At dinner the other night, my kids made a request of me.

Could we please go into the closet as atheists.

We have lost friends, have been treated badly, and have experienced unpleasantness from the mouths of babes.  The kids have HAD IT with being crusaders for reality.

I asked them, Would you rather be friends with a person who would, if they knew you are an atheist, shun you?  Would you rather keep it a secret in the hopes that they will never know?

No, replied The Doctor, in the hopes that once they know us, they will love us too much to judge us.

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Comment by Karen Loethen on September 14, 2012 at 3:54am

We had this conversation on a day when the kids were feeling particularly down heartened  by some events.
But the kids are far too full of integrity to actually hide their atheism.

Fear not, we intend to stay OUT and OPEN!


Comment by Alan Perlman on June 25, 2012 at 1:48pm

Karen...I don't have kids, but I know how important peer acceptance is, and I understand your problem.  You are standing at the edge of a philosophical Grand Canyon.  It may be too much to ask some kids to be an advocate for truth and reality at a young age.  That's how religious brainwashing works - get 'em young, bully and intimidate them, vilify unbelievers. 

Some kids come by skepticism naturally (disinclination towards magical thinking) and/or parental modeling.  My stepson, at 9, told the other Jewish kids they wouldn't have to wear skullcaps when they grew up, that the Easter Bunny and Tooth Fairy weren't real, and other un-PC things.  His need for integrity was greater than his need for acceptance. 

These are the kind of people who are at the cutting edge of human progress: their need for truth and integrity supersedes their need for acceptance.  It's just the opposite for people who know better but still go to church or synagogue and listen to all the crap and drivel. 

This is an eminently teachable moment.  It has to do with the kind of person the kid is growing into. Does he/she want to be like all those sheep and pretenders?  Or live in the real world and (this is what we're saying to the other stepson, only 6) use your mind to find the truth, instead of just accepting it on someone else's say-so?

I'm sure there are lots of teaching aids for raising secular humanist kids.  There are simple things kids can say (How do you know?  Did God tell you?  Where is heaven/hell, anyway?) in response to religious bullying).  We have several such books. 

The closet of religion is musty, dark, and dirty - no place for a self-respecting human being.


Comment by Neil Craig on June 20, 2012 at 12:45pm

When I was a teenager and the local minister was visiting my father my younger sister told him "My brother doesn't believe in God".


This was not due to some philosophical questioning deep in her soul but because she had a little sisterly desire to see a fight.


She didn'y get one because we both mumbled that each had the right to their own opinions.#

The point being that you can be perfectly good as an athiest (or any other brand of non-theist without always being the first to bring it up. Certainly defend your position if it does come up but don't be the one to make an issue of it.


And remeber that non-theists have no monopoly on rationality. Indeed one of the bloggers here, Skip Evans has repeatedly sought to prove that "scientists studying global warming" as he claims to be, are infalible, by coming on mt own blog, writing obscenities and then reposting that I must be a "Nazi" because I delete them.  Opposed as I am to censorship of actual ideas you will understand that all such behaviour does (though I am not suggesting you ever embaraced your kids with anything remotely as crass) is to make people holding such ideas seem unreasonable.



Comment by Peter Nothnagle on June 19, 2012 at 6:34pm

I live in a liberal town, and I'm self-employed, so maybe it's just too easy for me to say this, but -- I think you should stay "out of the closet" if your job and your safety aren't at risk.  Today's young atheists are seen in our community as heroes and leaders, and your children are role models to classmates who are hiding their doubt and atheism right now.  They don't have to be "crusaders", but it's always good to stand up for what's right!



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