Uncommon Sense

August 17, 2017

Indoctrinating Children

Filed under: Morality,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 12:01 pm

As I mentioned in my last two posts, I have been reading a fascinating book (Philosophers without Gods: Meditations on Atheism and the Secular Life by Louise M. Antony, Oxford University Press, Kindle Edition.) which has already prompted a number of posts including this one (for now). All were prompted by ideas read in that very book. (I recommend that book to you if you are inclined to read philosophy/philosophers.)

This post comes from my response to a statement in Chapter 6: Overcoming Christianity by Walter Sinnott-Armstrong. Obviously this snippet is only a small part of a much larger essay but I found it striking. Here it is:

My point is just that Christianity was so pervasive that any child who grew up in such an environment would be susceptible. Religious thoughts would become automatic. If someone had asked me if I believed in God, I would have answered, “Of course,” not because I had thought about it, but because I had not thought about it.

The author is describing his upbringing in one of the more Christianity-steeped regions of this country, one in which Jesus is woven into the culture down to the phrases people use when speaking. He points out that every child wants to please or appease these immensely powerful beings who are his/her parents and their adult companions. He describes a religious indoctrination that assumes what his beliefs will be because a religious instruction, unlike a secular one, is not designed to teach a child to think for himself, it is designed to instruct what one is to think, not how.

So, when such a child goes off to get schooling in even a different Christian community, well, things get learned and things get unlearned. In this case a great deal was unlearned.

Why do we allow children to be subjected to such indoctrinations? I tend to believe that even apostates and atheists have been trained not to speak up and the push back on these practices. It isn’t “nice” or “civil.” It is rude and an attack upon people who do a lot of good. (I have written separately on how little charity is done by religious institutions, much of which occurs in mundane circumstances, e.g. is a Catholic hospital a charity when they charge for services just like any other hospital?) Think about any nasty cult you have in memory: Moonies, scientologists, the People’s Temple and Jim Jones, etc. Would you want your children subjected to their indoctrination? Do you want any child subjected to such? Why are some indoctrinations acceptable but others are not?

I suspect fundamentalist Christians would disapprove of all Muslim or Hindu indoctrinations, socialist or communist indoctrinations, but be okay with Christian and conservative political indoctrinations. It all depends on whose scared cow is on the barbecue.


  1. How about we indoctrinate children to Aesop’s Tales?


    Comment by john zande — August 17, 2017 @ 12:47 pm | Reply

    • I would certainly share those stories (along with Winnie-the-Pooh and all kinds of fiction (much of US History, etc.)) with kids. I would ask them if they would like to learn things in school. If we can’t convince them such studies are worthwhile, maybe they are not. I also suspect that the justification “So you can get a job, you know, a boring place where you do boring things dictated by others otherwise you starve” will carry much water with 6-year olds.

      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by Steve Ruis — August 17, 2017 @ 1:14 pm | Reply

  2. “It all depends on whose scared cow is on the barbecue.” Yes, indeed. (good mooove, btw!) 😉


    Comment by Carmen — August 17, 2017 @ 1:03 pm | Reply

    • We probably should replace the word “sacred” with “really, really special” (preferably vocalised by Dana Garvey’s Church Lady character). Just as “traditional” translates as “the way we have always done it”, sacred means that whatever (cows, buildings, land, mountains, animals-non-cow, insects, etc.) is really, really special and a group of people have staked a claim on how these are to be treated.

      Me, I like barbecue.


      Comment by Steve Ruis — August 17, 2017 @ 1:11 pm | Reply

      • I just noticed my typo. . . egads. But it sort of fits. 🙂


        Comment by Carmen — August 17, 2017 @ 1:13 pm | Reply

  3. I was indoctrinated into the Lutheran church at an early age. Too bad for that gang I was told to learn at school by Dad, he impressed on me when I started 1st grade that education was very important. I always enjoyed reading so it was somewhat easy for me to keep learning at school. OK, I got poor marks for “citizenship” as I talked too much in class. Spent the better part of every term with my desk in the hallway. You don’t get to sit outdoors in winter in northern Illinois…….LOL.
    I only got one “D” ever. It was 7th grade art class. I can draw straight line if I have a straight edge. Never was an artist, but I do appreciate good art and enjoy taking photos. Dad told me in front of that teacher that I WOULD do whatever was needed to get at least a “C”. He told me on the way home that a “C” was average and as his first born I was at least average.
    By age 13-14 I had learned to think for myself, so the church and I parted.
    If I had had kids, I may have exposed them to religion, but not just one flavor of xtainity. I’d like to think I’d have told them about the other various religions and allow them to decide if they wished to be part of any of them, or, better yet, none at all like my wife and I were. She died of glioblastoma in January 1999.
    Yeah, I still talk too much.


    Comment by davidambrose66 — August 17, 2017 @ 3:04 pm | Reply

    • We ought to form a club. (Me, too!)

      On Thu, Aug 17, 2017 at 3:04 PM, Class Warfare Blog wrote:



      Comment by Steve Ruis — August 17, 2017 @ 9:23 pm | Reply

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