Religion Frightening Children – A Journey Beyond Belief

Cross DaggerIn remnants left behind by a child, I came across a bookmark made for my father when I probably six years old. Green construction paper cut into a crude arrow scrawled with a cross on one side and the words Happy Fathers Day. Opposite a picture of a white Anglo-Saxon Jesus adorned the strip along with this scriptural passage.

“For by grace are ye saved through faith.”

Ephesians 2:8

It stands as vestige of my time at Bible school and it brought back memories.

Infrequently as a youngster, I found myself with the console TV-Turntable all to myself. On one such occasion, while spinning the dial between the five stations available in rural Beaver Creek I landed upon a passionate televangelist that grasped my attention. This remains in my memory; he spoke of hell in a tone of terrifying importance to a crowd of adult white people. He stated unequivocally that salvation through Jesus and nothing else guaranteed avoidance of the certain tortures he described and that all people were sinners. I took seriously the warning of punishment, having plenty of direct experience with the lash of a belt. The demagogue induced fear that roared in my belly which reinforced his threats.

My mind was burdened with the frightened narrative of a religious firebrand. It played repeatedly like an earworm, each time reflecting the same terror. At one point, the stress became unbearable. I did not want to go to hell. Imagine the author of these words as a child running to a bedroom kneeling and, per the instructions of authority, inviting the lord, with all childish sincerity, to cleans his heart of all wickedness. My terror went away as a result and I experienced a great happiness. A cliché comes to mind. If you are hitting yourself in the head with a hammer, it feels good to stop. A religious authoritarian turned the human power of conception against a child who possessed it. The inferno this preacher described existed only in my mind for I possessed no other reference for it.  The preacher created a fictional problem, mistaken to be real, and then offered a solution.

A turning point in my faith happened with the death of my sister. The affection of my big sister meant more than all others, I was nine at the time. Some well meaning pastor came to counsel the family, probably at my request. Then he started saying some bullshit about Evelyn being in a better place and that god called her to him. I could see the man of god had absolutely no way of knowing any of these things particularly about her location. After all, I among five others carried her body in a fancy box to the grave. I wanted the comfort of god but the inconsolable feeling coupled with the ridiculous explanations kept me swinging from hope to rage. Slowly I became a rebel against this god who through an “act” supposedly took my sister from me. My dissent caused me to explore ideas contrary to those I learned as a child.

Religion bears a great deal of responsibility for the loss of mental freedom by stuffing unfounded and absurd ideas into the minds of those who are suggestible, regardless of any good intentions. It may seem odd that through quieting the mind I realized all spiritual beliefs to be mental. In meditation, we can become conscious of the activity in the mind, seeing beliefs rise and fall like all thoughts, in an unarticulated awareness. A large distance exists between rebelling against a belief and having no reason at all to think it true. The former assumes something real enough to fight while the latter possesses liberty from ideas. This understanding also applies to beliefs about anything we call self.

Freedom remains an un-analyzable notion for we cannot replace it with any object as a definition nor can we break it into any component parts. But what we mean when we say freedom becomes restricted when we treat ideas like they are facts outside the mind. We learn to treat concepts as facts by listening to authoritarians. Knowledge that cannot rest on evidence rests on decree and that method serves all totalitarians. Just watch the mother of a three year old and ask how many things we learned in this way.


Catholic’s and Victims of Sex Trafficking

Steve Wagner and Kim Daniels, in the NEW YORK DAILY NEWS, have defended the anti-birth control and abortion stance of Catholic service providers that aid international victims of sex trafficking. The matter involves public money distributed to any organization that offers resourses to those who have fallen prey to those who market human beings. The hideous subject clouds the issue. This context doesn’t give credit to their position and their contention can be used against them with equal, if not more force.

… the federal Department of Health and Human Services decided its human trafficking grant-making process would prioritize those who would provide “family planning services and the full range of legally permissible gynecological and obstetric care.”

I do not take issue with any desire to be of service to victims of human trafficking. Wagner and Daniels are misguided and their argument obscures a disastrous consequence to the victims they profess to help.

They state the following against their opponents.

Some contend that Catholics are simply trying to impose their beliefs regarding abortion and contraception on others. Those who make this argument particularly ignore the context here: When abortion or contraception is provided to trafficking victims who remain under the control of those who exploit them, it’s the trafficker who benefits, continuing to exploit his victim without interruption.

In fact, with its edict, the government is imposing an ideological position without regard to the welfare of the victim. There is no possibility of a victim providing informed consent for abortion, sterilization or contraception, whatever the trafficker considers convenient; this is referred to as “modern-day slavery” for a reason.

Let’s assume that providing a full range of gynecological services indirectly benefits traffickers who exploit women, that would NOT mean that birth control and abortion wouldn’t still be a benefit to these women. The circumstance screams that pregnant women had no choice in the matter of conception because sex was forced. If the Catholic position governed, it would in fact compel the women to carry the children to term regardless of the desire to do so; in other words, the women and what they want doesn’t even matter. In such a case the women become slaves to biology in addition to being victims of the criminal trafficker; insult added to injury. What better reason do we have for providing birth control to such women and sparing them the indignity of being compelled by her gender to be an involuntary birth canal. Again with either the abusers or the Catholics the women have no liberty to direct their lives.

In the above argument Wagner and Daniels imagine the perpetrator to be more important than the victim. The needs of the woman are not even mentioned next to the motive of making the life of the traffickers less “convenient.” Reasoning from a similar circumstance if we follow the same logic, then a woman who contracted syphilis being a sex-slave should be denied medical attention because it will make it easier for her to continue to be exploited.

Idealism hides an absurd position that maintains that women who are victims are better off with fewer choices. The vague point about informed consent fails to satisfy because it assumes the service providers themselves can’t inform the women about what they provide.

Once again the women who are victims are not as important as religious beliefs. No such idealism should be supported with public money.

Religious Argument

The following dialogue  resulted from a question I asked at The Huffington Post to believers in response to religious abuse.  I  reproduced it here at Water Scribe because it typifies many religious arguments and the problems involved.

Church Sex Abuse Exposed By Release Of Franciscan Files

“The question a believer must ask themselves –> what would it take for me to leave the church. If one can’t answer that question then fanaticism, either introverted or extroverted governs the thinking.
Although[sic] people think what follows might be a reason people stay no matter what.
“Give me a child till they are seven and i will give you the man”
–Francis Xavier – Jesuit Co-founder
The reality is some people convert and really like the candles, and ritual, and community, and, and, and…If you disregard or rationalize unpleasing facts you can condone anything.The few bad apples argument does not stand up to facts. As of march of last year the totals paid out in the US ONLY!
Remember these are only the cases that have been tried and won or settled out of court.Human desire for authority has and still does cause us to endure much.”

Believers should never entertain any question offered by non-believers and God haters that seek to separate and divide them from their Christian community. There may be instances when the community of one’s affiliation is not the correct fit. However, the appropriate response is to connect with another church and Christian community.
Believers have several resources to help work these issues through as any have occasion to explore them. They include the Holy Spirit, Jesus, God, the Bible, and other Believers.Resist the devil and the devil will flee. Beware of people seeking to separate you from your church and Christian community.
You appeal to fear and moreover introduce as your resources things often predicated upon the very church in question. These things can be annexed to any group with a church charter. But those things have been around a long time and haven’t spared the victims that were evidenced. You have confused criticism with hate and danger. To fear a reason is unreasonable. Criticism is error elimination.
Many people of faith have lost their lives criticizing the church.
Arnold of Brescia
Fra Dolcino
The Albigeois
The Lollards
The Hussites
A great many skeptical theologians paid with their lives for reforms they never enjoyed. The Reformation broke out 20 times before Luther and were put down by violence. William Occam persecuted, Bruno was burned, Rodger bacon imprisoned, etc. Not every skeptic has the fortune or eloquence of a Desiderius Erasmus, or Jonathan Swift. These fellows came close to heresy. These were religions men.  Skepticism also evolves to circumstances and logical conclusions.
Those of the past did a valuable part.
You can’t challenge facts. You dismiss me as evil. Without faulting reasoning you resort to personal attack. Ironically, I was critical of something that causes harm! Your reasoning is proof against all argument as such it’s worthless. It’s used by religions against each other with equal effect.
You say –“Believers should never entertain any question offered by non-believers”
The above statement presumes at least two things
1) Universal (omniscient) knowledge
2) Absolute authority
Two points strictly derived from your statement. If you don’t possess such knowledge or authority the statement is baseless. But then again such knowledge and authority are unfounded.
You say — “Resist the devil and the devil will flee. Beware of people seeking to separate you from your church and Christian community.”
The proposition above assumes much that has caused REAL harm.
1) The devil exists
2) People should beware of others under the influence of this malefactor.
3) The church is good other things bad.You probably wouldn’t support witch burning but that harm rested upon such reasoning.
Un-testable reasoning explains everything, take as example. Disease comes as gods punishment of the wicked unless of course it’s a partisan or oneself who is sick. Then it‘s the devil harming good people. Medicine is endeavoring to baffle a divine judgment. Medicine is the divine working through people. As you can see both propositions have the same explanatory power. Neither solves any problem -> explanation without content.
I firmly stand by my statement. Your arguments will be less effective on those who have at least been warned of this possibility. To seek to separate Believers from the Christian community is a very ugly thing.You have every right to your conceptions. Those who are Christian have another view, and I seek to counter your efforts to be a stumbling block in any Christian’s way.
Your argument has no foundation in reason. I’ll explain why. I attack your argument NOT you personally.
Imagine yourself in a court on one side of a dispute. The judge sides against you because the opposition says. “Judge, don’t listen to that other guy. His facts and logic (regardless of their merit) don’t count because he is bad.” A judge would only do this if he accepts your opponent’s authority as greater than his own. The authority is merely stated in words. In such a case the judge would be irrelevant.
You presume to help others by suggesting they abandon their judgment. This insolently suggests they (believers) lack judgment. They should accept your authority as greater than their own in this matter, because you “say so,” without displaying facts contrary to those of your opponent or exposing his reasoning as invalid. You may try to escape this by saying your authority rests upon a greater authority. But this is infinite regress and more importantly AUTHORITARIAN. Anyone can do it with equal effect in any argument.
The irony – saying people are evil to question others religion was used against Christians (who openly sought to separate people from their beliefs) by the Romans to justify persecution.You may not use the sword but those who do oft apply your authoritarian reasoning and you have (perhaps unknowingly) condoned such reasoning which is still used for and against Christians.

Authoritarianism hiding behind belief = now exposed.

Your ways are not God’s ways. This is not about you. It is about you seeking to peel away those who are of this faith to some other way of thinking. As you indulge in the idolatry of whatever it is you believe, you are not able to see how outrageous it is to those of the faith that you are seeking to remove people from the ark of safety.
This is more of your unfounded fiat reasoning. It means no more than it would if a fanatic of a belief contrary to yours was using it on you.
We are not speaking the same language, and are working out of divergent conceptual frameworks. And you know better, yet insist on haughtiness and that disdainful, contemptuous attitude and persona. I dialogue with folks who have different views. However, you are committed to maintaining the barrier of disrespect, which is an impediment to meaningful communication.
You have confused criticism with all these personal imputations – “haughtiness and that disdainful, contemptuous attitude”You have not countered the facts of the arguments I offer against you nor faulted reasoning. It is called ad hominem and it is a fallacy. Even if all those things were true it would not prove my facts wrong nor my reasoning from them. I must suspect it is for lack of better argument that you resort to these rhetorical tactics. You are the one who suggest motive. I have stayed with facts and reasoning.
End of argument
The quote used by Stephen  about resisting the devil was from the Bible.
James 4:7 – Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
It should not be passed over that the bible ascribes an opposing statement to Jesus.
Matthew 5:39 – But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil
There is a lot of wiggle room between those two statements.