Vocal atheists try, these days, to convince people that religion is bad for children. Richard Dawkins go as far as calling it “child abuse.” Obviously, these anti-religious campaigners quote no studies. They back up their prejudiced views by emotionalism, sophisticated word choices, and whatever negative anecdotes they can find.
Now the question is: Does the New Atheists claims about child abuse have any basis in reality?
To study this, I would start with the known fact that child abuse has a negative effect on children. Apart from physical pain and injury, it is likely to have a negative influence on a child’s self esteem, school work, happiness levels, ability to relate to others, etc. If teaching children about God amounts to a form of child abuse, negative results would show up in studies on the effect religious training has on children. For that reason, I attempted to compile a real list of studies that compare, statistically:
a1) children who believe the Christian claims, or often have to go to church,
a2) those who do not
b) measures results generally regarded as good (like improved school marks, staying away from drugs, less depression), even by unbelievers.
Studies like that conclude that religious participation, Biblical beliefs, and having parents who talk about God with their children, all contribute very positively towards a child’s emotional well-being. (To shorten this post, I put a few of those studies here.)
My questions and comments to people tempted to believe Richard Dawkins on this:
What would you call something that makes children:
a) feel safer at home?
(b) less prone to depression or suicide?
(c) believe their lives have meaning?
(d) more likely to have a happy marriage later in life?
(e) less prone to crime, drugs or alcohol?
(f) more likely to do well in school?
I am unsure what to call it, but the term “child abuse” seems highly unsuitable.
Do the New atheists want to take children from their parents for teaching them about God? And if they take children from a loving home with a positive influence (1), where will they place them? Do Dawkins suggest prosecuting parents for their positive influence? This sentence from his book, “the God Delusion” make it sound that way: “… we should no more allow parents to teach their children to believe, for example, in the literal truth of the Bible … than we should allow parents to knock their children’s teeth out or lock them in a dungeon.” Since the New Atheists apparently suggest prosecuting parents for religious instruction to their children, their view of religion as child abuse seems to be dangerous hate speech. This view should not be tossed aside lightly. It should be tossed aside with great force.
If you are a parent, please work hard on teaching your child Christian values. Read up on how to best teach it, to a generation who might even misunderstand basic words like “truth”, “judgment”, “God’s love” etc., due to their cultural conditioning.
If you are a Sunday school teacher/ youth worker/ Good News Club (2) teacher, please be encouraged: Do even more to teach real Christian values- not watered-down-for-kids versions of Christian values! Teach it, because your children need it. They need it spiritually, but also intellectually (3) and emotionally and socially and physically. (4)
Whoever you are, if you meet or read the sort of bigoted campaigner who try to tell you that teaching kids about God “corrupts their innocent minds,” or “is a form of child abuse” or whatever, tell them to their faces that they are being ridiculous. Inform the readers/listeners that hears such campaigners that the charges have no substance: These loud atheists are trying to “protect” children from a world view that apparently gives purpose, lessens anger and disappointment with life, improve their school marks, protects young people from drugs and keep them away from suicide.
(1) “Positive influence” is not just an opinion here. I statistically made my point about how positive religious training is, on average, for the child.
(2) This link is to an American article, but CEF and Good News Clubs are active worldwide.
(3) Intellectually: They will be likely to have better school marks, and concentrate better.
(4) Physically: They will be less likely to use drugs, and less likely to hurt others. The former protects themselves and others, the latter physically protects those around him. Religious people also live longer and are healthier, on average.
1) Rich Deem makes a similar argument here, and MikeGene makes a similar argument here.
2) This is a reworking of a piece called “Christianity is good for kids, says the statistics” that used to be on this blog, and replaces it.