Responding To ‘The Horrors of Atheist Indoctrination’

I ran across (because I follow) a blog post called, ‘The Horrors of Atheist Indoctrination‘, that thoroughly explores the emotional blackmail that usually come prepackaged with religion.

He starts off with:

Over the years I have talked to a number of atheists who have a serious problem with Christians who indoctrinate their kids.

I wrote here that indoctrination is not an issue, all parents, regardless of their beliefs, pass those beliefs on to their kids.

I disagree. I find a whole lot wrong with indoctrination.

I wonder if the author would be singing the same sort of tune if the indoctrination in question was Nazism or Islamism?

Why not teach them to think for themselves, question everything and allow them to make up their own minds?

What I never thought about, until today, is the deep regret former atheists can have when they realize the error of their ways.

He then goes on to recount a woeful story about a father who (supposedly) realizes that because he’d been an atheist when he was raising his children, they would now likely go to hell.

Enter the emotional blackmail.

Most parents love their kids and would do anything to prevent them being tortured for eternity – something this all-knowing God seems fine with. Next, all you have to do is convince them that their children are destined to such a fate, if they don’t indoctrinate their children with their own beliefs. If that doesn’t work, bullying may ensue, because the thought of their children burning for all time is something they can barely stand.

The emotional blackmail is complete. It could tear apart families and convince people of nonsense.

Thankfully, there is no need to believe such things. Even if you do believe in God; an all-knowing, all-loving God willing to torture people endlessly is a contradiction in terms.

If you are an atheist parent, like Wally was, are you similarly indoctrinating your kids into disbelief? If so, are you OK with that?


In fact, I encouraged my kids to read everything they could, including holy books of any kind. I didn’t tell them there was no God. If asked, I told them what some people believed and encouraged them to find out for themselves. Getting angry at them for believing (or not believing) the same things I do never entered my mind. My son is sort of a deist, although he leans towards belief in Jesus and my daughter doesn’t care about religion much at all.

Think the horror of Hell isn’t bad enough?

Imagine how your kids are going to feel when they find out it was the teaching of the people who were charged with caring for them, loving them, and looking out for them that got them there.

Further imagine how they will feel when they learn you won’t be with them to share in their suffering…

…that you’ve moved on without them.

If I’d moved on without them and knew they were being tortured eternally, it wouldn’t be heaven to me.

What if the tables were turned? What if they learned that you’d indoctrinated them with ancient, mythological nonsense that contradicts itself and goes against the reality we observe today? What if they feel duped and lied too?

Besides that, what exactly would an atheist indoctrinate their kids with? There is no atheist bible. It’s a lack of belief in god(s). That hardly makes for a set of rules or guidelines needed for indoctrination.



  1. My parents had no beliefs and passed on nothing. Unsurprisingly, that’s what I wound up with. No opinion on most stuff, poobash on the rest. I once had a couple of Mormon missionaries try to convert me. I let them think they were making progress because it was all so silly, but I was young and had a weird sense of humor.

  2. My son has been to church with his cousins plenty of times and I don’t care because it’s his choice. I’ve never told him what he should or shouldn’t believe. Let him discover on his own. He isn’t inclined to label himself, but, if I had to, I’d put him down as agnostic based on his comments.

  3. Just to offer the notion, I think that, regardless of one’s own beliefs, there is a big difference between Educating children and Indoctrinating them. To teach your children what you believe and why you believe it, is not the same as pressing your ideas into a malleable young mind.

  4. So, I spoke with both the author of that post and the person he referenced. I can summarise the confusion: the author(s) can’t tell the difference between being indoctrinated into dogma and being raised. Teach them to think for themselves? That’s indoctrination!
    Wally, in fact, sounds more like someone with a personality disorder. He used to (according to himself) openly mock Christians in front of his children.

    It’s a weird situation where there are all these “former atheists” were apparently really shitty people, and now that’s what they think atheists are.

  5. I always taught my kids to think for themselves and make their own decisions about their own spirituality. If it’s fundamentalist Christianity or atheism, that’s fine (my son is atheist, my daughter is agnostic). Whatever works for them in THIS life. None of us know what will happen in the afterlife.

  6. I think there is language problem here over the use of the term indoctrination. It has a negative connotation (think Mass Effect). But I think the point is that children will always be taught something from their parents. Teaching children to be free thinkers and figure things out are still positions that are impressed upon children by their parents (hence the indoctrination charge). I guess the point is that indoctrination is unavoidable.

    • “I am firm, You are obstinate, He is a pig-headed fool.” – Bertrand Russell.

      Those crazy people indoctrinate, but I educate my children! I would agree that there is some difference between indoctrination and education (or enculturation), but the lines between the two aren’t always as delineated as we sometimes try to pretend. With that said, the assertion that being taught to think for yourself constitutes indoctrination is silly.

      • The educate/indoctrinate dichotomy is interesting. Essentially they achieve the same thing, they impress ideas upon children. The difference here is in the value judgment being made: indoctrinate falling on the negative end of the value scale here. ‘Thinking for yourself’ is enshrined in Western culture and is therefore positive – so it is education.
        If you define indoctrination as impressing upon children an idea that you cannot question, then the ‘think for yourself’ premise will be just that. You get a self-referential problem: how do you think about ‘thinking for yourself’. That is the ey principle the child must be taught, you do not present alternatives to children (in a serious manner).
        The grounding principle you teach your children will be indoctrinated into them. But we call the good stuff education. For a Christian, the religion is good stuff – therefore it is not indoctrination. Conversely, (the Christian would say) if Christian good stuff is indoctrination – so too is the liberal injunction to ‘think for yourself’ an indoctrination.
        Your use of the word ‘crazy’ and ‘silly’ is also interesting as it further demonstrates the morals operating in the background of the indoctrinate/educate dichotomy.

        In conclusion, I think the Christian move is to say that you too indoctrinate your children with the ‘free thought’ principle (free thought being lumped in with religion – which I’m certain you would object to). Of course, I may be putting words in their mouth. I only skim read the posts, and they may have a different reasoning.

        • I think we’re making something of the same point; value judgments play a role in which word we choose to describe our own behavior and other people’s behaviors in relation to education/indoctrination, hence why I whipped out the Bertrand Russell quote.

          Think for yourself, however, is more like a general heuristic. In other words, the difference between believe in Jesus are you will go to hell and think for yourself is one leads to a particular belief (you must believe in Jesus), while the other is a trying to teach a type of behavior that can lead to a great diversity of beliefs. The latter doesn’t tell you what to believe exactly.

          With that said, I’ve certainly met quite a few so-called “freethinkers” who were just crazy people buying into a variety of whacky theories and then defending themselves by shouting, “think for yourself!” So the idea can be abused and become an excuse to believe in conspiracy theories.

  7. I’ve read the exchange and the posts. This bloke, Wally, sounds like a damn fraud.
    His language, phraseology and sentence structure all come across as a fundie, from start to finish. A classic dickhead.
    If he was ever a genuine atheist, my mum was the Queen of Sheba.

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