Atheism and What to Teach the Kids
My boyfriend recently returned from a brief trip home. It was a harrowing journey through a blinding storm, but I did finally managed to make it to the airport to pick him up. (Yes, I’m being dramatic, but I was quite delayed.) It was a long, cautiously slow journey back, so we had plenty of time to talk.
One subject that came up, for whatever reason, was the fact that I’m an atheist and that he and his family are Christian. Apart from occasionally engaging the the cosmological argument and insisting that he’s not a monkey, he’s never been one to evangelize to me about his religion, so thankfully, we’ve never had any problem there. Occasionally, he gets on my case for being hostile towards religion, such as when people try to impose their religion into law or medicine, or use it as an excuse to attack human rights or science. In such cases, the way I see it, if people want to hide behind their god while being dicks, their religion is fair game just as any other argument would be. For the most part, he and I try to leave the whole subject of religion alone. We get along very well together as a result.
His parents, on the few occasions I’ve met them, rarely broached the subject with me either. His father barely mentioned god when telling some cute anecdote about my boyfriend giving out candy in church as a kid after a lesson about sharing god’s love. His mother seemed to try to get into a biology debate with me, when I mentioned having an interest in the subject. She tried talking to me about the perfection of natural systems being indicative of a designer. Naturally, I found this to be complete nonsense for many reasons (our systems are far from perfect. If there is a designer, he’s inept,) but for the sake of keeping the peace, didn’t take the bait. If I had, I may have asked her why the lenses of our eyes are in backwards and upside-down, causing all of our nerves to pass through our retina, causing a blind spot, and necessitating that our brains flip the images we see.
But I didn’t. I want these people to like me, after all. Still, it’s troubling that I still hear from my boyfriend that his parents like to talk to him about my absence of faith every now and then. This time, if I remember what my boyfriend said correctly, his father had brought it up to him, once again, that I’m not like them. I don’t know if it’s ever been explained why me being an atheist should be a problem, but of course I’m never present when such conversations take place.
Somehow, despite the fact that BF’s parents know he doesn’t want kids, and that I sure as hell don’t, the question came up of how we’d raise our kids, specifically, what we’d teach them to believe in regards to religion. I think BF’s dad is a nice guy and means well, but I found this to be a very disturbing question. Children will believe just about anything they’re told with an air of authority. Gods, monsters, Santa Clause, whatever. They haven’t the experience necessary to work out what is and isn’t plausible, nor the understanding that adults can be wrong or even lie. For this reason, they’re very vulnerable. I find it downright abusive to exploit their trust by telling them matter-of-factly what to believe without an ounce of supporting evidence. I’d like to think that even if I was still a Christian, I would at least have the sense not to indoctrinate a person that I am supposed to care for.
As to my atheism, you can’t teach atheism. Atheism isn’t a positive believe, it’s merely the rejection of theism. It’s the default position that people are lead away from by other people. At most, I could only teach a kid (let’s call her Hypothetica) to examine all matters for herself, never taking anything at face value or taking anyone at their word, and to reserve judgement until she has collected and analyzed all facts, and be ready to change her conclusions should new evidence necessitate doing so. That’s not atheism, that’s being scientific. That’s being realistic. That’s being honest. That’s being rational.
Despite neither of us wanting kids, my BF and I quickly agreed that hypothetically, should we have kids, the best thing to teach them would simply be to think for themselves and not impose anything upon them. That’s the way it should be, I think.