled to know who you are which usually would include what you feel about serious issues. Had you confined yourself to that in support of, say, religious beliefs, it also IMO would not constitute indoctrination. A parent can’t simply avoid any truthfulness at all but tries, surely, to avoid using the power of his/her position to oblige acquiescence – that would be indoctrination. In reply to #33 by Mr DArcy:

      Purely anecdotal, but I “indoctrinated” my kids into non-belief, by telling them I didn’t believe in any God, and that I thought religion was a load of nonsense. As far as I know, they never had any problem with that approach.

  23. YHWH:

    In reply to #33 by Mr DArcy:

    Purely anecdotal, but I “indoctrinated” my kids into non-belief, by telling them I didn’t believe in any God, and that I thought religion was a load of nonsense. As far as I know, they never had any problem with that approach.

    …………………………………………………………………….

    Many children from religious families have no problem with their parents’ approach either.

    There needs to be more to differentiate your approach from that of religious fathers other than the fact you are right and they are wrong. Because they would say exactly the same and that is therefore not actually a difference but something you have in common.

    I never claimed I was right, nor did I try and fill their heads with what I would describe as nonsense. They just got my honest opinion. About other things too, not just gods or God. There was never any of the angst portrayed in the OP, but then I live in England where most people regard devout religiosity as something of an embarrassment !

    • Mr D’Arcy,

      Again that’s the point. Christians, Muslims and all of the rest would say exactly the same.

      No-one ever tries to fill their children’s heads with nonsense (outside of The Wasp Factory).

  24. YHWH:

    Mr D’Arcy,

    Again that’s the point. Christians, Muslims and all of the rest would say exactly the same.

    No-one ever tries to fill their children’s heads with nonsense (outside of The Wasp Factory).

    All the same there is a difference between giving a child a religious upbringing whereby certain beliefs are presented as fact, and not bringing up a child religiously. You say that my attitude is the same as a religious parent, but it’s not. How many Christian parents say “Well in my opinion Jesus died on the cross for our sins”? Or how many Muslim parents say “In my opinion Allah created the universe” ?

    These religious “opinions” are presented as facts to the offspring. And if you don’t accept them as such there’s a very hot place waiting for you !

  25. It may sound horrible (not to me of course). But I intend to raise my child to be deeply skeptic,to always seek out the truth and most importantly to not be afraid to call anyone out on their own falsehoods. I don’t pander to those ethnocentric murderers that call themselves “religious”, how many people have to die in wars or commit suicide because they are bullied by religious nuts before we realize that just because something is “culture” does mean it is inherently worthwhile, in some cultures people sacrifice their children to gods. And in the christian cultures people teach their children that they are evil that their desires are evil and that they should do what ever it takes to reject their own wants or desires, and submit blindly to any authority. Surprisingly enough atheist don’t usually commit genocide but religious people will fall for anything because of their learned behavior of submission. Some culture is inherently bad and dangerous and i am going to teach my child that he should have a logical reason for every choice he makes and that he should not be afraid to tell others that they are wrong.

  26. The indoctrination of children is done so systematically and effectively that it seems impossible to resist. Here we have the Labour Party campaigning to extend free state sponsored childcare…a noble intention indeed but with terriffying brainwash potential when linked to faith schools. The children affected will be at the age when they are the most susceptable to be indoctrination …. with severe implications for the rest of their lives.
    Consider the declining interest in christianity in UK with a corresponding rise in islam …also driven largely by the refusal of govenrment to insist on properly secular education for all children. Its difficult to understand how Britain, which claims to be one of the world leaders in terms of human rights and morality etc can allow the systematic and intensive indoctrination of children by religious institutions, by islam in particular.

  27. As some others have commented on this thread, the opening sentence by danarel is a problem. Its not about how you teach a child to be athiest…its about how you teach a child to evaluate evidence and have the freedom to question everything and anything without constraint. The outcome of that will most likely be a balanced person who would not give religion a second look other than out of historical interest. Parental and institutional indoctrination of children is the only way that religion can be propagated in a knowledge based world…people free from indoctrination are most unlikely to be attracted to religion unless they have serious self image or other psychologial problems and are desperatley looking for fixes.

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