My sons second grade teacher asked the classroom to raise their hand if they believe in god. My son told me he felt like he had to raise his hand because everyone else did. But since it is the holidays, the lesson plan seems to be very religon based. I would like to talk to her and explain that we are nontheist but I dont want to single my children out. I am not sure what to do.

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My daughter is in choir (9th grade) - she loves to sing. During this season, many of the songs are religious - specifically Christian. She is well informed and comfortable with her atheism - really, she sees it as no different as being anything else in terms of 'affiliation.' If she gets 'teased' about not believing in god she easily deflects this by pointing out all the differences in the gods that these children attempted to rally around. It is a useful tool in these situations that religious intolerance and confusion extends to anyone who believes differently, not just to those who don't believe at all. Pretty soon, she has the ones trying to isolate her isolated with everyone else on her side. Yes - the old 'enemy of my enemy' ploy.

We talk about the Christian songs. We have both decided that they are no different than the pagan ones about Santa - they are part of a history and heritage that is pretty harmless and, in general, has something to say for generosity and peace on earth and whatnot - so they're not all THAT bad.

My daughter is one self-possessed kid - I have to tell you. But if she had come home with the story your son told you - the principal would have been bending over backwards, afraid of a lawsuit we (her mother and I) never even threatened. All we do is rip them a new one and demand an apology - not to us - but from the teacher to my daughter in front of us.
Not to flame you here, but I do disagree that it is okay to teach any kind of religion in class. I believe that is up to each individual family. There are many different religious beliefs about this time of year. Also, I do not believe it is just as bad to teach a child the importance of non-believing verses believing in a deity. I believe that putting your faith in a fictional deity to be dangerous. I don't have a problem with teaching tolerance of other religious beliefs, but I think it is very important to teach critical thinking skills and that includes teaching them not to believe in superstition. Religion teaches many bad things along with some good. It is not necessary to have in your life and I don't think it has any place in a public school. If people want their children to learn about religion teach it at home, go to church, or send them to a private religious school.
I think people have the right to teach their own children whatever they want (even if it is ridiculous), however, a public school does not have the right to do this.

Now, of course, I think it is okay to teach facts about all mythology and to teach tolerance. However, to ask children (especially such young children) to openly disclose something personal and potentially embarrassing is wrong. A class may teach children about sex education but how would we feel if students were asked to raise their hand if they have engaged in particular sexual acts?
Which bible and which god(s) is it that you propose that we teach to our children? How do we choose? What would be the criteria?

If you are worried that those of us to tell our kids we don't believe in god(s) won't be exposed to the counter-opinion, rest assured that they will be inundated with it each time they walk out of the house.

I think that we should teach our children about myths-- as myths--not possible truths. I also think that we need to teach our children the reasons we don't believe in gods or other mythical creatures so they be easy prey to proselytizers. Now, if we have taught them about truth, critical thinking, and the reasons for our not believing in what many other do and they still decide later to believe in things for which there is no logical reason, it will be disappointing but I guess we've done the best we can.
My sister experienced a similar problem with her son. My nephew came home from school when he was in kindergarten (i think) with bible scene coloring sheets talking about 'the blood of christ'. She really wanted to say something but never did because my nephew is a bit of a problem child and she felt like if she went to the school and said, "look I would like it if you didn't teach my child about your religion" then everyone would think "no wonder the kid has issues, he needs some Jesus in his life". Plus our family knows this woman on a personal bases I went to high school with her daughter and ran cross country with her. They are nice people, but that is not the issue, they have no right to indoctrinate other people's children.
I considered going to the school myself, but just didn't really know what to say. This was a few years ago and I was a bit younger, if it happened again I hope that this time I would at the very least write a letter to the school stating very calmly and intelligently that matters of religion are for the home unless we are discussing how different people have different religious views and it does not make one person better or worse for what they believe, simply different.

I am all for discussions of difference and acceptance but not specifically pointing out people who are different and making them feel bad or alone because of it.

I do hope you have the courage to speak with this teacher or the principle. I have been told that if you do not feel comfortable doing it yourself you can always call the ACLU and I have been told that they will contact the school and deal with it quietly and anonymously.

That is a hard and unfair lesson for a second grader to learn. But I am sure you handled it well at home and your son will be a stronger and better person for it.
I agree with many of the others here. That teacher was way out of line. Even back when my wife and I were still deluded about religion, we were irritated whenever a teacher would do that. We thought it was quite thoughtless as there could be other religious preferences in the room and those children would be uncomfortable. There was a bus driver here who would hand out those Gideon's bibles. We put a stop to it by going to the superintendent.

When my son was in the third grade, my son went to a school assembly where they actually had preachers talk with the children about being "saved" and taking children who did not think they were and praying with them. It was crazy! We also went to the superintendent about that. If all else fails, the ACLU loves jumping into these kinds of cases. Both of those incidents occurred while we were still Christians and we found them offensive.
My concern is that if the teacher felt comfortable doing this, the problem in your school system may be pervasive. How many other teachers, administrator, etc. are doing the same or worse? I know you don't want to cause problems for your child, but I worry that if we don't take a stand on such issues the problem will only get worse. Years ago, I had a similar issue with my stepchild's school and I still regret not doing anything. I suggest at least considering contacting a group such as the Freedom From Religion Foundation or the ACLU. There may be a way to remain anonymous.
Hm, what kind of school does your son attend? It is a faith school, this one is going to be a tough one to battle. If it is a secular school, have a chat with the teacher and ask why the activities around the holidays seem to have such a faith oriented basis. You can use the example in your post as an example to illustrate your point.

My daughter has a communication disorder and therefore goes to a special school. There is not much choice, since regular schools cannot provide her the additional care she requires. The school is a public school and there are children from all sorts of homes. Before the christmas holidays my daughter came home with stories about mangers and angels. I simply asked the teacher if it would not be possible to include a broader perspective. I think it was a simple case of "teach what you know". I made a few suggestions, such as comparing how people celebrate the holidays in other parts of the world, or talk about the North Pole (since that is where Santa is supposed to live) or have a theme around winter sports. She quite enjoyed the ideas and had never really considered another approach until she received the suggestions. It was not a case of hidden agendas and I suspect the same may be true about the teacher's question in your post. She may have just wanted to include the children's own experiences into the class discussion and may not have thought about the feelings it could spark in her pupils.

Ask to have a chat and bring some cookies. Be nice. After all, your son will be in her class for the rest of the year.


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