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Atheists In The Closet --
And The Kids, Too!
June Holbert

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From: "Roberts, Dr. Michael"
To: "'Positive Atheism'" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
Subject: RE: Question: Atheists In The Closet -- And The Kids, too
Date: Friday, June 02, 2000 9:20 AM

I understand your predicament. I, too, live in the so-called "bible belt" (Alabama) and am the father of two children. Unfortunately, I did not make a complete conversion from a fundamentalist upbringing to a life of reason until about five years ago, when my children were five and eight years old. They are still caught in the quick sand of fundamentalist belief and are supported in this by their mother, grandparents, and all their friends and family. I have looked for children's literature that discusses the topic of gods and faith from the perspective of reason and have found only three titles. Dan Barker, of the Freedom from Religion Foundation, www.ffrf.org, is the author of two of these books. Dan's are the best I've seen. Because they are written at a child's level, you will probably find that they don't address all the possible questions that your child could ask, so be prepared to handle questions on your own. You might find two of George H. Smith's books, Atheism: The Case Against God, and Atheism, Ayn Rand, and Other Heresies, useful for your own purposes and when you encounter argumentative fundamentalist friends and family members. Dan Barker's Losing Faith in Faith also presents an excellent, reasoned case against Christianity and in favor of atheism from someone who was a fundamentalist evangelist for 19 years.

At your children's ages, four and five, be aware that, according to child psychologists, most children cannot distinguish between fantasy and reality. They have trouble telling the difference between what's on TV and real life or between what's just "pretend" and what's real. So, trying to help them understand an abstract concept like God may be very difficult. I know my own children were huge fans of Big Bird, Santa Claus, and other fictional or pretend characters. It would have been difficult to clarify the concept of "real" to them. Nevertheless, it is good to try sowing those seeds of understanding. Talk with them about things that are "just pretend" and things that are real. Point out that when people or animals get killed in cartoons or on TV, it is "just pretend." You can "pretend" to be scared, you can "pretend" to throw a ball or climb a ladder or walk a tightrope, but you aren't "really" doing any of those things. Point out when they see or hear or smell or taste or feel something they know it is real. When you hold your hands behind your back, they can't tell whether you are holding anything in your hand or not because they can't see. If they can't see something, they can't know whether it is real or not. Reinforce that they can know what's real and what is not by using their five senses.

Also, lay a basis for understanding why people sometimes choose to pretend. It's fun, it makes us feel good, it's exciting. If something is missing, it is more exciting to imagine someone stole it than it is to suggest that you just misplaced it. It is more exciting to imagine a jolly elf in a red suit flying around in a sled pulled by magic reindeer than that mom and dad deliver presents at Christmas. I suggest you also be honest with them about Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy. You can still pretend, but let them know these characters are just pretend. You want to establish a reputation for honesty with your children.

Explain that when we don't know the answer to something, we usually guess or suggest an idea that might be the right answer and then test it out to see whether or not it is right, if possible. Sometimes our guesses are right, sometimes not. Explain that people used to believe that the world was flat, then they found out it was not. People used to believe that the earth stands still and the sun moves around it, but they found out that wasn't right. People used to believe that thunder and lightening, volcanoes and earthquakes and tornadoes were all caused by angry gods. But learned what causes different kinds of whether. Emphasize that humans still haven't learned everything there is to know, and that we will always have more to learn, but that we are very good at learning as long as we use all our five senses, ask questions, and think.

Encourage your children to allow their friends to have different ideas. Children tend to see issues as black or white. Developmentally, that is all they are capable of. This will tend to make some conflict inevitable ("Johnny says..."; "No! That's not so. My mom says..."). Encourage an understanding that there are lots of different ideas about lots of different gods. Since no one has ever seen a god, anyone can pretend whatever they want to, and they do. But just because somebody says something is true doesn't make it true. Sometimes people believe things, but they don't really know. It is okay for these people to believe what they want as long as they are not hurting anybody.

Michael Roberts

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From: "Gregory Tinker"
To: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
Subject: Re: Question: Atheists In The Closet -- And The Kids, too
Date: Tuesday, April 18, 2000 8:52 AM

Before giving any advice, I will say that you should consult the AmericanAtheists website, as they just started a youth and family section. It looks pretty interesting.

Since I don't have any kids, you might think that it is odd to receive advice from me. What I will tell you is simply how I think I would want to raise my kids.

First off, if I were interested in their "spiritual" growth or just finding them other freethinking types, I would find the nearest Unitarian Universalist Fellowship and take them there. The UU's stress tolerance of just about everything under the sun, even if they don't agree with it. They tend to be well-educated and interested in discussions, which seems to be an anathema to most "normal" congregations, specifically those which tend towards fundamentalism. (I live in the Belt as well, I know where you're coming from). If you've never heard of UU's before, don't worry they're not a cult! The name sounds odd, I know. They stress understanding of everybody, so atheists are welcome too. Some congregations are even pretty academic about teaching religions, having adult and child classes. The also are extremely open with regards to sexual orientation as well, so that would potentially be another plus.

I would not take them to church at a young age. I would explain what goes on and why, but I would worry that in heading out for a Sunday at Berean Baptist Church, they might get so caught up in the emotional aspects of the ceremony that they ignore any critical thinking skills which you may have managed to impart upon them. Maybe once they were a little older, like 9 or so?

Watch out for neighbors/friend's parents/etc. I have heard stories of "so-and-so said they were taking Timmy and his friend to the mall, but instead had them baptized!" People will even train their own kids how to prosetylize to a degree, as its sure hard to resist the cute little buggers :)

With regards to the school board, the only thing you can do is keep sending them formal-sounding letters that have some legal-ese in them. Contact Americans United for Separation of Church and State: they're current on legal stuff, and can impart valuable advice upon the court cases which you may want to cite in your letter describing why they can't post the 630- er, 10 commandments, or whatever your issue may be. In some cases, Americans United will co-sign the letter, making it carry a bit more weight. God forbid, you may have to sue. ACLU could be of some help. Form contacts early.

If you are near a large teaching hospital, look there for less discriminating employment/friends/people. In my experience, once you get past the level of support staff, these sorts of places carry a very high percentage of nonbelievers. In fact, there are studies indicating that degree of religious belief is inversely related to educational level.

The worst thing you can do is stay in the closet or teach your kids to stay there. It will only perpetuate the intolerance for future generations.

Good luck. I feel your pain to some degree! Cliff, you can send them my email as at the least I can provide them with somebody to chat with.

Greg

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From: "Smith Design Works"
To: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
Subject: Re: Question: Atheists In The Closet -- And The Kids, too
Date: Tuesday, April 18, 2000 10:21 AM

Thank you so much for my first "Issue" (if that's the correct term) of Positive Atheism. I am an Atheist and I think everyone who knows me, knows that I'm one. I'm very proud, and outspoken; what you'd call a devout, born-again Atheist.

I was fortunately raised in a free-thinking atmosphere which I thank my parents for everyday of my life. I am now 40, and I've maintained friendships that hang on to their religious beliefs, and still as the years go by cannot prove their combined theories that support their views. So sad they never grew up.

My father moved from Alabama at the age of 27 to the west coast to get away from the religious fervor that plagued his southern homeland and family. All my surviving relatives are born-agains / southern ministers. I am the last bastion of sanity.

In relation to the question/situation at hand. That's a lot of people living in one closet. I'd move. I'm serious; Why take the risk of having your beloved child(ren) turn out as the "zombies" have. Let me tell you, never under estimate the power of religion and it's communities. Think of all the pain and torment you would avoid your child(ren) by simply relocating.

I know this sounds drastic, but I've met so many people out here on the west coast that are open-minded, (there's a kick, Atheism is considered a form of open-mindedness, when did thinking become liberal?) moral, well-educated, active, and well..just better looking darn it.

Well, if you can't relocate, I would just explain that they (the zombies) didn't have the opportunity to study the other sides or argument(s) in a free thinking environment. They were, afterall, brainwashed.

Love your kid(s), provide a good environment for learning, never keep anything from them, always tell them the truth, teach them others' points of view and explain to them why Mommy and Daddy (and many others in history, a key factor) feel the way that they do.... And if it's any comfort, most children do follow the beliefs of their parents. Purchase children's books that are user-Atheist friendly and READ to them. Also find others' in your community that are free-thinkers as well. Try the local colleges/universities, science/medical community, anywhere there are people who use their noggin. Plus, we now as surfing Atheists have the comfort of knowing that we have incredible sites such as this one, and its' links. DO NOT spend your lives cowering in a corner, afraid of addressing these issues. We're behind you. We are you.

Jeffrey H. Smith
Atheist
Seattle

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From: "Vincent M. Wales"
To: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
Subject: Re: Question: Atheists In The Closet -- And The Kids, too
Date: Tuesday, April 18, 2000 10:32 AM

Dear Friend,

The concerns you raise are very serious ones, and I hope you receive lots of feedback from those to whom Cliff has forwarded your letter.

You're certainly correct that atheists are closet-dwellers. More than any other group, we need to keep to the shadows. And of course, it's worse in different areas of the country. By far the worst area is the South. (I assume that's where you meant by "Bible Belt.") But there are pockets of severe intolerance to be found all over the nation.

I currently live in Utah, and I'm definitely "out" as an atheist. But then, I moved here only two years ago, at the beginning of my activist phase. I organized the Freethought Society of Northern Utah about a year ago. We've got about 50 members... pretty surprising for such a heavily Mormonized area.

The thing is, nearly every state has a similar organization. You can find them on the web, in many cases. (If you need help, just ask, and I'll see who I can hook you up with.)

As for dealing with children... yeah, that's a tough one. First, I'd like to recommend a book. It's called "Just Pretend: A Freethought Book for Children," by Dan Barker. It's described as "A fun book which allows children of all ages to explore myths like Santa Claus and compare them with ideas like the existence of God. Entertaining, respectful of children's intelligence, Just Pretend encourages kids to apply the tests of reason to any idea, fairy tale, myth or religion." Barker, you may or may not know, was a fundamentalist preacher who is now an atheist. He's part of the Freedom From Religion Foundation. A link to this book (and from where you can read about the organization) is here:
http://www.ffrf.org/books/jp.html

I think there are a few very important factors to stress when raising your children. First, intellectual honesty. You must teach them that "what's good for the goose is good for the gander," so to speak. Don't let them accept hypocrisy from anyone, including religion. Also, critical thinking. Teach them to really think about things in the proper fashion, not just superficially. A child raised to think critically won't swallow the old yarn, "God just always was!" The child will realize this is shallow. Perhaps most important is to instill in your children the value of one's integrity. Teach them that peer pressure isn't anything to be concerned about, when compared to being true to oneself. And that anyone who would judge them by their beliefs isn't really a friend.

Encourage them to look at all religions with these things in mind. You could even make a regular practice of it. Show them the writings of holy books of different faiths. When they see, for example, that many of the things said in the Judeo-Christian Bible were said elsewhere, much earlier, it may make them realize that the Bible couldn't be an original work, as most people in your neck of the woods believe it to be.

Well, that's all for now. Please feel free to email me any time you wish. In addition to running FSNU (mentioned above), I also have a website called The Atheist Attic. You may find some things of use there. You'll find a link to it from the main page of Cardigan's Corner, URL in the signature file below.

Take care.

Vince

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From: Dennis
To: Positive Atheism <editor@positiveatheism.org><BR>
Subject: FW: Question: Atheists In The Closet -- And The Kids, too
Date: Tuesday, April 18, 2000 10:41 AM

While I can certainly sympathize with your reader's dilemma, there seems to me to be more bemoaning of their predicament(s) than concrete questions. Nonetheless, let me address a few in good order.

Regarding living in the "bible belt":
Depending on your individual, specific situation, this is best addressed either by 1) moving into a more tolerant environment or 2) trying to achieve a comfortable equilibrium with the neighbors. The first approach relies on the fact that, even in the bible belt, there are pockets of "liberals". This is a drastic measure and thus should be undertaken if there are serious threats to your well-being or the relationships have been so poisoned that they can not be repaired. Relocation should only be considered as a last resort. The second approach is to mend fences with the neighbors. Most of the time people will lash out at what they feel threatens them. By demonstrating that you are "normal" in most ways (e.g. no animal sacrifices, no satanic rituals, you go to work and school and keep your lawn mowed) you will diminish any threat that people feel about you. This reinforces to them that they can relate to you. Attend neighborhood association and school PTA meetings. Smile and wave congenially at the neighbors. When queried about your beliefs, don't deceive or avoid: state matter-of-factly that you're a run-of-the-mill atheist and leave it that. If some people start to debate or proselytize, ask if they really want to debate it now. By the same rules, you must also be respectful of other beliefs, no matter how backward they seem to be. Don't allow yourself to be baited into impromptu debates about the validity of atheism or the existence of god.

Secondly there is the question of raising the children in a theistic world. Here, one thing above all else, the strongest influence in children's lives are the examples set by the parents. Remember one lesson above all else: your most valuable asset is your credibility. Be candid, honest, trustworthy, uncompromising and your children will follow. I would strongly advise that you not lobby strongly for your children to subscribe to an atheist view. They will be subject to too many outside lobbying efforts as it is. When atheists are characterized by your child's friends as "evil" or "condemned", these arguments will seem disingenuous and incongruous in light of the example you've set and the credibility you've maintained.

When your children inquire about religion, god, etc. I find that it works to explain forthrightly that there are a plethora of religious beliefs, and that they involve belief in some higher power(s) which exert control over our world. This is a good opportunity to illustrate how religion demands that the belief comes first, and explanation later. You may even want to point out how each one bears the belief that its belief is the "truth", exclusive of the others. You might go ahead and weave in some bits of history to demonstrate how religion was used to explain the unexplained, and how science answered some of those questions without benefit of supernatural phenomena. When appropriate, you could even add a little history lesson here and there. An example would be how the church vilified, excommunicated and otherwise punished scientists (Copernicus, Galileo, Darwin) who discovered evidence contradicting church doctrine. Maybe even a brief note about the crusades for good measure. Make sure that you keep it on their level and don't overload them. Make it more a response to their questions rather than a lecture.

Good luck!

- Dennis -

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From: Meg
To: Positive Atheism <editor@positiveatheism.org>
Subject: Re: Question: Atheists In The Closet -- And The Kids, too
Date: Tuesday, April 18, 2000 5:35 PM

This is in reply to the atheist couple who wished to know how other atheists have handled the questions of their children, after the kids had been exposed to religion outside the family. Our children are 14 and 17. Our policy on any subject with our kids has been to answer any question they ask to the best of our ability. When the questions are about religions, god or gods, we have each explained what we believe, and pointed out the fact that there are many different beliefs across the world. Since our extended family consists of believers, including a minister, I don't prohibit my kids from attending church with them if they choose, or with friends, either, for that matter. It does help that the extended family lives in another state. We've explained to them that everyone has to decide for themselves what is credible to them. However, I admit that while we've given them free reign to choose for themselves, we've made sure that the choice is not limited to judeo-christianity or atheism. I feel the choice is more honestly presented when they get a thorough exposure to other religions. My kids are intelligent enough to have figured out now that lots of people are claiming to know The Truth, but all those Truths don't seem to correlate very well.

I wish them luck with their kids. Meg

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From: Jean
To: Positive Atheism <editor@positiveatheism.org>
Subject: Re: Question: Atheists In The Closet -- And The Kids, too
Date: Tuesday, April 18, 2000 8:18 PM

I have found the following helpful in finding others who are freethinkers.

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From:
To: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
Subject: Re: Question: Atheists In The Closet -- And The Kids, too
Date: Tuesday, April 18, 2000 8:50 PM

I am a New Zealander, and therefore, know the American "bible belt" attitude only by surrogate experience as reported by others.

Through Yahoo Atheist club sites I have been able to offer assistance to others in your situation. If you wish to communicate with others in your position or practising Atheism in this "Demon Haunted World" I suggest you contact and, if you wish, join http://clubs.yahoo.com/clubs/realworldatheism for the support you need.

I don't know your family ties, but believe your only chance of living life as you wish to, is to remove yourself from your present apparently bigoted contacts. Perhaps another state, say, California or even another country. I do not believe it's possible for any Atheist person or body to fight the State Education System in a Christian biased environment. The usual experience seems extremely damaging to those in the minority. In this world you can never escape religious influence. It is possible only to reduce theistic influence to a minimum and learn to live with it, respecting other people's rights and beliefs, even when they fail to respect yours

My quote above, "Demon Haunted World" is the title of a book written by Carl Sagan. It and others he and his wife wrote contain the type of literature you seem to need. There are many others, including George Bernard Shaw and Mark Twain. The Positive Atheism site contains the names of many such atheist writings and authors, with a great selection of relevant assays and quotes. there, their are enough reading and references to give an insight into the available literature.

The following is the list of my book marked relevant sites. Just highlight the site you wish to enter, copy, then paste into your browser location window and press "enter"'. The third down may seem contradictory, but bible quotes on a subject are often very helpful, not for conflicts with believers, but for your own self instruction and assurance.

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From: "James E. Turner"
To: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
Subject: On dealing with theists
Date: Wednesday, April 19, 2000 6:29 AM

Despite having been an atheist since early childhood, I haven't experienced the kind of discrimination that caused me more problems than I felt capable of handling. (Yes, I grew up in the Bible Belt and, in fact, don't know any non-metropolitan part of this country that isn't a part of it.)

Luckily, perhaps, I had no children to be the objects of cruelty, as I might have been had not my father prepared me for it. At an early age, I knew all the contradictions within the Bible and where to find them. He also showed me parts of that book of fables and follies that would confound anyone who attempted to explain or otherwise defend them.

But I realize this is not the solution that will work for most children of atheists and their parents.

Most kids seriously need the acceptance of their peers, at whatever the cost. There still, though, is a partial solution. It is to do everything possible to make each child feel he is a capable entity within himself.

The talent, or talents, that every child has must be found and developed to its fullest. If one of those talents happens to be athletic, then most other kids will prize that to the extent that being the child of an atheist, or being an atheist, becomes a "forgivable crime."

This subject is far too difficult to deal with in the space of a mere letter. But the answers are there.

The most important one this writer sees, speaking from whatever vantage point he's afforded from living 75 years, is that each child must be made to feel secure, confident in every way possible, and given all the causes to feel that confidence.

Very truly yours,

James E. Turner

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From: Akiko
To: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
Subject: Question: Atheists And The Kids
Date: Wednesday, April 19, 2000 8:29 AM

Dear Cliff,

I am so glad you are up on your feet and about again. Congrats! I'm looking forward to the new issue, and I have a comment about the recent email.

I'm also afraid of the time when I have children, for I am, as of yet, fruitless. But when the time comes, I fear what my religious policy, or lack thereof, regarding my children will be. Isn't it just as wrong to want your children to not believe in a god as it is to force religion down their throats? I don't altogether agree with the person whose letter you posted in the last email.

I think that children should be able to be as free-thinking as you yourself are and having them agree with your beliefs without any thought or choice on their part is not nurturing their ability of free thought, but saying that because you don't agree with the majority they should. I honestly will try my best to make my children aware of all opportunities that exist so that they aren't limited in their decision. I plan to talk to my children about differing religions as well as atheism, and above all be honest about my choice with them.

That's my opinion, for although an atheist may believe they are free-thinkers in their choice not to believe in "god", telling a child that this is what they must believe is showing them to accept what you say just because you are their parent and in effect, just as harmful.

Thanks Cliff,

Akiko

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From: "Philip Chapman"
To: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
Subject: Atheists in the Closet - And the kids too
Date: Wednesday, April 19, 2000 9:15 AM

Cliff,

In reference to the above...

Please tell the lady who wrote to contact FREE INQUIRY.

They have had 20 years of dealing with people with problems similar to theirs, and they may wish to join as Associate members of The Council for Secular Humanism and receive a copy of Family Matters.

Having grown-up in the "Bible Belt" I can well understand the problems faced by her and her husband, and now I live in an area of deep secterian commitments to the point that I genuinely fear retribution against myself and my family if our beliefs were to be widely known.

I wish this woman and her family all the best.

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From: "Alan Urdaibay"
To: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
Subject: Re: Question: Atheists In The Closet -- And The Kids, too
Date: Wednesday, April 19, 2000 10:38 AM

Hello again Cliff,

I have just read Dan Barker's 'Just Pretend' with my 6 year old daughter, Robyn. She lapped up the subject-matter which confirmed and expanded on what my wife and I had discussed with her. At first I was unsure as to the effectiveness of the content but the book is a little more subtle than appears at first sight -- the illustrations provided the opportunity for a number of little discussions. Actually, I never did read the whole book with her -- she went ahead and read it by herself. Not long after she 'came out' at school as an atheist, and received a positive response from her teacher (although the teacher pointed out to us that she had to remain unbiased -- the class contains mainly Christians and a Buddhist).

'Just Pretend' can be obtained from the Freedom From Religion Foundation (and a great deal more easily by you over there than me over here).

Kind regards,

Alan Urdaibay
Atheism Central for Secondary Schools
http://www.atheismcentral.org.uk

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From:
To: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
Subject: Re: Question: Atheists In The Closet -- And The Kids, too
Date: Wednesday, April 19, 2000 4:23 PM

Howdy Yawl,

There are two kinds of Christians from my angle. The first was raised within a typical US religion and had grown comfortable with it but later finds the ability to out grow it's calling. The other kind of Christian wasn't brought up around religion but later in life discovers it. They suddenly fall head over brains in step with the Bible's verses. These latter day types most likely will become strongly attached to God. They seldom ever change back into their previous non-believing status.

The point I'm trying to make is with raising our children. I believe, and I'm not right often, that raising a child within religion might lower the chances of their becoming headstrong about religion -- later in life. Let them watch you and wonder why you're different from most followers of religion but are still a moral parent. As your kids mature slowly guide them into seeing more than what they're taught in Sunday School.

Basically it's a form of reverse psychology which is nothing more than keeping the candy out until it's ignored.

I was religious as a child and believed the whole lot. But then learned there was no Easter bunny or Santa Claus, and a lot of other things, too. Life is a great teacher if one remains open minded, but once it's closed it's nothing more than a tunnel vision bear trap.

So please think twice about your children's religious upbringing. Remember reverse psychology works because children that run across the road in front of a car were told not to do so.

I was born a sinner and will die a man.

Ken Whitley

Texas born and currently live in Cleveland, Ohio.

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From: Marsha Hughes
To: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
Subject: Response to inquiry
Date: Wednesday, April 19, 2000 6:10 PM

Dear Cliff Walker,

In response to your reader who was looking for literature for her children in regards to the god questions: Please tell her to get in touch with the Freedom From Religion Foundation. FFRF, Inc., P.O. Box 750, Madison, WI 53701.

As you may know, they issue a monthly newspaper entitled "Freethought Today" and have several books that can be purchased. One of the books for children called, "Just Pretend" authored by Dan Barker, is an easy reader for kids, ages preschool through elementary school. Dan has also published his own biography, "From Preacher to Ashiest" which is a must read for everyone.

Atheists must come out of the closet. It is time the rest of the world wakes up and realizes that there are plenty of skeptics and non-believers out there. We do not worship the devil. We do not eat babies. We are happy, productive and moral people.

Keep on searching the secular web. Get involved. Support local and national freethought groups. Last but not least, keep telling your children to think for themselves and to question belief!

Sincerely,
Marsha Hughes

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From: "Gijsbers V.A."
To: "'Positive Atheism'" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
Subject: RE: Question: Atheists In The Closet -- And The Kids, too
Date: Thursday, April 20, 2000 4:21 AM

Greetings,

I've discovered Positive Atheism not so long ago, myself, and to me it was a revelation, just as it seems to have been for you. The nature of this revelation, however, was quite different. Whereas you found out that there are indeed sites that deal with atheism as a positive life choice, I found out that there were places in this world where "Atheists must live a closeted life", as you put it. To me, born and raised in the Netherlands, where at least thirty percent of the people are atheists, this was quite a shock. I learned about the influences religion had on politics, education and daily life in the United States. I found out that all of the candidates for the presidential election claimed to have a personal relationship with God. I read that atheism was a greater taboo in the USA than homosexuality. I was appalled. It seemed as if centuries of secularisation had gone by unnoticed by a nation that keeps claiming to be the freest of all countries in the world.

Your letter reminded me that the problems of atheists in theistic societies are more than just philosophical questions to discuss with your friends or on the net. They are all too real, influencing the lives of many people in a very direct way. You wrote that you 'grew up feeling isolated and alone'. This statement alone shows me how very fortunate I've been to be born in a society were people are free to choose what they do and do not believe, and those views are accepted. I must say I admire your willpower, to stay true to your convictions when society demanded otherwise. At least now you know that you are not the only people who see atheists as "rational, good, loving people". In fact, there are many millions in this world who share your ideas, you just had the bad luck to be born in a region where those people are few and far between.

Considering your question about your children, I'm afraid I'm not really into children's books in the English language. But it seems to me that you have stated your two core values in your letter:

- "We want to raise our children to be thinkers, not followers."
- "But we do not want to hinder their personal development of beliefs."

You bring these as being in some way contradictory, but they are not. If you raise your children as thinkers, they will always be able to change and develop their beliefs. Thus, by making sure they are not followers, you've removed any chance that you might hinder them. I think that the school your children go to will show them the bible enough, and that you should not be afraid to show atheism to them; with a little luck these two will balance each other out. If you stress that theism/atheism are just the ways some people think the world works, and that they've got to decide for themselves what they believe, you will not hinder their development. It is your task to show your children an alternative to what they see at school, but if you leave the choice to them you will raise them as thinkers, no matter what they choose now. Raised with the value of independent thought, they will critically consider their chosen 'faith' when they're intellectually riper, and choose the philosophy they see as the truth.

Sincerely,

Victor Gijsbers,
The Netherlands

Visit me: Http://www.phys.uu.nl/~gijsbers

"We are a species beaten by ignorance
   Misguided fools lost in a shell
   An open eye soon extinguished
   The blind lead the blind
   As we chase our death"
        -- Solitude Aeturnus, Believe

"So I speak,
   though am I heard?
   Wasting visions on a world of blinded fools..."
        -- Emperor, Thus spake the Nightspirit

"The centuries of wait have all but gone,
   Behold, dark beauty stirs to conquer on and on..."
        -- Cradle of Filth, Beauty slept in Sodom

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From: "Felton"
To: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
Subject: In response...
Date: Monday, April 24, 2000 7:16 AM

Hello, Cliff.

My name is Chris, and I just read the submission by a woman who is, with her husband & 2 children, sort of "in the closet" with atheism. My family (wife & 2 children) are not in the closet, but we also live in the bible belt -- so we don't necessarily 'advertise' our atheistic views either. Nonetheless, in response to her inquiry of literature for her children, there are 3 books by Dan Barker which have really helped our children (and even us!) to think critically and rationally. They are as follows: "JUST PRETEND: A FREETHOUGHT BOOK FOR CHILDREN"; "MAYBE YES, MAYBE NO"; & "MAYBE RIGHT, MAYBE WRONG".

Also, please feel free to forward our e-mail address to her, as we know what it's like to feel alone because of our views.

Thanks a lot.

Christopher Felton

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  • Join The Fray; Send Us Your Thoughts
  • From: "Steven McCarty"
    To: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
    Subject: Atheists_In_The_Closet_And_The_Kids_Too_9765
    Date: Saturday, December 23, 2000 12:53 AM

    Hey Dad is there a God, heaven, or a hell? That is one of life's questions that forced me to write the following self edicts. Whatever religion my child decides on will be OK by me as long as they have followed theses guidelines. For me to truly hold to these principles I have had to evolve into a pagan.

    Follow These 41 Ds Directives

    Don't Deny, Delay, or Dwell on a Difficulty.
    Deal with the Demonstrable Details Diligently.
    Decline to Discuss the Deficits of your Detractors.
    Determine your Decisions in Data your eyes Discover.
    Disregard the Distracting Demands of your Dissenters.
    Do not be Detoured and then Delineated by small Degrees.
    Define your answers with Data, Don't Declare them as Decrees.
    Deliver not Dictate your ideas, Debate should't Demand a Defeat.
    Do your Duty, Dispense, Disengage, but Do not Depart

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    From: "marian joyce"
    To: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
    Subject: Atheists_In_The_Closet_And_The_Kids_Too_9765
    Date: Thursday, June 07, 2001 1:18 AM

    Dear Atheists in the Closet,

    I have been starting to have doubts, about 10 months ago about religious issues. I unfortunately go to an all-girls, Catholic high school where the pressure to believe about God, morality, religious issues, etc. has built up to the point of bubbling over. I can't argue my way out of everything, and although I think I believe in at least a higher power, I'm not sure there even is a god at all. It just makes more sense, doesn't it? I mean, when we die, don't we just die -- and that's it? Why should we go to a hell or heaven? Purgatory? I don't like to think about it.

    My parents and my entire family on both sides are strongly Catholic. Everyone older than me has been confirmed, and this is the final sacrament besides marriage or holy orders (yeah, right) that I have a say in. Baptism, I was 3 months old -- come on. Reconciliation/Penance, I was in second grade, and same with Eucharist. A couple of my friends also have the same feelings, and its nice to find people who agree and understand, but I still haven't found out what I'm searching for.

    I originally came on the site Positive Atheists for my friend, searching for outside sources to debate her mother about receiving Confirmation. I do not know what I believe yet, but can you send me information? Thank you.

    -- Kara

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