Blessed are the Children

Children are our most valuable assets as human beings. They hold the key to our survival as a species. They’ll take care of us when we’re old and frail. They will earn public government offices that will affect how governments worldwide operate. They will become policy-makers, bridging gaps between people and countries. They will invent goods that may extend lives, feed the hungry, provide water to the thirsty, and generally increase the human experience. They will develop cures for currently incurable illnesses. They will make discoveries on Earth, helping us understand our past so much more. They will travel the depths of space, providing knowledge of the universe and what may lie past its boundaries. How we raise these coming generations completely depend on those raising them.

I’m not a parent, so one may find some trouble with the direction I’m going in. I don’t think it’s necessary for me to hold an opinion on the importance of rational child-rearing; we as adults are a part of a cooperative society, plain and simple. We all have the responsibility to develop and maintain an enlightening environment for those to come. I care for children in the same way as I care for any other human being, but I think it’s necessary to put much more of an emphasis on the development of children. Why wouldn’t we do whatever we can to make sure every baby born has every opportunity to experience a childhood free from dogma, superstition, and religious persecution?

Treatment of Children in Scripture

Children are given a very rough hand throughout most religious scriptures. A complete disregard of the cognitive development is very apparent, which is surprising if one wishes to believe these scriptures are of divine inspiration; a mind bestowing humanity with knowledge greater than what is achieved today. From a secular perspective, it’s completely reasonable to assume ancient religious texts to have a very rough and black-and-white image of children in general; even relationships between the parent or parents and the child or children differ greatly from what we’ve come to understand today from those with the greatest of training.

In the Old Testament, these errors are made quite apparent. The very popular story of Lot and Sodom and Gomorra comes to mind. The story tells of two angels coming to Lot in order to save him from the coming demise of the city. When the rowdy townsfolk find the angels among Lot’s family, they demand he turn them over for their sexual pleasure. Instead, Lot has a better idea. 
The text reads:

“Behold now, I have two daughters which have not known man; let me, I pray you, bring them out unto you, and do ye to them as is good in your eyes: only unto these men do nothing; for therefore came they under the shadow of my roof.”[1]

Does this seem to be a loving thing on behalf of a father; would a mother willingly allow the father to trade their daughters for the life of a stranger? I suppose the humanist in all of us would stand against such a horrific notion.

Later in Genesis, we’re introduced to Abraham and his son Isaac, whom God has plans for. He requires Abraham to offer Isaac as a burnt offering in order to demonstrate Abraham’s devotion to him. As one would expect, Abraham obliges.
The text reads:

“And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and saddled his ass, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son, and clave the wood for the burnt offering, and rose up, and went unto the place of which God had told him. Then on the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes, and saw the place afar off. And Abraham said unto his young men, Abide ye here with the ass; and I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you. And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering, and laid it upon Isaac his son; and he took the fire in his hand, and a knife; and they went both of them together. And Isaac spake unto Abraham his father, and said, My father: and he said, Here am I, my son. And he said, Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering? And Abraham said, My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering: so they went both of them together. And they came to the place which God had told him of; and Abraham built an altar there, and laid the wood in order, and bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar upon the wood. And Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son. And the angel of the Lord called unto him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham: and he said, Here am I. And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me.”[2]

God is supposed to possess unlimited knowledge; would he not know Abraham’s allegiance without this silly stunt? And this is supposed to be a virtuous act from which we can derive a moral lesson? As a child, I was taught to believe Abraham was a man of great faith; faith great enough to allow a father to take the life of his son.

In Exodus, we find Moses attempting to convince the Pharaoh to release the Jewish slaves from captivity as mandated by God. Pharaoh does oblige after a number of plagues, but God internally convinces him otherwise.
The text reads:

“And the LORD said unto Moses, When thou goest to return into Egypt, see that thou do all those wonders before Pharaoh, which I have put in thine hand: but I will harden his heart, that he shall not let the people go.”[3]

As God said would happen, the Pharaoh refused. The final plague set to befall Egypt is a particularly nasty one, of which God intentionally sought to accomplish by forcing the Pharaoh to go against Moses’ wishes.
The text reads:

“And it came to pass, that at midnight the LORD smote all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh that sat on his throne unto the firstborn of the captive that was in the dungeon; and all the firstborn of cattle. And Pharaoh rose up in the night, he, and all his servants, and all the Egyptians; and there was a great cry in Egypt; for there was not a house where there was not one dead.”[4]

God killed all of the first born children and livestock all throughout Egypt. This heinous act of blood-lust is revered among those within the Jewish and Christian religions, seen as an act of triumph for the Jewish people; I too remember feeling a sense of happiness as I read this in my early years. We were taught to have a sense of de-humanization against anyone who defies God’s word, and that also includes children. This goes back to the phrase, “If they are not with us, they are against us.” And the Bible truly embodies that notion.

That must certainly be the case for those who honestly read the book of Isaiah, where in which God lays violence on the city of Babylon.
The text reads:

“Every one that is found shall be thrust through; and every one that is joined unto them shall fall by the sword. Their children also shall be dashed to pieces before their eyes; their houses shall be spoiled, and their wives ravished. Behold, I will stir up the Medes against them, which shall not regard silver; and as for gold, they shall not delight in it. Their bows also shall dash the young men to pieces; and they shall have no pity on the fruit of the womb; their eyes shall not spare children.”[5]

Later in Hosea, God decides to do away with Samaria for simply worshipping a different deity.
The text reads:

“Samaria shall become desolate; for she hath rebelled against her God: they shall fall by the sword: their infants shall be dashed in pieces, and their women with child shall be ripped up.”[6]

The killing of innocent children, the raping of innocent women; does this at all seem as though religious doctrine is humanistic at its core? Children are seen as mere objects, easily discarded without care or worry. Does this represent a society which we should have? Regardless of whether God exists or not, these texts represent a culture of under-educated, ignorant minded people. And it’s a wonderful thing there is no credibility to the truthfulness of these texts.

The Bible also hands out sets of rather unfair punishments regarding children. What are you to do with a rebellious child?

In Exodus, the text reads:

“He that curseth his father, or his mother, shall surely be put to death.”[7]

This punishment it elaborated in Deuteronomy.
The text reads:

“If a man have a stubborn and rebellious son, which will not obey the voice of his father, or the voice of his mother, and that, when they have chastened him, will not hearken unto them: Then shall his father and his mother lay hold on him, and bring him out unto the elders of his city, and unto the gate of his place; And they shall say unto the elders of his city, This our son is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton, and a drunkard. And all the men of his city shall stone him with stones that he die: so shalt thou put evil away from among you; and all Israel shall hear, and fear.”[8]

Is this a reasonable way to handle a child who rebels? God is seemingly incapable of properly addressing rude behavior in children; this is made well aware in 2 Kings.
The text reads:

“And he went up from thence unto Bethel: and as he was going up by the way, there came forth little children out of the city, and mocked him, and said unto him, Go up, thou bald head; go up, thou bald head. And he turned back, and looked on them, and cursed them in the name of the Lord. And there came forth two she bears out of the wood, and tare forty and two children of them.”[9]

We were all children once, rebellious in our own ways. We sometimes pushed boundaries, made mistakes, but we learned from them; never once would our parents have entertained the idea we ought to be killed simply for being as children are; after all, God created them that way, correct?

Religious Indoctrination

To state it plainly, indoctrination means to heavily influence someone into believing a particular set of ideas, whether they are political, cultural, or religious. Most often, this is done when the individual is particularly young, when he or she lack the ability to reasonably conclude whether or not a statement is true. Those who’ve experienced heavy indoctrination may be unaware of competing theories, alternate hypotheses, or even whether the ideas hold any merit at all; those ideas are simply believed and held dear for an unknown period of time.

I’d never advocate for one to indoctrinate their child with strong atheist ideas either; I think it’s very important that we teach children how to think, not what to think. I attended a religious institution as a young boy, around the age of 11 or 12. Up until that point, I will say, I wasn’t too concerned with religious beliefs. I rarely attended church services with my family, occasionally took part in religious traditions, and prayed now and then; I was far from a firm believer and I don’t think my parents ever were either. We were simply doing what everyone else was doing. That was, I think, the most important part of my experience as a child; I was never taught these things to be true by those whom I respected the most.

Since I was enrolled in this religious body, I do have firsthand knowledge regarding the practices of indoctrination. The pre-kindergarten class was heavily populated; the surrounding school district had a reputation of holding poor pre-kindergarten class, leaving this particular school the only option for many parents. We as older children often read them Bible stories, rehearsed prayers with them, taught them Christian hymns, and so on and so forth. What bothers me about it now was that I gladly took part in it. These poor children had no choice in the matter. They were being taught by their authorities that these particular sets of religious beliefs were true, without a chance of error.

And most of these children would stay in this particular school system, as most who had attended were my age. Almost all would tell you they knew God was real, Jesus walked on water, healed the sick, rose from the dead, was resurrected and ascended into heaven on the third day; to them, all of these things were as real as you or I. Never did they entertain the idea these things might not be true and neither were they influenced to challenge those beliefs. They weren’t taught about other faiths and why other individuals find those to be true. It was a terrible environment for a child to have been brought up in and I sincerely hope I am not the only one to have escaped from the information they forced on everyone. I even refrained from challenging out of fear I’d be mocked or punished; in a way, I indoctrinated myself into thinking religious beliefs were off the table to debate.

So what age are children most vulnerable to indoctrination? Children are typically open to believing almost anything told to them, without question. During early childhood, children are most receptive, which is why education is most important during this period of time. Learning comes faster, the memory is crisp, and children are generally open and willing to accept new information without inhibition. The age of reason is typically considered to be around 6 or 7, when the child begins to have the capabilities to weigh options and reach conclusions.[10] This is when we must be vigilant when trying to help them develop the how to think approach. The Socratic Method effectively helps the child develop the critical thinking skills needed to maintain a healthy thought process.[11] This period of time hasn’t gone unnoticed by those who seek to mold the mind of the young for religious reasons.

Most Christian church organizations heavily involve children in many different events. Sunday school, summer Bible camps, wilderness retreats, catechism or confirmation, plays, and musical ceremonies top that particular list. These organizations are quite aware how impressionable children are and it appears as though they’re taking full advantage of that. Some evangelical Christian organizations fully and publically acknowledge what they’re doing.

Known as the 4 to 14 Window Movement, this global organization specializes in the indoctrination of children for churches willing to take part in the resources they offer. With their readily-available information, church leaders can effectively plant the seeds of faith before the seeds of doubt begin to grow sprouts.
From their website, the mission statement goes as such:

“The 4/14 Window Movement is a global mission’s movement.  We help churches and families build strategy, community and resources for empowering the next generation of Christian leaders.  Our goal is to support churches in every nation to Reach, Rescue, Root, and Release children into relationship with Jesus Christ and His ministry around the world.”[12]

On their website, they advocate the instruction of religious dogma only so to solidify the child’s future with Christ. I, like many prominent atheists today, have come to believe this form of intellectual mistreatment is child abuse; intellectually stunting the child’s ability to reason rationally and convincingly.

Another organization, made famous among secular communities throughout the United States by journalist Katherine Stewart, is The Good News Club[13]. In 2012, Stewart released the book The Good News Club: The Christian Right’s Stealth Assault on America’s Children, in which she exposes the dishonesty on part of the Good News Club. The Good News Club, in short, is an afterschool program focusing on “moral development” based on biblical principles; this, of course, completely disrupting the line drawn between religion and government-funded organizations. The Child Evangelism Fellowship, the nonprofit organization behind the Good News club organization, has won a number of lawsuits throughout the past, giving them grounds to establish an array of child-centered biblical institutes set to turn innocent, honest children into soldiers for Christ.
From their website, the focus of each Good News Club goes as such:

“Each club includes a clear presentation of the Gospel and an opportunity for children to trust the Lord Jesus as Savior. Every club also includes strong discipleship training to build character and strengthen moral and spiritual growth. All children are encouraged to attend a local church.”[14]

They believe they are doing something great; saving children from the torment of hell. They freely establish clubs throughout the world, using public school facilities after hours. They’ve been said to use games and treats in order to entice those who’d otherwise pay them no attention. If the word of Christ was as strong as those who claim it is, why must children be coaxed into believing it?

Since these sorts of clubs often take place after school hours, it’s not unusual to find a number of children expressing what they’ve learned from the curriculum presented by the Good News Club. Katherine Stewart wrote in an article for Santa Barbara Independent[15] about the Good News Club and its effects on student-to-student interaction. In that, she tells the story of two children, one telling the other she was going to burn in hell for not following Jesus. While children are freely allowed to discuss their religious beliefs, I believe a line must be drawn, between simple theological attributes and outright fear-mongering. There is no reason why a child should believe they or their friends would or will burn in hell, and there is no reason why a child should develop irrational fear of something of myth and superstition.

In Islam, indoctrination is taken a bit more seriously. From a very early age, Muslims are taught to memorize the Koran; sometimes, this often holds importance over studying other more earthly curriculums. This has two significant disadvantages. Firstly, this has a long lasting effect on the child’s cognitive development, as it’s primarily based on one particular source. Secondly, as a result of that, they will learn to reject other sources of knowledge simply because it deviates from what Islam teaches. This then, as I state previously, creates an “us” versus “them” frame of mind, completely carrying the Muslim believer further from enlightenment; never questioning and always accepting, brainwashing at its best. The very same can be said for most of the orthodox Jewish population. Anywhere religious instruction exists, expect indoctrination to take place.

Male Circumcision

Male circumcision is a common practice in most parts of the world, leading many to believe it’s a necessity of medical nature and not of religious superstition. Yet, as the facts can be found, the opposite is true. It is a practice from our most primitive cultures, fueled then by religious hysteria and bolstered today by legend and myth. I had always known of circumcision as a religious tradition but because of its prevalent practice in western countries, I had always assumed it to have a substantial medical benefit; I was significantly, and unsurprisingly, wrong.

It’s unclear as to when circumcision among males began but it’s believed to have begun in ancient Egypt. Stemming from ancient hieroglyphics depicting the practice there of, it’s thought to have started during the 6th dynasty of Egypt; whether or not it was done so as a rite of passage, social status marker, or religious tradition is very unclear, but what’s quite certain is what it has evolved into as the centuries progressed.

While exiled from Babylon, the Jewish people developed this practice as a cultural symbol of their faith. Several passages within the Old Testament explain this practice amongst Jewish people and the importance it held to those who scribed the books, bent on separating themselves from various other traditions during the time. It’s first described in the book of Genesis when God formed covenant with Abraham, promising paradise to him and those whom come from his family line.
The text reads:

“And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the Lord appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect. And I will make my covenant between me and thee, and will multiply thee exceedingly. And Abram fell on his face: and God talked with him, saying, as for me, behold, my covenant is with thee, and thou shalt be a father of many nations. Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be Abraham; for a father of many nations have I made thee. And I will make thee exceeding fruitful, and I will make nations of thee, and kings shall come out of thee. And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee. And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God. And God said unto Abraham, Thou shalt keep my covenant therefore, thou, and thy seed after thee in their generations. This is my covenant, which ye shall keep, between me and you and thy seed after thee; Every man child among you shall be circumcised. And ye shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be a token of the covenant betwixt me and you. And he that is eight days old shall be circumcised among you, every man child in your generations, he that is born in the house, or bought with money of any stranger, which is not of thy seed. He that is born in thy house, and he that is bought with thy money, must needs be circumcised: and my covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant. And the uncircumcised man child whose flesh of his foreskin is not circumcised, that soul shall be cut off from his people; he hath broken my covenant.”[16]

So it’s quite clear: Jews are required, by biblical law, to be circumcised before they can partake in Jewish traditions. Moses, however, did away with the tradition until Joshua reinstated the practice.
The text reads:

“At that time the Lord said unto Joshua, Make thee sharp knives, and circumcise again the children of Israel the second time. And Joshua made him sharp knives, and circumcised the children of Israel at the hill of the foreskins. And this is the cause why Joshua did circumcise: All the people that came out of Egypt, that were males, even all the men of war, died in the wilderness by the way, after they came out of Egypt. Now all the people that came out were circumcised: but all the people that were born in the wilderness by the way as they came forth out of Egypt, them they had not circumcised. For the children of Israel walked forty years in the wilderness, till all the people that were men of war, which came out of Egypt, were consumed, because they obeyed not the voice of the Lord: unto whom the Lord sware that he would not shew them the land, which the Lord sware unto their fathers that he would give us, a land that floweth with milk and honey. And their children, whom he raised up in their stead, them Joshua circumcised: for they were uncircumcised, because they had not circumcised them by the way. And it came to pass, when they had done circumcising all the people that they abode in their places in the camp, till they were whole.”[17]

The tradition carried on from Judaism to Christianity, though it was often interpreted as a spiritual circumcision since it was believed to resemble a sacrifice and commitment. Jesus, being the ultimate sacrifice, and faith, being the commitment, became sufficient for most Christians towards the end of the first century of the Common Era. However, the practice continued among Jewish Christians as they converted to Christianity.

Circumcision among the Muslim community is quite common, beginning when the religion found its footing. While Islamic texts do not obligate the circumcision of infant boys, it’s strongly suggested based on the words of Muhammad, who required men in the Koran to follow the laws of Abraham.
The text reads:

“Then We revealed to you, [O Muhammad], to follow the religion of Abraham, inclining toward truth; and he was not of those who associate with Allah.”[18]

As such, the laws are recommended to be observed, though there is no explicit instruction regarding the practice.

Circumcision is an ancient practice, derived from superstition and faith-based reasoning. Many argue the practice is a medical necessity; meaning, the boy is better off without the foreskin intact. But where does the actual science lie in regards to the operation? Many myths surround the procedure itself. It’s commonly believed that the procedure is harmless with little complication, is endorsed by medical professionals, or the child will face a negative social stigma. I will admit I once believed these to be very true statements. But as I pointed out at the beginning of this section, they cannot be further from the truth.

Circumcision is a rather painful procedure and sometimes followed by medical complications. The foreskin is an extremely sensitive portion of the male body. With the heightened sensitivity, and the general act of cutting, makes the procedure excruciating for the one enduring it. With little to no health benefits concerning circumcision in general, this pain –while miniscule in time – still remains to be unnecessary and unavoidable. While if the procedure is done so by medical professionals, it’s likely to be done so in a hygienic manner.

There is a tradition amongst the Jewish people, where in which a mohel[19], in an act of bloodletting, cuts the foreskin of the child and draws blood from the wound by creating suction with his mouth. This is not a common occurrence and only happens among extremely orthodox sects of Judaism which remain uncommon in the United States, but there is a growing concern regarding the transmission of sexual diseases. In 2012, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a recommendation advising against the practice.[20] This response came from the fact that two infants died as a result of an infection due to this religious tradition. In Israel, where the practice is quite common, a study found roughly 30% of those with herpes contracted the disease from this barbaric and, quite frankly, disgusting tradition.[21]

The procedure does not happen to be endorsed by medical professionals either. Though you may have the option to do so, and are often given the opportunity to choose, it’s still entirely voluntary. A growing number of parents are choosing not to circumcise their child. In recent years, rates regarding circumcisions have dropped to almost 60% in western countries.[22] If a negative reaction comes to light, rational conversation between the parents and the child would be recommended concerning the matter. Without the necessity to circumcise, this leaves many to wonder: Was it worth it after all?

Female Genital Mutilation

In many countries, female genital mutilation is thought to be a religious requirement by those who practice the act. It is typically carried out by older woman; much like the circumcision of a male, which is required to be carried out by men. While it occurs globally, the tradition is primarily found in countries with a high number of Muslim adherents, mostly in Africa but also in Malaysia and Indonesia as well. This despicable and horrific act often involves the removal of the female genitalia with a sharpened knife, for means to allow the poor woman to achieve sexual purity and remain moral in the eyes of her family and God. The girl is often between the age of 4 and 14, sometimes having the opening of her vagina sewn shut to, again, remain pure for her husband. It’s also thought to be used as a means to decrease sexual pleasure during intercourse.

It must be said, even though religious bodies have denounced the practice of female genital mutilation globally, they’re still religiously motivated incidents.
In a report issued by Unite for Children, or UNICEF, they stated:

“Despite the fact that FGM/C predates the birth of Islam and Christianity and is not mandated by religious scriptures, the belief that it is a religious requirement contributes to the continuation of the practice in a number of settings. …In certain settings FGM/C is widely held to be a religious obligation.”[23]

It’s often said by the faithful that religion and religious beliefs are not to blame for the vile and wicked acts done in its name; the people who commit the violence are guilty, and their misunderstanding of scripture and teachings are to blame. Still, I must say, the admission on part of those responsible for committing acts like this still associate these practices with their faith, and something must be said for that; religion breeds ignorance, which is ultimately the root of this problem.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali has spoken about her own experience as a former Muslim and victim of female genital mutilation. As a strong advocate for women’s rights, she has written several books and speaks regularly on this topic. In 2013 she spoke with a journalist from the London Evening Standard and in that article she goes into great depth about the issue and the fight to end female genital mutilation.
In the article, written by Alison Roberts, it states:

“Later Hirsi Ali says FGM is a symptom of the ‘whole virginity obsession’ within largely but not exclusively Muslim communities abroad, and sometimes here. Forced marriage, honor killings and child brides are similar horrors related to a ‘purity’ required in women but not men. ‘Actually it should be a man’s campaign. Why do they need a virgin? Why do they need a woman whose genitals have been demolished? Is that the only way to express their manhood?’”[24]

By bringing awareness to this issue, by debunking religious claims, and helping young girls obtain the rights they deserve, female genital mutilation would be a thing of the past. Sadly, religious stupidity spreads faster than wildfire; but we must not stop the fight regardless.

Child Marriage

Child marriages are prevalent in most of the world, including the United States on some occasions. Religious beliefs and the ideas of marriage often go hand-in-hand, allowing its adherents to marry young, sometimes prepubescent, women. According to the International Center for Research on Women, this is common.
Their website states:

“No one religious affiliation was associated with child marriage, according to a 2007 ICRW study. Rather, a variety of religions are associated with child marriage in countries throughout the world.”[25]

It’s important to point out why laws regarding the age to marry are to be taken seriously. Most religious doctrines, such as Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, teach against the conception of children before marriage. So, in order for those who follow those religions to bare children, marriage is required; if not, those who bare children before marriage often face social and judicial persecution and/or ridicule. So as a result, they are to marry, and sometimes far too early in age. Quite often, those young women who are married at a young age are either forced to by their parents or social group

Many of those involved in arranged child marriages are from areas of the world depleted in resources; parents in these countries often believe their child will be better off financially, there’s monetary value in selling their daughter, or their child will be safe from sexual assault.
With that, in an article for NPR, Jennifer Ludden wrote this:

“The United Nations Population Fund estimates that every year, more than 14 million adolescent and teen girls are married, almost always forced into the arrangement by their parents. The countries with the highest rates of child marriage are in sub-Saharan Africa, but those with the largest number of child brides are in South Asia.”[26]

“Parents may offer a daughter's hand in the belief this will help protect her from a sexual assault that could leave her stigmatized in the community and unlikely to be married.”[27]

Why would these parents feel permitted to do such a horrid thing with their own child? Religion and the economy, in most cases, can be to blame. So how do we draw out the underlying cause of child marriage? Culturally, we can examine the beliefs held by those who take part in this ghastly venture; or in the least, claim their faith as a means to achieve the otherwise unachievable.

Living as a Muslim in a predominately Muslim nation, he can legally marry a young girl under Islamic law; sometimes as young as 10. This immediately calls into question the physical safety of the young girl. As I stated previously, if a girl is married, she is now allowed to conceive a child. Again, ICRW commented on this very subject.
Their website states:

“Girls younger than 15 are five times more likely to die in childbirth than women in their 20s. Pregnancy is consistently among the leading causes of death for girls ages 15 to 19 worldwide…Child brides face a higher risk of contracting HIV because they often marry an older man with more sexual experience. Girls ages 15 – 19 are 2 to 6 times more likely to contract HIV than boys of the same age in sub-Saharan Africa.”[28]

So what does religious scripture have to say regarding the marrying of children?
For those who are allowed to marry, the Koran states:

“And those who no longer expect menstruation among your women - if you doubt, then their period is three months, and [also for] those who have not menstruated. And for those who are pregnant, their term is until they give birth. And whoever fears Allah - He will make for him of his matter ease.”[29]

Along with this scripture, it’s commonly believed that since Muhammad married Aisha. At the time of the marriage, Aisha was only 7 years old; it wasn’t until she was 9 that the marriage was actually consummated.
In 2009, Saudi cleric Sheikh Abdul Aziz Al-Sheikh stated:

"It is incorrect to say that it's not permitted to marry off girls who are 15 and younger…A girl aged 10 or 12 can be married. Those who think she's too young are wrong and they are being unfair to her."[30]

Because a 10 or 12 year old child wants to marry a man three-times as old as her? And if someone stops her, they’d be guilty of violating her civil rights? Of course, one can find those among the Muslim community who disagree, but again, it still stands: these despicable religious beliefs are often the reason why men find brides well under an appropriate age.

Let’s not forget Mary, the mother of Jesus, was only 12 when she married Joseph, who is believed to have consummated the marriage between 13 and 14 years of age. The pedophile Warren Jeffs sits in a jail cell in Texas because he believed he was religiously allowed to marry and have sex with multiple girls under the age of 15.[31] The founder of Mormonism, Joseph Smith, had multiple wives under the age of 12.[32] Religious beliefs customarily allow the subjugation and mistreatment of those who are often too young to consent to marriage, ask for help, or fight for themselves. While child marriages persist all throughout the globe for various different reason, it’s wrong to ignore the role religion has played, and continues to play, in this important issue.

Catholic Church and the Pedophile Scandal

This is perhaps the most terrifying failure of a religious organization to date based on its lack of regard for the nature of the offenses committed. Maintaining an image of perfection was, and still possibly is, the sole motivating factor behind the Catholic Church and its efforts to cover up and harbor criminals. The Catholic Church often boasts about its generous giving and efforts to generally improve the lives of the sick, poor, and indefensible but the incidents involving pedophilia and the church’s active involvement in keeping guilty priests from persecution completely derails any argument for goodwill the church has made.

They claim to be for the good of man but their actions have proven otherwise. They have, systematically and effectively, allowed their priests to continue to hurt, rape, and mentally abuse the most innocent individuals on this planet. Parents are taught to trust priests and other clergymen; if a set of parents have been involved with the Catholic Church for much of their lives, why wouldn’t they trust the man they’ve grown to know and love? Priesthood has become the perfect occupation for a pedophile and the church has become the perfect hunting ground for them.

A majority of these instances have occurred mostly in North America, but cases have surfaced all throughout Europe and Asia. In the United States, according to the Bishop Accountability website, a large number of priests have been involved in sexual crimes against children.
The website states:

“The U.S. bishops have reported receiving allegations of abuse by 6,427 priests in 1950-2013, or 5.9% of the 109,694 U.S. priests active 1950-2002, according to the John Jay report. Including the 5,356 priests ordained since 2002 brings the total to 115,050, of whom 5.6% have been accused of abuse.”[33]

Of these priests, how many children have been victimized?
The website states:

“The U.S. bishops’ report receiving allegations from 17,259 victims.”[34]

The number is alarming and quite disturbing. Even though allegations began to surface in the late 70’s and early 80’s, it’s quite reasonable to conclude these acts have been occurring for a longer period of time, extending far past the 1950’s. If Catholic priests were simply abusing children by way of their position in the Church and community, that is where this argument ends. The problem has to with the church, as an organization, and its efforts to keep their priests from serving time for their crimes.

Civil lawsuits have been filed by families looking for moral and/or financial compensation for the trauma experienced by the child.
The Bishop Accountability website states:

“Survivors often cite the prevention of future abuse and the protection of vulnerable children as key motivations and goals. The survivors of clergy abuse are painfully aware of these issues because often they were abused by a priest who had abused previously and was then transferred to an unsuspecting parish. Often a survivor's struggle to come to terms with the abuse is made more difficult by the way that a diocese or a religious order handled abuse claims.”[35]

If criminal charges cannot be brought, it’s reasonable for the victimized and the families there of to seek justice in any way possible, even if it’s to expose those who are guilty. So how many cases were settled with monetary judgments?
The Bishop Accountability website states:

“Over $3 billion in awards and settlements have been made comprising: $750 million in settlements 1950-2002 (partly overlaps next item)…$2 billion in large settlements and awards 1984-2008 with 3,547 survivors…$500 million in smaller settlements 2003-2008.”[36]

With the willingness to monetarily settle these cases, it’s apparent the organization as a whole has been quite aware of the litany of sex crimes reported. These are not crimes we can overlook with a simple disregard, as it appears the Catholic Church has done. If anyone internally cares for the safety and wellbeing of children, those who are set to care for them must be kept under strict watch and accountability; this can be said for any organization that involves the care and nurture of little ones. This is a problem that demands our utmost attention and diligence. The Catholic Church, even as far as extending to the Vatican in Rome, is solely responsible for the crimes committed. These crimes stand as a testament to the focus of the church itself; The Catholic Church is more concerned with the safety and protection of their priests rather than the safety and protection of the children involved.


In short, religious organizations worldwide have caused a great deal of intellectual and physical harm to children, both in the past and present. We must all come to the understanding that those who are to inherit the world are most important, without question. It’s our job to keep them safe, to keep them physically and emotionally healthy, and to help them develop a usable base for building knowledge. If we continue to allow them to be indoctrinated, mutilated, and abused, we shouldn’t expect our species to continue progressing for much longer. We have to find the courage to stand against the wickedness that threatens our future as human beings. Religion, specifically organized religion, has, time and time again, proven to accomplish nothing but inhibit the future of many by stealing away a child’s only chance at living a rational, intellectually-prosperous life; which is certainly something we must not put up with.

[1] Genesis 19:8 KJV
[2] Genesis 22:3-12 KJV
[3] Exodus 4:21 KJV
[4] Exodus 12:29-30 KJV
[5] Isaiah 13:15-18 KJV
[6] Hosea 13:16 KJV
[7] Exodus 21:17 KJV
[8] Deuteronomy 21:18-21 KJV
[9] 2 Kings 2:23-24 KJV
[10] Adele M. Brodkin, “The Age of Reason,” (July 1, 2006)
[11] Paul, R. and Elder, L. “The Socratic Method,” (April 1997)
[12] 4-14 Window Movement, “Overview,”
[13] Child Evangelism Fellowship, “Good News Club,”
[14] Child Evangelism Fellowship, “Good News Club,”
[15] Katherine Stewart, “Reading, Writing, and Original Sin,” (May 7, 2009)
[16] Genesis 17:1-14 KJV
[17] Joshua 5:2-8 KJV
[18] Koran 16:123
[19] “Circumciser”
[20] Center for Disease Control and Prevention, “Neonatal Herpes Simplex Virus Infection Following Jewish Ritual Circumcisions that Included Direct Orogenital Suction — New York City, 2000–2011,” (June 8, 2012)
[21] Amir Koren, Diana Tasher, Michael Stein, Orit Yossepowitch, and Eli Somekh, “Neonatal Herpes Simplex Virus Infections in Israel,” (February 2013)
[22] Alexandra Sifferlin, “Explaining the Drop in Circumcision Rates,” (August 22, 2013)
[23] UNICEF,
[24] Alison Roberts, “Ayaan Hirsi Ali: ‘FGM was done to me at the age of five. Ten years later, even 20... I would not have testified against my parents,’” (March 14, 2013)
[25] ICRW, “Child Marriage Facts and Figures,”
[26] Jennifer Ludden, “Five Things You May Not Know About Child Marriage,” (December 1, 2013)
[27] Jennifer Ludden, “Five Things You May Not Know About Child Marriage,” (December 1, 2013)
[28]ICRW, “Child Marriage Facts and Figures,”
[29] Koran 65:4
[30] CNN, “Top Saudi cleric: OK for Young Girls to Wed” (January 17, 2009)
[31] Biography, “Warren Jeffs,”
[32] Troy, “Apologize This – Child Brides,” (May 3, 2003)
[33] Bishop Accountability, “At a Glance,”
[34] Bishop Accountability, “At a Glance,”
[35] Bishop Accountability, “Settlements,”
[36] Bishop Accountability, “At a Glance,”

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