Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Bullying: For They Know Not What They Do

PREVIOUS:  Tell Him His Fault, Between You and Him Alone

I've mentioned before that it seems highly suspect to me that children and teens who bully others in the name of religion would have had the idea originate from within.  Again, it is far more likely that religious kids are being manipulated into believing that when it comes to another person's immortal soul, as a follower of Jesus Christ it is their duty to be a brute.  Take, for example, Focus on the Family's "Day of Dialog", or the Center for Arizona Policy killing anti-bullying legislation.  These groups are openly opposed to anti-bullying rules and laws because they believe that any mention of "gay" or "lesbian" is promoting homosexuality.  And by putting on such frenzied displays, these religious groups are not only dictating public policy, they are also telling their children that if they are around a person that is openly gay, they get a free pass to exhibit barbarous, malignant, and antisocial behavior toward another human being.  It's no wonder that some kids raised in religion go on to verbally and sometimes physically abuse other children.  They have the luxury of literally running back to the primitive and cozy comfort of the anti-gay passages in their Bible.

This same behavior has manifested itself toward atheists as well.  Jessica Ahlquist and David Fowler have received threats of violence, rape, and death from other kids their age; all in the name of Christianity.

Perhaps it's easier for religious kids to justify this kind of atrocious behavior.  They have been taught to believe that being obnoxious toward sinful human beings is all for the greater good.  Most rational people will likely believe that this is completely absurd, but how else can we account for seemingly normal-minded people becoming so cruel and intolerant?  An even better question might be, where does the loathing of atheists and the hostility toward anyone who questions the existence of god originate?

From the parochial pastors of South Carolina to the high profile Evangelicals of Colorado Springs, I think the answer is obvious: religious leaders.

The atheist, agnostic and humanist community is currently caught up in the inevitable outcome of years of religious leaders pleading for their congregation to, "spread the word of God," and, "be soldiers for Christ."  This message has been perverted to such extreme proportions that the United States now has a sizable majority of children and teens, as well as adults, that either do not realize, or can't understand, that what they're doing to other people is wrong.  Their perspective on humanity has been so skewed by the religious leaders of their community, that they fervently believe that barbaric behavior is perfectly justifiable - so long as it's done with a Bible in their pocket.

Even Hollywood has noticed this phenomenon.  All anyone has to do is watch an episode of the very popular show, "GCB" to see what I mean.  (The social interaction and covert peer pressure between the women of that show honestly deserves a full blog post by itself.)  The characters, as exaggerated and superficial as the are, serve as a satirical lens into the twisted psyche of modern Southern Baptists.  And as funny as this show can be, I think the lessons of the emotional damage caused by bullying in the name of religion sometimes gets lost in the mockery.  Insults, stereotypes, and teasing are a way of life for the characters in this show.  As a matter of fact, the main character was once the "Queen Bee" in high school, who had the power to decide which of the other girls in the school were foxes or javelinas.  Now, I will admit that this episode was really clever.  But my worry is that most people do not realize that the indirect bullying and intimidation shown in this episode is not that far fetched for some high school students.

For example, here is a list of insults that have been given to me or said to me personally, provided in order from youngest bully to oldest:
  • "You're just mean"
  • "You're a bad person"
  • "You're going to hell"
  • "I hate you"
  • "You're a devil worshipper"
  • "You're just angry"
  • "You're a slut"
  • "You're shallow"
  • "You've disappointed me"
  • "You're immoral"
  • "You just lack character"
  • "You're depraved"
  • "You're a criminal"
  • "You deserve to die"
As you can see, the list progresses from fairly bland accusations to very hurtful and destructive statements.  Yet each and every day there are children and teens in our country that are forced to endure this kind of religiously motivated verbal attack.

The really unfortunate thing is that perverse people like this are not that uncommon.  If you are an atheist, you can bet that these are the words that you and your children are likely to hear from some religious people; that includes religious family members.  (I've seen it with my own family.)  On the other hand, you will find that insults do not have to be as pointed as the ones I've included in the list.  Most religious people - especially family members - will wrap their insults in phony concern, such as, "I'll pray for you," or, "I just worry about the souls of your kids."  But as we all know, this is simply a backhanded comment fashioned in an accusatory way.  They'll pray for you because obviously you're a heathen, and of course they worry about the souls of your kids because you have doomed them all to Hell.  And if you find that your family was successful in making you feel guilty, then you may have just fallen victim to indirect bullying.

As I said earlier, it is my conclusion that this is how an overtly religious person has been taught to handle non-believers.  Religious leaders have indoctrinated vast numbers of people, including children, to reduce atheists and agnostics to immoral animals in order to give themselves the right to intimidate and bully them into submission.

However, atheists and agnostics need not simply stand idly by as religious bullies try to put them or their family members into a position of submissiveness.  In fact, when it comes to our kids, it is our duty as parents to make certain that our children receive the support they need when it comes to dealing with a religious bully.  Take the initiative.  Contact all of the teachers in your child's grade.  Be prepared to escalate the situation to the school administration when necessary.  Write everything down; every name, every phone conversation, every meeting.  Show everyone that you will not stop until the bullying stops.  You cannot allow a playground bully to go unchecked at your child's school just because he or she happens to mention the Bible.

Keep in mind that as much as the religious demand it, their dogma does not automatically deserve respect.  You are allowed to speak up, so long as you know that the situation will not escalate to the point where your life, or the life of a loved one, is in danger.  Direct confrontation of a bully does have its merits, so long as you stay focused on your safety.

NEXT:  Do Not Neglect To Do Good


  1. I have to agree that confrontation of a bully helps, particularly public confrontation where the bully suddenly isn't so sure that he'll get the support of the bigots that he thrives on. Of course, in private, those adults may tell him they agree with him but he'll never forget how they stood there silently, slinking off while letting him take the full force and fury of an angry ginger mother.

    As for the family issues, yeh, that's a lot trickier. My Son and I have learned to endure it for the sake of 'peace' and my husband has the wonderful ability to literally ignore it. But we don't attend family functions the way we once did and once the older generation passes, all bets and 'peace keeping' are off.

  2. My wife and I have been trying to teach our son the same thing - confrontation can help just as long as he knows he's not in any danger of getting hurt. We want him to understand that violence is not the answer, but then again we don't want him to grovel to bullies.

    For me, I think the worst kind of pressure comes from my family. Other people that I barely know I can handle, but dealing with the pressure of family members telling me that I should keep quiet really takes its toll.