“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; Fools despise wisdom and instruction.” Proverbs 1:17
This post is the eighteenth in a series that addresses a list of “40 harmful effects of Christianity” that originated on the American Atheists Facebook page and has since made its way around the internet. In this post, I examine the following “harmful effect” from the list
Harmful Effect #18: Children spending the period of their lives when the brain is most receptive to learning new information reading, rereading, and even memorizing religious texts.
If this “harmful effect” of Christianity were factual, one would expect to see those cultures which are historically Christian lagging behind those that are not in the areas of education and child development. This is not seen; quite the opposite is observed. During the heyday of Communist Russia, eastern bloc countries where Christianity was outlawed failed to produce the same level of innovation and economic prosperity that western nations where Christianity flourished were able to produce. Third world countries where animistic and polytheistic religions dominate are mired in poverty and produce almost no innovation. Where Christian missionaries have opened schools in such places, the educational environment has improved substantially. Islamic cultures fare somewhat better educationally than those countries which embrace polytheism; however, the education of little girls is given almost no priority. It’s hard to believe that the Christian-influenced west, where both boys and girls are given substantial opportunities to study, outpaced the rest of the world in the areas of innovation and economic prosperity while educationally retarding its own children.
Education has long been a concern of the Christian church. Sunday Schools were originally instituted by churches to teach working-class children fundamental reading, writing, and arithmetic, as well as the Bible. On the whole, the Christian church has encouraged educational pursuits and Christian schools, which teach much more than theology, are innumerable. Of course the vast success Christian educational endeavors does not negate the argument that Christian children could spend the time they take learning scripture to study other subjects. However, the case has not been made that reading the Bible is not the highest and best use of a certain portion of a child’s educational time. The atheist author(s) of this list just presupposes that the Bible is harmful.
The venerable nature of Christian wisdom literature (such as the book of Proverbs) proves otherwise. Biblical wisdom literature is replete with advice which, if followed, leads to a successful life. In addition to wisdom literature, the rest of the Bible teaches that all people are created in the image of God, are inherently valuable, and are deserving of respect. If these teachings are followed, society is a more livable place and more conducive to child development. It does little good to educate a child if he is not provided a just culture in which he can thrive and put his education to use. Christian influence has provided just that with western culture. The natural rights philosophy of John Locke, which undergirds the western idea of property rights, is grounded in Christian thought. Economist Hernando De Soto has argued that capitalist economies thrive in the west because of the formalized nature of western property systems. Economist Max Weber argued that the Protestant Ethic, especially Calvinistic Protestantism, nurtured and promoted economic development in the west. Where scripture memorization is concerned, it should be noted, Calvinistic Protestants have long been proponents of the catechism of children.
Harmful Effect #18 is clearly preposterous.
In my next post in this series, I’ll address the following:
Harmful Effect #19: People who believe the world is about to end neglect their education, are not financially responsible, and in extreme cases take part in mass suicides.
*Please note that the preceding is my personal opinion. It is not necessarily the opinion of any entity by which I am employed, any church at which I am a member, any church which I attend, or the educational institution at which I am enrolled. Any copyrighted material displayed or referenced is done under the doctrine of fair use.