The Instigator
brian_eggleston
Pro (for)
Losing
40 Points
The Contender
KRFournier
Con (against)
Winning
104 Points

The religious indoctrination of minors is a form of child abuse

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 9/18/2009 Category: Religion
Updated: 7 years ago Status: Voting Period
Viewed: 7,722 times Debate No: 9514
Debate Rounds (2)
Comments (80)
Votes (27)

 

brian_eggleston

Pro

Adults who sexually interfere with minors, be they parents, friends of the family, teachers, priests or complete strangers are rightly punished when their crimes are uncovered. However, in addition to the sexual molestation of children, there are three other forms of child abuse: physical abuse, emotional abuse and neglect.

http://www.nspcc.org.uk...

My contention is that adults who indoctrinate children with religious propaganda, whether they be parents, teachers, preachers or anyone else and whether they be Christian, Jewish, Muslim or a follower of any other faith based belief and whether they are at home or at school or at a place of worship or any other public place, are guilty of emotionally abusing children.

Please review the embedded YouTube clips of kids at ‘Jesus Camps'. Can you honestly say that brainwashing children at such early stages in their lives has improved those children's mental health and will help them to become well-adjusted and emotionally stable adults capable of distinguishing between scientific facts and ecumenical myths? I think not.

Of course, the Christian fanatics behind this type of brainwashing deliberately prey on children because they know that most rational adults would not swallow a tale about a mystical being that created this planet 6,000 years ago and who put us all on the Earth to glorify him and that science is a merely a wicked tool of some evil spirit.

I, therefore, affirm that children have the right to grow up without being subjected to religious molestation at the hands of cynical adults who are anxious to enlist new recruits (and future financial donors) to their church, synagogue, mosque or temple and that indoctrinating impressionable youngsters should be considered a form of emotional child abuse.

Thank you.
KRFournier

Con

Brian has brought a sensitive subject to our attention. I look forward to a rational and engaging discourse over the matter. I will start by cross-examining his opening statement, then move on to my counter argument.

REBUTTAL

As much as I respect Brian as a rational thinker, I must express my disappointment in the number of fallacies committed in his opening statement:

Fallacy 1: Hasty Generalization

He starts by asserting that all religious indoctrination amounts to emotional child abuse, yet he offers very little evidence to conclude that much. We are only given two videos, hardly a representative sample of all religions and denominations therein.

Fallacy 2: Observational Selection

While I cannot assess the first video, I can say with certainty that the second video (upon which Brian's case relies) suffers from the observational selection fallacy. The complete documentary includes interviews with other Christians that oppose the methodologies and doctrines of the Jesus Camp. Perhaps Brian has a better explanation as to why two carefully selected videos should not be constituted as bias on his part and should be permitted as any sort of valid evidence for his case.

Fallacy 3: Poisoning the Well

My opponent says, "the Christian fanatics behind this type of brainwashing deliberately prey on children because they know that most rational adult would not swallow a tale…" Statements like these are preemptive ad hominem attacks against any would be opponent and is better known as "poisoning the well." This is like saying, "Anyone that accepts my challenge is taking a ridiculous position, as every rational person knows." It's not an argument and is poor conduct.

Taking these fallacies into account, I submit that Brian's opening case amounts to nothing more than an emotional plea. The videos would make anyone cringe, many Christians included, but this is hardly enough evidence to support the resolution at hand.

MY ARGUMENT

Brian has made it clear in both the resolution and his opening statement that he considers ALL religious indoctrination to amount to child abuse. Therefore, I just need to show that at least some religious indoctrination is not child abuse.

Indoctrinate - 1. To instruct in a body of doctrine or principles. 2. To imbue with a partisan or ideological point of view. [1]

Doctrine and principles can be aptly summed up as one's worldview, and since all people have a body of worldview assumptions, it is rational to conclude that all people engage in indoctrination when they teach their worldview assumptions to others. Whether a naturalist teaches his son that there is no God or a Christian teaches his son that there is, both are caught in the act of indoctrination. I highly doubt Brian intends to argue that ANY indoctrination is abusive since this would mean non-religious indoctrination would be considered abusive as well and everyone on the planet becomes a child abuser.

It is clear Brian takes issue with parents teaching their children that God exists. The only reason he offers is that doing so is (a) ridiculous and (b) has the end goal of maintaining recruitment and funding. He offers no reasoned analysis or evidence to support these assertions. Indeed, there's a very good chance that religious people indoctrinate their children because they (a) believe it to be really true and (b) because teaching their children the opposite of their strongest beliefs is irrational. What atheist strongly urges their kids to believe in God and vice versa?

At any rate, we need criteria to determine when abuse occurs. Brian gives us the following: (1) improved mental health, (2) ability to become well-adjusted and emotionally stable adults, (3) capable of distinguishing between scientific facts and "ecumenical myths." These criteria are completely arbitrary. Perhaps more clinical criteria would be more persuasive?

Consider the following two scenarios:

Scenario A: A Christian father teaches his children that God exists and Christ is the Savior. His children are, in his mind, a gift from above. He teaches his kids that others have intrinsic value being made in God's image. He teaches them to love others, especially the less fortunate. He teaches them the value of hard work. His own beliefs prohibit him from hitting, belittling, neglecting, or overprotecting his children.

Scenario B: An atheist father teaches his child that God does not exist. Having been saddled with this kid after a one-night stand ten years ago, he views this child as a burden. Unable to deal with his own emotions, he's usually under the influence of alcohol. As such, he regularly insults his son and reminds him of the burden he is. His behavior towards his own son sends him deeper into depression, thus creating a cycle of guilt and abuse.

Both scenarios indoctrinate (pass along worldviews). The fact that both scenarios are plausible should be sufficient in showing that religious indoctrination, in and of itself, is not abusive. It is the subsequent parental behavior in which abuse enters the picture. It is quite plausible that scenario A results in a mentally healthy, well-adjusted, and emotionally stable adult capable of distinguishing between scientific facts and philosophical assertions, whereas scenario B does not. The scenarios remain equally plausible when worldviews are swapped. That is, a religious person is capable of addiction and abuse while the atheist is capable of raising their child to be a caring humanist. The point is, worldview is ultimately irrelevant.

CONCLUSION

I urge the readers to consider the logic of this debate, not merely the emotionally charged content. My opponent has one more round to show why his generalization is true. To do so, he must show how all religious indoctrination is child abuse and why irreligious indoctrination is either not abusive or not to be considered indoctrination at all.

In the meantime, I have shown that at least some religious indoctrination is not abusive, and that is all that is necessary to negate Brian's all-inclusive resolution. It does not matter if we all agree that the kids depicted in Brian's videos are textbook cases of child abuse as they are not sufficient to reach Brian's conclusion.

SOURCES
1. http://www.thefreedictionary.com...
Debate Round No. 1
brian_eggleston

Pro

I would like to extend my thanks to KRFournier for accepting this debate. I am sure my fellow members would join me in acknowledging that my opponent is a most worthy individual and, personally, I have no doubt that he is also an excellent father. With this in mind, I hope that nothing I write in this debate will be considered as a personal sleight against either him or any other members who adhere to a faith based belief. As it happens, this brings me neatly to my opponent's first alleged fallacy.

"Fallacy" 1 – Generalisation.

When debating one should never resort to generalisations, but since I did almost no research I had no choice! Actually, that's not true, I had videos of Orthodox Jewish schoolchildren and students of Islamic schools who were behaving in equally disturbing ways, I merely focussed on Christians because most members live in countries where Christianity is the dominant religion.

"Fallacy" 2 - Observational Selection

While I am perfectly willing to accept that Jesus camps represent the lunatic fringe of the Christian movement worldwide, they are still very popular, at least in the United States.

"Fallacy" 3 – Poisoning the Well

Please forgive my lack of debating etiquette – "debate" as a subject is not taught in schools here in the UK so my method of argument instead mirrors that of political debates whereby a common and accepted tactic is to ridicule your opponent's position using the most emotive language possible.

Now, to address my opponent's argument:

I would make a distinction between "indoctrination" which is usually seen as negative and "teaching" which is usually seen as positive. If a child is taught about the world's various religions at school, this is a good thing. However, if a child is forced to study only one and coerced into becoming a believer, that is indoctrination and not a good thing. Surely the child should be allowed to grow up and make an informed choice on which, if any, faith to believe in - based on the knowledge he or she has attained about all the various religions on offer? Meanwhile, however, teachers demonstrating Newton's Laws of Physics through classroom experiments, for example, cannot be described as "indoctrinating" children.

Much as I like to use scenarios to illustrate my point in debates, they are usually picked apart very easily so I feel no guilt in exposing my opponent's scenarios as a false dichotomy thus:

Children are considered either a blessing or a curse or a mixture of the two by all parents. A good father will cherish his children and be happy to make every sacrifice for them. He will provide for them as best he can, take an active interest in their education and instruct them to "to love others, especially the less fortunate" and teach "them the value of hard work." However he doesn't need to be religious to do this. He may also ensure that his kids attend a good school and become members of sporting clubs or other non-denominational youth groups which will install other important principles such as fair play, personal responsibility, discipline, team work and respect for authority – these values are not exclusive to the church.

On the other hand, a bad father is a bad father, religious or not. In fairness, my opponent did acknowledge this point but went on to claim that indoctrination was not abusive, depending on your"worldview". To be honest, I couldn't quite fathom the connection, though I do accept that parents who impose their religious beliefs on the children do it with the best of intentions and would be horrified if they realised that in so doing they could be causing long term damage to the very things in life which they hold most dear.

Analogies are never perfect and I expect my opponent to duly attempt to demolish this one, I nevertheless hope this might illustrate my point:

A doting mother feeds her child cheeseburgers, cakes, pizzas, candy, chips and everything else it demands, whenever it demands it and since the child doesn't like salad, vegetables and fruit and has a tantrum if it is asked to eat them, she never provides them.

However as a result of this overindulgent and unbalanced diet, the child becomes obese and in later life develops health problems such as diabetes and heart disease. Strangely, like the religious indoctrination of children, this is not currently seen as a form of child abuse (at least in the US, though it is here in the UK).
Now, if another mother neglected her child by not feeding it enough and it became malnourished as a result, she would, rightly be charged with child abuse.

But what's the difference at the end of the day? Both kids suffered at the hands of their mothers. Although the first mother thought she was doing the right thing for her child by giving it everything it wanted, while the second simply didn't care at all, the net result was that both children were abused.

In the final analysis, it is children's long term welfare, not their parents' supposed right to impose their religious beliefs
on their offspring that should remain paramount at all times.

Thank you.
KRFournier

Con

I thank Brian for this rousing debate and hope others have enjoyed the discourse contained herein.

DEFENSE OF FALLACIES

I'll briefly defend my fallacies, then move on to cross examine Brian's second round.

Fallacy 1: Hasty Generalization

Brian admits that he had more source material, but even if he had ten videos, it's still not enough to conclude that ALL religious indoctrination constitutes child abuse. Furthermore, he would need to submit proof of the various denominations within each religion. Not all Muslims wage holy war on America and not all Christians wage holy war against religious freedom.

Fallacy 2: Observational Selection

Brian's assertion that Jesus camps are popular helps his case very little. So long as there remain examples of religious indoctrination void of abuse--no matter how ubiquitous-- the resolution is fulfilled. Remember, Brian asserted that ALL religious indoctrination was abuse, not just popular ones.

Fallacy 3: Poisoning the Well

Yes, politicians love to poison the well, probably because it's easy to sneak past most participants and listeners. Unfortunately for you, Brian, I brought my Fallacy-O-Vision to this debate.

REBUTTAL

My opponent is, of course, free to add any positive or negative connotations he wishes to the terms indoctrination and teaching. However, the definitions of those terms remain fixed. Indoctrination is a form of teaching, focused on the passing on of doctrine's and beliefs. I can see why Brian would think this is bad if thinks he himself to be neutral in his own beliefs and doctrines. However, I have been arguing that there are no unbiased parents anywhere in the world or in all of existence. This is what I meant by worldview.

A physics teacher teaching observational science is teaching. A physics teacher telling his children that morality is relative is indoctrinating. In the first case, the teacher passes objective knowledge. In the second case, he passes belief. The first case appeals to the scientific method, and the second case appeals to worldview assumptions, i.e., doctrines. In this way, it is still possible to indoctrinate your children (pass on your beliefs) while also teaching your children (exposing them to opposing views). Indoctrination is only a dirty word to the one convinced their position is perfectly unbiased, reasoned, and true.

Young children do need to be coerced into knowledge. Indeed, they are born philosophers, the first several years of their lives marked by the most powerful word, "Why." Additionally, they are concrete thinkers and do not usually question the answers until abstract thinking capabilities kick in during adolescence. They simply accept their parents' answers and follow their parents' lead. As they grow older and begin to question their parents indoctrination (as most children inevitably do), then it becomes appropriate to encourage them to explore alternative theories and philosophies so as to make their beliefs their own.

BRIAN'S ANALOGY

Brian knew it was coming, so wouldn't want to deny him the joy of seeing his analogies criticized. Indoctrination does not correlate at all with spoiling/neglecting a child. I guess he was trying to get at the issue of good intentions. I agree, not all good intentions avoid abusive situations. To clarify, I never argued that people indoctrinate solely on good intention. I argued that people indoctrinate because it's impossible not to.

MY ANALOGIES

An atheist passes on his worldview to his five year old child. At first, his conscious bid him to never impose his views, and he would offer multiple answers to his kid's philosophical questions about life, death, and existence. Gradually, daddy learned that his child's mind was too immature to handle such things, so he learned to just offer the most truthful answers he could. When the kid grew older, he made a Christian friend and attended several youth group meetings with him. He would come home with questions. The father was glad to see his son wrestle intellectually. He allowed his son room to explore these conflicts, never preventing him from attending church. Still, he would offer his own experience and wisdom on these questions whenever his son asked. His son grew older, and left home for college during which time the son became a Christian. The father was disappointed that his son chose a path he personally disagreed with, but he never disavowed or ridiculed his son for finding his own way. To this day, while they disagree philosophically, they have a deep and fulfilling relationship even though the father has high hopes of seeing his son one day return to atheism.

A Christian passes on his worldview to his five year old child. At first, his conscious bid him to never impose his views, and he would offer multiple answers to his kid's philosophical questions about life, death, and existence. Gradually, daddy learned that his child's mind was too immature to handle such things, so he learned to just offer the most truthful answers he could. When the kid grew older, he made an atheist friend and attended several Freethinkers events with him. He would come home with questions. The father was glad to see his son wrestle intellectually. He allowed his son room to explore these conflicts, never preventing him from skipping church or joining his friend's meetings. Still, he would offer his own experience and wisdom on these questions whenever his son asked. His son grew older, and left home for college during which time the son became an atheist. The father was disappointed that his son chose a path he personally disagreed with, but he never disavowed or ridiculed his son for finding his own way. To this day, while they disagree philosophically, they have a deep and fulfilling relationship even though the father has high hopes of seeing his son one day return to Christianity.

Both stories are identical in progression. Both stories are realistic and probable. Neither story exhibits emotional child abuse. So long as there are mature believers, Brian's resolution will never find solid footing.

CONCLUSION

My opponent's wording of the resolution and his opening statement confirm that he asserts ALL religious indoctrination is child abuse. He has offered scant evidence from which he has drawn huge generalizations. He has not refuted my insistence that indoctrination is unavoidable, nor has he shown why irreligious indoctrination can never be abusive. At best, he's tried to redefine indoctrination as an evil act of forcing beliefs down one's throat, which goes beyond the dictionary definition. On the other hand, I have attempted to reveal indoctrination for what it truly is: the passing down of one's worldview. In light of this, I have tried to show through both analogy and argumentation that some religious indoctrination is not abusive. If you have been convinced of at least that much, then the resolution has been sufficiently negated.
Debate Round No. 2
80 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by tBoonePickens 7 years ago
tBoonePickens
@ Kleptin,
Hi Kleptin. They are pretty much the same thing (ie "Santa Clause does not exist" and "I believe Santa Clause does not exist".) Why?

@ brittwaller,
Math is not the best corollary for the English language; however, you've got your equations muddled up. Let's see them again:

"Disbelief in something IS the same as belief in the opposite of that something."
x = Disbelief, 1 = something (Santa); ex: "I disbelieve in Santa."
-x= Belief, -1 = opposite of something (no Santa); "I believe in no Santa."
"I disbelieve in Santa" = "I believe in no Santa"
Quite simple, actually. I think the problem is with your concepts of "nothing" and "non-belief": these are abstractions of the mind that do not exist as they are meaningless contradictions. Nothing is of course something as a "true nothing" does not exist. This applies just as well for non-belief.
Posted by Freeman 7 years ago
Freeman
Christianity can't be entirely explained as a product of childhood indoctrination. However, this doesn't detract from the fact that Christianity could not sustain itself without childhood indoctrination.
Posted by Freeman 7 years ago
Freeman
"There are plenty examples of well-educated adults that converted from atheism to Christianity."

The same could be said about every other religion. There are also many well educated Christians that ended up leaving the faith as adults. And your point is, what exactly?
Posted by KRFournier 7 years ago
KRFournier
I had not seen that fallacy by name before, but it does a more precise job of making my point. Thanks.
Posted by InquireTruth 7 years ago
InquireTruth
"is only question begging."

And the No True Scotsman Fallacy.
Posted by KRFournier 7 years ago
KRFournier
unlikely, can you then please explain why adults convert to Christianity? Otherwise, your rant is nothing but hot air. There are plenty examples of well-educated adults that converted from atheism to Christianity. Note that a response of, "well, then, they weren't rational" is only question begging.
Posted by brian_eggleston 7 years ago
brian_eggleston
Thank you, unlikely, I now know I am not alone in my thoughts on the matter - no disrespect to my opponent, of course.
Posted by unlikely 7 years ago
unlikely
Back to the debate..of couse indoctrination of children is wrong....But its the only way xtians can continue to peddle their feeble minded nonsense.
No rational adult falls for this nonsense. But once you have the child trapped into a question of familial / tribal loyalty you have them for life. This is cruel and essentially abusive.
Why not give the child the evidence..Expose them to different beliefs and then let them decide. ....Are you scared or something
Posted by Kleptin 7 years ago
Kleptin
@Tboone

Is there any difference between the statement "Santa Clause does not exist" and "I believe Santa Clause does not exist"?
Posted by RoyLatham 7 years ago
RoyLatham
Atheism is inherently merely a view about an issue: do gods exist or do they not exist? Saying they do not exist implies some things, but not much. Atheists include the Buddha, Chairman Mao, Bertrand Russell, Mark Twain, Christopher Hitchens, Karl Hess, and a host of others having widely divergent views of how the world works. Similarly, being a believer in gods implies very little in itself, with a very diverse cast of characters among believers.

I think it is possible to make a religion out of blaming Christians, or other religious, for virtually every human failing. That is the type of overarching belief that characterizes a religion. But that's not a necessary consequence of atheism. There are plenty of counter-examples.
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