This is an update on the comments that I made then. I had/have no problem with "religion is child abuse" but took exception to his dismissal of the impact of sexual abuse on the child. Here are some further thoughts:
It is true that the mild form of sexual abuse that Dawkins describes is probably less damaging than believing, truly believing in hell. However, he had the advantage of being able to talk with his fellow classmates about it - solidarity is a great healer/dismisser. However, has he ever considered what might have happened had he reported this man to the superiors at the school? (Just asking)
I remember how we used to all talk about staying away from "legs" Hooper, the physics teacher & the French teacher in high school. These incidents are not the stuff of long term psychological destruction (unless one got caught in the web). I just still have this sneaking suspicion that it had more of an impact on his psyche than Dawkins is willing to admit - he does remember it and the feelings that the incident engendered - they apparently have not disappeared. I am pleased to hear him say finally that this too was part of his life-experience. I always use that "hermeneutics of suspicion" approach when people are as angry as he is about religion - that anger does not come from a vacuum or other people's experiences - the personal is still political. It is what we do with that anger that will change the world over the long run.
However, this doesn't give Dawkins the right to dismiss the destructive power of the kind of sexual abuse many of us endured within the Christian system. It feels like I have spent a lifetime talking and writing about the damaging doctrines of Christianity - the subtle and not-so-subtle ones. My contention is that the doctrines make it even more difficult to cope with any kind sexual abuse. A number of commentators on this blog have pointed this out.
The combination (Christian teachings and sexual abuse) is lethal for many, and a lifetime psychological drain for most of us. And I agree with Dawkins that we would be better off without these horrible religious systems.
This is the last paragraph from my 1993 dissertation. Twenty years later (I finished it in August 1992 - defended in '93) and nothing much has changed - I could update the footnotes and the examples in the dissertation but why bother? I am still addressing the same issues but there are new players on the block and the arguments for "Christian virtues" are more nuanced than they were. Oh well, so goes academia!
Just one more horrible, horrible story. I grieve for all those families. The most terrifying thing that I can think of - to lose a child is bad enough - to lose a child this way is always irreconciliable.
Barbara Hughes, "Where was God?" Sewanee Theological Review 48:1(2004), 87-108.
This is quite a good article if you want to understand the theological journey of one victim and the structure of her healing within the Christian system. I think that it will be an eye-opener to many people and it is a truly necessary addition to these two volumes on children and Christianity.
The dilemmas that I noted in my article, "Birth of an Anthropologian" are easily identifiable in my own reading of this article. It strongly points out how all of our experiences and ways of learning to survive are so diverse. I had once more my own dilemma in how to construct a blog on this article. I chose not to make a critical analysis of the article for a number of reasons.
However, just about everything that I argued in my dissertation is evident in this article, and I have major issues with most of the theological constructions that are evident in the construction of Ms. Hughes spiritual journey. Her journey was not my journey, nor is it the journey of many, many survivors. She is well aware of this and tries to allow for that fact at the end of the article.
In the end, we can only understand that, in order to survive, one believes what one has to and one finds the community.
This may be hard to find. I couldn't find it on any of the university's databases and had to order it. It was a special two part series in the journal called Children and the Kingdom (Vol 1: Theological Reflections on Childhood and Vol. 2: Education and Formation). Two volumes for $14 USD - well worth the price. While I may have issues with the theology at times, these volumes are a fascinating look at children in Christianity. It also contains some beautiful art work (in colour) by children. It is published by the School of Theology at the The University of the South Sewanee, Tennessee. Anglican/Episcopalian in affiliation.