The Moral Superiority of Children

In our daily lives we probably make many decisions about how to act or think ethically about issues in the news or even in our personal experience. There is a special branch of philosophy devoted to moral decision making and philosophers have developed schemes for deciding how to assign moral worth to the various categories that have been identified. Often, their is wide disagreement upon how to order the list of candidates. A prime example is the relative moral status of a pregnant women versus the fetus she carries in her body.

In his new book “Moral Status and Human Life,” law professor James Dwyer argues that children should enjoy a higher moral status than adults. Historically, children have been assigned a lower moral status than adults. (Maybe because adults designed the weight to give children versus adults and others on the list.) The question Professor Dwyer wants us to consider is what would our law and social behavior be like if we reversed the position of children and adults? This is the point of his new book. The first chapter is available at


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Newborn child, seconds after birth. The umbili...

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James G. Dwyer, Family law professor, William and Mary


State parentage laws, dictating who a newborn child’s first legal parents will be, have been the subject of constitutional challenges in several U.S. Supreme Court and many lower court decisions. All of those decisions, however, have focused on constitutional rights of adults (especially unwed biological fathers) who wish to become, or to avoid becoming, legal parents. Neither courts nor legal scholars have considered whether the children have any constitutional rights that constrain legislatures and courts in deciding which adults will be their legal parents. If a state enacted a parentage law that said, for example, that any child born to a birth mother who already had two children would be placed in a parent-child relationship at birth with applicants for adoption rather than with the birth mother, would that infringe on any constitutional right of the child? Or would the birth mother be the only person with standing to challenge the law? Such a law would be purely hypothetical in the U.S. (though not far from reality in some other parts of the world). But the actual current parentage laws in the United States, which confer legal parent status in almost all instances on biological parents, with no regard for fitness, also have a seriously adverse affect on a subset of children—specifically, children whose birth parents are manifestly unfit to raise children, as evidenced by serious child maltreatment histories, criminal records, substance abuse, mental illness, and/or imprisonment. This Article is the first to consider whether states violate a constitutional right of some children when their parentage laws consign the children to legal relationships with, and into the custody of, adults whom the state knows to be unfit. It identifies opportunities for children’s advocates to advance constitutional challenges to state parentage laws as applied to newborn offspring of adults unfit to parent, and it presents a robust legal theory to underwrite such challenges.

Constitutional Birthright

A significant percentage of children are born to birth parents who are unfit to raise children—evidenced by histories of serious child abuse, violent felonies, mental illness, and/or chronic substance abuse—and who are highly unlikely to become fit within a reasonable period after their offspring’s birth.

Congress has, in the past dozen years, pushed states to be more proactive in protecting these babies from maltreatment by conditioning certain federal grants on states making various changes to their child protection laws. In particular, Congress has pushed states to terminate parental rights immediately, without first undertaking extensive rehabilitation efforts, in the worst cases of birth parent unfitness, so that the babies can enter good adoptive homes. However, state legislatures have not enacted all the statutory provisions necessary to accomplish this aim, and the state institutions charged with administering child protection laws—namely, child protection agencies and juvenile courts—are highly resistant to terminating parental rights before children incur serious maltreatment and/or prolonged foster care stays. In addition, following the Supreme Court’s decision in Deshaney v. Winnebago County Department of Social Services,4 which rejected on state action grounds a constitutional tort suit against a negligent child protection agency, there is no constitutional lever to force child protection agencies to act more aggressively, pursuant to child maltreatment laws, to protect newborns at high risk of maltreatment. In short, the problem of protecting babies born to grossly unfit parents appears intractable.

What legal advocates for children and legal scholars have overlooked, however, is the potential for attacking the problem further upstream, by advancing a constitutional challenge not to child protection laws or agency inaction, but to parentage statutes. Enactment and enforcement of state statutes conferring legal parent status on biological parents without regard to fitness, thereby forcing a substantial number of newborn babies to be in intimate associations with people the state knows to be unfit to parent, clearly constitutes state action and is the root cause of great harm to these children. Newborn babies must have a constitutional right against state legislatures placing them into legal family relationships with adults whom the state knows (by virtue of state child abuse and criminal registries, reports of fetal drug exposure, and prison records) to be dangerous to them.

In fact, much legal scholarship and judicial decision making has been devoted to the constitutionality of parentage laws. But almost all of it has focused on the constitutional rights of adults: either adults who want to be legal parents but are denied the opportunity, or adults who do not want to be legal parents yet have that status thrust upon them.5 What little consideration there has been of children’s constitutional rights in connection with parentage has been limited to older children who seek but are denied legal protection for an already established and healthy social parent-child relationship that they have with an adult who is not a legal parent.6 There has been no consideration of whether newborn children have any constitutional rights in connection with this legal action that largely determines the fundamental quality of their entire lives, including a right to avoid a legal parent-child relationship that is very bad for them, leaving them free to enter into a legal relationship with adults who would be good caregivers. This Article is the first to do so.

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Children discuss Jesus with the vicar

Children think of possibilities that elude grownups. Amazing creative insights come from the mouths of babes. They lack false modesty and have no restrictions on their ability to formulate ideas. Unfortunately, indoctrination weakens and possibly dulls forever this profound quality of the child mind. If adults really respected children they would treat every one of their questions with the greatest of care. The Vicar doesn’t have any answers, yet he valiantly goes on with his script and looks for an excuse to depart his small dining companions. Chalk one up for the children.

This video is cut from the popular British sitcom, Outnumbered

Awkward Questions About Jesus

At almost 300,000 views and counting (as of April 14th, 2010) this clip appears to be the most popular Outnumbered clip on YouTube. Perhaps that’s because of the slightly provocative title I gave it, or maybe just because it’s downright hilarious.

It is interesting that of the two Outnumbered clips I posted, this one has caused far more debate over the validity of religion. I guess that’s because of Ben’s rather forthright questioning of the vicar. Even though most of the questions are rather silly, I think the fact that you very rarely see these type of confrontational questions asked of the clergy, it can appear to be a little shocking to some people which, judging from some of the comments I have seen, appears to be the case.

Some have also taken offence to “using children” in this manner, but I think they are way off the mark. It’s the use of children that gives the scene authenticity, given that there are likely very few children who haven’t asked some awkward questions about religion or Christianity at one time or another.

Of all the questions in the clip, I think the one that Karen asks is the most interesting—why couldn’t Jesus find another way to tell people to be “a bit better otherwise something bad’s going to happen” (like writing to them). As I have discussed elsewhere on this blog, one of the major problems with the fundamentalist’s take on the Doctrine of Salvation is the sheer randomness of any one person’s chances of both hearing about Jesus and his death on the cross and not being told that it’s nonsense and just a story made up by people of a different religion.

For example, if you were a Muslim who had been been living in down town Mecca all your life before the advent of shortwave radio, there is not a hope in hell (pun intended) that you have had a chance of hearing the “Good News” of Jesus Christ, and yet you are supposedly “without excuse” when you die completely ignorant of the existence of the New Testament. Posted by:

From the Wiki page for Outnumbered:

Outnumbered is a British Comedy Award winning and BAFTA nominated British sitcom that has aired on BBC One since 2007.[1] It stars Hugh Dennis andClaire Skinner as a father and mother who are outnumbered by their three children played by Tyger Drew-Honey, Daniel Roche and Ramona Marquez.

Produced by Hat Trick Productions, Outnumbered is written, directed and produced by Andy Hamilton and Guy Jenkin, although parts of the show are semi-improvised.[2]

The programme has been critically acclaimed for its semi-improvisational scripting and realistic portrayal of children and family life.”[3] Ratings have been average for its time slot, but the series has won a number of awards from the awards, the Royal Television Society, the British Comedy Awards and the Broadcasting Press Guild.[4] All three series are available on DVD and a fourth has been commissioned for a 2011 broadcast. An American adaptation is currently being planned.[5]

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How powerful is childhood religious indoctrination?

Joseph Smith dictating the Book of Mormon by r...

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Mormonism would cease to exist in just a few generations if it were not for the indoctrination of hapless gulible children. The foundation of the LDS faith rests on the Mormon Bible, which is a transparent rip off of the St James bible, as Mark Twain recounts in his book Roughing It. Not even a modest skeptic could swallow the imagineerings of the Mormon bible. Yet there are millions of true believers and that is undeniable fact.

Mark Twain Meets The Mormons

Copied from “Roughing It – A Personal Narrative” as he tried to figure out the Mormons during his two day stop over in Great Salt Lake City on his way to silver mines of Nevada.

All men have heard of the Mormon Bible, but few, except the elect have seen it or at least taken the trouble to read it. I brought away a copy from Salt Lake. The book is a curiosity to me. It is such a pretentious affair and yet so slow, so sleepy, such an insipid mess of inspiration. It is chloroform in print.

If Joseph Smith composed this book, the act was a miracle. Keeping awake while he did it, was at any rate. If he, according to tradtion, merely translated it from certain ancient and myteriously engraved plates of copper, which he declares he found under a stone, in an out of the way locality, the work of translating it was equally a miracle for the same reason.

The book seems to be merely a prosey detail of imaginary history with the Old Testament for a model followed by a tedious plegiarism of the New Testament. The author labored to give his words and phrases the quaint old fashioned sound and structure of our King James translation of the scriptures. The result is a mongrel, half modern glibbness and half ancient simplicity and gravity. The latter is awkward and constrained, the former natural, but grotesque by the contrast. Whenever he found his speech growing too modern, which was about every sentence or two, he ladeled in a few such scriptural phrases as, “exceeding sore,” “and it came to pass,” etc. and made things satisfactory again. “And it came to pass,” was his pet. If he had left that out, his bible would have been only a pamphlet.

The title page goes as follows: “The Book of Mormon, an account written by the hand of Mormon upon plates taken from the plates of Nephi. Wherefore, it is an abridgement of the record of the people of Nephi, and also of the Lamanites – Written to the Lamanites, who are a remnan of the house of Israel; and also to Jew and Gentile. Written by way of commandment and also by the spirit of prophecy and of revelation – written and sealed up and hid up unto the Lord that they might not be destroyed, to come forth by the gift and power of God unto the interpretation thereof – sealed by the hand of Moroni and hid up unto the Lord, to come forth in due time by way of the Gentile – the interpretation thereof by the gift of God.

An abridgement taken from the Book of Ether, also, which is a record of the people of Jared, who were scattered at the time the Lord confounded the language of the people, when they were building a tower to get to heaven – (hid up is good, and so is wherefore, though why, wherefore? Any other word would have answered as well, though in truth it would not have sounded so scriptural.)”

Next comes the testimony of three witnesses. “Be it know unto all nations, kindreds, tongues and people unto whom this work shall come, that we, through the grace of God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, have seen the plates which contain this record which is a record of the people of Nephi and also of the Lamanites, their brethren and also of the people of Jared, who came from the tower of which hath been spoken. And we also know that they have been translated by the gift and power of God, for His voice hath declared it unto us. Wherefore we know of a surety that the work it true. And we also testify that we have seen the engravings which are upon the plates and they have been shown unto us by the power of God and not of man. And we declare with words of soberness that an angel of God came down from heaven and he brought and laid before our eyes that we beheld and saw the plates and the engravings thereon. And we know that it by the grace of God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ that we beheld and bear record that these things are true. And it is marvelous in our eyes. Nevertheless, the voice of the Lord commanded us that we should bear record of it. Wherefore to be obedient unto the commandments of God we bear testimony to these things. And we know that if we are faithful in Christ we shall rid our garments of the blood of all men and be found spotless before the judgement seat of Christ and shall dwell with Him eternally in the heavens. And the honor be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost, which is one god, Amen. Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer and Martin Harris.”

Some people have to have a world of evidence before they can come anywhere in the neighborhood of believing anything, but for me when a man tells me that he has seen the engravings which are upon the plates and not only that, but an angel was there at the time and saw them see him and probably took his receipt for it, I am very far on the road to conviction no matter whether I have ever heard of that man before or not, and even if I do not know the name of the angel or his nationality either.


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i-am-a-post-mormon – Dustin Patzer speaks about leaving the LDS

Justin found his way out of the LDS trap. The steps he took will work just as well to spring the trap of Catholicism, Pentacostalism, or any of the other thousands of sects. The first step is to listen to the nagging doubts you have and resolve to take action. The first thing you learn is that all religious traps have the same mechanisms to keep their adherents enslaved. They all make the same claim to ultimate exclusive truth and discount all competitors. You were probably snared as an innocent child before you had any intellectual guardians at the gate to your young mind. You were taken advantage of, pure and simple.

Once you realize the truth of your situation you can look objectively at the dogma you are subjected to and see that it just does not make any sense at all. The bible is not a sacred book. The bible is an invention of thousands of men with agendas. In Justin’s case the notion that golden plates were discovered buried in a field is outlandish on it’s face.

Sample some of the other videos produced by this project. Maybe one day you will have the opportunity to tell your story.

Recommended reading

Religionists often remark that they do not see a way to live without religion. Apparently they are unaware that approximately 2 billion people around the world live lives free of religious control. It is not difficult and now a new book by Eric Maisel tells you how it is done. Here are the reviews from leading freethinkers and authors:


“Eric Maisel is clearly the atheist’s Wizard of Oz to have created a book with such brains, so much heart, and a lion’s share of real courage.”
— Dale McGowan, PhD, editor of Parenting Beyond Belief and 2008 Harvard Humanist of the Year

“Millions of people lead happy, moral, loving, meaningful lives without believing in a god, and Eric Maisel explains in exquisite rational and compassionate detail how we do it.”
— Dan Barker, author of Losing Faith in Faith: From Preacher to Atheist and copresident of the Freedom from Religion Foundation

“I find Maisel’s writings more witty than Hitchens, more polished and articulate than Harris, and more informative and entertaining than Dawkins. A 5-star read from cover to cover!”
— David Mills, author of Atheist Universe

The Atheist’s Way offers a meaningful approach to life that is sublime, eloquent, and inspiring. This book is a true breath of fresh air.”
— Phil Zuckerman, PhD, author of Society Without God: What the Least Religious Nations Can Tell Us about Contentment

“Maisel provides a foundation for making meaning and living purposefully without supernatural intervention. A book to be relished by atheists, skeptics, humanists, freethinkers, and unbelievers everywhere.”
— Donna Druchunas, writer on

“How do you bravely face the world as it is and create meaning for yourself without the crutch of a divine benefactor? Eric Maisel’s wise suggestions, musings, and insights are a wonderful resource for your quest.”
— John Allen Paulos, author of Irreligion: A Mathematician Explains Why the Arguments for God Just Don’t Add Up

“Eric Maisel has given us a lovely, thoughtful book about belief outside of the narrow confines of organized religion. The Atheist’s Way offers an uplifting positive answer for anyone interested in how to live life without gods, superstitions or fairytales.”
— Nica Lalli, author of Nothing: Something to Believe In

“With this book, Eric Maisel does what none of the New Atheists have succeeded at doing: elaborating what atheists do believe.”
— Hemant Mehta, author of I Sold My Soul on eBay

Product Description

In The Atheist’s Way, Eric Maisel teaches you how to make rich personal meaning despite the absence of beneficent gods and the indifference of the universe to human concerns. Exploding the myth that there is any meaning to find or to seek, Dr. Maisel explains why the paradigm shift from seeking meaning to making meaning is this century’s most pressing intellectual goal.
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