Tuesday, June 12, 2012

A Tuesday Anti-Religious Rant

I'm self-admittedly anti-theist now, and the more isolated I feel within the surrounding religious community, the more frustrated and angry I seem to be becoming. It's summertime, which means nearly everyone I know is sharing stories and pictures from their kids' experiences at religious indoctrination camp, sorry, I mean vacation bible school. Sigh.

Why does the concept of bible school bother me so much? I suppose it's the word school. You see, there is no education going on at these "schools," only one-sided indoctrination, where the methodical stamping out of critical thought is a necessary stepping stone to making kids accept faith. They must stop asking "why" and accept "just because," and they must learn to accept interpretations from a 2000 year old Bronze Age text as superior to answers given by modern science. Rational thought and questioning, demanding proof for all assertions, must be rejected to at least some degree in order for any religious worldview to be accepted. It's really that simple. And Christian parents know this, otherwise they would not send their little kids to Sunday school and these religious summer camps. Get them while they are young, before the age of reason. Make sure they know that "because I said so" is a valid reason to keep from taking a bite of that apple. Nevermind that the apple is fucking delicious.

And of course all the Sunday school classes, vacation bible school sessions, and other children's church activities lead to announcements by people that their children have "chosen Jesus" and that they are so "proud." What exactly are you proud of? Successful indoctrination? Did you think there was a chance your eight year old was going to stand up in the middle of group prayer and announce his life-long dedication to Allah? Or Krishna? Are you surprised that he chose the only faith you've exposed him to?

I love Richard Dawkins. His words in The God Delusion helped me realize I have to be vocal about my atheism in order to show my kids the importance of leading an authentic life and questioning everything. This particular clip shows Dawkin's answer to the "most simplest question" during one of his book tours, when an audience member asks, "What if you're wrong?"

I get a kick out of how oblivious American Christians are to the fact that they would most likely be worshiping another god if they had been born in a different world location. But you can't accept both that only Christians will be saved by god AND that geography is the main reason you are a Christian, can you? Certainly not if you also want said god to be both all-powerful and merciful. Really, what's merciful about a little Muslim baby being burned in hell for having the bad luck of being born to Muslim parents? And if you accept that all people, regardless of belief in Jesus, are worthy of being saved by god, then that kind of makes Jesus rather unnecessary, so that's no good either. See? It's all very confusing when you try to apply things like reason and logic, so I can understand why Christians need to put some of these questions into a box labeled "faith," and make sure their kids know at a very young age that those kinds of questions are not acceptable, or that they can be explained away by a simple non-answer such as, "God's ways are mysterious." And what better way to get kids to stop asking the complicated questions than through fun group activities like Bible camp and Sunday school?


  1. I admit that the Jesus Camp thing freaks me the hell out. They are brainwashed and acting like little robots, not curious questioning children. And it isn't just the Christians. Check out this little Muslim girl answering questions about her faith. Freaky!

    1. Scary video, Bubber! Thanks for the reminder that Christians don't hold the monopoly on religious brainwashing. That poor little girl. :(

  2. I just found your blog and I'm so excited! I too am an Atheist (though mostly still closeted) and am starting to homeschool my 4-year-old son here in southern California. As I've done research on homeschooling and talked to my homeschooling friends I've been very discouraged and disappointed with how religious everything is. Though I'm certainly in a more liberal and diverse area than Kentucky, we're still surrounding by relentless religiousity. Glad to know there are others out there who are in my boat! I look forward to reading through your archives and new posts. :)

    1. Thanks so much, Cara, and good luck on your homeschooling adventures. It's always nice to meet other secular homeschoolers out there. :)

  3. You know what. This is a THING for me.
    I decided several years ago that I would to OUT and totally OPEN with my atheism.
    Many people have said to me, 'You don't SEEM like an atheist.'
    My reply: I would say your perceptions are mistaken, now, wouldn't you?

    And so, my blog is an outcome of that decision to be totally OUT. I am nothing but proud to have made the journey out of the morass of religion and it makes me want to celebrate.

    THanks for another great post!!!!
    Peace, Karen

    1. Thanks, Karen! I still struggle with being totally out when I meet new people. (Everyone is religious here!) I suppose the rejection I received by some loved ones makes me scared, but I'm trying to be more and more open about it. I know the best way to change negative stigma associated with atheism is to be out and be proud. :) And that's the best example for my kiddos.

    2. Guess what.
      Just last night the kids BEGGED me to be less "out". To keep our atheism more private... They hate it when people choose to "pass" on being our friends after they know that we are atheist.

      One of the kids answered "no" and one answered "yes' when asked, "Well, would you be OK with a person who would choose to not be your friend for that reason?"

      We all struggle, Leanna. It's ok!

  4. Leanna - this is why I love your blog so much. I agree wholeheartedly with all that you said, and I can totally relate to the frustration you feel in being surrounded by all of the religious foolishness and especially the indoctrination of children. I actually feel nauseated whenever I see one of those FB statuses that someone's kid has "accepted Jesus", and I find vacation bible school incredibly disturbing, too. I'm currently struggling with a diplomatic way to say "no" to my very nice next door neighbor when she invites my kids to go to the one at her church again this summer. (She invited them last year and luckily we happened to be busy each time she asked.) I should probably just be direct and honest and tell her that we're not Christians and not interested... but I don't know how she'll react and my kids love playing with her grandkids, who are over there all the time. I'm funny - I try to be as "out" and open as possible (Dawkins and The God Delusion had a profound impact on me too), but I'm still nervous doing so around people whose reactions I really care about, especially when I have no idea what the reaction will be.

    1. Thank you, and I know just what you mean. I find it considerably easier to tell a stranger that I am an atheist, verses telling the parent of my kids' friends, for example. Of course I also want to minimize any negative repercussions my kids might receive for MY beliefs.

      Every now and then all the tongue biting that I do ALL THE TIME leads to one of these rants. I know we have the whole "angry atheist" stigma to deal with, so I try not to be angry all the time. I don't think any of the Christians I know could really imagine what it would be like to be surrounded by non-Christians all the time, and to feel almost completely isolated from those who share similar beliefs. The far right sure like to act like they are in a minority in this country, but obviously they couldn't be much further from the truth on that one.

  5. I have chosen not to respond to your anti-religion post in the past because in person I like you. Unfortunately in cyberspace you tend to attack the very things I hold near and dear.
    This post especially seems like an attack on what I personally find important. Your claim is that a person cannot foster critical thinking and religion in their children, and that by it's very nature teaching religion is brainwashing children.
    I have four intelligent, curious children who have been exposed to many religious viewpoints all their lives. They have been given the freedom to choose which religion feels right to them. We look at religion from a pluralistic viewpoint, which may not be popular, but hasn't stopped me from being accepted in a Christian church. So when my child chooses Christianity or Buddhism, or Hinduism, would you say it is due to my brainwashing? Is, in your mind, their having chosen to be religious a sign of their gullibility or lack of discernment.
    From another vantage point, could you not just as well say that you are brainwashing your children to be anti-religious?

    1. Otter, I like you and your family very much, too, and I apologize if this post offended you! This is my personal space to work through ideas and feelings I have that are not accepted or smiled upon in my day to day life. This post, clearly labeled rant, is just that: a rant. It came from a place of frustration.

      It's very cool that you have found a Christian church that accepts your pluralistic views on religion, and I'm very curious about it. Without trying to be snarky, do they really allow and welcome polytheists? Do they not teach that polytheism breaks one of the ten commandments? Or that Jesus is the only path to salvation?

      To answer your questions directly, yes I do believe that teaching critical thinking and teaching religious faith are contradictory. I think it's entirely possible to teach a broad religious history while fostering critical thinking skills, but teaching faith, which by definition is accepting things to be true without evidence, cannot fall under the blanket of teaching critical thinking skills. I have seen lot of intelligent people who use critical thinking skills in all things accept religious faith.

      I'm sure there are plenty of people who think that by teaching my kids to lead evidence-based lives I am brainwashing them to be anti-religious, however, I don't think it's brainwashing to teach my kids to demand proof for assertions, beliefs, and ideas.

      I stand by the original focus of my rant, that vacation bible schools and Sunday schools are not educational, but are a tool for indoctrination. If parents stressed critical thinking skills with their children, and waited to expose them to any religious faith until they were adults, do you still think 9 out of 10 people would choose the religious faith of their parents?