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Understanding religion as child abuse

by Nathan McKaskle

Religion is fundamentally a scar tissue of emotional trauma – a form of post-traumatic stress disorder – which forms around the fears of abandonment and punishment that children experience if they dare to question the superstitions of their elders.

— Stefan Molyneux

In Katmandu, Nepal, a small, helpless and dependent three year old child is being removed from her family, sent into almost complete isolation and subjected to frightening stimuli where she will be expected to repress her anxiety till the age of puberty in order to appease the crazed, superstitious beliefs of Hindu and Buddhist religious bigots.

What will happen while she is in isolation? Who will she be isolated with?  A priest?  The guy who is subjecting her to rooms full of beheaded animals?  One can only imagine the horrors of what happens behind closed doors during this abysmal and demonic arrangement.

What sort of sadistic lack of empathy does it require to commit such an atrocity against a child, then to parade her on a tower balcony as a tourist attraction for others to gaze at as if it were some form of entertainment?

It doesn’t take an experienced child psychologist to figure out that this severe form of abandonment, abuse and neglect will cause near irreversible harm that will affect this child for the rest of her natural adult life. It is only this kind of insanity that is derived from irrational ideologies like those of religion, superstition and mysticism in general.

This child has neither the choice nor the capacity or knowledge to choose what is best for herself in the long run.  This is a three year old child, condemned to soul murdering emotional trauma through severe neglect, potentially horrific abuse not discounting the possibility of rape, and a lifetime of emotional and psychological problems that will likely extend into every aspect of her adult life.

People often reply to the critics of religion after these horrific events with comments like “A few bad apples don’t spoil the whole barrel.”  Is this really a problem with certain groups of people as individuals or is it a problem with the “whole barrel” of religious thinking itself?


There is a reason why it is important for religions to get their hands on the young, tender, observant minds of children as soon as possible.  The purpose is indoctrination, not education.  The purpose is to prevent the exposure to other ideas that may inevitably call their irrational conclusions into question.

Religious indoctrination is an assault on children, an assault on their capacity for individuation, curiosity, self-validation, and critical thinking skills.  It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to understand that if you are a child born in Syria to Muslim parents, the likelihood of your growing up as anything other than a Muslim is infinitely small.

You certainly aren’t going to find a child of Christian parents who mysteriously adopts a belief in other deities such as Zeus or Amen-Ra.   I was born in America, is it really so shocking that my parents were fundamentalist Christians?  Is it really surprising that I held on to Christian and/or mystical beliefs well beyond the age of twenty?  Is it really surprising that as a product of public schools, I was a patriotic statist for more than 31 years?

Beliefs Beget Action

So . . . what is the problem with holding crazy beliefs?  What is the harm in believing things that are objectively false?  Well, the harm is this, if I believe I have all the answers, why would I bother to continue searching for the answers?

The problem is that when we believe something, we take actions based upon those beliefs.  If I believed a good friend of mine was being held captive by the local mafia, I would try to help rescue him if I could.  Imagine, however, if that belief were just a made up fantasy . . . what if I were to go shooting up a house full of women and children under the false belief that they are mafia kingpins and thugs in order to “rescue” my friend? What if I did not actually have any friend?  What if he were just as imaginary as my made up fantasy?

I may be ruled insane and locked away in an asylum, but you cannot deny the tragedy of what happened because I believed things that did not compare to reality.

It is important that our beliefs, and/or ideas, compare to reality using a rational methodology, such as the scientific method.  If we believe that we are headed south when we are actually headed north, it isn’t going to bode well for us when we find ourselves in Toronto if where we really needed to be was somewhere in Florida.

When I use the term “religious thinking”, I am not talking specifically about the various major religions of the world.  The meaning I intend to convey is any kind of thinking that does not involve the scientific method.

Regardless of the belief system, whatever it may be, any kind of thinking where we do not first consider the evidence before generating a theory, and then continue to assert these “theories” despite being presented with evidence to the contrary; you might call it “faith”, but this, by definition, is nothing but irrational bigotry.  It is for all intents and purposes, nothing more than a rank and distasteful form of prejudice.

The actual danger is not necessarily the false beliefs themselves, though they may be the root, the danger is the inevitable actions which are prescribed based on these false beliefs.

If the volcano on the island where I reside begins to rumble, it is important to examine the evidence as to why the volcano is making noise, before making up stories about ghosts and gods to which I then prescribe we sacrifice the precious lives of young virgin girls.   The kind of murderousness that is exposed when geologists uncover the truth about underground flows of molten rock under pressure will not be something that I could feel proud of.  In fact, that would be an incentive for me to convince others about the evils of science and that volcanology is the work of devils.

With an ideology that actively rejects and opposes a sound, rational methodology for determining what is true from what is false; the made up, unquestionable answers that result can only lead to tragic maltreatment such as the above example of extreme neglect and cruelty to a young three year old girl.

Not only do irrational ideologies lead to some really bad parenting, but really bad parenting will lead to some irrational ideologies for the child . . . which, for the child, can only lead to further repetition, down through the generations due to the unconscious desire to repeat upon herself or others what she is not allowed to acknowledge and must repress.

Attacking Truth

There is another reason why irrational ideologies will always lead to the abuse and cruelty toward children.  Children, naturally, are highly rational, observant, and very curious little souls.  As the parent models the behavior for the child, they will pick up on all the confusing inconsistencies begot by irrational beliefs.  Like little spawns of Socrates, they can only respond to this confusion by asking those endless little questions.  Quite irritating if you’re trying to maintain a false belief system.

When we refuse to question our assertions and made up answers, we spend our lives believing we are in New York, knocking down any sign that says “Houston”.  If I wanted to believe that the color red does not exist, I would have to eliminate any hint of the color red in order to continue validating my belief, otherwise I would have to change my belief to include the color red.  What a slavish existence that would be.

When the truth is revealed to us by our own children, the only way to secure ourselves in our made up world of answers is to attack the child and force him or her to stop revealing a truth we do not wish to acknowledge.

When it is revealed to us that we may be wrong and all the reasons why we hold beliefs which are incorrect come bubbling to the surface of our conscious mind, we become anxious.  That anxiety is there to warn us that something is wrong.

We engage in the most cruel form of cowardice, when we avoid this warning anxiety, by inflicting intimidation and abuse on the small helpless and dependent children who expose it.

The reason why religion and mysticism have no problems making up stories that justify child abuse is that these children, like the small child in the great fairy tale The Emporer’s New Clothes, they reveal what these religious bigots so desperately do not want to admit.

The Consequences

If my made up belief system tells me that a cosmic Jewish zombie, who was his own father, wants me to telepathically communicate to him that he is my master and that I should symbolically eat his flesh and drink his blood in order for him to remove and evil force from my soul that is present in all humanity because a rib woman was convinced by a talking snake to eat from a magical tree . . . all bets are off as to what other ridiculous nonsense I can make up to justify any bad behavior on my part.

If my belief is that sparing the rod will spoil the child, that beating and assaulting children is good for them, then I will commit acts which objectively have been shown through science to cause visible lesions in brain scans and severe states of hyper anxiety and hypervigilance that persist well into the child’s adulthood.

If my belief is that my child is a living goddess and that I should dress her up, send her off into isolation with unsafe people who likely intend to do more than put her in frightening situations; deprive her of the psychological needs for parental bonding and development of healthy boundaries, then ultimately this will result in a child who grows up with severe depression, emotional instability and a miserable, unhappy life should she begin to re-inflict these terrors on others, then what I have done is made up a story that justifies my cruelty to children.


Religious mysticism and superstitious thinking is not based on a rational methodology for improving the accuracy of our ideas compared to reality, it is the exact opposite. It actively opposes the sciences which threaten to expose its falsehood.  It is only through a scientific methodology that we can come to any consistent and logical ethical system that takes all other rationally derived, objective facts, such as our understanding of child development, into account.

When one debates the value of religion over science as if the two are not completely opposed thinking policies, one might as well be debating the value of a witch doctor over that of an experienced oncologist, when considering treatment for cancer.  One might as well debate the value of pain killers over a stabilizing cast when considering the treatment of broken bones.

"Sweet" Old Ladies

There is a beast that lurks behind the rigid walls of bigotry.  You might know a sweet old religious lady who bakes cookies for children and cares for the ill, but behind the mad assertions of her beliefs about a magic sky zombie, there always lies a vicious brutality.  Mad people are always nice when you agree with them, even Hitler was kind to kittens and sweet as honey when people nodded in sycophantic agreement.  When we follow the genocidal road of Hitler’s syllogistic reasoning from a false premises, where do we end up?

There is a reason why these “sweet” old ladies are still sweet.  There is a reason why you do not confront these kinds of people on their irrational prejudices.

The reason is that you are afraid.

You are afraid of the vicious attack dog that guards their superstitious bigotry.  You are afraid and do not want to admit that you are afraid, so naturally you too must make up answers to explain away your fear.  Naturally you must turn what is otherwise called cowardice into a kind of virtue.  Naturally you must adopt a position of “tolerance” as a cover for your vehement denial of the frightening truth, and what happens when someone begins to talk to you about the things discussed in this article?  What beast lies beneath your own mad rejection of reason and evidence?  What molten rage flows beneath the repression and denial of your fears?


Whatever it is we believe we will inevitably act upon those beliefs in some way, either consciously or unconsciously. Wouldn’t it be a good thing if those beliefs were based on the twin pillars of truth, reason and evidence, rather than bigoted and potentially destructive conclusions?

Perhaps then, we can prevent these diabolical evils, these tragic and cruel brutalities against precious young children like the one above.  Perhaps then we can build a society where these dangerous ideologies are laid to rest and we can finally live our lives without violence.

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The Burden Of Proof

The Centre Of All Things

The God Delusion

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The Story Of Suzie

The Ten Commandments

The Theology Of Statism

Telling Stories

Understanding Religion As Child Abuse

Welcome To This World

Why I Am No Longer A Christian

Why We Believe In Gods

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