Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Atheist Sunday School

So, after going on and on about how Christians are indoctrinating their kids and not allowing them to think for themselves and forcing them to learn about God against their will (which they consider child abuse), the atheists have discovered the benefit of indoctrinating their children. Little Damian thinks that there might be something to the Christian God, better indoctrinate him in "free thinking" to inoculate him against any Bible-toting Christians.

But some nonbelievers are beginning to think they might need something for their children. "When you have kids," says Julie Willey, a design engineer, "you start to notice that your co-workers or friends have church groups to help teach their kids values and to be able to lean on." So every week, Willey, who was raised Buddhist and says she has never believed in God, and her husband pack their four kids into their blue minivan and head to the Humanist Community Center in Palo Alto, Calif., for atheist Sunday school.


The pioneering Palo Alto program began three years ago, and like-minded communities in Phoenix, Albuquerque, N.M., and Portland, Ore., plan to start similar classes next spring. The growing movement of institutions for kids in atheist families also includes Camp Quest, a group of sleep-away summer camps in five states plus Ontario, and the Carl Sagan Academy in Tampa, Fla., the country's first Humanism-influenced public charter school, which opened with 55 kids in the fall of 2005. Bri Kneisley, who sent her son Damian, 10, to Camp Quest Ohio this past summer, welcomes the sense of community these new choices offer him: "He's a child of atheist parents, and he's not the only one in the world."

Kneisley, 26, a graduate student at the University of Missouri, says she realized Damian needed to learn about secularism after a neighbor showed him the Bible. "Damian was quite certain this guy was right and was telling him this amazing truth that I had never shared," says Kneisley. In most ways a traditional sleep-away camp--her son loved canoeing--Camp Quest also taught Damian critical thinking, world religions and tales of famous freethinkers (an umbrella term for atheists, agnostics and other rationalists) like the black abolitionist Frederick Douglass.

So, maybe you might think that a logically consistent atheist who said this:
The first question we must ask is whether there is such a thing as a Christian child, Muslim child, etc. I think that Dawkins is correct in answering that there is not. No child is born into the world with an established set of religious beliefs. These beliefs are acquired through a lengthy process of indoctrination. Thus, it is accurate to say that all children are born atheists because one cannot believe in something of which one has never heard. Of course, most children do not remain atheists for long, especially in America.

As the process of indoctrination unfolds, the child acquires religious beliefs. These beliefs are rarely questioned prior to adolescence - just as most parental messages are not seriously questioned during childhood. Throughout this pre-adolescent stage, we do not have Christian/Muslim/Jewish children but children of Christian, Muslim, or Jewish parents. This is a very important distinction.
Would come out strongly against this school. Isn't it child abuse to indoctrinate them in their parents' beliefs? I guess if they're atheists, not so much:
The children learn about secular values and how to deal with the god-delusional majority, receive support for their disbelief, have their secular values reinforced, and gain a sense of community from spending time with like-minded people. Intellectual curiosity and critical thinking are fostered.
I guess atheism is natural and religion is learned? Children are naturally atheistic and these parents are only reinforcing their atheism? Or are these children just following in their parents footsteps the way Christian children follow in their parents' (according to the atheist).

Is it child abuse to put a blindfold on a child so that he doesn't see God revealed in his creation and put earplugs in his ears so that he doesn't hear the sound of the voice of God speaking through his word? Is it child abuse to foster "free thinking" only until the child expresses thoughts of God? Freedom ends when the child mentions God and then it's off to Sunday school to learn "critical thinking skills."

I guess we're a lot more alike in our beliefs (and yeah, since you can't disprove God with science you take a leap of faith in stating that there is no God) than the atheists want to admit. A Christian could describe Sunday school in a very similar way:
The children learn about Christian values and how to love those who hate them for their belief in God, receive support for their belief, have their Christian values reinforced, and gain an understanding of the body of Christ by spending time with other Christians. Intellectual curiosity and critical thinking are fostered as we study the word of God and understand the maker of heaven and earth.
You can't force a child to believe in God and you can't force them not to. You can share your love of God with them but one day they'll leave and live out their own beliefs.

Thankfully we live in a country where I can teach my kids about God and not have them taken away from me. I hope that it remains that way for their kids.