Not Good for the Mind

Richard Dawkins says that the real damage done to children by the Catholic Church is not “a little fondling,” but what it does to their minds. This is not a conventional or (in the general estimation, especially in the US) polite thing to say, but I think it is profoundly true. There is the fear of hell, for one thing, as Dawkins says, and as we’re all familiar with from A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man as well as our own pasts or those of friends. One does have to wonder why people are so immovably convinced of the general benevolence of religion, when that kind of terror-mongering is part of it.

But even more than that, there is the early training in bad thinking. “I think it’s a very demeaning thing to the human mind to believe in a falsehood, especially as the truth about the universe is so immensely exciting,” Dawkins says. Indeed. And it’s not only demeaning, it’s disabling. If one has been trained to believe one falsehood, what is to prevent one from believing in more? From believing any falsehood that happens to appeal? And if that is one’s mental habit, how can one think clearly about anything at all?

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