The following was posted to our Fb group, this post is designed to supply you with some retorts you can use if/when you are confronted with these claims and find yourself unable to think of a response. You are welcome to add to this as you will, it’s all in aid of assisting each other in our growth.
10 ways toxic religion damages kids:
(1) Telling kids that they are born into this world intrinsically bad, absent of inherent worth, and repulsive to God.
(2) Telling kids that their sinfulness is so bad that it left God no choice but to brutalize, torture and execute his only child.
(3) Telling kids that their most natural inclinations are deceitful, and that they should not trust their thoughts and feelings.
(4) Using fear and shame to manipulate kids into adopting certain beliefs and practices related to God.
(5) Teaching kids that the rejection, hatred or diminishment of unbelieving or different-believing human beings is a sign of devotion to God.
(6) Teaching kids that it is wrong to question people in authority, particularly religious leaders or teachers.
(7) Teaching kids that sexual thoughts and desires are bad and should be repressed, and that sexuality is a violation of God’s holiness.
(8) Failing to equip kids with the skills for free, independent and critical thinking.
(9) Causing traumatic and disturbing feelings inside kids by telling them that lost loved ones, friends and other significant people in their lives who were not believers are suffering the eternal torment of God’s wrath in hell.
(10) Teaching kids that self-denial, self-sacrifice, and selflessness is the hallmark of true discipleship and maturity.
Let’s not kid ourselves, the only “toxic religion” in the world’s estimation of toxicity and religion is going to be either the Catholic Faith or the Orthodox Faith, so throughout this post, “Christian” refers jointly to these religions, but most points should work for the other denominations/heresies.
“10 Ways Toxic Religion Damages Kids” is a nice, click-bait kind of title that relies on the readers ignoring the basics of a debate: definition. The supposition made is that both sides of the debate have the same definition of “religion”, but when one contrasts Catholics and Muslims, one finds that “religion” cannot be taken simply to mean the same thing for each unless it merely states that “a religion is any group or organisation united under a common creed, common goals, and common beliefs”. If this is the definition used, then one cannot make any claim about the teachings of all religions in a single post, since he must either assume that all religions believe the same thing or have so little knowledge of his subject that he doesn’t know whether any religion truly believes that thing or not.
“(1) Telling kids that they are born into this world intrinsically bad, absent of inherent worth, and repulsive to God.” Begin by asking for one quote from your religion that backs up this claim. A Christian should be able to debunk this strawman fairly quickly by noting that any quote he uses must be devoid of the context of its chapter in the Bible. Doubtless they will reference Deuteronomy or Leviticus and their rules regarding sodomites, which are treated again in Paul’s Letters. The only valid response is to ask them how these quotes in any way undermine a person’s worth or potential to become a child of God, for we are told in John 1 that those who accept Christ are given the power to “become sons of God”, which suggests an inherent worth in God’s eyes to make us in the first place.
“(2) Telling kids that their sinfulness is so bad that it left God no choice but to brutalize, torture and execute his only child.” Twisting Scripture is an old stand-by for those who need to debunk religious claims but haven’t the wit to come up with something truly worth-while. God did not have “no choice but…”, He chose freely to show us His love by sending His only Son to suffer and die for us that firstly the Gates of Heaven might be reopened to us, secondly by Christ’s Passion and Death that we might gain some knowledge and understanding of what hurt each of our sins do to God, and thirdly that we might be able to follow His example for the sake of others’ souls.
“(3) Telling kids that their most natural inclinations are deceitful, and that they should not trust their thoughts and feelings.” Again, asking for a quote to back this up is worth-while. He’ll probably come back with the claim that it’s “common knowledge”, but even common knowledge can be referenced. If a child’s natural inclinations are to lie, cheat, and steal, then yes, they should be dissuaded, but if the child is inclined to help others, then that inclination should be encouraged. Some people are born with disordered thoughts regarding sex and these children should be taught self-control over their thoughts, since a disordering can be reordered. An inclination is not sinful, but deliberately toying with them, making no effort to change them, or tamely giving in whenever tempted, however, is always sinful when the inclination is sinful.
“(4) Using fear and shame to manipulate kids into adopting certain beliefs and practices related to God.” A baseless claim that really doesn’t need much to debunk it. Ultimately the claim stems from misunderstanding “Fear of the Lord” and those passages in Scripture in which either the Lord or an Angel says “Do not be afraid”. In the second case, the implication is that since spirits are imperceptible to us at most times, and so they must either have some effect on the world around them (as happens when we are beset by demons) or take on some visible form. Were an angel to appear in Scripture, it’s appearance was either as a human, but more beautiful than any other, or as something terrible and indescribable for human language, and so they counsel those they visit to be at peace. As for the first case, which is the more important one, we often find nowadays that instead of “Fear of the Lord”, “Wonder and Awe” is substituted. Whilst not technically incorrect, “Fear” does not refer to the terror of Him but to a fear borne of loving Him so much that living without Him is more terrifying to you than anything else.
“(5) Teaching kids that the rejection, hatred or diminishment of unbelieving or different-believing human beings is a sign of devotion to God.” Nowhere, in Scripture or religion, are people rejected, their ideas and false teachings are, so too are their unrepentant, sinful practices since where those are allowed to fester, there they corrupt and spread. When one finds a black mould on some linen, he has no option but to destroy that linen, since it is not simply removed. Likewise, corruption must be completely uprooted lest it spread to all parts of the creature it infests.
“(6) Teaching kids that it is wrong to question people in authority, particularly religious leaders or teachers.” Children should be taught to inquire into their faith since it is through such inquiries that the faith grows and heresies are uprooted. St. Augustine did not present such theological arguments as have come to us by not examining his faith where it was necessary, he had to make a study of all parts where it was just to do so, but the very basics (“Who made us?” Why did God make us?" et al.) did not need to be questioning, since they are answered in Scripture.
“(7) Teaching kids that sexual thoughts and desires are bad and should be repressed, and that sexuality is a violation of God’s holiness.” If this were true, man would have died shortly after leaving the Garden of Eden. The teaching on homosexual desires is “murky” to the modern mind because of this false understanding. Having homosexual inclinations is not sinful, acting on those inclinations is, in all cases without exception. It is up for debate whether or not people may be born with these disordered thoughts, as the Catholic Church teaches, but it is undeniable that a childhood trauma can have very long-lasting effects. Further, some desires, I’m talking paedophilia and such, are so disgusting that they absolutely should be repressed, and where they are not, they ought to be spurned, shunned, or ostracised, for the sake of the children.
“(8) Failing to equip kids with the skills for free, independent and critical thinking.” I think my having reached this point is refutation enough. Children who go through the modern education systems are taught to blindly accept Marxism and ignore its many flaws and failures. Further, it is contradictory to your position that religions should prevent children from developing free, independent, and critical thinking whilst you yourself merely parrot the claims made by others who support your position, without making any serious inquiry into them.
“(9) Causing traumatic and disturbing feelings inside kids by telling them that lost loved ones, friends and other significant people in their lives who were not believers are suffering the eternal torment of God’s wrath in hell.” A child is less likely to be traumatised by this stuff when they are given a proper understanding of what is meant by Heaven and Hell. If I commit a crime in the real world, I might go to prison as a punishment. Likewise, if we commit something that is infinitely harmful to God, we are punished justly. Further, sin is not just a hurt to God, it is our outright rejection of Him, and so dying in unrepentant sin is dying in rejection of God, why, then, should we be admitted to Heaven after death if we have rejected Heaven in our lives? As for whether it might traumatise a child to learn that his grandfather died outside of Christ’s embrace, this is an absolute no-no for us, since we do not know whether he did, in fact, die outside of Christ’s embrace and the Church makes no judgement on any soul. There is only one human soul that we know to be in Hell, and that is Judas Iscariot’s, but the Church does not make this claim of Her own Authority, She yields to Christ’s own Words on this: to he who will betray me, better for him that he had never been born.
“(10) Teaching kids that self-denial, self-sacrifice, and selflessness is the hallmark of true discipleship and maturity.” There is no reason to refute this, indeed, no sane man should have an issue with it. If it is wrong to practice self-denial, self-sacrifice, and selflessness, then self-discipline, temperance, justice, and obedience also go out the window, since they are the governing virtues of these. Self-denial is the easiest with which to treat since it is intertwined with discipline, justice, and temperance most closely, making it a prime example. If I choose not to practice self-denial when it is unnecessary, then I will not have the mental strength to practice it when it is most necessary.