*Dawkins is certainly correct that religion has been to blame for much violence and evil that has been perpetrated. Christians have no stake in denying this. Yet, his critique of religion in reference to violence lacks rigor.
*Dawkins assumes that most of the violence in history can simply be chalked up to religious zealotry, but he fails to understand that human beings develop what anthropologists call collective identities, which include not only religious identities, but also ethnic, political, national, and personal identity with groups who have endured the same problems. What is happening in Darfur, for example, is not religious, but tribal.
*Dawkins must explain the great violence perpetrated in the twentieth century that had nothing to do with religion. The Holocaust was the result of extreme racism, and Stalin was an atheist. Non-religious wars in the twentieth century have killed more people than all the religious wars in the previous centuries combined. That does not justify religious wars, it simply acknowledges that the motivations for violence in the world are more complex than Dawkins suggests.
*Dawkins argues that parents who raise their children in their religion are guilty of child abuse. How would Dawkins then suggest atheist parents raise their children? Should they make them go to church to give them the free choice of possibly being religious? If the key factor is allowing children to decide for themselves, shouldn't children of atheists be allowed to do the same? Why is it that only religious parents indoctrinate their children? Do not atheistic parents indoctrinate as well? It is naive for anyone to think that it is possible for children to remain a blank slate on matters of religion or politics or anything, for that matter, in their developing years.
*Dawkins also fails to take into account the objections of many Christian leaders, down through the centuries, when wars have been waged. While some Christians have made a case for the justifiability of the recent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, plenty of other Christians have argued otherwise, including Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI. The issue concerning religion and violence is more complex than Dawkins will allow in his shallow polemic.
The general problem with arguments like these is that they miss the core problem - a conflict of values.
Different people inevitably value different things. These value conflicts leads to some possible solutions:
* an imposed value system (we usually call this tyranny)
* not have any real values whatsoever
* a confrontation
Depending on what the values are and what the consequences of holding them are, the "confrontational" side of this can be friendly or belligerent. Depending on the size of the body holding the values, the resulting conflict for belligerent confrontations can be either, harsh words, a fist fight, or a war.
Modern society seems to be trying to push the "no real values" proposition, while the atheists seem to be promoting the "tyrannical" proposition. Christians are in the unique position of having strong values, but of believing that it is God's problem to solve value conflicts, not ours. Not everyone takes this view, and it is not the only possible Christian view. However, it is difficult to see how some non-Christian, and especially non-religious people have the same range of choices that the Christian has.
"It is naive for anyone to think that it is possible for children to remain a blank slate on matters of religion or politics or anything, for that matter, in their developing years."
That's true, and you must know it's a straw man. I've never known a person of any perspective who thinks children can or should remain "blank slates" in their developing years, have you?
Fortunately there is something between "blank slate" and indoctrination -- influence.
I know that my views will strongly influence my children's developing views. They are wired up to imitate me, and then to gradually pull away to form their own. My job is to aid both of those stages and deny neither.
The key is to constantly remind them that I value their independence of thought most of all, that they must in the long run decide what they believe for themselves, and that I would rather they disagree with my opinions than share them only because they are mine.
That's influence without indoctrination, and it's all I would ask of any parent, religious or not.
Thank you for sharing this with us.
Allan keep up the great thoughts that you send our way. I know that I continue to be encoruaged and bless by your words and the countless things.
dale mcgowan -
All education of children is indoctrination, period. Even your "remind them that I value their independence of thought most of all, that they must in the long run decide what they believe for themselves" is an indoctrination - you have indoctrinated them with the independence of thought valued above all. That's not necessarily bad, but that is just one particular viewpoint. Many other people have others. And so, you have indoctrinated your child as much as anyone else. And, just like everyone else, you indoctrinated your children with the values you believe to be important. Other people have other values.
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