Inoculation for Atheism

March 14, 2009 | By | 4 Replies More

In the shadow of all the antivax buzz lately, I’d like to recommend a process of intellectual inoculation for children. This post is based on Best Practices 5: Encourage religious literacy from The Meming of Life. It illustrates the benefit of teaching your children about religion, to protect them from its excesses.

Religious Inoculation

McGowan argues that parents who want their kids to follow in their secular (agnostic/atheist/ignostic/etc) footsteps should not obsessively protect them from all exposure to the churchy crowd. Rather one needs to gradually expose them to doses of gentle strains of all the relevant faith memes. If not, they will be vulnerable to the first virulent strain to come along when they begin independent thought, and have a “teen epiphany”. (Excerpt)

Struggles with identity, confidence, and countless other issues are a given part of the teen years. Sometimes these struggles generate a genuine personal crisis, at which point religious peers often pose a single question: “Don’t you know about Jesus?” If your child says, “No,” the peer will come back incredulously with, “YOU don’t know JESUS? Omigosh, Jesus is The Answer!” Boom, we have an emotional hijacking. And such hijackings don’t end up in moderate Methodism. This is the moment when nonreligious teens fly all the way across the spectrum to evangelical fundamentalism.

A little knowledge about religion allows the teen to say, “Yeah, I know about Jesus”-and to know that reliable answers to personal problems are better found elsewhere.

It is best to start early. Bedtime stories should have consistency for the comfort of the child, and variety to hold the interest of the child. Maybe do a month of “how we got here” stories from various cultures. Kipling, Torah, Norse, Navajo, Hindu, and so on. Show the richness of cultures and the similarities of ideas that underlie all the world religions.

But parents need to be prepared. Learn about oral traditions and the power of mythos. Read Joseph Campbell , Homer , and The Arabian Nights . Know of Gilgamesh and Beowulf and Odin , the Ring of the Nibelungen and the Bhagavad Gita , and certainly know the current local favorite, the Torah .


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Category: American Culture, Communication, Culture, Education, ignorance, Religion

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A convoluted mind behind a curly face. A regular traveler, a science buff, and first generation American. Graying of hair, yet still verdant of mind. Lives in South St. Louis City. See his personal website for (too much) more.

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  1. Gino Barcal says:

    The Atheist Counter-History

    Behind the pacifist and loving speech, the majority of the religions promote in fact the destruction of everything that represents freedom and pleasure. They hate the body, the desires, the sexuality, the women, the intelligence and all the books, except one. The religions promote the submission, the chastity, the blind and conformistical faith on behalf of a fictitious paradise after the death.

    Only an atheistic person can be free, because the idea of a god is incompatible with the freedom of the human being. The idea of a god promotes the existence of a divine dimension, which denies the possibility to choose your own destination and to invent your own existence. If god exists, the Is is not free; on the other hand, if god does not exist, the Is can be free. The freedom is never given. It is acquired day by day. However, the basic principle of a god is an inhibiting impediment of the autonomy of the man.

    It means that when a person does not content himself only in believing dully, but starts to make questions on the sacred texts, the doctrine, the teachings of the religion, there is no way not to reach these conclusions. It is about not to leave the reason, with capital R, in second plan, behind the faith, and to give to the reason the power and the nobility that it deserves.

    The mechanism of the religions is of an illusion. It is like a mysterious toy we try to decipher by breaking it. The enchantment and the magic of the religion disappear when we see the mechanism and the reasons behind the beliefs.

    The priests are limited to use only one handful of words, texts and references that allow to better assure the control on the bodies, hearts and souls of the followers. The mythology of the religions need simplicity to become more efficient. The religions make a permanent promotion of the faith, the belief before the intelligence and the reason, the submission of the followers against the freedom of the independent thought, the darkness against the light.

    The necessity of cultivate culturally a god is based in ridicules ideas. We don’t have nothing in the brain beyond what we put in it. Have you seen a child believing in gods? Religions and gods are human beings inventions, just like philosophy, arts and metaphysics. These creations have been made to answer the necessities of confront the anguish of the death; But, we can react in other ways: For example, using the philosophy.

    The believe in a god is an impotence signal. We must be conscious of our possibilities. When we cannot prove something is necessary to recognize these limitation and not make concessions to tale-stories or mythology. The idea of the divine child is a species of infantile illness of the reflective thought.

    The majority of the people is allured by the elected icons of the media, and believe more in them than in the physical truth. The truth is that the role of the religions was not the best one: Attacks against Galileu, genocide during the crusades, the Muslim radicalism, silence before the holocaust, etc. What history show is that the religions instead promoting peace, love, fraternity, friendship between the people and the nations, for the most part produced most of the time the opposite. It does not seem very worthy that the monotheists generated some good here and there. In compensation, they generated extreme human barbarity; and this seems much more important as prove of the impotence of the doctrines.

    We cannot make much about it, except to say what it is truth. The Christians have little moral to disapprove old truths, when they themselves promote old errors until today. The philosophy can allow each one of us the comprehension of what is the world, of what can be our morals, our justice, the rules of the game for a happy existence between the humans, without the necessity of appealing to a god, to the holy ghost, to the sacred one, to the skies, to the religions. It is necessary to pass from the theological age to the age of the mass philosophy.

    The weakness, the fear, the anguish before the death, are the sources of all the religious beliefs, and they will never abandon the humanity.

    The history of the Christianity has just as much value as the mythology of Santa Claus. It is in the same level of the fairies stories, where the animals talk and the witches eat little kids. A thought that only serves the children.

    It is necessary to allow the free construction of ourselves as independent beings. To develop the counter-history of the atheist, sexualist, hedonist and anarchist philosophy.

    Gino Barcal

    • Erich Vieth says:

      Gino: Haven't you seen many religious communities also coordinating the energy of their members to do good works, such as feeding the poor and providing shelter? I have.

      Do you really think that it's all or nothing for most believers – that they totally believe the sacred texts? I don't see it that way at all. I see lots of highly conflicted Believers. I was raised Catholic and there is a term for those who pick and choose in that religion: cafeteria Catholics. I think that Daniel Dennett has it right when he states that most religious people believe in belief. They say they believe because they feel social pressures to look as though they understand and truly believe the tenets of their religion, when they are actually nonchalant about them.

      I'm not denying all of your observations, but I think religion is a mixed bag. In fact, with the help of religion, I've repeatedly seen that good people tend to do impressive good works. I know incredibly kind people who are motivated by the teachings of their faith (even though I see these teachings to be nonsensical). On the other hand, using religion, many ignorant and mean-spirited people do ignorant and mean-spirited things.

      I agree that many religious communities denigrate human animals. They are abusive to each other, but they are especially abusive to those who are not members of their community (it's the classic in-group versus out-group dynamics at play). I would agree with you that we should live in THIS world, not in some imaginary world. For many people, though, moving past the comforting myths with which they were raised is extremely difficult. So much so that they refuse to take a close look at the lack of evidence for their supernatural beliefs.

      I don't see "atheism" as a life-style. To me, embracing atheism only means that one rejects supernatural beings. It doesn't tell you what you SHOULD do. For that, we need further guiding principles. Here's a set I find compelling, from the Council for Secular Humanism.

    • Dan Klarmann says:

      Gino seems unaware of Buddhism and Confucianism and other religions that accept our animal natures and hold consideration of others as a prime directive.

      He also has made no contribution to the question of whether knowledge of religions is the best antidote to extremism.

      Or did he?

  2. Niklaus Pfirsig says:

    Religions havea tendency to support the structure of the societies that profess those religions.

    The Judeo-Christian-Moslem-Bahai originated in the tribal hierarchy of the nomadic herdsmen in the middle east. There are other religions, other cultures.

    Many caste-based cultures have historically followed multitheistic religions, with specialised deities behavining like a celestial council.

    Cultures founded in hunter/gatherer tribes on bountiful lands show a tendency toward belief systems in which they are either stewards or partners to the environment on behalf of their deities.

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