Kids, the Flying Spaghetti Monster Will Kill You In Your Sleep

April 3, 2012
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Imagine if I taught my children the following:

“Kids, if you don’t believe in my version of reality, then one night while you are sleeping, the Flying Spaghetti Monster will visit you in bed and strangle you to death with one of his noodley appendages.”

What if I taught my kids to sincerely believe this without any of us lapsing into a serious giggle-fit? Would this be an “abuse” of my children’s mental faculties? Is using terror and the threat of death a good and fair method of leading someone, anyone, to the truth about our universe? Is the threat of suffocation by a strand of linguine a good way to teach children about life and agree with your version of reality? Clearly it isn’t.

And now you know how I think about Christianity, with its threats of hell and eternal damnation. This is what Christians need to understand about the mental abuse of their religion.

I’ve been hammering Christian apologist Tom Gilson lately for a disastrous column he wrote in The Washington Post. Most recently, I objected to his portrayal of a chapter on child abuse and education in Richard Dawkins’ book The God Delusion.

Gilson tried to defend himself by commenting:

. . . . I wrote in the Post,

“In his best-selling ‘The God Delusion,’ Richard Dawkins devotes an entire chapter to unscientific anecdotes supporting his belief that a religious upbringing is abusive to children.”

That was my description of his work. You describe it the same way, only in more detail Where is the inaccuracy? Is it substantive? For example, maybe there are some few paragraphs that are not “devoted” to that theme, but clearly Dawkins makes an unscientific, anecdotal case for a religious upbringing being abusive.

Would Gilson approve if I brought up my children in the above manner, and if the majority of Americans did the same? If he disapproves of forming children’s beliefs by the above method – using threats of death and punishment – can he provide scientific evidence why I shouldn’t raise my children this way? Do we even need it? No, we don’t. It’s obviously a fallacious appeal to fear, argumentum ad baculum.

And yes, Gilson’s error is substantive, and demonstrably so. More that a third of the 38-page chapter in Dawkins’ book, 15 pages, is dedicated to the objection of teaching creationism and Biblical literalism in the schools, and to the subject of religious education in the schools. This in no way fits Gilson’s description – he’s just flat wrong.

It gets worse for Gilson, because I haven’t even covered all of his poor thinking in The Washington Post column. Here is another howler he employs:

. . . . The American Atheists, for example, co-sponsored a billboard in Harrisburg, PA juxtaposing half of a sentence from the Bible with an inflammatory, racially charged image of slavery. In doing so they combined at least two rational errors: the fallacious appeal to emotion and imagery, and the “straw man” fallacy of misrepresenting their opponents’ position; for although the quoted phrase, “Slaves, obey your masters,” is troubling on the surface, the Bible’s supposed endorsement of slavery is not what atheists allege it to be.

As Glenn Sunshine shows in his chapter in “True Reason: Christian Responses to the Challenge of Atheism,” Christianity has in fact been history’s major force for the freeing of slaves. Immediate abolition was realistically impossible in New Testament times: The Romans would have treated it as insurrection, and the inevitable bloodshed to follow it would have produced greater evil than would have been alleviated by abolition. The injunction to “obey” was thus temporary and contextual. It was also tempered with instructions to masters to treat slaves reasonably, as fellow human beings.

This is utter, complete and abject nonsense, of course. The Bible’s view on slavery is precisely what atheists allege it to be. Now, I have to be honest with you, I didn’t like that billboard for aesthetic reasons, but its message was correct. For instance, let’s see what the Bible says about “treating slaves reasonably.” In Exodus 21:20-21, we have this gem of “reasonableness:”

Anyone who beats their male or female slave with a rod must be punished if the slave dies as a direct result, but they are not to be punished if the slave recovers after a day or two, since the slave is their property.

And here is Exodus 21:26-27:

An owner who hits a male or female slave in the eye and destroys it must let the slave go free to compensate for the eye. And an owner who knocks out the tooth of a male or female slave must let the slave go free to compensate for the tooth.

The Bible mentions slavery often and never condemns it, both Old and New Testament, and nowhere does the allegedly most moral person in history, Jesus, ever condemn it. The Bible gets slavery wrong, disastrously wrong.

I don’t doubt that many modern Christians fought against slavery, but they did so in spite of their Bible, and at odds with other Christians who used the Bible to promote slavery. Consider this quote from religioustolerance.org:

“There is not one verse in the Bible inhibiting slavery, but many regulating it. It is not then, we conclude, immoral.”

This is from Alexander Campbell, a 19th century reverend.

Slavery was ended because of a growing secular awareness of our common humanity, and in direct opposition to Christianity’s vile holy book.

Gilson is just plain wrong. Again.

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