Should Memorizing Bible Verses Be Considered Brainwashing? December 20, 2010

Should Memorizing Bible Verses Be Considered Brainwashing?

I am a spelling freak. Outside of typos (which I admittedly make on this site), I get seriously upset if I spell something wrong. If I’m unsure of a spelling, I have to look it up or use a synonym rather than venture a guess.

I once misspelled “corrugate” in 7th grade, which knocked me out of my middle school Spelling Bee. Not that I’m bitter.

I never “studied” spelling, though. I just tried to take notice of it when I came across new words.

Is it a useful skill? It can be. Learning the roots of words can help you recognize and define them. There’s plenty to be said about how well you learn to pay attention to details.

When I watch the Spelling Bee on TV, I don’t think most of those kids are brainwashed. Sure, they spend a lot of time studying for the Bee in the weeks leading up to competitions, but with that much money and pride on the line, who wouldn’t?

Now… if spelling becomes your life, that’s a different story. If your parents push you to become an errorless speller, that’s pretty scary. I don’t think all those Spelling Bee champions deal with that sort of pressure. The only pressure a lot of them face is the kind they put on themselves.

Maybe you disagree and find spelling at that level completely useless. But with that in mind, check out Meredith Blake‘s dispatch in The Atlantic about the Bible Bee:

This year, over 6,000 contestants took part in more than 150 qualifying bees nationwide. While these numbers pale in comparison to the estimated 11,000,000 who competed in local spelling bees, the Bible Bee has one significant advantage over its secular counterpart: money. The Bible Bee hands out some $260,000 in cash prizes, with $100,000 going to the winner of the top age category. Compare that to the Scripps champion, who takes home a measly $30,000. Given that sort of monetary reward, it’s easy to see why Widdoes predicts the bee will attract some 25,000-30,000 participants next year.

Liesl Lawrence was the ultimate victor at this year’s bee, taking home $100,000 which she plans to use towards college tuition. The 17-year-old from Georgetown, Texas, first learned of the competition through an ad in World magazine, a bi-weekly Christian news magazine. (Sarah Palin’s ghost writer is an editor at the publication.) Over the past six months, Liesl estimates that she practiced an average of three hours a day, memorizing 14 verses five days a week; weekends were for review.

The article also discusses a lot of the similarities and differences between Bible Bee and the Spelling Bee — as well as their overall usefulness.

There are lots of parallels between the two but here’s what I’d like to know:

Do you think the Bible Bee brainwashes children?

Either way, how is it different from the Spelling Bee?

I suppose the Bible Bee has one advantage — kids can always aspire to take over Jack Van Impe‘s job, spouting bullshit and quoting Bible verses in every other sentence… as if they matter.

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  • Korinthian

    No, I don’t think it brainwashes them. That’s the parents’ job.

    We should get an atheist to win this ASAP.

  • Jeff Dale

    It’s not brainwashing per se, but I assume it’s intended as a tool of indoctrination, to enhance or supplement what they’re getting from church and everything else.

    Kids preparing for a spelling bee aren’t taught to believe that the words they learn are incantations, or reveal shadowy truths about the universe, or offer a ticket to some unearthly paradise. And if the bible bee weren’t about indoctrination, then it could just as easily be about some other book or books. We could have a “Harry Potter” bee, for example, but we don’t because there aren’t very many people who regard “Harry Potter” as an important area of children’s “education.”

    Of course, given that the bible bee is intended as a tool of indoctrination, it’d be interesting to learn how many kids have ironically been turned off religion because of what they learned from studying for it.

  • TychaBrahe

    I know the lyrics (and melodies) to several hundred songs. The fact that I could recite or sing Who’s Next by Tom Lehrer does not mean I support nuclear proliferation. That fact that easily half-a-hundred of these songs are Christmas carols or hymns does not mean I believe in the deity they are singing about. The fact that I can sing the national anthems of France and Russia or Deutschland Uber Alles does not make me French, Russian, or a Nazi.

    I’m guessing anyone who takes part in the Bible Bee is probably already a believer before they start memorizing. Rote memorization of anything has been shown to be good for cognitive functioning. Further, intense study of the Bible has been known to convert many a True Believer.

  • Sounds like a way of bolstering the next generation of atheists to me

  • I have to admit that I find it a bit interesting that they put the “Secular” Spelling Bee in competition with the Bible Bee. I assume that is why they chose the name to begin with. I also find it amusing that they are pushing the Bible Bee over the Spelling Bee with the monetary reward being attached to it.

    Is a Bible Bee brainwashing children? I honestly think that if they actually used the bible as an entirety it might actually work against them. It has been said a few times that unfiltered Bible study can help lead people to realize it is bullshit. However, I don’t think that a family friendly Bible Bee would chose the worst passages of the Bible for testing, though, there are enough nutcases out there that this might not be the case.

    I will have to agree with Korinthian that we need an atheist to win this, even better, someone who started preparing as a theist and changed due to the competition.

    I am going to say that the Spelling Bee is probably more useful for a child in the long run. Also, that the quizzing of is going to be different. You would only use one dictionary for a spelling test, the American standard I believe is Websters. Which Bible translation do you use for your Bible Bee? You have to discriminate, unless multiple translations are valid.

  • Flawedprefect

    Got to agree with above: not so much indoctrination, more like bribery. Thus is so ripe for backfiring, tho.

  • Sean Santos

    I suppose that the Bible Bee is a tool of indoctrination in the trivial sense that it causes kids to be more emotionally invested in scripture. On the other hand, I don’t think memorizing John 3:16 during Awana made me much more likely to believe it; to the contrary, it caused me to think of it as just a collection of words, and not to really see as much “magic” in it as when it was still kind of new and exciting to me.

    I suppose you could say that spelling bees indoctrinate kids into pedantry; it’s not the most dastardly plot ever.

    Really, I don’t think that religious education as such is at all bad. The problem with religious indoctrination is the intense social pressure and threatening compulsion to believe in the mythology. Well, that, and the arbitrary array of values, such as faith=good, sex=bad, that sort of thing. But simply knowing about the Bible is actually a quite useful thing in a world shaped by the Abrahamic religions.

  • It’ll probably turn them into little atheists as they’ll be better able to spot the biblical contradictions.

  • Arallyn

    Argh! Memorization is practically my only talent that I actually enjoy! I wish I were just a few years younger…

  • y’all are always saying it here: the best way to make an atheist is to get them to read the whole bible. so i’m all for this. it’s indoctrination, but the ineffective kind. it would be funny if an atheist who had started out a believer won, tho. it would be even funnier if the winning verse had to do with money, and how gawd and jeebus generally have low opinions of the rich.

  • Jeff Dale

    Sean Santos:

    The problem with religious indoctrination is the intense social pressure and threatening compulsion to believe in the mythology.

    Right! Handing a kid a bible to study isn’t the problem. Handing a kid a bible to study, and pressuring the kid (through guilt, threats, etc.) to believe incredible things about the bible’s contents, is the problem. And that’s equally true whether the kid is studying for a bible bee, doing homework for Sunday school, or simply reading at the encouragement of his/her parents.

  • littlejohn

    There is a difference. Spelling bees simply test the knowledge and memories regarding a neutral discipline.
    Bible bees have content. How can a chld memorize the details of, say, Noah’s flood, without believing it to be true?
    A spelling bee is akin to memorizing a random series of numbers. A Bible bee attaches specific beliefs to what is memorized.
    I’d love to write the questions for a Bible bee. Under what circumctances may you beat your slave? Who kills an unsatisfactory bride – her husband or her father? What should families do to disobedient sons? Recite the Song of Songs.

  • Arallyn

    I wonder what they mean by “the understanding of a specified book of the bible”. I sure hope that they provide that in their “Sword Study Pack”, because I haven’t the foggiest what each individual sect thinks.

    Also: $25/student x 6000 students (assuming no more than 5/home) PLUS strongly “encouraging” parents to give 2x-5x more for EACH registration, so they’re not hurtin’ for money.

    Scripps? $99/school. No further entrance or study material fees. No initial study material fees for parents/students, and from the ones who have won in the past, they usually have a well-worn packet of words that they initially got at the school level and perhaps an additional study guide from the bookstore.

  • Arallyn

    How can a chld memorize the details of, say, Noah’s flood, without believing it to be true?

    I memorized the vast majority of the Call of the Wild series word-for-word, but I don’t believe that dogs can talk. I say this is still an opportunity for a young atheist. They might be sneaky, though. I can see them putting in the contract that if one expresses any doubt or non-faith, the prize is null and void. Still, it would prove a point, though I’d hate for a kid to go through all that work for nothing tangible.

  • The bible is merely a work of literature. It should be studied and criticised like any other book.

    I’m curious as to how a Bible Bee would operate though. Are they limiting it to translations and versions or insisting that only one is used? Are the contestants supposed to recite King James Exodus 8:7 and then jump to New International Version Isaiah 34:6. That makes it more difficult. The story suggests that the kids get to pick the version rather than the judge picking the version. In which case it has got to be the King James. Surely?

  • OT: Re: Spelling Bee –

    I got knocked out of my elementary school spelling bee in the final round by misspelling – and I’m not kidding – misspell. That is a word I will never forget how to spell properly.

  • At 7, grown-ups were asking me how to spell words. At 7, I would proudly recite John 3:16 and other babble verses. Though I was never in any bee (my parents were ignorant of real opportunities preferring get rich quick schemes), I was a geeky kid who loved to show off knowledge.

    Any opportunity in church to get a prize, even one that really didn’t wow me (they were mostly lame), for memorizing babble verses were got. I remember lording it over my little sisters in the summer before high school (we’d move, new church put it up for the winning) for getting some fancy illustrated buybull with pictures theirs didn’t contain for memorizing.

    My point is: I viewed them pretty much the same and felt no more or less pressured on either one. I have no way of knowing if this would have differed if my parents had known my possible worth and entered me into a bee or how far I could have got. I was good at memorization.

    But something got me to read the wholly babble in high school. I was never really encouraged to by church or parents. Yeah, churches often do the prizes for bible verses thing but it’s the verses they want you to read only and it keeps you focused on those instead of straying to the contradictions or uglier verses. My mother didn’t. She kept “Children’s Illustrated Bible Stories” and some series of Christian feel good stories that I can’t even remember the name of in this ugly orange cover.

    I read the “Children’s Illustrated Bible” (which ran to something like a dozen volumes give or take) eagerly as a kid (it was the book in my previous gravatar with the cat which was a picture of me at 10) but, man, that was just the usual stories they give kids. Reading the real thing was an eye-opener and I do think that at some point after winning that Bible (which had color illustrations and the fake gold edging on the pages and, of course, everything Jesus said in red and the ribbon marker), it dawned on me that I only knew parts of the wholly babble and when I started to be of an age to wonder why there was so much bad in the world, I picked it up with a new resolution to read an hour a day beginning to end to understand and get to know god better. I picked it up to retain my love for god, which is now utterly comical. Especially since it was the damned church that gave it to me!

    So, I guess, this is my long way of saying that everyone above who says it’s a good thing because it undermines itself, might just have a point.

    Want a further chuckle? When reading the thing had me saying it doesn’t make sense, my mother (who was made very uncomfortable by my reading thereof strangely) would snap at me, yeah, you’re reading it but are you thinking about it? I didn’t bother fighting with her but I’d always think, that’s the problem, Ma. I am thinking about it.

  • Arallyn

    @Hoverfrog: They’re given flashcards with the verses that they have to memorize on them. The senior level only has to memorize 800 verses in total, so it’s not like memorizing the entire bible or anything…I’m pretty sure that the version of the bible would be specified on the flashcard if it were different.

  • Mr Z

    With $100,000 at stake, why would it effing matter? Who cares if you have to learn bible verse bullshit or nuclear disaster emergency plans. Memorizing bible verses doesn’t make you a philosopher, nor will it make you a believer. In all likelihood it will make you an atheist. Wrote memorization does not mean you understand it, nor does it mean you believe it. Brainwashing has less to do with knowledge and more to do with irrational beliefs. As already stated, with that much money at stake, an anti-theist could win it. Being able to teach the history of Germany does not make you a Nazi. The worst offenses of scripture spouting come from those that don’t actually know all the scripture but simply repeat the few verses they can remember with added bigotry to make them sound good.

  • tim

    Was forcing to memorize the planets in our solar system and recite them in front of the class in seventh grade brainwashing?

    No? Than neither is this.

  • Littlejohn asks, “How can a child memorize the details of, say, Noah’s flood, without believing it to be true?”
    Apart from the fact that no one can be made to “believe” anything if they don’t think it’s true, the example cited may actually help prove the opposite of what was intended. Most people who “believe” in Noah’s Flood have never had to confront the tiny little quirks in the narrative – like how sometimes it says 40 days and sometimes 150, and sometimes two of each animal and sometimes 7 pairs of the kosher ones – that clearly indicate that the thing was cobbled together from inconsistent pieces of folklore. I think it would be great if more people knew the book better! (I like Littlejohn’s sample questions; imagine if all kids learned the Song of Songs!)

  • Allen

    When I was young, I was encouraged to memorize and to recite bible verses in competition with other children my age (although there were no fabulous cash prizes to be had). I was pretty good at it too! The justification for memorizing scripture was, as I recall, to hedge against the day when the U.N. or other One World Government took our bibles away. I wish I were making that part up. In my Fundamentalist upbringing in the Seventies, Communism, hippies, women’s liberation and the Roe v. Wade decision were all sure “signs of the times” in my parents’ estimation.

    My own experience reflects what others have said, namely, that the brainwashing — I would prefer the word “indoctrination” — occurred apart from bible verse memorization. I didn’t believe much of it at the time nor did I internalize much of it, but it provided a way for a boy not inclined to physical competition such as myself to distinguish myself amongst my peer group. I learned to say all the right things and sing all the right songs, but none of it really stuck. So, if we’re going to call it brainwashing, it wasn’t very effective brainwashing. I’m a pastor’s son and an atheist. How did that work out?

    I suspect that there is a real benefit from rote memorization of anything in that it conditions one’s mind for retention in general. I can, for instance, remember the lyrics to songs or words to a commercial jingle having heard it only once or twice. If only I had filled my head with USEFUL information!

  • I don’t think the memorization is brainwashing. What’s wrong is that the kids are being taught that it’s real and that they should live their lives according to it.

  • Brian

    “How can a chld memorize the details of, say, Noah’s flood, without believing it to be true?”


  • Jim H

    Knowing how to spell is essential to clear written communication. Conversely, knowing how to spell a lot of words gives one the ability to “guess” at how to spell a related, but unfamiliar, word.

    I can’t see how knowing a bible verse can help one “guess” a different verse.

    Slightly OT: am I the only one who read the first name of the young woman who won $100k as “Lies(exclamation)”?

  • Parse

    @Chicago dyke:
    Although I generally agree with the idea that ‘reading the Bible causes atheism,’ I think that ‘reading the Bible unsupervised causes atheism’ is more accurate. You have the opportunity to flip back and forth, to examine contradictions or disturbing verses as you find them. I’m sure that the 250 to 800 verses they’re expected to memorize don’t contain any glaring inconsistencies, and even if they did, with the time spent memorizing and practicing, there’s little time left for unguided reflection and analysis.

    I consider this brainwashing, or at least part of this complete, balanced brainwashing breakfast. This – alongside church and other faith activities – burns Bible verses into the brain as being as true as spelling and multiplication tables. In the top tiers of dedication, there’s not much difference between studying for a Bible Bee and a spelling bee – except that you won’t be threatened with hellfire if you question a word’s spelling.

  • As others have said, spelling bees test the ability to spell words in isolation. Spelling correctly is a useful skill in being able to successfully communicate. The bible-bee is a test of regurgitating word-for word thoughts (or passages) in the bible. Memorizing thoughts is quite different than memorizing how to write (or spell) the “atoms” of language. It becomes unhealthy if the participants put too much importance on those thoughts.

    For example, we wouldn’t want our scientists memorizing all the thoughts in any particular science book. We want them to know how to think critically (and skeptically) and improve upon the body of knowledge. We don’t want our poets to just memorize past poetry. We want them to create new poetry. Same for song-writers, authors, architects, engineers, etc.

  • I was never forced to memorize a Bible verse, but I know a lot of them. I’m writing a blog post as we speak about Bible verses–the ones I still quote and the ones I think are absolutely crazy. A Bible Bowl is just another opportunity for smart kids to have something to do. I used to know the Bible better than anyone except the minister in my church; personally, I still find this knowledge useful. (e.g., I can pull on JC’s own words in an argument–are you against prayer at school? So was Jesus, as he says in Matthew 6:6).

  • flatlander100

    I presume the young woman intends, upon graduation from HS, to enter a madrassa [xian version]. Such “schools” seem to be doing the kind of education she prefers.

  • This is great for three reasons::

    1) The book that they claim was written by the creator of the universe that can provide the answer to everything needs 3x the money for the 1st place winner to even begin to come close to the participation generated in a spelling bee. It shows how deep down they don’t really believe their own claims about the bible and have to resort to bribing kids, churches and families to get them to read it.

    2) There will be a scandal (at least one) with that much money involved-some parent or pastor will want/need the money or the “fame” in the church subculture and cheating of some kind will occur.Whether it comes to light immediately or only after being initially covered up it will show the whole enterprise to be hollow and the claimed superior morality of those sponsoring it to be a fraud.

    3)Like the discussion of “man church” previously, it’s an attempt to buy eyeballs and bums in seats. Those who profit from having lots of obedient, tithing believers to fleece are recognizing that people are either taking a pass on that kind of commitment or having a facade of commitment without following through with time, guilt and $$$. It is a desperate ploy by people desperate to keep the power and money tap turned on.

  • If it’s anything like nonstampcollector’s Bible quiz show, it should be no problem:

  • Joe

    If we are being transparent about brainwashing. I’ll be the first one to tell you my brain needs a good cleaning. More often than not I neglect the poor and needy and focus on self achievement and self glorification. These are direct contractions to what I should be doing. The Bible says, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained from the world.”

    I’m just being honest here but its not my first concern to care for the orphans and widows and meet them in their affliction but I will tell you when i am praying and actively seeking out the Lords heart He graciously gives me this desire to care for other people. Believe me when I say I am plenty stained and have made many bad choices in my life. But I will tell you when I am seeking God out w/my whole heart instead of worrying others will find out my deepest darkest secrets…guess what I don’t have them any more. I wear them on my sleeves so others can see how awful a person God can save by His grace.

    In terms of people being scared about kids reading the Bible…they have not read it. If you read proverbs and psalms daily your mind will be brain washed and you will start thinking differently and not in a bad way.

  • lamb of dog

    +1 for indoctrination/brainwashing being separate from this event. Society in general, and especially in families that are believers, brainwashes us all into xianity. Some of us manage to dodge it, but it’s omnipresent and unending.

    This event is actually good for kids, I imagine. Applying themselves to a goal, seeing it through, and learning to study are good things for kids, regardless of the book they use. It’s not like they were ignorant of the bible before this came along, right? I suspect it won’t turn many to atheism, though, as others have suggested, since the verses they cherry-pick for the contest probably don’t do much to challenge the kids’ thinking on the subject.

  • Rieux

    Count me as another vote for the consensus view: having one’s children memorize Bible verses isn’t itself brainwashing (or indoctrination), but it’s safe to say that plenty of other stuff most of these same parents are engaged in—such as teaching their children that their immortal souls depend on slavish adherence to the ideas promoted in the material they’re memorizing—is.

    And, like several others here, I don’t think hardcore spelling-bee training is brainwashing, either. A silly waste of time and energy, perhaps; but they’re just words.

  • Grimalkin

    I began my deconversion journey when I was forced to read the New Testament for a class. In my mind, there are few greater weapons in the atheist arsenal than the Bible itself, and if a Bible Bee is what it takes to get these kids to read it, I’m all for it. Hopefully, some of them will start to string the verses together now that they’ve memorized them and come to see how silly the whole thing is.

    Secondly, this girl is using the money she’s won to go to college. A good education is the second greatest weapon in the atheist arsenal.

    Combine the two and I would say that quite a few of these Bible Bee kids end up in their local atheist organizations.

  • RJ

    If they ever have a Star Wars bee or a Lord of the Rings bee, count me in. Atleast both of those are fiction I can respect.

  • Beck

    I’m the nth person to say so, but I agree that a Bible Bee is not necessarily brainwashing. Rather, it is a reflection of the overall mindset of a lot of Christians — get ’em young and don’t give them access to non-Christian sources of information. That mindset does have a goal of brainwashing, whether those who follow it are intentionally brainwashing or not.

    When I was younger (think middle-school) I was put into a children’s program at church that involved heavy memorization. I honestly paid almost zero attention to the content, even though the verses were carefully selected to fit into the teaching and activities of the week, and there were lots of little sermons about what we memorized. I did it because a) I was the best in the class and liked to show off and b) because I got ice cream every time I won the weekly contest.

    I’d be more concerned if they were doing some kind of Jeopardy and asking questions like “How did man come to be?” and “Where do the different languages come from?”

  • Rieux


    Secondly, this girl is using the money she’s won to go to college. A good education is the second greatest weapon in the atheist arsenal.

    You’re presuming, I take it, that she’ll end up going to a real institution of higher learning—and not Bob Jones University, or Liberty, or some other right-wing Christian crapshack. If that’s true, then I agree with you… but in light of the familial starting point here, I’m afraid there’s a real possibility that “a good education” is the last thing Liesl will get for that hard-earned cash.

  • Daryl

    I always thought it would be fun to memorise the opening paragraph of Finnegans Wake. Never got around to it though. As for the Bible, Deuteronomy 23:1 is the passage I always remember. It’s just so relevant to modern life, isn’t it?

    I think there are also kids that memorise the Qu’ran, aren’t there? What a waste of time. Can think of far more worthwhile exercises for children to partake in, e.g. chimney sweeping, heavy manual labour, prostitution etc..

  • harle

    I was entered in a Bible Bee when I was 7 or 8. I had to memorize the first 2 chapters of John. I remember when halfway through chapter 2, I stopped and said ‘seriously, this story makes no sense’ and refused to do it. The whupping I got for that makes that day stand out boldly in my mind.
    My other punishment was I wasn’t allowed to read anything but the bible. So yes reading the bible unsupervised was the beginning of the end for me.

  • Hamilton Jacobi

    I’m going to take an unpopular position here and say that it is brainwashing, at least in the sense that it is intended as such by the organizers and the parents of the children (although they would probably be offended by the use of that particular word to describe their intentions). The attempt may well backfire in some cases, but that doesn’t change its intended purpose.

    Just consider a few statements from the article:

    The Bee’s board of directors is a who’s-who of the homeschool movement and the Christian right–increasingly one and the same thing.

    There’s even a pinch of Hollywood glamour: Growing Pains star-turned-evangelizer, Kirk Cameron, appears in a promotional video prominently displayed on the homepage.

    And it seems to be having the desired effect, at least in some cases:

    Like Lawrence, Sophie LaFleur is a homeschooled 17-year-old who found out about the Bee from an ad in World. Though she was initially skeptical of the endeavor–“I thought it would be really corny and lame and all that”–LaFleur says that through the Bee she “really rediscovered the powerful and living word of God.”

    If you think this is intended as just a meaningless exercise in rote memorization, think for a minute about how the parents of these children would react if told their children were preparing eagerly for the upcoming H. P. Lovecraft Bee.

  • Tim

    I once misspelled “corrugate” in 7th grade, which knocked me out of my middle school Spelling Bee. Not that I’m bitter.

    It’s ok Hemant. I was in the finals to go to the Pikes Peak Regional Spelling Bee in 4th grade, and I misspelled “celestial.”

    I started “Celestial. C – E – S…” and died inside. Then they have you walk over to the lady with the dictionary to show you your mistake…I just whispered “I KNOW.” and walked back to my seat. I could’ve won a boombox…

  • brian

    Yeah I’m still bitter about misspelling “bicentennial” in my 7th grade spelling bee…

  • @Daryl,

    Yes the Lord sure likes his tallywhackers and associated junk.

  • Natalie Sera

    Children who are raised evangelical Christian (and in other religions) are brainwashed to begin with, so the Bible Bee is just another part of being Christian.

    That said, there are children from households that identify with religions that are encouraged to think about the concept of god, and the meaning of their religious documents. I was raised in such a household. The result is that while I culturally and ethnically identify with my Jewish heritage, I am religiously agnostic as are my brother, his son, and my son.

    As far as spelling, I was born with the ability for perfect spelling, and I never worked at it — if I see a word once, I can spell it. Even Hemant Mehta, LOL!!

  • I agree that this is not indoctrination or brainwashing. We had these Bible drills at my church and I had to learn all the books of the Bible in order as well as memorize many verses. That knowledge has come in very useful over the years and my ability to read and understand KJV really helped in my English Lit classes.

  • Kristen

    I don’t think it’s brainwashing at all. In fact, I heartily approve of the bees (as much as I can ever approve of something done in a church). I grew up in a hardcore religious home. One of the things that my church did was focus seriously on the Bible and what it *actually* says. We dissected it, discussed it, memorized it, and knew it front to back. Ironically, it is this very experience that helped me realize my atheism because it helped me develop critical thinking skills. I came across a few Bible verses that I found I disagreed with. I searched and searched for ways to make those mesh with what I believed to be true myself, and couldn’t do it. This was the crack in the foundation that led me to demolish the building altogether. Because I knew exactly what I was supposed to believe, I could examine it from every angle. I had not “out”–I couldn’t just say, “Oh, I can still believe, the details don’t really matter.”

    One of the things that I find most disturbing about many churches today is that they don’t ever get into the nitty gritty details about their beliefs and truly own them. I have an astounding number of avowed Christian students in my English class who don’t recognize the most basic Bible allusions. If you don’t know what you believe, how can you ever change your beliefs?

    On a completely non-religious note, I generally approve of memorization. It’s something that has been mostly eliminated from early education, and getting through college is much easier if you are practiced at basic memorization. I realize the memorization isn’t the same as understanding, but if you haven’t learned the techniques of memorization and developed the patience to do it, you are likely to run into trouble cramming for that chemistry test.

  • Secular Stu

    Brainwashing? More that it’s just a colossal waste. $260,000 in cash prizes? Even if it was rote memorization of something else, I’d have to wonder. (Shakespeare or poetry, maybe.) And all the time the kids spend memorizing useless bullshit.

  • Wait… Sarah Palin has a ghostwriter? I feel so betrayed.

  • Mack

    Hey, here’s to hoping all this bible reading turns the kids away from religion, and that they put the winnings towards a real education.

  • Jeff Dale

    Daughter Number Three:

    Wait… Sarah Palin has a ghostwriter? I feel so betrayed.

    She probably thinks it’s an actual ghost.

  • L. Foster

    In my 7th grade spelling bee, the guy before me had “bleach”. Then I got “indefatigable”. I’d never even heard the word before then!

  • absent sway

    It depends on the other circumstances. I started memorizing Bible verses at age three, and it was not difficult to believe as I went along and the verses, to me, definitely cemented what I was learning as the truth. It was one element of indoctrination among many. Perhaps if I wasn’t so good at it, I wouldn’t have gotten into it as much–I must admit it was pretty fun impressing everyone with my skills…

  • Chakolate

    My comeuppance in the 7th grade was ‘suspicion’ – I ended up in second place.

    Funny how some things you just never, ever forget. (I’m 58.)

  • Olu

    Should Memorizing Bible Verses Be Considered Brainwashing?
    Bible is not only infallible word of God, it is also inerrant as it regards all that it written about.The Bible is a complete account of history of several people along with the nations of Israel and what transpired in these nations. Bible contains several miraculous deeds of God and many promises that God has made for whosoever will read it , meditated on it and believe it(Joshua 1:8) Bible memorization for the kids is a form exposing them to all that the bible teaches, not is bible memorization for the kids, memeorization is a form studying and knowing certain things in order to be able to repent or quote it or repete it without error. Memorization helps to avoid forgetfulness. The word memeorization is synonymous with learning for the children. Brainwashing of the kids has nothing to do with bible memorization, brainwashing is a trying to expose or limit someone to a restricted form of learning.An atheistic couple can brainwashed their kids, likewise a muslim parents,every parents is bound to brainwashed their kids in certain ways or the other.Trying to pinpoint bible memorization to brainwashing is awkward.

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