The first time I heard of this new atheist meme, I was so shocked that I ignored it. But since then it has grown in popularity. One can now find people writing that teaching any religion to children is child abuse, since children are being made to grow up believing in a lie. Child abuse is a terrible and very real problem. Teaching any world view to your children is not child abuse, and to say that teaching religion to kids is child abuse lessens and trivializes the terrible reality of actual child abuse.
The deranged atheists who make this claim insist that by teaching young children lies, parents are affecting their whole lives and preventing them from understanding the truth about the world. Well, if teaching your kids that God created the world, and that Jesus Christ loves them no matter what they do, is child abuse, then what is this:
“Daddy, what happens when we die?”
“Nothing. Death is the end. We just stop existing. Forever.”
“But Katy said her grandpa is in Heaven.”
“There is no such thing as Heaven. It’s a fairy tale to make people feel better. Once a person dies, there is nothing at all. They can’t think. They feel nothing. They don’t exist”.
“So when you die, I will never see you again?”
“That’s right, and when you die, your children and your friends will never see you again, and you won’t exist. God and Jesus and Heaven and all that stuff is just make believe.”
How do you think that makes a kid feel? I know the answer, because that is what I was told from early childhood. The answer is I found it terrifying and depressing, and I could not grasp the enormous misery of the finality of it. Although I believed what my parents told me, I fervently wished it wasn’t true.
I was told other things too as a child. I was told about how Comrade Stalin was a great man who would help us all become free of tyranny. I was told that the Soviet Union was a paradise of happy workers, and that once the whole world was communist, there would be peace, freedom and prosperity forever. I believed this also for a while, but as with most young people, I began having doubts about the wisdom of my parental culture, and eventually rejected it. That is what human beings do. Unless very sophisticated and reinforced brain washing techniques (as in a cult) are used, most children can easily decide (based on their own experiences and free choice) what to believe and what not to believe.
Keeping children isolated in a cult, without the ability to interact with diverse points of view can be abusive, and such cases are known. But cults are clearly defined and can be identified by their characteristics. Christianity is not a cult. Atheism isn’t either. There are Christian-based cults, and atheistic cults, and those are dangerous.
But normal religious beliefs are not any more abusive than any other worldviews, and a lot less so than some. The argument that it is abusive to teach lies to children is not only false, it begs the question of what is a lie. Who is going to be the judge of which lies you tell your kids will put you in jail for child abuse (which, lets remember, is a crime)? Should it be people like Sam Harris, who know the truth, because he says so? Should it be a commission of scientists and scholars who determine what is factually accurate and what is a lie? This solution has been tried. But Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union didn’t work out too well in matters of intellectual accomplishment, nor in avoiding levels of child (and adult) abuse way beyond our imagination.
Let’s not tolerate this dangerous and stupid idea that teaching children about Christianity is child abuse. Let’s fight back against it. Militant Atheism has gone way too far with this one, and it needs to stop.