Christian Education or Indoctrination?

January 2, 2008 at 10:52 am 24 comments

Teaching ChildrenThe focus of my last post, I weep for the children who are victimized by their spiritual leaders, was about various ways that churches manipulate, and sometimes even abuse, children. The second of my two examples, the Nigerian Witch Hunts, was a clearcut case in which thousands of children are being horrifically abused by not only their pastors, but also their parents, who themselves have been browbeaten into believing that their children are witches.

The first example I cited, the one to which I devoted the bulk of that post, was the story of the confirmation service of a seven-year old girl into an evangelical Christian church. As I observed the ceremony, a comment by the officiating pastor made me ponder the moral implications of what the girl may have been taught in preparation for the ceremony, which includes the following “promise”:

Having asked God for forgiveness, I will trust him to keep me good. Because Jesus is my Savior from sin, I will be his loving and obedient child and will try to help others to follow him. I promise not to use intoxicating drink, harmful drugs or tobacco. I promise to pray, to read my Bible and, by His help, to lead a life that is clean in thought, word and deed.

The person who presides over the ceremony typically reads the promise to the congregation. After this, the child being confirmed is asked, publicly, if he or she is willing to keep that promise. Not surprisingly, the answer is always, “yes.”

This promise is the first of two that children reared in my denomination are expected to make. The children who keep this promise are then encouraged to take an adult vow at some point between the ages of fourteen and seventeen following further required doctrinal instruction.

I think the reason for calling the young people’s pledge a promise rather than a vow, pledge or covenant is that children develop a sense of fairness rather early in life. A corollary to their sense of fair play is that they take promises very seriously. Thus, the term taps into that value in a way that none of the others do. Of all the terms I cited, promise is the one that is the most concrete for children. It effectively gives children an appropriate sense of the solemnity of the occasion and the seriousness with which they must take their beliefs. This promise is deliberately and effectively designed to fulfill the purposes for which it is intended: to initiate children into a community of believers and to reinforce some of the primary tenets of that body’s belief system. It is indisputably one small component of an intricate program of indoctrination.

Few churches call what they do indoctrination. Christian Education is the terminology most frequently employed these days. This phrase may indicate that denominational leaders don’t recognize that education and indoctrination are two distinct processes and that they are engaged in the latter rather than the former. Or it may indicate that denominational leaders are aware of the distinctions but want to use the less inflammatory term to mask the insidious process that actually occurs with their consent and according to their wills.

Another possibility is that some Christian leaders would be bold enough to call what they do indoctrination and would state that they do not view that as a negative thing. They would possibly argue that indoctrination is a necessary process by which believers must be insulated from the corrupting influences of the world. The corollary to that (which they would not utter aloud) is that indoctrination insulates the church from the deleterious effects of apostasy. Rather than provide believers with the tools required to formulate beliefs independently, theistic religions must keep them in a state of perpetual childlikeness and dependence. To educate rather than indoctrinate would lead inevitably to the demise of theistic religion, as it would enable people to set aside the shackles of superstition, think independently of their leaders and eventually divest themselves of those leaders. In short, education in the stead of indoctrination would be the death knell of religion. That is why indoctrination is religion’s chosen methodology of instruction and that is why the process begins with a sect’s youngest, most vulnerable, members.

- the chaplain

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The De-Conversion New Years Sermon Christianity is Confusing

24 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Terry K. Moore  |  January 2, 2008 at 11:24 am

    I’ve been a youth pastor for several years now and I would have to agree that the majority of churches (and I’m willing to bet it’s 95% or more) give their children, their youth, and their members a sense of “here’s the rules” and give them a sense of guilt if they fall short of following them. This makes many lead rather guilty-feeling-lives. Talk about a misrepresentation of God.

    More churches need to learn to stop force feeding those that come in our doors and teach them how to be self-feeding. Stop telling people what to believe and start showing them why we believe.

    Hopefully this isn’t insulting, but I’ve read a few posts and this really got my attention. I feel the people I really want to talk with people concerning Christ is those who know nothing about the church (which doesn’t seem to be the case here), those that have been greatly hurt by the church, and those that have been told a pack of lies by the church. So as I read I feel empathy for what I’m seeing and hope to learn more about those I desire to share the real Christ with (not the twisted portrayal so many churches are caught up in teaching).

  • 2. karen  |  January 2, 2008 at 2:11 pm

    Few churches call what they do indoctrination. Christian Education is the terminology most frequently employed these days. This phrase may indicate that denominational leaders don’t recognize that education and indoctrination are two distinct processes and that they are engaged in the latter rather than the former.

    Exactly. Education teaches people how to think; indoctrination teaches people what to think. All the religious instruction I went through as a child was distinctly of the latter variety.

    Even as an adult, I was warned not to educate myself about other religious beliefs. As I was questioning Christianity, I looked into Buddhism and Judaism and bought a couple of books on those topics. My husband objected that I was bringing evil spirits into our household and he did not want them physically “tainting” our home! The only way to learn about other religious beliefs “safely” was to take a course on world religions that a missionary group offered at our church. Of course, you can imagine how “objective” that course was – all other religions were presented as deceptions of Satan! There was absolutely no objective presentation of religious beliefs outside of Christianity.

    I feel the people I really want to talk with people concerning Christ is those who know nothing about the church (which doesn’t seem to be the case here), those that have been greatly hurt by the church, and those that have been told a pack of lies by the church.

    You’re right, Terry, that that doesn’t describe most/any of us. We are former Christians from many traditions and left due to study and research leading to the realization that the claims of religion are unsupportable, rather than being hurt by the church or lied to (though that happened in many cases as well).

    So as I read I feel empathy for what I’m seeing and hope to learn more about those I desire to share the real Christ with (not the twisted portrayal so many churches are caught up in teaching).

    But how is it that you know the “real Christ” and “so many churches” are teaching some false version of Christ and Christianity? How do you know yours is the authentic version and all those churches are wrong? Further, where’s the holy spirit (a question I often ask)? If people accept Christ and receive the promised holy spirit, don’t they get some supernatural guidance as to how to evangelize and teach Christianity? If not, what validity does the doctrine of the holy spirit have?

    Not much, if we were to judge by the number of Christians who come here and tell us how misguided or downright wrong “so many churches” are that claim to be Christian.

  • 3. HeIsSailing  |  January 2, 2008 at 3:01 pm

    Karen:

    My husband objected that I was bringing evil spirits into our household and he did not want them physically “tainting” our home!

    Back in high school, oh… nearly 30 years ago now, I brought Hermann Hesse’s novel about the Buddha, ‘Siddhartha’, into my Baptist High School to read during lunch break. Holy smokes, that got me into a lot of trouble!!

    Funny thing about that Baptist school that I have told here before. Chairman Mao had just died, and I was taking a test in some kind of history class. I will never forget one of the questions on that test: ‘Where is Chairman Mao today?’ The correct answer, which I remember getting correct, was ‘hell’. Hilarious, now that I think back on that! Does that kind of stuff count as religious indoctination?

  • 4. JustCan't  |  January 2, 2008 at 3:04 pm

    Well said Karen. Although many of us have been harmed by churches and religion, that is not why many of us are here. I will point out though that many of the people who were harmed were harmed by sects that explicitly believed that they were doing it the right way. The fundamentalist views that are accompanied by belief that “I’m a True Christian, give TRUE Christianity a try and you’ll see” are often what does the damage to families and people in the first place.

    In my case, it is scaring my toddler (the apocalyptic and black and white view) and quickly decaying my marriage. This is perpetrated by someone who says that they are doing it the right way (they’re a true christian — not “religious” or part of a “church”). I dare say that “some churches” are not the problem — “True Christianity” and all of its subsets are — as a whole. It is not so simple as to say we didn’t look in the right place.

  • 5. societyvs  |  January 2, 2008 at 3:56 pm

    I want to respond to one of Karen’s questions – since for 2 years I have been looking into the phenomenon.

    “But how is it that you know the “real Christ” and “so many churches” are teaching some false version of Christ and Christianity? How do you know yours is the authentic version and all those churches are wrong” (Karen)

    This is a very tricky question to be honest and is a form of entrapment for the answerer (to some level). If I say I have the ‘right way’ of looking at this then I am become the self-styled guru to follow (which is completely absurd a thought). However, if I say I don’t have some answers then I am ignorant and have nothing to offer outside the actual church line anyways.

    However, there is a difference between the actual gospelic view of Jesus and what we see in Western churches – including Catholicism. I raise questions based on this also – because I do love the teachings of Jesus and want to be true to the intent within the writings (for the which I actually catch a little heat from both sides on this debate). But there are differences between the intent of those gospelic ideas and what we see in churches these days – first and foremostly how ‘believe’ is defines and the faith/works system.

    So some people might be onto something when they do address the problems in the church and have some validity with what they’re saying – however – no person is an island and the need for community is still an essential (which I find blogging to be on some level). Answers and change in the church are slow in coming but they do exist.

    Also someone mentioned that the worst experience was indoctrination and that culture in the church – I agree to a point. The problem isn’t the learning – but the process by which it is done and even indoctrination from a horrible set of views to one of compassion and peace can be good (up to a point). But indoctrination becomes a problem when the one indoctrinated does it to keep the system growing and not themselves – even when the indoctrination is obviously ‘full of holes’. But the beginning of the process is not so harmful – at least – when I look back it became harmful only after it stifled growth and thinking (which I think the blog itself points to).

    I would say to Karen – this isn’t a black n white world – we all tend to agree there – so if someone says ‘maybe the teachings of the church on Jesus are not accurate’ – they just may be right and cannot be ruled out based on a sincere question. Not saying that person has ‘all the answers’ but maybe they are going down a road that has been unchartered for some time – this need for the church to re-evaluate it’s own dogma (and how that is nationally influenced).

  • 6. asymptosis  |  January 2, 2008 at 4:07 pm

    Rather than provide believers with the tools required to formulate beliefs independently, theistic religions must keep them in a state of perpetual childlikeness and dependence.

    Hi Chaplain,

    Nice post. I only take issue with this one sentence. Is what you describe limited to only theistic religions? Furthermore, I am convinced that it is not a phenomena that pervades all theistic religion.

    If I understand correctly, Catholicism, and the Eastern Orthodox Church (not to mention liberal Christianity and others) all have histories of encouraging careful intellectual analysis of religious texts, as well as intellectual growth in general, and do not as a rule force inerrantist views on their followers. The Jesuits in particular spring to mind.

    I think Islam also has had its share of sects that likewise favour investigation and acceptance of other religions over mindless suppression and warfare. (Sorry, I don’t know enough about the history of Judaism to comment on that religion.)

  • 7. exevangel  |  January 2, 2008 at 5:06 pm

    The tactics only get more harsh as the children grow up; things may be phrased as postive and in terms of a promise at age 7, but the imagery used, for example, to promote chastity in teenagers is often quite violent. I remember my youth pastor referring to losing one’s virginity as a baseball smashing through a plate glass window; I have also heard many times of flowers being crushed in young girls’ hands. The indoctrination is associated increasingly with fear of what would happen if things were questioned and rules not followed. That’s where the clear divergence between education and indoctrination occurs, where the negative tactics come in, IMHO!

  • 8. qmonkey  |  January 2, 2008 at 5:09 pm

    Its slightly outside the topic of the post, but yes Karen i think its worth saying that i was never ‘hurt’ or damaged by the church… it was a close and loving family to me, and the vast majority of my friends are still part of it. It’s just that they have disastrously lowered their standard of evidence re: the whole Jesus story. If they could just throw out the whole Jesus=God nonsense I’d gladly rejoin.

  • 9. karen  |  January 2, 2008 at 6:23 pm

    Back in high school, oh… nearly 30 years ago now, I brought Hermann Hesse’s novel about the Buddha, ‘Siddhartha’, into my Baptist High School to read during lunch break. Holy smokes, that got me into a lot of trouble!!

    You, too!? I read that one as a teenager and it upset my mother, though it wasn’t a problem in public school. ;-) To mom’s credit, she didn’t lecture me or take it away from me, though.

    This is a very tricky question to be honest and is a form of entrapment for the answerer (to some level).

    I don’t know why it’s so tricky. Many people come here and tell us that they have the “true Christ” or they have a relationship with Jesus, rather than a religion. I’ve always been curious how they know with such apparent certainty that they have things right and the others who also claim Christianity are wrong. It seems pretty straightforward, actually.

    I would say to Karen – this isn’t a black n white world – we all tend to agree there – so if someone says ‘maybe the teachings of the church on Jesus are not accurate’ – they just may be right and cannot be ruled out based on a sincere question. Not saying that person has ‘all the answers’ but maybe they are going down a road that has been unchartered for some time – this need for the church to re-evaluate it’s own dogma (and how that is nationally influenced).

    That’s fine; if they are re-evaluating what the churches teach (that’s plural, obviously) I have no problem with that. However, that’s not typically the way it’s phrased. And, my question still stands: How do you know you’re right, and the other views on Christianity – both historical and modern – are inaccurate?

    The tactics only get more harsh as the children grow up; things may be phrased as postive and in terms of a promise at age 7, but the imagery used, for example, to promote chastity in teenagers is often quite violent. I remember my youth pastor referring to losing one’s virginity as a baseball smashing through a plate glass window; I have also heard many times of flowers being crushed in young girls’ hands.

    The image I remember is that if you had sex outside of marriage it was like chopping up your heart and giving pieces away to each sex partner. Pretty violent stuff. The other teaching is that you were “damaged goods” emotionally if you weren’t a virgin at marriage because the part of yourself that you had to give to your spouse would be diminished – you’d only have half a heart or less to give.

  • 10. Jersey  |  January 2, 2008 at 8:31 pm

    Still…seven is WAY too young to ask for “forgiveness of ins”. The kid isn’t old enough, much less mature enough, to exactly know right from wrong. That’s why Jews held bar/bat mitzvahs – the ceremony and recognition of entering adulthood – at 12-13 for most Jews. At that age, most people know their rights from wrongs.

  • 11. TheNorEaster  |  January 2, 2008 at 9:13 pm

    How do you know yours is the authentic version and all those churches are wrong?

    Well, I’m sure you know that a lot of those churches spew legalistic rules and are very critical of those who do not follow them. For example…

    I promise not to use intoxicating drink

    But the first miracle that Christ ever performed was changing water to wine. So, obviously, “intoxicating drink” has its purpose (for lack of a better term)–especially at celebrations like weddings.

    For me, one place to start in finding my own path–which may or may not be “the authentic” path–was learning the difference between Christendom (a specific group of Christians) and Christianity (what Christ taught).

  • 12. the chaplain  |  January 3, 2008 at 9:49 am

    asymptosis:
    You asked whether indoctrination is practiced only by theistic religions. Frankly, there are too many religions in the world for me to answer that definitively. Regardless of whether it applies uniformly to every religion in the world, my basic point that religion in almost any form has some inherent dangers is one that should be considered seriously. The fact is that nearly all religions propagate, at some point, irrational beliefs and behavior. Possible exceptions may be Buddhism and Confucianism and related religions with which I am not intimately familiar.

    You asked about RC, EOC and other religions being more open to intellectual inquiry than conservative Protestant sects. This is a bit tricky. LeoPardus, another contributing author here, can speak knowledgeably about the EOC.

    My impression of the RC Church is mixed. Jesuits are known for their scholarship and Catholic theologians are among the most intriguing Christian scholars and authors today, so your point is well taken, to some degree. Moreover, the RC Church has accepted evolutionary theory for decades, so they are clearly ahead of many Protestants denominations in that regard. However, the Jesuits also said, famously, “give me the child until the age of seven and I will give you the man.” They clearly knew the value of getting kids while they’re young, before they can fully understand and engage with the religious ideas they are taught. Moreover, the RC Church continues to propagate some archaic teachings and practices, such as celibate priesthood, male-only priesthood, no birth control, etc. It’s difficult to reconcile such teachings with scholarly enlightenment. Many similar points can be made about Islam, which also has a mixed history of enlightenment and repression.

    More to the point of this post, RCs still hold confirmation services for young children who cannot possibly understand much of what they have been taught. I think the Mennonites are on the right track in their rejection of childhood evangelism and baptism, and their insistence that one must be an adult (I don’t know what the minimum age of adulthood is for them, I’m guessing somewhere in the teen years) in order to be baptized as a member into the congregation. Nevertheless, any religion that teaches about a supernatural sky-daddy that cares for individual believers, and who requires obedience and submission, is, at some point, irrational.

  • 13. LeoPardus  |  January 3, 2008 at 11:50 am

    I noticed at least a couple allusions to the idea that a seven year old child wouldn’t know right from wrong or wouldn’t have committed any sins needing repentance. Gotta say that’s hogwash. And we all should know it. Think about it.

    -Have you ever heard a ≤7 year old lie deliberately? Of course. We all have.
    -Have you ever known of a ≤7 year old stealing? Yep.
    -Has a ≤7 year old ever destroyed something deliberately, knowing it was wrong and hurtful? Yep.
    -Has a ≤7 year old ever tried to hurt someone else’s feelings deliberately? Oh yeah.

    The list could go on.

    I’ll admit that ≤7 year olds rarely commit armed robbery, do heavy drugs, or drive drunk. But let’s not try to pretend they are angels in human form. We all ought to be able to either remember being ≤7 or have kids to remind us.

  • 14. Terry K. Moore  |  January 3, 2008 at 1:16 pm

    @ Karen (although probably to others as well)
    Good questions. I figured out that I definitely chose my words really poorly. Wow, I step right into the same shoes of so many others who have made stupid claims about "if only you expereience the ‘real Jesus’". I’m going to try to address each part of your questions:
    But how is it that you know the “real Christ” and “so many churches” are teaching some false version of Christ and Christianity?
    I don’t want to type up a book here so my short answer would be that people have really screwed up. For probably 99.9% of Christians, the interpretation has become more important than the source. And all of those Christians would claim that their interpretation is perfectly aligned with what is found in the Bible. This definitely gives addage to your question. I was fortunate enough to become a Christian while I was in college at the age of 22; I’m now 31. So I have no/little love for tradition or some churches’ interpretation. I never was the kind to just follow what I was told. . .even now that gets me into loads of trouble as a youth pastor (I fight church decisions frequently when it’s based on stupid traditions). Because I lack a love for tradition and am untrusting of interpretations I check it with the Bible always. If it doesn’t line up or kind of lines up but kind of doesn’t then I don’t accept it. The thing that also makes me different than most Christians is I actually know that everything doesn’t need to be interpreted. It’s irritates me to no end how so many "Christians" have to fight over predestination and free-will, how the end-times will have (in it’s exact order), and many other debates. They just don’t get that not all of scripture was intended to give us a perfect picture of everything. I know that my understanding of Christ is not perfect simply because I am often learning, erasing what I thought I knew, and re-learning (like when scripture says in Romans 12:2) and that is something most Christians don’t do.
    You know, the more I think about this the more I believe most of my answers are too much like the same kind of answers given to answer questions like yours and that bothers me. People are creative. Many Christians are like lawyers, I guess, looking for a way to prove their point and to be "right". Not all who claim to be a Christian really are Christians (even the Bible says that), which is something I’m sure you’ve been told before, and they’ve been taught to just babble off certain answers.
    How do you know yours is the authentic version and all those churches are wrong?
    This requires such a long long answer and I’ve already made this post too long. This is probably the lamest answer, but I promise it’s true, but most Christians are following what they’ve been told (someone’s interpretation that doesn’t even line up with the Bible) instead of actually following the Bible. Most are more willing to follow what someone told them than to do the work and see for themselves. There’s a lot of church history as to how so many churches arrives to the belief systems they have and some of it is really messed up and down right scary; no wonder so many don’t trust the church. Why should they? All the people who label themselves as "Christian" and yet they don’t agree with each other on some of the simpliest of points.
    Further, where’s the holy spirit (a question I often ask)? If people accept Christ and receive the promised holy spirit, don’t they get some supernatural guidance as to how to evangelize and teach Christianity? If not, what validity does the doctrine of the holy spirit have?
    Powerful question! I don’t have real proof of what the real answer is but just taking a stab at it this is what I think the problem is (which based on my experience and shouldn’t be taken as the 100% correct answer): I’ve met so many (and I do mean many) who are members of a church yet they do not even believe the Bible (they’re not Christians). Probably nearly every church out there doesn’t even ask the a single question to try to determine if a person’s salvation was geniune or not. As long as they walked down the isle and repeat a few words after someone then it must be geniune, right? Not at all! What happens when a church is supposed to led by the Spirit but too many of its members aren’t even Christians? You get the idea. A saying that has been growing is "there are many pastors that need to get saved" and I can see the truth in that. I’ve met many pastors who take stances that are actually directly against what is clearly spelled out in scripture (much is grey or not clearly spelled out because God gave us freedom).
    Okay, this is not a complete answer but I’m look at how long this is and WOW. I bet most will simply ignore this post and move on to reading the next one.

  • 15. the chaplain  |  January 3, 2008 at 1:29 pm

    LeoPardus:
    I agree that seven-year-olds can and do lie, they can and do bully each other, etc., and that parents need to teach them to share, be polite, and so on. Children definitely learn right from wrong at an early age, which is part of their development of the ideal of fairness. Teaching social courtesies, however, is a far cry from teaching eternal damnation, or total, inherent depravity, or utter dependence on a big daddy in the sky. These latter teachings, which are unique to religions, are the ones I find objectionable.

    In a more secular vein, I also believe that parents who tell children things like, “If you [fill in transgression of your choice], I’ll call the police and they’ll put you in jail,” are abusive. Abuse takes many forms and is by no means confined to religious contexts.

  • 16. samanthamj  |  January 3, 2008 at 3:51 pm

    No… Children are not angels. Ever see that bit by Bill Cosby where the 2 year old sneaks up and gets a cookie from the cookie jar and when caught says, it’s “for YOU!”… ?? LOL =) It’s funny… Yes, they need guidance. They need rules. They need POSITIVE reinforcement.

    But, as a parent (or spiritual leader) to teach them they are inertly “bad” unless they are “saved”? and control them by fear? And tell them they can’t do anything good or right or prosper unless it’s YOUR way (or your view of “God’s way”)? And that it is “BAD” to question these beliefs? That IS indoctrination, and yes it IS wrong.

    Young children believe what their parents teach them. What is “right” is at their parent’s discretion. HOPEFULLY, eventually, they start to question those views… and form their own opinions. Parents should encourage those questions, not prohibit them. However, some parents instill fear and beliefs from so early on, so deeply, that is cab be awfully hard to break out of that mind set. And, then the cycle continues.

    Racism is taught. Prejudice is taught. Violence can be taught. Believing that suicide and being a martyr heroic can be taught. Believing that you are going to hell… or that everyone else that doesn’t believe what you are is also taught. Is it the child’s fault they believe what their parents teach them or act out in ways their parents encourage them? A child seeks to gain their parents approval. Their own existence depends on it.… of course they will believe them.

    I do believe being brought up as religious as I was, was a form of mental abuse. And, I know I wasn’t alone. And it was not just by my mother (although if not for her I wouldn’t have been subjected to (and also believed) the others). Intentional or not… done with good intentions or not… it’s abuse.

    I feel bad for all the kids today still going thru life with these fundamental Christian parents.

  • 17. karen  |  January 3, 2008 at 6:15 pm

    Good questions. I figured out that I definitely chose my words really poorly. Wow, I step right into the same shoes of so many others who have made stupid claims about “if only you expereience the ‘real Jesus’”.

    That’s okay, Terry. The great thing about this place is that we can all learn from our discussions. I definitely choose my words much more carefully than I used to since I started participating in online forums.

    Because I lack a love for tradition and am untrusting of interpretations I check it with the Bible always. If it doesn’t line up or kind of lines up but kind of doesn’t then I don’t accept it. The thing that also makes me different than most Christians is I actually know that everything doesn’t need to be interpreted.

    I’m not sure what you mean here – are you saying that you take the literal words of the bible at face value? It seems to me that nearly everything in a text from a pre-scientific era has to be examined in terms of its context, various translations and paraphrases, and through the cultural lens of the time. The problem, for me, is that nearly any group can and does take the bible and read into it just about any interpretation possible: Liberal, conservative, literal, metaphoric, revelatory, historical and on and on.

    There are scholars who do higher criticism. There’s the Jesus Seminar. There are conservative religious scholars. All of them have claims to validity. It’s impossible for me to tell what the original authors meant 2,500 years ago in a time and place that are completely foreign to me and everyone else alive today. This is why I don’t have much use for the bible except as a historical and literary document.

    I’ve met so many (and I do mean many) who are members of a church yet they do not even believe the Bible (they’re not Christians). Probably nearly every church out there doesn’t even ask the a single question to try to determine if a person’s salvation was geniune or not. As long as they walked down the isle and repeat a few words after someone then it must be geniune, right? Not at all! What happens when a church is supposed to led by the Spirit but too many of its members aren’t even Christians? You get the idea.

    It sounds to me like you’re excusing the problems of the Christian church by saying that most people who claim to be Christians really aren’t “true Christians.” That’s a pretty powerful and rather arrogant statement (if you’ll excuse me for saying so) – kind of along the lines of saying that you know the Real Jesus and most/many other Christians do not.

    It also seems like a convenient excuse to grab onto because it’s difficult to find an explanation for the failure of the holy spirit to do what he is promised to do in the New Testament – i.e. lead and guide the church.

    I don’t know if you’ve heard of an argument called “Occam’s Razor,” which basically states that “All other things being equal, the simplest solution is the best.” This was a powerful argument for me when I first heard it a few years ago:

    Which is the simpler explanation, that millions and millions of people are faking the claim to be Christians, praying, going to church, tithing, devoting their lives to their beliefs in god, Jesus, heaven, hell, etc so that the holy spirit can’t really work in their lives to supernaturally transform their behavior? or that the holy spirit doesn’t show the expected results in the church because he simply isn’t there?

    I say all this simply to explain where I have come from, in terms of my examinations of these issues. And rest assured, I have come a long, long way. I was a devoted, full-out, born again, bible-studying Christian for 30 years before my deconversion.

  • 18. Terry K. Moore  |  January 3, 2008 at 6:33 pm

    @ Karen

    I’m being too vague and it’s definitely killing me. Maybe it would be better for me to make a long post and really cover the subject. Your questions have the makings of a doctorate paper.

    Btw, for someone to say they’re right and millions of others are wrong doesn’t make the person arrogant. It also doesn’t mean the one person is right, but he could be closer to the truth than the millions. Only in a world where there are no absolute truths and the man is speaking for himself is that one man arrogant. “If” he’s right then he’s not arrogant at all but he’s someone others should have listened to. . .but they were too arrogant to listen.

  • 19. LeoPardus  |  January 3, 2008 at 6:50 pm

    chaplain and asymptosis:

    whether indoctrination is practiced only by theistic religions.

    I’d go so far as to say that indoctrination is practiced by nearly everyone to some extent. Left wingers tend to teach their kids that their beliefs (liberal politics) is THE TRUTH. Ditto religious and non-religious parents, conservative parents, flag-waving-pro-US parents, etc.

    On the EOC and its intellectual bent;…

    Yep. They are very intellectual. They are quite enamored of their heritage of great theological minds like Chrysostom, Climacus, Cyril of Syria, Methodius, Athanasius, and so on. And I must say that some of their contemporary thinkers (Timothy Ware, Anthony Bloom, Alexander Schmemann) are brilliant.

    As mentioned about the RC, the EOC also has no trouble with evolutionary theory.

    And nobody, …. nobody… knows history like the EOC.

    The EOC does NOT demand a celibate priesthood. Priests may be married. Some priests chose not to marry, and bishops and above are not married. The former just ’cause they want it that way, and the latter because a bishop or above is just too dang busy to even be a decent husband/father.

    The EOC does hold to male-only priesthood. They have some good reasons. Doesn’t mean you’ll agree, but they didn’t just pull the idea out of the air.

    The EOC allows birth control.

    There is no confirmation in the EOC. They baptize babies and serve communion to members from infancy. And as for any kind of religious indoctrination classes, it’s quite variable. I know of cradle O’s who are very knowledgeable about their church and others who are bogglingly ignorant about it.

    Nevertheless, any religion that teaches about a supernatural sky-daddy that cares for individual believers, and who requires obedience and submission, is, at some point, irrational.

    D’accord. Yet it seems that just that sort of thing is what most people say they believe.

    Who says man is a rational animal?

  • 20. the chaplain  |  January 3, 2008 at 7:34 pm

    LeoPardus said: I’d go so far as to say that indoctrination is practiced by nearly everyone to some extent.

    At a very basic level, this is true. Parents teach young children certain rules of behavior and they enforce those rules as needed, sometimes by brute force and little else. This is indoctrination. In my case, I started reinforcing rules with simple explanations about why I thought the rules were useful when my sons were still pre-schoolers. So, from a very early age, rather than continuing to appeal to brute force or authority, I started teaching them that there are reasons for doing things or refraining from some activities. Thus, the transition from parental indoctrination to education began early. Since parents generally want to produce independent adults, this is probably similarly true for many people.

    The problem that I see with religion, generally speaking, is that many churches never seem to transition out of indoctrination to education. Instead, they spoon-feed their congregations from infancy through adulthood, telling them what they should believe, how they should interpret scriptures, how they should behave, what books they should read (or avoid), what movies they should see (or avoid), how to dress…. Some denominations are more extreme than others, but I think it’s something that underlies most, if not all, religions. Unlike parents, churches don’t particularly want their congregations to be independent. The church relies, to a great degree, on keeping people dependent upon, and financially supportive of, clerical authority.

    And no, indoctrination is not unique to religion, but religious indoctrination is the most appropriate point of focus for this web site. We can talk about politics elsewhere.

  • 21. karen  |  January 4, 2008 at 4:17 pm

    Btw, for someone to say they’re right and millions of others are wrong doesn’t make the person arrogant. It also doesn’t mean the one person is right, but he could be closer to the truth than the millions. Only in a world where there are no absolute truths and the man is speaking for himself is that one man arrogant.

    The problem is that as far as I can tell, nobody has an edge on how to figure out what that “absolute truth” is, let alone who’s closer or closest to it. So for someone to declare that they’re right and everyone else is wrong, but then go on to provide no good evidence for that opinion, is pretty arrogant.

    For instance, most people agree that it’s impossible to logically prove or disprove the existence of god. For me to say, “There is no god, I know it absolutely, and everybody who believes in god is an idiot!” would be an arrogant statement. I can provide no good proof that god is nonexistent. Do you agree?

    Yet god – if he exists – has proven so elusive that it is just as arrogant for you to say that you know there’s a god, in fact he’s the god that you worship, in fact he was revealed in Christ, in fact he’s told you exactly how to worship and in what church tradition to follow, and the millions of other people worshiping Jesus in other church traditions (not to mention people worshipping Allah, Yahweh, Krishna, and the millions who do not worship gods) are all wrong. Is that not also arrogant?

    Your questions have the makings of a doctorate paper.

    I agree that doctorates have been written – thousands of them probably – trying to answer those questions. However, they’ve been largely unsuccessful as far as I understand theology. I don’t find the free will argument convincing, for instance.

    And this gets back to that pesky Occam’s Razor. Why does it take doctorates to answer what are really pretty straightforward and simple questions? There’s a simple answer but religious believers don’t want to consider it: There’s no god.

  • 22. How to discover counterfeit Christianity « de-conversion  |  January 5, 2008 at 5:50 pm

    [...] response to the chaplain’s post Christian Education or Indoctrination?, Karen made this comment: Education teaches people how to think; indoctrination teaches people what [...]

  • 23. omojufehinsi abiodun cecilia  |  February 3, 2009 at 3:03 pm

    your work is encouraging can you help with this topicThe problem ofindoctrination christianity in Nigeria,Badagry as a case study.

  • 24. omojufehinsi abiodun cecilia  |  February 3, 2009 at 3:04 pm

    ilove what you discuss

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Attention Christian Readers

Just in case you were wondering who we are and why we de-converted.

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Whether or not you believe in God, you should live your life with love, kindness, compassion, mercy and tolerance while trying to make the world a better place. If there is no God, you have lost nothing and will have made a positive impact on those around you. If there is a benevolent God reviewing your life, you will be judged on your actions and not just on your ability to blindly believe in creeds- when there is a significant lack of evidence on how to define God or if he/she even exists.

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