Brainwashing Children Into Religion
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Brainwashing: Children and Religion
posted by Todd (Todd's Hammer)
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After watching the documentary Jesus Camp this afternoon,
I was thinking about my strong emotional reaction to what
I saw. Given what I'd read about the film and friends'
reactions, I had expected to be offended and disgusted.
And indeed, I was actually embarassed by the weirdness
of some of these people (the older woman with the cutout
of Pres. Bush speaking in tongues was beyond freakish).
But mostly I felt violated.
There's a scene early in the movie with a young girl, around
7 or 8 years old, who is bowling with friends and family. As
she tries to hit the pins, she prays to god to make it a good
strike, and she "commands" the ball to do her will. Seeing
this twisted my stomach in nots. I have vivid memories of
believing that I had that kind of power, because I had faith.
The teachers used likely techniques to indoctrinate the chil-
dren and to get them to believe: emotional activities designed
to excite feelings, music and dancing, object lessons, rhythmic
chanting, telling the kids that they are chosen and important,
encouraging the children to profess their faith (not to mention
to speak in tongues and heal), showing the kids models (inac-
curate ones) of fetuses. But mostly it was the content of the
teachings that disturbed me-a blatant manipulation of the
emotions of a child.
Richard Dawkins has taken a lot of heat over the past year
about the claim in his book The God Delusion that indoc-
trinating children into religion is a form of child abuse. It is
hard to watch these kids talk about Americans as sinners
who need chastening, or about how they are sinful for want-
ing to watch Harry Potter, just because it's so silly. Or even
more, the little bowling girl goes up to evangelize a woman at
the bowling lanes, it's painful to see the brainwashing in prac-
tice. But taken as a whole, the kids talking about why evolu-
tion is evil, and global warming isn't true, and how they have
to redeem America from Satan. It's hard not to see this is
I suppose it is my own discomfort with my own childhood,
and the degree to which I had believed what I was taught.
I realize mormonism is a different kind of religion from Evan-
gelicalism, but many of the processes were the same. I have
to wonder if my long, difficult journey to reshape my own
world view and perspective would have taken so long had
I not been indoctrinated in the way I was.
For me, the film raises again the question that may very well
be at the center of democratic freedom: what rights do chil-
dren have? Do they have the right to be raised free from their
parents' superstition? Is the kind of emotional, pyschological,
and intellectual damage inflicted on children not a form of
abuse? I believe that these parents are sincere in their beliefs
and they truly want what is best for their kids. But is sincerity
enough to justify what religion does to children?
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