Richard Dawkins and Hell

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Ken Ham wrote about the topic of Richard Dawkins and Hell:

During the interview, Dawkins was asked “whether the atheist leader would ever change his mind about God, he said that he’s open to the idea. ‘Just show me some evidence and I’ll change,’ Dawkins said.”

Well, Dawkins has been shown overwhelming evidence by many people through books, discussions, a radio debate with my friend Dr. Andy McIntosh, and so on! In fact, God tells us that people like Richard Dawkins are without excuse (Romans 1:20). Dawkins reminds me of the Pharisees in John 9. After Jesus had healed the man blind from birth, the Pharisees questioned the man and his parents, and even with the evidence glaring at them, they refused to believe...

Dawkins has spent most of his life rejecting the writings of Moses, particularly Genesis, and trying to get as many people as he can to follow his rebellious lifestyle that leads directly to hell. Yes, we do need to pray much for him.

Lord, open Richard Dawkins’ mind, and let the light of the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ illuminate his hardened heart![1]

Richard Dawkins' on child abuse and children believing in Hell

See also: Richard Dawkins on child molestation and so called "gentle pedophiles"

Ben-Peter Terpstra wrote in the Australian Conservative: "In all truth, Britain’s clean-shaven atheists aren’t serious about children’s rights, or they’d be launching venomous attacks against the United Nations, in light of their more recent sex abuse scandals."

The Christian Post reports:

"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," Dawkins writes on his official website. "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."

The evolutionary biologist's remarks come in light of a recent article by the Daily Mail that referenced an interview on Al Jazeera in which Dawkins said: "Horrible as sexual abuse no doubt was, the damage was arguably less than the long-term psychological damage inflicted by bringing the child up Catholic in the first place." The scientist wrote similar claims in his 2006 bestseller The God Delusion.

In his recent blog post, Dawkins reveals that he received a flood of Twitter messages from "horrified" people asking him to explain those remarks – which he does by admitting 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."[2]

Richard Dawkins' claims about child abuse and belief in Hell

See also: Juliet Emma Dawkins

Theodore Beale wrote in the his book The Irrational Atheist:

Richard Dawkins is perhaps one of the last men on Earth who should be discussing what is the right and proper way to raise children, given that the number of his wives outnumber his offspring. But while he can accept both child abandonment and childhood sexual abuse with dispassionate fortitude, it is the horrible crime of raising children in the faith of their fathers that upsets him due to his belief that the fear of Hell is more psychologically damaging than childhood sexual abuse in the long term.

In his letter to his daughter Juliet, addressed to her at the age of ten and published in A Devil’s Chaplain, there is little mention of love, no admission of regret, and no paternal promises. As one British journalist noted, the letter is “coldly impersonal” and “authoritarian.” There is no expression of interest in what might be important to her. But Dawkins loses no time in informing her what is important to him, and that is “evidence.” One has to pity the poor girl, who at ten would have surely rather been assured that she was beautiful in his eyes and of supreme importance to him despite his absence instead of receiving a tedious seven-page lecture on the need to believe in evidence that is not based on tradition, authority, or revelation. But that’s her problem and her therapist’s profit. What’s much more interesting is the way Dawkins closes “A Prayer for My Daughter” by writing: “And next time somebody tells you that something is true, why not say to them: ‘What kind of evidence is there for that?’ And if they can’t give you a good answer, I hope you’ll think very carefully before you believe a word they say.” The scientist may not be much of a father, but as it turns out, this particular advice is excellent.

For what kind of evidence is there for Dawkins’s controversial assertion of the greater long-term psychological damage inflicted upon children who are raised Catholic than upon those who are sexually abused? He first provides anecdotal information from one woman who was raised Catholic, was sexually abused by a priest, and later had nightmares about Hell. And in the unlikely event that one woman’s bad dreams are not enough to completely convince the reader, Dawkins goes on to mention an apocryphal story about Alfred Hitchcock driving through Switzerland, a Protestant haunted house, a letter from a woman seeking a therapist, an American comedienne’s routine, and a letter from an upset American medical student whose girlfriend is breaking up with him. Despite posing the proposition as a comparison, Dawkins does not bother to consider what, if any, the negative effects of childhood sexual trauma might happen to be in order to compare them with this comprehensive list of Catholic horrors.

Dr. Jonathan R.T. Davidson of the Duke University Medical Center is not quite so blasé about the psychological damage of sexual abuse, as his 1996 study found that the chances of sexually abused women attempting suicide were three times higher if they had been sexually abused before the age of sixteen. In the same study, Davidson determined that women who had been sexually assaulted were six times more likely to attempt suicide than those who had not. As for long-term effects, the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry reported that 67 percent of women over fifty diagnosed with major depression who had been sexually abused as children had made multiple suicide attempts, compared with 27 percent of depressed women over fifty who had not been abused. The study also found that middle-aged women who were sexually abused were more likely to suffer at least one other major mental disorder and possess a lifetime history of substance abuse.

As for the proposed psychological damage of being raised Catholic, all of the scientific evidence directly contradicts the notion, despite those compelling anecdotes about filmmakers and failed Romeos. A report in the American Journal of Psychiatry concluded that the religious faithful, most of whom were presumably raised religious, were much psychologically healthier than the irreligious.

Religiously unaffiliated subjects had significantly more lifetime suicide attempts and more first-degree relatives who committed suicide than subjects who endorsed a religious affiliation. . . . In terms of clinical characteristics, religiously unaffiliated subjects had more lifetime impulsivity, aggression, and past substance use disorder.

In fact, if suicide is a reasonable metric for long-term psychological damage, and it is hard to imagine a better one, then there is evidence to suggest that children raised Catholic suffer from less long-term psychological damage than the average religious individual and much less than the average child raised as an atheist. A 1986 American study showed that the proportion of Catholics in a region was negatively correlated with suicide rates, while the World Health Organization’s most recent national suicide statistics shows that heavily Catholic countries such as Mexico, Brazil, Italy, and the Philippines have an average suicide rate of 4.2 per 100,000... And it is the countries of the former Soviet Union that have some of the highest rates of suicide, as Russia, Ukraine, Latvia, and Estonia average 31.1 suicides per 100,000 population.

While there is no evidence that being raised Catholic is more psychologically damaging than being sexually abused as a child, there is a great deal of evidence proving the opposite. I suggest, therefore, that the reader would do very well to follow Richard Dawkins’s paternal advice and think very carefully before believing a single word that Dawkins says.[3]

See also