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Atheist Sunday School

This is an essay that I wrote some time ago and decided to move over from its original home.
Since many atheists are pretending to be concerned with “child abusers” and “brainwashers”—by which they mean parents who raise their children according to their “faith”—it is important to continued providing evidence that they do the very same things which they condemn.
Thus, this will become a part of the archive of such evidence: Atheism and Child Rearing

Let us consider a TIME Magazine article written by Jeninne Lee-St. John titled, Sunday School for Atheists.

The article was a report on atheist parents who seek to ensure that their children are taught to believe exactly as do they. While this is typically what any and every parent wants, it is refreshing that atheists are admitting that they indoctrinate their children as much as, if not more so than, theists. Atheists are now coming out and admitting that they practice indoctrination of children just like those theistic parents whom atheists have long condemned for doing the same thing.

The practice of atheistic indoctrination of children is, of course, nothing new. I know someone whose father used to tuck her into bed a night, when she was a little girl, telling her that there is no God. The difference now is that the indoctrination is becoming institutionalized in the form of summer camps, classes, Sunday school, etc.

The article states:
“some nonbelievers are beginning to think they might need something for their children. ‘When you have kids,’ says Julie Willey, a design engineer, ‘you start to notice that your co-workers or friends have church groups to help teach their kids values and to be able to lean on.’ So every week, Willey, who was raised Buddhist and says she has never believed in God, and her husband pack their four kids into their blue minivan and head to…atheist Sunday school…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.”

Note the qualifiers: reinforce what they want their children to have.

Children's Program at the Humanist Community of Palo Alto, California. Photo by Kathrin Miller for TIME

“…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.”

Here we have atheistic hymns and doxologies—actually, this is iTheism.

I may be reading too much into this but I thought that it was simply fascinating:
“…Down the hall in the kitchen, older kids engaged in a Socratic conversation with class leader [Peter] 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.”

I do not know if it is a mere semantic accident but; note that even while the class leader sought to warn them about the role of persuasion “He tried to get them to…”
Ok kids, be thou persuaded to beware of persuasion!

Lastly, consider a statement made by one of the parents,
“…‘I'm a person that doesn't believe in myths,’ Hana says. ‘I'd rather stick to the evidence.’”

What evidence?
What is “the” evidence?
Evidence of what?
Evidence for what?
I thought that atheism was merely a lack of god(s) belief—what does evidence have to do with anything?

Also, note that “atheist summer camps for kids” and “an atheist Sunday school” were also mentioned here in a PDF format report on the media’s love affair with atheism.


  1. You've taken the typical religious mindset and applied it to secular people. Indoctrination into what, exactly? Critical thinking? Preference for reality over ancient myth? Decent human values rather than the whims of a petty, vindictive deity?

    Please, try a little harder to understand the people you're stereotyping so wrongly. Creating a sense of community for children is a far cry from indocrination. Your faith has left you blind to any other way of thinking. That much is clear from the drivel on this website.

    "Atheism is dead". Huh? Lack of belief is dead? I'd say we're on the verge of an age of enlightenment, where myth and dogma are replaced with reason and genuine compassion, except in dark corners of the world where education and real thought are disdained. You're welcome to it.

  2. I don't mind what values or beleifs parents share with their children. As parents, they have every right to do so.

    But when atheists call Christian or other theistic parents "child abusers" or "brain washers" because they teach their children exactly what they themselves beleive, and then turn around and do the same exact thing to their children, then they are hypocrites straight out!

  3. 6p0111689d2cc9970c:

    The problem Mariono has is the blatant hypocrisy with atheists who claim Christians "brainwash" their children for teaching them their values and beliefs, when atheists themselves do the same thing to their children. The only difference you claim between the two is that atheists are right and theists are wrong. And how can you be so sure of that? You can't!

    You shouldn't accuse Mariono of stereotyping when you yourself have clearly done the same thing in your comment.

  4. Since when does critical thinking equate to indoctrination? Are you telling me Christian parents don't also (try to) teach their kids to think for themselves?

    Kids are atheists/agnostics by default - until an adult mentions or shows them the word "God", the child knows nothing about the concept. If atheist parents teach their children that Gods don't exist, then they would indeed be "indoctrinating" their kids with parental beliefs. However, most atheists value critical thinking rather than indoctrination (something contemporary Christian parents can not claim as readily), and in my experience, teach their kids to weigh the evidence and make their own decisions.

    If Mariano wants to claim this behavior equates to "indoctrination", then Christians are far more guilty of it than Mariano appears to be willing to admit.

  5. Here is a very relevant video about "Influence without indoctrination". If you influence your child with your religious worldview without indoctrination (according to the definitions elaborated upon in the video), then more power to you! You are not a brainwasher or child abuser.