[music] Going into work one morning, on the 9.15 to Charing Cross, my private train of thought was derailed when a man suddenly started shouting. When I looked up, I realised I’d clocked him earlier, when he got on. I’d seen him push his way to the middle of the compartment with unusual purpose. He’d now whipped out a bible and was shouting out passages from it. This kind of thing’s a very rare event in the UK And the passengers’ reactions make it clear why. After a few seconds, someone told him to shut up. He carried on. They told him to shut up again, and someone else told him to save it for church. In response, his voice went up a pitch. Then other people started joining in, shouting him down, telling him to take it somewhere else, this wasn’t the place for that stuff. But he carried on, eventually ditching his bible and just commanding us to get on our knees before his god, or we’d burn in hell forever. But the passengers just got louder, until they completely drowned him out. He fizzled to a stop, and the crowd died down to a kind of irritated murmur. It was quite something to witness their anger. When the train stopped at Charing Cross, the preacher went and stood to one side of the platform away from the flow of commuters. He looked shell-shocked, and seemed to start talking to himself. I walked slowly past him. He was quietly praying to his god to dispel the demons that had possessed us to reject his divine word. The fact that many of the commuters were christian seemed to elude him completely. If there was one image that encapsulated the root of all the problems I have with religion, for me this would be it. It’s the Parent-Child psychological relationship. As explained in previous videos in the series, these terms don’t refer literally to parents and children but to styles of thinking, feeling, and relating to others. We can take a Parental approach to others, using behaviours learned from authority figures in our life. We can think, feel and relate to others like we did in our childhood. Or, in Adult mode, we can be spontaneous, aware, and in the moment. In this video I’ll be exploring how Parent-Child dynamics pervade and underpin unhealthy, retrograde concepts and practice, and looking at equitable alternatives. The very idea of ‘faith’, in a religious context, carries the intrinsic notion of yielding to human authority. To allow the anomalous class of ‘supernatural’ entities into our belief system, we have to accept another human’s hearsay as reality. With the proposed entities inaccessible to our senses, there is no other mechanism. Of course, if they were accessible to our senses it would also, by definition, no longer be a matter of faith to believe they existed. Some folks still point to holy books as evidence. But books describing supernatural events, creatures and processes for which there’s again no evidence, amount to the same thing: hearsay It’s no accident that hearsay’s not admissible as evidence in court. People misremember details, people unwittingly repeat lies they’ve been told, or deliberately lie, for various reasons. Above all, people give conflicting accounts. As adults we know these flaws make hearsay an absolutely unworkable basis for the determination of reality. But when it comes to religion, many suspend all of this awareness, even though every single problem here can be clearly observed in religious contexts, especially the problem of conflicting accounts, with conflicts not only between religions, but also within them. Why is awareness suspended around religious hearsay? It’s no coincidence that religious indoctrination tends to take place in childhood, when not only are critical faculties not yet developed, but egocentricity’s at an all-time high — consistent with the message that ‘it was all put here for us’. The honourable thing to do would be to respect the child’s impressionable brain by giving it facts. If you’re going to teach the child about religion, teach it about all religions without bias, preserve all the inconsistencies without excuse or rationalisation, and make it clear that these are beliefs, not facts. Of course what we tend to see is very different, with distinctive patterns of coercion and reinforcement, rewarding expressions of belief, and discouraging and punishing awkward questions and non-participation. Beliefs are taught as fact, inconsistencies are denied, and other religions are dismissed or even demonised — if indeed they ever get mentioned. One of several iconic terms to emerge from George Orwell’s novel 1984 was ‘doublethink’. It referred to the acceptance of two conflicting ideas, in contrast to cognitive dissonance, where the conflicting ideas arouse conscious tension. An example of doublethink in the novel was where workers, who were ordered to falsify public records, would then believe their own forgery. There’s more than a whiff of doublethink about the parent who employs all these manipulations on their child, then claims it was free to believe what it liked. But then we see examples of doublethink everywhere in religion. We see popes, who’ve enjoyed the shelter of backdated papal infallibility since 1870, despite contradictory stances on a broad range of subjects. We see claims of eternal moral values, despite the assertion of diametrically opposed moral positions. We see psychopathic behaviour like genocide and perpetual torture exhibited by beings characterised as supremely loving. Unfortunately, with the child’s critical faculties initially absent, then actively suppressed, the seeds for doublethink are off to a great start. Of course children aren’t the only targets for proselytisation. Returning to the preacher on the train, we see the same Parent-Child psychological relationship attempted on adults. Of course when it comes to dogma, your strategies are limited. The foundation for dogma is authority, and a respectful, equal Adult exchange is out of the question. Hence we see the preacher talking down to adults like school children. The trouble is, to get compliance, the target has to accept the instigator as a legitimate authority. What the preacher failed to grasp is that we’re none too likely to accept some belligerent stranger as an authority. Ironically, he did succeed in getting Child responses — just not the compliant Child he hoped for. Rebellious Child responses are easily aroused by this kind of bumbling grab for authority, resulting in scorn and insults. His severe breach of socially appropriate boundaries also predictably elicits Parent responses, bringing the offender back into line. The preacher’s command to get down on our knees brings up another Parent-Child transaction: worship. Some folks have a hard time imagining a worship-free life. Hence the misapprehension that atheists must be worshipping something, probably themselves. Leaving aside the trouble of worshipping things whose existence can’t even be demonstrated …. There’s a fatal flaw in the whole notion of worship. Nothing needs to be worshipped. In fact these days, we’re realising that the kind of stupendous egotism that requires genuine worship is by and large driven by crippling inadequacy. This leaves worshippers in a strangely redundant position — fulfilling a need that simply doesn’t exist. But still some persist, claiming the act of worship benefits us, not gods. They say it makes us appreciate our good fortunes. But worship isn’t necessary for that either. I can sit here and consider my good fortunes without any thought or action remotely resembling worship. Then of course the judgements come. Declining to humble myself is taken as arrogance. But this highlights a false dichotomy, missing a balanced middle ground where we neither have to inflate ourselves nor reduce ourselves. The adult ground where we’re actually good enough as we are. The preacher’s ability to rationalise away his own shortcomings by demonising the commuters, highlights a peculiar strategy for evading personal responsibility. Christian A regularly sermonises against various social groups with hideously sweeping statements about their immorality. But then one day, His own morality gets called into question, through some personal transgression. Maybe the embezzlement of charity funds, or revelations of links to escort services. He tries to cover up. Christian B comes forward — she confirms his transgression and encourages him to come clean. Christian A now attempts to assert that, by exposing him, she’s damaged his ability to spread god’s word. He actually rationalises his own transgression into an accusation that Christian B has acted against their god. So the line ‘It’s not me you’re against, it’s god’ is used to avoid responsibility for personal failure and transgression. But it’s also used by some who claim to speak directly for their god, pumping up their own Parent authority to divine levels. It’s particularly useful when the goal is anti-social in nature. When it becomes a matter of human judgement — the case is lost. These three positions are bound to lose in rational argument because they all hinge on prejudice. Like dogma, irrational prejudice relies on authority. The Parent-Child psychological elationship can be a positive environment. The parent’s controlling side can provide crucial information about appropriate boundaries, allowing the child to integrate and function socially with others. The parent’s nurturing side comforts and encourages the child, assisting its emotional and intellectual development and independence. And that’s the crucial point here: independence. The child becomes an adult. The parent is preparing the child for this important transition. To seek to keep someone in a persistent infantilised state is to thwart that natural development. When I announced my atheism as a child, there were tensions for a while. Those around me took the ignorant view that many theists take towards atheists. They mistook my position for a Rebellious Child position. It took time but eventually it sank in that I was coming from a rational position, and the dynamic shifted. And in adult life, in the UK, religion’s been a non-issue. Why? Well, over here, pushing your religion on others has generally been considered quite crass and vulgar. Religion’s been a predominantly private, personal matter — with an inward focus, on one’s own beliefs. With the expansionist fundamentalist theists I’ve experienced online in the last 3 years, the focus is firmly outward — everyone else must change to fit in with them. The behaviour I’ve witnessed has been aggressive, intolerant and judgemental. The fact that the behaviour’s so extreme that it totally negates the religion it claims to promote, is no big surprise — just more doublethink. What’s interesting to me though is that we see exactly the same processes I witnessed with the train preacher. We see the fundamentalists’ same disregard for others with different beliefs — and even sometimes those with the same beliefs. We see the same controlling, condemning Parent attitude. We see the same predictable reactions against such arrogance. We see the same rationalisations from fundamentalists that it’s not them that people are reacting against, but their god. We see the same increase in pitch and escalation of tactics to establish dominion — although, unlike the preacher, this time it’s not just a case of talking louder. We see the rise of faith schools, where pseudo-teachers teach pseudo-biology, then proudly announce that 100% of their students have rejected scientific fact for creationist myths. We see horrendous, abusive religious camps run by power-hungry demagogues who see children as pawns in a religious arms race. Who describe children as ‘useable’. Who openly admit they want to see children laying down their lives for their religion. And we see the nauseating results, as the children’s minds are sullied with their vile prejudices. We see the burning of flags and books — attempting to push others into a fearful, compliant Child position, but just like the train preacher’s inept fear-mongering, provoking rebellion and anger instead. Spot the theme? It’s of course the way of things that those who feel entitled to privileges don’t surrender them easily. Luxury becomes necessity, and the prospect of introducing an equitable balance can leave those who’ve taken more than their fair share of power feeling somehow deprived. With every single reclamation of equal rights in history, we’ve seen the campaign of resistance that’s swelled up in reaction. Attempts to characterise the rebelling underclass as a sickness, a virus to be squashed. We see them cast as uncompromising and militaristic. These characteristics are currently being attributed to atheists, with the oxymoronic term ‘fundamentalist atheism’. But systems of oppression can’t be maintained. People might start out submitting to abuse, if that’s all they’ve known. But it’s in our nature to grow. The child grows and the social group grows. With increasing experience comes the creeping awareness that this abuse is not the inevitable order of things — that indefensible inequities have been perpetrated on them. And that the power they’ve given away can be taken back. If we’re to grow up as a species, we need to address the systems that infantilise us. Not just religious infantilising systems, but infantilising social systems that perpetuate prejudice and discrimination, and infantilising governments — by which I don’t just mean obvious dictatorships, but also the sly, insidious Parental states who encourage us to surrender successive freedoms, on the false pretext of increasing security against fears they themselves promote. Life is chockfull of uncertainties, ambiguities, insecurities. Dealing with that by submitting to Parent-Child systems is moving backwards, not forwards. I un-humbly submit that we’re better off neither inflated nor diminished, but standing tall, at our full Adult height.