How to Scare the Shit out of Your Kid

“God knows everything, is everywhere and is the more powerful than anything or anyone” – Moms and Dads everywhere

Very young children lack the ability to understand the concepts of omnipresence and omnipotence in a way that doesn’t completely scare the shit out of them. Adults, for the most part, have lost the ability to remember that fear. Omniscience? They get that. From their point of view, their parents and/or other adults in their lives who are or function as close to a primary care provider are omniscient. Mom knows everything, right? Well, at least to a five-year-old.

Actually, a child’s belief that their parents know everything is an outgrowth of our evolution as a species. It allows a parent to protect their children, to nurture them and to prepare them for the real world. It works very well, which is both a good and bad thing, depending on what mom and dad them.

Hell Is For Children…

It is far easier to convince a child that there is a hell, because it’s inherently easier to scare the shit out of little kids by just making stuff up. Tell an adult that there’s a monster under the bed or in the closet and they will look at you like your nuts. Tell a child the same thing and you will find yourself a few years down the road wishing your health insurance had better coverage for therapy.

Warning a child about the dangers of rabid dogs, nefarious strangers, getting lost or what can happen if they dart out into traffic are all part of a parent’s responsibility to protect their kids. Warning a child about an invisible monster who is always out to hurt or kill them in the most horrible ways, is incredibly sneaky, lurks around every corner and is more powerful than any adult – even mom and dad – is not only irresponsible parenting, but borders on child abuse.

Jesus Loves Me, This I Know…

Vacation bible school, the Good News Club and all the other child evangelism programs and events that are aimed at our kids are always filled with bright colors, bouncy balls, fun songs, engaging games and pictures of a smiling Jesus with his arms open wide to welcome all the children into what is usually depicted as a petting zoo, complete with sheep, lambs and other fluffy, harmless animals.

But nestled beneath the cute songs about Jesus loving you because the bible tells you so lies the dark underbelly of fear, and it is this fear that evangelicals will use to indoctrinate another crop of impressionable young minds that if they do not convert to Christianity, they will be doomed to eternal punishment, tortured in hell, where their flesh will burn forever, where there is constant wailing, gnashing of teeth and where worms will be forever and painfully burrowing into whatever flesh they have that is not perpetually on fire.

Of course, telling a child about hell is not really necessary during their formative years, because young children will usually believe anything that an adult tells them without even needing an explanation or reason to. But toddlers grow into adolescents and adolescents are apt to start asking questions. If they are not indoctrinated with the fear of hell from a very young and impressionable age, the chances of them retaining their faith into adulthood is greatly reduced.

All I Really Need To Know…

There is a book called, “All I Really Needed To Know I Learned In Kindergarten.” It was written by a minister named Robert Fuhlgum. The premise of this book is based on lessons normally learned in American kindergarten classrooms, and it speaks to how the world would be a better place if adults adhered to the some basic rules such as sharing, being kind to one another, cleaning up after yourself and the importance of making time to play and learn, as well as work.

This is actually a marvelous idea, and I agree with all of these things. But the psychology behind it is very telling. The first five years of life are critical. They are formative years for the success, performance and development throughout the rest of our life. This has been acknowledged by behavior scientists, educators and biologists. These years are the best window of opportunity for cognitive development. Approximately eighty percent of the intelligence that of an average eighteen-year-old has been developed by the age of six.

Gotta get ’em young…

This is why the church focuses so heavily on children. They need to fill their future pews. Evangelizing adults is difficult and requires a great deal of planning, training and an above-average grasp of apologetics. Adults, especially those who have not been to church or received any formal religious instruction will ask questions that have no logical, reasonable answers.

In spite of the efforts of those who develop adult-oriented evangelism programs, many adults will not be receptive or will end up as “Back Row Baptists,” good only for the occasional check in the collection plate and spending the last half of the church service thinking about what’s for lunch or if they are going to miss the first few minutes of the big game on ESPN. The chances of them becoming evangelists are slim, comparatively.

Reason has always been the enemy of faith. So much so that the bible addresses the importance of child indoctrination quite directly:

“Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it. – Proverbs 22:6”

“Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.'” – Matthew 19:14

As well, consider these quotes from Martin Luther, the founder of the Protestantism:

“Reason is the greatest enemy that faith has; it never comes to the aid of spiritual things, but more frequently than not struggles against the divine Word, treating with contempt all that emanates from God.” — Martin Luther

“Reason is the Devil’s greatest whore; by nature and manner of being she is a noxious whore; she is a prostitute, the Devil’s appointed whore; whore eaten by scab and leprosy who ought to be trodden under foot and destroyed, she and her wisdom …  Throw dung in her face to make her ugly.  She is and she ought to be drowned in baptism…  She would deserve, the wretch, to be banished to the filthiest place in the house, to the closets.” — Martin Luther, Erlangen Edition v. 16, pp. 142-148

“Reason must be deluded, blinded, and destroyed.  Faith must trample underfoot all reason, sense, and understanding, and whatever it sees must be put out of sight and … know nothing but the word of God.” — Martin Luther

We Must Push Back…

It is for these reasons that I, among many, have chosen to focus attention on organizations that prey upon our children for the purposes of indoctrinating them and suppressing or destroying their ability to form opinions. I take no issue with an adult making a conscious decision to follow whatever path they choose. I do take issue with a parent allowing and/or contributing to the retardation of critical thinking skills, the ability to discern fantasy from reality and the drilling of doctrines that perpetuate bigotry, discrimination and hatred.


  26 comments for “How to Scare the Shit out of Your Kid

  1. RowanVT
    January 30, 2012 at 12:11 pm

    I remember crying myself to sleep as a 5 year old, while praying for forgiveness for anything I might have done that day that could have made god angry.

    And this makes me furious now that I had to go through that.

  2. Randomfactor
    January 30, 2012 at 12:23 pm

    Years ago I read of a child-abuse case where the male parent (I won’t say “father”) repeatedly told his young son that bloodsucking bats lived in one of the closets of the house and never to go in there.

    Then one day he picked the kid up, tossed him in, and locked the door. The kid had to be hospitalized–his screaming damaged his vocal cords.

    Yet tell the same kid that his budding interest in sex–or heaven forbid, same-sex attractions–will land him in eternal fiery torture and you’re doing him a favor. By religious standards.

  3. bbgunn
    January 30, 2012 at 1:13 pm

    “Reason is the greatest enemy that faith has; it never comes to the aid of spiritual things, but more frequently than not struggles against the divine Word, treating with contempt all that emanates from God.” — Martin Luther

    Shorter: You can’t be reasonable and believe in god.

  4. January 30, 2012 at 2:31 pm


    Actually, a child’s belief that their parents know everything is an outgrowth of our evolution as a species.

    You know this, how? Link to the experiment and data and analysis, please. Otherwise it sounds like evo-psych just-so woo-babble.

    As for Luther, anyone who actually studied his writings will know that he was not making a treatise against reason. He writes elsewhere of reason being a gift from god. You might have forgotten or never knew that Luther was what we today would call a Calvinist. He would the agree that one cannot reason oneself into believing, but one has to be drawn supernaturally. It is in that sense he criticized reason–the fact that it is not efficacious in bringing one to faith, not in a generic sense that reason should never be employed. But of course quotemining is much more productive than being honest.

    • Al Stefanelli
      January 30, 2012 at 3:11 pm

      Luther’s comments are in context, something you seem to be poorly versed in.

      As far as documentation goes, Feel free to buy my book, “A Voice Of Reason In An Unreasonable World – The Rise Of Atheism On Planet Earth,” where you will find a couple chapters on the subject, as well as all the appropriate links and references.

      I’ll make it easy for you. Here’s a link:

      This is probably the last time I will address you. I do not suffer fools very well.

      • January 30, 2012 at 4:24 pm


        Luther’s comments are in context, something you seem to be poorly versed in.

        Apparently better than you–you claim the quotes are in context, but all you gave are the quotes. You provided no context whatsoever. None. Zero. Zilch-point-oh. There is not a person in the universe who could deduce Luther’s context from the quotes you provided.

        I won’t buy your book because, apart from woo, there is no scientific evidence that I’m aware of that evolution resulted in children believing everything their parents say. The fact that you may spend multiple chapters on it is irrelevant (but hardly surprising).

        As for suffering fools–well I’ll pass making a comment because the first rule of comedy is to let the easy ones go by.

        • kraut
          January 30, 2012 at 5:29 pm

          The context is simple: as long as he thought reason supports belief, then reason is fine. If reason contradicts faith, faith wins and reason is the devils whore.

          “Wenn ich weiß, daß es Gottes Wort ist und Gott also geredet hat, so frage ich danach nicht weiter, wie es könne wahr sein, und lasse mir allein an dem Worte Gottes genügen, es reime sich mit der Vernunft, wie es wolle. Denn die Vernunft ist in göttlichen Dingen stock- und starblind; vermessen ist sie genug, daß sie auch darauf fällt und plump hinein wie ein blind Pferd; aber alles, was sie örtert und schleußt, das ist so gewißlich falsch und irrig, als Gott lebet.” (Zitiert nach Störig, S. 287f.)

          Basically: When I know what god said, (and how does he know that, from translation of documents of doubtful origins?)then I ask no further if it could be true. Gods word is enough for me, no mattre if it is reasonable (it rhymes with reason be it as it may). Reason is blind, she is arrogant.

          • Ysanne
            February 1, 2012 at 3:21 am

            Not that I’d be a fan of Luther, but I think for the standards of his time he was quite reasonable… so let me finish the translation of this context bit:
            “For reason is, with respect to godly things, completely blind; it is presumptious enough fall over this like a blind horse; but all that it reasons and concludes is as certainly wrong and mistaken, as [it is certain] that God lives.”

            Btw, calling Reason a whore has partly to do with the fact that the grammatical gender of the German word “Vernunft” is female.

            A very similar (but not identical) passage from Luther’s text (p. 336) makes the actual context clear: Luther argues that human reasoning is perfectly sufficient to figure out things concerning humans work (e.g. building houses, making clothes, marrying), because “the light of Nature” shows these things clearly enough. He contrasts this with things concerning god and finding out what people should do to make god happy, which cannot be seen in or deducted from “Nature”. And then he goes on to describe how trying to figure out God’s will through reasoning based on “Nature” is the same as working with the wrong materials and from wrong first principles, and then applies this thought to the things people usually do “to make God happy”: Building big churches and the like.

            So actually, what Luther says is that faith and belief are not reasonable and logical — what he condemns with all the “whore” talk is the idea of pseudo-logical reasoning to determine the will of god.
            And yeah, he believed in god — like most people in his time — so he concluded that there’s a time and place for reason and one for faith, and that they are separate.

      • Jon
        February 7, 2012 at 10:57 pm

        I came across your website and agree with a lot that you say, but your arrogance in dealing with contrary comments and ungraciousness leaves much to be desired. For you to make a judgement that someone is a “fool” is to say that you know everything there is to know both about truth and about him or her and their life circumstances. Just because you don’t believe in god doesn’t mean you have to assume that you are his/her replacement.

    • steve oberski
      January 30, 2012 at 6:31 pm

      And for his next act heddle will explain why Luther’s “On the Jews and Their Lies” is not an antisemitic tract.

      This after a very bizarre explanation about how reason is fine by him as long as it’s used to reach an irrational conclusion.

      And speaking of comedy, heddle complaining about “just-so woo-babble” is a tough act to follow.

      I wonder if heddle ever meets himself coming around a corner ?

      It’s hypocritical to demand evidence for the evolutionary basis of children’s belief in their parent’s omniscience while at the same time worshipping an omniscient supernatural being.

      Where’s your evidence heddle ?

      • January 30, 2012 at 6:47 pm

        steve oberski

        and for his next act heddle will explain why Luther’s “On the Jews and Their Lies” is not an antisemitic tract.

        Oh I am so busted! Mea Culpa! Because if you google

        “luther antisemitic”

        You will find all the times on my on blog I defend Luther from unfair charges of antisemitism!!

        Oh. Wait. Those will actually get you all the times I pointed out on my blog that Luther wrote some of the worst anti-semitic screeds evah.


        • steve oberski
          January 30, 2012 at 7:50 pm

          Oh heddle, get the calvinist knot out of your knickers.

          I simply claim that defending Luther as a proponent of reason is analogous to defending him as a friend of the Jews. Just injecting a bit of humour into the conversation, apparently wasted effort on my part.

          I would far sooner read Al’s book than the drivel on your blog and based on your glowing review I’ve just ordered it. I’ve been meaning to do that for a while actually. (You see what I’ve done here by the way, don’t you, I’ve prejudged the content of your blog much like you’ve prejudged Al’s book. Based on your reaction to the Luther comment I felt I had to explain this to you).

          Saw a good pick for you at Amazon by the way, “Believing Bullshit” by Stephen Law.

          Still waiting for that evidence by the way, mild mannered Particle Physicist by day, batshit crazy fundegelical by night. Must be pretty crowded and noisy in your head.

          • kraut
            January 30, 2012 at 8:24 pm

            “mild mannered Particle Physicist by day, batshit crazy fundegelical by night.”

            How can you trust somebody who supposedly looks for evidence to formulate thoeries, but kicks rationality down the staircase after business hours when praying to invisible beings?
            Which god, BTW is the right one, heddle? Any particular one of the about 5500?

  5. kraut
    January 30, 2012 at 3:59 pm

    “I do not suffer fools very well.”

    Not a fool, but a disingenuous liar for jesus.

    All religion is a lie, so what to expect?

  6. lordshipmayhem
    January 30, 2012 at 6:01 pm

    When I want to scare the shit out of a little kid, I don’t need to introduce a fictional place like Hell. I just need to show him Canada’s Hansard – the record of our parliamentary debates.

    “Kid, these idiots make the laws we expect you to follow.”

    Reduces them to sniffling, terrified little tots in no time. Evil of me, I know, but at least I’m not lying to them.

  7. Rick Schauer
    January 30, 2012 at 7:40 pm

    Warning a child about an invisible monster who is always out to hurt or kill them in the most horrible ways, is incredibly sneaky, lurks around every corner and is more powerful than any adult – even mom and dad – is not only irresponsible parenting, but borders on child abuse.

    It is invideous, Al. Just plain bullying!

    “let us prey”

  8. tyrant of skepsis
    January 31, 2012 at 3:21 am

    Very young children lack the ability to understand the concepts of omnipresence and omnipotence in a way that doesn’t completely scare the shit out of them.

    I wonder… do these non-scared adults truly believe it, the idea of omnipresence and omnipotence? I don’t see why adults wouldn’t be scared shitless as well when confronted with these – if they really believed it…

    and they will look at you like your nuts

    Oh I hate it when they do that…

  9. Irreverend Bastard
    January 31, 2012 at 5:19 am

    “and they will look at you like your nuts.”

    My nuts never look at me. Or do they look at me like they look at my nuts?

    Freudian slip?

  10. Sandman
    January 31, 2012 at 8:37 am

    “In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Department of Children And Families (DCF) define child maltreatment as any act or series of acts of commission or omission by a parent or other caregiver that results in harm, potential for harm, or threat of harm to a child.”

    Apparently the US religious get a by on that definiton.

    Case in point.

    In the US, at Halloween, “Hell Houses” that display graphic acts of snuff porn gory violence (and the worst examples of amateur dramatics honey roast ham acting) are commonplace and go on without any input or control by bodies that, were the same acts displayed on a Broadway stage or Hollywood film, would step in and apply some form of age related censorship.

    In the UK, when one church tried the same thing, the show was shut down by local authorities before it opened, and the relevant church body threatened with proceedings including public indecency and child abuse should they ever try it again. The church tried to take the local authorty to court, but withdrew their case when advised by several legal firms they would have no chance of winning.

    In the UK, at least, we dont consider “faith” an adequate defence in child abuse cases.

    Faith by its very nature instills you with fear and makes you disreguard facts and evidence. In a country that is armed to the teeth Id suggest that is an insane and explosive mix.

    And Heddle….Id rather be a pinhead than an Evidentially Challenged Faith Deluded Apologist TWAT.

    Sticks n stones sparky.

  11. January 31, 2012 at 10:25 am

    Sandman ,

    And Heddle….Id rather be a pinhead than an Evidentially Challenged Faith Deluded Apologist TWAT.

    You’re happy, I’m happy.

    • steve oberski
      January 31, 2012 at 11:14 am

      Evidence heddle, evidence.

  12. Aquaria
    January 31, 2012 at 7:34 pm

    I was raised by my atheist grandmother from the age of 2 to 11 years old, and I didn’t have to make up a genocidal scumbag in the sky to keep us in line–she was scarier than any phantasm of one, all by herself. Hearing her call my first and middle name across the farm was enough to send cold terror through me–or make me wet my pants in terror.

    The only way I could understand what the idiot Baptists meant about gawd waitin’ to send people to hell was my grandmother catching me at something I wasn’t supposed to do. He’d get me…when? Huh? How?

    The scumbag in the sky seemed like a total wimp at the barest scrutiny. Why be scared of that, when my grandmother was there to give me a dressing down in the here and now?

  13. riverrunner
    January 31, 2012 at 8:27 pm

    i was afraid of hell well into my 30s due to indoctrination as a child. now I am mad. thank you for your insightful post.

  14. February 3, 2012 at 11:00 am

    Normally I don’t read article on blogs, however I would like to say that this write-up very pressured me to take a look at and do it! Your writing style has been surprised me. Thank you, very great article.

  15. Azuma Hazuki
    February 5, 2012 at 2:14 am

    Oh look, it’s Heddle! Like all Calvinists, he’s got his head permanently wrapped in thick clouds of smug (no, not a typo; think South Park, and remember where smug emissions come from).

    Anyone thinking of taking him seriously, remember this: he claims that conversion to Calvinism is possible only if 1) Calvinism is true or 2) the convert is brain damaged and/or insane.

    Then look at some of what he writes.

    Then draw your own conclusions. (Hint: one of them should be something along the lines of “Oh, hey, a false dichotomy! Heddle here is from the CS Lewis school of apologetics!”)

    Much like the man I’ve no doubt is one of his idols, Bill Craig, Heddle seems reasonable and sane in small doses, especially if you’ve not had the kind of training in text criticism, logic, philosophy etc. I have. It’s when you take an archivist’s view, and see all his past activity, that little gems like the above come up. And the big picture is about as sane as one of those cat drawings by the schizophrenic artist.

    Know the best part? Like Craig, like Plantinga, like van Til, Heddle is a member of the worst class of blasphemers on the planet! It’s simple: as illustrated by the example above, Heddle places absolute faith in his own senses, perceptions, and thoughts! Yes, yes, he’ll say that his thoughts are inspired/guided and therefore correct…but he has only his word for it 🙂

    Deep down, like all Calvinists, the man is a terminal narcissist. He worships himself and his ideas, and his idol is pink and squishy and lives between his ears. This is it, folks; this right here is the secret underpinnings of Calvinism.

  16. Azuma Hazuki
    February 5, 2012 at 2:24 am

    And somewhat more on topic:

    It is very strange that Universalism was the prevailing view among most of the major churches for the first several hundred years, isn’t it, given the emphasis on eternal hellfire and brimstone in the modern world?

    Passing strange indeed that the great Universalist, Origen, should be anathemized for the doctrine of pre-existence of souls, but not for his Universalism for several hundred years later, while the first group had every opportunity to take him to task for it.

    How odd that in a milieu swarming with people who did advocate eternal torment of the wicked, the koine Greek erroneously rendered “eternal punishment” in Matthew is “aionios kolasis,” or “chastisement to the age!”

    How strange that the other E.T. advocates always used “timoria” for punishment and “athanaton” (deathless) or “aidios” (eternal proper) for the length of time!

    How very unexpected that of the original churches, only the corrupt and distant Latin church advocated an eternity of torment for the wicked! Could it possibly be due to problems translating the ideas of “aion” and “kolasin” into a language which simply didn’t have such fine distinctions?

    And what of the other, non-Latin churches? Why, they’re all extinct, bar perhaps a few scattered Nestorians somewhere in India.

    Remember: the winners write the history books. And you sure as whichever Hell you choose will NOT hear any of this in CCD!

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