[Ed. note originally intended as one post, became two.]

It is very hard for me to take PZ Myers seriously. I try, honestly.  Other people do, so I read it, to see the zeigeist, but man alive is it not so good.  I’ve seen him on interviews and seems like a very nice guy.  But his writing style I find odious, high-handed, and tone def. I don’t mind atheism (intelligent atheism) but anti-theism is a horse of a different color. Or breed maybe. He definitely shouldn’t quite his day job as a scientist (which I’m sure he’s very good at for all I know).

You will find plenty of shots at creationists, which is fine. Again it’s the equivalent of Billy Madison pummeling the first graders in dodge ball, but you will never find any discussion of Bonhoeffer, Meister Eckhart, Padmashambhava, Chuang Tzu, Martin Buber on the site. That deficit alone speaks enormous volumes.

For one of his classics, check out this one where he gets a news article about how some judge refused an adoption to parents because they weren’t Christians. He rails against religious believers, repeats his and Dawkins’ line about how “religious indoctrination” is child abuse, etc. One slight problem: Turns out it was from the 1970s. The great rationalist didn’t bother to I don’t known check the facts prior to putting it up on the blog. Showing more than anything he’s an ideologue and isn’t sorting facts so much as railing and will use any evidence that supports his view.

His beyond pathetic response is the following:

Anyway, it’s still relevant — I hadn’t known that theists had in the past tried to remove children from atheists. No wonder some freaked out at Dawkins’ description of religious indoctrination as child abuse…again, it’s projection.

Maybe the projection is on the other couch, as it were. Why is it still relevant that something that was wrong 30-40 years (and is still wrong) happened? Relevant as a lesson, that we should remember that only in the 1970s women were still restricted in many ways in civil law and this kind of nonsense went on (how widespread I have no idea). That would be I guess a point, but not the one he is making.

Unless of course he can find specific contemporary cases where this is still going on, then it would have more valence. That itself wouldn’t even prove religion is the problem of course, so much as ignoramuses are a problem. And dumb, reactionary laws–which presumably are not being followed anymore.

The freaking out as he calls it, maybe (just maybe) be legitimate in certain cases, particularly from parents who do not endorse government intervention in their family affairs. e.g. It is illegal to homeschool in Germany. Not the US, but it is a supposedly “liberal” and definitely secular country, where I think civil rights are being violated. For both religious and non-religious by the way. I don’t think Myers is pushing for an end to that right in US society, (I don’t know about Dawkins) but one could make the legitimate connection that in some future if religious education of children were labeled “abuse”, then the government would have the right to take away people’s children on that fact alone. Which is a chilling thought.

Let’s be clear. There are cases of egregious child abuse by religious people. Just like child abuse by non-religious. I’ve never seen statistics on the matter, so I don’t know if the percentages are higher/lower, etc. Not to mention the other factors that could be correlated: e.g. education, income levels, personal backgrounds, etc.

There are also more extremist/hardline religious cult-like behavior where children are specifically abused in a religious context. Intervention for protection of the children is of course justified in that case. But again this is the bad v. good religion argument–which Myers does not accept bc he has ideologically already decided religion=evil.

And just so it’s really very clear, when I worked at a science museum in high school I worked with a good number of home schooled adolescents (Disclosure: I went to Catholic school) and as children were home-schooled in a non-religious environment. Some of them (not all), on some occasions (not all the time), said things about religion that they had clearly been taught by their parents as the truth, which (as a religious person) I found to be quite ignorant and non-reality based. Mostly because it showed a total lack of actually having ever encountered a religious person, a religious setting, and asking somebody–hey why do you do that? Or what’s this is all about? Like somebody who starts telling you all about your hometown, and it becomes instantaneously apparent they’ve never actually been there. It was a doctrine they were taught and believed in because they trusted their parents no doubt.

In other words, were those kids abused? It was clearly a form of “indoctrination” if you like.

(This isn’t a big push for homeschooling, I’m not a huge fan of it per se, but just to make the point).

[Sidenote: As an experiment, very sly readers might start sending him false anti-religion stories to see if he’ll post any.]

Published in: on January 5, 2008 at 10:54 pm  Comments (1)  

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  1. i follow PZ Myers blog. he has some intelligent things to say on his domain of knowledge. but when it comes to his arguments on religion and atheism, he falls short of Dawkins. he doesn’t even see eye to eye with Sam Harris. so i take him less seriously than Dawkins, Dennett, and Harris.


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