I get it. Strength in numbers, better resistance to religious indoctrination through preparation, etc. Even so, the more atheists adopt the trappings of religion, the more uneasy it makes me. You call yourselves “freethinkers,” boys. Couldn’t you at least have picked a different day?
An estimated 14% of Americans profess to have no religion, and among 18-to-25-year-olds, the proportion rises to 20%, according to the Institute for Humanist Studies. The lives of these young people would be much easier, adult nonbelievers say, if they learned at an early age how to respond to the God-fearing majority in the U.S. “It’s important for kids not to look weird,” says Peter Bishop, who leads the preteen class at the Humanist center in Palo Alto. Others say the weekly instruction supports their position that it’s O.K. to not believe in God and gives them a place to reinforce the morals and values they want their children to have…
[Bri] Kneisley, 26, a graduate student at the University of Missouri, says she realized [her son] Damian needed to learn about secularism after a neighbor showed him the Bible. “Damian was quite certain this guy was right and was telling him this amazing truth that I had never shared,” says Kneisley. In most ways a traditional sleep-away camp–her son loved canoeing–Camp Quest also taught Damian critical thinking, world religions and tales of famous freethinkers (an umbrella term for atheists, agnostics and other rationalists) like the black abolitionist Frederick Douglass.
The Palo Alto Sunday family program uses music, art and discussion to encourage personal expression, intellectual curiosity and collaboration. One Sunday this fall found a dozen children up to age 6 and several parents playing percussion instruments and singing empowering anthems like I’m Unique and Unrepeatable, set to the tune of Ten Little Indians, instead of traditional Sunday-school songs like Jesus Loves Me. Rather than listen to a Bible story, the class read Stone Soup, a secular parable of a traveler who feeds a village by making a stew using one ingredient from each home.
Down the hall in the kitchen, older kids engaged in a Socratic conversation with class leader Bishop about the role persuasion plays in decision-making. He tried to get them to see that people who are coerced into renouncing their beliefs might not actually change their minds but could be acting out of self-preservation–an important lesson for young atheists who may feel pressure to say they believe in God.
Exit question: How soon before they start wearing plaid uniforms with the hood ornament of godlessness on them?