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New Study Shows Religion is Good for Kids
April 27, 2007 5:42 AM   Subscribe

A newly released Mississippi State University study claims that kids with religious parents are better behaved than other children. Is it the spanking?
posted by Otis (157 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
Self-reporting? For only first graders?

This thread will both end well and be about as based on science as the religions themselves.
posted by DU at 5:46 AM on April 27, 2007


Nah it's the fear some invisible dude will screw up their life, fear they will become outkast...it's management by fear + ignorance.
posted by elpapacito at 5:47 AM on April 27, 2007


Well, of course the godless heathens have demon children. I don't need your so-called "science" to tell me that.
posted by psmealey at 5:48 AM on April 27, 2007


As mentioned, the deep flaw in this is that what they claim to have found isn't what they actually found.

What they actually found was that the religious ones said they were more well behaved.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 5:53 AM on April 27, 2007 [1 favorite]


I wish I was in Outkast.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 5:53 AM on April 27, 2007 [2 favorites]


"The church, which also runs the 200-student Bethel Christian Academy, discourages parents from using their hands and recommends using a "rod" or flexible stick to swat children until their will is broken."

Looks like they've adapted the MetaFilter method of discipline.
posted by scblackman at 5:55 AM on April 27, 2007 [1 favorite]


Atheist children are the best behaved.

*ducks*
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:58 AM on April 27, 2007


::sits down, grabs popcorn::

This should be good. :P
posted by VirtualWolf at 6:00 AM on April 27, 2007


A 1972 University of Moscow study claimed that communists smell better than capitalists.

A 1981 Hampshire College study claimed that people who smoke weed are, like, totally cooler than people who don't.

A 1988 Université Laval study claimed that Francophones were less likely to be assholes than Anglophones.

1995 University of Maine at Orono study claimed that Mainers were better looking than people from New Hampshire.
posted by Mayor Curley at 6:00 AM on April 27, 2007 [6 favorites]


Popular stupid joke in Arkansas: Thank God for Mississippi.
posted by box at 6:12 AM on April 27, 2007


What they actually found was that the religious ones said they were more well behaved.

The kids from religious familes "were rated by both parents and teachers" as being better-behaved. I wish we could see the parent and teacher ratings separately, but it's not like the researchers just went up to the parents: "So, you're religious, huh? Your kid behave?"
posted by booksandlibretti at 6:12 AM on April 27, 2007


fear.
posted by craven_morhead at 6:18 AM on April 27, 2007


...rated by both parents and teachers...

Which is why I also objected to the limited age range of the subjects. First graders (especially those brought up "IN the world, not OF the world") are still very likely to believe the myth of the invisible sky giant who is watching them all the time.

Of course, the entire study (or at least the popular interpretation of it) is predicated on a falsehood: That "better behaved" means "better for society". Was MLK Jr well-behaved?
posted by DU at 6:18 AM on April 27, 2007 [1 favorite]


I'd like to see the official study results, and find out exactly how it was conducted.
John P. Bartkowski doesn't seem to be the most unbiased person in the world.
posted by bradth27 at 6:19 AM on April 27, 2007


(A better way to say the same thing: Religion is the opiate of the children.)
posted by DU at 6:19 AM on April 27, 2007


I'd have to read the titles he wrote to be sure, but that resume doesn't seem like the resume of someone who's biased, it looks like the resume of a sociologist who specializes in studying the religious. Wouldn't that him more qualified to do this sort of study?
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 6:22 AM on April 27, 2007


"The church, which also runs the 200-student Bethel Christian Academy, discourages parents from using their hands and recommends using a "rod" or flexible stick to swat children until their will is broken."

Wow. That's... wow. It's like the guide to creating soulless human beings who act entirely out of fear of pain. How perfectly Baptist.
posted by Pope Guilty at 6:26 AM on April 27, 2007


"it looks like the resume of a sociologist who specializes in studying the religious..."posted by Bulgaroktonos

No, it doesn't.

It looks like the resume of a quack who is a nut.
(He's got a lovely first-grader-in-a-school-photo grin, though!)
posted by Jody Tresidder at 6:27 AM on April 27, 2007


It’s also possible that the correlation between religion and child development is the other way around, he said. In other words, instead of religion having a positive effect on youth, maybe the parents of only the best behaved children feel comfortable in a religious congregation.

So basically, the study says parents who take their kids to church feel church is beneficial to them. For an encore, a survey of McDonald's patrons indicate McDonald's is delicious.

The most disturbing part is this will still be taken with more support and credibility to the average conservative evangelical than global warming reports, and all they have are, you know, 99% of all scientists and climate experts in the world in mutual agreement.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 6:27 AM on April 27, 2007


Jody, like I said, I'm only going off the titles, but so are you. What exactly looks nutty about (in the order of the resume) books about: how religion and race inform charitable choices, a study of a religious movement, and a study of how evangelical families deal with gender issues. All of that seems perfectly academic to me, and the fact that he got university presses to publish them seem to support me on this point.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 6:32 AM on April 27, 2007


The study didn't mention religious views, but rather church attendance. It sounds like a proxy for measuring parental responsability to me. i.e. parents who haul their asses out of bed sunday morning are providing more stable environments for children.

I'd bet you'd see the same effect in students who go to Unitarian churches every sunday too.

But whatever, it's easy to get the effect you want when designing a study. Sometimes you have to work very hard to make sure a study is actually nuetral.
posted by delmoi at 6:32 AM on April 27, 2007


Okay, looking at this guys resume, come on:

His most recent works include the books ... The Promise Keepers: Servants, Soldiers, and Godly Men ... Remaking the Godly Marriage: Gender Negotiation in Evangelical Families

Those titles don't sound very unbiased to me, sorry.
posted by delmoi at 6:36 AM on April 27, 2007


A new report I just released out of my ass disagrees.
posted by odinsdream at 6:36 AM on April 27, 2007 [5 favorites]


My goth/skater/hip-hop/delinquent/punk kid can beat the crap out of your christian kid!

/needs new bumper sticker....
posted by HuronBob at 6:38 AM on April 27, 2007


I'm not particularly religious, but I am not at all surprised by this.

And for all you libs out there: "spare the rod, spoil the child" is absolutely correct.
posted by tadellin at 6:39 AM on April 27, 2007 [1 favorite]


Most people, teachers included, are religeous and will take religousness to the extent that it is observable in children and parents as evidence that the children are better behaved. In a sense for many people, to be pious is to be better behaved than to not to be pious.

It doesn't, however strike me as outrageous to suggest that the discipline involved in the practice of religion may improve behavior, and to be more cynical obediance. I don't think that the teachings of religion are at all useful in making children better behaved.
posted by I Foody at 6:41 AM on April 27, 2007


tadellin: Um...what now?
posted by liquorice at 6:41 AM on April 27, 2007


First graders (especially those brought up "IN the world, not OF the world") are still very likely to believe [some inflammatory mockery not necessary to conversation]...

While I agree that the study is deeply flawed and almost certainly designed with an ulterior motive, I fail to see how the children's beliefs are a flaw in the study. It's a factor, certainly, but isn't this something like saying that a study about the correlation between smoking and emphysema is flawed because it doesn't mention that nicotine is addictive?
posted by solotoro at 6:42 AM on April 27, 2007


Here's a passage from "Conservative Protestant Child Discipline: The Case of Parental Yelling," by Bartkowski and Bradford Wilcox.

To begin, conservative Protestant family ministries draw from a fundamentalist tradition of biblical interpretation that stresses "literal" understandings of scripture (Bartkowski & Ellison 1995; Ellison & Sherkat 1993a, 1993b). The interpretive strategies adopted by contemporary religious conservatives understand the Bible as not only infallible regarding supernatural matters but also inerrant where human affairs and family relationships are concerned. Thus, conservative Protestant family ministries, as well as conservative Protestant theologians and pastors, draw heavily on the Bible -the primary religious resource in this subculture -to develop and disseminate schemata for family living that are readily distinguishable from mainstream American values.
Conservative Protestant elites generally insist that these schemata follow self-evidently from a plain reading of scripture. However, closer inspection reveals that elite interpretations of biblical texts are shaped by broader social and cultural trends -particularly the rise of modern psychology and therapeutic culture - which these commentators selectively appropriate into their family manual.


IANASociologist, but on first glance, Bartkowski's work looks well-thought-out and thoroughly sourced, and he's published in reputable places. It's a little messed up to think there must be something nutty about him because he thinks hard about conservative evangelicals.
posted by escabeche at 6:43 AM on April 27, 2007


delmoi, I know this is a minor point, but I really feel like you're getting this wrong. Phrases like "godly men" and "goldy marriage" are not all that out of place in academic titles. Sure, there's a lot of boring "Blah blah and sociology of this and that" sort of titles, but there's a strong tendency to try to punch up the titles a little bit. Phrases like "godly men" do that.

It's also important to note, this is exactly the kind of phrase you would use to title a book about how the Promise Keepers construct the idea of the godly man. Exactly the same thing goes for the phrase "Godly marriage." I spent a lot of time in an academic library, and saw a lot of academic titles, and these look exactly within the mainstream.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 6:44 AM on April 27, 2007 [1 favorite]


Okay, looking at this guys resume, come on:

His most recent works include the books ... The Promise Keepers: Servants, Soldiers, and Godly Men ... Remaking the Godly Marriage: Gender Negotiation in Evangelical Families

Those titles don't sound very unbiased to me, sorry.


But Bulgaraktonos has a point--one of his books is published by New York University Press, and two are published by Rutgers University Press.

Moreover, authors of non-fiction and academic works often don't get to choose the titles of their own books. For good or ill, they're often chosen by the press that's publishing the book, and their primary purpose is to sell copies, not to indicate an absence of bias.
posted by Prospero at 6:46 AM on April 27, 2007


It could also be that kids who have religious upbringings are better at hiding their fun from parents and authorities.
posted by srboisvert at 6:47 AM on April 27, 2007 [2 favorites]


It's also interesting to note that abusive parents often have very well behaved children. When you don't know when mom or dad is going to violently fly off the handle and hurt you, you tend to err on the side of the caution.
posted by crackingdes at 6:48 AM on April 27, 2007 [2 favorites]


The book titles sound fine to me.
posted by Firas at 6:50 AM on April 27, 2007


And for all you libs out there: "spare the rod, spoil the child" is absolutely correct.

Translation: You're retarded. Either you belive in scientific studies or you don't, and those studies show that spanking dosn't do anything as far as creating diciplined kids.
posted by delmoi at 6:51 AM on April 27, 2007 [1 favorite]


The major finding certainly makes sense. You can't take the atheist/liberal position that religion is a form of social control built on a fiction and then claim that it doesn't do any controlling.
posted by MarshallPoe at 6:53 AM on April 27, 2007 [1 favorite]


It could also be that kids who have religious upbringings are better at hiding their fun from parents and authorities.

The only one who could ever reach me
Was the son of a preacher man
The only boy who could ever teach me
Was the son of a preacher man
Yes he was, he was, mmmm, yes he was
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:55 AM on April 27, 2007 [1 favorite]


I fail to see how the children's beliefs are a flaw in the study.

Not a flaw in the theoretical sense, but certainly impractical. If the beliefs are age-based, then there are no implications for continuing good behavior. It would be like a study that belief in Santa was correlated with good behavior in 3 year olds. Crime-free society, here we come!
posted by DU at 6:57 AM on April 27, 2007


I never hear a peep from that kid I have chained and duct taped to the basement floor. He's been wonderful.
posted by jimmythefish at 6:59 AM on April 27, 2007 [1 favorite]


The MeFi Word of the Day, brought to you by John P. Bartkowski:

spu·ri·ous (spyʊr'ē-əs) pronunciation
adj.

1. Lacking authenticity or validity in essence or origin; not genuine; false.
posted by chuckdarwin at 7:01 AM on April 27, 2007


Some parents wince at the thought of the rod
And on children's backsides refuse to employ it;
But I tell you this: Start beating them now
Or they will never learn to enjoy it.
posted by Astro Zombie at 7:01 AM on April 27, 2007 [1 favorite]


Yeah, because creating fear in your children is awesome. Hit your children, everybody! Then they can learn the cold hard truth, that the people that love you will hurt you and then tell you it's for your own good. It's the perfect gateway to enter into an abusive relationship!

I really feel sorry for your kids, tadellin, if you have any.
posted by liquorice at 7:03 AM on April 27, 2007


Those titles don't sound very unbiased to me, sorry.

Be careful. By this criteria you too can be ignored.

Absence of Bias has never been a requirement for scientists. If you ever find a researcher without bias in their respective field you should call a paramedic and begin resuscitation immediately. The best science comes from people who try to prove their biases by subjecting them to rigorous testing.

That said - crap study found in crap journal turned into crap article. All that is needed is for us to provide a suitably crap discussion.
posted by srboisvert at 7:03 AM on April 27, 2007


I guess, to flesh out my earlier comment in a more substantive manner so that it actually relates directly to the topic at hand...

So what? Having well-behaved children is a good goal to have; god knows well-behaved children are sure easier on those around them. But it's not THE goal. I think THE goal is raising a child who can become a happy, healthy adult who is a productive member of society. And A does not necessarily equal B. I know plenty of healthy responsible adults who freely admit to being bratty kids. I also know some formerly-well mannered children who grew up to be pretty disturbed. If the only way you can get your kids to behave is by beating them and locking them in closets when they misbehave, you'd probably be better off with unruly kids. Seriously. (Note: I am not by any means implying that religious parents beat their kids or lock them in closets. )

So, even if the study is completely un-biased and un-flawed, even if all those 1st graders really ARE better-behaved, who cares? They're just first graders. I think what kind of people they grow up to be is probably a more useful thing to analyze.
posted by crackingdes at 7:04 AM on April 27, 2007


Nah it's the fear some invisible dude will screw up their life, fear they will become outkast...it's management by fear + ignorance.

I'm afraid of a bunch of fly hunnies shaking it like a poloraid picture too.
posted by Stynxno at 7:06 AM on April 27, 2007


This does not jibe with my teenage years and catholic school girls.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:07 AM on April 27, 2007


> It could also be that kids who have religious upbringings are better at hiding their fun from
> parents and authorities.

Keeping your smarmy inclinations in the closet and out of your neighbors' faces is a very important part of being well behaved. For the large number who can't imagine doing this out of reciprocal respect but only respond to pain and fear, let's have more pain and fear.
posted by jfuller at 7:10 AM on April 27, 2007


Well, they might be better behaved as kids, but they aren't better behaved as adults. Check the crime rates.
posted by thirteenkiller at 7:14 AM on April 27, 2007


Brandon, did they have tiny little moustaches?
posted by chuckdarwin at 7:14 AM on April 27, 2007 [1 favorite]


DU and crackingdes have it right, I think. Do you really want a little Stepford child? Sure discipline and behavior guidance and all that is important, but I worry about kids who are too well behaved. My daughter certainly knows what the limits are, and she gets punished when she exceeds them, but I have no desire to "break her will." She's not a damned bronco.
posted by MrMoonPie at 7:15 AM on April 27, 2007


Well, of course religious kids are better behaved -- they're executed if they aren't!!
Leveticus 20:9
If anyone curses his father or mother, he must be put to death. He has cursed his father or mother, and his blood will be on his own head.
But, seriously, yeah... it's fear, which is a pretty damn effective tool. (I don't necessarily agree that a well-behaved child = a healthy, happy child though.) Unfortunately, most people never outgrow it, living their entire lives in metaphysical fear.
posted by LordSludge at 7:16 AM on April 27, 2007 [1 favorite]


Nah it's the fear some invisible dude will screw up their life, fear they will become outkast...

It's true that some religious kids grew up to be responsible for the bombs over Baghdad.
posted by thirteenkiller at 7:16 AM on April 27, 2007 [5 favorites]


crackingdes said Note: I am not by any means implying that religious parents beat their kids or lock them in closets.

Come on! Haven't you seen Carrie?
posted by chuckdarwin at 7:16 AM on April 27, 2007


I was spanked repeatedly as a child. The only thing I learned was that big people get to hit little people.

Sure there's all sorts of justifications and soforth, and looking back on it, it was always in response to serious misbehavior and never terribly hard, but the primary lesson was "I'm going to hurt you when I feel like it, and there's nothing you can do about it."
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:18 AM on April 27, 2007 [1 favorite]


"Sure, there's a lot of boring "Blah blah and sociology of this and that" sort of titles, but there's a strong tendency to try to punch up the titles a little bit. Phrases like "godly men" do that. " posted by Bulgaroktonos

While I loved your even-handed answer - and the fact that you have roamed thoughtfully among sociology titles in academic libraries - "godly" is punching above its weight.

It's not an objective description, it's an assumption.
posted by Jody Tresidder at 7:19 AM on April 27, 2007


You have an excellent son. How hard did you have to hit him?

Rather hard.
posted by Tacos Are Pretty Great at 7:23 AM on April 27, 2007


Would be interesting to see which of the comments above are actually from parents who have raised children (particularly more than one) to adulthood, and which ones are just speaking out their asses. Everybody's an expert on childrearing before they have them. (And parents of just one often think it's a piece of cake). The target also moves as they get older.
posted by spock at 7:23 AM on April 27, 2007


Everybody's an expert on childrearing before they have them.

spock, I'm gonna buy you a drink. That comment is spot-on.

(And parents of just one often think it's a piece of cake)

I'm a parent of one, and yes, I think it's a piece of cake. A five thousand pound piece of cake that I have to balance on my nose while riding a unicycle up the face of Mount Everest.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:34 AM on April 27, 2007 [4 favorites]


Boy I tell you, since this is self-report, it is pretty much a big stack of anecdotal evidence. So let me add to the evidenciary bonfire!

Let me take you back to the early '80s... I am in 7th grade...
*cue flashback harp*

I went to school with a girl named Donna whose parents were members of a fire-and-brimstone protestant group. Her dad was not a preacher exactly, but a big-wig in the church, a deacon or the equivalent. Donna was always a tom-boy, and she liked to play football with the guys. When Donna was involved in a play, there was guaranteed to be some kind of groping; her hands had a tendency to come to rest on my crotch in a way that I soon found could not be incidental. She even managed to steer hands to her budding lady parts on a regular basis, though I must confess that once I learned the rules of engagement, I was an eager participant. All this time, Donna regularly performed various churchly duties, including leading a youth group at the Sunday school. She was a model of good behavior when any adult was watching.

Later, the groping continued, but without the pretext of playing some rough sport. Soon, the drinking started. And of course the Sunday youth group continued. This stuff went on through 7th and 8th grade, gradually escalating to more frank sexual exchanges—not intercourse, but very, very heavy petting. Donna was a role model in many ways, including some ways of which her parents didn't approve. They never had an inkling of what she was getting up to on the playground, the ballfields, in the woods, or behind the school until she got caught jamming the hand of another well behaved, corporally punished model citizen down her open trousers. Her parents were shocked! How could Jeff do that to little Donna? They were certain that is was a one-time thing, and Donna assured them that it was; poor Jeff bore the brunt of the blame.

They both got their asses whipped for good measure, but Donna continued to push the limits with increasingly risky behavior, until her parents spirited her away somewhere. Jeff became rigid and dogmatic, and I soon lost contact with him as well.

I suspect there are many, many well behaved children like Donna growing up in houses that use corporal punishment.
posted by Mister_A at 7:34 AM on April 27, 2007 [4 favorites]


talledin advocates beating children.
posted by Burhanistan at 7:35 AM on April 27, 2007


I'll try to say this one more time: Using Godly in the title does not necessarily signify what HE think is godly, it signifies what the subject of the work considers godly. Nothing about that title is inconsistent with an objective book about the Promise Keepers and how they understood the idea of the "godly man." Does this mean he's a Promise Keeper or sympathizes with their agenda? No, of course not, it just means he's interested in studying them. If I wrote a book called Early Christian Monasticism: Sexuality and Holiness that would in no way indicate that I think Early Christian Monastic ideas about sexuality were actually holy.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 7:38 AM on April 27, 2007 [1 favorite]


Even if this study is 100% accurate and scientific and rigorous, it is pointless. The objective of parenting is not to raise well-behaved children. In my opinion, it's to raise insightful, independent, open minded people who will make a positive contribution to their world.

Given the prevailing circumstances, that may require them to agitate, instigate, and otherwise behave poorly, as many of the people who are waving the study around would label them.

Also, spanking may in fact produce well-behaved kids. It is quite possible for those well-behaved kids to be horribly maladjusted, however.

If you have to beat a child to get them to do what you want, it implies that you can't outsmart them.
posted by Pastabagel at 7:39 AM on April 27, 2007 [5 favorites]


Burhanistan, tadellin is a saucer-eyed, infrapontine caprivore who is best ignored.
posted by Mister_A at 7:39 AM on April 27, 2007


Keeping your smarmy inclinations in the closet and out of your neighbors' faces is a very important part of being well behaved. For the large number who can't imagine doing this out of reciprocal respect but only respond to pain and fear, let's have more pain and fear.

Ah, there it is. That wonderful notion that it doesn't really matter what kind of person you are, no, all that matters is what kind of person you appear to be in public. It explains so much of what's wrong with modern religious conservatives but I can't imagine them capable of having invented such a device. But then it's never been clear if this intense focus on the appearance of propriety and the desperate, fundamentalist clinging to surface norms is something really new anyways. After all the "War on Christmas" has been raging for a good fifty years, long before Bill O'Reilly saw a marketing opportunity. That's all that's really changed, I suppose. There's a very elegant synergy between fundamentalist obsession with appearances and advertiser's obsession with appearances. It's like a family reunion of sorts.
posted by nixerman at 7:40 AM on April 27, 2007


a new study reveals that people who are confronted with studies that challenge their prior beliefs tend to reject those studies
posted by pyramid termite at 7:52 AM on April 27, 2007 [6 favorites]


But what kind of adults do these kids become? "Better" is, after all, a very subjective term. My son might be less well-behaved by someone else's standards, but the real concern is whether or not he'll be a good citizen, a kind person, etc.
posted by eustacescrubb at 7:53 AM on April 27, 2007


Nah it's the fear some invisible dude will screw up their life, fear they will become outkast

Hey Yahweh!
posted by Horace Rumpole at 7:55 AM on April 27, 2007 [2 favorites]


a new study reveals that people who are confronted with studies that challenge their prior beliefs tend to reject those studies

Well, that study must be flawed in some fundamental way.
posted by Astro Zombie at 7:56 AM on April 27, 2007


Weird, all the kids I knew from religious families were either delinquents or sluts. My family was fairly religious, but we were Catholic, so I could be a troublemaker as long as I felt bad about it later.
posted by jonmc at 8:02 AM on April 27, 2007 [1 favorite]


It seems to me the study is saying that children in a religious household behave the way you'd expect children in a religious household to behave, and that North American society with heavily Protestant-Christian-influenced ideals considers that to to be good behaviour. I think it says more about our society's ideals than child behaviour. I don't think it tells us if religion is good for kids. (IATSOAPM - I am the son of a preacher man.)
posted by teg at 8:02 AM on April 27, 2007 [1 favorite]


I thought the study was at least moderately interesting until I read his conclusions, specially the one about religion imbuing parenting with sacred meaning and significance.

Yet as far as I can tell, his study did not test the significance of children in any way at all. He was just being a bigot towards people with differing beliefs, implying that without God, one cannot *really* be a parent.

It's a highly bigoted and exceptionally unscientific thing for a "scientist" to say.
posted by Tacos Are Pretty Great at 8:02 AM on April 27, 2007


Honestly, the best-behaved kids I knew growing up were jewish. And none of them were beaten, as far as I know.
posted by Mister_A at 8:10 AM on April 27, 2007



And for all you libs out there: "spare the rod, spoil the child" is absolutely correct.
posted by tadellin at 9:39 AM on April 27


No it isn't. It's a stupid pithy phrase that substitutes brevity for thought. If you have to kit a kid more than once, the hitting obviously doesn't work, or the first time would have been enough.

Is there a reason we shouldn't apply this phrase to adults? If I see you acting out, you know, running a red light or cutting me off in traffic, is there a reason I shouldn't follow you home and kick your ass? Oh, because if I do it to you it's felony assault.

Parents hit kids because of a problem the parents have, not the kids. They get frustrated and wrung out, so they hit (again, I mean the parents). I've seen parents hit kids in grocery stores and restaurants, and I said with the kids. I wouldn't listen to a fucking word those parents said either.

The problem with hitting is twofold. One, it destroys any ounce of trust the kid had in the parent. The kid views the parent as a natural force to be avoided, which is a function of fear, not trust. Second, the application of spanking is almost always inconsistent but correlated strongly with the parent's foul mood. This teaches the kid that the punishment system is something to be subverted. It trains kids how to get away with things, not why not to do them in the first place.

Next it conflates love with pain and abuse - sometimes you have to hurt the things you love, and sometime the things you love have to hurt you, but that hurt is all part of love.

It's not. It's a pathology. If you love something, you would take the time to understand it. If you subconsciously resent something, then it's really easy to beat the shit out of it. Get my drift?

I'm not talking about physical punishment, I'm talking about hitting. I see nothing wrong with "drop and give me twenty" type of punishment, though I'm not a fan of it. It teaches the kids that exercise can be a way to control their behavior, blow off some steam, and helps them to realize for themselves that they may be misbehaving because they need more exercise. But more importantly it preserves their bodily integrity, boundaries and personal space.
posted by Pastabagel at 8:17 AM on April 27, 2007 [3 favorites]


Every day I deal with people I wish were beaten as children. It would have at least taught them to keep their mouths shut.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 8:18 AM on April 27, 2007


How do you know they weren't?
posted by liquorice at 8:21 AM on April 27, 2007


Every day I beat people who didn't shut up as children.
posted by Mister_A at 8:25 AM on April 27, 2007


Honestly, the best-behaved kids I knew growing up were jewish. And none of them were beaten, as far as I know.

You are obviously unacquainted with the power of the guilt trip.
posted by jonmc at 8:26 AM on April 27, 2007 [2 favorites]


Oh I'm not unacquainted with that. I went to Catholic school and, living on the east coast, I know many many jewish people. My mom is a lapsed Catholic but she never really got the hang of the guilt trip somehow.
posted by Mister_A at 8:31 AM on April 27, 2007


Be careful. By this criteria you too can be ignored.

When did I ever claim to be unbiased?
posted by delmoi at 8:32 AM on April 27, 2007


I can't remember who said it, but "bias" is American slang for "having an opinion".
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:46 AM on April 27, 2007


If I may add my anecdotal two cents to the pile...when I played house league hockey as a kid/teenager, almost all of the most violent/unbalanced/unsportsmanlike kids in the league were Catholic. When the team rosters were posted each fall I'd scan the list hoping I was on a team full of Catholics because, brother, you didn't want them coming after you.
posted by The Card Cheat at 8:51 AM on April 27, 2007


I'm actually of the opinion that everybody should have the living shit kicked out of them at least once in their life. It does wonders for humility.
posted by jonmc at 8:53 AM on April 27, 2007


Be sure to check out these upcoming FPPs linked to after the end of the article:

Churchgoers Live Longer
Online Prayer Helps Cancer Patients

You know it's science because it says so in the URL.
posted by Bokononist at 8:53 AM on April 27, 2007


This pamphlet, I must have a copy.
posted by Wonderwoman at 8:56 AM on April 27, 2007


What do they mean by "well behaved" were the criteria not to act up, ask difficult questions, and how long they could sit motionless in their school chairs?

In other news, people who participate in a strong ritualistic society from a young age are more likely to align themselves with the values and norms of said ritualistic society, thus not acting out or "behaving badly".

Also, a good portion of America, and possibly even more so the area around Mississippi State, is heavily influenced by Christian values / logic / norms / worldview, so it makes sense that Christian children would fit these categories the best.

Also, are the children who are raised non Religious? Do they have no moral philosophical framework at all? Did Humanists show up as Religious or Non Religious?
posted by mrzarquon at 8:59 AM on April 27, 2007


How do you know they weren't?

Because their parents and schoolyard bullies never beat a sense of humility into them and now every word they say is such a jewel of wisdom that they must shout it like a braying donkey instead of speaking in a normal voice, or even keeping their mouth shut. I've even heard this type of person arguing about corporal punishment and shouting across the room how no one has ever hit them in their life, like that's a good thing.

I shouldn't have to put on headphones to drown out your conversation that's taking place 20 feet away. I long for a return to 19th century decadent Victorian ideals. I have the sense those guys had drugs, crime, sex, and all the other fun vices we have, but they knew how to be polite.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 8:59 AM on April 27, 2007


From a detached academic perspective, it's perpetually interesting to read the MeFi comments on religious matters. The primary tenants of Christianity are love for God and others, and that God has expressed his own love for the world through the humble service and self-sacrifice of Christ. Most churches in most places manage to teach those as the most important things, and they create a culture in which the needy are helped, the elderly are visited, the grieving are comforted, and children have a variety of adult role models who care for them. Sure, in any town, there is going to be a tiny bassackwards Bible-thumping fundy congregation that tries to motivate using fear of punishment, and most of the time it is going to have more attention paid to it than the healthier, larger congregations all around. But that's the only kind of church you guys seems to know anything about.

You enlightened skeptics are remarkably unwilling to consider that faith in a God who cares about kids and trust in scriptures that teach putting others ahead of yourself might just lead to happy, well-adjusted kids because selflessly caring for others is a great thing. And if you're in a community of folks who model that, it's contagious. Come to my church and interview parents and kids here about what motivates them to do good, and I'll eat a Bible if more than 10% even mention punishment or hell. They don't believe in a sky bully, they believe in a God who deeply loves the world. It's fair for you to think that they are completely wrong and self-deceived; it isn't fair to replace their actual beliefs with straw men (straw Gods?) that don't represent anyone's real faith, expect perhaps a tiny minority at the lunatic fringe.

Of course, that sort of thinking is encouraged by our OP, who immediately linked a study that had some positive implications for faith (and that said nothing whatsoever about corporal punishment) with a story about one of the loopiest fringe churches out there. Do you know why the Bethel Baptist Church in El Sobrante made national news? Because there's probably not a dozen churches like it in the whole country. It's a bizarre aberration. Yet based on the comments around here, one would think that Bethel Baptist is the face of Christianity in North America. It isn't, not by a long shot.

Recommended reading: "Why I Make Sam Go To Church," by Anne Lamott.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 8:59 AM on April 27, 2007 [8 favorites]


I'm actually of the opinion that everybody should have the living shit kicked out of them at least once in their life. It does wonders for humility.
posted by jonmc at 11:53 AM on April 27


My bike chain and I are available by appointment.
posted by Pastabagel at 9:00 AM on April 27, 2007


You've been beat to it, my friend.

But very time I deal with a smug smartass, I always think to myself, 'you weren't hit enough as a child, otherwise you'd know fear.'
posted by jonmc at 9:04 AM on April 27, 2007


Well I grew up in a christian family, was beaten pretty good at times, and dated an Elder's daughter - who sounds ALOT like Mister_A 's Donna.

This "Donna" double majored in three years at college, and now teaches at a college level. I am a happy successful professional with a science degree.

If the spanking taught me anything, it was to not get caught. I still trust my parents too.

I must be in some outlying deviation I guess.
posted by Big_B at 9:06 AM on April 27, 2007


I suppose the attraction of hitting is that it's easy. I mean, it's a lot of trouble to explain, "Katie, if you misbehave, there may be social or possibly health ramifications. See, I'm pretty experienced, and when you do that, it not only reflects poorly on you, it reflects poorly on me. If you act that way when you're older, your friends will tend to.. blah..blah..blah.."

Waaay easier: "Katie, if you misbehave, I WILL HURT YOU."

That said, I think the real world choice parents often make is often between beating their kid and doing NOTHING, which is certainly not teaching them anything.
posted by LordSludge at 9:06 AM on April 27, 2007


My bike chain and I are available by appointment.

Sweet -- I could use a new bike chain.
posted by LordSludge at 9:07 AM on April 27, 2007


If the spanking taught me anything, it was to not get caught.

"How not to get caught" - that is, how to moderate your behavior in public soas not to piss everyone around you off. Sounds good to me. I'd never tought of putting it that way.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 9:08 AM on April 27, 2007


It is far easier in the long run to "use honey, not vinegar" to get what you want.
Some people learn this earlier than others.
Everything else is "manners", "morals", and commentary.
May I bring you a beverage and some lovely cupcakes?
posted by Dizzy at 9:14 AM on April 27, 2007


You enlightened skeptics are remarkably unwilling to consider that faith in a God who cares about kids and trust in scriptures that teach putting others ahead of yourself might just lead to happy, well-adjusted kids because selflessly caring for others is a great thing.

First of all, thanks for making your generalizations about Mefites posting about religion a broad sweeping one. I'd hate to be lump into a niche, anemic generalization.

Secondly, the Christians about who you speak probably don't hit their kids. I certainly know a great many religious Christians who feel it is anathema to hit children, and I've heard priests reiterate the same.

My comments were directed to spanking, and only marginally related to religion to the extent that someone brought up that dumb "soil the child spare the tire" expression.

Secondly, the ultimate Christian, Jesus, was rather poorly behaved, if memory of the scriptures served. "Well-behaved", in contrast to good behavior, describes obedience and subordination, two things I personally do not value, and would never want to instill in my children.

And, not to put too fine a point on it, the reason I don't send my kids to church yet is because I have no desire to explain the dead body nailed to the wooden cross at the front of the room, among other things.
posted by Pastabagel at 9:14 AM on April 27, 2007


every word they say is such a jewel of wisdom that they must shout it like a braying donkey instead of speaking in a normal voice

even if they're talking on their stupid cellphones ... that drives me nuts
posted by pyramid termite at 9:15 AM on April 27, 2007


But very time I deal with a smug smartass [...]

No offense jonmc, but that is like 75% of your posts.
posted by YoBananaBoy at 9:19 AM on April 27, 2007


You've been beat to it, my friend.

But very time I deal with a smug smartass, I always think to myself, 'you weren't hit enough as a child, otherwise you'd know fear.'
posted by jonmc at 12:04 PM on April 27


Well, I was, as you noted, just being a smartass. But in the rest of the thread, I do speak from some experience. You certainly learn fear, but you also learn rage and anger, which are usually directed years later at an innocent party or at yourself, wouldn't you agree?
posted by Pastabagel at 9:22 AM on April 27, 2007


You certainly learn fear, but you also learn rage and anger, which are usually directed years later at an innocent party or at yourself, wouldn't you agree?

You'll generally learn that from life anyway, so it's best to learn it young that life generally isn't fair and there isn't much you can do about it.
posted by jonmc at 9:24 AM on April 27, 2007


"How not to get caught" - that is, how to moderate your behavior in public soas not to piss everyone around you off. Sounds good to me. I'd never tought of putting it that way.

What he obviously meant was "how to do those bad things in such a way as to avoid discovery and thus punishment," but if you're just going to make up whatever interpretation you want for fairly unambiguous statements I guess I shouldn't bother pointing that out. Oh well.
posted by baphomet at 9:24 AM on April 27, 2007


Where I agree with the good Pater is in the idea that strong, nurturing families and communities are going to produce children that reflect that ethos, children who are going to have the capacity for empathy and charity (in the broad sense), and children who are less likely to do hurtful things to others, regardless of whether they are jewish, Christian, muslim, or what have you. The church, synagogue, mosque, or temple can serve as a social center, an organizing principle in many strong communities. So maybe it's the belonging, and not the religion, nor the beatings, that helps produce healthy, happy kids.
posted by Mister_A at 9:25 AM on April 27, 2007


Well in that case screw church, I'm taking my kids to racquetball club as soon as they're old enough to even try thinking for themselves.
posted by baphomet at 9:29 AM on April 27, 2007


Come to my church and interview parents and kids here about what motivates them to do good, and I'll eat a Bible if more than 10% even mention punishment or hell.

This may be true, but there is no getting around the fact that the central tenet of mainstream Christianity, is "Believe in Jesus or burn in hell for ever."

So, you may have "faith in a God who cares about kids", but you should acknowledge that He will relinquish those kids to eternal torture if they don't have faith in Him.
posted by qldaddy at 9:34 AM on April 27, 2007


What he obviously meant was "how to do those bad things in such a way as to avoid discovery and thus punishment,"

Whatever he meant, seeing those words honestly gave me the thought in my last comment.

Of course, I'd guess the other part of discipline is instilling morals. Someone who knows how "not to get caught" - how to stay out of trouble, how to be polite, how never to piss people off, maybe even how to be charming but who has no morals is a sociopath. So it's not all beatings. Getting beat is just for humility. And I don't even mean serious beatings, I mean a little spanking as a toddler and some fights at school.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 9:38 AM on April 27, 2007


Do you think that's the only way to teach humility to a child? Do you think it's the best way?
posted by baphomet at 9:42 AM on April 27, 2007


When we were all in primary school, my rabidly Pentacostal cousins were considered far better behaved I was. It was all my grandmother could talk about. But by the time they were in their late teens and early twenties, they'd all had brushes with the law, brushes with meth, alcohol issues, and/or babies out of wedlock. Meanwhile I, the messy, back-talking atheist disgrace, had gone to college early.

Not that this single data point should count for much.

(But still, in yer eye, Grandma!)
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 9:44 AM on April 27, 2007


the central tenet of mainstream Christianity, is "Believe in Jesus or burn in hell for ever.

I am not a Christian, and I know this to be a gross misrepresentation.
posted by Mister_A at 9:48 AM on April 27, 2007


I was a Christian, and yeah that's pretty much correct.
posted by LordSludge at 9:59 AM on April 27, 2007


I am not a Christian, and I know this to be a gross misrepresentation.

How so? I've talked to plenty of Christians about this (and yes, some of my best friends are Christians) and none of them denied it.
posted by qldaddy at 10:00 AM on April 27, 2007


When we were all in primary school, my rabidly Pentacostal cousins were considered far better behaved I was. It was all my grandmother could talk about. But by the time they were in their late teens and early twenties, they'd all had brushes with the law, brushes with meth, alcohol issues, and/or babies out of wedlock. Meanwhile I, the messy, back-talking atheist disgrace, had gone to college early.

Not that this single data point should count for much.

(But still, in yer eye, Grandma!)


And yet here you are making a public display of your virtue much like grandma did. I don't mean to give you a hard time but sometimes it seems that all anybody sacred or secualt does is judge and flaunt their superior judgement of themselves. Bur as a wise man once said 'maybe there ain't no sin and there ain't no virtue, maybe there's just what people does.'
posted by jonmc at 10:04 AM on April 27, 2007


baphomet, TheOnlyCoolTim

In hindsight the assertion that I meant "do bad things but don't get caught" is what I meant, however I see Tim's point too.

Of course, I'd guess the other part of discipline is instilling morals. Someone who knows how "not to get caught" - how to stay out of trouble, how to be polite, how never to piss people off, maybe even how to be charming but who has no morals is a sociopath. So it's not all beatings.

You're mixing two things up here though. The behavioral part is different (IMO) than "morals". I.e. one is "this will piss people off and get my ass beat" versus "If I do this it will be bad".
posted by Big_B at 10:07 AM on April 27, 2007


the central tenet of mainstream Christianity, is "Believe in Jesus or burn in hell for ever.

I was a Christian, and yeah that's pretty much correct.

Same here. When I figured it out was pretty much about the same time I left, which was in my mid-teens.
posted by Big_B at 10:12 AM on April 27, 2007


If you were hit often as a child, marry someone who wasn't.

Then the first time you go to blindly raise a hand at your own kid together - usually because of foul temper or fright - wait until the adult you love looks at what you're about to do in disbelief and says : "what the hell are you thinking?".

The shame will stop you cold.
posted by Jody Tresidder at 10:15 AM on April 27, 2007 [3 favorites]


Many Christians will tell you that the central tenet of Christianity is "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

It is unfair and sloppy to portray "fire and brimstone" sects as representative of Christianity.

I wonder what the Catholic church says about hell and salvation, ie, is it necessary to accept Jesus as your personal yatta yatta...
One of many documents to come out of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council (often referred to as "Vatican II") during the early to mid 1960s was the "Dogmatic Constitution on the Church - Lumen Gentium." Chapter 1, sections 14 to 16 discuss salvation of Catholics and others. 5 An "Assessment of this Council" reads:

"5. The non-Christian may not be blamed for his ignorance of Christ and his Church; salvation is open to him also, if he seeks God sincerely and if he follows the commands of his conscience, for through this means the Holy Ghost acts upon all men; this divine action is not confined within the limited boundaries of the visible Church."
It is true that some people have only been exposed to Christianity as a punitive force, but that is not always the case.
posted by Mister_A at 10:21 AM on April 27, 2007 [1 favorite]


jonmc writes 'But very time I deal with a smug smartass, I always think to myself, "you weren't hit enough as a child, otherwise you'd know fear."'

Every time I read about a crazy psycho who has wasted a pile of innocent people, an investigation into their history tends to show that they were subjected to violence as a child.

At some point, these kids decide that fear is a tool that *they* can employ as well. The regular beatings have knocked the capacity for empathy out of them. And their learned tolerance for pain makes them pretty formidable opponents.

On the other hand, I was beaten relentlessly as a kid. Never stopped me from being a smug smartass. That was how I managed to convince myself that nobody was going to tell *me* what I could think or say or feel, even if they could force me to do what they wanted me to do.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 10:24 AM on April 27, 2007 [1 favorite]


And, not to put too fine a point on it, the reason I don't send my kids to church yet is because I have no desire to explain the dead body nailed to the wooden cross at the front of the room, among other things.

Pastabagel, most Prostestant churches don't have crucifixes hanging at the front of the room. I know my Episcopal parish doesn't, although we do have the crucifixion depicted in a stained glass window, among other scenes of Christ's life. We tend to focus more on the whole resurrection thing. It seems to me though, that if you did go to a church with a crucifix, it would probably be a liturgical and creedal church, which tend to tell the whole of Jesus' life during their services, including the reenactment of the last supper via communion. So you wouldn't have to sit down and say to the kiddos "by the way, that dead guy's Jesus" out of context with the church experience. The explanation is woven into every aspect of the service.
posted by Biblio at 10:25 AM on April 27, 2007


Following up on what escabeche and Bulgaroktonos said: here's the Google Scholar search for "j bartkowski". He looks like a bona fide academic. And he says himself that correlation != causation, that maybe what's happening is that families with ill-behaved kids are dropping out of religious congregations.

Was there a link to the actual study?

There's this idea that current parenting practices are too permissive, that parents don't do enough to set boundaries and establish their authority (maybe they don't know how?). Certainly there's been an increase in behavioral problems among children and adolescents.

I don't know if it's true that parenting practices are too permissive, but I do think it's true that many parents struggle with discipline issues. So it's possible that a religious framework might make it easier for parents to figure out how to discipline their kids effectively. (Which doesn't necessarily mean spanking them. I lean towards a a more authoritarian parenting style--apparently this is common with Asian-American parents--but we don't spank our kids.)
posted by russilwvong at 10:26 AM on April 27, 2007


But very time I deal with a smug smartass, I always think to myself, "you weren't hit enough as a child..."

I've run into some smug smatasses in my life--I've also run into some complete assholes, some pig-headed pricks, and some disgusting scum--but never, never, never, not even once have I thought that they weren't hit enough as a child.

And what, I wonder, constitutes enough hitting?
posted by leftcoastbob at 10:32 AM on April 27, 2007


Many Christians will tell you that the central tenet of Christianity is "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

And then I would ask them "Why?" "Because Jesus said so." "And if you don't?" And then we're back to hell.

5. The non-Christian may not be blamed for his ignorance of Christ and his Church; salvation is open to him also...

Leaving aside the Christianity vs. Catholicism debate for the moment, my understanding of this is that you don't have to believe in Christ if you are ignorant of him. Meaning that if you never heard of him, then you might still get in to heaven (or, said another way, avoid burning in hell forevere). But if you have heard of him, and you still reject him, you're bound for the lake o' fire.

I know I am being overly blunt here, but it seems silly to me to deny that believing in Christ is the basis of Christianity.
posted by qldaddy at 10:39 AM on April 27, 2007


In fascist countries, the trains generally run on time. Is it worth it?
posted by brundlefly at 10:44 AM on April 27, 2007


The problem with using violence to teach children behavior, it seems to me, is that is doesn't teach them the biggest thing that they need to get along with others: empathy. Even beyond morality in the abstract.

If you behave in a certain way because of the fear of punishment when you get caught, then you'll just learn to hide it better, and never learn *why* it is that you shouldn't do these misbehaviors.

If your parents can teach you to empathize with others, to learn to walk a mile in other people's shoes, so to speak, then you don't have to fear punishment or violence to behave well towards others.

You'll behave well towards others because you can see the situation from their viewpoint, and NOT WANT TO CAUSE THEM PAIN.

Violent parenting, as was pointed out above, encourages a kind of sociopathy, where you only fear discovery, but feel no remorse for the acts.

Kind parenting, with a real focus on empathy, will raise children who have an internal moral compass that makes them want to help others, not hurt them.

IMHO, these two parenting styles are entirely independent of religious affiliation. I think both secular and progressively religious parents can instill these kinds of values.
posted by MythMaker at 10:58 AM on April 27, 2007 [1 favorite]


qldaddy, not all Christians believe in hell. In fact, there is considerable ambiguity over whether "hell" is a biblical concept. It all depends on which translation you read, and how you interpret several ambiguous passages.

Where did I deny that believing in Christ is the basis of Christianity? Show me. What you've said is much different than what I've presented, which is evidence that a "mainstream" Christian organization does not hold that salvation always depends on "accepting Jesus Christ as your personal savior", with the punishment for not doing so being an eternity of torment. This is a counter-example to the "believe in Jesus or burn in hell" idea that was put forth several times in this thread as being representative of, not a tenet of some sects, but the central dogma of all of Christianity, which is patently and demonstrably false. You are arguing against something that I never said, and I think we all know the name for that sort of argument.

I know you think it's cool to show your "liberal street cred" by bashing some non-existent homogeneous brand of Christianity, but it is insulting to people who value the truth. Is the central tenet of Islam the 72 virgins? Is the central tenet of Judaism the Great Flood?

Now I'm not the type to argue that Christianity is under attack, or in danger of extinction in America, but this kind of misrepresentation is indeed bigotry.
posted by Mister_A at 11:02 AM on April 27, 2007


This bit from the second link jumped out at me (emphasis mine):

"The thing is, it's fair and we're not hurting them in terms of injuring them, and afterwards, the guilt is gone. The kid doesn't have to sit around and think she might be a pig." Sonya Prophet, a church member and parent of two daughters ages 17 and 22, said her children are well-adjusted and that her family has a loving relationship. In fact, Prophet, who was not raised in the church, said she remembers her parents yelling at her much more than the times she received spankings.

"Yelling is personal, and what the child did that was wrong gets lost in the parent's anger," she said. "With my girls, the spanking relieved them of their guilt, which allowed them to be happy in a very short time afterward." If parents do use corporal punishment, they also should use other methods of discipline such as time-outs and restrictions on activities, Buchanan said. But the church directs parents to spank for all disobedience, because all other methods are not designed by God.


So the kids aren't encouraged to think about their behavior or consider why it may have been wrong in the first place. Instead, the spanking is supposed to absolve them of their wrongdoing, regardless of whether the consequences of their actions have been adressed. Whenever I got into trouble as a kid, it meant a long, calm talk with my father where he would explain that he wasn't mad at me, but disappointed in my actions, and then he explained why. Sometimes there was even an explanation that while he didn't think what I did was so bad, that society sometimes has funny values that I should be aware of even if they didn't have much of a relation to "good behavior."

One thing I definitely remember was not "feeling happy in a very short time" after one of these talks. I'd feel pretty damn terrible about it most of the time, because I had fallen short of my parents expectations. I spent a lot of time thinking about my behavior afterward. Somebody upthread made a joke about well-behaved Jewish kids and the power of the guilt trip and of course, I was raised in a Jewish family. It's a pretty established joke by now, but I think there's some truth to this approach. Guilt is powerful because it prompts self-policing and monitoring rather than somebody else being in charge of your conscience. Obedience (a loaded word I know, but I'm not sure what else to call it) based on love and respect (not to mention an understanding that these rules exist for a reason) is much more difficult to cultivate, but so much more powerful and useful than obedience based on fear and punishment.
posted by SBMike at 11:07 AM on April 27, 2007 [2 favorites]


There is a big problem with gross gullibility in religiously "well behaved" people. They may be docile and credulous to their own detriment.
posted by nickyskye at 11:10 AM on April 27, 2007


And then I would ask them "Why?" "Because Jesus said so."

ceiling cat is watching you make straw men
posted by pyramid termite at 11:10 AM on April 27, 2007


You make your point well, SBMike. When I grew up, I didn't fear my father hitting me, but I did fear disappointing him. And that stuff sticks, too, even after you're big enough to not get hit. My father has been dead for several years, and I'm not one to believe he's still watching me from heaven (or elsewhere), but I still do my best to act in a way that wouldn't disappoint him.
posted by MrMoonPie at 11:17 AM on April 27, 2007


I suppose the attraction of hitting is that it's easy. I mean, it's a lot of trouble to explain, "Katie, if you misbehave, there may be social or possibly health ramifications. See, I'm pretty experienced, and when you do that, it not only reflects poorly on you, it reflects poorly on me. If you act that way when you're older, your friends will tend to.. blah..blah..blah.."

This resonates for me. I was raised in a non-hitting household, but the consequence of misbehavior was a long, looooooong "talk" about lots of serious stuff with my social worker mother. So all you kid-hitters who think I don't know fear? Screw you. You don't know fear.

Point being that yes, there are more options than 1. hit kids, or 2. do nothing.

That said, it's hard for me to judge my own politeness. I can't say I never piss people off. I can't say I never speak too loudly, or swear when I shouldn't, or knock into people on the subway. I'm not perfect. There's the whole "you can't please all of the people..." thing. For instance, TheOnlyCoolTim is pissing me off just a little, despite his assertions that behaving well means not pissing people off, and that's OK with me. Because even though I don't think it's very nice to piss people off just for the sake of it, expressing yourself is more important.

Regarding the main link, I think others are correct that it's probably the routine of the weekly church-going (as opposed to "belief") that correlates most with the "good" behavior. I wonder what would happen if they did a more broad but similar study, in which they also looked closely at other regularly scheduled routines, like maybe Sunday dinner at grandparents' house, extra-curricular clubs, even family dinners, that kind of thing.
posted by lampoil at 11:34 AM on April 27, 2007


Johnmc--

I didn't so much mean to make a display of my virtue, so much as I meant to make a fairly subjective point about the utility of using first-grade "good behavior" as a predictor of an individual's later qualities. But since this is Metafilter, I couldn't quite resist pushing it into the snark.

But yeah, I could see how it could come across that way. I honestly didn't intend for it to.
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 11:44 AM on April 27, 2007


"5. The non-Christian may not be blamed for his ignorance of Christ and his Church; salvation is open to him also, if he seeks God sincerely and if he follows the commands of his conscience, for through this means the Holy Ghost acts upon all men; this divine action is not confined within the limited boundaries of the visible Church."

I don't even know what that means. Care to parse it for me? I'll try:

The non-Christian may not be blamed for his ignorance of Christ and his Church;

Blamed by.. God?? The Church? Other people in General? Passive voice makes this sentence (intentionally?) ambiguous.

also, if he seeks God sincerely and if he follows the commands of his conscience, for through this means the Holy Ghost acts upon all men;

...then...WHAT??? Finish the goddamned sentence!! I *think* this is saying that it's possible for the Holy Ghost to haunt guide a person's actions outside the context of the organized church.

this divine action is not confined within the limited boundaries of the visible Church.

WTF is "this divine action"??? Moral behavior? Salvation?

Sweet baby Jesus, deliver us from vague directives and grammatically ambiguous proclamations...

Look, here's the core rules of Christianity, real simple: You can either never sin and get into heaven (which is accepted to be humanly impossible), or you can put your faith in Christ and get into heaven. Otherwise, you burn in hell (or, alternatively, you don't go to heaven -- see next paragraph). That's not a sect, that's not a fundy cult, that's what puts the Christ in Christianity. John 3:16, motherfucker! Do you read it??

No, not ALL Christians believe in hell -- actually, only 82% of them do. (see table 3) Of course, 95% believe in heaven, so... what's the difference? Not-getting-into-heaven is still a pretty (infinitely?) stiff punishment, if you ask me.

The rest is secondary. The idea is that once you accept Christ, you'll magically be a "good person" and treat others as you would be treated. unless they're gay, then it's "tough love" all the way, baybee!

FWIW...:

Many Christians will tell you that the central tenet of Christianity is "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

And then I would ask them "Why?" "Because Jesus said so." "And if you don't?" And then we're back to hell.


No, you go to hell for sinning without believing in Jesus. The individual sin or even sinful attitude is more or less irrelevant. Since everybody sins, you basically go to hell for not believing in Jesus.
posted by LordSludge at 11:51 AM on April 27, 2007


I know you think it's cool to show your "liberal street cred" by bashing some non-existent homogeneous brand of Christianity, but it is insulting to people who value the truth.
Mr. A, I'm really not trying to bash Christianity or Christians here. In fact, rereading what I said, I don't see the bashing. I did not say Christianity is stupid. I did not say it is evil. I did not say it makes people do bad, stupid things. I said that it's core belief is that you either believe in Christ or you go to hell. That is my understanding of the belief system. (btw - the idea that I am in need of "liberal street cred" is insulting, laughable, and presumptuous on your part)

I am aware that there are some Christians sects that aren't big on the hell thing, but I believe that most Protestant churches do believe in Hell. Catholics certainly do. (on that Catholic thing, again, my understanding of what you've quoted is that it applies only to those who haven't heard the Word, which at this point in time means nobody) I think it more than safe to say that the vast majority of Christians believe in hell. And, I think it is equally safe to say that the vast majority of them believe you go to hell unless you believe that Jesus is the Son of God.

I acknowledged that I was being blunt. Perhaps I should have said that the core of Christianity is salvation through Christ, with the flip side of that coin being some sort of uncomfortable state ranging from lake of fire to "the absence of God's love" (as I've heard it called). But the main point "Believe in Jesus or else" is essentially unchanged.

Where did I deny that believing in Christ is the basis of Christianity? Many Christians will tell you that the central tenet of Christianity is "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

Sorry, that was cheap. Look, I know that Christians believe in lots of other laudable things. Things like helping your neighbor and showing compassion to the less fortunate. But they do not define Christianity - lots of folks from other religions, or without any religion, believe in those things. Belief in Christ defines Christianity.

Is the central tenet of Islam the 72 virgins? Is the central tenet of Judaism the Great Flood?
No, the central tenet of both those religions is that their God is the God and that folks who don't believe that won't fare as well in the afterlife as those who do.
posted by qldaddy at 12:03 PM on April 27, 2007


Point being that yes, there are more options than 1. hit kids, or 2. do nothing.

BUT -- when you have 5 kids, aged 2 through 12 (as was my case growing up), I'll offer that it may not often be feasible to discipline via lengthy explanations and reasoned dialog. And... I do think there's a difference between a "spanking" and a "beating".
posted by LordSludge at 12:05 PM on April 27, 2007


Well you can deliberately misinterpret all you want, LordSludge, if it helps you to retain your fashionable anti-Christian bigotry. The passage from Vatican II suggests that people can enjoy "salvation" outside the confines of the Catholic Church by being "good people".

Further, widespread belief in hell is not our subject. The issue at hand is, in a nutshell "Avoiding going to hell is the central dogma of all Christianity: True or False?"
posted by Mister_A at 12:05 PM on April 27, 2007


I kind of see where you're going, qldaddy, and you're right that was a low blow there, esp. right after I knocked you for the same kind of thing. I apologize for that; I regretted it immediately.

Now as far as the way you've worded this: the core of Christianity is salvation through Christ - no argument there; that is the way I've always heard it described. I don't go in for any of this stuff personally, mind you, I just wanted to address what I perceived as a gross misrepresentation. I think we both agree on one thing: Hitting is bad.
posted by Mister_A at 12:12 PM on April 27, 2007


What's with the either or interpretation of beatings (if you can even call a swat on the ass that)? I was under the impression everyone knew that you first explain the problem at length and then spank them so they don't forget the preceding dialog. Seems to work quite well for serious offenses. Each to their own.
posted by IronLizard at 12:22 PM on April 27, 2007


Would be interesting to see which of the comments above are actually from parents who have raised children (particularly more than one) to adulthood, and which ones are just speaking out their asses. Everybody's an expert on childrearing before they have them. (And parents of just one often think it's a piece of cake). The target also moves as they get older.
posted by spock at 9:23 AM on April 27 [+] [!]


Eponysterical!
posted by evilcolonel at 12:42 PM on April 27, 2007


BUT -- when you have 5 kids, aged 2 through 12 (as was my case growing up), I'll offer that it may not often be feasible to discipline via lengthy explanations and reasoned dialog.

That may be true--I won't argue it one way or the other, as I have never lived in such a household--but I also conjecture that there may even be more than three options! There may even be four. And so on.

And... I do think there's a difference between a "spanking" and a "beating".

I said "hitting," so I don't know whom you are quoting.
posted by lampoil at 12:59 PM on April 27, 2007


Spankings and beatings are two different things.

When a small child presents willful defiance or tries to run out into the road, a swat on the behind does not injure their tender psyches or send them to Dr Phil twenty years later. For those of you who have not had a chance to parent yet, there are a few early years there where a child does not have the capacity to reason on any kind of relevant level when it comes to wrongdoing.

All the child knows is that he WANTS to run out into the middle of the road and sees no benefit to restraining himself. By judicious use of spanking, the child learns quickly that disobedience has unpleasant consequences.

Later as the child gets older, spankings should be the exception rather than the rule. If you can get it thru a three year old's head that mommy and daddy mean what they say, by the time that child reaches ten or so he or she is in the habit of obedience. By that time a parent can use those other tools in the discipline arsenal to good effect.

Now if a parent has a temper tantrum and beats a kid, that is a whole nother story. THAT is what produces the bad effects of corporal punishment. If that is all a parent does he or she should expect a rough time when the kids become teenagers. They earned it!

Why do we adults avoid breaking laws for the most part? It isn't because the policeman sets us down for a good chat about why running a red light is a Bad Thing.
posted by konolia at 1:16 PM on April 27, 2007


The only mention of hell in the Catechism of the Episcopal Church, btw, is this:
Q. What do we mean by heaven and hell?
A. By heaven, we mean eternal life in our enjoyment of God;
by hell, we mean eternal death in our rejection of God.

It's not so much that we are threatened into doing good by the idea of Satan and his torturing minions in a literal place. It's more like we acknowledge that the consequence of rejecting God is not being able to spend eternal life with him. Which is a no-brainer, I think.

On another note, I wonder if part of the reason kids who attend church are better behaved is their frequent exposure to music. A lot of kids don't get much in the way of music in school and don't get to see music performed live as often as they might have in the past. As execrable as a lot of the music played in mega-churches is, at least it's real, live music. Many mainline churches still have organs and choirs and trot out the Bach and Vaughn Williams on a regular basis.

There's something to be said about sharing not only music, but ritual and ceremony as a family. There certainly aren't many opportunities for families to spend that sort of time together once a week other than worship services of some kind.
posted by Biblio at 1:17 PM on April 27, 2007 [1 favorite]


Why do we adults avoid breaking laws for the most part? It isn't because the policeman sets us down for a good chat about why running a red light is a Bad Thing.

I avoid running red lights because I understand it will have consequences. And not having to pay a ticket consequences, more like getting rammed in a side-impact collision, totalling my car, and possibly spending several weeks in a hospital bed consequences. I think most intellgient adults are similarly motivated.
posted by SBMike at 1:24 PM on April 27, 2007


And to clarify, I understand your point about using spanking very sparingly for young children. I think when kids are very young and, say for example, reach to touch a hot stove, it's ok to slap them on the hand or something similar. When the child's safety is in clear danger and they are too young to understand the reasons behind safety measures, I don't imagine too many of us here have a problem with using a small amount of pain to get your point across. I also don't think that this is the topic being addressed by most of us in the thread, which is about using corporal punishment to correct "behaviorial problems" which aren't generally an immediate threat to their health and well-being.
posted by SBMike at 1:31 PM on April 27, 2007


Mr A - we agree on the hitting = badness thing.

On the other, I think we'll have to agree to disagree and (I hope) do so with a belief in the good intent of the other.

Well you can deliberately misinterpret all you want, LordSludge, if it helps you to retain your fashionable anti-Christian bigotry. The passage from Vatican II suggests that people can enjoy "salvation" outside the confines of the Catholic Church by being "good people".
While LordSludge's reply was not formed in a way to help move the debate along, I still disagree with your interpretation of the VII Language. From the Catchecism or the Catholic Church:
Outside the Church there is no salvation"

846 How are we to understand this affirmation, often repeated by the Church Fathers?335 Re-formulated positively, it means that all salvation comes from Christ the Head through the Church which is his Body:


Basing itself on Scripture and Tradition, the Council teaches that the Church, a pilgrim now on earth, is necessary for salvation: the one Christ is the mediator and the way of salvation; he is present to us in his body which is the Church. He himself explicitly asserted the necessity of faith and Baptism, and thereby affirmed at the same time the necessity of the Church which men enter through Baptism as through a door. Hence they could not be saved who, knowing that the Catholic Church was founded as necessary by God through Christ, would refuse either to enter it or to remain in it.336

847 This affirmation is not aimed at those who, through no fault of their own, do not know Christ and his Church:


Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience - those too may achieve eternal salvation.337

848 "Although in ways known to himself God can lead those who, through no fault of their own, are ignorant of the Gospel, to that faith without which it is impossible to please him, the Church still has the obligation and also the sacred right to evangelize all men."338



Further, widespread belief in hell is not our subject. The issue at hand is, in a nutshell "Avoiding going to hell is the central dogma of all Christianity: True or False?"
posted by qldaddy at 1:37 PM on April 27, 2007


sorry, must have hit "enter when shooting for backspace key there (I'm kinda new at this)


My point with the CATECHISM thing (again sorry for the formatting, I wasn't ready to post) is that your Vatican II refers to "Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart..."

and this:
Further, widespread belief in hell is not our subject. The issue at hand is, in a nutshell "Avoiding going to hell is the central dogma of all Christianity: True or False?" was supposed to be followed by:

I would phrase this differently, "You can only avoid hell through the salvation of Jesus is the cental dogma of Christianity: True or False. I would say true. I think you would say False.
posted by qldaddy at 1:43 PM on April 27, 2007


Wow, kids that are afraid of a eternal punishment and short-term physical punishment are more well behaved? Imagine that. Nothing like being raised to live in fear. Fear is a very nice agent for controlling people's behavior. Hell, our current president runs his entire presidency with it. You know what else is fun? Twisting it all up and calling fear "hope". I love that. "But there is hope! Hope that you won't burn in hell! Hope that we will have a world without terrorism! Hope that we will have a democratic Middle East!" You really need to dress up your fear in hope clothes or you do sort of end up with a beaten down group of people.


Well you can deliberately misinterpret all you want, LordSludge, if it helps you to retain your fashionable anti-Christian bigotry. The passage from Vatican II suggests that people can enjoy "salvation" outside the confines of the Catholic Church by being "good people".


Wow! There's even hope for us heathens! Thanks grand church elders!
posted by smallerdemon at 2:04 PM on April 27, 2007


Recommended reading: "Why I Make Sam Go To Church," by Anne Lamott.

Holy crapping crap, that woman comes off as pathologically self-righteous and clueless. taking cash from her low-income church mamas to continue a tradition? fantasizing about stabbing a kid because he didn't want to have a sleepover? (I know parents are protective but at least feel a little guilty over the thought...) Praying out loud in front of the subject of your prayer in the car? Seriously, I do NOT see how you view this woman as a positive representative of a christian parent...

As for whether christian kids are better behaved, as others said above, I hardly think that's the most important issue. Mormons are widely known for being extremely "well behaved" - everyone knows exactly what the rules are and follows them. That doesn't mean they're not whack.

A religion can provide a set doctrine, which might make life simpler in certain ways, but it doesn't make it better, more beautiful, or more true. If you believe in a determinate religious system, there's no need to question things, think for yourself, change the way things work, imagine a different or better world, or work toward creative or exciting ends. You just do what you're supposed to do without truly understanding it.

When people come to a religious understanding after working through honest doubt and difficulty, and reach a truly thoughtful and reflective comprehension which includes belief in some sort of god, I can respect that. When they just accept a series of claims someone tells them because of a vague feeling of hope it gives them, or a preference for the tradition, or because they like the community etc, then I just can't relate.
posted by mdn at 2:17 PM on April 27, 2007 [1 favorite]


When people come to a religious understanding after working through honest doubt and difficulty, and reach a truly thoughtful and reflective comprehension which includes belief in some sort of god, I can respect that.

Well, I'm sure it'd break my fat old heart if you disapproved. ;)


When they just accept a series of claims someone tells them because of a vague feeling of hope it gives them, or a preference for the tradition, or because they like the community etc, then I just can't relate.

Many non-religionists do similar things (complete with rules galore) based on ideology or adherence to some 'ism.' Worse, better?
posted by jonmc at 2:29 PM on April 27, 2007


"Recommended reading: "Why I Make Sam Go To Church," by Anne Lamott."

Holy crapping crap, that woman comes off as pathologically self-righteous and clueless.posted by mdn

Second that very warmly, mdn.

( I've even given one of her novels a go, and her writing memoir, Bird by Bird. Then I saw a picture of her with her frightful white dreadlocks - and just thought "figures!!!")
posted by Jody Tresidder at 2:48 PM on April 27, 2007


Well sais, qldaddy, and seeing as how you're from Philly too, I will heartily agree to disagree with you.
posted by Mister_A at 3:21 PM on April 27, 2007


lordsludge: And... I do think there's a difference between a "spanking" and a "beating".

lampoil: I said "hitting," so I don't know whom you are quoting.


Not you (sorry if I implied that), nobody in particular, really. I said "hitting" myself and just thought I should clarify: I'm not a big fan of spanking kids, but beating is right out, never ever ever.

on preview: What konolia said.

Mister_A: Well you can deliberately misinterpret all you want, LordSludge, if it helps you to retain your fashionable anti-Christian bigotry.

I really, truly, genuinely couldn't figure what the text meant and explained exactly why. Please don't question my motives; I was being sincere.

The passage from Vatican II suggests that people can enjoy "salvation" outside the confines of the Catholic Church by being "good people".

Ok, I'll accept that interpretation, but I have doubts on how widely accepted that idea is. Maybe some good Catholics can chime in: Is it possible to get to heaven simply by being a "good person"?

The message in Protestant Christianity (i.e., mainstream American Christianity, not a "sect") is pretty consistant that being a "good person" is irrelevant to salvation, because one sin is enough to condemn you to hell. Acceptance of Jesus is mandatory. (But once you accept Jesus, you'll be filled with the Holy Ghost and become a "good person".)

The issue at hand is, in a nutshell "Avoiding going to hell is the central dogma of all Christianity: True or False?"

That's pretty leading there, what with the absolute "all" modifier. How about "Avoiding going to hell is the central dogma of most Christianity: True or False?" I say True.

Now as far as the way you've worded this: the core of Christianity is salvation through Christ - no argument there; that is the way I've always heard it described.

"Salvation" from WHAT? (Hell? Separation from God? General Nastiness?)

I keep wanting to type "salivation", which really... isn't the same thing at all...
posted by LordSludge at 3:32 PM on April 27, 2007


And for all you libs out there: "spare the rod, spoil the child" is absolutely correct.

In tadellin's recipe book, the actual proportions are:
1 oz prevention = 1 lib cure
posted by rob511 at 6:07 PM on April 27, 2007


This is fairly straightforward. A lot of Americans - a majority, maybe - are either incapable or unconcerned about providing a stable familial environment. They're just too tired, or too busy, or whatever excuse, to truly nurture their kids. Also, the grand majority of Americans subscribe - at least on paper - to one religion or another. The people who make church-going a regular part of their routine are more likely to also have devoted the time and energy into making their home life stable and orderly. In this environment, kids will naturally be better behaved, in general. This isn't shocking.

The problem - and the bias - of the study comes from the assumption that it has anything to do with religion. If youi'd taken a control group of athiests and agnostics who take their families bowling every Sunday morning, I bet you'd get about the same result. It isn't about the scripture. It's about the act of anchoring the family to traditions.

I'm not trying to shit on religions here - though I'd like to, for sure, it's just the Chris Hitchens started in on that this week and that makes the whole thing seem ever-so-much less attractive to me. I was raised in a church-going family. Some of my family still do, and some of us don't. Interestingly, the Church-going sibling of mine has easily the most ill-behaved kids of the lot, while the devout athiest's child is a vision of sweetness. I have come to view religion as a cross between well-intentioned philosophy and having a gun put against your temple, and I have, personally, no need for it. Nor do I think anyone else really does, except for studies like this and political leaders and a culture of fear etc etc constantly telling them that they do.

Kids do, however, require family, and the stronger the family bond, the better - at least for the most part. I don't harbor any resentment against religious people, and as I'm trying to say here, to be a regular church-goer probably involves maintaining a stable life for yourself, and your family by extension. So, in the end, the report gets it wrong both ways. The cart does not lead the horse, nor does the horse lead the cart. The path, as it turns out, leads both of them.

Also, WTF? Is tadellin gunning to be the newest troll of MeFi? If we feed him, will he grow into dios? And if he does, can we make them fight it all out to the death?

(Actually, I enjoy what both of them bring to the discussion, it just always seems so deliberately, cartoonishly evil that I have trouble believing it sometimes.)
posted by Navelgazer at 6:18 PM on April 27, 2007


Spanking is not going to make your kids better. Neither is the positive reinforcement or what ever hippy-dippy behavior modification Du Jour you choose.

Only one thing will make your kids behave. And that is consistency. What ever boundaries you set and what ever means to enforce them you have to be consistent. Both parents must present a united front. And you must follow through. This is how respect is earned. And where most people fail. If they see you acting like an asshole... well, guess what, you just sent them to "how to be an asshole" school.

As for kids turning out to be psychos? Beating the shit out of them is no way to show them you love them. But neither is letting them indulge themselves in whatever dip shit or bratty behavior they want. While causing actual physical harm is barbaric, using physical intimidation is a functional fundamental language when none other can work and all social animals do it.

It's pretty simple really. Not easy. But simple. Love them. Feed them three square meals a day— you know, toss a turkey leg in the crib at regular intervals. Make them feel safe. Allow them to express themselves. But don't put up with any bullshit. Lead by example.
posted by tkchrist at 6:59 PM on April 27, 2007


But very time I deal with a smug smartass, I always think to myself, 'you weren't hit enough as a child, otherwise you'd know fear.'

My maternal grandfather used to routinely beat the living shit out of everyone in his family, and my mom as an adult is one of the most opinionated outspoken people I know, so no, I don't think hitting people teaches them humility at all. Quite the opposite if anything. Humility isn't something that can be taught if the capacity isn't already there, it has nothing to do with fear.
posted by supercrayon at 7:07 PM on April 27, 2007


Beating your children is kind of like beating your grandparents.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:00 PM on April 27, 2007


Maybe some good Catholics can chime in: Is it possible to get to heaven simply by being a "good person"?

Not in our old parish, and that was the issue over which my parents left it.
posted by dreamsign at 2:47 AM on April 28, 2007


Why do we adults avoid breaking laws for the most part? It isn't because the policeman sets us down for a good chat about why running a red light is a Bad Thing.

Well...but it certainly isn't because the policeman spanks us either. In fact, it's closer to the former. Here are the various reasons I don't run red lights:
1. Don't want a ticket (as in, don't want to lose money or the time paying it).
2. Don't want an accident.
3. Out of habit.
4. Don't want the embarrassment of having to explain to a police officer why I did it--and this fear is a close cousin to the fear of The Talk With Mom.

As for "beating" vs. "spanking" ...to say they're different is stating the obvious. There's also a difference between thinking they're the same and thinking people shouldn't do either one. In my opinion and my opinion only, one is unforgivable, and the other is not unforgivable but still not right and not necessary. I have seen no examples here that say "must spank" to me, even if the kid is too young to "reason." I have no earthly idea how a spanking is going to stop a kid from running out into the street.
posted by lampoil at 6:00 AM on April 28, 2007


And for all you libs out there: "spare the rod, spoil the child" is absolutely correct.
posted by tadellin at 6:39 AM on April 27 [1 favorite +]
[!]


Suffer the little children, indeed.

Every so often a study comes out and gets analyzed to death on one of my mom lists. I can't find a link now, but I remember that the scholars were having a hellova time evalutating all of the different studies about because there was no consistent line drawn between spankning and beating.

And just because I haven't seen these posted yet,

violence.de

nospank.net

posted by lysdexic at 8:35 AM on April 28, 2007


I'm pleased that this loaded topic has been discussed respectfully.
Thanks everyone!
posted by Dizzy at 11:03 AM on April 28, 2007


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