Quote of the day

"Children... have a human right not to have their minds crippled by exposure to other people's bad ideas - no matter who these other people are. Parents, correspondingly, have no God-given licence to enculturate their children in whatever ways they personally choose: no right to limit the horizons of their children's knowledge, to bring them up in an atmosphere of dogma and superstition, or to insist they follow the straight and narrow paths of their own faith."

Nicholas Humphrey


  1. "Children... have a human right not to have their minds crippled by exposure to other people's bad ideas on this blog" It's all a matter of your own perspective. This is just his opinion.

    By the way...Parents do have the right to teach their children whatever they want, whether you like it or not. You on the other hand do have the right to disagree. It's called free will. Too bad

    1. Haha Nicholas is one of those far left snowflakes! The world according to Nicholas and what HE thinks is a bad idea. Hey Nick guess what? You have the right to MYOB and stop telling me how to raise my kids.

    2. The concept of free will is dubious at best and also misleading. None of us is truly free, having inherited our genes and also having been heavily influenced and moulded by the society we grew up in, and whatever decisions we make are made within that framework, and based on events in our past, most of which were beyond our control. Our parents were one such influence, which I think highlights the responsibility that parents have, even though they themselves were/are operating from characteristics/culture/experience that they too did not choose.

      We don't choose the environment we are born into and we are limited in our ability to change it, but we are accountable for what we do with the limited "freedom" we do have. I think we do have some ability to make choices (whether those choices are ever truly "free" is another philosophical rabbit hole that I won't get into here), and I think the basic principle is that we should extend the same freedoms to our children, as best we can.

  2. Parents unfortunately do have the right to teach their children as they see fit, but that's not always to the advantage of the child......

    1. Mark I agree with you especially if their parents are Isis!

  3. I doubt Nicholas would get much support for that view. Definition of enculturation. : the process by which an individual learns the traditional content of a culture and assimilates its practices and values.

    Does he think it is possible to raise children with no values at all?

    I think it is the primary job of the parent to instill values in their offspring.

  4. A reply to all of the 4 replies thus far really.

    All but Jacobus mentions "rights", and yes, you do have the "right" do do all of what you state. The often forgotten part of that is that with rights come responsibilities. Marie, absolutely, teach them whatever you like, Jeff, you too, whatever you like, but remember that if you only teach them to be a Christadelphian, and they turn out bad, in WHATEVER way, then that is your RESPONSIBILITY.
    In his book "The way of a Man with a Maid", Ron Abel makes the following comment about children:
    "When a child at 10 years of age wants to do his/her
    "own thing", and shows no interest in the Truth, it may be too late
    to rekindle interest in Divine things when years of neglect have
    resulted in this independent attitude".
    That is a round about way of saying that you have just a few years to do your indoctrination, or that child may well start to think for him/her self.
    Br Abel also makes the following comment:
    "Many students are the product of the Dr. Spock child-rearing practices
    of their parents, and many others have adopted the situational
    ethics of modernistic clergymen—(nothing is absolutely
    right or wrong —it all depends on the circumstances)".
    What I would point out here is that Christadelphians, with those "rights" mentioned, if it does not work out the way THEY want, turn immediately to blame some outside force, or someone else, rather than take their responsibility.

    Mark, Jacobus, I see the role of (myself as) a parent as to primarily teach a child to look after themselves, and to become a responsible contributing member of society,not as "putty" upon which to impose my own, or my religion's beliefs and doctrines. I have no idea if my "values" reflect the needs of society as a whole, and no idea if they are worth instilling in somebody else.

    1. 'and to become a responsible contributing member of society'. That is a value, it is part of our western culture too is it not? 'or my religion's beliefs and doctrines' - so as an Atheist I assume you are not raising your children with an athiestic culture ?

      Do you really want to live in a world where there are no Hindus, Sikhs etc? Thinking of Hindus most are vegetarian, its part of that culture, should they be forced to raise their children as meat eaters ?

    2. Jacobus, responsible and contributing, not sitting around waiting for "everything to be sorted out at the judgement" or wringing their hands expecting the world's problems to be sorted out by imaginary angels in "The Kingdom". I mean actually doing something.
      I don't raise my children (child actually, one is now grown up) with any religious input, but do discuss ideas they have picked up from their wider Christadelphian family, mainly what evidence they present for their beliefs, and how closely their actual lives reflect these supposed beliefs.
      What Hindus and Sikhs believe and eat is not a concern of mine, and whether or not they continue with their beliefs and diets is not either. In my part of the world vegetarianism is just another lifestyle choice, and although vegans tend to be a bit evangelical, I can at least see some health and social benefits from it, which I certainly cannot from religious adherence.

  5. What we want for our children does not always align with what our children want (or need) from us. Nor does it, as Mark said, always align with what is actually best for the child. We are all human and sometimes do not know what's best.

    Children need some boundaries, lest they grow up spoilt and entitled, which will set them up for disappointment and failure. But not too many boundaries, lest they grow up too afraid to really live and flourish. Finding the right balance is a continual challenge.

    Christadelphian parents in particular should imagine how they might like to have been raised had their own parents followed another religion. If you look out at the world you can see the statistics and infer just how much one is influenced by the religion of their parents. Childhood indoctrination is not something that should be taken lightly. I think given how much influence it carries, it does take away some freedom from the child, and as both a parent and a child (who was raised in a religion I now reject) that makes me uncomfortable.

    In my opinion, the job of a parent is to equip children with the tools to survive and thrive in the world, and to follow their own path. In a nutshell, my job as a parent is to make myself redundant. But I see many parents who effectively try to live a second life through their children, and the idea that parents own their children is clearly seen in those who follow strict religions. You can also see it in how the religious speak of God and God's relationship with us. Too often I've heard people defend atrocities in the Bible by saying God can treat people however he likes since he created them and therefore "owns" them. Obviously I don't believe in their god, but I am equally appalled that they would worship a being that they think acts in this way. It shows their moral character, or perhaps more importantly how little they've reflected on the morality of it. Do they truly value themselves, and other humans? Do they value life? Or do they instead see themselves as mere slaves, willing to do whatever (and that word cannot be understated) it takes to please an authority figure, and treating their children the same way? That's not morality, and nor is it anywhere close to the definition of a loving parent.

    1. We all as Parents are responsible to raise our children to the best of our ability. Our children grow up and make their own decisions and we have to respect that they also have a free will and we have no right to control or force anything on them.
      Many Christadelphians feel this way and not everyone is controlling and dominating. The ones that are like that are usually the extremists in the group.
      I would like to mention at this point that I wish you would give a more balanced view of the Christadelphians as a whole. This blog does tend to present the more extreme views. I do know some that are like that but also many others that do not fit this kind of thinking at all.

    2. Jeff, I came from a part of the denomination less extreme than some, and have written about it in various posts and comments. However, we would still have been considered extreme by society at large. I'm not sure that most people still with the Christadelphians are going to judge well what is extreme and what isn't (and yes, the same could apply to those of us who have left it, that we have ended up in a new and extreme bubble in the opposite direction - but if so, I doubt either you or us are in a good position to evaluate how extreme we are).

      However, I think Thom's point is not just about extremists - I think the underlying attitude is very common though, sure, many parents don't think they are doing it and would be shocked at it being said in so many words.

      Acknowledging that children have free will and can make their own decisions is one thing, but that doesn't remove the fact that you have probably slanted the playing field towards belief in your particular God as "normal" and "obvious" before the children had much experience of the real world. Some shake that off easily, while others will face years of struggle. The other thing to remember is fear - the subtle messages you send can make a child think they will be unloved or viewed as a failure if they come to the "wrong" conclusions (whether or not that's the message you intended to send) and that can seriously mess with their minds. And this is from real experience, not hypotheticals.

    3. "Many Christadelphians feel this way and not everyone is controlling and dominating. The ones that are like that are usually the extremists in the group.
      I would like to mention at this point that I wish you would give a more balanced view of the Christadelphians as a whole. This blog does tend to present the more extreme views. I do know some that are like that but also many others that do not fit this kind of thinking at all."

      Jeff, I can only speak of the environment I grew up in and observed, which includes visiting most of the ecclesias in Adelaide, several in Brisbane, and a couple in Perth. In Adelaide I would say the majority would fit towards the more extreme end of the spectrum (though they would not recognise themselves as such), and as Jon mentioned even the most liberal Christadelphians in Adelaide would probably be viewed as somewhat extreme by non-Christadelphian standards.

      To go a step further, when almost 100% of Christadelphians believe that society will someday come crashing down or be destroyed by God/Jesus/angels and replaced by a worldwide kingdom, often in the very near future, and when almost 100% of Christadelphians believe that adherence to specific doctrines found in an iron-age book and immersing themselves in a bath after uttering specific phrases is going to secure them a role in both the coming destruction and in ruling over whoever is left on Earth afterwards.... I don't think you get to call that "balanced". In my view that is pretty far down the end of the extremist spectrum no matter how you dress it up.

  6. Jon, I too had less extreme parents, that is I wasn't strictly indoctrinated into the CDs. I was required to attend Sunday school, youth club and the public meeting on a Sunday but I also mixed with non-religious family members and friends for balance. From an early age, I looked on the CDs with bemusement and couldn't understand why all these adults believed such implausible things happened in the distant past, just because a book said so.
    In my mid teens, it became obvious to my parents that I wasn't in the slightest bit interested in getting baptised and I was allowed to have my Sundays back! However, even though I feel I had my head screwed on, I still felt a bit guilty about walking away and letting down my family, Sunday school teachers, peers etc. How much pressure would this exert on someone who wasn't so strong minded?

  7. This QOTD has been met with disagreement, mainly from believers it seems.

    My question for those who disagree is, what are you afraid might result if you stop brainwashing your kids?

    1. Ouch, more insults from the voice of un-reason. I took the bait - more fool me - you post a QOTD from a famous atheist then we believers disagree. Then you just insult us.

      I'll leave this blog now, so you can do what you did as a CD - sit is a room with other people who 100% agree with you and wonder at the rest us.

      I'll stop brainwashing my kids when you stop beating your wife.

    2. Jacobus, In what way have you been insulted? The question is very easy to answer, and we can see that anecdotally whenever we look. If you don't teach your kids a religion, the chances of them adopting it are vanishingly small. In the case of Christadelphians in the UK, barely 10 people a year join from outside.
      Yesterday it was announced that your religion has seen declines of 50% in just 15 years (ironically the religion that Christadelphians regularly insult and claim to this day lead people astray).


      Thom has clearly rattled your cage by suggesting that kids of religious people are brainwashed, and having been brought up in an Anglican home, I don't fully agree with him, since Anglicanism has a lot more tolerance of others than Christadelphianism has ever had, but nonetheless, the upbringing shaped my views for decades, and sometimes still does.
      So lets say you are not a brainwasher. What are you? Where is your evidence that what you are teaching them is the truth?
      Not expecting a reply.

    3. Jacobus,

      I had no intention of insulting anyone, so I'm very sorry you took it that way. I had no idea you were so sensitive to the particular terms I used.

      I realise now that the use of the word "brainwashing" rather than "raising a child to believe and follow all of the tenets of your religion" may have come across as an insult, but please understand that I don't personally see the distinction even if you and others do.

      Rather than accusing anyone of anything, I (thought I) was merely restating the core premise of the original quote and asking what those who strongly disagree are afraid might result if that quote's advice was followed?

      Several of the responses seemed to take a defensive stance as though a parent's right to raise their child as they think is best, was somehow under threat. It isn't. Yes the quote goes a few steps too far in my opinion, or at least could be worded much better. Parents DO have a right to raise their children as they think is best, but the well-being of the child should also be taken into account. This latter part is the point I wanted to discuss. We all recognise that parents should not be allowed to physically abuse their children in ways that might permanently harm them, and in some cases the state will step in to protect the child. I think this quote is arguing along similar lines, but on psychological grounds.

      The quote specifically mentions "bad ideas", dogma, superstition, and the limiting of a child's horizons. So let me ask again - What might happen if we didn't teach such things to our children, or require them to grow up in our particular religion and believe all the same doctrines/tenets?

  8. I agree with Jacobus, at least partially (disclaimer: I'm not a parent myself). Parents will almost certainly pass on to their children some of the things they value, and that is part of their job as the guardian of the child. And it's not just explicit teaching, either: a fair percentage of kids want to be like their parents (at least when they are young), and they will see what their parents are doing and how well it matches with what they say. So if strongly religious parents are regular church-goers, read the Bible frequently and use it when making decisions, say prayers before meals, etc., it will surely affect their kids and change what family life looks like and what is considered "normal".

    While it sounds good to say "Parents don't have the right to teach bad ideas", we're not going to get a consensus on what ideas are "bad ideas". The strongly religious parent (hopefully) isn't teaching their children with the goal of crippling them. Take YEC, for example - I'm sure my parents thought (and still think) that this is the truth, and that evolution is bad science that children in the world are being indoctrinated with as part of the modern project to deny God. Once I shared that view - now I don't, and would prefer not to have been taught it. But I don't know that you gain anything saying "parents shouldn't teach their children bad ideas" if such parents agree with you on the principle, but disagree with you on what things are bad ideas.

    Oh, and for the record: The weekly QOTDs are posted by Phynnoderee, not by Thom.

    1. "Parents will almost certainly pass on to their children some of the things they value"

      Of course. I assumed this was obvious.

      Yes, children will absorb a huge amount of religion from their strongly-religious parents. Some of this is unavoidable. Again, this is obvious.

      And yes, of course parents will disagree on what constitutes "bad ideas". This is why I put it in quotes in my comment above. Any discussion around "how do we determine which ideas are 'bad'?" is secondary, and in my opinion can be answered semi-objectively with respect to longitudinal data regarding what is harmful to children in the short or long term. This is not an unanswerable question in my view.

      But should we just stop there? I don't think so.

      Parents may well be free to raise their kids to believe in supernatural beings that watch their every move, instil in them a fear of hell/rejection and/or divine punishment, teach them they are helpless without God's help, teach them that they are worthy of death and must constantly seek divine forgiveness, teach them that life is meaningless/purposeless without an afterlife, and all manner of life-limiting beliefs and fears.

      But can't we look at all these things as an outsider and agree that none of this is good for the child?

      I'm not saying anyone here would ever raise their kids this way, but there are many highly religious parents who do. Can you see how arguing for the rights of the parent while completely ignoring the well-being of children, provides the perfect cover and even endorsement for parents who do want to raise their kids this way?

      Hopefully this makes it clearer why I am arguing for a balance between both the rights of parents and the well-being of children. It's not always clear cut, and yes it's difficult to implement in practice as a parent. No I'm not advocating forcing parents to do (or not do) anything. This is a distraction. We can talk about what parents should strive to do and what is beneficial for children without legislating anything.

      So far most objections seem to argue on the grounds that what is beneficial or harmful to children is simply a matter of (a parent's) opinion. Is it though?

    2. Yep, I'm quite willing to agree that in principle children would be better off not being taught bad ideas, including harsh religious teachings and denial of science and human endeavour generally. But I'm not sure that agreement helps when in practice I don't think it will make any difference to anything. I'm not arguing that parents should have the right to indoctrinate children, just that I don't think it will ever stop.

      On parental rights generally, I think it's quite clear that in the Western world parents don't have unlimited rights - the State can and sometimes does step in and take the children away from their parents. However, I don't think that is likely to involve intervention against religious indoctrination any time soon (unless it is accompanied by other forms of abuse), and I'm not sure it should.

    3. I'm somewhat less defeatist. People change when their culture changes, and when societal expectations change. They also change in response to education.

      I think parents in many Western countries already indoctrinate their kids less on average than in the past, and I suspect that trend is probably worldwide, albeit with some notable exceptions.

      Corporal punishment is also fast decreasing worldwide, due to similar societal pressure and education.

      These changes happen slowly, but I think they will happen. I'm not saying we'll reach some kind of utopia or that we'll reach a time when no religious parents will indoctrinate their kids. My comments should be taken far more moderately, meaning that I see a future involving very gradual improvement over the long term, where improvement specifically means better outcomes for children regarding their mental health and well-being. And this applies not just to religion but to many aspects of psychology.

    4. Since I'm the one guilty of publishing this controversial quotation, I'd better chip in with my two cents.

      I'm sure most people would agree that parents don't have the right to teach their children absolutely anything they want, otherwise we would have to respect the right of parents to raise their children to be suicide bombers. Or think of the sex abuse cult known as the Children of God. Innocent children were born into that cult and damaged beyond repair. We'd all agree parents simply do not have the right to raise their kids that way, and there comes a point where society needs to intervene. In other words, there are limits. Where to draw the line is the difficult question, and I don't pretend to know the answer.

      I don't understand Humphrey to be saying that parents don't have the right to pass on cultural values or religious ideas to their children. The way I see it, he's talking firstly about dogmatic indoctrination, where the child is taught that questioning is not permitted, and secondly about a situation where children are not fully regarded as individuals in their own right, with the right to form their own views, but only as instruments to carry on a tradition. (Dogmatic atheistic indoctrination would be just as unacceptable as dogmatic religious indoctrination, because both would be an abuse of the child's freedom to develop.)

      The QOTD posts are offered for interest and consideration, and hopefully to stimulate some discussion, not necessarily because I or the other admins agree with every word of them. I try to present a range of views, including religious ones. The choice of this quote certainly wasn't meant to be a dig at religious people. This blog is for all ex-CDs, not just those of us who are no longer believers.


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