The Daily Mail states (emphasis added):
In typically incendiary style, Professor Dawkins said the mental torment inflicted by the religion’s teachings is worse in the long-term than any sexual abuse carried out by priests.
What did Dawkins actually say in 2006 in The God Delusion (emphasis added):
“Being fondled by the priest simply left the impression (from the mind of a 7 year old) as ‘yucky’ while the memory of my friend going to hell was one of cold, immeasurable fear. I never lost sleep because of the priest – but I spent many a night being terrified that the people I loved would go to Hell. It gave me nightmares.”
… if your whole upbringing, and everything you have ever been told by parents, teachers and priests, has led you to believe, really believe, utterly and completely, that sinners burn in hell (or some other obnoxious article of doctrine such as that a woman is the property of her husband), it is entirely plausible that words could have a more long-lasting and damaging effect than deeds.
Not actual, but plausible. His further clarification since the article (emphasise added):
Anecdotes and plausibility arguments, however, need to be backed up by systematic research, and I would be interested to hear from psychologists whether there is real evidence bearing on the question. My expectation would be that violent, painful, repeated sexual abuse, especially by a family member such as a father or grandfather, probably has a more damaging effect on a child’s mental well-being than sincerely believing in hell. But ‘sexual abuse’ covers a wide spectrum of sins, and I suspect that research would show belief in hell to be more traumatic than the sort of mild feeling-up that I suffered.
Mission set out above now
One wonders if the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science (RDFRS) will fund such research into psychological impact of believing in hell, because I remember when promoting the foundation at conferences in 2007/8 one of the aspirations was:
“Among its planned activities, RDFRS will finance research into the psychology of belief and religion, finance scientific education programs and materials, and publicise and support secular charitable organisations.” (Wikipedia)
This was on the website at the time in 2007, with a host of other points, as the mission statement. Going there now you find:
Mission Statement for the US Foundation
The mission of the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science is to support scientific education, critical thinking and evidence-based understanding of the natural world in the quest to overcome religious fundamentalism, superstition, intolerance and suffering.
Yet I remember the mission to fund research, which Wikipedia retrieved from the mission statement, in 2006.
Try looking up http://richarddawkinsfoundation.org/foundation,ourMission and it no longer exists which listed 11 mission points. Whether you see this as an old site being taken down, or 1984 deleting of history up to you.
Fortunately bloggers out there did copy and paste the original mission statement of RDFRS which reads on research:
1. Research. We intend to sponsor research into the psychological basis of unreason. What is it about human psychology that predisposes people to find astrology more appealing than astronomy? At what age are young people most vulnerable to unreason? What are the correlations between religiosity and superstition on the one hand, and intelligence, educational level, type of education etc. on the other? Research of this kind would be supported in the form of grants to universities in America and Britain or wherever the best research can be done.
Was this aspiration (ranked number one) just dropped, because as far as I am aware no scientific research has been funded by the foundation. Yet this was something we really were excited about as campaigners so many years ago raising funds at the Atheist Alliance International Conference in 2007 for the RDFRS from willing donators when asked what would RDFRS be doing.
The most recent statement from Richard Dawkins mentions nothing about this aspiration when asking for donations.
Richard, time to put the foundation’s money where your mouth was.
Related blogs: What hell is this?
Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog