Belief, choice and education

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  • RossweisseRossweisse Hell Host, 8th Day Host
    ƒudd wrote: »
    ...I think the ‘choice’ element of the OP is worth consideration. Wait, don't eye-roll! I've learnt some manners since I last ranted on this subject (on ye olde boate). ...Would anyone here disagree that, in principle at least, it is ethically preferable that religious (or other important) beliefs should be acquired by free will rather than through indoctrination* in any circumstances? ...
    Welcome back. Why, yes, I would disagree, strenuously!

    Parents have an unquestionable obligation to teach their children right from wrong, to teach (or, if you prefer, "indoctrinate") them about the wisdom of brushing their teeth, bathing regularly, and eating their veggies, and to impart to them the basics of their faith(s). Said offspring units are free, once on their own, to act immorally and/or illegally, to let their teeth rot out of their heads, to stink unbearably, to eschew chewing green things, and to reject the faith in which they were brought up.
    What most Christians would argue is irrelevant. It's down to the individual. ... There is no imperative to teach your children that what you believe is right. What you believe is particular to you and may not be relevant to them. You inform them and let them choose.
    Wrong again. You teach them, and they will choose. Sometimes they will reject what they have been taught, and then return to it; sometimes they will continue on their new paths. But it is absolutely imperative that they be taught in the first place, because most people are too lazy to investigate the possibilities for themselves.
    ...Yes, I will disagree with you. I think indoctrination, otherwise known as "teaching," is ethically neutral or positive when it comes to "important beliefs"... The reason for indoctrination-at-a-young-age-even-against-one's-will is frankly, because people in general have tendencies to be illogical, foolish, lazy, and selfish, and these appear to be inborn. It is an uphill battle teaching a child to be a civilized adult; if you leave the job till high school, it's going to be nearly impossible. Adult temptations and choices presuppose that you've got certain basics of faith and morals covered--and if you don't, you (and others!) are likely to suffer for it. And at that age, nobody can force you go undergo remedial humanization against your will. (They can try...)

    The same is true in a different sense when it comes to imparting scientific and cultural knowledge. ... So yes, as a decent parent determined to do the best I possibly can for my child, I am going to freaking teach (indoctrinate) him. I'm going to give him the best I can possibly give him, based on my own best understanding and experience. It would be unethical, nay immoral, for me to do anything else. (Go do your homework, kid...)
    I should have read to the end of the thread, and let @Lamb Chopped have the last word!


  • Heh. No, it just provides evidence that the position is commonly taken--so often that we managed to independently come up with the same example analogies!
  • RussRuss Shipmate
    It is not a problem if teenagers choose to reject their parents' beliefs. Quite the opposite: it is a sign that they becoming independent.

    There is no imperative to teach your children that what you believe is right. What you believe is particular to you and may not be relevant to them. You inform them and let them choose.

    Good parents want their children to grow into mature and competent adults.

    The goal is neither submission to parental authority nor rejection of parental belief for the sake of demonstrating independence. Although both of those may be stages along the way.

    That goal is not achieved by a process of never at any age telling them when they've got something wrong. But rather by showing respect at every age for sound reasoning.
  • ƒuddƒudd Shipmate Posts: 14
    Hi Ross (and dear LC- so happy to see you). I think you’re right, of course, but this is a red herring. Nobody would disagree that a parent should bring up their children in ways they believe are in their best interests, but that doesn’t address my very particular question about whether it is ethically right to encourage them to believe in a god in ways that interfere with their free choice to adopt those beliefs (especially if/when this may lead to their harm. That is a separate issue about which I have a keen interest, which, for me, provides warrant for sincere discussion).

    Let’s try parsing this out a bit and see if we can find a way to discuss this specific piece of the enormously vast and tricky puzzle. What do you make of the following propositions?

    a) Young children may be made to believe things.
    b) It is easier to make a four-year old believe things than a fourteen-year old.
    c) One reason for b) is that a four-year old has less capacity for critical thinking than a fourteen-year old.
    d) Free will is necessary for choice.
    e) It is ethically better to choose freely to believe in God than to do so against/without choice.
    f) Parents who make their children believe in God are taking advantage of b).
    g) Parents who make their young children believe in God do so unethically because of e).

    Perhaps it would be worth mentioning at this point that my personal view of Christianity is that it generally does more good than harm on the ground, and as such it is not a bad thing to make young children believe in Jesus even though I feel it is strictly unethical? I am particularly unimpressed by arguments that it may be ethically better to indoctrinate young children into Christianity because their parents happen (however genuinely) to believe this to be in their best interests. My problem here is the unethical interference with free will.
  • All child rearing does that. All social activity does that. All enculturation does that. Whatever free will is. I haven't the faintest idea. Nor what 'choice' is. Christianity is third rate at retaining bums on seats in plural societies. What's the problem?
  • ƒuddƒudd Shipmate Posts: 14
    General memorandum. If I seem to be ignoring any post or comments, please assume this is because I feel I’ve already addressed them and don’t wish to clutter the thread with repetitions. I do not intend offence in this.
  • Lamb ChoppedLamb Chopped Shipmate
    edited December 2019
    Ah, brother. [Rubs hands] So happy you're back. With whom else can I get properly picky picky? :wink:

    Let's go, then.
    ƒudd wrote: »
    Hi Ross (and dear LC- so happy to see you). I think you’re right, of course, but this is a red herring. Nobody would disagree that a parent should bring up their children in ways they believe are in their best interests, but that doesn’t address my very particular question about whether it is ethically right to encourage them to believe in a god in ways that interfere with their free choice to adopt those beliefs (especially if/when this may lead to their harm. That is a separate issue about which I have a keen interest, which, for me, provides warrant for sincere discussion).

    Let’s try parsing this out a bit and see if we can find a way to discuss this specific piece of the enormously vast and tricky puzzle. What do you make of the following propositions?

    a) Young children may be made to believe things.
    Ahem. Well, if you're thinking of the usual Santa Claus and Tooth Fairy, I suppose that's so, though I saw through SC at age three and IMHO most children catch on to these kinds of snow jobs pretty early. Of course, being human, children may and do pick up parental beliefs and prejudices, but this is a different thing than parents setting out deliberately to induce belief in children. The former is the common condition of humanity, and cannot be avoided even if you try (witness the surprising amount of continuity of political party membership down through the generations). The latter implies that the parents themselves know better, and are deliberately deceiving the children--which is a Bad Thing IMHO, and the reason I refused to discuss Santa, the Tooth Fairy, and such with LL in any way but as a game. Though I can and do let it pass with relatives who disagree with me and think it necessary to true Christmas Magic™.
    ƒudd wrote: »
    b) It is easier to make a four-year old believe things than a fourteen-year old.

    I'm going to disagree again. The four-year-old and the fourteen-year-old are equally deceivable (gullible? open to belief inculcation?) though for different reasons and on different subjects. The four-year-old is deceivable because he/she has so little experience of the world. The fourteen-year-old is deceivable for the same reason (though in lesser amount) and because he/she is in the middle of hormone hell, as well as the process of individuating him/herself from parents.
    For example, take relationships (and lies about them). You are not likely to deceive four-year-olds about their social standing and relative popularity--they are pretty clear-eyed about who is whose best friend this week, and no amount of parental lies is going to change that insight (just try it...). But a fourteen-year-old? Ah, now... If they were as clear-sighted as the four-year-olds, we'd not have so many relationship dramas in high school.
    I conclude that you can deceive any age, but if you intend to do it, you'd better study motivations and interests.
    ƒudd wrote: »

    c) One reason for b) is that a four-year old has less capacity for critical thinking than a fourteen-year old.

    Yikes! No, no, and again I say unto you, No. Or have you not had an argument with a four-year-old lately? "Critical thinking" does not begin to describe it (or are yours more pliable? Mine wasn't!). At least the fourteen-year-old is likely to know when to shut up and stop arguing (usually after I threaten to make him walk home). A righteous four-year-old doesn't. Which is why smart parents carefully avoid topics on which we don't want to hear argumentation just now. Like whether Uncle's nap had anything to do with Uncle's drinking...
    ƒudd wrote: »
    d) Free will is necessary for choice.

    Well, I guess I can go for that, assuming you mean "free choice." But it's a whole bucket of worms figuring out whether any choice is truly free.
    ƒudd wrote: »
    e) It is ethically better to choose freely to believe in God than to do so against/without choice.

    [Sudden pause] You are right now speaking to a Lutheran, and we hold ... unusual?... views of human freedom, or lack thereof, when it comes to faith. Specifically we believe that, if a person comes to faith in Christ, it is completely and wholly the work of the Holy Spirit, and therefore no credit to the person involved. On the other hand, if a person refuses Christ, that is down to the person. Why? Because we believe (on the basis of evidence we see in the Bible) that human free will has a kink in it--a bent, a twisting, that leads us to go wrong as surely as a supermarket trolley with a bent wheel will roll into the nearest shelf. Since humanity fell into contamination by evil, we have HAD no free will in the truest sense. Or to change the metaphor, we are free--but only as an alcoholic is free to go on drinking. He is still not free to be dry (and I have had a sudden realization that that was stolen from Lewis, my apologies).

    So, given this kink in human free will, how does that affect God, faith, religion, morals? In this way: You can certainly do whatever floats your boat in external matters--can get baptized, go to church, do good deeds, and so forth. But you'll be doing it much like the shopper who forces the cart to go straight by brute strength. Eventually you'll tire, and the original bent will show itself again. This is the whole reason Christians bang on about grace so much. If God was not kind enough to see the mess that we are in and lift us out of it by HIS own free choice, well, that would suck. Because we aren't getting out of it ourselves.
    ƒudd wrote: »
    f) Parents who make their children believe in God are taking advantage of b).

    HAhahaHAhaHAhaHAha. A-hem.

    Again, if the children of your family are so pliable, I envy you. Maybe.
    ƒudd wrote: »
    g) Parents who make their young children believe in God do so unethically because of e).

    Yeah, well, I deny the premises, and thus the conclusion fails. Sorry.
    ƒudd wrote: »

    Perhaps it would be worth mentioning at this point that my personal view of Christianity is that it generally does more good than harm on the ground, and as such it is not a bad thing to make young children believe in Jesus even though I feel it is strictly unethical? I am particularly unimpressed by arguments that it may be ethically better to indoctrinate young children into Christianity because their parents happen (however genuinely) to believe this to be in their best interests. My problem here is the unethical interference with free will.

    Truthfully, "Let us do evil so that good may come" is a sucky idea. The beginnings always contaminate the ending. If Christianity is not true, we ought not be teaching it. It will certainly circle back and bite us in the ass.

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