Visions of Hell – When Does Religions Teaching Become Child Abuse?

PZ Myers had a post on his blog asking readers their experience with being taught about hell.

Here is my response:

I was raised Catholic so hell was a prominent feature of many sermons. We weren’t constantly barraged with it, but it was always lurking in the background, to be brought to the forefront whenever the priest felt that his flock might be forgetting that God’s mercy wasn’t infinite.

I do remember a period of time in my pre-teens or early teens when I lived in constant, palpable fear of going to hell. It was an overwhelming, irrational, terrifying fear that was akin to having a major panic attack on constant basis.

To subject people, especially children, to this kind of terror is unspeakably cruel and is emotional abuse, as far as I’m concerned. I see no difference in scaring a child out of her wits with visions of hell and the threat of physical violence for any possible trespass. Why we allow people to do this to children is beyond me.

Why is it that a parent can be charged with child abuse if they threaten physical harm, but not a Sunday school teacher when he promises the same child eternal torment for the same offenses?


2 thoughts on “Visions of Hell – When Does Religions Teaching Become Child Abuse?

  1. I was raised Catholic too, and it’s really difficult sometimes to just drive or walk past a Catholic school without wanting to shout some hopeful words to the children inside. It also sucks to know that we live in a country where that’s allowed.

    So I sometimes pick up a picket sign and speak out about it. I wish someone had done that at my Catholic school when I was a student there.

  2. I want to get more involved in humanist and atheist activism. Instead of protesting, I’m looking more at working with established organizations and using my writing skills to help out.

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