Should Five-Year-Olds Be Taught That They're Hellbound Sinners?

OK, for anyone but zealots and sadists, this should be a rhetorical question, but sadly for Portlanders this summer, it wasn’t. The Child Evangelism Fellowship moved in on Portland with their Good News Clubs (sic), partnering with local churches to host summer bible clubs in the hope of establishing themselves as after school programs in local K-12 schools throughout the year.


More details here:


The lessons they teach include the notion that everyone is a sinner and will go to hell if they don’t accept Jesus, etc. etc. blah blah blah, and the clubs are open to children as young as five. They are also taught they have a duty to recruit their friends to the club. Fortunately this is Portland we’re talking about, and a group called Protect Portland’s Children was already 400 strong by mid-July. The article linked above noted that one of the co-founders, Robert Aughenbaugh, “. . . finds calling a population of children a ‘harvest field’ worrisome and creepy.”  Ya think??


 For anyone interested, journalist Katherine Stewart has written a book about this group, which has been operating for about 75 years and currently has such clubs in 4,300 schools across the nation.  The title is The Christian Right’s Stealth Assault on American Children.


My personal view is that any religious upbringing beyond pointing out that there are a lot of different religions out there and everyone has a choice ranging from all to none is one of the most heinous forms of child abuse.

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I've got to agree with you. It's cruel to tell children they are going to hell. There's no reason behind it.

A few years ago here on A|N someone told the story of how he was in church one Sunday morning when he was called out of the sanctuary because his son was upset.  His son was in Sunday School and the topic that day was - you guessed it - hell, and no surprise, the whole concept terrified this youngster.  This is an obvious part of the carrot-and-stick routine which is used not just to indoctrinate children who have no intellectual tools to assess what they're being taught, but to COERCE them into belief for fear of their lives. Unfortunately, that person left A|N and his posts and comments are no longer available.

Still, the memory of his post and the images he described of his son reacting to what amounts to religious propaganda should be enough to galvanize any caring parent into action, both to comfort their children and to deal decisively with those who would intimidate them with such hogwash.

Very good news that the Protect Portland’s Children exists and growing. I am posting the author and book on Twitter and Facebook.  May I attribute your name as the source on those sites? 

If you wish, or you could simply cite The Oregonian July 9, 2014. Here's the group's FB page


I think it's terrible.  I grew up with that crap. My grandparents are members of a real fire'n'brimstone sort of establishment that is against everything from dice to dancing (my grandfather made my father play Monopoly with a spinner... that's how dogmatic and illogical it all was).  My parents were always far more liberal, but even the church we went to took a turn from "Hey, let's all be good to each other" to "guilt, fear, and hate!"

It is very damaging to young children to be told they are inherently flawed and going to hell unless they speak the magic words.  That destroys self image and gives them an out to any bad behaviour, in one swift stroke.  My personal experience with religion and mental illness was not a good one.  And most, if not all, of the extremely bad habits I had to unlearn to become healthy were indoctrinated into me from an early age.  Not even necessary from my parents.  But even the best meaning people need to understand what religion usually means for children, especially anything evangelical.

We have to break the cycle of brainwashing and give people a safe place to speak and think freely. As isolated as I feel, I know that a great many people think similar thoughts and are afraid to talk about it here.

I, for one, will be teaching my son that that all that is a pack of cruel lies. I hope that the myths begun to vBulletin lose their grasp on our minds and go back to being just stories written a long time ago.

I agree! 

Dan D, playing monopoly with a spinner instead of using dice comes from the mistaken idea that soldiers "casting lots" for the clothing of Jesus was men throwing dice. It was not really, but it made sense to the fire and brimstone crowd.

Another thing from my early church days was that you could not have a TV. Everything was antenna TV back then, and having a TV was "crucifying Jesus all over again" because they thought the antenna looked like a cross.

Despite "bad things" you might see on TV, I remember another group who operated on your TV so that all you could watch was their own church service videos using a VCR. I guess they forgot that you could still rent movies or go rent porn.

Strange people. So glad I am done with them today.

Strange people is right.  Never heard that a TV antenna was crucifying jebus all over again.   So.....why do the nut jobs put crosses everywhere?

I never heard the antenna trip either, but then who is surprised when irrational thought grabs onto anything because it can?  Some dimwit could say the same thing about joist-and-stud house construction if they wanted!  More than likely, they saw TV as a secular threat to their beliefs and lit on the antenna / cross as something to attack.

Once you let one irrationality in, there's no counting how many can follow behind.

Oh, I know. It always seemed silly to me that dice were gambling but another device that delivered a more or less random result was ok. It's just another example of the complete lack of critical thinking.




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