Thursday, 15 November 2012

Atheists and Your Children, Part I

No Rhetorical  Devices Here

It is no surprise to learn that militant atheists hate the Christian faith.  And hate is not too strong a word.  What else can be made of the assertions by Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens that the act of parents teaching their own children about God and the Christ and the redemption of the world and the judgment to come is an act of child abuse?

Maybe, one wonders, this indictment should be regarded as rhetorical flourish or vivid hyperbole.  Dawkins, however, is firmly insistent that his words on this subject are neither hyperbolic nor a literary device in general.  He means them in a literal sense.  Here is Dawkins's gloss on his indictment of parents who teach their children the Christian faith:

. . . in the question time after a lecture in Dublin, I was asked what I thought about the widely publicized cases of sexual abuse by Catholic priests in Ireland.  I replied that, horrible as sexual abuse was, the damage was arguably less than the long-term psychological damage inflicted by bringing the child up Catholic in the first place.  [Quoted by Peter Hitchens, The Rage Against God: How Atheism Led Me to Faith (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2010), p. 202. Emphasis, ours.]
 Nor was this an intemperate slip, later modified or partially corrected.  On a national TV programme he declared,
What I really object to is--and I thinks it's actually abusive to children--is to take a tiny child and say "You are a Christian child or you are a Muslim child."  I think it is wicked if children are told "You are a member of such and such a faith simply because your parents are."  (Ibid. Emphasis, ours)
Child abuse in modern discourse is considered the most heinous of crimes, worthy of no mercy, exculpation, or defence.  It is the secular world's last mortal unpardonable sin.

But is Dawkins really arguing that were parents to instruct their children in the faith of their fathers they should be criminally indicted and subjected to the most severe criminal penalties?  If so--if we are really to take him literally--he must have abandoned reason.  To make the crimes of physical or sexual assault of a child the moral and legal legal equivalent of catechising that child in the Christian faith, all the while asserting that one is to be taken literally, can hardly be an advertisement for rationality. 

So, since Dawkins is not mentally unstable, and since his assertions on child abuse and religion are not rationally defensible, there must be another explanation.  The most likely is that such extreme allegations serve the interests of propaganda.  Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens and Sam Harris and their co-belligerents are advocates of a secular, religion-free society.  To identify religious instruction of children as child abuse creates a "narrative" that parents are delinquent and punishable for teaching their children about the Lord Jesus Christ, which in its turn provides justification for State regulations and rules. 

There have been other empires, other societies which have made such a connection and engaged in similar propaganda.  The Soviet Union for one.  Communist China for another.  Both sought suppression and extirpation of all religion and its replacement with absolute secularism.  Both employed a massive effort in propaganda to achieve their goals.  Both sought to "rescue" children from the religion of their parents. 

Is this really what the New Atheists are about?  Is this their end-game?  The breaking apart of a parent from a child to ensure that the child is not exposed to the ideas and beliefs of "bad" parents?  And to ensure that this happens, of course, the State would have to intrude right into the home: to rule, regulate, listen, monitor, control, and punish.  It would have to replace parental instruction with its own. 

No, we hear you say.  If you allege that against the noble New Atheists you would be guilty of your own hyperbolic excess.  No-one is advocating that.  No-one.  Really?  Yes, really. 

Unfortunately, it is true.  Literally true.  No rhetorical devices within cooee.  We will take the saga further in our next post. 


Ambulatory Photographist said...

Indoctrination of children is how religions survive. It makes no more sense to say a child is a Muslim, Christina, Jew etc, than it does to say a child is a marxist or a capitalist.
Yes Dawkins etc are advocates of a religion-free society, as were the soviet dictators as you say, but in the case of dictators, it is because they want everyone's total devotion. They want to replace God. Look closely at the "miracles" attributed to the various Kims in North Korea in support of this. The key element here is subjugation. You subjugate your free will to a dictator and strive to please them in your every action, instead of God. The dictator becomes a substitute deity. Therefore the comparison is invalid, as true atheism requires subjugation to nobody.

John Tertullian and Contra Celsum said...

Except that those who claim to be "true atheists" have subjugated people all over the place when they have managed to forge an atheist regime or government. Can we find one "true atheist" regime in the modern period which has not done so? It may be arguable, though highly tendentious, to hold that an individual true atheist "requires subjugation to nobody", but what of atheist regimes? We think Dawkins's ruminations help explain why that is the case.