There is nothing that is too obvious of an absurdity to be firmly planted in the human head as long as you begin to instill before the age of five by constantly repeating it with an air of great seriousness.

– Arthur Schopenhauer

Followers of the riveting “Zachary’s Brain” series of posts will know that the narrative is not a Gothic horror tale…but something that is just as disturbing: resisting the religious programming of a child.

His step-mother, belonging to a vanilla-Jesus sect, got Dad involved, of course, because he wants to be on the right side of her, though while married to my wife, he was a lapsed Catholic, a confirmed skeptic/deist who refused communion and mocked the Pope.

So now there’s a lot of church in Zachary’s life – church activities, services, quite a bit of Christian BS. My wife weeps over the cruelty of making a child believe lies. And she acts. There is no WAY this boy is going to grow up into a Christian.


We know what they’re telling Zachary. It’s all there, in the Holy Babble. So we’ve adopted two strategies for what we call “counter-church” (”anti-” sounded too anti-), since we have him every other Sunday: one is reframing; the other is anticipatory information and argumentation. We told him of the cruelty and insanity of the Noah and Binding of Isaac stories. We’ve told him that one day, when there’s been lots of warm, fuzzy Baby Jesus, they will tell him about hell. And this is exactly what they did.

Because of our efforts, he already knew there was no such place. And even now we’ve been able to tell him that religious people’s preoccupation with death leads them to do all sorts of nutty things. He gets that, even at 8.

He notes that he gets in trouble by asking questions at church, whereas he learns by asking questions in school. Big difference.

Atheist Bible studies

We also read the Bible to him: passages that describe how the earth swallowed people up or a mountain belched fire – and how these poor, ignorant shepherds thought it was God.

But there’s more: grownups STILL believe it! We give him examples of what they are required to believe.

We read him Deuteronomy 25:11, which says that a woman interfering in a fight and touching the other man’s genitals is to have her hand cut off. “Show no mercy.”

We told him about the Torah’s death penalties for adultery, homosexuality, practicing other religions, and disrespecting your parents.

We showed him the agreement between God and Abraham, in Genesis 17: loyalty in exchange for foreskins, including slaves. Owch!

God and penises

We asked him what a nutjob God would want with so many foreskins. And why he was so obsessed with penises. Why not mandate the amputation of a little toe? Because God wants to show you who’s really in charge of procreative power around here. And it’s not you. (On several occasions, God punishes women with infertility – closes their wombs, as the text puts it.)

This week, for some reason, the counter-church Bible reading was Jonah. Maybe he was getting it at church. Almost any excursion into the Holy Babble is a time-trip into another world. So it is with Jonah. Take a few minutes and reacquaint yourself with the stories people are required to believe — and to find meaningful and relevant! We read him an atheist version, which asked how Jonah could have avoided being dissolved by the fish’s gastric juices.

We warned him about the go-to argument he’s likely to hear: if God can make the laws of physics, he can change them. This is a shrewd way to fill in the gaps in stories with more stories. Zach should then ask, if he has the balls, “Well, why doesn’t God do any of that stuff anymore? [And later:] Is that his whole bag of tricks? Or maybe it’s just a story. [And still later:] Why doesn’t God punish Las Vegas?” Now that would get him in trouble — and it would show religion’s true colors. Zach will learn that when you are seriously invested in a story, you will go to great lengths to defend it.

The Jonah story is sort of Job-like. The poor guy suffers, then God forgives Nineveh anyway, after they even put sackcloth on their animals (3:8)…it’s all really stupid, as is the pissing contest between God and Jonah at the end (God wins). Oh, yeah, and Jonah actually prays to God while in the fish’s belly.

Dawkins’ question about whether religious programming is a form of child abuse deserves constant reconsideration. Growing up is complicated enough. Zach shouldn’t have to struggle through all of this.

4 Responses to “The Battle For Zachary’s Brain, VIII: Counter-Church/The Absurdity of Jonah”

  1. on 16 Apr 2014 at 3:07 pmAnonymous

    This is just Medical & Health. I’m w/the Hebrew Fathers for much of it.

    1. Circumcision is proven to be a prophylactic measure, including w/Aids. Imagine 2K+ years ago in the desert w/o baths: Sand & Smegma under foreskin. Creepy-crawlies. Other nasty stuff.
    I’m v glad I got one.

    2. Shellfish ban is good. Never eat it. Food poisoning is rampant. A modern medico: “Lobsters are giant cockroaches”.

    3. Aren’t 1st cousin marriages forbidden? Arabs have done it for K’s of years, w/terrible consequences.

    4. Pork ban was good until modern cookery. Trichinosis worms eat your muscles.

    … I’m sure there are others. Like for sex. There are more than 20 STD’s. Teen girls are getting oral herpes. That’s bad, mmm-K?

  2. on 16 Apr 2014 at 4:10 pmAlan

    These proto-scientific observations are valid, but they are, in effect and essence, the same as all the other rules and rituals: commanded by God (not hygiene - Torah says nothing about that), penalty for violation is death.

    Those Torah-writer/priests may have got a few things right, but the vast majority of their rules and regs are irrelevant to modern people and based on fantasy and legend (Jews were never slaves in Egypt). Thanks for comment.

    PS. I’ve always wondered what the connection, if any, is between Arabs’ marrying their cousins and their inability to create modern secular societies.

  3. on 16 Apr 2014 at 8:46 pmAnonymous

    Consanguinity thru the ages has been regarded as the Gold Standard for TRUST in many primitive cultures.

    (IMO, Arab/Islamic culture is hopelessly primitive. It’s literally a parasite on modern countries.)

    Euro Royalty intermarried for the same reason. Victoria I was the Grandmother of Europe. The Great War changed that a bit.

    Funny, cuz most of my relatives are horrid.

  4. on 17 Apr 2014 at 3:48 pmAlan

    Yeah, I read that same rationale in an article about Arab intra-marriage: “Who are you going to marry, a complete stranger?”

    But scientifically the “pure blood” rationale is exactly backward, degrading, not “purifying” the gene pool, with hemophilia and many other hideous hereditary ailments.

    I totally agree about Arab/Islamic culture.

    Wouldn’t be so bad if they were just primitive and kept to themselves, like bushmen or aborigines. But they are apes with modern weapons, plus just enough intelligence to try to force their idiocy on the rest of us. (And like Same Harris, I don’t excuse the “moderate” ones - they’re partly responsible for the chaos and violence their brethren cause.)

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