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Many atheists see this as a depiction of child abuse: pictures of little kids ardently trying to worship beings that demonstrably don’t exist, exactly as they were taught to do.

“Serving the Lord” (Thanks to Baptised Atheist)

But praying children don’t really know what they’re doing, because kids have only nascent psyches and are thus unable to fully comprehend religion in any mature, thoughtful or truly meaningful way.

In fact, such indoctrination leads them away from reality and their natural inborn skepticism.

“It is an interesting and demonstrable fact, that all children are atheists and were religion not inculcated into their minds, they would remain so,” wrote Ernestine Rose (1810-1892), a prominent Jewish American suffragist, abolitionist, and freethinker.

Richard Dawkins, the influential British evolutionary biologist and atheist author (The God Delusion, etc.), seconds that concern, asserting:

“What a child should be taught is that religion exists; that some people believe this and some people believe that. What a child should never be taught is that you are a Catholic or Muslim child, therefore that is what you believe. That’s child abuse.”

Another destructive effect of religious indoctrination of children is that it embeds delusions about reality that can last a lifetime, thus corrupting their future ability to reason about the material actualities of their existence. For example, in my post yesterday, I introduced two intelligent, accomplished people brought up Catholic who found themselves unable to leave their faith as adults despite certainties of the Church’s manifold sins and even crimes against the faithful over centuries — particularly the sexual and emotional abuse of vulnerable children by clergy.

Lynette S Danylchuk, co-author of Treating Disassociation and Complex Trauma, explained that cult indoctrinations produce results similar to mainstream church practices:

“Children raised in cults are systematically stripped of their own autonomous power and forced to feel powerful only in the destructive context allowed by the cult, and always under the power of the leader.”

The same dynamic characterizes mainstream church life, where children are taught not to trust their own inherent ability to understand but to put all faith in an absent superbeing. The clergy and parents supply the fearsome sub-context of shame, punishment and doom if rules supposedly required by the divine are unfollowed.

Ignorance and irrationality are toxic dangers of such indoctrination, for children and adults, according to the late atheist gafly Christopher Hitchens (1949-2011):

Religion is poison because it asks us to give up our most precious faculty, which is that of reason, and to believe things without evidence. It then asks us to respect this, which it calls faith.”

When children are involved, Hitchens beli, religious indoctrination is also abusive and immoral.

A virgin can conceive. A dead body can walk again. Your leprosy can be cured. The blind can see. Nonsense. It’s not moral to lie to children. It’s not moral to lie to ignorant, uneducated people and tell them that if they only would believe nonsense, they can be saved. It’s immoral.”

So, true believers may view atheists as cranks for thinking that drilling religious fantasies into young minds is a hurtful, destructive practice. But if they viewed it from the vantage of equally committed disbelievers that religion is invented nonsense, it should make all the sense in the world.

The sweet little children in the photo montage embedded in this post are not praying to God; they are praying that the prayers they were taught to recite will make their parents happy.

In so doing, children are unwittingly learning how to be stupid while imagining it’s smart.

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A new Amazon review of “Holy Smoke”

“Reading this well-written, concise review of Christianity in America has greatly enhanced my personal understanding of the many negative affects this belief system has had and still has on the American dream, her citizens and our education system. Well worth the read by all citizens.”

Find “Holy Smoke” ebook/paperback editions and reviews, on Amazon, here.
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Rick Snedeker

Rick Snedeker is a retired American journalist/editor who now writes in various media and pens nonfiction books. He has received nine past top South Dakota state awards for newspaper column, editorial,...