Sunday 30 December 2012

I Knew It

Just wasn't as willing to commit to my gut instinct 3 and a half years ago as I am today.

Here is the Richard Dawkins' post: I did post a version of this blog as a comment on the Dawkins' blog.

Here is my post from May 20th, 2009:

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!

"Theologians have failed to address child development issues and have underestimated the impact of Christian stories on the developing minds of children. These stories, even when stripped of their most virulent content, are still stories of violence. The stories of Ishmael's banishment, Cain and Abel, Abraham's intention to sacrifice Isaac, David and Goliath, Herod's murder of the infants, John the Baptist's death, the stoning of Stephen, the death of Ananias and Sapphira, the blinding of Paul are all violent stories at the behest of a greater good. Nowhere is that made clearer than in the passion narrative of Christianity. From the agony in Gethsemane to the betrayal by Peter, from the scourging of Jesus to the final crucifixion, the resurrection story of Jesus, the central glorifying image of Christianity, is imbued through and through with violence. These stories and many others are burned into the minds of Christian children forever. Supposedly, they are the stories about a loving god and how he cares for his children. What they are, in reality, are stories about a god who does not accept disobedience, requires that his children suffer, and punishes them when they fail. Furthermore, he is not above sacrificing one of them when he thinks it is necessary, whether it is his own son or an eleven-year-old girl. These are not abstract issues like questions of intentionality over which many a theologian has written many a page, but concrete issues concerning the lessons Christians are teaching their children about how life is to be lived. I was once asked, after delivering a paper at the American Academy of Religion on this topic, whether there would be anything left of Christianity if the 'virtues' I was discussing were dropped from the Christian theological agenda. My flippant response was, "Let's drop them and find out". My more serious response was that forty years from now we would have a group of people calling themselves Christians, but whose Christianity would bear little resemblance to what exists in the present. After finishing the research for this thesis and writing the dissertation, I now end with a more dire prediction. If Christianity does not reinvent itself, does not renounce the rationale for the necessity of the crucifixion, it will not only help to maintain child sexual assault as a continuing social problem, but it will also be a major factor in its continuing recreation, and the cycle of abuse will not end."

Thanks to Marie Celeste Hale for posting the following:

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I am not too far into reading your blog and landed here. This reminded me of sitting in mass, before my first communion, listening to the priest talk about how intercourse was something so special that it was reserved for marriage. If you aren't pure when you enter into it, you are basically evil. Those who do not wait are dirty and condemned. Obviously that's not verbatim but that was the point of it. Having already been sexually assaulted by that age, I truly felt that I was condemned to hell. I grew out of thinking that way fairly early. But the pews are filled with children and statistically, it's highly improbable that I was the only one interpreting the message that way.
I think you were on point with the violence in Christianity with your dissertation. I think it would be an interesting experiment to only leave the violence. Remove everything else. Hand that over to parents and ask them, "honestly, is this something that you would ever let your children read?" I can't imagine that there would be many takers.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts, I have found them to be validating in my own beliefs that there isn't much love expressed in the Bible. I didn't get my children bibles, ever, but their grandparents did. I got them dictionaries. I never removed the bibles from the house that were gifted to them. If that was something that they wanted to believe in, more power to them. Turns out bibles aren't a fascinating read for most 8 year olds.

So. You know what is left out of the discourse????

 Children Just Saying ........... The discourse of rape culture, of course, in the academic literature, of course. Just struck me as I was r...