“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.