Some recent letters on these pages and elsewhere have brought my attention to an important issue which is too often ignored or swept under a rug. It needs to be recognized that in some religious sects, the emphasis is clearly on fear. One is preached at to do whatever he’s told by the “sacred” texts or he will be very, very sorry. Imagine how frightening this world must be to those who believe that every word in those texts is the literal truth, who believe there are witches, demons and devils lurking in every dark corner, with the sole purpose of leading them astray and/or making their lives miserable. (I mean the kind of witches who allegedly suspend the laws of nature with incantations, potions, etc.) Clearly, for these people, life is a frightening passage over the knife edge of obedience to supernatural powers. One misstep can bring on the punishment of everlasting pain. This is indeed a very scary way to live.
This is the world that some churches and Sunday schools are teaching the children. Now, if the world really is like this, full of witches, demons and devils, then it would certainly be helpful to know this. But, if we are not certain this is true, does it make sense to send the kids down this fearful path? Life can be difficult enough for children, with all the insecurities they must deal with concerning fitting in with others, dealing with the opposite sex, deciding on a career path, and all the rest. Does it make sense to add the fear of an assortment of malevolent, supernatural creatures to their lives?
In the entire history of modern science, no claim of any type of supernatural phenomena has ever been replicated under strictly controlled conditions. I suggest that it makes sense for parents to do some research on this issue. Many people think the Bible has all the answers to how the world really works even though nothing in that book has changed for nearly 2,000 years. Would you consult a 2,000 year-old medical book on how to treat a cancer? The past few hundred years have seen an explosion of scientific knowledge and we are surrounded by the fruits of the scientific method. Science works. There’s really no reasonable argument on this issue. Consider the printing press this newspaper was printed on, and the automobile, airplane, computers, TV, vaccines, surgical procedures, Velcro, and the zipper in your pants. The fruits of successful science surround us.
Now, consider that supernatural causes were once attributed to thousands of things which we now can explain using only the laws of nature. These things include everything from thunder and lightning to volcanoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, childbirth and disease. Science works. Now, can you name just one thing that used to be explained by the laws of nature but has since been discovered to be supernaturally caused? Anything at all? No? Neither can anyone else. Do you see a pattern here?
In the entire history of modern science, no claim of any type of supernatural phenomena has ever been replicated under strictly controlled conditions.
Science doesn’t have all the answers and it never will, but it works; it continually expands and refines our knowledge of how the world actually works. Now, consider if you will that mainstream science has never uncovered any evidence whatsoever of witches, demons, or devils. If these things existed and had effects on our world, those interactions would be there for us to detect and measure.
Think about this: electrons are so tiny they are invisible to even the strongest microscopes and have never been seen. Yet, we have detected and measured their interactions with other objects and fields, written equations describing them, and can predict with great accuracy how they will act in various experiments. We know enough about them that we can design electronic circuits which give us the HDTV, the microwave oven, the computer and hundreds of other gadgets, plus those same electrons power our homes, giving us heat and light and the means to power dozens of other devices. Science works. Science is dependable.
Should you or your church and Sunday school be teaching your children about witches, demons, and devils when the only “evidence” for them consists of anecdotal claims and ancient texts written by people who thought the earth was flat (Matthew 4:8)? As Carl Sagan said, “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.” This is why mainstream science has rejected these creatures.
Do you know what your kids are “learning” in Sunday school? Have you asked? Could it be that putting the fear of such creatures into children without very good cause is as immoral as threatening them with the boogeyman? Is there anything more important than the mental health of your children? Please think about it. Maybe your children will thank you some day, as mine have thanked me.
I think many people who went to evangelical Christian churches or Sunday Schools as children can relate to the fear of hell. Many churches capitalize on the fears of children in order to "get them saved." And then child evangelists and even adult evangelists come through and make it their goal to instill fear in the hearts of the children. How many children have gotten "saved" over and over again as another preacher came through with a terrifying story of hell or the devil. Does all of this constitute a form of child abuse? I think it does in some cases.