A little housekeeping: First, go to Atheist Census and be counted. Then scroll down and look at the demographics of nonbelievers. You’ll find it interesting. If you don’t want to fill out the info, you can still scroll down and see the stats they’ve gathered.
Second, Dale McGowan is writing the forward to my book, and I am very honored. He is the author of a great book called, Parenting Beyond Belief. Check him out here (also, on the sidebar).
I know many of you have children still in school, and now, with the end of the year approaching, life is frantic, tiring, stressful. After school is out, many of us will go through our children’s notebooks, saving a handful of papers and tossing the rest. Such a waste, really, all those trees, all the chemicals used in processing.
As I culled my younger kid’s papers, I found something interesting at the very end of his history folder. At the beginning of the year, the teacher had asked the students to tell a little about themselves. The first question was, “What are your religious views, and how do they affect your life?” This is a difficult question for our kids to answer. You and I know that it’s something that should not even be asked–but good luck making an issue of that in Texas. Your kid will have a scarlet letter, and your name will be recorded in a little black book of whiney parents. (Seriously.) But it’s a question they are going to be asked many more times in life: What is your religion? And their answer may change many times throughout their lives.
My son has told me before that he is embarrassed to say he is an agnostic. He tells me kids talk to him all the time about their church or about God. I think he’s especially worried about two (cute) girls who ask him on a regular basis to check out Young Life and their Bible Studies.
So, my kid wrote this: “I am Christian. I believe that you should always be respectful and kind to everyone. Religion doesn’t really affect my life. I feel it is very important for you to believe in what you want to believe in.” In other words, I call myself a Christian, but that’s it. I believe we should be kind and respectful to people. It shouldn’t matter what you believe in.
As I’ve said before, I don’t care what my kids decide to become when they grow older, after they’ve given thorough consideration and study of religion, its history and its various belief systems. But I think it’s our job as parents to make sure that the decision is theirs and that they understand the pressure society places on them to believe the same way, to think the same thoughts, to watch the same TV programs, even to dress the same. Some kids will be better than others at saying, “I’m not like you, and I’m ok with that.”
Maybe this teacher didn’t mean anything by asking this question front and center. Perhaps this history teacher simply wanted to know who she would be dealing with in class, so she could tailor her lectures. I’m not sure. I do know that, while she wears a cross around her neck, she also curses like a proverbial sailor and allows the kids to break the school’s “no eating in class” rule. It’s funny, though, that she can ask our kids about their religious views, yet I would feel very uncomfortable asking her the same question. To me, it’s almost like asking, “What color is your underwear?” It’s such a personal question that it should not even be asked unless you’ve been on more than three dates.
As parents, we can’t shame our kids for hiding behind Christianity; we can only continue to talk with and educate them at home, to encourage them to keep searching and to be as real as they can as often as they can. That, perhaps, is something they will not learn while they’re in school.