Friday, June 28, 2013

Are Religious Homes Abusive Homes?: The Unscientific Claims of Richard Dawkins

Many atheist and secularist claim their convictions are based solely on science. This has led to their adoption of evolutionary theory and the campaign against any form intelligent design or creationism especially in the public square. To question the dogma of evolution is to be labeled a heretic, that is, against science. The same is true when it comes to other issues clouded many of whom have been clouded with theological and political implications like global warming and neuroscience (do we have a soul?, are we born gay?, etc.). This arrogance in regards to being the image bearers of science has led to the accusation, especially among the New Atheist, that the religious are brainwashing and abusing children by teaching them to question secular doctrine.

To assert that teaching one's children about God, Scripture, Jesus, etc. is a form of child abuse, presumably equal to that of sexual, emotion, mental, and physical abuse, is shocking in of itself. The believer should rightly be offended and appalled to think that others might think teaching one's children arguments regarding design in the universe or the nature of the Trinity is some how on par with the father who molests his own child or the mother who abandons her children. However, if we take the assertion at face value and study it from a scientific perspective, we find in short that the evidence - the scientific evidence that is - goes against this assertion.

At his blog, Thinking Christian, Tom Gilson shows the scientific irrationality of Richard Dawkins, a leading figure making this claim common among many secularists and atheists.

[The] symptoms [of abuse] are well known. They include fear, panic attacks, eating disorders, depression, low self-confidence, irritability, difficulty relating with others, substance abuse, and so on.
 
Not every abuse victim experiences most or all of these, but outcomes like this are typical. If a religious upbringing equals abuse, there ought to be signs that something like this happens to children of religious families.

There are data to test that hypothesis. It was published well before Dawkins’ book, so he had ample opportunity to know what science had to say. Christian Smith, a sociologist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill [now at Notre Dame], led a massive, authoritative study called the National Study of Youth and Religion. The results were published in the 2005 book, Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Eyes of American Teenagers (with co-author Melinda Lundquist Denton), published by Oxford University Press (yes, that’s Dawkins’ university). It is the best study of its kind to date.


This study sorted its 3,290 participants into levels of religious involvement: the Devoted, the Regulars, the Sporadic, and the Disengaged. Because America’s predominant religious groupings are Christian, the “Devoted” and “Regulars” were predominantly Christian—Protestant and Catholic. Therefore these results can fairly be taken as relating specifically to Christianity. (Results for other religions are hard to determine from the data.)

The closer teenagers were to “Devoted” rather than “Disengaged,” the less they engaged in these negative behaviors

Habits: Smoking, drinking, marijuana use, TV watching, pornography use, “action” video game use, R-rated movies;


At school: Poor grades, cutting classes, getting suspended or expelled;
 
Attitude: Bad temper, rebellious toward parents;


Sex: Early physical involvement, including number of partners and age of first sexual contact.
 
Those more “Devoted” on the scale showed more of these positive outcomes:


Emotional well-being: Satisfaction with physical appearance, planning for the future, thinking about the meaning of life, feeling cared for, freedom from depression, not feeling alone and misunderstood, not feeling “invisible,” not often feeling guilty, having a sense of meaning to life, getting along well with siblings;


Relationships with adults: Closeness with parents, number of adults connected to, feeling understood by parents, sensing that parents pay attention, feeling they get the “right amount of freedom” from parents;


Moral reasoning and honesty: Belief in stable, absolute morality; not pursuing a “get-ahead” mentality; not just pleasure-seeking; less lying to parents and cheating in school;

Compassion: Caring about the needs of the poor, caring about the elderly, caring about racial justice;


Community: Participation in groups, financial giving, volunteer work (including with people of different races and cultures), helping homeless people, taking leadership in organizations.
 
You can read the rest here. The point is to show how presuppositions shape theology and our interpretation of science. Dawkins, a scientist, has made frequent assertions based on no other evidence than his own bigoted beliefs about religion and other people who differing (a)religious beliefs. The assertion that teaching children to question his dogma is a form of child abuse is dangerous on the one end and unscientific on the other. To believe the science in this case is to reject Dawkins and those like him. Those who raise their children in a manner that Dawkins decries turns out to be better for the child and for society. Dawkins is simply on the wrong side of science.

There is an important lesson to be learned here. Theology is more important than the broader culture gives it. Dawkins approaches science with as much theological presuppositions as the Christian does. My hesitance to embrace much of evolution is rooted in theological convictions and logic. Dawkins has admitted that his acceptance of evolution is his primary fuel for his atheism. In the end, therefore, we are all theologians and to deny that is to only kid ourselves.


For more:
Dawkins Take on Sex, Death & The Meaning Of Life: Full Series
Justice and the Implications of Atheism: Doug Wilson Hits the Nail on Its Head
Collision:  An Important Documentary About Faith and Atheism  
Atheism and Moral Relativistic Parenting: Touchstone Takes on Harris
Harris on the Science of Morality:  Nice Try But No Cigar  
Natural Morality:  The Disconnect Between Darwinism and Morality
Freud's Wish Fulfillment: Why Atheism Can't Explain Atheism
The Atheist Debates
Atheism Is Not Great - The D'Souza and Hitchens Debate
John Lennox: The New Atheism and the Gospel  Blogizomai -D'Souza: Are Atheists Cultural Christians
Survival of the Moral: Can Man Be Moral Without God?
Re: Survival of the Moral: Can Man Be Moral Without God?
"Atheism Remix" by Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr.
"The Delusion of Disbelief" by David Aikman
"The End of Reason" by Ravi Zacharias
What's So Great About Christianity? by Dinesh D'Souza
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