Thursday, April 30, 2009

god is not Great Chapter 16: Is Religion Child Abuse

This chapter, which is almost a direct continuation of the previous chapter focuses largely on the things that religions do to children. Overall, Hitchens makes some very good points, although my larger personal opinion is noted in a recent entry, Hitchens goes much further than I did.

He starts with the psychological, delving into the issue of things like Hell. Terrorizing children witht he prospect of eternal torture and damnation for disobedience and religious infidelity. I too wonder how many children have been harmed by these and similar practices by well meaning, and not so well meaning authority figures.

As Hitchens demonstrates, the institutions of religion have long understood how impressionable young children are, and that the key to having a hold on the adult is to indoctrinate him as a child. Overall, when it comes to the psychological damage section Hitchens writes a good piece, but in this exercise was well overshadowed by Dawkins in The God Delusion.

Regardless, Hitchens goes next into discusssing the physical abuses children suffer as a consequence of religions. He points out, of course, the issue of circumcision first as it is perhaps the most obvious. I can't help but agree with Hitchens, particularly with regards to infants. There is no good reason to mutilate a child's genitalia without their having a say in it, or even more importantly, without their even ever having known of the option to say no. It seems immoral to make a decision like that which is basically irreversible.

One place that Hitchens goes that is not covered in others (to my memory) is the masturbation taboo and the psychological and sexual repression that comes with it. Overall, a small section but somewhat poignant.

Overall the chapter didn't provide alot that was new, or illuminate much. It was a good read, but I would still stand by my personal opinion as stated previously.


  1. My first grade teacher was a nun who was embarrasingly obsessed with hell (catholics generally don't dwell on that too much), and I spent quite some time convinced god was reading my every thought and that I was going to BURN- forever in hell.

    I was not a happy child.

  2. I'm actually thankful that my upbringing was mormon in that it didn't include Hell. Significantly less traumatic to be told if you screw up you just get a bronze or silver medal.