December 7, 2007

Atheist Sunday School? A Baptist Responds

Many Christians do not like it when atheism receives attention in the mainstream media. After all, this might lead people to learn what atheism is and to discover that religious delusion is not a necessary condition. So when news of atheist Sunday schools broke, it would just be a matter of time until Christians felt it necessary to respond.

Writing for Baptist Press, R. Albert Mohler Jr. summarized the Time article before providing his undeniably Christian perspective on the matter. Mohler's brief reaction offers two points. First, atheist Sunday schools are doomed to fail because children are too gullible not to believe in his god.
My guess is that these atheist Sunday Schools will not be as successful as these parents hope. "I'm Unique and Unrepeatable" just can't really compete with "Jesus Loves Me." Children have not yet developed cynicism and, in general, are quite eager to believe in God. Children taught from the Bible in Sunday School learn that they were made by a loving God who cares for them -- and then move on to learn much more about what the Bible teaches. No "secular parable" can compete with that.
I think I'm being perfectly fair when I point out that Mohler is saying that wish fulfillment and a lack of critical thinking skills will make his religion seductive to our sons and daughters. I guess we can thank him for reminding us why atheist programs like this (not to mention secular public education) are needed.

Mohler's second point takes him into what I suspect will be territory familiar to any fundamentalist Christian, spreading misinformation about atheists.
In a strange way, the rise of atheist Sunday Schools illustrates the central dilemma of atheism itself. Try as they may, atheists cannot avoid talking about God -- even if only to insist that they do not believe in Him. Now, atheist parents are organizing Sunday Schools as a parallel to the Christian practice. In effect, atheists are organizing themselves in a way similar to a local church. At least some of them must sense the awkward irony in that.
Oh Mr. Mohler (it is probably Rev. Mohler, isn't it?), the strange thing is that you seem unable to imagine that the most despised minority in America would find it beneficial to their survival to consider those who control our society and lead many to live in fear of Christian intolerance, hatred, and cruelty! It is not your god with which we are preoccupied; it is you and your fellow believers. Not a day passes where we are not confronted with the realization that we live as strangers in a strange land, a land where religious delusion runs rampant and the rational few are condemned for our rejection of faith. We organize because we need a voice in response to the oppression we experience, but we also organize to celebrate our emergence into the light of reason.