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Good talk.

grapejelly        How could a set of rules, ostensibly designed to threaten people with eternal and damnation ever cause them to be less empathic and more judgemental toward others?  I just don’t see that happening – commonsense tells me that people with religious dogma pounded into their skulls, if anything, should be more caring and compassionate toward the damned others.

   “Academics from seven universities across the world studied Christian, Muslim and non-religious children to test the relationship between religion and morality.

They found that religious belief is a negative influence on children’s altruism.

“Overall, our findings … contradict the commonsense and popular assumption that children from religious households are more altruistic and kind towards others,” said the authors of The Negative Association Between Religiousness and Children’s Altruism Across the World, published this week in Current Biology.

“More generally, they call into question whether religion is vital for moral development, supporting the idea that secularisation of moral discourse will not reduce human kindness – in fact, it will do just the opposite.

Well knock me over with a full pallet of pickled asparagus.  Atheists like myself have committed untold legions of electrons into thoughtful rhetoric decrying the trauma ‘religious moral teachings’ inflicts on children and adults.  And now this:

“The findings “robustly demonstrate that children from households identifying as either of the two major world religions (Christianity and Islam) were less altruistic than children from non-religious households”.

Older children, usually those with a longer exposure to religion, “exhibit[ed] the greatest negative relations”.

The study also found that “religiosity affects children’s punitive tendencies”. Children from religious households “frequently appear to be more judgmental of others’ actions”, it said.”

Let this study be the sweet grape jelly of victory I smear over my body while running through the streets extolling the masses to witness the glory and the power of atheist prognostications that are (becoming more) empirically sound.

*thinks while raiding the larder for said righteous grape-jelly…*

On sombre reflection, perhaps I should temper my glorious revellings; take a more grandisonant, more contemplative, stance.  *ahem*…  I am most pleasantly pleased that scurrilous religious evocations on morality and moral behaviour are, in-fact, antithetical to moral behaviour and actions.

Or:   You pious motherfuckers have just had your shit rolled up – what now Jebus and friends, what now?!?!?!?

“The report was “a welcome antidote to the presumption that religion is a prerequisite of morality”, said Keith Porteus Wood of the UK National Secular Society.

“It would be interesting to see further research in this area, but we hope this goes some way to undoing the idea that religious ethics are innately superior to the secular outlook. We suspect that people of all faiths and none share similar ethical principles in their day to day lives, albeit may express them differently depending on their worldview.”

Amen to that Keith.

science_large_large_large

 

 

 

secularschoolThe year is 2015.  In this age the availability of information has never been greater – and yet, the abuse that is religious teaching, is regularly foisted on children across the globe.  One would think that in this information age a rational parental-agent would attempt to look for the best way to transmit the necessary cultural values to children.

I postulate this cultural transmission should involve the following –

1.  The formulation of strong emotional and social attachments with immediate and extended family.

  • Realizing that nothing else works without strong attachments to parents/caregivers
  • Working on the social bonds that strengthen the individual and the community as a whole.
  • Realizing and respecting the common goals and aspirations of everyone in similar situations – The requirements of shelter, food, security.

2.  Ethical guidelines based an empathetic understanding of the needs and feelings of others – key questions would include:

  • Would I like this (action, situation, circumstances et cetera)to happen to me?
  • Would I like it if this person acted like that toward me?
  • If everyone did what I was doing would the world/my community be a better or worse place?

3.  Understanding and exploring the world would be a fact based experience.

  • Reading
  • Listening and asking questions of elders to better understand their experience and to learn from their accumulated knowledge
  • Engaging with the world via the arts – Music, Visual Arts, Writing, Poetry – etc.

Hmm, and there I go thinking that I had appropriately delimited my topic.  Grrrr…  The point is that, even with this small cross-section of cultural transmission, there is no need to fall back on religious teachings/ideology that have no basis in fact.

We should not have to lie to children to get them to be good human beings.  Raising children within the secular bounds of an attached caring family unit is possible and a desirable societal outcome.   Children should be raised without the twin detriments to healthy maturation: religious guilt and fear.  Guilt and fear stunt the growth of curiosity and more importantly, the learning of empathetic ethical behaviour.

So, if we can raise good human beings without all the toxic religious mumbo-jumbo why do so many people choose to do so anyways?

 

children   Religion doesn’t just happen in the 21st century in the West.   Religion must be instilled into children, magic and fable must be taught to be revered and most darkly, the fear of eternal punishment must be enshrined in young minds.

Hell for children is a very real fear – it torments their thoughts and causes a great deal of unnecessary anxiety.  My question to the religious is simply this:

Why make your children fearful?

Isn’t there enough to worry about life with regards to food, shelter, and security to add another imaginary layer of anxiety to the mix?  Is that a responsible action to take as a parent?

Of course it isn’t.

Being afraid for yourself is not a great motivator for ethical action, and yet that is the implicit lesson that resonates through so much of religious teaching.  Consider also how the fallacy inducing mode of binary thinking is encouraged and reinforced.  You are good with Jebus and bad the the Devil… etc.  Serious ethical actions and thoughts require moving past that first easy binary of good and evil because almost every encounter we have as individuals in society is a mixed bag of ethical and unethical choices and behaviours.

Stating moral relativism here always leads to the conclusion that somewhere down the line – anything and everything will be permissible.  Given that the last 1700 hundred years or so of religious dominance in the field of ethical behaviour I would have to say that absolute morality path isn’t exactly a slam dunk either, as far as worthwhile moral systems are concerned.

I’m always here on Sundays giving both barrels to religion and its antiquated notions of how the world is – seldom do I offer what I would like to see happen instead of the religious tomfoolery so easily demarcated and dispatched.

The vision I have is one that requires a society that understands how ill equipped our species is for rational, logical thought.  Bearing that in mind no expense must be spared to raise children in a safe, welcoming, and stimulating environment in which the only worry they will have is what new thing they will learn after lunch.

How far off is this goal?

Too damn far away.  Every time I’ve been called to a kindergarten or pre-k class some of the children there have come to school hungry.  Nothing defeats curiosity and learning like an empty belly.  Too many times I’ve been empty handed at lunch, because I’d already distributed my lunch to other children, yet there was yet another to feed.  (Don’t worry we always find something).

I need my society to realize how important it is for all children to have the basics of life taken care before I can start helping them explore and comprehend the world around them.

Bringing this back to religion and the insecurity it supposed to soothe – how about some more focus on doing ‘good works’ rather than all the political nonsense currently dominating the religious sphere.  How awesome would it be to have another volunteer (religious or not) in every classroom there to support learning and socialization?

There are so many ways to help children.  The problem being that the outlay of time and emotional investment (for both the secular and religious) is prohibitive; and that, sadly,  is structural feature of society.

Are we getting children the help they need?  There is a nefarious double bind that we put children in that makes it very hard for them to be heard.

childrenChildren should remain silent, and they are ‘good’ when they’re quiet, but ‘bad’ when they are not, because they are disturbing the adults and causing trouble. This attitude runs through the way people interact with children on every level, and yet, they seem surprised when it turns out that children have been struggling with serious medical problems, or they’ve been assaulted or abused.

The most common response is ‘well why didn’t the child say something?’ or ‘why didn’t the child talk to an adult?’ Adults constantly assure themselves that children know to go to a grownup when they are in trouble, and they even repeat that sentiment to children; you can always come to us, adults tell children, when you need help. Find a trusted adult, a teacher or a doctor or a police officer or a firefighter, and tell that adult what’s going on, and you’ll be helped, and everything will be all right.

The thing is that children do that, and the adults don’t listen. Every time a child tells an adult about something and nothing happens, that child learns that adults are liars, and that they don’t provide the promised help. Children hold up their end of the deal by reporting, sometimes at great personal risk, and they get no concrete action in return. Sometimes, the very adult people tell a child to ‘trust’ is the least reliable person; the teacher is friends with the priest who is molesting a student, the firefighter plays pool with the father who is beating a child, they don’t want to cause a scene.

Or children are accused of lying for attention because they accused the wrong person. They’re told they must be mistaken about what happened, unclear on the specifics, because there’s no way what they’re saying could be true, so and so isn’t that kind of person. A mother would never do that. He’s a respected member of the community! In their haste to close their ears to the child’s voice, adults make sure the child’s experience is utterly denied and debunked. Couldn’t be, can’t be, won’t be. The child knows not to say such things in the future, because no one is listening, because people will actively tell the child to be quiet.

Children are also told that they aren’t experiencing what they’re actually experiencing, or they’re being fussy about nothing. A child reports a pain in her leg after gym class, and she’s told to quit whining. Four months later, everyone is shocked when her metastatic bone cancer becomes unavoidably apparent. Had someone listened to her in the first place when she reported the original bone pain and said it felt different that usual, she would have been evaluated sooner. A child tells a teacher he has trouble seeing the blackboard, and the teacher dismisses it, so the child is never referred for glasses; the child struggles with math until high school, when someone finally acknowledges there’s a problem.

This attitude, that children shouldn’t be believed, puts the burden of proof on children, rather than assuming that there might be something to their statements. Some people seem to think that actually listening to children would result in a generation of hopelessly spoiled brats who know they can say anything for attention, but would that actually be the case? That assumption is rooted in the idea that children are not trustworthy, and cannot be respected. I’m having trouble understanding why adults should be viewed as inherently trustworthy and respectable, especially in light of the way we treat children.”

-s.e. smith

You get this as a teacher.  Trusting what children say is not going with the grain, it is fraught with angst and doubt and professional repercussions – all which mean nothing, relatively speaking,  as we’re usually talking about someone’s life

“When I was about 20 years old, I met an old pastor’s wife who told me that when she was young and had her first child, she didn’t believe in striking children, although spanking kids with a switch pulled from a tree was standard punishment at the time. But one day, when her son was four or five, he did something that she felt warranted a spanking–the first in his life. She told him that he would have to go outside himself and find a switch for her to hit him with.

The boy was gone a long time. And when he came back in, he was crying. He said to her, “Mama, I couldn’t find a switch, but here’s a rock that you can throw at me.”

All of a sudden the mother understood how the situation felt from the child’s point of view: that if my mother wants to hurt me, then it makes no difference what she does it with; she might as well do it with a stone.

And the mother took the boy into her lap and they both cried. Then she laid the rock on a shelf in the kitchen to remind herself forever: never violence. And that is something I think everyone should keep in mind. Because if violence begins in the nursery one can raise children into violence”

— Astrid Lindgren, author of Pippi Longstocking, 1978 Peace Prize Acceptance Speech

    Violence and child rearing should never intermingle.  With the understanding we have of the correlations of violence at an early age with future behaviour, there are no excuses for beating your child. Not one.

I’m not really into the whole prostitution is what happens between consenting adults argument.  I find that it reeks with the notion that the experiences of a lucky few, a sub set of a sub set, somehow overlays what happens to most people who get involved in prostitution; that would be degradation, pain, and suffering.  Layer that with helplessness, fear and shame and you have a tried and true recipe for broken human beings.

Prostitution is not okay.  It is never okay and thus the topic is set for your Thursday DWR PSA.

Thank you to Buy Fair: Fight Slavery for hosting the video. 

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