Back in 1986, I ended up on a field trip to visit Moundsville, WV – home of a Native American burial mound (hence the city’s name), a prison, and a Hare Krishna commune. I went to a public school at that point, so theoretically there could have been some sort of argument over the fact that we were going to visit a sacred spot for a specific religion. In all honesty, other than the ludicrous amount of gold leaf throughout the temple, the biggest memory I have of the compound was of when we were entering it. Our teacher made the driver stop, and he dutifully told us not to accept anything to eat or drink while in the commune – presumably he was of the opinion that someone might attempt to drug us, and spirit us away to become new followers. If memory serves, that was the primary objection from a few parents – not the fact that we were going to learn about another religion, but the possibility that we could end up wearing orange robes, getting our heads shaved, and playing tambourines in an airport somewhere.
I’ve made no secret of the fact that I’m an atheist. I wasn’t born that way – wasn’t raised that way. In truth, I was raised Catholic, and spent a great deal of time over the years studying about various religious faiths. And I don’t think that I am an odd sort of atheist – there are many out there that took the time to try to find a religion that “fit”, and ended up having faith in nothing. Knowing that, it always annoys me to no end when I see atheists acting like atheism is actually a religion. The latest nonsense in Arkansas over a school taking kids to see a production of “A Charlie Brown Christmas” is no exception.
First, I would like to point out what should be obvious – children of atheists will spend a great deal of time interacting with children raised by Christians. The parent involved in this silliness did have enough sense to point out that her child might get bullied if she opted to keep the child from attending the play. I’m not suggesting that anyone should condone bullying, of course. I’m also not certain that would be the reaction of the other children – after all, if the family hadn’t drawn attention to themselves in the first place by raising objections to the outing, it could have easily been a matter of claiming the child wasn’t well that day, at least for the benefit of classmates.
Second, I am still waiting for a real response from an atheist on this whole religion-phobia. If one doesn’t believe in the existence of something, how in the world can one justify fear of being unduly influenced by others that happen to believe? People don’t believe in the Tooth Fairy. They don’t throw fits over someone else that happens to disagree with them, do they? No, they don’t.
Third, what harm does it do to have a child that is being raised in an atheist household end up learning about the beliefs of others? Sure, it can be confusing. Life is confusing. But, no matter how anyone wants to try to say otherwise, failing to expose a child to the beliefs and cultures of others is closed-minded. It impairs their ability to even attempt to see the world as others see it. But hey, I’m just an evil conservative heathen – bigoted, racist, and incapable of understanding the world view of anyone else. Well, that’s probably what those progressive atheists that are afraid of a god they don’t believe exists would say about me. As for Charlie Brown, get over yourselves. Your kids won’t melt if they hear passages from the Bible in a theatrical production, and they won’t spontaneously burst into flames if they set foot in a church. It’s called parenting. Explain what the kids will see, and answer their questions. Novel concept, I know. But, it’s a heck of a lot better than making yourselves the pariahs in the community with your silly notion that everyone else needs to bow down to your lack of belief, and hide their own ideas about deities from your offspring. And, let’s be brutally honest here. Failing to teach your kids about religion at all is just an invitation for them to become followers of one faith or another when they grow up. Teenage rebellion for radical atheists could very well become flocks of kids raised to not believe in a god going out and becoming Born Again Christians. Perish the thought!