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Richard Dawkins: Long term psychological damage done to children by religion worse than sexual abuse by priests

Richard Dawkins: Long term psychological damage done to children by religion worse than sexual abuse by priests

Richard Dawkins, speaking at the Chipping Norton Literary Festival in England yesterday repeated thoughts that he said last year–that forcing religion on children without questioning the validity of its claims is as bad as child abuse, and its long term psychological damage is worse than sexual abuse by priests.  In an earlier interview with Al-Jazeera, Dr. Dawkins cited a Catholic who was abused by a priest, according to the Daily Mail:

Prof Dawkins' best-selling book The God Delusion argues that belief in a supernatural creator is irrational and harmful to society.

In the earlier interview, he claimed  he had been told by a woman that while being abused by a priest was a ‘yucky’ experience, being told as a child that a Protestant friend who died would ‘roast in Hell’ was more distressing.

In remarks to Qatar-based TV network Al Jazeera, he said: ‘Horrible as sexual abuse no doubt was, the damage was arguably less than the long-term psychological damage inflicted by bringing the child up Catholic in the first place.’

Interviewer Mehdi Hasan asked: ‘You believe that being bought up as a Catholic is worse than being abused by a priest?’.

Professor Dawkins replied: ‘There are shades of being abused by a priest, and I quoted an example of a woman in America who wrote to me saying that when she was seven years old she was sexually abused by a priest in his car.

‘At the same time a friend of hers, also seven, who was of a Protestant family, died, and she was told that because her friend was Protestant she had gone to Hell and will be roasting in Hell forever.

‘She told me of those two abuses,  she got over the physical abuse; it was yucky but she got over it.

‘But the mental abuse of being told about Hell, she took years to get over.’

Dr. Dawkins says there is value in teaching children about religion, because understanding religion helps us to understand literature, and also political events around the world, but such education should not be done in an indoctrinating manner, but in a purely informational format.

About Dakota O'Leary

Dakota O'Leary is a freethinker, and often sassy, scholar of theology and literature. She got her Bachelor of Arts degree in English and Theology from the State University of New York College at Buffalo, and her Master of Arts degree in Theology and Literature from Antioch University-Midwest. She is a contributing writer focusing on eschatology, biblical prophecy, and general religious news. Dakota is a co-host of the God Discussion radio show, offering insight to the news stories of the week. We like to call her "our in-house Biblical prophecy expert" as her articles on eschatology have received over 200,000 views on God Discussion.
  • same as for cult recovering; one can manage a fisical rape but a mental rape is much more complicated

  • Radical MD

    Showing a child that they can make up an explanation for existence and thus ignore what science has taught humanity is harmful to us all but will remain the major obstacle to a peaceful world.. I do hope that within several more hundreds of years humankind will unite and begin a new movement toward the unknown, using the tool that has so far shown itself to be the most reliable: scientific study. Eliminating heaven, hell, soul, & free will …… just Imagine.

  • Peter

    The High Priest of
    the New Atheism, Richard Dawkins, is at it again he must have a new book coming
    out. In that interview on Al Jazeera, he cites one example to make a blanket
    condemnation of all religion and his contention that religion is more harmful
    than sexual abuse. Of course, religious indoctrination is loathsome but worse
    than sex abuse? It’s Dawkins favourite theme and his disciples in the
    blogsphere quote him endlessly as if everything he says is the Gospel Truth.
    His argument fails on two fronts in my opinion. Does this person he quotes have
    a name? Besides, what seven-year-old has any concept of heaven or hell? Are
    there others Dawkins can name to prove his point? People forget, though,
    although he is a biologist when he tackles this issue it’s simply his
    opinion and not one based on facts. He isn’t a psychologist.
    As a scientist he knows you can’t propose a theory without supporting evidence.
    If Dawkins were honest he would quote from academic studies by
    psychologists/psychiatrists to prove religion is more harmful than sex abuse.
    Dawkins doesn’t, and he can’t. His is an empty argument.

  • unsalvageable1

    With just a tiny bit of imagination, I could envision a world where religion – strong, central, authoritarian style religion – just never really got off the ground. . Maybe no-one ever thought of a 'church', or maybe the cultural situation obviated the need. . whatever. But IN this imaginary society, could you even imagine that all people would be honest and loving and good ?? Would there be no wars, no struggle for resources and power; no charlatans or sociopaths or degenerates. . . .? Probably not. Probably mankind would be every bit as screwed up, ignorant and prejudiced as it is right now — it would just find other avenues to express its animal conscience.. . . . To me, the church simply displays what is already the best and the worst in society; it doesn't deserve extra credit for the good, nor undue blame for the evil. Granted, the church is a bloated bastion of hypocrisy built on oppression and lies and smothered in a whitewash of glorified stupidity – but to view the church as the primary motivator for wars and racism and all the other ills that plague mankind, is to willingly blind yourself to the (much more powerful) forces of economics and socio-political history of man. To me, it always seems like MONEY is behind all of it; and Dawkins earns a buttload of money attacking religion, and nothing ever changes.

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