A mission to the preachers

Janet Heimlich wants to get atheists talking to clerics in order to do a better job of fixing the (enormous and terrible) problem of religious child abuse. She has a post on the subject on her blog.

I’ve been speaking on the subject of religious child maltreatment for some time, and a glance at my speaking schedule shows what groups have been most eager to have me come talk about this topic. While some religious organizations have extended invitations, I have been welcomed by atheist groups more than any other by far. I can think of all kinds of reasons why this would be, but the fact remains, atheists are willing to learn about religious child maltreatment more than any other group. [Read more...]

The good of the faith community takes priority

Valerie Tarico interviewed Janet Heimlich last May, on the subject of Heimlich’s new book on religious child maltreatment.

Tarico: Some people would say that religion prevents child abuse – that a supportive spiritual community or a personal relationship with a higher power, or a strong moral core is the antidote to maltreatment.
Heimlich: As I state in the book, families generally benefit from participating in religious activities. Still, we are only beginning to understand how children are harmed in certain religious communities.  In my research, I found that, in these problematic cultures, the good of the faith community as a whole takes priority over members’ individual needs, and this is particularly true with how those communities view children.

And women.

Tarico: Are some kinds of religious communities more prone to maltreatment than others? What are the patterns?
Heimlich: In writing Breaking Their Will, I felt it was imperative not to simply expose problems but answer the question: What makes religious experiences healthy and unhealthy for children? I came to the conclusion that children are more vulnerable to abuse and neglect if they live in religious authoritarian cultures. There are three perfect-storm factors that identify a religious culture or community as authoritarian: one, the culture has a strict, social hierarchy. Two, the culture is fearful. And three, the culture is separatist. The more intense these three factors are—the more authoritarian the culture is—the more likely children will be harmed. It’s important to note that it doesn’t matter whether the community is Christian, Jewish, or Muslim; whether people worship a deity called “God,” “Allah,” or “Jehovah”;  or whether they read from the Bible, the Qur’an, or the Book of Mormon. Any religious culture has the potential to subscribe, and be subjected, to authoritarian “rule.”

A very important point. We’ve been learning about how it plays out lately from Vyckie Garrison and others at No Longer Quivering and Libby Anne at Love, Joy, Feminism and the people at Broken Daughters.

I met Tarico and Heimlich, and a lot of other great people, last night. Not an authoritarian in the bunch.

The direction of benefits

Chapter 6 of Janet Heimlich’s terrific book Breaking Their Will: shedding light on religious child mistreatment is titled “An Obsession with Child Obedience.” The final paragraph of the chapter says:

While there is nothing wrong with encouraging children to honor their parents, scriptures and religious concepts that promote child obedience offer an unbalanced and unhealthy parent-child relationship model. That is, while theology says plenty about what children must do for parents, it is largely silent on what parents owe children. Expecting children to honor and obey “in all things” promotes the use of corporal punishment, fear, and, sometimes, physical abuse. [pp 97-8]

It’s exactly the same with “God,” you know. Humans are told to obey and worship god, but God is never told to take responsibility for its creation. Praying is begging, not telling.

It’s always the duty of the lower to suck up to the higher, never the responsibility of the higher to take care of the beings they created in the first place. That’s no doubt because god conspicuously doesn’t take care of humans (let alone other animals), but it’s crappy morality. Obviously god owes us more than we owe god.