I’m not making that charge. However, Richard Dawkins said that being raised a Catholic is worse than child abuse. Here’s what he said:
Hasan asked: "You believe that being bought up as a Catholic is worse than being abused by a priest?"
Dawkins replied: "There are shades of being abused by a priest, and I quoted an example of a woman in America who wrote to me saying that when she was seven years old she was sexually abused by a priest in his car.
"At the same time a friend of hers, also seven, who was of a Protestant family, died, and she was told that because her friend was Protestant she had gone to Hell and will be roasting in Hell forever."
"She told me of those two abuses, she got over the physical abuse; it was yucky but she got over it.
"But the mental abuse of being told about Hell, she took years to get over."
Dawkins added: "It seems to me that telling children that they really, really believe that people who sin are going to go to Hell and roast forever – that your skin grows again when it peels off with burning – it seems to me to be intuitively entirely reasonable that that is a worse form of child abuse, that will give more nightmares, that will give more genuine distress because they really believe."
I’ve known many Catholics and some I would consider very nice people. In fact, my partners children go to a Catholic school and they are very well adjusted. I've never seen kids who are that well behaved. They're also smart, respectful and happy.
I’ve also known people who were sexually abused as children and they never get over it. That doesn’t mean they don’t learn to live with it in their own way, but the emotional and mental trauma scars them for life. I honestly don’t think Dawkins’ comparison is fair or helpful and in a way, it minimizes the damage that victims of child abuse suffer.
Peter Saunders had this to say:
Peter Saunders, the chief executive of the National Association for People Abused in Childhood, said: "At NAPAC we know that recovery from sexual abuse can take a lifetime. People never get over it. It is entirely unhelpful to make such comparisons."
I have to agree with him on this one. I’m certainly not a fan of the hell doctrine and I do think it’s harmful, but it’s not in the same ballpark as child abuse or sexual abuse as a whole.
You could make the argument that the hell doctrine can leave people with a sense of fear wherever they go. Isn’t that a form of abuse? Especially when it isn’t based on fact?
Maybe. But you also have a choice between believing and not believing. There are plenty of Catholics or people of faith who have gradually moved away from their religion but those children who have been sexually abused can never leave. That abuse will stay with them for all time. They have no choice in the matter.
Furthermore, my partner is a Catholic. When I asked her about what Dawkins said, she replied that she was never taught that people would burn in hell for eternity. She was taught that if you didn’t believe, you were sent to a place (much like purgatory) where you were unhappy. She elaborated by saying that you worked at something (much like a slave) that didn’t allow you to be happy; you could never be free and never leave. They also said your soul was sucked up by the devil.
She also said that considering Dawkins is a scientist, basing his opinion on one or two people seemed very unscientific. She said she’s a perfect example of how the Catholic Church isn’t united in their teaching and not all Catholics are taught that they or their loved ones will roast in hell.
Personally, I think Dawkins should stay away from making such comparisons. If he wants to say that the hell doctrine is harmful, I can understand that, but comparing it to sexual abuse isn’t a fair comparison in my opinion.