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Friday, 16 November 2012

Atheists and Your Children, Part II

Propaganda Redivivus

In a previous post we spoke of the allegations and indictments being levelled by militant atheists against Christians.  They have repeatedly asserted that parents teaching their children the doctrines and beliefs of the Christian faith is literally a form of child abuse.

Whilst some may assume that this is nothing more than a colourful rhetorical device, the insistence that such propositions and charges be taken literally lead one to think that what is going down here reflects the strategic and tactical position of a propagandist rather than a serious argument.  Propaganda, of course, is not interested in the truth per se, nor in truthful discourse.  It is interested in manipulation and ultimately control of mind.  It appears, then, that atheists want control over the children whose parents are Christians.  They want to control their minds.  They want to interdict any influence their parents might otherwise have and substitute it with their own form of religion.

Is this extreme?  Yes--but openly and seriously advocated nonetheless.
  Professor Nicholas Humphrey is a celebrated psychologist working at Cambridge--who is also an atheist and a materialist.  According to his Wikipedia bio,
He has been Lecturer in Psychology at Oxford, Assistant Director of the Subdepartment of Animal Behaviour at Cambridge, Senior Research Fellow in Parapsychology at Cambridge, Professor of Psychology at the New School for Social Research, New York, and School Professor at the London School of Economics.
A few years ago he gave a speech to Amnesty International.  The audience was and is significant: Amnesty, of course, is committed to advocating for and assisting people suffering oppression.  Humphrey wanted Amnesty to begin to pay attention to what he believes is one of the greatest forms of oppression in our time: children being raised in Christian homes.

He commenced his speech by asserting his strong commitment to free speech as a fundamental human right.  He noted that words can harm and hurt people.  Should free speech, then, be curtailed?  He flatly rejected the notion outright.
Should we be campaigning for the rights of human beings to be protected from verbal oppression and manipulation? Do we need "word laws", just as all civilised societies have gun laws, licensing who should be allowed to use them in what circumstances? Should there be Geneva protocols establishing what kinds of speech act count as crimes against humanity?

No. The answer, I'm sure, ought in general to be "No, don't even think of it." Freedom of speech is too precious a freedom to be meddled with. And however painful some of its consequences may sometimes be for some people, we should still as a matter of principle resist putting curbs on it. By all means we should try to make up for the harm that other people's words do, but not by censoring the words as such.
Whew.  Great stuff.  An ally, then, against those atheists who are arguing that Christian freedoms and right should be curtailed.  Ah . . . . no.  Humphrey went on:

And, since I am so sure of this in general, and since I'd expect most of you to be so too, I shall probably shock you when I say it is the purpose of my lecture today to argue in one particular area just the opposite. To argue, in short, in favour of censorship, against freedom of expression, and to do so moreover in an area of life that has traditionally been regarded as sacrosanct.

I am talking about moral and religious education. And especially the education a child receives at home, where parents are allowed—even expected—to determine for their children what counts as truth and falsehood, right and wrong.
Committed to free speech all right, but just not in the most sacred and protected area of free speech imaginable--that speech which takes place in a home, between parents and their children.  Now, of course, Humphrey would not object if a parent said to his or her child, "You are a f. . . . . idiot, a little sh . . . "  That would be just normal, free speech to be protected and privileged along with free speech rights everywhere.  It is when parents speak to their children about the Lord Jesus Christ that Humphrey objects and wants free speech rights to be removed.

As you read the following paragraphs as he went on in his speech, think "Soviet Union" and "Communist China".  Think of the nodding heads in the Politburo and the Central Committees.
Children, I'll argue, have a human right not to have their minds crippled by exposure to other people's bad ideas—no matter who these other people are. Parents, correspondingly, have no god-given licence to enculturate their children in whatever ways they personally choose: no right to limit the horizons of their children's knowledge, to bring them up in an atmosphere of dogma and superstition, or to insist they follow the straight and narrow paths of their own faith.

In short, children have a right not to have their minds addled by nonsense. And we as a society have a duty to protect them from it. So we should no more allow parents to teach their children to believe, for example, in the literal truth of the Bible, or that the planets rule their lives, than we should allow parents to knock their children's teeth out or lock them in a dungeon.
Note the equivalence slipped in here: raising one's children in the Christian faith is equivalent to knocking their teeth out or locking them in a dungeon.  Since we imprison parents for such things, the implication is . . . ?  Of course.  Christian parents should be indicted as criminals and imprisoned if they dare to speak to their children of the Living God and His Son, Jesus Christ.  This is exactly equivalent to what actually happened in the Soviet Union. 

But this is no raving lunatic nor political extremist nor ideological nut-job.  This is a celebrated professor who is lionised all over the world--amongst fellow atheists and materialists and evolutionists and champions of human freedom against oppression, such as Amnesty International.  One of his most recently published volumes is The Mind Made Flesh: Essays from the Frontiers of Psychology and Evolution, in which the speech given to Amnesty referred to above is republished as a chapter.

The book blurb says:
Nicholas Humphrey's writings about the evolution of the mind have done much to set the agenda for contemporary psychology. Here, in a series of riveting essays, he invites us to 'take another look' at a variety of the central and not-so-central issues: the evolution of consciousness, the nature of the self, multiple personality disorder, the placebo effect, cave art, religious miracles, medieval animal trials, the seductions of dictatorship, and much more.
And reviewers opined:
"No other theoretical psychologist is so accessibly clear, and at the same time so provocatively philosophical."--Lorna Sage

"Nobody else brings such an astonishing range of knowledge to bear on these issues."--Daniel Dennett

"Humphrey's distinctive prose is the golden bowl in which his ripe and shining theories are held."--Antonella Gambotto
Right . . . Now the Christian position on the raising of children is is pretty straightforward.  Parents are given proprietary rights and responsibilities over children by God Himself.  This includes the duty to raise children in the truth.  But if parents do not, and raise them after their own idolatries and superstitions, the higher and prior rights of parents are not thereby annulled.  Free speech rights most certainly apply--and we would go on to argue, that if it were not so, then free speech rights--and all freedom rights--everywhere else would ultimately lapse.

Ultimately what this tells us is that Humphrey and his fellow atheists are not confident in their atheist skins.  They are not sure of their arguments.  They need the force of law, the threat of punishment over non-atheists to advance their cause.  It also tells us that when Humphrey and his fellow atheists speak of freedom they are really alluding to freedom within certain bounds--which they will define.  It is the freedom that holds amidst the conditions of an Inquisition.  It is the "freedom" of Orwell's 1984.


1 comment:

Lucia Maria said...

Things are definitely going to get tougher for people with faith in the future.

One of the Catholic bishops is sort of famous for his remark that he expects to die peacefully in his bed, his successor to die in prison and the successor after that to be killed in the public square. It's certainly going that way, unless there is some sort of dramatic change with ideas such as those put forward in this post gaining traction.

However, I did see some research from the States that showed of all the religious beliefs (including atheism) atheists have the worst retention rate.