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Are you abusing your children when you teach them that Jesus created them, loves them, died for them, and has a wonderful plan for their lives?
“Child abuse.” That inflammatory epithet—inappropriately applied to the practice of teaching your children about God’s truth—is part of Richard Dawkins and Lawrence Krauss’s campaign to rid the world of religion, particularly Christianity. Krauss has applied the term to the teaching of biblical creationism to children. Dawkins recently reiterated his assertion that teaching children to believe in a hell or to believe the religion embraced by their parents is “child abuse.”
Though Dawkins has said (and written) all this before, he resurrected his now-famous “roast in hell forever” anecdote on April 21 at a speech for the Chipping Norton Literary Festival. Dawkins recounts how he once told a cheering crowd in Dublin that an American woman, raised as a Catholic, had told him that, after being told her dead non-Catholic friend would “roast in hell,” she experienced nightmares that were more difficult to recover from than an episode of sexual abuse. Therefore, Dawkins maintains that teaching children to believe in hell or telling them that they should accept their parents’ religious beliefs is not only abusive but even more permanently damaging than being inappropriately fondled.1
Dawkins says that telling children there is a hell is “mental abuse.” This misapplication of the moniker “child abuse” to “the teaching of that with which atheists happen to disagree” is not only a misuse of the term but also an insult to all people who have endured legitimate child abuse (physical, psychological, or sexual) throughout history.
Dawkins claims that we should teach children about religions so that they can understand literature, but that we should discourage them from actually embracing any belief. “There is a value in teaching children about religion. You cannot really appreciate a lot of literature without knowing about religion. But we must not indoctrinate our children,” Dawkins says, adding, “What a child should be taught is that religion exists; that some people believe this and some people believe that.”
While Dawkins spreads a wide net to encompass all religions—except of course the religion of atheism—many of his remarks here and elsewhere make it clear that Christianity is his primary target. (Be sure to catch our upcoming article next week analyzing a recent interview with Dawkins and Lawrence Krauss as they discuss their approaches to ridding the world of religion and how they hope their new film The Unbelievers will help them further that goal.)
Dawkins considers it “indoctrination” to teach children that God is real, that God created them, that Jesus Christ loves them, and that Jesus died for them so that they will not have to suffer eternal punishment for their sins in hell. Indeed, how could any parents that love their children and actually believe there is a hell to be avoided not teach their children their faith? Furthermore, biblical Christianity is concerned with far more than avoiding hell. Christians who have a strong relationship with Jesus Christ know that their faith is not just “fire insurance.” Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” (John 10:10).
As one journalist correctly observed, “Religious people, though, would argue that advancing Dawkins’ views on evolution and the lack of a deity would also constitute a form of indoctrination, especially if these elements are trumped as ‘reason’ and held above theological standing.”2 Dawkins is not at all opposed to indoctrinating children so long as they are indoctrinated to believe as he does.
In truth, even the atheistic belief that there is no God is a religion. Atheists claim they are non-religious, but they use their set of beliefs as a way to explain life without God—they worship and serve the creation rather than the Creator (Romans 1:25). There is no such thing as a non-religious person—you are either for Jesus Christ or against Him (Matthew 12:30).
We want children to grow up with the tools they need to make informed decisions about the most important decisions in life. The very name of our ministry, Answers in Genesis, makes it clear we are not indoctrinating and brainwashing with blind faith, but providing reasonable, scientific, and biblical answers for questions on origins.
Be sure to read a detailed analysis of this “child abuse” allegation in yesterday’s article “Is It Child Abuse to Teach Christianity to Your Children? Dawkins Thinks So.”
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Answers in Genesis is an apologetics ministry, dedicated to helping Christians defend their faith and proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ effectively. We focus on providing answers to questions about the Bible—particularly the book of Genesis—regarding key issues such as creation, evolution, science, and the age of the earth.