What is the Harm in a Little Belief?

There has been much hoo-hah about Richard Dawkins in the past week, with his polls about religious identity in the UK. I won't comment on them here other than to say their findings weren't exactly surprising to this godless heathen. I want to focus on one particular recurring criticism he faces: Though most people can understand why he goes after the fanatics, there surely isn't any harm in a moderate belief, is there?

Dawkins' own answers variously mention pre-rapture suicides and killings, and the fact that, if you are willing to take the existence of a deity on faith, you will be more likely to take an unquestioning view of other woo, such as alternative medicine or creationism. While the latter will just get you laughed at, or maybe narrow your job prospects, the former might lead to not taking the correct medicine for an avoidable illness, or taking the wrong medicine because the woo-peddlers aren't regulated and so didn't test their 'natural remedies' before encouraging you to down it.

But the clincher for me is this: If you believe one thing to be true, you are likely to force that thing onto your kids, whether they agree with it, or not. Thinking you are doing the best for your children by ensuring they grow up in the Christian faith for example, you might insist they read the bible, or maybe enroll them in a bit of Sunday school. Perhaps a visit to a local Alpha Course if they don't take the hint and keep on with their pesky reasoning.

In America, they have another choice - a whole industry devoted to setting your child on the right path.

And for those whose loving parents send them there, it is a horrifying nightmare.

A teenager has apparently spent a few years there, in the name of 'curing' his atheism:
In September 2009, after admitting to my parents that I was atheist, I was abruptly woken in the middle of the night by two strange men who subsequently threw me in a van and drove me 200 mi. to a facility that I would later find out serves the sole purpose of eliminating free thinking adolescents.


Let me give you a detailed run-down of my experience here: To start off it's a boarding school where there is literally no communication with the outside world, the people who work here can do anything they want, and the students can do absolutely nothing about it. The basic idea is that you're not allowed to leave until you believably adopt their viewpoints and push them off on others. The minimum stay at these places is a year, an ENTIRE YEAR, that means no birthday, no christmas, no thanksgiving etc.; my stay lasted 2 years. The day to day functioning of this facility is based on a very strict set of rules and regulations: you eat what they give you, do what they tell you (often just pointless things just to brand mindless submission in your brain), and believe what they tell you to believe. Consequences for not adhering to these regulations include not eating for that day, being locked in small rooms for extended periods of time and the long term consequence of an extended stay.
The skeptic in me said to keep a suspicious mind, and reddit isn't known for the integrity of its journalists. I want it to be at least partially a reactionary rant, as this is worse than I could possibly believe the effects of simple religious faith had scope to inflict.

However, this page shows just how many of these places have come and gone, apparently shut down for all sorts of gruesome reasons. This connected site profiles the still at large and those fighting to shut them down. It profiles the many legal cases brought against various WWASP organizations. Finally, there are actual House and Senate bills, brought in to regulate or shut down these institutions.

Judge the authenticity for yourself by reading the comments, some of which come from fellow survivors.

Edit: There is also a documentary in production:

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