Breaking children’s spirits in God’s name

“To Train Up a Child” is the revealing title of an authoritarian child-rearing manual, written by a right-wing evangelical pastor … Continued

To Train Up a Child” is the revealing title of an authoritarian child-rearing manual, written by a right-wing evangelical pastor and his wife, that has been found in the homes of at least three families implicated in horrific cases of homicide by child abuse. The book, by Michael Pearl, pastor of the Church at Cane Creek in Pleasantville, Tenn., and his wife Debi, is particularly popular among Christian home-schoolers. Just think of this as the anti-Dr. Spock manual. It begins by advocating taps with switches to teach six-month-old babies not to roll off their blankets and progresses to recommendations for the use of a quarter-inch thick flexible plumbing line to strike older children on the arms, legs or back.

Pearl proudly asserts that his self-published book (sold on Amazon and other mainstream commercial Web sites) is based on “the same principles the Amish use to train their stubborn mules.” The child-rearing suggestions in the book are of course grounded in Proverbs 29:15, “The rod and reproof give wisdom; but a child left to himself bringeth his mother shame.” This is yet another chapter in the long history of association between rigid forms of religion and corporal punishment of children.

By “corporal punishment,” I do not mean occasional spanking but a systematic effort to break a child’s will by repeated imposition of increasingly severe physical discipline. The headline over a recent account of the dispute in The New York Times, “Preaching Virtue of Spanking, Even As Deaths Fuel Debate,” is misleading. Spanking is far too mild a term for what is at issue here.

Let me say, for the record, that this is not a call for legal censorship of those who believe that parents have not only the right but the duty to use their superior physical strength to show their children who’s the boss, as commanded by the Big Boss Upstairs. The Pearls do not urge that parents beat their children to death. But their philosophy, based on their religious precept that parents stand in the place of the Lord in relation to their children (as husbands do in relation to their wives) is an inspiration to perverted parents who cannot control the dark urges encouraged by religious sanctification of corporal punishment. The belief that children are basically wild, sinful animals who need to be “broken” into obedience through fear was once the norm throughout Christendom.

The most recent terrible case of the Pearls’ book being found in a so-called home of parents charged with abuse involves Larry and Carri Williams of Sedro-Wooley, Wash. They were already homeschooling their own six children when they adopted a girl and boy from Ethiopia in 2008. The Ethiopian children were apparently seen as recalcitrant and in need of extra discipline. The Williams’s 13-year-old adopted daughter, Hana, died on the day she was beaten with the plastic plumbing tool recommended in the Pearls’ book.

According to a report by the Skagit County Sheriff, “Carri and Larry Williams starved Hana for days, put her in a locked closet, shower room and forced her to sleep outside in the barn in the cold. She wasn’t allowed to use the bathroom in the house, instead a porta-potty behind the barn. In addition, Hana was struck daily with a plumbing tool, a tube with a round ball in the end.”

The same type of handy-dandy tube, which, Pearl boasts, “can be rolled up in your pocket,” was used on Lydia Schatz, 7, who was adopted from Liberia and killed in Paradise, Calif. In 2010. The Schatzes apparently disregarded the Pearls’ admonition against extended lashing and whipped Lydia for hours while taking time out for prayer.

In another case of parents who thought highly of the Pearls’ disciplinary methods, Lynn Paddock of Johnson County, NC, was convicted of first-degree murder after her four-year-old son suffocated while being wrapped in a tight blanket. His siblings said they too had been beaten regularly with the plumbing tube. The Paddocks had adopted six American children, many with emotional problems.

There are actually two common themes in these stories: religious fanaticism as a rationale for extreme corporal punishment of children and criminally lax adoption standards, particularly regarding children from poor countries and older children, under which any large, ostensibly Christian family is seen as a good family. One wonders whether the children of these fanatics were adopted precisely because they came from poor, vulnerable sectors of American society or from poor countries. What better way to acquire your personal punching bag in the name of the Lord?

It should, of course, be noted that not all conservative Christian parents embrace the Pearls’ teachings. Some have started a petition asking mainstream sellers like Amazon not to stock “To Train Up a Child.” Crystal Lutton, who runs Grace-Based Discipline, a Christian blog that opposes corporal punishment said the danger of such teachings is that “if you don’t get results, the only thing to do is punish harder and harder.”

However, belief in harsh discipline for children has long been linked to the most retrograde forms of religion. Beginning in the late 18th century, freethinkers, secularists and various liberal religious denominations began to oppose corporal punishment of children. Robert Ingersoll, the leading freethought spokesman in the last quarter of the nineteenth century, always pointed out in his speeches, which were meant to appeal to religious reformers as well as agnostics and atheists, that Jesus preached the opposite. “Do you know,” he asked in his famous lecture, On the Liberty of Man, Woman and Child, “that I have seen some people who acted as though they thought when the Savior said, `Suffer the little children to come unto me, for of such is the kingdom of heaven,’ he had a rawhide under his mantle, and made the remark simply to get the children within striking distance?”

Ingersoll’s argument against corporal punishment within the family—that it degraded the parent as much as the child—paralleled his argument against capital punishment, which he and other freethinkers consider a form of state-sanctioned violence that coarsened an entire society and thus did more damage to the public than to criminals.

Approval of spanking is much higher in the United States than in the more secular countries of Europe, and it is higher still in regions of the U.S. with a strong fundamentalist presence. Among Southerners, according to a recent ABC News poll, 62 percent of parents spank their children. Only 41 percent do so in the rest of the country. Among college-educated parents, only 38 percent spank but among less educated Americans, 55 percent do.

But again, the issue is not spanking per se. I daresay that many more parents have occasionally spanked their children than are willing to admit to the practice and that few children emerge permanently damaged by the odd spanking of an imperfect, frustrated mother or father having a bad day. What is so horrific about the historical religious justification for corporal punishment, embodied by the Pearls’ awful instructions, is that it is based on the idea that children are nothing more than the property of their parents, who derive their power from an angry and vengeful deity.

In this view, only the parent’s will can and must prevail. In The New York Times, Pearl is quoted as saying that if a verbal warning does not suffice, “you have the seeds of self-destruction.” Ah, yes. Six-month-old babies will surely destroy themselves if they start rolling off their blankets without being “trained up” by switches. Let a baby venture beyond a blanket and where does it end? It can only end with a thinking, free-spirited human being who refuses to be deprived of the fruit of the tree of knowledge. That is a result fundamentalist religion cannot tolerate.

Susan Jacoby
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  • jmetzger2

    Susan, excellent article. Through my own experiences and observations parents who use violence against their children do so as an outlet for their own anger and frustration. This cannot be good. Pain is a universal stimuli, but not one that intelligent beings should require as an agent of change.
    Remember the old 80’s Nancy Regan add? “I learned it by watching you!” Take this to heart parents.

  • Carstonio

    Once again Jacoby confuses religion with authoritarianism. She rightly condemns the idea that children are parental property, and notes that spanking is far more common among fundamentalists. But she doesn’t explain why religious justifications for it are worse than secular ones. Fundamentalism is merely a subset of authoritarianism.

  • Carstonio

    Once again Jacoby confuses religion with authoritarianism. She rightly condemns the idea that children are parental property, and notes that spanking is far more common among fundamentalists. But she doesn’t explain why religious justifications for it are worse than secular ones. Fundamentalism is merely a subset of authoritarianism.

  • TopTurtle

    Why should Jacoby have to explain why religious justifications are worse than secular ones? Why can’t she just write an article explaining why the religious ones are bad, particularly in light of the prevelance of the religious justifications? It’s not as if Jacoby argues that only religiously motivated excessive punishment is bad.

  • Carstonio

    My point was that Jacoby seems too quick to condemn religion in general. Being an atheist doesn’t automatically mean believing that religion is bad.

  • TopTurtle

    Pointing out a time when religion isn’t saying that religion is always bad.

  • TopTurtle

    Sorry, meant to say:

    “Pointing out a time when religion is bad isn’t saying that religion is always bad.”

  • globalone

    So let me get this straight….

    You wrote: “Thank you for this excellent article”

    Susan wrote: ” It can only end with a thinking, free-spirited human being who refuses to be deprived of the fruit of the tree of knowledge.”

    You wrote: “I am the person who has initiated a petition to ask Amazon not to stock these books.”

    How do you reconcile that? Does knowledge only exist in the books that YOU decide on? Or is your venom saved strictly for those with a Christian theme?

  • WmarkW

    Thank you for chiming in, and good luck with your drive.

    Unfortunately, your status as not a Biblical Christian is going to give you a lot less cred with that target group.

  • Uhospaghetto

    Why do you repeat yourself?


    Agree that being an atheist doesn’t automatically mean believing that religion is bad. But still religion is bad. It cannot be good to make some good actions based in something not proved that also bring a bunch of bad things to humanity. Abrahamic religions violate the small children rights by teaching (brain washing?) them to believe in something without plausible evidence when a child is not ready to decide for him/herself.

  • Carstonio

    I wasn’t sure if my post went through the first time, so I clicked Refresh to see if it showed up, and it ended up submitting my post again.

  • persiflage

    Making money by way of ideas, personal values, and beliefs probably has more redeeming social value than, say, seven figure incomes paid out to professional atheletes – which is a vast waste of both spectator time and financial resources in my opinion. And that’s only one profitable endeavor with questionabel social value.

    In the end, it’s a matter of selling intellectual property vs a particular kind of physical prowess. So which has more potential meaning and more staying power and how should the two be measured and compared?

    In the end, this redundant critique sounds like sour grapes to me…………..

  • persiflage

    Your point has some validity Mark. Corporal punishment of children can be equated with certain socio-economic and sub-cultural factors that may include ethnicity – but I’d guess that overall levels of educational achievement would be one of the most critical elements to consider. And this is directly related to Susan’s previous post.

    If you keep this up, you may be awarded your own icon ;^)

  • persiflage

    ‘Religion is authoritarianism’

    I think this is accurate in so far as prohibitions against questioning fundamental doctrines of the faith go. For example, without the core doctrine of the bodily resurrection Christianity would be meaningless for most – in fact, could not exist in it’s present form.

    The changeless elements in monotheism are typically based in the absolute and final authority of the divine.

  • Catken1

    “How do you reconcile that? Does knowledge only exist in the books that YOU decide on? Or is your venom saved strictly for those with a Christian theme?”

    Christians do not beat babies with switches. Those who do are not followers of Jesus of Nazareth, even if they claim to be.

    And there is a difference between “knowledge” and “promoting the vicious abuse of children.” Would it be anti-intellectual and “venomous” to protest Amazon’s carrying a book put out by NAMBLA advocating child rape? Why should child beating be favored? (Not just spankings, but regular, harsh beatings, which would be considered assault and battery if used on an adult.)

  • Catken1

    “But she doesn’t explain why religious justifications for it are worse than secular ones. ”

    How many books have appeared in recent years justifying child-beating in secular terms?
    I would bet that most people who use or advocate this type of assault and abuse are doing so for religious authoritarian reasons. Not that there aren’t atheist child-beaters, but atheists and secular humanists don’t tend to advocate child-beating as a philosophy or a positive good.

  • Secular1

    ccnl1, it is absolutely outrageous to impugn such despicable motives to the likes of Susan or Dr Silverman. Unlike the others in the above list, they do not derive their income through subterfuge. No one is asking anyone to purchase their books. Books of all the things that are purchased, are almost 100% done at purchaser’s volition, especially teh ones by Susan and Herb. Besides most likely all of Dr. Silverman’s income is probably from his position as a professor at his university/college. With respect to all others in your list these folks are nothing but parasites on the society much like fortune tellers and palmists. In fact they are as they tell the gullible of all the joys they would have if they part with their billfold for the sky daddy. Neither the above scoundrels nor the fortune tellers will stand behind their predictions. At least in case of the fortune tellers we can determine that they are telling lies at the end of the day, where as with these parasites their after life predictions do not have any expiration dates.

    Persiflage, taking issue with your athlete reference, again none of the spectators is forced to pay for their tickets to see the game. Besides do you really want the fat cat team owners who are the real moochers at the public trough be the sole beneficiaries of the ticket sales? They make the money of the players prowess. At least in the sports today the sharing of the pie is more even than in the industry at large. The owners of the teams are the most despicable of the socialists masquerading as capitalists. These robber barons bamboozle the city and state pols in buying them stadiums, arenas, etc, etc. These are the scoundrel capitalists who make no capital investment at all. You want them to make even more money than they are already robbing? No thanks.

    Besides one could make the same observation that intellectual prowess is not much different from physical prowess. Both are luck of teh genes but both need to be tended an

  • davidawitness

    Ms. Jacoby, how is it that the atheist like yourself can determine anything as evil? Who cares how someone teaches and trains human children? Why would it matter to an atheist? As an atheist, how is Jeffrey Dahmer more evil than St. Francis of Assisi? Or Hitler more evil than Winston Churchill? Or Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, FDR any better than Kim Il-Sung, Pol Pot, or Genghis Khan? How is any behavior any more or less evil than any other behavior? What is the source of your standard? What is the origin of your standard? You claim reason as the epitome, yet man after man, woman after woman claims their personal reason as definitive and they contradict each other endlessly. Have you ever studied Hitler’s speeches and writings? All based on organized, well-developed reasoning. Why is your reasoning more valid than his when evolution demonstrates that we are only “higher evolved” animals? Do your ethics evolve from apes and primitive man? How do you even have a sense of “right and wrong” and “evil”? With some evolved animals in the animal realm the fathers eat their young if the mother does not defend them. What would be wrong with that for human fathers, since each is just an evolved animal? Within the last 3 months, there are two news cases of parents under investigation or even arrested at the disappearance or death of their infant. If a mother wants to kill her baby for convenience or cost savings, what’s wrong with that? Why is anything wrong? Your reasoning seems confusing and compartmental. Please elaborate on the source of your superior ethics. It seems very superficial. Please elaborate by drilling down into the consistent logic of it to explain yourself.

  • lawrence090469

    So, davidwitless, your concept of God is the only thing preventing you from turning into a tornado of murder/rape? You must be a real a$$hole.

  • Carstonio

    Catken, while your bet is a reasonable one, my argument is that such people are authoritarians first and believers second, although not consciously. My favorite example is Charles Colson, who switched from Nixon-worship to Jesus-worship while retaining his holy warrior mentality. Despite my strong objection to deeming positions to be factual without evidence, I also recognize that such a belief doesn’t automatically lead to authoritarianism. That’s a mentality that creates its own version of a “god-shaped hole,” and if religion didn’t exist, authoritarians would find some other authority concept to worship and idealize.

  • persiflage

    ‘Besides do you really want the fat cat team owners who are the real moochers at the public trough be the sole beneficiaries of the ticket sales?’

    I could care less if a single NBA game is played all year, personally speaking – but I would like to see the billionaire team owners paying a lot more in the way of income taxes – I’m with Warren Buffett all the way on that point.

    As you point out, the vast sports industry only makes the very rich that much richer. As well-paid as some players are, they’re only pawns in the game, along with the willing spectators —– the way the economic deck is stacked these days, it’s as though we had dozens of Roman emperors, rather than just one.

    Give me a good book any day.

  • amelia45

    I don’t believe the state provided any defense at the federal appeal – they declined to defend Prop 8. What this ruling does is recognize that another “interested party” can provide the defense to Prop 8 at the federal appeals court level. I read the transcripts of most of the California appeals court trial – the defenders at that court were, ummm, to be charitable, not very good.

  • lepidopteryx

    It isn’t the parent’s job to bend the child’s will to that of the parent. It is the parent’s job to teach the child to channel his will constructively. You don’t accomplish that by hitting him, whether it’s with an open hand across his glutes or a length of PVC across his back.

  • usapdx

    As you look at a baby so innocent, why has man condemn this and all babies with original sin of as the story goes of Adam & Eve of over seven million years ago? Was it guilt by another group to the parents to seek forgiveness for their pure baby? Is the root of control to give guilt to one so that they seek forgiveness from another group? And what happened to all the souls from day one in human life to just twenty two thousand years ago? Man made limbo has been pulled just a few years ago. The key is control by way of guilt that one then seeks forgiveness through another of a group in many cases for the just passed just over two thousand years. A baby is pure.

  • Secular1

    DavidWitless you are indeed witless. That is all anyone on this board can say. You think the evil and good are what comes out of that dumb tome written by the ignorant and vile ancients, who thought in-group nepotism and out-group hostility are the hall mark of ethics. Please go look up zeitgeist before you bear your ignorance again.

  • Rongoklunk

    An atheist is someone who doesn’t believe in a skygod. Science and common sense also say there is no skygod. There is not the slightest, teenyweeniest scrap of evidence anywhere that says there is a skygod. If there really was a skygod up there in the clouds – we’d all know about it by now, and we wouldn’t need faith (which is a really dumb concept) we’d have proof.

    When any proof of a great skygod shows up – atheists will gladly give up their atheism and praise Him. But until then, we have to remain very skeptical – and cherish the only sensible stance – atheism.

  • daniel12

    This was a good piece by Jacoby.

  • mrbradwii

    Not familiar with the actual content of the book, so feel free to ignore this, but I think training, conditioning, and disciplining, with fear-inducing force are well-differentiated, and I think what they’re trying to do is evoke conditioned responses.

    A human child is probably at least as adaptable as a dog, chimp, bear…. maybe even dolphin. Trainers of these other animals don’t typically resort to abusive methods to get the desired response, but they are cued to physical actions, touches, and sounds. And a human is the ultimate domesticated animal in that it is self-domesticated, able to transcend mere biological imperatives in favor of intellectual gratification– but we do need to be taught and groomed to do so.

    Now, since I’ve been alive at least, children and to a large extent dogs have been training their parents, not the other way around. Critters like kids and pups are wired to rise to the level of dominance they can get away with. After all, in a few short people or dog years, they’ll be competing for breeding partners, so their evolutionary programming is going to go first in foremost unless there is something to counter it.

    That said, since these yahoos attribute their methods to biblical wisdom, it is a little suspect. But good parents and good dog owners are few and far between and some proper training of parents would surely go a long way towards raising vibrant and engaged kids.

  • daniel12

    Not bad reasoning.

  • persiflage

    The pathology involved with causing physical suffering to children is based ultimately in sadism and personality defects, rather than religion. It’s unfortunate that a particular ideology (religious or otherwise) appears to be the cause, because the blame lies entirely with the choices made by the malefactor.

    I think many observers like to blame outside forces for repugnant and despicable behavior, but in reality compassion is not a genetic given, whereas dominance and control are. Considering the ease with which various sadists throughout history purged the world of ‘bothersome’ humans by the millions, it should be pretty clear that even the rule of law fails to prevent what is genetically given – and in fact, the laws have often been subverted to support such behavior by tyrants and their minions.

    The physical abuse of children for any reason whatsoever should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. Parenting is difficult, but resorting to inflicting physical pain is never a solution – and many know that urge firsthand.

    I liked Brad’s example and his anaology of raising dogs and chidren. I’m very intimately acquainted with how dog guides for the blind are bred and raised, and I guanantee you that other than the use of choke collars during the training of mature animals, these animals are never physically punished in any way.

    Psychologists know very well that psychopathology is often engendered or triggered by the extremes of religious sadism and other sources of severe physical discipline. Depending on the genetic pre-disposition of these abused children, you could even be looking at a future serial killer.

  • tony55398

    Children should be raised with as much Love and gentleness as is possible, that should be the Christian position. Each child should be looked at as a little Jesus. Raising children is never easy, patience is a must. Things in the house should be put up until the child is older, a thing is not more important than the child. Just a sample of my Wisdom!!

  • persiflage

    In my view, the Sermon on the Mount attempted to dissuade people from following the impulses for domination that seem to come so naturally. The delusions and bad behavior that follow ego attachment are highlighted by both Freud and the Buddhists.

    The Golden Rule is the solution………….

  • davidawitness

    lawrence090469, Secular1, Rongoklunk,
    Respectfully, seems to be a pattern in all three of your responses. My questions are genuine… and you did not address them, you attacked me… and you don’t even know me.
    Do all atheists respond to rational inquiries with personal intimidation, arrogance, and name calling? (but, oops, slipped there, how can you be wrong when there is no wrong… except to believe that it is wrong to believe there can be a right and wrong… right?!) Forget the “dumb tome”, whatever it is to which you may be referring – the Q’uran? Book of Mormon? Vedas? Torah? None of the three of you addressed my questions in any way that I perceive. What is the source of your ethic that a person who believes in a god, or God, is morally wrong? And what is the source of saying that hitting a child is wrong? Why is anything wrong if all is random and each person is just an animal evolved through survival of the fittest? Wasn’t Stalin just more fit… so he survived? So he did nothing wrong. Right?
    I repeat my questions: “How is any behavior any more or less evil than any other behavior? What is the source of your standard? What is the origin of your standard? You claim reason as the epitome, yet man after man, woman after woman claims their personal reason as definitive and they contradict each other endlessly. Have you ever studied Hitler’s speeches and writings? All based on organized, well-developed reasoning.”
    Why was Hitler bad? To the Germans when they were winning, wasn’t he good? They seemed to be benefiting…
    Have you ever stepped on a bug? Ever killed a human? Is each murder? Is neither murder? Why is hatred worse than kindness? Or is it to you? What is the source of all your arguments about all of this… that one perspective is wrong, and yours is right? It seems obvious that you are dealing with the surface of it all. Only.
    Why not think a little more deeply, instead of resorting to simplistic attack language? I am listening. I am questioning. Ex

  • davidawitness

    tony55398, persiflage,
    Very interesting comments. Unlike Ms. Jacoby and the atheists commenting below, your focus seems to be on compassion for children… rather than attacking the Christian religion.
    I wonder why the Christian religion seems to be singled out for such particular vehement attack from those who profess atheism? Why don’t Islam and Buddhism and Hinduism and Shintoism and Sikhism and Baha’i elicit the same type of focused attacks from atheists?
    (by the way, did Jesus really launch a religion? if he is dead and gone, then isn’t it all just a lying myth that a bunch of ego-maniacs conspired together to make up a legend to empower and enrich themselves? like Peter and John and Paul and all those other “disciples” and their lavish luxury lifestyles oppressing the people around them? )

  • persiflage

    davidawitness – this is the continuation of an earlier discussion on authoritarian personality types, and the idea that religion and other forms of orthodoxy and ideology can be vehicles of expression for nascent, pre-existing tendencies.

    Extreme forms of indoctrination often becomes the modus operandi between parents and children with predictably painful results, and with the likelihood of the children mimicking this same behavior later on. Emotional scarring is the result, in any case.

    We saw how certain extreme, bizarre religious practices can be handed down between generations with the recent On Faith column about Pentacostal snake handlers in West Virginia – and I knew of this occurring in Kentucky as well.

    The incredible risk of being bitten is of course the whole point – if the Holy Spirit fails to prevent it. This seems to be a permutation of the same authoritarian complex.

  • mrbradwii

    Well, to paraphrase, sin without volition is a mockery of morality. The religious only know that, through original sin, all man’s choices are wrong, until grace is bestowed on him at the foot of the Omniscient, Omnipresent, Omnipotent, Authority.

    Non-dogmatic morality has been contextual throughout human history, based on survival of the individual making the choices.

    Through the centuries, people have learned how their choices have affected their survival and their capacity to live not only a non-suffering life, but a vibrant enjoyable and fulfilling life. The process of discovery has not been pretty.

    But nuggets of truth did emerge, and as someone wrote elsewhere, the “golden rule” has truly stood the test of time… an idea so old that the origins probably predated language.

    It doesn’t take a genius to recognize that if I murder, rape, pillage, to set that I am subject to the same. If I think I might choose to do it anyway, I find build must build an entire structure to prevent my own immediate destruction, and as I weigh the consequences of such a choice and examine the absolute 100% failure of such a choice, I realize, that it’s not going to end well, and my energies might be best directed elsewhere.

    You can figure out the rest, if you’ve got a functioning noggin.


    Hitler might’ve been the devil’s spawn, but Churchill was no saint, and neither was Roosevelt. Read Human Smoke by Nicholson Baker, and you will find there is plenty of culpability to go around and dubious moral choices made.

  • daniel12

    Not bad. Not bad at all.

  • davidawitness

    thanks for the thoughtful, respectful attempt to educate me. Cannot see that your response drilled down enough to address my fundamental questions, but I appreciate your kind response.
    As to my prior 3 responders, it is like ships passing in the night, since my questions are not even engaged at all that I could see. But, “lawrence090469”, thanks for a great start on my Sunday this morning, I genuinely woke up with a nice laugh at your nickname off my email title as I recalled your blog response – “davidwitless” – at first it seemed offensive, then just funny, as it was to your friends here. I’ve been called so many names to hurt in my life, it is super to be free enough to laugh along with you now, even though you did not intend me to enjoy. Very creative. Kudos.
    By the way… mrbradwii, how many ruthless individuals – criminals – have you actually known. I have worked with many. They don’t seem to “figure out the rest”.
    My question is why are they wrong? why is what they do criminal ? If each man is responsible only to his own thoughts of what he wishes? And these dudes are just trying to survive. What’s wrong with that? And by the way, I never said Hitler was even wrong, much less “the devil’s spawn”, and I assume you use that term rhetorically, since with no belief in a god, or a spirit realm, or any such, you surely do not believe there is a devil…
    (but thanks for your respectful efforts to assist the ignorance you perceive in my inquiries)

  • mrbradwii

    I don’t know any criminals truthfully, although I’ve helped elect a few politicians.

    Well, again, morality becomes contextual within the framework of the society, and it points out the problem of allowing sub-species of tribes to exist within civil society with their own “rules”. When those rules work better for them than civil society in general, then it’s lights out for civil society.

    As far as basic morality, I’ll parrot back some more Rand, and libertarian philosophy in general: the offensive use of force is unequivocally wrong. It’s part of the golden rule thing, and it’s part of recognizing the limits of groups of individuals working together. The group cannot be held together by force, and it cannot use its critical mass, to bully others outside the group.

    Voluntary cooperation. It’s what’s for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. When people start telling you that you have to “break a few eggs to make an omelet”, watch out.

  • jboston

    Are you honestly unclear as to why religious justifications for this are worse then secular ones?

    Well, first, if the justification for this is religious then it is systemic and far more widespread. Second, isn’t the Christian god supposed to be a benevolent one?

    The plain and cold fact is that we see abuse like this in far greater abundance whenever religion is involved.

    Personally I find the religious indoctrination of a child to be unlawful. A child is not legally able to vote, to enter into contracts or make other “adult” decisions yet it is perfectly ok to indoctrinate your child into whatever religion you were indoctrinated into and use the fear all religions derive their power from to pervert and control their formative lives.

    No, religion, like any other mind-altering substances, is a topic best left until adulthood.