Many thanks to the Bishop of Oxford, the Rt Revd John Pritchard, for helping with this week’s script.

Discussion (64)¬

  1. Sondra says:

    Speaking as an escapee of that system, I’d just like to say, the buildings are usually empty on Saturdays.

  2. HaggisForBrains says:

    Brilliant – spot on!

  3. dave says:

    I can’t think of a better way to create atheists…

  4. Peakcrew says:

    There are some quite good comments under that article of objectional views.

  5. theGreatFuzzy says:

    Inspired by the Rt Revd John (by hook or by crook) Pritchard, Bishop of Oxford.

  6. theGreatFuzzy says:

    @dave: “I can’t think of a better way to create atheists…”
    Only wish it were true. Unfortunately, faith memes have evolved over the centuries so they can easily infect the mind and are difficult to shake off.

  7. Nassar Ben Houdja says:

    The cursed infidel schnook
    Won’t read the profit’s book
    Apply it’s teaching to their head
    Stone them until they are dead
    This is peace, find the page, take a look.

  8. jerry w says:

    Woody Allen summed it up in his script for “Take the money and run”, where the father says “I tried to beat God into him. But he was too tough….” The creation of an atheist is explained in two short sentences.

  9. Brilliant once again. Thanks. The things it is legal to do to a child are truly disgusting. Good job of pointing this out by comparing it to what is legal to do to an adult.

  10. IanB says:

    It irritates me that my taxes are used to fund ‘faith’ schools in anyway. If the bishop gets his wish that is to include even more indoctrination than they now practice.

    @dave my mother was educated in a catholic school partially, it’s left her with a deep and abiding hatred for the catholic church and its works. I expect some will be driven away but some will believe the truth of what they’re taught.

  11. hotrats says:

    Are we moving towards the view that all religious indoctrination is child abuse? The problem is not so much the stories themselves – children like fantasies and fairy stories, the more gruesome the better – but the attitude of respect, belief and obedience that is demanded in the telling, a well-disguised package of linguistic, political and philosophical malware that will infect their minds for years to come.

    Like Dawkins, we can justifiably call this psychological abuse, but this is unlikely to change people’s behaviour; all parenting requires similar tough strictures, and for religious parents, the authority of the Church is seamless with their own.

    Someone should tell the good Bish that the Bible narrative was intended to be enforced in the public mind with murderous threats, not sold on the merits of its plot and characters, which have proved elusive. By all means tell the creepy, contradictory and plainly ignorant story as often as possible to expose its idiocies afresh, but stop being surprised that the package is unsaleable to anyone with choices.

  12. I had 13 years of this at school and it trained me to switch off and daydream as soon as someone religious starts talking! How can you put a price on that kind of education?

  13. Al West says:

    It’s not a good way to create atheists, unfortunately. In order to think differently you need to be aware of a diversity of views. Hearing that there’s an omnipotent jealous sky-father out there with a list of things he likes and does not like based on iron age myths from Canaan is only ludicrous if you’ve been exposed to some kind of other evidence – whether other incommensurate religious beliefs, scientific works, or the nibbles and bites of satirists and social commentators. For a long time people found the Bible convincing and deeply “spiritual” (or some other thing) even after having read it. Today it is consider it ludicrous enough to drive people from Christianity. What changed was our set of other beliefs and the vast range of evidence now on offer regarding fundamental questions about the universe. Depriving children of views from outside of their religion is not a good way to create atheists, even if what they are being imbued with is, to us, prima facie absurd.

  14. hotrats says:

    The only way to ‘create atheists’ is to stop creating Christians, Jews and Muslims, by refusing to exploit children’s innate trust and naivety. The survival of an otherwise indefensible supernatural world-view is assured by the simple expedient of telling crippling lies to children, generation on generation.

  15. muswellbrook says:

    The picture of the Rt Revd in the linked news article shows him ‘leading’ his flock – a miserable looking bunch of sheep trapped in a pen. I wonder if the irony was deliberate?

  16. kennypo65 says:

    God doesn’t exist but evil does. IMHO, I think that teaching hatred to children is the most egregious.

  17. sosusk says:

    Get them before they turn 7, they say…. so they aren’t be able to rationalize what they hear.
    I don’t think the problems are the religions but the way those religions have been abused. As long as staying out of the temples is the only way to avoid crusades, pedophiles and racism we have to stay outside.

  18. theGreatFuzzy says:

    Dan Dennett[1] suggests all main religions be taught in school (as RE), then people can make their own choice. After all, who are we to dictate what others believe. Critical thinking should also be taught, of course, and that benefits both student and teacher.

    [1] He also gives a great talk on youtube regards religion and how it survives by adapting to modern times – evolution of the faith meme, ironic – what!
    Can’t find the original talk, but this gives the gist…

  19. theGreatFuzzy says:

    muswellbrook, did you notice the sheep have got as far away as they can from the crook?

  20. No worries, the children can just grit their teeth and rise above it. We must stop blaming bishops and imams and take responsibility for our own ability to resist indoctrination. The fact that some of us are small children is neither here nor there! No excuses.

  21. peter says:

    Poll on the DT, is society intolerant of religion

    Is intolerance to intolerant of the intolerant?

  22. dave says:


    >Only wish it were true.

    In my case I think it is, though it’s a little hard to tell since I decided christianity was implausible bullshit at about age 6.

    But my point is: when I was at school, we had compulsory morning assemblies every day, in which hymns were sung and prayers were said. And we had compulsory religious education lessons up until age 16. I don’t think anyone got converted to (CofE) christianity as a result. But then again, my sample may be statistically biased, since I hung out with the cynical science-y kids.

    This comes perilously close to an “it never did me no harm” sort of old-fart argument, so let me make it clear that I’m certainly not advocating reintroducing this sort of anti-intellectual indoctrination of the young. I’m just saying that it probably wouldn’t do what the zealots intended. Though perhaps young minds are only safe if the RE teachers are as obviously narrow-minded and second-rate (read: CofE) that mine were.

  23. fenchurch says:

    Great, let’s all start to indoctrinate ALL children into ALL world religions and philosophies so NONE of them die out– it would be discriminatory and culturally insensitive to just pick one out of the bunch, right?

    Let’s see… over a million gods, hundreds of thousands of religions– further subdivided into sects and branches– further broken down for geographic variances… we can spare one religion/belief/creed a minute for let’s say 1 200 000 hours of one’s school career… doesn’t leave a lot of time for Maths and P.E., does it?

  24. fenchurch says:

    whups, sorry: 20 000 *hours* for 1,200,000 *minutes*.

  25. Isha says:

    Not just is it legal but is it moral. Oh wait. Atheists, we have no morals. I keep forgetting that bit. Now pardon me while I go worship Thor a bit today, maybe he’ll stop pissing on my house and flooding the backyard.

  26. Stonyground says:

    My experience is that exposing kids to Christianity at school tends to create atheists or indifferents, both are a problem for the Bishop of Oxford, hereafter referred to as the BoO. Regarding modern RE, kids are now taught about all major world religions and, as a result, are made fully aware that the reason that their grandparents are Christians, rather than some other religion, is entirely down to the time and place that they were born into. This is likely to result in atheism, dipping into various religions to see which is best, probably followed by atheism or some kind of blended religious belief. Christianity, of the type that the BoO would like to promote is highly unlikely to result.

    From the linked article. The BoO says that Church Schools are under attack, he omits to mention that these attacks are entirely justified, that using tax funded schools to promote his religion is out of order. He talks about “creeping scepticism about religion” while failing to recognise that the reason for this is that even the most poorly educated people of the modern world know that dead people don’t come back to life and that virgins don’t get pregnant. He also seems to be unaware of countless initiatives that the CofE have initiated in the last century, every one of which has utterly failed to revive his dead horse.

  27. theGreatFuzzy says:

    Stonyground, I think Dennett’s reasoning is, as you say, that by teaching the major religions you show them for what they are. Also, it would be hypocritical to indoctrinate children with atheism alone. Honesty’s the best policy. That’s one of the nice things about being an atheist – there’s no need to fear the truth.

  28. Al West says:

    Teaching children about religions need no more include discussion of *every* religion and *every* god than teaching children about history requires including a discussion of every event that has ever occurred.

    People should be aware that people can believe some crazy things. They should be aware that people can be motivated by things other people consider absurd, and which have no basis in reality. That’s an important lesson. And teaching children about a diversity of religious beliefs, most of them fundamentally incommensurate with one another, can get those cognitive gears turning, unconsciously analysing the logic of the beliefs they have in light of the things they’ve heard. Religious studies is a very good idea.

  29. steeve says:

    I teach kids age 7 to 11. They will believe many things that I find difficult to accept when these are delivered by their families and faith groups. I recently ran a science lesson on global warming and asked the children to consider what the consequences of a melting polar ice cap might be. One child replied, ‘Santa would drown.’ RE is the only compulsory subject in my school’s curriculum and the only one I do not teach.

  30. hotrats says:

    # Also, it would be hypocritical to indoctrinate children with atheism alone. #

    Shouldn’t that be un-doctrinate? Atheist Doctrine (Rule 6), There is NO athiest doctrine.

  31. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    Hotrats, re. ” Atheist Doctrine (Rule 6), There is NO athiest doctrine.”
    Atheist Doctrine (Rule 1): You can’t just make stuff up and cite it as fact. Err, like I did just there.

    Steeve, is it no longer compulsory to teach maths and English (the ill-named ‘3 r’s’) at that level? Or the one where the teacher tries to get the e-gadget obsessed, bone idle little darlings to run about for a bit?
    Although in Catholic schools, I hear PE’s been replaced with ‘dodge the priest’. It’s good training too; put your money on any Catholic sprinters at the next Olympics.

  32. WalterWalcarpit says:

    @AoS I think you are forgetting that rule six is one of few available: Faculty Rules 1, 3, 5 and 7 were taken.
    @ Peter as I have mentioned previously I have long since refused to tolerate religious tolerance. As someone almost said above moderates allow breathing space for fundamentalists.

    As for religion in schools, it is a valid subject for learning about life and is probably best taught by an atheist (although a pantheist could be entertaining) and as such is certainly not what the BoO had in mind.

    That photo must have been ironic – its just too corny otherwise.

    Oh! Btw Author, I keep forgetting to compliment your oeuvre. Sharp, sideways and often deliciously subtle.

  33. theGreatFuzzy says:

    hotrats, good point (have I done one of those POTWA thinkys?).
    I’ve now placed the dunces hat on my head and will go stand in the corner.

  34. theGreatFuzzy says:

    That’s dunce’s hat, before you ask if I’m a hydra!

  35. hotrats says:

    Apparently, there are not only atheist doctrines, but even a priesthood. My source is none other than Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor:
    “The propaganda of secularism and its high priests want us to believe that religion is dangerous for our health. It suits them to have no opposition to their vision of a brave new world, the world which they see as somehow governed only by people like themselves.”

    Aside from the vexed question of who exactly ordained these high priests, and the breathtaking irony of his criticism being twice as applicable to the Church than any secular group, there is his apparent assumption that like real ‘high priests’, secularists are in the business of generating divisive beliefs through misleading assertions:

    “The propaganda … to believe that religion is dangerous for our health.”

    Well, Cardinal, we don’t want you to believe any assertions. Just examine the evidence and draw the inescapable conclusions from it, which may well be a new experience for you.

    It is reportage, not propaganda, to point out that your own religion, as a matter of policy, enabled paedophiles to abuse children with impunity for decades, denied protection from HIV/AIDS to millions of Africans on the basis of shameless lies, and has burdened untold millions with compulsory fertility and guilt over their sexuality.

    The documentation on all these issue is extensive, and these are just the Catholic fraction of the problem; religion is demonstrably bad for your physical and mental health, and to assert otherwise is – well, a Cardinal error.

  36. hotrats says:

    It’s odd, but when I look at the Bishop’s picture, all I see is a crook…

  37. Peakcrew says:

    kennypo65 said “God doesn’t exist but evil does.” Now, there is something we could argue about! What do you mean by evil, since the concept is tied up with the existence of a deity. It is a moralising term.

    In my mind, once gods are dropped from the equation, then evil is just another subjective term to berate someone doing something we really don’t like. Because it applies only to actions, it is important to realise that there are no “evil” people, only “very bad” actions. No-one (outside of bad movies) thinks of themselves as evil – they always have good justifications for their acts.

  38. Mary2 says:

    ” No-one (outside of bad movies) thinks of themselves as evil – they always have good justifications for their acts.”

    I’m not sure this is true. I am sure there have been a few serial killers who knew they didn’t have a ‘good justification’ for their actions, but just wanted to kill/rape/whatever people really really strongly and didn’t care enough about other people to stop themselves.

    I agree that no one is ‘evil’ but I am not sure that everyone who commits evil acts figures themselves in the right.

  39. bitter lemon says:

    Hannah Arendt’s thesis on the “Banality of Evil” (in her discussion of Eichmann, that epitome of the evil-serial-killer trope) is that the great evils in history generally, and the Holocaust in particular, were not executed by fanatics or sociopaths, but by ordinary people who accepted the premises of their state and therefore participated with the view that their actions were normal.

    Your sort just deny the evil within themselves, by projecting it onto someone they imagine they could never be (evil-serial-killer). You might consider embracing the ambiguity of evil by using the half-good-serial-killer trope instead.

    Actually, I wonder if the projection of stupidity onto religious sheeples doesn’t have the added function of denying one’s own limited intellect.

  40. FreeFox says:

    @Mary and Peakcrew: I have to agree with Mary from personal experience. I’ve been working (and earning my living) as a pickpocket and con artist for about 2 years, and I never had any illusions about not being evil, or it being a victimless crime, or it being the suckers’ own fault or anything of that sort that you hear people say in films and books. Yeah, some crooks I know do say that to themselves, and I suppose there was even with me a good bit of arrogance – of feeling superiour to the suckers and marks and this in a certain way “justified”, law of the jungle like – but to be honest, it was hurting people that was part of the joy. Not purely sadistically, mind you, though that too, but mostly… well… it made me feel powerful, knowing I could mess people up, I could run under their defences, make them feel vulnerable or foolish once they discovered what really had happened. Reachin inside their brains and hearts was the much more rewarding part than just reaching inside their pockets and purses.
    In fact, to me it was even a religious experience. No matter how you define God, if as a literal magical person or as just my inner model of all that is good and worthy and rewarding in the world, I actively turned away from it when I thieved and cheated. I kind of gleefully flashed God a two fingered salute and dared Him to stop me while I rent my soul apart in a show of self-destructive defiance. And it worked… after 2 years of running I actually internally understood suddenly (well, it was kind of a complex epiphany, but it happened in the course of a few days) that I was really killing a part in myself and that I would miss it forever if I didn’t stop and, for lack of a better word, repent and returned to the light. And it’s not easy… a part of me misses being a crook still, every day, like an addiction. And btw I know a number of junkies who I think do exactly the same with smack: at the same time that they relish the sense of peace and bliss they get, they almost all love the sense of telling the world to go fuck itself they’ll rather die than have any part in it. And they, too, know it’s “bad”, that it is a way to hurt everyone around them and that it’s a cause for shame… but they do so anyway. Just like I did. Just like many people who are “evil” do… (Though I bet there are many more who are just arseholes who think they are perfectly justified in fucking up the world…)

  41. FreeFox says:

    Continuing about the difference between being evil and doing evil and the nature of evil… *ponders*. I think “evil” as opposed to “bad” is an important concept. I watched a cool TED talk recently about the death penalty and the economic cost of trying to save kids from bad backgrounds before they ever enter the youth “justice” system to the cost of having a murder case, trial, and execution. I liked the scientifically neutral argument that all morals aside it was simply good economic sense to invest into child care institutions instead of moping up after criminals. But I think it leaves something out. In a way my own criminal career (that did include some lock-up, in Germany and in Romania – if you want to be a crook, be a crook in Germany, it’s much more comfortable!) was a bad choice on many levels, because it certainly “cost” me more in many ways than it “earned” me. But there is deeper side to it. Intentionally going out to hurt another human being does something by itself. It cuts away at a common bond between humans, a basic empathy and identification with each other, the ability to look into another person’s eyes and see a bit of yourself be reflected back… it made me furtive, mistrusting, aggressive, reclusive… it made me less human.
    Now you can argue, I suppose, that these reactions came from a sense of guilt and the fear of punishment, both human insitutions and not “innate” value systems. But can you imagine a human society that would not ostracise and punish (even if through pity and psychological treatment) crooks somehow, that would not automatically counterbalance any urge to indulge in criminal behaviour with shame and fear? So in a way I think this effect of criminal behaviour – cutting people away from society – will always be a part of human society. In a way it is innate.
    I am not saying that disregarding social rules is always “evil”, rebelliousness usually accompanied by a martyr’s pride, not shame. And the possible shame of, say, a conscientious rozzer or an empathic doctor for hurting someone out of necessity will be without the fear of social punishment. Fear and shame aren’t even necessary for evil, real sociopaths are clearly capapble of evil without either. (Though even they will realize the need to hide at least part of their actions from society.)
    But if there is a general consesus in the social fabric we live in that a deed is shameful and worthy of punishment, I think “evil” (rather than mere “bad” or “dysfunctional”) is the correct term. It will be culturally defined, but less so than one thinks. You’d be surprised how easy it is to find the secret shame even in fundamentalist pushing for female genital mutilation, bashing fags, lynching “subhumans”, etc. Superficially a society may go crazy, just like an individual, and permit such atrocities, but the underlying values of civilisation remain, suppressed but easy to spot as they peek out of the their dungeon through the eyes of the fanatics. (Okay, the tells are more flushdness, lips licking, motions with the arms or twists of the body to hide chest and/or crotch, increased pitch or lack of volume control in the voice, etc.) People usually know when they do evil even when they claim they are doing so on God’s behalf or for the better of society.

  42. FreeFox says:

    Oh, and being vs acting. If you act in spite of your coscience protesting, because you just can’t stand up to temptation… you act evil. If you act out of the inherent wish to achieve exactly the state that also causes the shame/fear… if like me you find reasons to thieve because really you don’t want the money but the sense of power coming with the ability to hurt someone… you are evil. I don’t mean that particularely pejorative, just that the evilness then does not describe the act but the person committing it. (Guess I am arguing from intent here.)

    Um. You can see I have given this some thought. Might still be wrong, of course, but it’s been something that has given me a few sleepless nights. ^_^

  43. FreeFox says:

    @Bitter Lemon: Could you explain that stupidity projection theory a bit more detailled, please? ^_^

  44. bitter lemon says:

    This news story connects nicely to the main topic of religious harm to children, and also freefox’s comments above.

    German court rules circumcision illegal. Doctors cease foreskin theft.

    quote from the judgment:
    “The child’s body is permanently and irreparably changed by the circumcision. This change conflicts with the child’s interest of later being able to make his own decision on his religious affiliation.”

    The Prof. whose opinions the court relied on says:
    “After all the knee-jerk outrage has subsided, it is to be hoped it will set in motion a discussion about religiously motivated violence against children

    “Jews have pointed out that attacks on Jewish religious rituals have been an unfortunate part of European history since the Roman times, and say they are dismayed by the latest ban”

    Random Rabbi says:
    “Not to perform an ancient ritual is beyond the imagination. From ancient times onwards, there were certain times when there were decision by rulers to harm Judaism or to forbid or to weaken the Jewish religion, and one of them was to disallow circumcision, so it’s not the first time and probably will not be the last time”.

  45. bitter lemon says:

    @freefox: it was just a random thought as I wrote about evil. I was talking in term of the Jungian idea of projection, that whatever we wish to deny in ourselves, we project onto others. I wonder if the idea of projection wouldn’t also apply to “stupidity”. From how most commenters here talk about religious people, I think they usually characterize them as delusional, conformist, unable to see the truth, etc.

    (There’s also something a little tribal and religious about a cult of atheism as well: “we atheists see the truth that others can’t. the believers shall be cast into the hell of non-scientism”)

    So if one were to think in Jungian terms this suggests that the commenters are ashamed of their own conformity, and perhaps worried about their own intellectual limits.

    When we look down on others, how often do we see our own ghosts

  46. hotrats says:

    @bitter lemon:
    # Your sort just deny the evil within themselves, by projecting it onto someone they imagine they could never be (evil-serial-killer). #

    When you say ‘your sort’, aren’t you doing exactly that kind of projection?

    # (There’s also something a little tribal and religious about a cult of atheism as well: “we atheists see the truth that others can’t. the believers shall be cast into the hell of non-scientism”) #

    Where do you get this utter bollocks talk from? Apart from you, who ever mentioned ‘The hell of non-scientism’? Can you hear yourself, over the dry rustling of the straw men?

  47. hotrats says:

    A great dispatch from the heart of darkness, and a poke in the eye for anyone hoping to write off the J&M commentariat as a bunch of smug, unfeeling conformists.

    One grammatical point, only because it skews the meaning: you use the continuous past ‘I’ve been working… as a pickpocket… for about 2 years’, which implies that you are still at it. This gets the story off on the wrong foot. The simple past ‘I worked’ marks the action as completed/abandoned.

    I hope I don’t sound pedantic, your English is usually spot on (I assumed you were a native speaker until told otherwise). English tenses are deeply perverse, and I am aware that der Muttersprache doesn’t make this distinction.

  48. HaggisForBrains says:

    @ FreeFox – I agree with hotrats – thank you for sharing and giving us an insight into your complex character. And thanks, hotrats – I was initially confused by FreeFox’s opening declaration. It’s easy to forget that English is not his first language, because his grasp of it is generally so good.

    I may not contribute much to these discussions, other than the odd snide remark, but I do enjoy listening in. FreeFox in particular opens my eyes to a whole different world – not one that I necessarily wish to be part of, but interesting, very interesting.

  49. mary2 says:

    Bitter Lemon, Wow – my sort deny the evil within themselves . . . ?

    Do I now get to claim a Godwin victory because you mentioned the Nazis?

    Didn’t actually bother to read what I wrote did you? I believe my actual words were “a few serial killers”.

    The term “a few” is generally used to denote a small percentage of the total; not the sum total itself, while the term “serial killer”, by general usage if not by technicality, is not used to describe Nazis, war criminals or mass murderers, but is usually restricted to describing people who kill for thrills or sexual proclivity. Hence my statement could in no way be taken as referring to those ordinary humans who find themselves committing dastardly acts – the banally evil – but obviously referred to exactly what it said: that while most thrill killers show no remorse or even seem able to understand that their actions were wrong e.g. Ian Brady, Ted Bundy or the Green River Killer, there are also the other category who are desperate to be caught – the ‘I just can’t help myself’ variety.

    P.S. Adolf Eichmann was not a serial killer. He designed the final solution and ordered many, many people to be killed but I don’t think he personally killed a single person. He is a good example of the banality of evil but, if you want a better one, try his boss Himmler. He
    was a chicken farmer before his rise to power and saw races of people like breeding a better stock of chickens.

    FreeFox, thank you. Exactly the point I was briefly and badly trying to make. Most of us engage in behaviour we know to be wrong and hurtful at some point in our lives, thankfully not usually bad enough to be considered ‘evil’.

    Bitter Lemon, re ‘the projection of stupidity’. We don’t use the word ‘bollocks’ where I come from but as Hotrats is the master of the turn of phrase I shall quote him/her here as I can’t think of a more apt description of your excuse for the accusation mentioned above. You were musing on Jungian psychiatry? Bollocks. You were making a cheap shot accusing me/us of being stupid. If it was directed at me, when have you ever read a comment of mine accusing religious people (or anyone else with the possible exception of your friend Pat Kittle) of being unintelligent?

  50. Techs says:

    @ hotrats
    The documentation for paedophile abuse in Ireland goes back about 150 years. People writing letters to the church. America has about 75 years of known documentation the last I read.

  51. Stonyground says:

    @the Great Fuzzy
    I regret that it has taken some time to respond to your post so that there are now many posts in between and you may not get to read this.

    Speaking for myself, I never indoctrinated my only child with atheism. She attended a Church of England primary school and I told her that some people believe in God but I do not. I said that it is up to her to make up her own mind on the issue. She has access to a well stocked library that has books on both sides of the argument. An important point is that I have never lied to her, ever, about anything. As a result, she considers that I am a reliable source of information.

    Do you suppose that religious people are that open and honest with their children? Regarding my Methodist parents I would say, close but no cigar. They still managed to end up with an atheist son anyway.

    Indoctrination is only needed when you are wrong. When your position is demonstrably correct you can confidently present young people with all the information needed to make a decision and rely upon their own intelligence to choose the truth.

  52. mary2 says:

    Stonyground, Nice final point. May I ask if you are one of those parents who never had their kids believing in Santa or the Toothfairy? I am in two minds about this myself. On the one hand, I love your point about honesty and kids knowing you to be a source of truth but, on the other hand I think a lot of kids now miss out on that sense of imagination and wonder and possibility of believing, for a time, in fairy stories.

    Thoughts from anyone?

  53. Mahatma Coat says:

    Well, this has been a ride! Mary2, I suspect that kids have enough imagination and naiveté to make up their own fairy stories and maybe when it’s their own make-up, they know it and there is no disillusionment with someone whom they should trust.
    As for wonder, consider the wonder of a seed having all of the information to turn itself into a tree, or of trees knowing when to shed leaves and to grow them again. And that’s just the start. Dawkins’ ‘The Greatest Show on Earth’ has many more such.

    As for Jung’s ‘projection’ hypothesis, how did he test this? Did he test it? On the matter of doing evil, I think that it might be more accurate to say that the doer is aware that others might find the deed evil without necessarily thinking it so him/herself.

    I also ponder on whether wrongdoers who confess, albeit anonymously, are not achieving what Catholics do in going to confession and then doing a penance.

    I know that I’m all over the place but so were the posts. Whether I’m smarter than someone who is religious, I don’t know. I’ll have to wait until someone devises a meaningful test. I will say, however, that I could not have invented the ontological argument. When you consider the mental gymnastics which theologians go through, the tortured logic, the disguised begging the question, they do need a certain cleverness. But it’s their breath-taking self-delusion, the belief in unbelievable things where I do feel a certain smugness. I ask you, if you had had no religious instruction and had never heard anything of religious beliefs (you’ve just arrived from Mars, say) and came across a card-carrying Catholic in the street (or in the pub), and he/she began to describe the tenets of his/her beliefs, wouldn’t you edge away, making no sudden moves?

  54. Stonyground says:

    We did do Santa and the Tooth Fairy fo a little while. I think that I would have preferred not to but Mrs. Stonyground wanted to and I didn’t see it as a big deal. Because of my no lie policy I had to be a bit evasive instead so it wasn’t long before Stony-Junior started seeing through me.

  55. theGreatFuzzy says:

    Peter Boghossian, after his talk “jesus, the easter bunny + other delusions” (51min approx) was asked about telling kids about santa or not. After saying he wasn’t into giving parentening advice, he said he personally did not lie to his kids but what his wife did was up to her.
    Anyway, kids have great imaginations. They can turn a stick of wood into a sword and an unturned table into a pirate’s galleon at the drop of a hat. I don’t think they need to be taught imagination, can it be taught?
    Just need to teach them critical thinking, and that can be fun with kids. One guy who did this found his 2 year old (I think) was lying to him, she was at that stage were she’d discovered lying and was experimenting with it. He asked why she lied to him and would she stop doing so, especially as he didn’t lie to her. She thought for a minute and then replied, “Okay, daddy. You can lie to me”. Brilliant or what!?

  56. mary2 says:

    Mahatma, Stony & Fuzzy, I think you’ve convinced me. If I ever feel the stirrings of maternal instinct (unlikely as I have not up til now and am getting a bit long in the tooth) I will take your advice and play pirates or take nature walks instead of telling Santa stories.

    I am curious how you deal with other parents telling your kids Santa exists.

  57. Stonyground says:

    This is getting to be like Mumsnet. Once she had worked out that there wasn’t an actual real Santa I think that she was happy to go along with the other kids not knowing, so the problem never came up. For those who go the no Santa rout from the word go, I suppose you just tell them that other people like to pretend so it’s best if we don’t spoil their fun.

    On critical thinking, teaching kids simple magic tricks is a good method. Learn the trick, bamboozle them with it for a while, then come clean and show them how it’s done. Next you teach them the trick and let them bamboozle grandparents with it.

  58. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    Stonyground, how’s this for coincidence? A couple of days ago my 27mth-old grandson was drawing using a biro. As I had an identical pen on the table next to me I thought I’d test his reaction to a little ‘magic’. I got him to put his pen into my left hand, closed my fingers around it and showed him my empty hand, the pen being safely sequestered up my sleeve. With my right hand I appeared to pull my pen – as yet unseen by him – out of his pocket. Instead of the expected reaction, I could see his little mind working as his eyes went from my right hand to the left a few times. He then stuck his little hand up my left sleeve, retrieved his pen and turned back to his art!
    I love that little boy!

    On a side note; guess which regular to these pages managed to drop an eighteen-inches high cast iron doorstop onto his foot last night. Only three toes broken! To add insult to injury, the doorstop is modelled as an elephant, bought several years ago for a not-inconsiderable sum at a charity auction….raising funds for an elephant sanctuary.

  59. FreeFox says:

    @AoS: Not wanting to throw any shadow on your grandson’s young genius, but that one is actually pretty normal. Magic tricks (like confidence tricks btw) are based on misdirection, that means you play on the mark’s (er, audience’s) expectations and assumptions. A kid under three has pretty few assumptions about physics, it is hard to get him to let his lazy brain fill in unobserved blanks with predictable false impressions. Colour me tickled, though, to not only have found in your a fellow puyuria, but also a fellow slight of hand artist. ^_^

    (Sorry about the toe. Hope it mends. A permanent limp is a real annoyance.)

    @Mary, The way I do it with my boy is tell him the magical version and the factual one side by side, not as either or but as different ways to look at things. He seems to have no problem (at age 3) to accept that the erratic rocks and boulders here have been transported there by now-gone glaciers in in the last ice age and that they are the remains of trolls that have been transformed into rock by the sun. Or that the little indentation in your upper lip is formed when the face grows in your mum’s womb from both sides and meets in the middle, and that it it comes from when the Archangel Gabriel visits you before you’re born and tells you a great secret and then he places his finger there, on your lip under your nose, and says “hush”. Just like kids have no problem distinguishing between real violence and fights in cartoons. It is only crusty old grown-ups who believe that poetry stops being true when it transcends the superficial logic of school book reality.

  60. FreeFox says:

    @Mahatma Coat: I know what you mean about the “real” wonders, such as genetics. But one thing that magical tales allow you is to experience things personally through identitfication (like projection in reverse, and btw, while Jung didn’t have access to MRTs, you can now actually watch both prejection and identification happening in the brain). When I told my boy the tale of a this one boulder not far from our place having once been a fearsome troll king who got tricked and transformed into this rock, sure, part of it was just a cool, scary story. But when we sat on the rock, and he ran his hands over the smooth and the broken surface, over the moss and lichen, you could see how he began to wonder how it would be to exist on a time scale so slow that you could watch forests come into being and disappear, rivers changing their courses, and mountains being thrust up and erroded away. And when he asked me if there was magic to make the rock speak again, I explained to him what geologists do and that they know how to listen to rocks and let them tell us stories of long ago. And he had no problem leaping from the troll world to the world of science.

  61. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    FreeFox, I had expected that my grandson would simply think the pen I produced from his pocket was the same pen he’d put in my hand, and that he’d take it back without realising the impossibility of its transference through the ether. What I hadn’t expected was for him to realise that it couldn’t be the same pen, despite it being identical, and to very quickly work out where the original could have gone.
    Or maybe I’m just no Derren Brown 🙂
    Thanks for your concern; the toes will mend of course, but I have to say that as I’ve had to use a walking stick for a few years anyway owing to spinal damage, the only permanent limp I’d worry about doesn’t involve my legs!

  62. IanB says:

    On the subject of teaching fairy stories to children oh deary deary me

  63. PeteUK says:

    @TheGreatFuzzy Unfortunately, faith memes have evolved over the centuries so they can easily infect the mind and are difficult to shake off

    That was effective when religious leaders kept people ignorant, the death knell was sounded when the bible was translated, much against the Vatican’s wishes, into common use languages. These days good education is countering the indoctrination methods, and “the Internet is where religions come to die”.


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