Scary Religious Parenting

I read a religious blog post today that I found deeply disturbing. The post was about using ‘discipline and holy fear’ when parenting. The very idea that fear equals love is something that Christianity seems to promote, but for the life of me, I can’t possibly understand that line of thinking.

In the bible Christians are told to fear God, and if you get into enough religious debates, you will quickly notice that Christians often use the analogy that God is like a father figure. You need to fear this father figure in the sky in order to love him.

I call that complete hogwash, but there it is.

Anyhow, here is an excerpt from the blog post I read:

On a friend’s Facebook page, she has expressed the frightening experience of having her child hide from her at bath time. The little boy determined to go outside and hide rather than to join with his little sister for their bath.

Mommy is indeed acting rationally concerning her fear in this regard. Such disobedience in a child is a frightening thing. Without a child’s unwavering obedience, no parent is able to provide protection for one’s child. Obedience is absolutely necessary in the parent and child relationship. This obedience must be instilled in the child through careful discipline or discipling. This requires the parent to act very sternly and powerfully, actions that are emotionally difficult to govern with consistency. But parents are not the child’s peer, nor even buddy. Parents are the overlords of their children, appointed so by the Father of all, for the good of all.

Now, I’m not sure how he expects to achieve this ‘unwavering obedience’. He never uses the words ‘spanking’ or ‘corporal punishment’.

However, the bible does teach (Proverbs 13:24) that to spare the rod is to spoil the child. We now know that there are better ways of raising a child than whacking them whenever they step out of line. It’s just one more area of this mythology that has been proven wrong since it was written. In fact, study after study after study has shown that spanking can have long-term negative effects on health and well-being.

The problem is that religions idea that a parent must be feared to be effective is taught to people right from the get-go; both by mouth and by example.

While parents are indeed responsible for their children, that in no way makes them their ‘overlord’ like the writer of the above blog suggests. Unlike true overlords, parents are bound by laws and children do have rights. If a parent were truly an overlord, this wouldn’t apply.

Then we get this scary piece of advice:

What I do know for certain is that the 4th Commandment, “Thou shalt honor thy father and thy mother that it may be well with thee and thou mayest live long on the earth.” is deep seated in my personhood. I also know that this was not driven into me, but was born in me so that it fills me as it flows from the first three commandments. True fear, love, and trust in God is the beginning of all right understanding for life. True honor of parents cannot be taught apart from this. The mechanics of the Fourth Commandment can be effected without fear, love, and trust in God, but not the natural flow of true and genuine honor of parents.

Sure, respecting your parents is usually a good thing, but I don’t fear my mother. I respect her for giving birth to me and sacrificing many years of hard work to raise me. She wasn’t perfect, and she’d be the first to tell you that. She wasn’t my overlord and neither was my father.

Also, why do religious zealots always refer to the ten commandments?

If they truly wanted to follow them, they’d be putting their kids to death for disobedience, since that’s the prescribed punishment in the bible.

Exodus 21:15-17 “And he that smiteth his father, or his mother, shall be surely put to death”.

Last but not least, we have this piece of horseshittery to contend with:

Some time previously, Dad had astonished the rest of the family by teaching me to fear the electric stove. He placed his hand on the burner, turned the knob to warm and waited for it to become uncomfortable, took my little hand and placed it on the burner crying, “HOT!” The others thought this to be terrible, but he wanted his little boy to be safe. He wanted his little boy to stay away from anything that was declared to be HOT.

I share this to demonstrate that true love does not always bear the outward appearance that people expect. True love sometimes appears hard and harsh and intolerant. True parenting requires wisdom in knowing what true love demands.

Of course he ‘astonished’ the rest of the family. That’s child abuse! It wouldn’t surprise me if they’d been sickened and horrified. That’s not good parenting. Billions of kids worldwide have grown up to be well-adjusted adults without having their father stick their hand on a hot stove.

The sad thing about it is that he’s rationalized this ‘parenting technique’ (and I use that term with extreme reservations) and might very well pass it on to his kids.

This mythology can be very dangerous to parents and children alike. People like this can ignore the evidence, the numerous studies and common-sense because God supposedly wrote down in a primitive text that it was cool to take a rod to your kid. And not only that, but this hot stove bullshit can be compared to this Gods willingness to burn people for eternity for simply not believing in Him.

Add that to the hatred of homosexuality that this religion seems to breed, and you have a powder keg of bullshit just ready to blow. You can have parents hating their homosexual children or refusing them medical . attention in favor of prayer, which can result in death. You can have them hitting their kids and sticking their hands on a hot stove, all in the name of fear and God.

Just another example of how this primitive religion can warp morality (ethics) and make it possible to do serious damage without reviewing the evidence.

Faith-based thinking at its finest.



  1. As if the post itself weren't bad enough, the links on the side were atrocious.

    John Birch society (didn't know they still existed), an “ex-gay therapy” group (come on, even Alan Chambers gave up on that bullshit), and an anti-psychiatry website, just to name a few.

  2. I always had a problem reconciling the God we fear with the God we love. The Bible presents God as a deity not to be messed with. Get on the wrong side of this God and he might beat the shit out of you or kill you. Yet, he loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.

    This violent, vindictive God has led many a parent to be just like the God they worship. After all God says a parent who loves their children will beat them when they disobey.

  3. This is an interesting and thought provoking post. I am impartial to corporal punishment (spanking), but the reason behind this is that when I was at school I used to get spanked and it didn’t effect me. I do realize however that this is my reaction to spanking and is not the rule. In conclusion, I agree that other parenting techniques work and if anything giving me a spanking didn’t teach me anything, but it also didn’t give me long term negative effects.

  4. Hi Christian. I too was spanked as a child. However, there is no way to determine whether it had long term effects on me. Perhaps I'd be slower to anger, be more empathetic, be less likely to see violence as a solution. Not that I go around hurting people, but what I'm saying is that while I do possess empathy etc. perhaps I'd have a smidgen more, for example. There's just no way for me to measure such a thing.

  5. I agree that is the problem, there is no measure to determine these things. I suppose also I never got spanked (except once) for no reason, so I could rationalize it. But yes it is not something that is good for anyone, and mostly teachers and parents are not good at how to spank.

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