Wednesday, May 20, 2009

What Dawkins Doesn't Understand

Today I am going to write about the one thing that bothers me about Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion. I loved the book but if he needs to truly argue that religion is child abuse, then he cannot so blithely dismiss the impact of sexual abuse on children raised in Christian environments.

The absolute power of the Christian god is embedded in Christian children from their birth. Whatever that particular god structure is, it is consistently reinforced by their parents, their church communities and sometimes their school systems.

Dawkins wouldn't disagree with this, but when he uses an example of a one time experience of sexual assault by a priest (described as "yukky" by the woman recounting it) to point out that psychological damage is far more damaging, he is does a massive disservice not only to those abused in a Christian context but, of all things, to his own argument that religion is child abuse. Dawkins just doesn't really get it when it comes to the impact of sexual abuse of children in a religious context. Perhaps he needs to see Deliver Us From Evil ( Or perhaps he needs to read Our Fathers: The Secret Life of the Catholic Church in an Age of Scandal by David France. He migh then get some idea, albeit secondhand of just what kind of damage the combination of religion and sexual abuse can cause.

There are two possible reasons for his dismissal. The first is that that it never really happened to him and he is therefore making a false generalization from his own experience and people who have had "minimal" experience of sexual abuse (these do exist - and it is a far cry from what I and millions of other children were subjected to). He quite clearly does not know anyone who has been devastated by the sexual abuse which includes all of the other forms of abuse that can knowingly be inflicted on children. The second possibility is that perhaps it did happen to him and he has never had to look at it. In other words, he has successfully managed to live a life without running into a situation that will cause him to have flashback or emotional crisis.

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