I'm planning to be a teacher in the future and I'm curious how much I will be forced to hide my atheism. Has anyone experienced a negative result from being open about their position on religion? Positive stories are welcome as well.

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I am a co- owner and we have 2 employees. My business partner is a cross between an agnostic and an atheist (leaning toward atheist). The male employee states he is some kind of believer but he asks me quite a bit about religion - I think he is curious and questioning. I think the word atheist scares him actually. Our female employee comes from a very strong Catholic family but calls herself an agnostic and questioning. They all know and respect that I am a hardcore atheist and that I work as an activist.
well, i've worked enough jobs to realize that i need to work alone, so i started a yard biz. Somehow, religion would always creep into conversations; I'm in Louisiana. Also, I've never been a team player, and could always excel when left alone. If i were more comfortable as a social being, i may like the group setting, but i know this is right for me.
Thankfully I live in CA, and a liberal area at that. Nobody blinks when they find out I'm a gaytheist.
I keep quiet about it for the most part when I'm at work, mostly because I don't think religion belongs in the workplace at all. However, I work in the insurance industry, and one insurance term is "act of god," referring to a nautral catastrophe or other occurrence for which no one is truly liable. I refuse to use it. I call it an "act of nature" instead. I haven't gotten any flack for it yet, but then again, it's not something that comes up often.
Hi Amanda, I am a teacher and have worked in a number of faith schools, most recently a catholic school. I live in the UK and here there is a difference between faith schools and state schools. Although under the National Curriculum, faith has to be taught, in state schools it is more of an education about different beliefs. In faith schools they have the same requirement, but obviously push their own doctrine more.

I was raised as a catholic so am able to fly under the radar without drawing attention to myself. If I was determined to work in a catholic school, I would have to show a commitment to it's ethos, if not demonstrate my commitment to the religion. I imagine the same is true in all faith schools.

That said I am a trained science teacher about to embark on psychology teaching full time. From that perspective it can be difficult to remain true to your own ideology and not flout the rules. What I choose to do and which works well for me, is to encourage critical thinking in all my pupils. Therefore, no matter the topic, I insist they think about what I am teaching and challenge it if they want to. I explain that I may not be right and that the way to progress is to challenge everything for it's voracity. Apply the scientific template and even if they don't get an answer they are comfortable with, they will at least have thought about it.

I could declare my atheism, but it would close the door on a lot of opportunities for me, so I say nothing and concentrate on making my pupils critical analysts of their own environment. I hope this helps.
Nope. I work with a bunch of religious folk, so I just keep it to myself. Isn't worth making a fuss over, since it's never really come up.
I think as a rule teachers should never show their political or religious leanings. The job of a teacher is to teach, not indoctrinate which is what it is interpreted as when you sing the praises of a particular presidential candidate and tell the kids how evil the other one is.

It would be the same if you were christian or liberal or conservative or muslim, it has no place in an institution of learning. Knowledge can stand on its own without opinion mudding up the waters.

As a person who has taught, things go much better if you keep that sort of thing to yourself. It is when teachers start trying to mold little minds into what they want to see, as opposed to allowing the children to come to their own conclusions, that they get complaints from parents and into all kinds of messy situations.
Hi Amanda,

I am a school teacher and this is a topic I have thought a lot about. First of all, it is unfortunate that this is even an issue for a teacher, but you have to remember that teachers are held at a higher standard than most people. We have to be seen as pillars of the community and as moral role-models for children. Whether we like it or not, that is how we are seen by the communities in which we work (which is why I never live in the town I teach in!). Overwhelmingly, to most parents and administrators, it is NOT ok to be an atheist, out or otherwise.

It is completely a double standard, but being an out atheist really can be detrimental to your professional career. I have found that it is never given as the reason people have a problem with you, but it's usually only after it is known by others that issues begin to arise with you (providing you are already doing everything you should be doing!). You'll find that your opinion isn't as well regarded, your requests will be denied more often, you'll have less support from the PTA, etc. It's in the subtleties that the discrimination rears its ugly head.

Others may disagree with me, and I applaud any trail-blazers out there that are fearless, but I got into education to have an impact on students. For me, that means that in order to avoid unnecessary distractions to my teaching, I don't share this part of my life, and I grin and bare the religious zealots, parents, students, fellow teachers, and administrators who are openly religious. Luckily, I've noticed more an more adults who are "not very religious" and students questioning at an earlier age and my hope is that eventually, we won't be looked at as monsters that will bring about the damnation of the youth!

And as a new teacher, or soon to be, you'll have to spend a few years at a new job before you have job security. You'll have to decide for yourself what's important to you. I wish you the best of luck!
Approaching this from the student side (from long ago...) I can say that I cannot recall whether any of my teachers were atheist; however, I can say that many of my teachers did teach me the skills to identify fallacies and question authority. Perhaps as a teacher you can concentrate on critical thinking skills and alternative ways of looking at various phenomena, while helping them learn to accept other so that another generation of future people who fear or loathe atheism can be minimized.
As an elementary teacher, I find it hard sometimes (especially when a student begins to proselytize in the classroom) to NOT share my beliefs. Although I do look at it as a benefit to my kids - because I understand how important nonbelief is to me, I can also understand how important belief is to my students. I often (several times a year) have to have a discussion with a student about how important their own beliefs are - TO THEM - and that to be respectful of others' beliefs we need to recognize that ours are so very often different than others'. It's a balancing act - but one that you have to perform every day in every other aspect of education as well.
Don, I'm lucky that I work in a pretty mainstream school, at least where religion is concerned. "Mainstream" meaning there's a good mix of faiths - I even had a student this year (5th grader) who claimed (very bravely, I might add) that he didn't believe in god. I hated that I couldn't tell him I agreed with him, because I didn't want the other kids questioning my beliefs or their parents', or running to their parents to tell them I was "godless" or whatever. I gave him the same speech that I gave my preacher's son student - that your faith is important to you and you need to decide what to believe on your own.




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