Which of Our Closely Held Beliefs Will Our Children Be Appalled By? May 22, 2009

Which of Our Closely Held Beliefs Will Our Children Be Appalled By?

A great question at Reddit (paraphrased below):

So many of our grandparents were racist, and many of our parents are homophobes. Which of our closely held beliefs will our own children and grandchildren by appalled by?

Some of the responses include:

  • Eating meat
  • Our drug policies
  • Circumcision

Of course, I’d like to include religious faith on the list, but I fear that’ll still be around for a while…

What would you add to the list?

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Abortion, but only because birth control will be ubiquitous and there will be no unwanted pregnancies.

  • Michelle

    Oh, eating meat is a good one, because it’s one that I wouldn’t have thought of myself (ie, it’s something I do and don’t question very much).

    Also, I thought most people found circumcision appalling already. I know that the culture around this in the United States is different, but is it still a widely accepted thing there?

  • * The fact that a majority of Americans are Creationists.

    * The fact that a large percentage of Americans condone torture.

    * The fact that we don’t allow gay marriage or polygamy (Note: I don’t know condone polygamy but I have a feeling plural marriage will be allowed before our great grandchildren are born)

    * The fact that many of us smoke tobacco and eat trans fats.

    * The fact that many of us had to use dial-up when we were younger. 😛

  • Infinitemonkey

    Yes, Circumcision is widely accept in the US.

    I don’t think eating meat will ever be something we look back on and say “how old fashioned”. We can prove that we have the evolutionary need to eat me. Besides, if eating meat were outlawed, I’d have to be an outlaw.

    I’d like to say abortion would be looked at as so old-school. I, personally, am against abortion as birth control-you know…oops, I got pregnant-but that’s since it seems you have to try to get preganant-birth control is everywhere.

    Calling the future is tough, but I think at the earliest, male circumcision will be in the generation afterwards.

  • TXatheist

    Eating meat and homophobia(still) will be my guess.

  • Todd

    Burning massive amounts of fossil fuel to travel 5 miles.

  • Blogging with no doubt 😉

  • I’m not sure the future generations will be appalled by homophobia but I do think they’ll wonder what all the fuss was about concerning gay marriage. I live in the Deep South and there’s still many folks here who don’t like interracial marriage, but it’s mostly not even talked about at all. Gay marriage will be thought of in the same manner within a generation or two.

  • skinman

    Circumcision hopefully. I am appalled by it and refused to let me son be butchered. But it is amazing how many parents here in the US are oblivious to the unnecessary pain they put their sons through. Other than as a source of income for hospitals there is no reason for it.

    My wife and I took a number of parenting classes (from the hospital) prior to having our first child and the advice they gave out regarding circumcision was mind-numbingly dumb. The nurse admitted that there was no medical reason for it but that they advised parents have the circumcision done if the father was circumcized. Why? To avoid any awkward questions the child might have regarding why daddy is different down there.

    Eating meat will never go away if I have my preference (that reminds me, I need to get the propane tank refilled). And I can’t picture abortion leaving us either. Human beings can be so stupid in the heat of the moment. No birth control is ever going to account completely for that.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    We can prove that we have the evolutionary need to eat me.

    Assuming that you accidentally dropped a couple letters there, I still have to disagree. I don’t see how you could prove an “evolutionary need.” We can say with some certainty that our ancestors ate a mix of meat and plant matter, we can say that our teeth, digestive system and nutrient needs show a history of and capability to tackle a wide-ranging diet, usually including some meat, but I think you’re going too far to call it a “need”

  • David Ellis

    that our laws regarded healthcare as a commodity rather than a basic human right.

  • David Ellis

    that we were willing to run huge budget deficits that our grandchildren are having to pay off.

  • David Ellis

    That many parents of our time had no problem with their children seeing brutal violence in films so long as they weren’t exposed to the sight of a woman’s nipple.

  • Bruce

    Abortion, but only because birth control will be ubiquitous and there will be no unwanted pregnancies.

    It’s a nice thought, but it will never happen. There will always be a need for abortion. Women get abortions for a variety of reasons. I had a friend who found out her baby was going to be severely, severely disabled and would probably not live past a year and she decided to have an abortion. Also, just because a woman is happy to find out she is pregnant doesn’t mean that things can’t change and she won’t want an abortion a few months down the road. I agree that birth control can reduce the number of abortions, but the need for abortion is never going to disappear.

    And put me down for homophobia. I have no doubt that our grand children will be reading their history books in school and shaking their heads in disbelief that this country once discriminated against anybody who wasn’t straight heterosexual. The homophobes of today will become as irrelevant as the racists of the civil rights era.

  • jemand

    Chemotherapy and surgery.

    Because they will be supplanted and appear as barbaric as bloodletting and leaches.

    I hope 😉

  • TPO


  • Polly

    I always imagine that we will be considered monstrous for eating the flesh off of living creatures.

    Our great grand children will discuss our moral failings over dinner consisting of factory meat, grown from industrial sized petri culture cells without differentiating into nuerons, or bones! 🙂

    But, even more along rational-self-interest lines, I think they’ll despise us for handing them a shitty environment where their water is filled with mercury and bacteria as is the land, and the air is barely breathable making those oxygen bars less of a superfluous luxury.

    I wonder if rewarding greedy, scheming douchebags with billions of dollars will ever go out of fashion? I am describing people who make their money by producing nothing of intrinsic worth; just a “market” to push pieces of paper.

  • Credit and the cycle of Debt: the feeling of entitlement that you must have everything you want — without working for it.

  • River

    I’ll chip in on eating animals (won’t rule out animal products in general), common abortion (in favor of frequent use of contraception), and homophobia.

    Circumcision might be making a comeback. I hear that (for unknown reasons) it lowers the risks of certain STDs, including HIV. By all means, correct me if I heard wrong or if the research has problems.

    I actually thought last night, “I’ll raise my (so far nonexistent) children to be vegan!” I was inspired by Hemant’s Jainist upbringing. I figure I could raise them up to a very healthy lifestyle, and they could decide later whether to stick to it.

  • Polly

    I don’t get why people find circumcision so horrible. I admit it’s probably unnecessary but I don’t feel like I’ve been “butchered.”

    I’m USAn and it’s still standard procedure here as far as I know.

  • TPO

    On a more serious note…I don’t think they will be appalled by the fact that the majority of us are meat eaters; however, they may be appalled by the conditions animals like cattle and chickens are raised in. Also, they may not be too fond of the methods used by corporate slaughterhouses to kill said animals.

  • I sure hope eating meat is never on the list, bacon is just too delicious. Maybe eating farm raised meat will be, lab grown meat may be the future. I don’t know, I have no problem with the eating of meat but I raise some of the meat I eat which gives me a different perspective than other people.

  • Red

    The fact that pornography is so widely tolerated.

    Even though I am a vegetarian, I do not believe people will ever stop eating meat. But the mistake that people make is saying, “I could not live without meat.” Yes you could, many folks do, you just choose not to. There’s your difference!

  • littlejohn

    The Bush administration. No doubt.

  • Jen

    I think circumcision will be outlawed. Growing up, I always had the vague idea that I would have children some day, and their father would decide if the boy(s) needed to be circumcised. The older I got, though, the more I realized I wasn’t necessarily getting married, wasn’t necessarily having kids, and if I ever did, I sure as hell wouldn’t cut off any body parts.

    I hope, hope, hope that we will one day be appalled that women often suffer in the workplace due to sexism- yes, still. And that the societal need to marry and reproduce will be not nearly so culturally mandatory- some people will, some people won’t, and little girls won’t be socialized to grow up planning their weddings before puberty, which is stupid.

    I think we will see a big shift in marriage as the state will decide not to regulate it, and it becomes strictly something people decide they are or aren’t. The state-regulated benefits of marriage- hospital visitations, inheritance, etc, etc- will be strictly forms, and marriage will mean whatever people want.

    I am a vegetarian, but I don’t think we’ll even reach the point where we are even the majority of Americans.

    Speaking of, out grandkids and great grandkids will be surprised that we once thought we were the greatest superpower on Earth. They will laugh- and then go back to their servitude. To Kang.

  • Nick

    The two generational issues in the original question center around a changing societal norm on certain civil rights (race equality and gay marriage). Assuming the trend will hold, one would have to identify a current issue which, when viewed with foresight, could become a civil rights issue but which which most of the current generation considers “acceptable.”

    Some significant level of socialized health care jumps to mind first. Animal rights might next be a likely candidate. Perhaps its even possible that capitalism will, one day, be recognized as something that creates generational inequality. Who knows?

    Really great question, though.

  • llewelly

    Emitting CO2.

  • llewelly

    With respect to eating meat – I don’t think eating meat in general will go away, but the beef industry is ridiculously CO2-intensive, and if they don’t fix that, the need to slow down global warming may make beef taboo.

  • Stephan

    Maybe not eating meat, but perhaps eating beef and pork due to the environmental damage done by meat factories. I think eating fish is going to be around a long time, as it is such an efficient form of protein.

    I’m hoping some time in the future people will look back at our religious tests for office and wonder why we ever let anyone get away with such things…

  • Aj

    Perhaps taboos around sex, especially the orgasm will be a thing of the past. Pornography and masturbation won’t be irrationally feared. One day, we will see these prudes as hilarious, almost as funny as what Danish farmers are expected to do with pigs nowadays.

    Circumcision has dubious medical benefit but there’s little risk to it. Science-based medicine has a good article on circumcision. I have personal rights objections, but I understand that adult circumcision is a lot more complicated.

    Meat eating will still be around, but some of the cruelties will be banned. Superstitions, CO2 emissions, and drug policies will still be around. Our grandchildren might be pretty pissed about the climate, especially as we’re forcing them to stay sober.

    Smoking and homophobia might actually become a rarity for our grandchildren. As equality for women grows abortion will be less controversial, unplanned pregnancies will still be around unless there’s a new invention.

  • Ron in Houston

    I sure hope eating meat is never on the list, bacon is just too delicious.

    MMMMM bacon….

  • The fact that pornography is so widely tolerated.

    The fact that pornography is so widely condemned.

  • Capitalism

  • Spurs Fan

    That many parents of our time had no problem with their children seeing brutal violence in films so long as they weren’t exposed to the sight of a woman’s nipple.

    Well put David!

  • Tim

    The fact that believers cannot recognize the beauty of atheists, and atheists cannot recognize the beauty of believers.

  • Sandra

    My son is appalled by the eating meat thing. He also is disgusted by the way people treat the environment and mistreat animals.

    What can I say, I’m a tree-hugging mommy raising a tree-hugging kiddo. 😉

  • jb

    I plan on eating my children before they’re old enough to be appalled by anything.

  • GullWatcher

    I think they will be appalled by how little we did to save the environment and keep the planet habitable. Sure, we talk about it a lot, but what the next generation will remember is not what we said but what we failed to do.

  • Frank

    if we could predict that, then they wouldn’t be our closely held beliefs, would they?

  • stephanie

    The infrastructure with regards to transport of goods and waste of resources will be looked upon as gluttonous and embarrassing.

    The abuse of 3rd world countries for cheap products and as a dumping ground will seem equivalent to British Imperialism in the nineteenth century.

    Homosexuality and the ‘separate but equal’ domestic partnerships will be seen as the blatant racism that it is.

  • Luther

    One can hope. On the other hand they might find our beliefs in Science and democracy quaint.

  • I’m with Aj; if we’re talking about what current attitudes that the majority hold that will be looked at by our grandchildren the way we look at racism and homophobia, I can’t think of a better example than our views on sex. Sexophobia, you might call it.

    While I think it would be great if meat-eating is looked on with horror in the future, I think the majority of meat-eaters today would still agree that changes need to be made if they were exposed to the realities of the trade, and I doubt any of them would complain if it became mandatory for the meat-trade to become more ethical. And if meat can be grown (independently of the animal), well, there will be some resistance, but people will get used to it. And I’ll get to have a steak again!

  • Caroline

    Children (us) are already appalled by circumcision. One day it will end, but the medical profession has to grow a pair and stop doing them. They know they are violating their Hippo oath.

  • Caroline

    Speaking of circumcision, The Athiest Experience has two excellent episodes on it

    UN HIV Circumcision Study: A Fraud?

    Circumcision Part 1

  • Marissa

    The fact that learning a second language isn’t mandatory in school (in most areas).

  • blackskeptic

    I hope (for the animals’ sakes) that it’s eating meat. I mean, come on. Murdering sentient beings in cruel and inhumane manners after keeping them in horrible factory farms (aka prisons). Appalling.


  • The way we’ve harmed the environment.
    Capitalist exploitation of developping nations.
    Widely-held attitudes regarding sexuality. I sincerely hope future generations can learn to value sexual pleasure, both female and male, rather than look on it as something dirty and forbidden.
    Anti-immigrant sentiments.
    Racism, sexism, homophobia, ablism…
    Hopefully, future generations will learn to value their bodies for what they are rather than need to conform to narrow media-created ideals.
    Also, I really hope we can come up with a viable alternative to the prison-complex, one centered on rehabilitation rather than punishment and detention, so I hope future generations can be appalled by how archaic our way of treating criminal offenders was.

    I don’t think views on abortion will change negatively. I hope more and more people come to see the value of women’s bodily integrity. The need for abortion may be reduced, but it can’t be eliminated, because not all abortions are accidental pregnancies (and definitely not all abortions are the result of unprotected sex).

  • Daniel

    I think it will be the “sanctity of life” A.K.A “zygothism” (conservative trademark 😉 )… you know: protect the zygote, fuck the human being; Protect the zygote, don’t research stem cells; protect the zygote… errhmm … yo’ momma is fat… ( you get the idea)
    maybe it will be euthanasia; or the way the drug problem is handled right now (more focused on the production than on the consumption)
    … or – should we loose the so called “cultural wars”- maybe our kids will be appalled by the thought of “free inquiry”

    Yeah… anyways , the only sure things that they will appalled by will be: Nintendo, Starbucks and baby snacks (how you interpret that last bit is up to you).

  • The only way I foresee our children being appalled by our eating meat is in that we used to kill the animal to get the meat. Scientists are currently working ways to grow meat.


  • Assumed monogamy. I think polyamory will start to take hold and people will be appalled that people would assume monogamy and felt weird about other possible relationship configurations than monogamy.

  • Epistaxis


    Maybe not eating meat, but perhaps eating beef and pork due to the environmental damage done by meat factories. I think eating fish is going to be around a long time, as it is such an efficient form of protein.

    Really? You think fishing isn’t also bad for the environment?

  • penguinsaur

    Am I the only one sick of being treated like a monster because I value steak over a beast with no higher aspirations in life than eating and pooing?
    The general pissing on the enviroment will be a bad memory, I can’t wait until we figure out ways to live comfortably without making things worse for future generations.

  • Zar

    Our sexual double standards about how women are sluts but men are studs.

    Our fear of portraying men as sex objects.

    Fuel-inefficient vehicles.



  • Richard Wade

    That mental and emotional difficulties and disorders were a source of shame, and that people died because they were concealing it and not getting help.

    That people actually tried to tan their skin with sunlight or with artificial UV rays, aging it and increasing the possibility of skin cancer.

    That people mutilated themselves for the latest beauty fashion, slicing off parts of their faces and bodies, vacuuming fat out of their torsos, adding artificial fat into their lips, injecting paralyzing poison into their faces, injecting hair into their scalps, inserting foreign objects into their breasts, and on and on.

    That people were so neurotic about sex and sexuality, being simultaneously obsessed with it and conflicted about it.

    That we were so fat and out of shape, that we hated ourselves for it, yet we did not do the obvious remedy.

    That we spent soooooooo much time watching mindless television shows and got so excited about American Idol and Survival Island.

    That we had to use our fingers to type.

    That we would go to war for a threat with less evidence of menace than what would be needed to convict someone of a misdemeanor.

  • I’m gonna go with our moralization of poverty. It seems pretty ignorant to me.

  • GullWatcher

    Maybe not eating meat, but perhaps eating beef and pork due to the environmental damage done by meat factories. I think eating fish is going to be around a long time, as it is such an efficient form of protein.

    Fish? Efficient? Maybe that’s enother thing the next generation will be appalled by – how we cheerfully (and efficiently!) fished out whole species beyond any hope of sustaining them. Enjoy that sushi while it lasts…

    For the record, paddy rice farming produces as much greenhouse gasses worldwide as beef production. Why don’t I see anyone giving up rice for the environment?

  • Tom

    Individualism pursued to the point of outright sociopathy.

  • No one’s mentioned what I think is the obvious.

    Just like we thought that Thor made the thunder, witches should be burned at the stake, and it was a good idea to sacrifice a goat to ensure a good harvest. How about that we used to believe that we were all guilty because a woman ate an apple, but we’re all forgiven now because this dude, who’s mom never had sex, was executed so we’re all okay… oh yeah, but we owe him now?

    Why isn’t believing that embarrassing?

  • laterose

    The fact that pornography is so widely tolerated.

    The fact that pornography is so widely condemned.

    The fact that pornography is so widely allowed to be very unsexy.

  • Intactivist

    It’s circumcision they will be appalled by. In the future we will look on this as we do the barbarity of frontal lobotomy…people also once said that had benefits …that may have been true but they weren’t felt by the person it was done to…

    AJ says circumcision has little risk…ehhh? You’re talking about cutting off up to 80% of a boy’s penile skin, including his g-spot and sometimes his frenulum too and you say this has little risk. Let’s leave aside the fact it visibly reduces his sexual sensation… and look at the other stuff – what about the fact that babies die regularly from the so-called ‘snip’? 3 in Britain in 2007-8 for example, and we cut a fraction of the number of babies the US does.

    And it’s wrong to say circumcision is harder in adulthood – this is one of the myths used to prop up neonatal genital cutting in the US. If the African circ experiments have given us one clear positive proof, it’s that adult circ is quick and is relatively low risk compared to cutting children. Infant circ in Nigeria for example was shown to have a complication rate of 20.2% – the circ trials had average complication rates as low as 1.7%… You do the math.

    So please whatever reason you give for butchering a son’s genitals don’t ever say it’s easy on him. Babies feel more pain than adults in comparable situations and they don’t even have a fully functioning immune system.

  • I’d imagine that they’ll be amazed we thought we could keep reproducing at the rate we do without severe social, economical and environmental consequences. Of course they’ll be one of those consequences so they can shut up and get the hell off my lawn!

    The wars on drugs and terror will probably be baffle them, at least I hope so. I hope beyond hope that they’ll have the sense to heavily regulate ‘alternative’ medicine.

    On a lighter note I also hope they’ll never have heard of the RIAA and the associated organisations and major labels who are hell-bent on destroying the music world 🙂

  • AxeGrrl

    That the stereotypical ‘nuclear family’ was once considered to be self-evidently ‘superior’ to other family configurations.

  • Torture and nationalism, hopefully.

  • Circumcision is the main one. We’re talking about a perfectly evolved pleasure receptor that every mammal on earth has enjoyed for like 65 million years and somehow only humans need surgical modification at birth? Foreskin feels REALLY good.

    It’s just superstitious and barbaric to amputate parts of people’s genitals at birth for cosmetic reasons. NO national medical association on earth (not even Israel’s) endorses routine circumcision. This stuff you’ve heard about STDs is very fishy. It only seems to work when long-time circumcision justifiers are in control of the studies. In many African nations it is the circumcised who have the markedly higher HIV incidence. In the US, most of the men who have died of AIDS were circumcised at birth.

    In the US, infant foreskins ARE SOLD to labs to make face cremes. Google TNS Recovery Complex (as seen on Oprah). That is the disgrace our grandkids will be embarrassed about.

  • Pseudonym

    Future generations will puzzle at why hypocrisy is seen as the worst sin of this era. After all, if we could live up to our ideals, they wouldn’t be “ideal”.

  • Wordstolearnby

    I’m hoping that we won’t have children and grandchildren, but if we do, I think they’ll be critical of our cavalier attitude about population control–that is, autonomy always trumps utility.

    The Georgia Guidestones are spot on.

  • Indigo

    Transphobia. One day, people will consider it just as barbaric that we shamed and ridiculed people with the misfortune to be born into the wrong body as we would now to laugh at someone with a severe physical disability.

  • Newman

    Interesting subject;

    Climate Change:
    A very degraded Planet- Climate change – too little too late.

    Financial gluttony, energy gluttony, environmental gluttony, over consumption etc.

    Eating meat:
    I’m a hypocrite. I love the taste of meat but have a niggling feeling that it’s not quite right.
    Just a few variations in the DNA and we feel justified in raising other sentient beings, slaughtering them (often horrifically) and then eating them because we like the taste and because we like the taste of meat we usually choose not to think about it too much, maybe similar to the way religion is often cherry picked.
    “If slaughter houses had glass walls, everyone would be vegetarian”
    -Paul McCartney.

    Far off into the future;
    Raising children or having pets with no need of a licence of physiological competency.

  • GullWatcher

    Having read a lot about food and agriculture lately, I’m leaning in the opposite direction. I’m thinking what the next generation will find bizarre are the ideas that dirt-cheap food is an American birthright, that refusing to eat meat is enough to make one a virtuous eater doing what’s best for the planet, and wondering why so many vegetarians insisted on framing the argument in such a simplistic fashion as meat-eating vs. not meat-eating when the real issue was industrial farming vs. sustainable agriculture and humane treatment of farm animals.

    Not that I enjoy paying $10 a pound for chuck or pork roast or $6 for a dozen eggs at the farmer’s market, mind you, but I know it’s the right thing to do. Real food, sustainable farms, critters leading happy lives. It’s worth the price and it does seem to be a growing trend.

    Although, people posting above did seem to make a good case for changing attitudes toward sex, and I was almost convinced until I remembered that every single generation since people started writing things down has considered the younger generation to be either A) degenerate and licentious and way too promiscous and relaxed about sex or B) more open and healthy about their attitudes about sex, and despite a few thousand years of lamentations or approval, lasting change hasn’t happened yet, so I’m not holding my breath.

    Likewise for the likelihood of attitudes toward drugs changing. I think what is holding back both those issues is the shift that seems to happen when most people have children, so that what looks like a new attitude disappears at a certain point and the cycle starts over.

  • That humans somehow are not animals.

    That humans have some sort of destiny…

  • Has no one said capital punishment?

    Capital punishment.

    Courts aren’t infallible; they get it wrong sometimes.

  • It’s been briefly mentioned already, but I thought I would mention it again. The U.S. prison system is possibly the most offensive thing I can think of that most people think is perfectly normal and even good. No one should be subjected to the horror that is the U.S. prison system. Punishment doesn’t work. We need rehabilitation.

    Maybe that’s the real horror: punishment instead of rehabilitation.

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