Bipolar Christianity: How Torturing ‘Sinful’ Children Produced Holy Wars

Lloyd deMause

Lloyd deMause

From Chapter 9 of Lloyd deMause’s The Origins of War in Child Abuse:

After half a century of primary source research into the history of childrearing, I and over a hundred other childhood historians have been unable to find a single mother who did not badly beat and torture their children prior to modern times. I have long offered a prize to anyone who could find actual evidence of just one mother prior to the 18th century who would not today be thrown into jail for badly abusing their children.

The occasional reformers, like Saint Anselm, who sometimes questioned whether whipping children “day and night” was wise, did not raise any children themselves because they were ascetic. Despite the fact that Jesus nowhere says children should be beaten, Christians taught that He wanted them to beat the sins out of them continuously, from birth. Actually, the main reference Jesus makes to children was “suffer little children to come unto me … and he laid his hands on them — that is, he exorcised the bad spirits out of them.”

The central rule of Christians toward children is simply never to give the child anything it wants. “Willfulness” was the cardinal sin, and the words “I want” were “impermissible” for which children were punished severely. Even babies had to be taught the only thing that mattered was what the adults wanted; as John Wesley put it, “Never, on any account, give a child anything that it cries for … If you give a child what he cries for, you pay him for crying.” That beating and torturing “sinful” children usually “did not work” was acknowledged by all — as one mother wrote of her first battle with her four-month-old infant: “I whipped him until he was actually black and blue, and until I could not whip him any more, and he never gave up one single inch.” If the parents’ regular beating of their children still did not result in obedience, the child should be “put to death [if they] curse or smite their father or mother,” according for instance to a 1646 Massachusetts law. The only restriction sometimes mentioned by priests was that children should not be hit “about the face and head with fire shovels … hit him upon the sides with the rod, he shall not die thereof.”

If you want to believe deMause is making stuff up, don’t read the complete chapter because it has footnotes for almost everything (232, to be exact).

For comparison, here’s what deMause has to say about Islam.

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  • http://www.thenonbeliever.com The NonBeliever

    “He who spareth the rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him correcteth him betimes” (Proverbs 13:24) and “Withhold not correction from a child: for if thou strike him with the rod, he shall not die. Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and deliver his soul from hell.” (Proverbs 23:13-14)

    • YourNameHere

      Exactly.

    • Alturn

      That’s why Jesus came – to give a new dispensation. The challenge is the Christian Church overlooks the New Testament when there is something convenient in the Old Testament that allows them to do something Jesus would condone.

      • DeepCough

        And yet it was the torturous crucifixion of Jesus that nevertheless inspires Christians to beat their children out of the belief that the infliction of pain is as godly as it is civilized.

        • David Frost

          No, discipline is good because it leads to self discipline. which if you have ever been in the military, seriously studied classical music, or played sports you can understand why that is a good thing. That and the way kids act these days scares the life out of me. So punishment isn’t about inflicting pain, it is about ensuring that they develop into well behaved self disciplined adults that stay out of prison and go far in life and end up very happy because of all that. Physical punishment just seams more effective than time outs, at least some of the time. Read about the “Behavioral Approach” to psychotherapy and you will understand what I am talking about. You essentially change a persons behavior by punishing bad behavior and rewarding good behavior. A person that doesn’t know how to act messes their own life up so I pity people like that.

          • Andrew

            He wasn’t talking about discipline, he was talking about violence. Punishment is necessary to make people fit in to society (if that sounds a bit collectivist, it is), but studies have shown that even spanking can warp the development of a child’s brain. In order to lead to self-discipline, discipline needs to be educative–that is, it needs to be rational, explained, and reliable, not emotional and violent. Striking a child only teaches them that might makes right.

          • David Frost

            I agree that that doesn’t need to be a the first thing a person turns to punishment, but sometimes kids are a bit hard headed and you have to do what you have to do…beats having them turn into a delinquent.

            Philosophically I’m a weird mix of my belief system, military experiences, classical music background, and individualist philosophy, vegan-straight edge views, and marginal art and experimental music stuff…To me having a kid that tries too hard to fit in is as much a disrespect toward me as if they were a delinquent of some sort.

          • Andrew

            Read up on recent neurological studies. You don’t have to do what you think you sometimes have to do, and it has the opposite effect you think it does. If you don’t want your kid to be a delinquent or to try too hard to fit in, never, ever hit them.

          • David Frost

            I’ve read about those. The thing I worry about with that is that it doesn’t match my life experiences very well. I got physically punished and so did a lot of people I know, we all grew up to be very civilized people that do our own thing and don’t give other people a hard time. It’s the roughest and most intrusive people I’ve met that always seam to come from these super lax families that the parents were like their best buddies and less disciplinarian than parents like mine were.

          • Andrew

            I wish to remain respectful and not engage in ad hominem, but based on your other posts I’m not convinced you don’t try to fit in or give people hard times (e.g., you seem to spend a lot of time defending religion and other conventions here) and are as non-violent (e.g., it seems you hit your kids) as you think you are. I might be wrong, but you might want to reexamine your perception of your life experiences. And I say that not to imply moral superiority, but as someone who has similar problems (except I only hit children while I myself was a child) and comes from a similar background.

          • David Frost

            I don’t think of myself as perfect or even morally superior, I just have a low tolerance for people that would love to come into my life and change me, most of which have to do with the fact that I have seen a great deal of that. I never was a violent or aggressive kid, I ended up as a pretty angry adult because the older I get the more tired and frustrated with things I become. I don’t have kids yet but hopefully soon I will. Most of my philosophical views are along the lines of stuff like this;

            I used to drink with friends but hated the way it made me feel and it aggravated my migraines, and so I stopped

            I used to smoke cigarettes, but they aggravated my health issues horribly and aggravated my migraines so I stopped

            I’ve tried weed a couple of times and hated the way it made me feel, so I don’t do it

            I used to eat like a normal person but got fat and ended up with severely high blood pressure, so I had to correct the problem

            Church makes me happy and makes more sense to me than most of this psychobabble secular life had to offer, true I might have not liked church at one point and instead looked to my studies in psychology while I was in my first years of college to solve all my problems, but it didn’t and then stuff really hit the fan worse than ever. I came out of it all with plenty of faith in God after all that.

            I like to learn a great deal and spent almost all my life in some sort of school even as an adult who works full time, so one institution that I am very deeply defensive over is the education system, from pre-K and early learning to doctoral studies in college.

            The military took me from being an overly emotionally sensitive person with no self esteem or sense of accomplishment and turned me into something far greater, I think I am forever in their debt for that.

            I love classical music because all I ever heard growing up was country, blues, and classic rock. Classical music and flamenco guitar are very beautiful forms of music and I love them. The first time I heard classical guitar music I was moved to tears by it and didn’t stop crying for about four hours. I was obsessed with it after that. As much as I love self discipline, self control, and motivation, it fit my personality perfectly too. The only problem is, I love technology and effects a lot and am most comfortable in a studio rather than on a stage, and am quiet a collector of things that deal with that, so thats why I also do the other styles I do.

            So all and all I am still very much an individualist, but being an individualist is synonymous to being a non-conformist, and what makes a non-conformist is that, unlike conformists and anti-conformists, there is no collective anything. Someone like me does what makes sense to them and them alone, completely oblivious to what the rest of the world cares about. And that also my biggest issue with the “New Atheist” movement, you all seem overly concerned with things that make me want to vomit, like pop culture, celebrity, and cultural relativism. It like your rebelling in mass, lock step with everyone else like that, with absolutely no free will of your own. What that reminds me of is people that first move out of their parents house and they consider themselves to be rebelling “individuals” even though they act exactly the same as most everyone else, past or present, that got away from home for the first time. You know what I did when I first got out of my parents house? I stockpiled books and also went to two different libraries most every day. I focused on music and stockpiled equipment for that as well. I didn’t even have a TV until I got married and kept a phone only if I was between jobs so employers could reach me, then I would have it cut off, I’ve never had a cell phone and don’t really want one, not for financial issues but because I just like to be left alone. I’d go to the park to use wireless internet, before that I used the computers in the college’s library. I rarely went to parties, instead I went to marginal arts events for socializing. I might go to church but I’m very quiet there so its best not to think of that as a social thing. I used my musical abilities and deep conversation to meet women when I didn’t have a girlfriend. That is way better that getting with a drunk chick at a party. I think I was being pretty rebellious because my parents hated the way I lived and most of their friends seamed to as well, but the interesting thing is a lot of people I went to college with hated me for not being like them as well. So thats what it is to be a true non-conformist.

  • http://www.thenonbeliever.com The NonBeliever

    “He who spareth the rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him correcteth him betimes” (Proverbs 13:24) and “Withhold not correction from a child: for if thou strike him with the rod, he shall not die. Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and deliver his soul from hell.” (Proverbs 23:13-14)

  • YourNameHere

    Exactly.

  • Alturn

    The more things change, the more they stay the same. Instead of whipping our own children, we let children the world over starve. And in many places, bomb their homes. In the name of being a Christian nation. This type of past conditioning creates the patterns that substantiates wars and oppression while keeping us in fear from welcoming Those who could help us create a more beautiful world based on Love, compassion and harmlessness.

    “My Brothers, the Masters of Wisdom, are scheduled to make Their group Return to the everyday world. As Their Leader, I, as one of Them, do likewise. Many there are throughout the world who call Me, beg for My Return. I answer their pleas. Many more are hungry and perish needlessly, for want of the food which lies rotting in the storehouses of the world. Many need My help in other ways: as Teacher, Protector; as Friend and Guide. It is as aIl of these I come.”
    – Messages from Maitreya the Christ

  • Alturn

    The more things change, the more they stay the same. Instead of whipping our own children, we let children the world over starve. And in many places, bomb their homes. In the name of being a Christian nation. This type of past conditioning creates the patterns that substantiates wars and oppression while keeping us in fear from welcoming Those who could help us create a more beautiful world based on Love, compassion and harmlessness.

    “My Brothers, the Masters of Wisdom, are scheduled to make Their group Return to the everyday world. As Their Leader, I, as one of Them, do likewise. Many there are throughout the world who call Me, beg for My Return. I answer their pleas. Many more are hungry and perish needlessly, for want of the food which lies rotting in the storehouses of the world. Many need My help in other ways: as Teacher, Protector; as Friend and Guide. It is as aIl of these I come.”
    – Messages from Maitreya the Christ

  • Alturn

    That’s why Jesus came – to give a new dispensation. The challenge is the Christian Church overlooks the New Testament when there is something convenient in the Old Testament that allows them to do something Jesus would condone.

  • DeepCough

    And yet it was the torturous crucifixion of Jesus that nevertheless inspires Christians to beat their children out of the belief that the infliction of pain is as godly as it is civilized.

  • mrtastycakes

    I agree that abused children often become abusive adults. But don’t blame Jesus.

    “Actually, the main reference Jesus makes to children was “suffer little children to come unto me … and he laid his hands on them — that is, he exorcised the bad spirits out of them.””

    The footnotes site “Matt. 19:13-15.” What it actually say?

    “Then little children were brought to Jesus, that He might put His hands on them and pray; but the disciples rebuked those who brought them. But He said, Leave the children alone! Allow the little ones to come to Me, and do not forbid or restrain or hinder them, for of such [as these] is the kingdom of heaven composed. And He put His hands upon them, and then went on His way.” (AMP)

    Quite a bit different. Having a ton of footnotes doesn’t make you infallible.

    • Andrew

      Citing the Bible doesn’t make anyone infallible.

      • David Frost

        I think the Bible it’s self is infallible

        • Andrew

          I don’t.

    • mrtastycakes

      Absolutely. But that’s not what I was talking about. Altering a quote to better fit a thesis makes the author, at very least, a douchebag. More citations =/= better argument. False citations = fraud.

      • mrtastycakes

        Eh, I should probably be more lenient–could be a typo, or citing some bizarro bible version.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=580380351 Potter Dee

      do consdier that he is probably using a different bible translation and he could very well be properly quoting that foolish book

  • mrtastycakes

    I agree that abused children often become abusive adults. But don’t blame Jesus.

    “Actually, the main reference Jesus makes to children was “suffer little children to come unto me … and he laid his hands on them — that is, he exorcised the bad spirits out of them.””

    The footnotes site “Matt. 19:13-15.” What it actually say?

    “Then little children were brought to Jesus, that He might put His hands on them and pray; but the disciples rebuked those who brought them. But He said, Leave the children alone! Allow the little ones to come to Me, and do not forbid or restrain or hinder them, for of such [as these] is the kingdom of heaven composed. And He put His hands upon them, and then went on His way.” (AMP)

    Quite a bit different. Having a ton of footnotes doesn’t make you infallible.

  • Andrew

    Citing the Bible doesn’t make anyone infallible.

  • mrtastycakes

    Absolutely. But that’s not what I was talking about. Altering a quote to better fit a thesis makes the author, at very least, a douchebag. More citations =/= better argument. False citations = fraud.

  • mrtastycakes

    Eh, I should probably be more lenient–could be a typo, or citing some bizarro bible version.

  • David Frost

    No, discipline is good because it leads to self discipline. which if you have ever been in the military, seriously studied classical music, or played sports you can understand why that is a good thing. That and the way kids act these days scares the life out of me. So punishment isn’t about inflicting pain, it is about ensuring that they develop into well behaved self disciplined adults that stay out of prison and go far in life and end up very happy because of all that. Physical punishment just seams more effective than time outs, at least some of the time. Read about the “Behavioral Approach” to psychotherapy and you will understand what I am talking about. You essentially change a persons behavior by punishing bad behavior and rewarding good behavior. A person that doesn’t know how to act messes their own life up so I pity people like that.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=580380351 Potter Dee

    do consdier that he is probably using a different bible translation and he could very well be properly quoting that foolish book

  • Jordan

    “as one mother wrote of her first battle with her four-month-old infant”

    Yeah, that’ll teach him to want.

  • Jordan

    “as one mother wrote of her first battle with her four-month-old infant”

    Yeah, that’ll teach him to want.

  • Andrew

    He wasn’t talking about discipline, he was talking about violence. Punishment is necessary to make people fit in to society (if that sounds a bit collectivist, it is), but studies have shown that even spanking can warp the development of a child’s brain. In order to lead to self-discipline, discipline needs to be educative–that is, it needs to be rational, explained, and reliable, not emotional and violent. Striking a child only teaches them that might makes right.

  • David Frost

    I agree that that doesn’t need to be a the first thing a person turns to punishment, but sometimes kids are a bit hard headed and you have to do what you have to do…beats having them turn into a delinquent.

    Philosophically I’m a weird mix of my belief system, military experiences, classical music background, and individualist philosophy, vegan-straight edge views, and marginal art and experimental music stuff…To me having a kid that tries too hard to fit in is as much a disrespect toward me as if they were a delinquent of some sort.

  • Andrew

    Read up on recent neurological studies. You don’t have to do what you think you sometimes have to do, and it has the opposite effect you think it does. If you don’t want your kid to be a delinquent or to try too hard to fit in, never, ever hit them.

  • David Frost

    I’ve read about those. The thing I worry about with that is that it doesn’t match my life experiences very well. I got physically punished and so did a lot of people I know, we all grew up to be very civilized people that do our own thing and don’t give other people a hard time. It’s the roughest and most intrusive people I’ve met that always seam to come from these super lax families that the parents were like their best buddies and less disciplinarian than parents like mine were.

  • Andrew

    I wish to remain respectful and not engage in ad hominem, but based on your other posts I’m not convinced you don’t try to fit in or give people hard times (e.g., you seem to spend a lot of time defending religion and other conventions here) and are as non-violent (e.g., it seems you hit your kids) as you think you are. I might be wrong, but you might want to reexamine your perception of your life experiences. And I say that not to imply moral superiority, but as someone who has similar problems (except I only hit children while I myself was a child) and comes from a similar background.

  • Payrollpinky

    I think the point that is missed here and has been said in many a church is that a good chastizing is what is usaully in order. Correct your kid the way you see fit, a beating on the behind usually did me good when I stepped out of line or a good lecture. For the people out there that dont punish there child in any meanigful way, will pay the price later in life when the child realy rebels. Whip that ass if you have too!

  • Payrollpinky

    I think the point that is missed here and has been said in many a church is that a good chastizing is what is usaully in order. Correct your kid the way you see fit, a beating on the behind usually did me good when I stepped out of line or a good lecture. For the people out there that dont punish there child in any meanigful way, will pay the price later in life when the child realy rebels. Whip that ass if you have too!

    • Andrew

      “a beating on the behind usually did me good when I stepped out of line”

      That’s called internalization of abuse, and is necessary for totalitarianism to work..

  • Andrew

    “a beating on the behind usually did me good when I stepped out of line”

    That’s called internalization of abuse, and is necessary for totalitarianism to work..

  • Andrew

    “a beating on the behind usually did me good when I stepped out of line”

    That’s called internalization of abuse, and is necessary for totalitarianism to work..

  • justagirl

    i would bet that most of the people in the prison system have had the shit kicked out of them as youths. think about what drives a parent to put a violent hand on their child… the answer you find may be repulsive. there are other more “civilized” and proactive ways to punish a child for bad behavior.

  • justagirl

    i would bet that most of the people in the prison system have had the shit kicked out of them as youths. think about what drives a parent to put a violent hand on their child… the answer you find may be repulsive. there are other more “civilized” and proactive ways to punish a child for bad behavior.

  • David Frost

    I don’t think of myself as perfect or even morally superior, I just have a low tolerance for people that would love to come into my life and change me, most of which have to do with the fact that I have seen a great deal of that. I never was a violent or aggressive kid, I ended up as a pretty angry adult because the older I get the more tired and frustrated with things I become. I don’t have kids yet but hopefully soon I will. Most of my philosophical views are along the lines of stuff like this;

    I used to drink with friends but hated the way it made me feel and it aggravated my migraines, and so I stopped

    I used to smoke cigarettes, but they aggravated my health issues horribly and aggravated my migraines so I stopped

    I’ve tried weed a couple of times and hated the way it made me feel, so I don’t do it

    I used to eat like a normal person but got fat and ended up with severely high blood pressure, so I had to correct the problem

    Church makes me happy and makes more sense to me than most of this psychobabble secular life had to offer, true I might have not liked church at one point and instead looked to my studies in psychology while I was in my first years of college to solve all my problems, but it didn’t and then stuff really hit the fan worse than ever. I came out of it all with plenty of faith in God after all that.

    I like to learn a great deal and spent almost all my life in some sort of school even as an adult who works full time, so one institution that I am very deeply defensive over is the education system, from pre-K and early learning to doctoral studies in college.

    The military took me from being an overly emotionally sensitive person with no self esteem or sense of accomplishment and turned me into something far greater, I think I am forever in their debt for that.

    I love classical music because all I ever heard growing up was country, blues, and classic rock. Classical music and flamenco guitar are very beautiful forms of music and I love them. The first time I heard classical guitar music I was moved to tears by it and didn’t stop crying for about four hours. I was obsessed with it after that. As much as I love self discipline, self control, and motivation, it fit my personality perfectly too. The only problem is, I love technology and effects a lot and am most comfortable in a studio rather than on a stage, and am quiet a collector of things that deal with that, so thats why I also do the other styles I do.

    So all and all I am still very much an individualist, but being an individualist is synonymous to being a non-conformist, and what makes a non-conformist is that, unlike conformists and anti-conformists, there is no collective anything. Someone like me does what makes sense to them and them alone, completely oblivious to what the rest of the world cares about. And that also my biggest issue with the “New Atheist” movement, you all seem overly concerned with things that make me want to vomit, like pop culture, celebrity, and cultural relativism. It like your rebelling in mass, lock step with everyone else like that, with absolutely no free will of your own. What that reminds me of is people that first move out of their parents house and they consider themselves to be rebelling “individuals” even though they act exactly the same as most everyone else, past or present, that got away from home for the first time. You know what I did when I first got out of my parents house? I stockpiled books and also went to two different libraries most every day. I focused on music and stockpiled equipment for that as well. I didn’t even have a TV until I got married and kept a phone only if I was between jobs so employers could reach me, then I would have it cut off, I’ve never had a cell phone and don’t really want one, not for financial issues but because I just like to be left alone. I’d go to the park to use wireless internet, before that I used the computers in the college’s library. I rarely went to parties, instead I went to marginal arts events for socializing. I might go to church but I’m very quiet there so its best not to think of that as a social thing. I used my musical abilities and deep conversation to meet women when I didn’t have a girlfriend. That is way better that getting with a drunk chick at a party. I think I was being pretty rebellious because my parents hated the way I lived and most of their friends seamed to as well, but the interesting thing is a lot of people I went to college with hated me for not being like them as well. So thats what it is to be a true non-conformist.

  • David Frost

    I think the Bible it’s self is infallible

  • Andrew

    I don’t.

  • guest

    Why is everything negative called bipolar? 

  • guest

    Why is everything negative called bipolar? 

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