In one of the interminable threads that devolved into endless discussions of pedophilia a couple of months ago, I raised an academic question about whether those who were commenting could come up with a reason why pedophilia was "wrong" without relying on a Judeo-Christian cultural context.   The history, I argued, was that in Greece and to a lesser extent in Rome, pedophilia in some forms was culturally acceptable; only those pesky Christians managed to radically change the culture.

For me it was just an academic speculation, but apparently I was much closer than I had ever considered possible.

In a recent interview with the Times magazine, Richard Dawkins attempted to defend what he called “mild pedophilia,” which, he says, he personally experienced as a young child and does not believe causes “lasting harm.”

Dawkins went on to say that one of his former school masters “pulled me on his knee and put his hand inside my shorts,” and that to condemn this “mild touching up” as sexual abuse today would somehow be unfair.


Child welfare experts responded to Dawkins’ remarks with outrage — and concern over their effect on survivors of abuse.


I'm just curious what people think?   Even in the midst of the groping, fondling, and raping of kids, and hiding/covering up of the crimes which occurred among clergy of my faith, it was exceptionally rare that anyone actually tried to condone it as being harmless. 

Tags: Dawkins, Richard, pedophilia

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I tend to both agree and disagree with Dawkins. On the one hand, Pedophilia is put up on a pedestal along with genocide, cannibalism, and disembowelment, you know, the worst thing you could possibly do to another human being. If we're going to examine this argument closely, (and likely ad nauseam *exasperated sigh*) Then we have to admit that sex, no matter who is involved as long as no physical harm is done, (The kind in which Dawkins is supposedly defending) is not the worst thing you can do to someone. Does that make it right? NO. But it doesn't warrant the hammer of god being dropped on the perp's balls either. Mandatory therapy would be an appropriate response to a Michael Jackson level of pedophilia.

Mandatory institutionalization in a maximum security psych ward would be appropriate for a Catholic level of pedophilia.

That was how I agree with Dawkins. I disagree with him when it comes to the victim. This is because it's up to the victims to decide how badly this experience is going to mess up their lives. Dawkins apparently subscribes to the philosophy that if it's in the past and no real harm was done, then I'll just go on about my life. That's fine! You don't have to live like a rape victim for the rest of your life, it's okay to be normal after an experience like that, if you can put it behind you. If you can't, then don't. Get therapy to work out how it makes you feel.

I'm sick of people who are not in any way, shape, or form involved with the event effectively labeling the perpetrator as a cannibalistic demon, and the victim as a blind, mute paraplegic. The first is mentally ill, and the second is a fucking human being, let them decide where to go after that.

@Dr. Bob I'm really sick and tired of the lengths that you go to to stir up the hive. It really casts a bad reflection on you. Go ahead, ask an evocative question, we'd be all too happy to debate with you. But please try to refrain from making a B-line straight to the hot button topics that you know will simply piss people off. I predict that this thread will quickly deteriorate into a bunch of hateful rants and stupid jokes at your expense. You really are better than this.

Sexual abuse leaves scars that never heal.

This may be true, but you don't beat yourself up for the rest of your life for a little paper-cut scar. This is the kind of scar left by the very low level abuse that Dawkins experienced. Basically, it left a feeling of being yucky in his mind as a child, and then he simply left it behind and got on with his life. Perhaps it would have been different had he been bent over a table and raped until he bled, but he got off with a little feel up. While they're both wrong to do to a child, you can't say that they are both the same level of wrong.

I don't "defend Dawkins just because he's Dawkins" I defend what he says because it's logical. Nobody's suggesting that we shrug off a case of pedophilia, It's just that most people believe that any act of pedophilia deserves the worst punishment available, and this reaction is not based in logic.

The worst thing that Michael Jackson was ever accused of was gently masturbating a child under the sheets as he slept. Yes, this is wrong, I'm not contesting that. But this act is not deserving of life imprisonment or death.

The worst a Catholic priest was accused of resulted in the death of several kids. This does warrant imprisonment, and possibly several large doses of Thorazine.

Stating that all acts of pedophilia are the same level of wrong is like stating that a Jaywalker deserves the same punishment as someone who Kills eight people because they were driving drunk. That punishment only fits the worst level of that crime, and a Jaywalker doesn't deserve that.

Michael Jackson required therapy, not incarceration and incineration like most people claim.

But you're thinking about it from the stance of the victim.

Of course I'm thinking about this from the stance of the victim. I wasn't involved. We don't shrug the incident off, but we also don't treat the victim like they're made of glass either. If it was just a simple event and there was no harm to it, then as the victim, you need to let it the fuck go. It will eat you alive if you don't. If there was physical harm to it, then do what you need to do.

I know I sound harsh, but that's logic for you. It doesn't hold your hand, it just shows you the right way to go. And that's all we can really ask for.

The victim should always report it, of course. They shouldn't get away. But the punishment has to fit the crime too. Some of these guys just need some therapy, because they were victims once too. The majority of pedophiles are NOT murderers, and don't even physically harm the children. It's still mentally damaging, and it needs to be stopped, but it's outrageous to think that they all need to be fried on the evening news.

Dawkins' argument comes from the point of view of the victim. Mine comes from the point of view of the public (not the justice system).

I believe that you're exaggerating here. If this were true we would be successful in incarcerating more pedophiles instead of letting them off scott free. Do you have any idea how hard it is to actually GET a conviction of child sexual abuse

I'm not exaggerating. Most Judges are good at putting their emotions aside, which is why the conviction rate is lower than 100%. But I work with the general public, while they're not paying attention to me. I'm a courtesy clerk at a grocery store. People bitch about all kinds of things within earshot of me, and whenever there's a child rape story in the papers, the conviction rate of the Public is 100% fire and brimstone. Luckily for the victims of certain lying, spiteful children, the Justice System isn't easily swayed by emotion. Many people are on the list because some kids use it as a weapon, because they don't like mom's new boyfriend.

I don't agree. There are levels of pedophilia like there are levels of being gay. Even rapists are different. Though violation of a person in any way is not a moral act, a single transgression of someone who does a wrong is not the same as someone who intentions are different.

I'll go make some popcorn.

Are you seriously going to reference homosexuality in the same sentence as paedophilia? 

Where have you been for the last decade? 

Unseen, you be sure to put extra butter on my popcorn. It's going to get salty up in here.

I am not in the habit of ranking dissimilar acts, but I really wouldn't set cannibalism apart. If someone kills me then they kill me. It could be excruciating or swift. What they do with my body after may violate society's sensitivities, and perhaps disturb my family, but as the direct victim, it makes no real difference to me.

Then we have to admit that sex, no matter who is involved as long as no physical harm is done, (The kind in which Dawkins is supposedly defending) is not the worst thing you can do to someone. 

Setting aside litotic statements, there are too many variables beyond the physical to settle on such a statement. In a non-consensual scenario where there is a significant disparity in power, then even sexual activity which does no significant physical hard has the potential to seed rather deep feelings of helplessness, shame, and mistrust. This, in less mild terms, is what I have been told by more than one person who has experienced it directly. I don't pretend they represent the entirety of experiences by any stretch of the imagination, but having been shown just the tip of the iceberg, it seems to me that the damages can be quite severe and potentially worse than the purely physical aspects.

I didn't say that the victims feel like that, I said that the onlookers act like that's what the victims are, and it pisses me off when that happens. It's up to the victim and whoever the victim chooses to rely on, and the crowd of gawkers needs to disperse.


I'm also very disappointed with him for making that ridiculous and irresponsible comment.

If he thinks that it didn't affect him then he is delusional.

Maybe we need a book titled "Dawkins Delusions about Mild Pedophilia"

even calling it "mild" is irresponsible.

He claims that "mild" pedophilia is harmless yet he would say that mild religious indoctrination is harmful. I think he's going mad.

I've always been suspicious that RD has a serious "empathy deficit".

Now I know where and how he lost it.


He claims that "mild" pedophilia is harmless yet he would say that mild religious indoctrination is harmful. I think he's going mad.

That is a tad worrisome. I wouldn't call it mad, but it's certainly not rational. As for being short on empathy, I have also noticed this trait, which somewhat limits his ability to effectively serve as a role model and leader that new atheists could fully embrace. 


"short on empathy,I have also noticed this trait,"

Im glad others are begining to notice it.


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