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Children Church at SG

January 30th, 2008 · Posted by Hugo · 22 Comments

On my way home from the societies exhibition yesterday, I popped in at the Stellenbosch Gemeente offices to pick up the “creed” (is there a better word for “geloofsbelydenis”?) recently used by the children in Stellenbosch Gemeente. The “creed” was based on what the children suggested, using their words. From the sound of it, the only [direct*] adult influence in the creed was to put it together and to organise it. As such, it should hopefully be a pretty good indication of what they believe. (*Yes, what they were taught by the adults, of course.)

You will have to wait for the actual creed: this is all in preparation for a future post on childhood indoctrination, drawing from my own experiences. It will take some time, as I first want to do some more research. In particular, I want to see if Richard Dawkins, who apparently claims religion is child abuse, has any particularly interesting arguments in The God Delusion (which has a chapter on children, if the table of contents is anything to go by). I am hoping I’m wrong in believing I can predict the majority of the contents of that chapter.

The “popping in at SG” became a longer visit, as I sat down and had a very nice discussion with Deon Botha, who is in charge of “children church” at SG. The discussion focused largely on what the children are taught and what they are not taught. I very much liked what I heard, but I did not take notes. I’m sure we will have more discussions in the future. The particular detail that I want to share, the detail that is responsible for me making this post today: they are not taught about hell and Satan. That is considered completely unnecessary, as well as dangerous. Sweet! (Note, these are my words, my paraphrase of our discussion.)

Deon also told me about some of the horrifying things a pre-primary school teacher in Stellenbosch is doing to the children in her care. I’m not even sure I want to share that right now. Basically, teach children to see Satan everywhere, and they will.

Time pressure will probably prevent me from getting to the “Religion and [Supposed] Child Abuse” post (title still under consideration) before late March. The problem is I don’t really have time to read right now. Or maybe I should skip the research and write mostly from my experience, revisiting the topic when I get around to reading relevant material?

I’m kinda hoping someone drops a comment about how bad it is to not teach children about hell and Satan. Any takers? (And I mean people that seriously believe that: please motivate why you think it is bad.) If this discussion does pick up, can I request that the atheists and anti-theists watch from the side-lines for a while? I’d like an opportunity for some discussion to take place between Christians before you start playing hard-ball. ;)

Categories: Stellenbosch Gemeente
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22 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Ben // Jan 30, 2008 at 9:41 pm

    Begin lurk mode…

  • 2 Hugo // Jan 31, 2008 at 12:33 am

    ;-) I’d still love to hear your input. But then again, I guess next post on the subject will be another opportunity.

  • 3 gerhard // Jan 31, 2008 at 9:17 am

    ok, *watching* from the side line. just want to add one or two things , you need to look at the indoctrination as a whole for this to make sense.
    Look at , sunday school , church and ‘forced’ service in school like assembly + religious instruction (from which i remember perticular zealots trying to teach about deamons possesion and how nasty/lonely people look when they dont have god, you dont want to look nasty/lonely right?) i also remember one of the guys telling us that he have physically seen deamons and seen them physically possess someone but hold on , he was taking mushrooms at the time … :P (this at school nogal)
    oh and watch root of all evil the uncut edition , as richard actually removed some of the offtopic sillyness from the tv broadcast…

  • 4 Hugo // Jan 31, 2008 at 11:00 am

    Ai gerhard. You are causing me great frustration, I really don’t know what to do with you.

  • 5 Zach // Jan 31, 2008 at 11:26 am

    Why does everyone get this wrong? Dawkins says “labelling” children as belonging to this or that religion before they’re old enough to decide is harmful. And that certain aspects of religious education (such as the idea of eternal damnation in hell) can have lasting, damaging effects.
    But of course that gets conflated to “Religion is child abuse” because it’s easier to remember.

    I’ll quote from the man himself. This was in response to the question “Do you consider parents forcing children to accept their religion a form of child abuse?”

    “Yes. What would you think of parents who forced their children to accept their politics, or their taste in architecture? Have you ever heard anyone speak of a “Leninist child” or a “Postmodernist child”? Of course not. Why, then, do we all go along with “Christian child” and “Muslim child”? Such labelling of children with their parents’ religion is child abuse.”

  • 6 Hugo // Jan 31, 2008 at 11:39 am

    Thanks Zach. Now what do you (or Dawkins) suggest you call those children? Instead of “Christian child”, something like “Child that was raised with knowledge of the Christian tradition”? That’s rather unwieldy. But that’s just me still thinking of “Christian child” in the same way as I think of “Afrikaans child” or “English child”.

    What is a “Leninist child”? Someone that knows the teachings of Lenin? I doubt that exists. Again, this looks to me like a case of Dawkins’ lack of personal exposure to religion speaking. I understand what he’s getting at, but I don’t agree.

    Anyway, I doubt we’ll get the kind of response here that I’d love to see. Not after what we’ve been commenting already, and not after what this blog has become (in terms of commenting). I’m simply going to need independent communities on the site. Maybe I can also create a “gerhard’s corner” then. ;)

  • 7 Tim // Jan 31, 2008 at 11:48 am

    Of interest, maybe:

    http://parentingbeyondbelief.com/blog/?p=191

    http://parentingbeyondbelief.com/blog/?p=193

  • 8 Hugo // Jan 31, 2008 at 12:24 pm

    Thanks Tim! I especially love the second post (I read it yesterday, kinda a pity I didn’t read the first one first).

    BTW, the Freethinking Maties stall had on the table a book on Humanism, as well as Parenting Beyond Belief.

    With regards to SG, SG is a church, we live in a religious country. Needless to say children are introduced to God. Beyond that, it seems Deon tries his best to not transfer his particular views onto the children, trying to give them space to develop their own worldview/framework. It’s “between them and God”. SG tries it’s best to have everyone realise the diversity that is found in world-views, and that no one person’s view is “correct” and another “wrong”: we can all learn from one another. I like that.

  • 9 Ben // Jan 31, 2008 at 12:34 pm

    Again, this looks to me like a case of Dawkins’ lack of personal exposure to religion speaking.

    I’ve been exposed to religion since an infant baptism. I (generally) see it the same way as he does. I would bet it’s not a question of exposure to religion but proclivity for ‘mysticism’ or whatever you would call it. Even when Dawkins tried the temporal lobe stimulating helmet it didn’t do anything for him:

    “…Horizon introduced Dr Persinger to one of Britain’s most renowned atheists, Prof Richard Dawkins. He agreed to try his techniques on Dawkins to see if he could give him a moment of religious feeling. During a session that lasted 40 minutes, Dawkins found that the magnetic fields around his temporal lobes affected his breathing and his limbs. He did not find god.

    Persinger was not disheartened by Dawkins’ immunity to the helmet’s magnetic powers. He believes that the sensitivity of our temporal lobes to magnetism varies from person to person. People with TLE may be especially sensitive to magnetic fields; Prof Dawkins is well below average, it seems…”
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/science/horizon/2003/godonbrain.shtml

    I’ve never tried the device (obviously) but since I dis-believed in Catholicism almost as soon as I could begin to think about it, I bet I would be the same. One of the few positives that has come out of my setting out to converse with religious people is learning the limits of empathy – that my (and others’) imagination can only be stretched so far to see things from another’s point of view. After that, it’s pretty much impossible.

  • 10 Hugo // Jan 31, 2008 at 12:43 pm

    And so I rethink the labelling of children yet again.

    A particular thing that bothers me about the labelling of a child as a “Christian child” is the baggage that comes with the label. People do have a particular idea of what it means to be “Christian”. In the “world out there”, people think that means “reject evolution” for example, so I can see a conversation going along the lines of “oh, you’re a Christian child? So you don’t believe in evolution, right?” Evil.

    That is definitely not the case amongst the friends I have. They do not have the same definition of “Christian” that atheists typically have. I wonder if I should do some kind of survey…? Get some idea of what South Africans in the area mean when they call themselves “Christian”.

  • 11 Hugo // Jan 31, 2008 at 12:45 pm

    Suggested reading: the links Tim posted, especially the second one, including the comments.

    http://parentingbeyondbelief.com/blog/?p=193

  • 12 gerhard // Jan 31, 2008 at 1:57 pm

    hugo , i also don’t know what i am gonna do with you either:) i honestly think christains misunderstand what richard means by child abuse.
    i think he means it along the lines of teaching kids as an athority that humans all have 5 thetans in their body and that those come from collecting all the souls around the universe , stuffing them into a vulcano and then blowing them up with h-bombs.
    now add to that that they get taught to develop behavioural neurosis if going against these teachings..
    Teaching them this in the house , the school etc.
    If they verbally mention disbelieve or don’t want to attend this kind of stuff get punished. (either by social pressure or direct punishment or by outsmarting the children )
    like i know this was the case in my school, and it was liberal by the standard that you could attend _any_ kind of this stuff , but not not to attend..
    all of this done in the usual ’4kids’ format with colour full cartoons , shows , live performances and various ‘heros’ who are unquestionably athoritive …

    i think doing this is the equivilant to training a child to behave and think like its a dog or sex slave , ie. child abuse.

    i would recommend seeing discovery channels ‘children to waco’.
    oh yeah , one thing that needs to be added is that we’re not _just_ talking about the extreams :)

  • 13 gerhard // Jan 31, 2008 at 2:11 pm

    btw, can anyone say ‘jesus camp’ isnt childabuse?

  • 14 Hugo // Jan 31, 2008 at 2:16 pm

    I’m going crazy trying to hack out a path through all the obstacles that are being dropped in my way, amongst other things by commenters. Maybe I should start a new blog, start from scratch.

    Here’s the thing:

    There are demons running around in Stellenbosch.

    I’d love to use this blog in my attempts to help address the problem, but I’m not going to get anywhere like this. I think Gerhard underestimates what I’m aware of, effectively filling in bits that I quite intentionally leave unsaid. *sigh*

    Maybe put some of my plans on hold, and run some neutral posts until such time as I can separate commenters into separate communities… I was thinking read-only access would be fine for those not a member of a community, but I’m getting more and more convinced that it may be necessary to have completely private, by-invitation-only communities. Gerhard, what are you more interested in? Having your voice heard, or finding out what’s really going on in Stellenbosch?

    Or else just give up on the blogging tactic and go do things in the old-fashioned “offline” way.

  • 15 gerhard // Jan 31, 2008 at 2:54 pm

    life is unpredictable mate, you are going to have to hack out a path through all the obstacles any way the cake is cut :) but i will bite my tongue and not comment if that is what you want.

  • 16 Ben // Jan 31, 2008 at 3:12 pm

    I wonder if I should do some kind of survey…? Get some idea of what South Africans in the area mean when they call themselves “Christian”.

    To me, all it tells me about a person is that they consider Jesus’ teachings special in some way. Anything else I want to know about the person, they will have to tell me.

  • 17 Hugo // Feb 1, 2008 at 1:07 pm

    Ben: cool.

    Gerhard: I wish I knew what I wanted. That’d make life so much simpler, eh? ;)

  • 18 Negate // Feb 1, 2008 at 2:22 pm

    Out of personal experiences the idea of hell caused me years of fear and anxiety attacks. I needed constant spiritual and psychological help to function normally. These events caused me to look for answers outside theist circles and drove me to atheism.

    I have never been happier.

  • 19 Zach // Feb 1, 2008 at 8:12 pm

    A bit late to the party on account of sporadic net access. But here goes.

    I’d suggest “child with Christian parents” or preferrably just “child”. The fact that their parents have this or that religion should be irrelevant. Of course, it’s not, because that’s how religion spreads.

    A “Leninist child” would be any child whom we call a Leninist child, on the flimsy basis that its parents are Leninists. Absurd, isn’t it? So absurd that no one does it. That’s what Dawkins is getting at.

    And regarding your later post, I don’t think atheists assume that that the average Christian disbelieves evolution.

  • 20 Ben // Feb 1, 2008 at 10:42 pm

    I don’t think atheists assume that that the average Christian disbelieves evolution.

    In the U.S., there are more Christians who disbelieve evolution than who accept it. So with no other information than knowing someone self-identifies as a Christian, if I had to guess, that’s the way I would guess.

  • 21 gerhard // Feb 3, 2008 at 3:42 am

    hugo: well then i will keep bitching.

    zach: why i would call it a ‘christain/muslim/satanist/teacup child’ would be because it is being indoctrinated into that religion. Much in the same way you would call a child indoctrinated into communism a communist child because it is a product of communism. labels like this let everyone know what effective viewpoints you have , what conversation is sociable and even diatry requirements. I wouldn’t say it spreads because of it but i would say it is a symptom of the spreading.

    while i dont think atheists assume christains don’t believe in christains i do think we assume they believe the basics hold up, like heaven and hell, god having a concious mind , power of prayer, possibly even omens and angels . I’m not talking the average intelligent/middle-upper income/student christain like some of the folks here but i’m talking the masses. people who never had reason to question their indoctrination.

  • 22 Rinus // Feb 4, 2008 at 9:58 am

    very late entry:

    I have to agree with Gerhard on this one (well, only somewhat ;)) .

    I think ‘labeling’ a child according to his/her upbringing is a necessary evil. For example, imagine giving one of your classmates at school a ham-sandwich, not realising he was brought up in a muslim home. That would leave not only the parents of the child very disturbed, but probably cause the child a massive amount of guilt if he/she did not realise.

    I suppose this maybe even highlights the ‘child abuse’ aspect of this conversation, as one can argue that it’s not really the child’s fault at all, yet he/she will probably have to deal with the backlash and consequences.

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