“My Religion” homework for my son in second grade?

I posted this to a local atheist activist group, and received a great deal of support… might as well post it here too. Note that my message to the teacher is not aggressive… I am merely pointing out that proselytizing in school is not something that should happen. (It’s illegal but I have not pointed that out.) I expect a positive response from the teacher.

The issue here is that we live in a secular country. I understand that teaching our children about religions and cultures is a good thing, so I can see this was done with good intentions. However, the phrasing assumes that everybody is religious, and in the case of someone like Josh, the only one with an atheist parent in his class, this leaves him immediately feeling uncomfortable, and sets the tone for religious discrimination. (He has been upset by this for days and delayed from filling it in until the night before it was due.) An eight year old is never old enough to have independent views about religion, and thus is always going to reflect the parents’ views… which generally means those of his or her religious indoctrination.

In addition to this, Josh was in foster care until last December, and although he says he doesn’t think god is real, this is confusing to him. Surely such lessons could be introduced without this thoughtless and unnecessary pressure being placed upon the child?

Here is the post as made to the activist group…


Am I overreacting?

My son Josh, in grade 2, got this homework asking about “My religion”.
He has been stressing about it for days, and has been afraid that he will get into trouble because he doesn’t have a religion.

I don’t mind if he is taught about all religions, as long as nobody preaches to him. And he has mentioned before that his teacher has told the class she is a Christian. But this has caused him a lot of stress. So I wrote a letter to the teacher… in a hurry.

It’s very untidy and was written in a rush last night, and reads as follows:

Josh does not have a religion because I am an atheist.

He is worried that he will get into trouble for being honest.

This is putting him under a lot of unnecessary pressure.

I believe in separation of church and state and that religious proselytization has no place in school.

Please emphasize to him that there is no pressure for him to have a religion, and that you are only teaching him about religions in general.

Thank you

01

02

Update: The teacher didn’t respond to me, but she did exactly as I asked. She explained to Josh that it’s “perfectly fine” for him not to have a religion and that the lesson was meant to teach the children about other religions. I don’t think she gets it though, because she also told him he can use atheism as his religion (when he presents it to the class today – the first half of the class presented yesterday). So she’s in the “atheism is also a religion” camp, despite those homework questions and answers making it clear that he does not have a religion and doesn’t worship or pray to a god. But at least she did reassure him that he wouldn’t get into trouble or lose marks for answering differently. So while I am not happy with the way the homework was phrased (the subject could have been raised without it), overall I am happy with the outcome.

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About Jerome

I am a senior C# developer in Johannesburg, South Africa. I am also a recovering addict, who spent nearly eight years using methamphetamine. I write on my recovery blog about my lessons learned and sometimes give advice to others who have made similar mistakes, often from my viewpoint as an atheist, and I also write some C# programming articles on my programming blog.
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4 Responses to “My Religion” homework for my son in second grade?

  1. notabilia says:

    It’s amazing the amount of tact and restrained common sense that atheists have to display in reaction to the constant gobsmacking stupidity of theists and those duped into thinking them the default social reality.
    I hated the bizarre enforcement of personal revelation in US schools when I was a kid, and now it’s a thousand times worse. If education has any value, it is to teach skills and point to useful knowledge, not promote relentless therapy-group self-focus. What about privacy?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Jerome says:

    One thing that’s surprised me is this: There were a lot of likes and a long comment thread on the share to the South African Atheist Movement facebook group (no surprise), but the share of this post to my wall was all but ignored. Only responded to by four atheist friends (who aren’t in that group)… Not one theist commented anything at all.

    So I must conclude that the discrimination against atheists is totally invisible to them. I wonder how many buy into the bullshit idea of discrimination against Christians, as in the theme of nonsense movies like “God’s not dead”?

    Edit… I see this post was shared a couple of times by other people. I can’t see those shares (because it doesn’t work that way of course – and it shouldn’t)… I can only see when someone shares my facebook post, not when someone shares the blog post directly. But I have a feeling that theists aren’t sharing it…

    Like

  3. Ugh… This isn’t somewhere I ever go with my classes (and I teach adults) mainly because I, like you, believe in secular education. I think the letter is completely appropriate.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. bbnewsab says:

    Is South Africa really a secular country? Being secular is a way of living, with no gods or other divine entities – neither any woo – to worship or obey. So if you believe in magic, then you’re not a secular person according to me. What causes you to call your country, Jerome, a secular one? In my eyes, believing in woo or believing in gods makes no difference.

    Like

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