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Showing posts with label violence. Show all posts
Showing posts with label violence. Show all posts

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

What's Wrong with Just Telling Boys "Don't Slap Girls"

Boys don't want to slap girls. At least that's what the popular YouTube video entitled "'Slap her': Children's reactions" shows. Produced in Italy, the short clip shows several boys aged 10 to 11 in front of a young girl where they dutifully perform requests such as "make a funny face" or "caress her" from an off- camera voice. However, when each is told "slap her", none comply. When asked why they won't slap her one says, "Because you're not supposed to hit girls!" while another replies "I don't want to hurt her."1



I applaud the boys for not hitting the girl. It's decent; and I've given the same instruction to my boys. However, I worry that the video doesn't prove what it sets out to. In fact, I think that the underlying assumption is more problematic than meets the eye.



The video has been promoted as a demonstration that violence against women is wrong. ABC News's San Francisco affiliate wrote "Italian media company fanpage.it created the video to show how both violence and pacifism can be taught at an early age."2 But what does it show? Of course, pre-pubescent boys after being instructed to tell a girl how pretty she is and to stroke her don't then follow instructions to slap her. Is that a surprise?

Juxtapose this to this is the famous Milgram experiments. These are well-known experiments in psychology where people believed they were administering electric shocks to participants (really actors pretending to hurt) and when commanded, they would obey authorities even to the point of sending a shock that could be fatal.3 While Milgram's experiment had some flaws, a more recent iteration proved that people were more than willing to obey an authority who told them to provide a painful electric shock to a stranger. The study found "People who were normally friendly followed orders because they didn't want to upset others, while those who were described as unfriendly stuck up for themselves."4

Commands in Isolation are Not Beneficial

I think both findings show the flaw in moral commands that are not grounded in a larger worldview. The Italian video may be trying to say that young children don't want to slap girls by nature, but that isn't necessarily true. Kids who know and disagree with one another will get into fights all the time, and unless specifically instructed by a parent, may slap someone of the opposite sex. Also, they obviously are taken with the pretty girl and hitting her wouldn't make sense. But Milgram-type experiments do show that some people are more than willing to inflict pain when ordered to do so.

The kids seemed to understand that hitting a girl is wrong because boys are stronger than girls and could do more damage to them. Men do have significantly more muscle mass than women, leaving women much more vulnerable in a confrontation between individuals of opposite sexes. Yet, in today's "biology doesn't matter" culture, we're told the differences between the sexes don't matter, except when they do.

Morality Rooted in Worldview

More broadly, what our kids require is not simple rules, but an understanding of the value of human beings and why men shouldn't hit women. The Christian world view teaches that anyone who is in a position of strength—be it physical, financial, or influential—should not use that position to take advantage of another person made in the image of God. It is through Christianity that we understand the equality of all people and it gives us good reasons for acting civilly towards one another. In fact, such an approach also tells us that women are as valuable as men in our society and therefore should be held in high regard.  But when right and wrong are reduced to whatever the adult or some authority figure says, people may be manipulated to do horrendous things, as Hitler's Germany has proven.

I don't know if the kids in the video understood the full moral grounding of why we shouldn't hit a girl. In the video, one boy responded that "Jesus doesn't want us to hit others," which isn't a bad answer. But as parents, we need to teach our children not simply what to do and not do, but how all of that relates to the larger picture of God and man. Once that foundation is established, individuals are less likely to be swayed, and are better equipped to weigh their actions in a variety of contexts, making better decisions even in unforeseeable situation. Isn't that how we want to rear our children?

References

1. "Slap Her": Children's Reactions. Prod. Fanpage.it. YouTube. YouTube, 4 Jan. 2015. Web. 07 Jan. 2015. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b2OcKQ_mbiQa.
2. "VIDEO: Young Boys Asked to Slap Little Girl in Social Experiment." ABC7 San Francisco. ABC, Inc., 5 Jan. 2015. Web. 07 Jan. 2015. http://abc7news.com/society/video-young-boys-asked-to-slap-little-girl-in-social-experiment/462246/ .
3. McLeod, Sam. "Milgram Experiment." Simply Psychology. Simply Psychology, 2007. Web. 06 Jan. 2015. http://www.simplypsychology.org/milgram.html.
4. Shim, Eileen. "Psychologists Have Uncovered a Troubling Feature of People Who Seem Nice All the Time." Mic. Mic Network, Inc., 30 June 2014. Web. 07 Jan. 2015. http://mic.com/articles/92479/psychologists-have-uncovered-a-troubling-feature-of-people-who-seem-nice-all-the-time.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Does Religion Cause War?


The charge that most of the wars in history were religiously motivated is a popular one, especially with the New Atheists and their followers. Sam Harris has written in his book The End of Faith that religion is "the most prolific source of violence in our history."1 But a cursory review of the wars fought throughout history shows the opposite is true.

As Robin Schumacher reports "An interesting source of truth on the matter is Philip and Axelrod's three-volume Encyclopedia of Wars, which chronicles some 1,763 wars that have been waged over the course of human history. Of those wars, the authors categorize 123 as being religious in nature, which is an astonishingly low 6.98% of all wars. However, when one subtracts out those waged in the name of Islam (66), the percentage is cut by more than half to 3.23%."2

To see just how far the New Atheists will go to keep their fable about religion being the major source of war and violence in the world, one has to look no farther than Christopher Hitchens. As William T Cavanaugh writes in his book The Myth of Religious Violence, Hitchens is guilty of very selective classification of not only what causes violence, but what classifies as religion and what doesn't.3 Not only does Cavanaugh provide examples where Hitchens takes clearly secular states, such as Stalin's regime, and ascribes their atrocities to the "religious impulse", but he also points out that religious pacifism is discounted because it isn't violent. He writes:
"Hitchens thus seems to employ a functionalist conception of religion, but he does not do so consistently. For most of his book, what Hitchens means by religion seems to be limited to some substantivist list of world religions: Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Confucianism all come in for criticism and dismissal. When it helps to make his case against religion, however, things like Kim Jong-Il's militantly atheist regime in North Korea count as religion too. … Religion poisons everything because Hitchens identifies everything poisonous as religion. Likewise, everything good ends up on the other side of the religious-secular divide. For example, Hitchens writes of Martin Luther King, Jr. 'In no real as opposed to nominal sense, then, was he a Christian.' Hitchens bases this remark­able conclusion on the fact that King was nonviolent and preached forgiveness and love of enemies, as opposed to the Bible, which in both the Old and New Testaments is marked by a vengeful God. Here, what is not violent cannot possibly be religious, because religion is defined as violent."4

Echoing Cavanaugh's concern on the misleading lumping of the pacifistic teachings of Jesus and his act of self-sacrifice that becomes the ultimate example of humility and peace for all his followers, Keith Ward tells us the real reason for the continual string of wars that color our history:
"Human history as a whole is a history of warfare and violence. The early recorded history of humanity is a story of imperial conquests and wars. Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Egypt and Greece, together with almost endless waves of so-called barbarian hordes, make our books of early human history into chronicles of almost continual conquest and warfare.

"Religion may have played some part in these affairs, but it is the desire for power and wealth that is the constant factor. It is natural that warrior-kings should try to enlist the loyalty of their followers by getting them to defend some preferred set of values, and to denigrate the values of other societies. Since religions usually embody values, kings can readily enlist the gods on their side, as protectors of the values of the empire."5
It is clear, then, that the charge of religion as the primary progenitor of war is on its face absurd and folks like Harris and Hitchens really have neither interest in history nor the roots of conflict between states.  Rather, they simply want to continue to paint a picture that may win them their own converts and offer slick talking points, Unfortunately , those interested in facts find a different answer.

References

1. Harris, Sam. The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason.
(New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2005). 27.

2. Schumacher, Robin. "The Myth that Religion is the #1 Cause of War" CARM.org
http://carm.org/religion-cause-war. Accessed 3-5-2013

3. Cavanaugh, William T. The Myth of Religious Violence:Secular Ideology and the Roots of Modern Conflict.
(Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009) 218.

4. Ibid.

5. Ward, Keith. Is Religion Dangerous?(Oxford: Lion Hudson ple, 2011). 68.
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