Religious Indoctrination and Child Abuse

I've decided to answer this comment as a post rather than burying it in the comments section:

Cephalis said...
"Shouldn't religious indoctrination of children be considered child abuse?"

Interesting question . . .

I'd say that holy-roller type inculcated fear could definitely have long-term emotional impacts. However, I think that including all religious indoctrination under the category of child abuse would broaden the definition of child abuse too much to be practical.

From a neuropsychiatric viewpoint and for the purposes of active intervention, I think that only physical and sexual abuse should be included in the category of child abuse. It is well established (despite denials by the usual collection of naysayers) that early, prolonged, severe physical and sexual child abuse have long-term developmental sequelae severe enough to require prolonged psychotherapy.

I have recently read a number of personal accounts by recently-come-to-atheism individuals who have experienced a sense of loss in losing their inculcated beliefs in the Loving Parent in the Sky. Many of those people talk more of the loss of the Church community and ritual rather than the actual belief. Of course, gradual awareness of lack of belief is not necessarily traumatic because it is a gradual, intrinsic progression, so the difficulties lie mostly in losing the social perquisities.

Reading of Mother Theresa's anguish over her crisis of faith might seem to prove an exception to the above. I think, though, that her case actually illustrates one of the drawbacks of religion in general. Assuming that Mother Theresa had some other, earlier reason for seeking comfort in religion, then she was seeking comfort and healing in entirely the wrong place (because there is no God to help those in emotional pain). Even if she had no early reason for seeking comfort, religion clearly failed her.

Religion fails dismally as a form of therapy because it offers ineffective affirmations and useless prescriptions (forgive and forget) rather than true growth. Thus, an individual in severe emotional pain will never find a way out of their pain solely through expectation that faith in God will fill the emptiness. In this sense, I think that religion further abuses adults who have suffered the classic forms of child abuse. Churches amplify this problem by cautioning their congregation not to seek help from secular therapists. (Churchpeople fear that secular therapists will attempt to destroy belief.)

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