November 24, 2007

Atheist Sunday School

East Palo Alto PA Airport Moffett Field P1190059Good news atheist parents - now you don't have to be Christian to have your children tortured on Sunday mornings! Okay, maybe I was the only one who despised Sunday school. But are atheist parents really clamoring for a secular version of Sunday school for their children? Evidently, some are.

This article in Time describes an atheist Sunday school program held at the Humanist Community Center in Palo Alto, CA. Okay, first things first - I want a humanist community center! Shrill whining out of the way, just what goes on at atheist Sunday school?

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.

It sounds like this could be the beginning of a trend which might spread to other communities.
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.
As positive as all of this sounds, I have one minor concern. Maybe I'm reading too much into this, so I'll be interested to see what you think. Read the following carefully:
The lives of these young people would be much easier, adult nonbelievers say, if they learned at an early age how to respond to the God-fearing majority in the U.S. "It's important for kids not to look weird," says Peter Bishop, who leads the preteen class at the Humanist center in Palo Alto.
While I don't necessarily disagree with this, I worry about whether it conveys the message that these kids need to learn how to fit in by concealing their beliefs. Why should the atheist kids be the ones worried about looking weird? After all, they aren't the ones who believe all sorts of rubbish about supernatural entities. Granted, there is merit to learning how to fit in when one is still a kid, but this seems like something to approach carefully.

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