Director of Strategy and Policy for the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Science and Reason
Sean Faircloth served five terms in the Maine Legislature. Faircloth served on the Judiciary and Appropriations Committees. In his last term Faircloth was elected Majority Whip by his colleagues.
An accomplished legislator, Faircloth successfully spearheaded over thirty laws, including the so-called Deadbeat Dad child support law which saved Maine taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars and was later incorporated into federal law. Faircloth had numerous legislative successes in children’s issues and justice system reform.
In two years as Executive Director of Secular Coalition for America, Faircloth conceived and led the Secular Decade plan, a specific strategic vision for resecularizing American government. Faircloth writes about his ten point vision of a Secular American government in his book Attack of the Theocrats: How the Religious Right Harms Us All and What to Do About It.
Faircloth earned a reputation for strategic thinking, innovative ideas, and speaking to groups in a way that energized them to support the secular cause.
As Director of Strategy and Policy for the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Science and Reason, Faircloth will expand his strategic efforts on behalf of the entire secular movement, speak regarding policy issues, discuss the ideas in his book, and seek innovative ways to improve the secular movement. Faircloth has spoken around the United States about separation of church and state, the Constitution, children’s policy, obesity policy, and sex crime law. Faircloth chaired a Commission on sex crime law reform which led to substantive improvement in that area of law. Faircloth chaired an early childhood commission, as well as a Commission regarding the citizen initiative process.
In Maine Faircloth also had the idea for the Maine Discovery Museum and led the four-year project from concept to completion in 2001. Maine Discovery Museum was then the second largest children’s museum outside Boston of the twenty-five children’s museums in New England. Faircloth graduated from the University of Notre Dame and has a law degree from University of California Hastings College of the Law. Faircloth served as a state Assistant Attorney General, and as a lobbyist for the state bar association.
- A New Way of Thinking — Faircloth Interview – - – Point of Inquiry (richarddawkins.net)
- Q&A, Sean Faircloth on Secular Strategy, Romney & the Religious Right – Sean Faircloth – RichardDawkins.net (richarddawkins.net)
- [UPDATE 10-Feb - video Chapter 7] Sean Faircloth discusses his new book Attack of the Theocrats – Sean Faircloth – Pitchstone Publishing (richarddawkins.net)
- Attack of the Theocrats!: A Review and an Interview with Author Sean Faircloth (patheos.com)
- Universal Tolerance (atheistethicist.blogspot.com)
- Religious Bias in Public Schools (atheistethicist.blogspot.com)
Childhood religious grooming is unethical and can be emotionally abusive.
Logically, morally, humanely and scientifically, the debate on spanking is dead
10 Saturday Sep 2011
IN PUBLIC FORUMS on the internet, we have lively debates over whether Hitler was a hero or whether or not the holocaust ever occurred. We could also probably find a debate over whether slavery ever existed in the United States. We might even get an argument that the Earth is flat and always has been. And, given what has also yet to become common knowledge, we can still find arguments in favor of hitting young children as a form of punishment.
For example, those who developed through their formative years having adopted as a part of their belief system that adults hit children as an acceptable practice will take on this treatment of children as a belief not dissimilar to the religious beliefs they’ve adopted during this same stage of development. And, these are beliefs that tend to become deeply ingrained.
Those who happen to overcome and evolve beyond such irrational belief systems seem to be the exception to the rule. Sadly, it would seem that few children are able to avoid early childhood brainwashing to a particular religion or orientation. Typically, our little ones will buy into what we feed them lock, stock and barrel.
Herein lies the problem of change in the face of overwhelming evidence. Let’s liken this change to telling a grown man that his name is actually Archibald instead of Joe. Lot’s of luck. It’s going to take awhile, no doubt, and repeated efforts are in order.
So, once again, let’s try driving home the facts that carry with them the hope of breaking through just a few more of those bigoted obstacles still standing in the way of social progress.
To begin with, I feel it’s most important to make it very clearly known to any and all concerned that the debate on spanking within the scientific and academic communities is dead and has been for a number of years. The most substantial indicator of this development is evidenced by the fact that virtually every professional organization in the U.S. and Canada concerned with the care and treatment of children has taken a public stance against the practice of spanking.
Based on the overwhelming accumulation of research conducted over the past 50 plus years linking spanking to a number of risk factors, the professional consensus against this practice has grown to world-wide proportions … even to the extent that Sweden, Finland, Austria, Norway, Croatia, Denmark, Hungary, Israel, Cyprus, Netherlands, Bulgaria, Germany, Latvia, Iceland, Romania, Greece, New Zealand, Venezuela, Spain, Portugal, Chile, Uruguay, and Ukraine have all legislated total bans on spanking … with Italy, South Africa, Scotland, Canada, and Ireland apparently in the process of following suit. It should also be noted that every industrialized country in the world has banned spanking in schools. The evidence is in, and the evidence has found against the practice of spanking in a compellingly conclusive manner.
Just as one might find supportive views toward spanking being promoted (typically) on web sites sponsored by fundamentalist Christian sects, so can one find supportive views promoting Homophobia, Racism, Misogyny, and other “hate group” propaganda. Because the actual agendas of these sites are often deceptively disguised by organizational titles such as “Family Council”, “People’s Choice”, “Rights and Freedoms”, etc., people are forced to exercise a highly judicious discernment of the information being made available on the Internet. Some web surfers have had to learn the hard way that the Internet abounds with persuasive presentations of “facts and figures” that can prove to represent nothing more than religious, political, or philosophical attempts to spread self-serving misinformation.
Having spent over 30 years examining and evaluating the research on spanking children, I am able to state with a high degree of confidence that there has never been a peer-reviewed study that has been able to establish the efficacy of spanking as a means of long-term behavior modification; as an effective teaching modality; as an effective punishment or as a means of instilling self-discipline. Nor has there been published research findings in peer-reviewed professional journals that served to refute previous research. This previous research found spanking to be associated with a risk for undesirable emotional consequences; a risk for physical injury; a risk of counter-productive behavioral outcomes; a risk for the onset of dependence on external controls and a proclivity toward authority-directed behavior. Moreover, there has never been research data finding that spanking carries no risk to the quality of the parent-child relationship (and I should add that conservative editorial reviews of previous research findings do not constitute actual research, as is sometimes claimed to be the case).
Nevertheless, there are some spankers who will find reasons to dismiss, ignore, or discount the research findings of field conducted experimental studies related to the Social Sciences. It is especially these folks that I’d like to address concerning alarming new research findings which represent the most severe consequences of physical punishment yet discovered … while doing so in the form of documented scientific proof.*
These revelations have come through studies in brain research having provided Cat Scan images showing an abnormal lack of brain development (within the portion of the brain responsible for emotional functioning) in children who had been subject to spankings as a punitive measure. For the sake of sample homogeneity, the researchers chose subjects for their study that had been categorized as “abused” children. Common sense tells us that this does not eliminate the possibility of a lesser degree of brain damage occurring to spanked children who are subjected to a lesser degree of non-injurious violence. In other words, it would be ludicrous to assume that a child must first suffer bruises, cuts, or welts (or other injuries), before brain damage can take place as a result of the physical punishments. Rather, it is much more logical to deduce that acts of physical aggression toward young children can disrupt or prevent the optimal conditions necessary to facilitate a normal process of healthy brain development.
As far as I’m concerned, this new area of research (apparently not yet freely available on the Internet) represents the most compelling, undeniable reason that has yet been discovered to persuade parents to stop (or never start) striking their children as a punitive measure. And I hope any pro-spankers reading this feel the same way. It’s difficult to imagine any parent who would be willing to treat their child in a way that might carry even a remote risk of causing a measure of brain damage to their child.
In spite of having said all of that, we should not need research to end the practice of striking children any more than we needed research to end the practice of striking wives. As a society, there was no need for research findings to convince us of the harmful effects associated with the practice of wives being physically punished.
Instead, when society reached the point of being no longer willing to grant social tolerance to the tradition of husbands physically disciplining their wives, our decision to do so was based on our having progressed socially into the higher morality of a greater humanity. Perhaps, the next step in forward progress should come by way of reaching a decision to begin recognizing children as also being deserving of those same protections against being struck.
No longer do we see any adult members of our society remaining outside the jurisdiction of the protective laws once enjoyed by only the more privileged and “deserving” (namely white males who made the laws), regardless of race, gender, religion, ethnic group or sexual orientation. None of our adult citizens remain legally unprotected from being violated through harassment, threats, defamation, discrimination or being victimized by violence to any degree or form. So, given our heritage of bestowing a greater humanity upon those of a lower social status by welcoming them as our equals in the eyes of the law (in terms of violent treatment), would it be so out of character for us to also shelter the younger, weaker members of our society by allowing them to join those of us already sharing in the security and comfort of safety that is provided under the umbrella of legal protections from violence?
Bringing our little ones into the fold really doesn’t seem all that magnanimous if we keep in mind that we’ve already been willing to share the shelter of our umbrella of assault laws with even the most vicious of hardened adult criminals. After all, children are the very last segment of our shared human collective who still remain as fair game for being subjected to acts of physical aggression. We display a strange sense of priorities when we don’t allow the prison guard to break-out a paddle and start whacking away on the disobedient buttocks of a sociopathic death-row inmate who kills for the rush it gives him, yet we find helpless, defenseless young children deserving of such treatment.
We characterize corporal punishments of prison inmates as Cruel and Unusual Punishment, Guard Brutality and Aggravated Assault. And, should the physical punishments be repeated as a routine punitive measure, such treatment of prisoners would fall under the definition of torture.
Why would a murderous inmate be less subject to physical discipline than a helpless 3-year-old child?
Logically, morally, humanely and scientifically, the debate on spanking is dead … save for those who would object to further social progress.
As we evolve as a society, we have to keep in mind that historically there was a time when it was acceptable to legally own other people; a time when the mentally ill were generally considered to be possessed by evil spirits; a time when men legally shot each other in officiated duels; a time when public hangings were attended as a family outing complete with picnic basket; a time when public floggings were considered acceptable punishment; a time when it was a gentleman’s agreement that husbands should not beat their wives with a switch that was ‘bigger-round than your thumb’ (which later became known as ‘the rule of thumb’); and there was a time when there were no laws against parents severely beating their children (killing children was unacceptable, of course, but an occasional accidental maiming as a result of disciplinary measures was tolerated).
Obviously, we no longer permit these punishments. The time has come for us to further our level of social sophistication by coming to a general agreement that any degree of physical punishment used against children is as socially unacceptable and repugnant as those past violent behaviors we have chosen to put behind us.
by James C. Talbot
Author of The Road To Positive Discipline: A Parent’s Guide
2 thoughts on “The Debate on Spanking is Dead”
A powerful and compelling essay. I forwarded to all my social nets. They know by now how I feel about this issue and I have tried many times to express your ideas, but my prose comes nowhere near yours, James.
Imagine a new idea as vital as democracy.
Imagine a new idea as vital as democracy. Now imagine helping it spread quickly throughout the world! Child Honouring is one such idea, an idea whose time has come.
We invite you to be a part of the global movement that views honouring children as the best way to create sustainable, peacemaking societies.
The Centre for Child Honouring – on Salt Spring Island, BC, Canada – is a non-profit organization dedicated to advancing Child Honouring as a universal ethic, an organizing principle for societal transformation.
Child Honouring is a unique social change revolution, one with the child at its heart. It is a positive vision that stresses “the primacy of early years” as key to activating the powerful potential of our species.
Supporting the Earth Charter and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, A Covenant for Honouring Children is a poetic declaration of our duty to respect children, “to honour their caring ideals as the heart of being human”.
The Child Honouring principles offer a guide for living as conscious beings. They constitute the basis for a multi-faith consensus on societal renewal.
At this critical point in human history, we invite you to join the Centre’s work to co-create a vast change in the human paradigm.
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 Skepchick.org
“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 DescriptionIn 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.
- Martin Pribble’s Interview With Dan Barker (camelswithhammers.com)
- Dan Barker Interview – Prominent People Project (martinspribble.com)
- The Purpose-Driven Atheist (friendlyatheist.com)
- Book Review: Godless (spaninquis.wordpress.com)
- Robert Ingersoll: Prince of Atheists (new.exchristian.net)
- Hemant Mehta on Identifying Oneself as an Atheist (theperplexedobserver.blogspot.com)
- “Atheist v. Theist” – A Humanist’s Response (thehumanistchallenge.wordpress.com)
- The deity by any other name: Army resilience program gets a thumbs down from atheistsa (scientificamerican.com)
Lebanese Youth to Bring Down Confessional System
Protests sweeping the Middle East have given new impetus to Lebanese youths who have launched their own revolt on Facebook in a bid — albeit improbable — to bring down Lebanon’s confessional system.
Using slogans popularized by protesters in Tunisia and Egypt, several pages urging the Lebanese to bring down the Mediterranean country’s confessional “regime” or calling for a “day of wrath” against confessionalism, corruption and poverty have appeared recently on the social networking site.
“Lebanese youths, rise up against the oppression of this regime,” writes Mahmoud al-Khatib on www.facebook.com/lebrevolution, which has attracted more than 10,000 friends.
But observers and those behind the initiative say they are well aware that changing the system, in which most government and other posts are attributed according to religion rather than merit, will be a hard-won battle.
“The Lebanese are always boasting about their freedom and democracy as compared to other Arab countries,” said Hassan Chouman, a 24-year-old computer analyst in favor of change.
“But Arab countries each have one dictator whereas we have at least seven or eight,” he added, referring to the political leaders that rule in Lebanon and who represent the country’s various Christian and Muslim communities.
Contrary to other countries in the Middle East, Lebanon’s system of government is rooted in a 1943 power-sharing agreement adopted after the country won its independence from France.
Aimed at maintaining a balance between the 18 religious sects, the agreement calls for the president to be a Maronite Christian, the prime minister to be a Sunni Muslim and the speaker of parliament a Shiite Muslim.
Other government jobs are also allocated according to religious affiliation.
“In Lebanon, competence doesn’t stand for much,” said Ghassan al-Azzi, political science professor at Lebanese University. “The leader of each community appoints members of his clan to top posts which renders our public administration rotten.”
And changing such a system is a bigger challenge than bringing down a dictator, he said.
“Here in Lebanon, if you hold street protests, it is not clear who it would target, which institution, which group. There is nothing tangible,” Azzi added.
Religion plays such a major part in all aspects of Lebanese society that even secular politicians are forced to join the system if they wish to survive, he noted.
One Facebook message put it bluntly: “This movement is bound to fail unless each confession brings down its own leader,” it said.
Antoine Messarra, a member of the Constitutional Council, said change will not come through a revolution in Lebanon but rather step by step, through education and better ties between the state and its citizens.
“We shouldn’t settle for promises but must address the problem methodically,” he said.
But for some, the current wave of upheaval in the Arab world is reason to hope that change is possible, despite deep divisions in the country pitting a pro-Western camp against a Hezbollah bloc backed by Iran and Syria.
“The lesson to be drawn from the revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia is that we must put aside all our differences in favor of a common objective,” said Abu Reem, 39, administrator of the Facebook page titled “the Lebanese people want to bring down the confessional system.”
He said an open meeting would be held on March 6 in Beirut to plot out the next move after his page garnered more than 10,000 admirers.
“Nothing is impossible, even if it’s a long road ahead,” Abu Reem said.(AFP)
- Lebanese On Facebook Seek Change, Not Revolution (allfacebook.com)
- Hundreds protest Lebanon’s ‘sectarian’ government (sfgate.com)
- Hundreds protest Lebanon’s ‘sectarian’ government (foxnews.com)
- Hundreds protest Lebanon’s ‘sectarian’ government (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
- “Beirut – Hundreds Protest Lebanon’s ‘sectarian’ Government” and related posts (vosizneias.com)
- A Tour of Lebanon: A Quick Overview of The Nation of Lebanon, Plus a Recipe for Hommus as Lagniappe (trifter.com)
You cannot end the religious indoctrination of vulnerable children
People argue that parents and religious entities will not cease the practice of preying on vulnerable children to maintain their tribes. Religious indoctrination of children has been going on for centuries and is a universal phenomenon. Like child battering, it is a syndrome protected by an extensive protective meme complex. Parents were most likely indoctrinated, making them excellent practitioners of childhood religious grooming. They know all the techniques and evasions to use on their own kids. Likewise, adults who were physically punished will strenuously defend this cruel treatment and turn around and physically punish their own children.
- Salvation is not a legitimate argument for indoctrinating children (endhereditaryreligion.com)
- Who Cares About Atheists? (camelswithhammers.com)
- Quiverfull Atheists (dangeroustalk.net)
- Questions for Those Raising Their Kids Without Religion (atheistrev.com)
- Indoctrinating Children In a Religious Faith is Abusive (atheistrev.com)
- “Aha!” Moments (new.exchristian.net)
Children as property of parents
Historically, children were considered the property of parents. Under the scheme of patriarchy wives and children are under the control of the family head, the husband of the family. Much of this hoary antiquated thinking is still promoted by far right conservatives and the vestiges of ancient thinking die hard.
Today, children are persons in their own right and modern progressives recognize the personhood of children. Children have the right to grow up free of debilitating dogmatic superstitious thinking. Instead parents and communities must encourage children to think critically and determine their own path through life to suit themselves.
Authoritarian parents view the autonomy of children as threats to their antiquated way of life. Anachronistic groups like the dominionist inspired and led Parentalrights.org want to seal off the family from the state to avoid heretical ideals like children’s rights or the emancipation of women creeping in. They advocate a constitutional amendment to protect what they call parental rights, but are really restraints aimed at the protection of the antiquated system of patriarchy. This is why they emphasize the taboo of non-interference in family matters (a strong meme). The goal is really to keep patriarchy going and ward off any progressive moves that would liberate wives and children.
You have to put your hands together
We had a lovely gentle chat today,
about being unknowingly led to pray.
“You have to put your hands together,
hold them up like this. Say thank you,
to ..a mystified look.. for the food we eat.”
My son is only four, he does not properly know
how to say the word ‘God’ or ‘Lord’ let alone know
what it means – why ever should he know?
I say to him as he shows to me,
it is just a thing you do in school,
a quiet time. A time to join in,
… but to think for yourself.
Take that time, as I used to in school
to quietly think for myself.
Quietly, calmly – every day.
It tastes insidious. Positively poisonous -
To the loving of all of life …
I tell him about all the dinosaurs, animals, the sharks,
fossils and his poster of the “Tree of Life” topped
by a man … Charles Darwin.
Are we, two-ways, drawing a child’s keen attention
across a forever riven world? So it is and so it is, all ways
given to all – ways of knowing, thinking, deeply feeling
revealing. There is no choice, in truth,
rejoicing, praising, singing …
“Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Praise ‘er Claude!
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Praise ‘er Claude!
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Praise ‘er Claude!
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Praise ‘er Claude!”
“Claude?” I ask, but he does not know …
… he trusts, as he trusts “Bob the Builder” to be
innocent, educating, exuberant and funny, only words.
He does not know.
I explain that ‘some people’ look up to a someone -
a kind of person or man … a “god” – up in the sky.
A man who made everything, who looks down on us
and everything – and who looks after all things.
I tell him his Baba does not agree, or believe in this man,
that he does not need to worry or take it too seriously,
there is no big plan or anyone looking over,
no laws or orders from anywhere other than ourselves.
So, just take that nice quiet time
to think to yourself,
and think for yourself.
by Gareth Rosser
Thanks Gareth for permission to publish your work. You can read more of this poet’s work here:
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