Indoctrination

A crucial part of the definition of indoctrination is as follows:

[Indoctrination] is often distinguished from education by the fact that the indoctrinated person is expected not to question or critically examine the doctrine they have learned.

(see Wikipedia page on indoctrination, which references the work of Wilson, 1964.)

If a religious teacher or parent were intent on indoctrinating a child, how could she go about it? 

Here are some methods that readily come to mind:
  1. Start early, before the child can even speak.
  2. Persistently teach the desired doctrine over a long period of time, preferably years.
  3. Demonize alternative views and/or insulate the child from them.
  4. Teach the child that he is not capable of making decisions about beliefs for himself.
  5. Make the child believe that he owes it to you to uphold your worldview. Make him believe he has a debt to pay. In short, use guilt.
  6. Discourage doubt by characterizing it as a weakness.
  7. Immerse the child in a social environment composed only of people with the same beliefs.
Here are things that would not work:
  1. Encourage the child to be naturally skeptical (not cynical).
  2. Teach the child how to assess claims critically.
  3. Educate the child in an impartial manner about alternative beliefs.
  4. Assure the child that his beliefs are his to choose, and that he doesn’t owe it to anyone to believe as they do.
  5. Encourage the child to mix socially with people from a diverse range of religious and cultural backgrounds.
Given the above lists, which of the following scenarios would be considered an example of indoctrination?

Scenario 1

A child is taken to church to be baptized when she is only a few months old. She is put in the church nursery every week while her parents attend services. In the nursery, religious songs are sung and stories told.

When the child is five or six; she is taken to Sunday School where a teacher talks about stories from the Bible (all suitably censored for children of course). The children are told how much God loves them, and how they need to do what God asks them to do.

At home, the parents reinforce what the child learns in Sunday School. They tell her that she must try not to disappoint God.

They make no effort to introduce her to alternative faiths because they believe those faiths to be false. As the child grows older, she is encouraged to participate in church services (helping out with the music, scripture readings, etc.) and she is signed up to confirmation classes which will require her to demonstrate her knowledge of, and commitment to, the faith.

She is also encouraged to attend youth groups and Bible studies.

Scenario 2

A child is not baptized or taken to church during her first few years of life. When she is old enough to grasp the concept of God and religion, her parents tell her about the main religious beliefs in the world. They tell her that she doesn’t have to decide immediately which belief system, if any, to adopt. Instead, she is encouraged to learn more about the available options and their various pros and cons.

Her parents want her to have a good grasp of what science has discovered about the world, and they want her to learn to think critically. So, when the child is old enough, her parents send her to Camp Quest*, which encourages rational and skeptical thought. It’s a one-off event that lasts three or four weeks.

—–

The answer should be rip-roaring obvious: Scenario 1 contains many aspects of indoctrination – long-term reinforcement of one perspective, intolerance of alternatives, suppression of doubt and questioning, insulation of social experience.

Scenario 2 is almost the polar opposite – a focus on good thinking skills rather than a specific set of beliefs, the encouragement of doubt and skepticism, and exposure to a range of ideas and beliefs.

I think it’s clear from the above synopsis that religions are champions of indoctrination. (The fact that so many wars and other violent conflicts have a religious component confirms this: if religions were characterized by tolerance, they would dampen conflict, not stoke it. Right now, religious conflict persists in Nigeria, Iraq, Israel, Palestine, Sudan, Egypt and, sadly, Ireland [rioting between Catholics and Protestants has spring up again in just the last few days]).

Finally, a quick word on Camp Quest, which I included in Scenario 2 deliberately. Not surprisingly, Camp Quest has met with hysterical reactions from some Christians, who see it as indoctrination by the evil, truth-distorting atheists. Yet the aim of Camp Quest is diametrically opposed to indoctrination. Instead, it’s aim is to equip young people with two things (1): a basic knowledge of important scientific discoveries (for which a natural setting is ideally suited) and (2) the cognitive tools that everyone needs in order to properly assess and compare factual and ethical claims. These are the tools we all use every day, for even the most mundane choices (will that moisturizer really make me look five years younger? Which washing machine should I get?).

I suspect that what religious people really fear about Camp Quest is not that it will indoctrinate young people directly into atheism, but that it will get young people thinking. It will get them questioning and probing. And this is a potentially devastating threat to religious belief, which thrives on authority and tradition.

Indoctrination is religion’s best shot at perpetuating itself: it cannot rely on its arguments and evidence alone, because these are too weak. No wonder Christians get upset when they perceive their grip on young people being loosened by organizations like Camp Quest.

—–
* Here, incidentally, is the stated purpose of Camp Quest:

Encourage critical thinking in young people to enable them to draw their own conclusions.

Promote respect for others with different viewpoints, values, and beliefs.

Provide a safe and fun environment for personal and social development.

Promote a sense of belonging to a wider community among campers and staff.

Compare the above to the stated purposes of typical Christian summer camps, selected at random from a web search (there are thousands of them):

Pine Cove:

Pine Cove exists to be used by God to transform the lives of people for His purposes and His glory!

Gold Coast Christian Camp:

We exist to connect youth and adults to their creator and Redeemer through outdoor based programs.

Ridgecrest Camp:

Above all, we thrive on a love for Jesus Christ that permeates everything we do.

Dickey Lake Bible Camp:

Dickey Lake Bible Camp and Conference Center has been, and is today, a very effective mission reaching people for Jesus Christ.

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37 Responses to Indoctrination

  1. Sabio Lantz says:

    Encouraging questioning and doubt is the key.
    However, emersion in a culture of similar beliefs, teaching the weaknesses of those who you disagree with and encouraging an identity as a __________ (Democrat, American, Stealers Fan, Atheist, Christian, Muslim, Hunter ….) is all part of another common use of the word “indoctrination”.

    People use the word differently — so you have to agree on a definition before you try to accuse each other of it. It is obviously a pejorative, slandering, political word — not meant to facilitate dialogue.

  2. Sabio Lantz says:

    Sorry, don’t remember if I pressed “follow”

  3. Keith says:

    Sabio:

    I agree completely. I don’t mean to imply that religion is the only source of indoctrination (and note that I’ve removed mention of religion in my list of indoctrination criteria).

  4. Sabio Lantz says:

    But stil, this is kind of weird.

    Because “indoctrination” is an accusatory word for you.
    Whatever the definition becomes, you want it to apply to Christians and not Atheists.

    It does not seem like you are seeking understanding, but seeing demonizing.

    If you think Christians are doing something uniquely wrong with children, you should be specific.

    For example, in you home-made definition, you want indoctrination should “start early, before the child can even speak.”

    But we all know uses of the word when used on older children and adults.

    Anyway, maybe you see what I mean.

  5. Sabio Lantz says:

    By the way, this NGRAM data may help you to see something about the word “indoctrination”:
    http://books.google.com/ngrams/graph?content=indoctrination&year_start=1800&year_end=2000&corpus=0&smoothing=3

    Add the word “communism”, maybe they developed together.
    Anyway, since it is a primarily pejorative word, arguing about who gets labelled with it is a grand waste of time — in my opinion.

  6. Keith says:

    Sabio

    I’m not trying to make my definition of the word “indoctrination” fit only religious examples. I think they are sufficiently broad. I also don’t think that every item on my list has to be present in order for something to be considered indoctrination.

    I do, however, see indoctrination as something negative, on that you are correct.

    And I’d be more than willing to acknowledge (and condemn) examples of atheist indoctrination if I could actually find them.

    Warrioress is on a multiple-post mission to demonstrate the existence of atheist indoctrination and she has yet to come up with anything. She has certainly shown that some atheists like to evangelize, and that some atheists decry Christian indoctrination (no surprise there), but she hasn’t given even a single example of a family indoctrinating their children into atheism, let alone of a widespread practice of indoctrination among atheists. Even worse, she hasn’t even attempted to define indoctrination in the first place.

  7. Keith says:

    Sabio

    I am going to put together a post listing non-religious examples of indoctrination, if I can find them.

  8. Sabio Lantz says:

    Again, since indoctrination is what someone always accuse the enemy of, the world is rarely productive but instead jingoist rhetoric.

    So, instead, I would suggest a more focused analysis.
    For instance:

    Tell us specific things you think some Christians do to their kids that they should not do. Then tell us if you think any Atheists do the same or not.

    Since indoctrination is also used for adults, maybe you should stick to discussing the traits of what you consider “adult indoctrination” to keep the conversation more simple. That would take out the complication of mixing “education” and “child rearing” into this pejorative attack.

  9. L.Long says:

    OK Sabio…
    Xtain…Jesus loves you and will care for for you and all you must do is believe. and part of that is gays are disgusting people, atheists are of satan, women are to follow orders, masturbation hurts jesus and makes you go blind, and being left handed is satanic, yada yada yada…..AND DO NOT QUESTION ANYTHING! The buyBull says so, so do it.

    Atheists…. any that I know don’t do any of that schite. I taught my kids and am teaching my G’Kids to think and question EVERYTHING and everyone including me.

    And saying religion uses indoctrination, it is more proper to say dogmas (whether xtian, islamic, communistic, or any form) use indoctrination because thinking is an enemy to any dogma. Also I put communism in the list but I do not mean it in the pure form but rather the russian or chinese version of the word which is really a dogmatic totalitarian dictatorship.

  10. Keith says:

    Sabio:

    “Tell us specific things you think some Christians do to their kids that they should not do. Then tell us if you think any Atheists do the same or not.”

    Well, some of those things were touched on in Scenario 1 of my post. For instance, the way Sunday School is taught is, in my view, indoctrination: it is a strongly biased exercise intended to instill obedience to one particular worldview at the expense of all others.

    “Since indoctrination is also used for adults, maybe you should stick to discussing the traits of what you consider “adult indoctrination” to keep the conversation more simple. That would take out the complication of mixing “education” and “child rearing” into this pejorative attack.”

    Actually, I think that the conservation is simpler if age is left out of it completely, so I’m more inclined to take references to children out of my criteria, than exchange these with references to adults.

    That said, I don’t think one can escape the conclusion that indoctrination is EASIER to do with children than adults. The methods may be the same, but the likelihood of success is greater.

    • Sabio Lantz says:

      Ooops, now these conversations are spread over 2 posts – that is awkward.

      (1) Great, keep age out. That was my preference.
      (2) I still think the using the word “indoctrination” is totally unproductive, but you are bent on defending its usefulness. So I will point out why in your example.

      You said:

      the way Sunday School is taught, is in my view indoctrination, it is a strongly biased exercise intended to instill obedience to one particular worldview at the expense of all others

      So, what?
      When we teach science research, I teach that method at the expense of others. When I teach medicine, I teach it at the expense of faith healing.
      I am strongly biased.
      It is a strongly biased exercise.

      Can you see, you need a lot more work on definitions. Again, I suggest abandoning “Indoctrination” but you seem bent on defending it as a pejorative and I am not sure why?

      PS: I ignored L.Long’s comment above. I couldn’t figure out what he was saying or too whom. All that I could tell was it was a rant.

      • Sabio,
        Teaching science is very different than teaching Sunday school. When you teach science, you may tell your students that your curriculum is the current prevalent view in your field, which may change in some respects based on evidence. You don’t require of them not to question what you teach but encourage them to ask questions and figure it out on their own. You may even tell them about rival theories if they had a significant influence on thoughts about the field. This is emphatically not the same as is the case with religious indoctrination.

  11. Sabio Lantz says:

    PS – I have taught graduate level research. Just to let you know my background. One of my missions is to get grad students to see behind “science” and see how people will use its methods and jargon to trick you. I am in medicine, so I want practitioners to be ready to see through the bullshit of pharmaceuticals and medical devices and herbs and treatment shams which are presented with studies, data and statistics — all the covering of science. I want them not to be impressed just because something is published in Nature or JAMA.

    Again, we agree that anything that punishes questioning is not science. But in some settings, even questioning is unproductive. Everything is complex.

  12. Keith says:

    Sabio:

    I think the critical point is that when you teach with a strong bias toward science, you do not need to discourage students from questioning your bias, because the evidence is on your side, and there for any student to examine at her leisure.

    Indeed, you could even INVITE students to determine for themselves whether your bias toward science is warranted. Such an invitation is anathema when it comes to “indoctrination” as I’ve defined it.

    Regarding the word itself, I use it because it seems the most suitable for the phenomenon I wish to discuss. Do you have better suggestions? At the beginning of the above post I suggest “brainwashing” but that seems a little over the top to me.

    Perhaps some sort of qualifier next to the word “indoctrination” would work. Exclusivist indoctrination? Coercive indoctrination?

    Finally, I agree with the fact that you cannot allow a never-ending barrage of questions when teaching science, because there is so much material to cover, and students must generally take your word for it. Nonetheless, this is a practical, rather than a principled limitation, and I’m sure you’d always encourage students to pursue niggling questions in their own time.

  13. Keith says:

    … also, while you might refuse to take too many questions from your students, you would never characterize the mere act of question-asking as a negative thing, as a sign of weakness. It’s this latter approach that I include in my criteria, not the refusal of the “indoctrinator” to answer questions.

  14. Sabio Lantz says:

    Actually, I rewarded questioning. Many faculty detested it. I even told students that a paper which counters what they feel is my opinion on a topic will usually do better than one which kisses up to my opinions. Of course, I always made it very difficult for them to even guess my opinion on controversial topics. I was there to confuse them so they could learn to think for themselves and learn the limitation of knowledge and thinking.

  15. “Warrioress is on a multiple-post mission to demonstrate the existence of atheist indoctrination and she has yet to come up with anything. She has certainly shown that some atheists like to evangelize, and that some atheists decry Christian indoctrination (no surprise there), but she hasn’t given even a single example of a family indoctrinating their children into atheism, let alone of a widespread practice of indoctrination among atheists. Even worse, she hasn’t even attempted to define indoctrination in the first place.”

    Ahem, Keith, this is so not true. You cannot say that the blasphemy challenge is not an attempt to indoctrinate. And in response to your comment on my blog, I listed several definitions of “indoctrination.” The Rational Response Squad is one example of militant atheists out to indoctrinate every young person that they can reel in on You Tube. It was not a “joke”. Frankly, calling that a joke is your way of minimizing the truth.

  16. Keith says:

    Warrioress:

    I’m not sure that either the Blasphemy Challenge nor any YouTube video has any power to indoctrinate someone. Once again, this is more like evangelism than indoctrination.

    The thing is, the web is so packed with alternative and conflicting views. The person who watches the Rational Response Squad video might, in the next ten minutes, end up watching a video that refutes the Rational Response Squad’s video.

    In other words, with access to the web, it’s almost impossible to indoctrinate someone, because you don’t have control over the content they consume. Under these conditions is it impossible to instill one worldview into someone at the expense of others.

    In fact, this is why the web is do dangerous for religion. A Christian family has little hope of indoctrinating its children if the children can read about alternative worldviews, and even arguments against Christianity, at the click of a mouse. This is ultimately why so many Christians see the web as something evil, because it takes away their power to indoctrinate their kids – to “keep them pure”.

  17. Sabio Lantz says:

    You see, this is why the word “indoctrination” is not getting us anywhere. Well, if you both agreed on a definition progress might be made but that has not happened, nor do I think it is possible.

    Another factor confusing the conversation is that the Warrioress has several objectives and they aren’t kept clearly separate:

    (1) Atheist indoctrinate their children too (I agree)
    (2) The Blashphemy challenge is indoctrination — well, it depends on the definition of the word, and you guys haven’t agreed. But I think her real point is #3.
    (3) The Blasphemy challenge was a horrible, detestable thing.

    Well here is the irony: I think Warrioress is right to accuse Keith that Atheists also indoctrinate in the broad sense of the word. I think Keith is right to tell Warrioress that Christians do exactly what The Blasphemy Challenge does.

    Bottom line: you are both right in calling each other hypocrits! Oooops, did I say that?
    🙂

    • Keith says:

      But Sabio, you are using your own conception of the word “indoctrination” here, not mine. Yes, on your conception of the word “indoctrination”, both atheists and Christians indoctrinate their children to some extent.

      But on the definition of coercive indoctrination, a term I’ll use henceforth to describe what my list of criteria are aiming at, the picture is very different. Many (not all) religious parents use coercive indoctrination, while it’s not at all clear that many atheist parents use this technique. The reason is obvious: atheists hold the idea of critical thinking and self-determination to be paramount, whereas many religious people are more concerned about instilling obedience and respect for authority in their children.

      And for the record, I don’t particular like the Blasphemy Challenge – it doesn’t seem at all productive.

      • Sabio Lantz says:

        PS: Before responding, have I pestered you about getting rid of heirarchy too? Sorry, I forgot.
        _________

        So I made a suggestion on the other post:

        Give us a new post with your new definition for “Coercive Indoctrination of Children Criteria”.

        Looking again at this definition, you don’t tell us how many you must have to qualify. Thus my previous suggestion of a syndrome method of defining.

        But I will go through your 7 point definition here:

        So, here is my reply here: I will go through your 7 point definition here:

        #1 we should always start early. That has nothing to do with coercion

        #2 we should be persistent — again, nothing to do with inappropriate coercion

        #3 demonize alternative views — now you have to define “demonize” since it too is politicially loaded. I criticize alternative views and some may call it “demonize”. You have another definition issue.

        #4 Children aren’t able to make decisions by themselves — I constantly have to remind them to check in with us. My job is to get them to be independent — after I indoctrinate them.

        #5 I don’t do this, but if your children love you and are in a good home, they almost always do feel that. Some families may guilt kids about marrying outside of Italian or Chinese families etc — yeah guilt is coercive. But guilt works so I see why we slip into it.

        #6 I agree — discouraging doubt is bad. But that is the only point I agree with. And certainly not all Christians do that.

        #7 I do this all the time. Watching a child’s peers is important. I don’t let them hang with drug abusers, violent families, sexually premissive families, families that allow kids to play video games all days, families that value money over people ….
        Parent’s influence in their kids is only 20% while 80% is peers, so trying to set up good peers is important.
        I think you point is that the peers you would allow and others will allow are different. So you have to discuss THAT, not just controlling peers.

        So in my view, your “definition” is totally insufficient except for maybe 1 point and that needs polishing.

        If you are bent on protecting your attack word, I think you need a better definition. THEN, you need agreement. Because words are tacit agreements/contracts. between speakers to communication. Without agreement, best to change tactics.

  18. @ Keith

    “In fact, this is why the web is do dangerous for religion. A Christian family has little hope of indoctrinating its children if the children can read about alternative worldviews, and even arguments against Christianity, at the click of a mouse. This is ultimately why so many Christians see the web as something evil, because it takes away their power to indoctrinate their kids – to “keep them pure”.”

    Please provide proof that Christian parents see the web as more dangerous than other parents see the web. lol…that is absurd. My child surfs the web probably more than I do. I know of no Christians who don’t have a computer, who don’t allow their children access, supervised. Certainly there are those who only send their kids to private Christian school, or who homeschool, but these are the minority rather than the majority.

  19. @Sabio

    Keith will not agree, ever. He cannot accept that he is following a “lifestyle” that is as evangelistic and fundamentalist as the most fundie of Christians, through defense of these disgusting tactics the militant atheists are using to (I’ll be nice…) PERSUADE the youth of America into their ranks.

    And yes, I agree that those who don’t see Christianity as being indoctrinating are probably deluding themselves because it is in particular aspects, so I don’t see myself as a hypocritical. Keith isn’t going to agree, however, so we’ll all him his hypocrisy until he comes to his senses down the road. 😉

    I’m a fairly patient lady, so I’ll wait.

    • Keith says:

      Warrioress:

      You can’t seriously jump from telling me about atheist flyers, Blasphemy Challenges, and Camp Quest to accusing ME of doing these things.

      How exactly is my own personal lifestyle evangelistic or fundamentalist, when you know absolutely nothing about it? Now *I’m* waiting 🙂

  20. Sabio Lantz says:

    @ the warrioress
    I may disagree with Keith’s tact in the argument, but he seems fairly calm and patient — well, with me, at least. Again, I think the treatment of doubt in children is an interesting conversation. I am sure there are a huge variety of ways Christians handle this.

    One of the main themes of my blog is accusing atheists of both overgeneralizing about both religion and Christianity. It is hard not to over-generalize. Do you ever feel you overgeneralize about Atheists?

  21. Sabio Lantz says:

    Hey Keith,
    Was I ever in your blogroll? Ever think about putting the Warrioress there?

  22. Keith:

    “Warrioress:

    You can’t seriously jump from telling me about atheist flyers, Blasphemy Challenges, and Camp Quest to accusing ME of doing these things.

    How exactly is my own personal lifestyle evangelistic or fundamentalist, when you know absolutely nothing about it? Now *I’m* waiting”

    Keith, your blog itself is evangelistic toward the atheist world view. You defend those who are doing the same and will not attempt a lack of bias toward those who are doing many of the same things in the same ways that you claim are indoctrination when engaged in by Christians. You present no links or proof of the indoctrination you claim is coming from Christians/the religious.

    You, too, insult the religious regularly on your blog and do not encourage respect for our world view or beliefs. You spend the majority of your posts attempting to convert others to your pov/atheism. Need I continue? I think not.

    • Keith says:

      Warrioress:

      Your initial accusation involved the evangelical nature of my LIFESTYLE, not my blog. The two are not the same. You know nothing about my lifestyle, and I kindly ask that you refrain from making unsubstantiated claims about it.

      (If you want to comment on my lifestyle, you’d have to come and live with me for a couple of weeks, and then make up your mind, but somehow I don’t think my wife would be too happy about that 🙂

      I’d also like to clear up a couple of misunderstandings in your last post:

      1. I make no attempt to convert people on my blog. I am utterly uninterested in converting people. My aim is simply to present arguments in favor of atheism, and against theism, and my readers can do with those arguments what they will.

      2. I know that I occasionally say pejorative things about religion, but that is not equivalent to evangelism for atheism.

      3. I want to make it absolutely clear that I do not defend people who use evangelistic techniques like handing out tracts, stopping people to talk in the streets, or anything else designed to interrupt people as they go about their everyday business. That’s what’s nice about a blog: it’s not out there in people’s faces. If they stumble upon it while web surfing, they can look at it at their leisure. If they don’t like it, they can move on.

      Finally, let me address the question of whether I actually evangelize on this blog. Most of the dictionaries out there define evangelism exclusively in terms of Christianity, which of course excludes me immediately. The one non-religious definition I can find is as follows:

      “To advocate a cause with the object of making converts”

      Since I’ve already stated that I have no intent of making converts, I cannot be said to be evangelizing, by the above definition.

      If you want to strip down the definition to mean “advocate a cause”, then yes, I evangelize in that sense, but in that sense only, and only through this blog.

      • Keith,

        Er.. it is easy to draw assumptions/conclusions about your personal lifestyle via what is presented here on the blog, so I apologize for doing so; it is inappropriate and no, I have little desire to irritate your wife. 😉

        Now, as far as you evangelizing on your blog, yes, I think that is the valid description for it. You don’t see it this way because it has only been defined by Christians doing it up to now. Again, give them time! Atheists are fairly new to all of this, are they not? Allow society to catch up and call this what it is.

        Atheists have only just become exceedingly vocal within the last several years. Now, however, they are as fervent as the most gun-ho of believers, and everywhere we turn, there’s yet another atheist blog that is repeating most of what Richard Dawkins and the rest of the Horsemen drilled into us through their books.

        You definitely spend many posts attempting to persuade people into how you view the world, religiously-speaking. You do advocate for the atheist view, and you do denigrate religion.

        You really cannot claim that you do not evangelize, imo, just because there is no evangelistic definition available that includes atheists thus far. I think it’s important that atheists recognize that they are becoming and have become evangelical and fundamentalist in their increasing fervor to persuade others that their way of looking at the world and spirituality is right.

      • Sabio Lantz says:

        @ The Warrioress,

        You do realize that Atheists have been around for millenium, right. According to Wiki, we have Atheists from at least the sixth or fith century BCE, though the term is recent( 1700s, I think). For instance, I have studied atheists in ancient India (Cārvāka) from that period, and, for example, you know of Democritus among ancient Greeks.

        Most children will study some of the history of Christianity but few schools will blatantly teach the history of FreeThought (non-theistic philosophy) — or however else we should describe it.

        And it is only recently that it has become more and more safe for Atheists to speak out about their beliefs without consequences — even on my blog, I must (due to my profession), not write using my real name for it could impact my livelihood. Now in some countries, the tables are turned and being Christian is deadly dangerous just as in some Atheist is a label that could spell doom for some.

        I would imagine this is all well-known by you, but I am using it to set up my point.

        You said,

        Atheists have only just become exceedingly vocal within the last several years.

        Well, for one, that is because of the hard work of those prior that it actually became safer to speak out. And I am thankful to them because it is now safer for my children to let known their thoughts while it has always been safe for all their friends — but still, as you know, my children get treated poorly.

        Second, more speaking out as some Christians try to kill science initiatives, individual rights and stir international politics. I don’t want to side track into these issues, but as I am sure you agree– all voices need to be free to speak out.

        I agree there are now some very vocal, feverent atheists and I am thankful. Sure I may not always agree with all their thoughts and all their styles, and I will criticize when I don’t, but that they are able to speak and do so, I applaud them. I encourage the same of any belief. Freedom from persecution can only be tested by speaking out.

        So I think we agree, but I just wanted to talk about the above. (thanx for the space, Keith)

  23. Sabio:

    “@ the warrioress
    I may disagree with Keith’s tact in the argument, but he seems fairly calm and patient — well, with me, at least. Again, I think the treatment of doubt in children is an interesting conversation. I am sure there are a huge variety of ways Christians handle this.

    One of the main themes of my blog is accusing atheists of both overgeneralizing about both religion and Christianity. It is hard not to over-generalize. Do you ever feel you overgeneralize about Atheists?”

    I really try not to, but I admit I can get frustrated with the blatant hypocrisy I continue to see about exactly what we’ve all been arguing. I know I’m probably guilty of overgeneralizing, but if the atheist defends the more miltant of their belief system, it seems to me that they are guilty of joining the ranks of the same. I believe atheists should call out the more militant among them and not merely turn a blind eye and deaf ear to their fundie tactics. Atheists want the more moderate of Christians to stop encouraging the fanatical among us, and we want the same from them.

  24. Sabio Lantz says:

    @ the warrioress,

    I agree that it is very important for Atheists to criticize Atheists as Christians to criticize Christians. On many sites I see atheists always defending atheists and not helping Christians in the arguments. Likewise, many Christian sites are full of ganging up crowds of Christians criticizing the visiting Atheist even with the OP is really mistaken.

    This is tribal thinking and it happens on both sides. People don’t want to be disliked by people on their own team. But if we really value truth, honesty, openness and such, we could let the approval of the crowd fade as an influence in our lives.

    I’d made a suggestion in rhetoric. To me “militant Muslims” are Muslims who will destroy lives or property to make their points. “militant Christians” are only those who kill abortion doctors, bomb clinics, kill gays or incite others to do the same. The vast majority of Christians aren’t militant. An uncomfortably large number of Muslims are. We want to reserve that term to mean something important. Militant movements are deadly.

    There have been militant Atheists — communist atheists that wanted to kill religionists — it still happens in Tibet as Chinese atheists try to squash Buddhism. But I think your use of the word is a hyperbole that incredibly damages your credibility when used in rhetoric. I realize it is convenient rhetoric to stir up believers, but it is inaccurate and beneath someone who cares for truth. — Not to mention, in dialogues like this it will almost certainly lead to completely unproductive exchanges.

    Just my observation.

  25. Sabio Lantz says:

    @ Warrioress,
    Unfortunately, Keith uses comment hierarchy too so my comment which analyses his apparent definition is lost up above. But I think his definition fails. You may wish to scroll up to find my comment. I am still awaiting his reply.

    I actually have good faith in Keith — I truly think he is trying. I can tell he is frustrated with me. I could be wrong, but I am trying to be honest. Perhaps he will bring more clarity for me.

  26. Sabio,

    I have good faith in Keith too, though he has frustrated me a bit this time around. 😉

    And yes, I will reconsider the use of the word “militant” in my rhetoric. Perhaps “fanatical?” I’m not sure how to adequately describe the more fervent atheist. I’ve certainly been called fundamentalist and evangelical, and I believe these fit because of my beliefs. Based upon what these words actually mean, I think they would fit many atheists too, though I know atheists don’t appreciate their use pejoratively anymore than we do. heh.

    Anyway, your point is well taken, Sabio.

  27. Sabio Lantz says:

    @ the warrioress,
    Thanx for considering. It is hard to use pejorative words accurately, but I know the temptation. If you label any atheists as “fanatical” you must be ready for the definition to be used against Christians. I wouldn’t want door-to-door evangelizer’s call “fanatics”, for instance. “Pain-in-the-butt” maybe! 🙂

    Yes, fundamentalist and evangelical could fit with some Atheists, I guess. It depends on definitions of course — they certainly aren’t as pejorative and don’t exaggerate as much as “militant” or “fanatical”.

    A list of terms would be fun to explore in a post: devote, fervent, diligent, outgoing, confrontative, outspoken, soapboxing, persistent, proselytizing, activist ….

    It would be fun to challenge your readers to come up with terms that, as a Christian they would feel are good terms for BOTH some Christians and SOME Atheists. It may make a good point to strengthen civil, productive dialogue.

    BTW, I slip in my dialogue all the time. And I am not saying that rough dialogue is not appropriate often. When rights are suppressed or threatened, strong speech is often useful — for both sides.

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