• Richard Dawkins Responds: Physical versus mental child abuse

     

    Richard Dawkins has issued an interesting article concerning his comments about child abuse. I’ll reprint his introduction and then link the remainder of his article. He begins with this:

    Following a recent report in the Daily Mail, various twitterers are horrified at what I am alleged to have said about child abuse. It was in The God Delusion published in 2006 and distributed in more than 2 million copies and therefore hardly red hot news.

    In view of the tweeted responses to the Daily Mail article, I thought it might be helpful to reproduce what I actually said in 2006. Incidentally, I was myself sexually abused by a teacher when I was about nine or ten years old. It was a very unpleasant and embarrassing experience, but the mental trauma was soon exorcised by comparing notes with my contemporaries who had suffered it previously at the hands of the same master. Thank goodness, I have never personally experienced what it is like to believe – really and truly and deeply believe ­– in hell. But I think it can be plausibly argued that such a deeply held belief might cause a child more long-lasting mental trauma than the temporary embarrassment of mild physical abuse.

    Anecdotes and plausibility arguments, however, need to be backed up by systematic research, and I would be interested to hear from psychologists whether there is real evidence bearing on the question. My expectation would be that violent, painful, repeated sexual abuse, especially by a family member such as a father or grandfather, probably has a more damaging effect on a child’s mental well-being than sincerely believing in hell. But ‘sexual abuse’ covers a wide spectrum of sins, and I suspect that research would show belief in hell to be more traumatic than the sort of mild feeling-up that I suffered.

    You can read the rest of the article including Chapter 9 of the The God Delusion here.

    Category: FYI

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    Article by: Beth Erickson

    I'm Beth Ann Erickson, a freelance writer, publisher, and skeptic. I live in Central Minnesota with my husband, son, and two rescue pups. Life is flippin' good. :)

    2 comments

    1. Good for Mr Dawkins. His out of hand dismissal of the lasting effects of sexual abuse based on his own experience are irresponsible. I’m happy he doesn’t think there were any long lasting impacts from it for him but that is not the reality of many, many more who’ve also suffered sexual abuse as children. There is great folly in comparing the two situations. I don’t disagree with the premise that scaring your children into behaving is child abuse, but to compare it to sexual abuse is irresponsible. The man lacks empathy.

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