My seven-year-old son has an ADHD diagnosis. He’s bright, very energetic, and prone to behavior that may seem out of place socially. In school, his behavior may require a teacher to have to tell him several times to settle down, or to get back to his seat, or to focus on a certain task. At home, he enjoys teasing his sisters: it gives him a rush, I suspect. Also, when he gets scolded by his parents he can feel that he’s being treated unfairly; when that happens, he will sometimes react with a tantrum and disrespect.
You don’t need to know too much more about the situation. As ADHD kids go, he is pretty typical. Yet like his two older siblings, he is smart and sweet, and wants nothing more than feeling loved. So it upsets him to believe he’s “always” in trouble. He senses that he’s “always” getting upset about some little thing not going his way.
Recently, when he’s become sad about getting in trouble, he has said angrily that Satan is the one causing him to make bad choices.
Just let that idea sink in. Of course, I have tried to explain that there is no Satan and that his brain just gets busier in some situations than other kids’ brains. But my explanation makes no sense to him. He’s convinced Satan, the evil one, is messing with him and getting inside his mind to make him act out.
My wife, resident Christian of the house, is also upset with this thinking, but in a different way than I am. I say this to be clear: no one directly told our son that Satan has made him have ADHD, but the child connected the dots. After all, he learns every week in Sunday School that Satan causes people to make bad choices. What else is he supposed to think when he believes he’s made not so great a behavior choice as he could have?
I never quite bought into Richard Dawkins’ arguments that suggest some religious teachings approach abuse or even cross the line. I now believe Dawkins has a point worth considering and worth acting on.
For myself, I have made my skepticism about Christian claims more vocal. And I am doing more teaching at home in the style of the “epaulettes” lesson of Richard Feynman’s father.