How Atheism might prevail

Bwhahaha! No, seriously, folks, I’ve been reading some folks’ misperceptions of my speculations and desires for atheism to become more acceptable and even mainstream as we continue to evolve (I can supply you with cites of people who seem to believe I favor immediate physical harm, including death, coming to every non-atheist–don’t know where that came from, but can cite that some people seem to think that’s what I want. I’d rather just put forth what I do want, and how I think it may occur, and let you respond to this idea here.)

I think what will happen in the next few decades is that some child reared in a God-fearing environment will sue his/her parents for harm resulting from being indoctrinated in religious practices. This harm might be recurring nightmares of Hell, it may be general anxiety caused by thoughts about an all-seeing God, it may be difficulty studying or socializing because of the parents’ religious restrictions, it may come from some other cause I haven’t yet thought up. But some judge will rule that the parents’ right to raise their child explicitly does not include the right to indoctrinate someone too young to understand complex concepts and phiosophical constructs, and parents will become more and more afraid (as these lawsuits prevail) of compelling kids to follow particular religious practices.

The first test cases will not concern mild indoctrinations (like kids hauled off to attend services for a few hours a week) but genuine brainwashings, though the implications will spread over the years and take in less and less obviously objectionable practices, until it becomes a clearly established principle that parents must not engage in any indoctrination of young children because they will risk a successful lawsuit later in life.

Now, since I’m not a lawyer, I may be all wet on some technical matters here, but I think this all looks probable enough. Kids now lack legal standing to sue parents over most issues but I believe kids’ standing is growing, not shrinking, and that there is no reason that standing cannot expand at least this far.

Once we break the chain of indoctrination, I think atheism will take a great leap forward, but mostly I’m concerned here with any faults in my speculations on legal matters. Is there a reason that such lawsuits will never take place, or never prevail?

This is nothing against you in particular, pseudotron, but I’m starting to feel that Atheists (and I use the capital “A” to differentiate those atheists who actually feel that religion is harmful/blatantly false/etc from those who just aren’t religious) are almost as bad as the Fundamental Religious People, with the “You simply must believe us! We’re right! To believe otherwise is dangerous!” attitude.

This sort of thing is exactly why I consider myself “Unaffiliated”, as opposed to atheist/agnostic/generally non-religious. As long as others aren’t imposing their religious beliefs on me, I won’t impose my lack of religious beliefs on them.

Now, I know the cultural environment in the US is different to the one here, but is it (religion) really that big a deal, provided you don’t live in some backwards rural community in Arkansas or Texas?

Sorry, that should read “nothing against you, pseudotriton”. I’ve always read your name as “pseudotron”, FWIW.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled post… :slight_smile:

[ol]Advances in children’s rights render it legally infeasible for parents and teachers to pass religion on to the next generation.[]??? []Profit![/ol]

I am not sure, religions started as man tried to explain what he did not know and people searched for a meaning to the world. If you had no teaching/indoctrination of religious beliefs from generation to generation, I suspect that you might see an increase in atheism and see and larger increase in people seeking out the mild faiths like Unitarians, American Buddhist, Very Liberal Christian groups and an even larger increase of the modern form of agnostic where people just do not have a clue or belief is God(s) exist(s) and do not worry about it very much.

Without strong and obnoxious religious churches many people would probably not worry very much about it. On the other hand many people would seek something that would fill the position of a church/temple and if they failed to find one, they would start one. Seventy years of Communist Rule did not end religion in Russia, so it appears to be persistent in the face resistance. In European history, followers of the Jewish faith spent many decades meeting in secret and avoiding pogroms. The early Christian religion was one of hiding and growing at the same time. Where did Mormons come from? How did they attract so many followers so recently?

It appears many humans like to belong to something. It appears religion is a common thing to belong to.


As to the legal aspects (I have no expertise here), it seems plausible that there could be some successful lawsuits against some of the more extreme practices. Christian Science has had some problems here where kids were denied medical treatment.

However parental control over their children is pretty fundamental, so I can’t really imagine restricting religious practices going very far.

I do have hope for the decline of religion on different bases however.

One would be if our educational system developed an effective program for promoting critical thinking. A big part of this should be aimed at discouraging people from forming strong opinions when there is no valid justification for them. Such a program should not, of course, be aimed at promoting atheism (this would never fly anyway) but toward an honest search for truth. Atheism should only benefit if it is true, which is as it should be.

A second path is for atheists to figure out how to present their case more effectively. From what I have seen in debates and conversations, atheist points, while mostly valid, don’t challenge the actual reasons religious people are so convinced of their positions. We wind up arguing about how God could allow evil and various theological inconsistencies, which the believer may not be able to refute, but the believer KNOWS his position is true so even though he might not be able to answer our point, the point must somehow be invalid.

We must spend more time addressing why the believer is so sure. Much of it is an inappropriate confidence that their families, friends, and religious leaders can’t be wrong. Some is because they have been told “faith” is a virtue (which is not sensible) and like to feel virtuous. They are told about martyrs (especially Jesus) and feel guilty if they don’t support they martyr’s cause. They are encouraged to be suspicious about those who disagree with their doctrine, especially atheists. These are powerful psychological influences, and unless the believer recognizes that they are unrelated to actual truth, they are not going to change their minds. We, as atheists, need to make them aware of how this works.

Millions of religious Americans are ALREADY leery of public schools, and ALREADY suspect that secular educators are trying to undermine their children’s faith.

If you were ever able to force schools to teach “critical thinking,” you would remove all doubt. You would CONFIRM religious parents’ worst fears, and create a mass exodus from public schools.

Schools already approach the subject of critical thinking. They just do it in the form of literary analysis, the scientific method, and history. I agree that advising students to critique religion might not end well*, their are other areas where critical thinking can be applied, and some students would surely apply those lessons towards their religious life.

*Although, I was. The best teacher I ever had came off as a cynical atheist. I knew for a fact that she was in reality a devout Catholic, but she did try to provoke us into questioning our beliefs, even ones she herself held to be true.

Just for the record, many people of faith do engage in critical thinking. Not all people believe just because their parents did or just because it’s cultural. In fact, the list of great thinkers who were not atheists is quite long, and includes the likes of Ockham, Descartes, Einstein, Godel, and Plantinga.

I went to a Jesuit high school. I understand that critical thinking is not inherently anti-religious. But it was clear from the proposal being floated that, in this case, “critical thinking” courses WERE being promoted as a way of undermining religion.

Christian parents can recognize an anti-religious agenda when they see one. And if “critical thinking” courses are seen as part of a secular agenda for wiping out their faith, they won’t sit still for it, and won’t send their kids to schools where such courses are in place.

Courts have dealt with a similar problem when parents refuse medical care to their children on religious grounds. This is not too far a stretch . Except I prefer getting religious training jammed down your throat as a kid and then when critical thinking evolves ,throwing it off is much more rewarding. I suppose it is rare to raise your kid as an atheist. My son went to Catholic schools from Kintergarten through College and the indoctranation never stuck.
Perhaps they can use the medical cases as precedence and say that to teach children that evolution is not real and that the bible is the word of god is damaging.

Meh. Given increasing levels of decadence and general social indifference, I figure what’ll happen is a small percentage of the population will become more extreme at the far ends of the issue, while most of the folks in the middle will continue to not give a fuck.

Fortunately, continued scientific and technological development is not and never has been dependent on the masses (though they can occasionally be manipulated by extremists into becoming sponge-like obstacles to it), so they can just be dragged along like a sleepy toddler. I figure watching the Baby Boomers start to die in huge numbers will make all efforts at blocking stem-cell and related research look stupid and suicidal. Beyond that, who cares what beliefs someone holds?

If this is an example of fatih-free critical thinking, the religious have very little to worry about.

Well, who really cared that children were being beaten like rugs 100 years ago? Today, a parent who beats kids too liberally has the law up his ass.

Who cared that a parent chose to withhold medicine? 100 years ago, that was a parent’s perogative. Not any more.

I’m wondering if subjecting a child to religious indoctrination can be seen as a form of child abuse. If so, there’s a powerful motivation for religious parents to cease, or at least cut back on, all their current indoctrination. I think this trend may lead to fewer zealots and consequently greater acceptance of atheists and freethinkers.

Finally, a way to raise test scores!

I think the implications that your scenario makes about imparting any sort of thought process/information on to children will prevent cases won against extremists from being the “camel’s nose” that leads to the legislation of atheism.

Ah, but you’re conflating belief with action. As for indoctrination, it’s too easy to accuse and impossible to regulate and it all sort-of sorts itself out in the end, anyway, what with teenage rebellion and whatnot.

I think this is one of the reasons why religion will never “die out.” The others, in my opinion, are:

  1. People want to feel like they have a measure of control over their enviornment. Being able to pray to a deity who may intervene is comforting.

  2. People want “meaning” as you mentioned. They want to believe that everything happens for a reason and that their actions matter, if not to those around them, at least to an omniscent observer.

  3. People want justice. It’s comforting to believe that those who have done wrong will eventually get punishment for their actions, if not in this world then at least in the next one. Likewise, even if good deeds aren’t rewarded here, they will be after death.

  4. People like the idea of a deity who loves them and watches out for them. If no one else in the world cares, at least the deity does.

  5. And lastly, religion will never die out because people want an afterlife. Some people have an enormous problem with the idea that one day they will cease to exist. Surely, they have to go on in some other form. They don’t want to believe that their loved ones are truly gone forever-- it’s much more comforting to believe they’re in a happy place and will eventually be reunited.

Could a child who grows up in a “critical thinking” household later have a conversion experience and sue their parents, claiming that their religious isolation led to them having had a deprived childhood?

Either way, I don’t see it happening legally. Parents generally have the right to direct the education of their children.

That would be a huge kettle of fish to open. The definition of “deprivation” would have to be addressed first, and, of course, religious practices aren’t the only things that can end up having a negative impact on a child.

Is a child “legally” deprived if his/her parents divorce, especially if the parents are petty about it? Is a child deprived if the parents decide not to buy them a computer or sends them to a shitty school? Is a child deprived if he/she lives out in the country and can’t play after school with other children? Could I sue my parents for sending me to an unaccedited Christian school which issued me a diploma worth less than the paper on which it was printed?