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RICHARD DAWKINS WORLD (or "Dawkins and Child Abuse")

Added to on February 1, 2008

by Mike Gene website

This page is not completely in character for this site. Nevertheless, Prof. Richard Dawkins is such a Big Player in this overall debate that some aspects of his extremism beg for comment. As such, I will use the page to comment on some of Dawkins' extremism and update it accordingly (so you might want to check back periodically).

Back in October of 2002, Richard Dawkins wrote a short essay for The Dubliner entitled, "The God Shaped Hole". In this essay, Dawkins actually compares Catholicism to the sexual molestation of children, and argues the former is worse:

"Regarding the accusations of sexual abuse of children by Catholic priests, deplorable and disgusting as those abuses are, they are not so harmful to the children as the grievous mental harm in bringing up the child Catholic in the first place. I had a letter from a woman in America in her forties, who said that when she was a child of about seven, brought up a Catholic, two things happened to her: one was that she was sexually abused by her parish priest. The second thing was that a great friend of hers at school died, and she had nightmares because she thought her friend was going to hell because she wasn't Catholic. For her there was no question that the greatest child abuse of those two was the abuse of being taught about hell. Being fondled by the priest was negligible in comparison. And I think that's a fairly common experience.

" I can't speak about the really grave sexual abuse that obviously happens sometimes, which actually causes violent physical pain to the altar boy or whoever it is, but I suspect that most of the sexual abuse priests are accused of is comparatively mild - a little bit of fondling perhaps, and a young child might scarcely notice that. The damage, if there is damage, is going to be mental damage anyway, not physical damage. Being taught about hell - being taught that if you sin you will go to everlasting damnation, and really believing that - is going to be a harder piece of child abuse than the comparatively mild sexual abuse."

I think it clear that this is raw anti-religious bigotry. We can ignore the letter from "a woman in America" as a) we have no idea whether her account is valid and b) even if valid, it is an anecdote. Since Dawkins is a drum-banger for science, surely he would recognize science would need much more than a vague anecdote to support this contention.

So let's think through on Dawkins' logic. First, where is the science? What scientific evidence does Dawkins offer to support the contention that believing in Hell is a worse form of abuse than being sexually molested? Where is the evidence of this "grievous mental harm" in bringing up the child Catholic? His biased opinion? His emotional approach? An anecdote?!

Secondly, it is ironic that Dawkins has the science backwards. There are plenty of studies to show that sexual molestation of a child can have long term, negative effects. Dismissing it as "a bit of fondling" and being "mental damage anyway" is insulting to the many victims of child molestation. And there are plenty of studies that also show that religious belief and convictions, if held seriously, provide a net positive benefit in terms of psychological and physical health. In other words, contrary to the views of Dawkins, being raised a Catholic is not worse than being sexually abused.

But let's follow through with this example of Dawkins Think. As it stands, it is illegal to sexually molest a child. And, of course, it is not illegal to raise your child as a Catholic. But if it is really more harmful to raise your child as a Catholic than to sexually molest your child, as Dawkins believes, society needs to adjust its laws. According to Dawkins' logic, we should a) either make it illegal to raise your child as a Catholic, as it is worse than pedophilia, or b) legalize pedophilia, since it is not as bad as the legal activity of teaching a child about Hell and Catholicism. Which option would Dawkins choose? It's his logic, thus his choice to clarify.

Consider a simple analogy. The house next to your house goes up for sale. Two families are interested in buy it. The first family is a devout Catholic family. The father is hard working and has broken no laws. But he has taught his kids to believe in Catholic doctrine, including belief in Hell. The second family is not religious. The father is also hard working, but he also sexually molests his kids. In Dawkins World, you hope the child molester moves in next door, as he is not as bad as the Catholic man.