I haven't created a topic for a while, but I have wanted to tackle this argument for such a long time. I do not really understand why many people on this forum are so hostile to religion; perhaps their emotions prevent them from being objective?
Does Religion brainwash people? I used to say 'Of course not!' but the difinition of brain washing is this: "forcible indoctrination into a new set of attitudes and beliefs" and I would say that religion does brainwash its believers, to a degree. We first have to ask the question 'is brain washing such a bad thing?'
Education brainwashes us to accept and believe things also, let me give you an example:
Teacher: In the Pacific we have a country called Japan, Tokyo, the capital city has over 20 million people.
Student: How do you know Japan exists?
Teacher: I have read about it and seen pictures
Student: So you have not seen Japan before?
Student: And you do not know anyone who has seen or been to Japan?
Student: Then why should we believe you?
(Now the student has dared to question the teacher's authority and the teacher will be quick to tell him that he is wrong and the teacher is always right).
Why does a student believe x? Because his teacher tells him so; not because he has any tangible evidence.
(You may argue that we have evidence for Japan's existence, but I am talking about a child who does not always understand the difference between empirical and metaphysical evidence).
So religion brainwashes kids, just like education does.
This sought of brainwashing can be challenged. For example, most of you come from a religious background, and if you were successfully brainwashed you would not of left your religion.
However, what does brainwash people is society; it brainwashes you to eat with a fork, instead of chopsticks. To think to be beautiful you have to whiter, instead of darker (which is ugly). It brainwashes you with saying 'thank you' after someone gives you a gift.
Dare I say, if my parents brainwashed me, it was definitely my manners and the way I spoke. Most children do not challenge the idea of a God, so parents do not invest a lot of time in telling them that God is real; God is real and that is an accepted fact. But manners are a tricky thing and may take a few wooden spoons to get the idea that saying 'please' is good idea.
I was never in trouble for my beliefs in God; I accepted what my parents thought!
I would like to show a list of my beliefs which I believed from 5-10 years of age:
1. 6 day creation was a fact
2. Homosexuals are going to 'hell' (Being a SDA we do not believe in a typical type of hell)
3. Non-Sabbath keepers are going to hell
4. SDA's had the full truth
5. The Catholic church is evil
6. I was going to be a prohpet (Yes, that is what I actually wanted to be, of course I kept that to myself, mostly)
7. That a devil existed (Now I am not too sure)
8. That it was a sin to do anything on the Sabbath, and one had to wear a suit
9. That it was a sin to eat pork
10. The Bible should be read literally
11. The Adventist's interpretation of Revelation and Daniel is correct
12. It is a sin to drink
All 12 beliefs I had, I no longer have anymore, most of these were central pillars in my belief system, and yet today I do not believe in them.
So yes religion does brainwash people, but just like education, and does not successfully brainwash people and certain ideas and beliefs can be readily challenged.
Brainwashing is a loaded word, just like propaganda and semitism.
Propaganda, originally, meant to propagate information. It had no negative connotation. The negative connotation that propaganda is propagating lies is new to the 20th century when Stalin and Hitler used conventional media and educational tools to propagate lies.
Same with semitism. We Westerners are all semites, all Muslims are semites. But Hitler started using semites to describe Jews only (because he was a moron) and so now we're stuck with this stupid notion that anything anti-Israel is anti-semitism, which is essentially ridiculous. Why would we want to use Hitler's definition instead of the scientific definition???
The same issues of perspective can be said of brainwashing. Brainwashing uses FEAR to inculcate a certain thought pattern. Education should not be about inculcating any certain thought pattern. The very essence of the word university was meant to express that having a university education should expand the mind not limit it to the vision of any one person or group, which is what brainwashing does.
Mind you, there are certainly some schools who could be accused of brainwashing, and their incidence may way be on the increase in the USA under the form of charter schools with do aim to enlighten students but to train them.
Schools should not be about training, they should be about learning, critical learning.