Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Guest Post: Belts and Paddles: An Easy Justification for Atheism

“[P]ain is a marvelous purifier. . . It is not necessary to beat the child into submission; a little bit of pain goes a long way for a young child. However, the spanking should be of sufficient magnitude to cause the child to cry genuinely.” – James Dobson

The persistent dogmatism of conservative Christianity was going to lead me in one of two directions, either progressive Christianity or Atheism. It did not have to be this way and maybe today things could be different; but this is the one area that things do get quite serious.

It is the one areas that even as an Atheist I will side with those Christian anti-spankers in their crusade. I do not believe the Bible is really telling parents in the 2014 to spank their kids. I am not going to get into the nitty gritty of it on this blog. Check out my spanking myth blog for more details. Suffice it to say their are some really persuasive arguments that can keep hitting and abusing children out of religion. Granted, I do think god could have been more clear!

The problem here lies in the fact that so many Christians dogmatically assert that you must hit your kid or you are not a good Christian or Parent. This is one of the key elements of why I am now an atheist. Sure there are many other reasons, but this is one that could have been avoided quite easily. I will make the case here that those Christians who strongly advocate spanking are actually pushing non-believers away and estranging believers who are against spanking.

This is done in three primary ways. The first is too make this an issue one that concerns the eternal destination of your soul. Of course I reject all notions of heaven and hell, but I will concede here to make my point. It may not be stated so bluntly but to many Christians the refusal to spank your child is chalked up as direct disobedience to god. To do this means you are not concerned with the souls of your children and in fact may not be concerned with your own soul.

I remember talking to my pastor about this and the impression was very clear. To not spank is a declaration of my living in sin and according to the doctrines of this Calvinist church to live in sin without repentance is to endanger your soul with hell fire. Others on Facebook would say I was liberal and imply that I did not hold the Bible in high esteem even after doing more bible study on the issue than they ever did.

To take something so personal and to make it a test of faith or at best a test of good Christianity left a mark on me that never went away. It ultimately led me to questioning the Bible as a whole and wondering why I could feel such a moral outrage on something they considered moral. I started asking the question would I disobey a command of god even if I felt it was wrong? The answer was an emphatic yes! The next question was, why would god command me to do something that I felt was wrong? So dear Christian if you do not want your fellow believers asking these questions than do not back your fellow believers into a corner where they have too. Also, stop with the whole nonsense that Atheists do not have morals. It was morality that led me out of my faith.

The second thing that Christians often take that turn off believers and non believers alike is that they argue from ignorance by quote mining. They quote scripture or some random guy to prove their point, instead of actually dealing with the context. This aspect really amazed me, because even pastors who were big on reading stuff in their context were horrible about doing this when it came to corporal punishment. To be honest I think many pastors do not want to upset the congregation for fear of losing their lively hood.

I remember countless discussions on Facebook and in Email where the premise was based on biblical fiat and where my explanation of the Bible was completely rejected. In a conversation with my old roomate back in my seminary days, I remember giving careful diligence to explain the origin of the word “rod” and how it was meant to be take poetically. The fact that the phrase “spare the rod, spoil the child” was not even in the Bible, but from a poem called Hudibras. The fact most proponents of spanking did not even know this betrayed their ignorance and sheepishness. In fact, that is why they hide behind mere quotes and instead of using reason and logic they just listen to preachers. Instead of doing actually research they just parrot back something James Dobson said.

Lastly, I guess what really pushed me away was how close minded these people were to science. One of the best kept secrets in child psychology is that kids who are not spanked actually do better than kids who were spanked. It is no surprise that other studies that reveal that spanking damages the developing brain, that spanking causes sexual confusion, and that children who are spanked are more likely to be violent to others and to continue this vile practice. The evidence is overwhelming the corporal punishment is detrimental to society and can cause real harm. Many today testify to that fact and many adults suffer resentment and pain from their childhood experiences. This is in fact one of the main reason many children of believers become leave the faith when they are older. Now just think about that for a minute. Was not the primary reason you are told to spank and hit your child was to save their souls from hell, but now look at them! According to your very own theology if they as atheists or agnostics they are headed for hell! Do you smell a rat now. Maybe we can finally stop this cycle. After all hitting kids is not the best way to demonstrate the validity of your faith and leads many to an easy justification to reject it including your very own children.

So, Christian or non Christian anti-spankers remember these things and when confronted by someone who wants to force their view of corporal punishment on you then tell them these things. Tell them that this is a private family matter, tell them that simply quoting scripture does not remove ignorance, and tell them that science in fact does matter, and tell them that these type of behaviors are bad for religion and bad for the world.

As an atheist, I will tell all those people who tried to force this dogma onto me and belittle me for standing up for what was right that I use them as an easy excuse for my atheism. After all, how could a loving and holy God command immorality? Also how could a Holy Spirit really be guiding them? I think it is clear that he or she is not, but maybe just maybe I would think differently if Christians were more consistent. Maybe, It would not be so easy to be an atheist if it was not made so evident that these dear people are not following god, but their own delusions. So my challenge is do your research, do not rely on tired arguments, and please do not reject science.
Mark Sebert

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