Agnosticism, Atheism, Christianity, Faith, God, Persecution, Truth

Kindergartner Told Not To Pray At School

This morning, as I checked my email, I saw a headline similar to the one that leads this post and inwardly groaned. It has all the markers of the kind of modern-day Christian persecution story that people love to rally behind, just like this one:

But how believable are these stories? As one of the articles I read this morning points out, there are already some reasons to be a bit skeptical of this story about the kindergartner. If it really happened, then it’s certainly a deplorable situation — teachers have no right to stop a child from saying a prayer. They also have no right to force a child to pray. Sadly, many of the people who become incensed over the first scenario don’t realize they should be just as incensed over the second. The United States government has no right to infringe upon any individual’s religious freedoms. That’s why it’s so important to make sure our government keeps its neutrality.

Many Christians think they would like to live in a “Christian” nation, but whose definition of Christianity will be upheld? Will it be those who believe women should have no authority over a man? Will it be those who believe that all the Old Testament laws are still supposed to be followed, like sacrifice and stoning? What about those who believe interracial marriage is a sin, or those who think worshiping with instrumental music is wrong? These are the same problems that the early pilgrims were trying to avoid when they came to this country. And even then they often got it wrong, as the Salem witch trials illustrate.

We should all be thankful that we have religious freedom in this country. But having religious freedom does not mean we’re “free” to push our religious views on others. So when organized prayer was taken out of public schools, that was not an attack on religious freedom, it was a defense of it.

What really gets me about things like this story and the recent movie God Is Not Dead is that they’re often attempts to make people feel like religion is under attack in the modern world. That’s simply not true. I find the setup for that movie incredibly unbelievable. I can totally see a philosophy professor being arrogant — but a philosophy professor who is that dogmatic about forcing people to give up theism? I don’t buy it. The whole point of philosophy is to consider different ideas. Forcing someone to believe a particular thing runs completely counter to philosophy. And they also make the same old and unfounded accusation that down deep atheists believe the evidence supports God, but we’re just angry with him. It’s ridiculous and inaccurate, but it’s what many people want to hear.

Regardless of whether or not this little girl was really forced to stop praying, I would love to see a story like this promote a larger dialog about what religious freedom really is. I’m not holding my breath though.

60 thoughts on “Kindergartner Told Not To Pray At School”

  1. BTW Ark,

    I appreciate you addressing circumcision. I’ve gone into great detail (especially at Daz’s blog) of how much I regret having this done to both of my boys…AS NEWBORNS. We all need to understand that any kind of mutilation is horrible, male or female! I was a good Zionist Christian girl at the time. I did what my Bible told me to do to my little boys. I. Was. Stupid.

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  2. A child spends a lot of time in a fantasy world anyway, full of Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy the Sandman, TV and movie cartoons, and now, video game characters – it’s so easy to add one or two more.

    I never tolerated corporal punishment for my children, at school or at home – it only teaches that violence solves problems.

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  3. This gets into some difficult territory.

    I feel just as bad as anyone for kids who are brought up in fundamentally religious households. I know what they’re in for, and it makes me cringe.

    However, I think that trying to legislate how people raise their children in this regard gets very dangerous. For one, in many countries, the religious out number the irreligious. What if legislation were passed saying that children must be brought to church at least once a week and must participate in religious education courses? Those of us who are non-believers would have a fit — and rightly so.

    We have to remember that Christians believe teaching their children to serve the Christian god is a life-saving endeavor. Without Jesus, their children would be lost eternally. Any normal parent would do anything within their power to ensure the safety of their children — any normal parent who honestly believes in an eternity of either torture or bliss will certainly do everything within their power to make sure their children are brought to safety. Forcing people to withhold that vital information from the people they love the most will not help solve the problems that come from religion. In fact, I think they’d likely make them worse.

    We, unfortunately, have to play the long game. We can’t reach people by making them violate their consciences. We have to reach them through reason. It’s not easy, and it takes a long time, but I think the track of history shows that reason and evidence eventually win the day. We’ll never be completely rid of religion, but if society continues trending toward moderation and acceptance, then we’re still winning.

    That’s how I see it, at least.

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  4. Oh, I agree with you Nate, that you can’t legislate it, but this is one of the Ark’s pet peeves – in fact, if memory serves, it was what he was ranting about on Fluid Theology that fateful day that “the thing happened that we don’t talk about anymore, since he (seemingly) sincerely apologized, so I just let him rant and get it out of his system, then I give him a cookie and he goes away. For a while.

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  5. Nate, I understand what you’re saying about legislating parenting. However, Ark makes some good points. Can’t we at least encourage legislation against religious bullies? Can we not teach parents, clergy and educators better ways to discipline and communicate with children? Some Christians are so hell bent on women reading materials against abortion and even having sonograms to talk them out of abortions. However, when I was miserable and doped up after birthing my boys, not one person considered not having my boys circumcised. It was just assumed that everyone does. Both births were at two different military hospitals here in the States. Whenever I mentioned any kind of pain relief for having the tips of my boys penises cut off, the doctors talked to me like I was the biggest idiot.

    My kids were young (still are) when Jim and I deconverted. Towards the end I truly struggled in reading the Bible with them. The more we read it together, the more we found ourselves skipping whole chapters at a time. I couldn’t bring myself to tell them about Father Abraham raping a servant girl for an heir. Then he ditched them both with nothing and God doesn’t even punish him. I couldn’t read to them about Jesus being a snot head to his mother when she was simply encouraging him to perform his first miracle. Jim wanted our oldest to watch The Passion of the Christ film while we were still Christians. (He and I saw it twice years prior.) I told him absolutely not.

    I haven’t even gotten into the worst of it all, but I know you catch my drift. There certainly needs to be some accountability measures put into place somewhere.

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  6. As you should know by now, I’m with you on circumcision – when my son was born, the doctor actually tried to talk me into it, but I stood fast.

    I’ve done no research on the subject, but since the custom appears to have begun in the desert, where there would have been a scarcity of water, I would have to suspect that it originated as a sanitation measure that is no longer necessary. I can certainly see the likelihood that the foreskin of an uncircumcised penis would allow for the growth of anaerobic bacteria, among those who don’t have the opportunity to bathe regularly.

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  7. Hi Charity,

    I do see where you and Ark are coming from. I just think that the answer is not through legislation, but through education. We already have the freedoms in place to do what we want. Granted, children don’t have this freedom, but there are good reasons for that while they’re young. An unfortunate by-product is the inevitable brain-washing.

    But as individuals, we can make an impact by being the one “black sheep” of the family, or in our community, that does things differently. At first, most people in our groups would disagree with us. But there may be one or two individuals who are impacted. As time goes by, that number of affected individuals grows.

    It’s sort of an evolutionary concept — it’s essentially the same way that a new religion spreads. Though Christianity is ubiquitous today, it certainly didn’t start out that way. Rationality can (and does) grow the same way. The benefit is that we have truth and reason on our side.

    Just like you, I do hurt for the kids who essentially become collateral damage in this process, so please don’t think I’m in complete disagreement with you. But because this is a longer process, it means more kids will be brought up in these environments than we would prefer. But practically speaking, I just don’t see another viable way for us to make an impact.

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  8. Arch, thank you for the link. Fojap referred me to another great blog not too long ago in that discussion I mentioned on Daz’s site. That author is Jewish and unashamedly against circumcision.

    I can see what you’re talking about regarding the desert scenario. Unfortunately, what’s done is done and I can’t undo it. I can’t undo a lot of the junk done to me under the guise of Biblical instruction. I’m more upset about not being able to take back the few years of pain I’ve caused my boys through the same means. I think that’s why we all need to consistently examine our parenting, as well as what we do and do not allow in our children’s lives. That’s why I try my best to make the right choices regarding my children today.

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  9. “But there may be one or two individuals who are impacted. As time goes by, that number of affected individuals grows.”

    Even if not, Nate, it at least shows the young that there IS another viewpoint. That’s very important. Imagine an Islamic world, where everyone thinks exactly the same – how much room is there for change? Even in Islamic countries that DO have a small atheist population, these are generally those who have gone outside the country, seen that there IS another way, and returned.

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  10. Nate, I thank you for this forum.

    I feel very passionate about the overall betterment of children. I just want all of us to consider their best interest when looking at the whole picture. Not long ago a local high school announced they were lowering the passing grade from 70 to 49! You would have thought it was my kids’ school district with the way I responded.

    I know you understand my concerns and I’m sorry for being redundant.

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  11. “Unfortunately, what’s done is done and I can’t undo it.”

    No, but you can make sure your sons understand.

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  12. I just think that the answer is not through legislation, but through education. We already have the freedoms in place to do what we want. Granted, children don’t have this freedom, but there are good reasons for that while they’re young. An unfortunate by-product is the inevitable brain-washing.

    Hi again Nate. Surely there is another reason why we should be very careful about imposing our beliefs on other parents.

    Each of us could be wrong about our beliefs.

    Most of us believe we are right, but just as most people here react against christians who seem arrogant about their beliefs, so we should be careful not to fall into the same trap. It is when someone is certain they are right that the most evils can be perpetrated, and history and present experience shows no one party has a monopoly on that!

    I am reminded of an old ‘game’ of expressing the same thought in different words depending on who it refers to. It used to go like this: “I am a brilliant conversationalist, you are wordy, he is garrulous” and so on.

    I think we could apply this here. “I give my kids strong ethical values, you are too fussy with your children, they are brain-washing their kids.” 😦

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  13. Arch,

    That was certainly some food for thought.

    This is why I stress education and accountability regarding children. This is just the Catholic Church. We could spend all day talking about physical, sexual and emotional abuse (of everyone, children in particular) among Muslims, Jews, Southern Baptists, Mormons, Independent Fundamental Baptists and the COGIC. Personally, I was apart of Morning Star as an adult (Not Rick Joyner, but the one that’s Every Nation now.) and they were horribly mean, manipulative and over bearing over women.

    When I was a Christian, as much as I was in Church, I never just dropped my kids off at Church, we all went together.So, when fellow Church members came around to tell me about VBS for a full week in the summer, I told them that my oldest boy (he was my only child of age then) wasn’t going. They looked at me strange. After all, everyone sends their kids to VBS in my tiny town, it’s free baby sitting.

    I tried my best to stay on top of things with my boys’ Sunday School teachers and nursery workers. I STILL missed things here and there that were damaging to my kids that I didn’t realize until after the fact.

    I’ve apologized to my little guys for going to Churches where they were not received well. I made sure that they knew how sorry I was for spanking them and having them circumcised. As I’ve mentioned on Ruth’s blog, I’m sure more things will come up that I will have to apologize for from our Christian days.

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  14. Speaking of Muslims, there’s a Muslim organization in Egypt, whose political situation is still up for grabs, that is trying to get the age of consent for girls lowered to 9, to match that of Muhammed’s youngest wife, Aisha. If THAT doesn’t make you sick —

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  15. Arch, dear, you know I have to wrap this up. As a mommy deconvert of small children, rape and child abuse in the Church are easy topics for me to get a little rowdy. I’ve enjoyed the conversation very much and I appreciate your understanding. Thank you for your compassion and kindness.

    Here’s to you, Ark. Someone like you would have scared me in my Jesus days. Yet, here we are pretty much in agreement on this matter. Thank you for your thoughts and time.

    Thanks again, Nate, for this discussion about religion and children.

    Everyone have a great weekend!

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  16. Charity, I DO hope you’re only saying that you’re going away for the weekend, and that you’ll be back —

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  17. Yes, Arch, I will be back at some point. Spring is here along with soccer, school field trips, projects and standardized tests. Tending to my knock out roses, lilies and azaleas is just around the corner. It may be a good while before I’m back. That’s why I’ve been such a social butterfly in blog world lately, I know my time is about up for now.

    You take care, my friend. Enjoy the spring time. May its blooms bring you joy.

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  18. You have a great weekend, too, Charity!

    UnkleE,

    Thanks for the comment, and I agree completely. In fact, as I was writing that sentence about brainwashing, I was thinking about my own children as well. Though my intention is not to brainwash them, in a way, that’s what happens. When we talk about religion and politics, my wife and I always stress that these are merely our beliefs about those things. Of course, we think we’re right — but we could easily be wrong. And as our children get older, they’ll form their own opinions about those things. The one thing my wife and I always stress is that no matter what beliefs they ultimately hold, our relationship with them and our acceptance of them will never change.

    Btw, I got a kick out of this:

    I am reminded of an old ‘game’ of expressing the same thought in different words depending on who it refers to. It used to go like this: “I am a brilliant conversationalist, you are wordy, he is garrulous” and so on.

    I hadn’t heard it before, but I appreciate the point.

    Take care!

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  19. Arch,

    Our viewpoints are so similar I don’t always comment on what you say, so let me briefly remind you how much I appreciate your participation on this blog. Your comments are always so insightful and well-researched. I’ve learned quite a bit from you over the last year or two.

    So thanks! 🙂

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  20. I know what you mean, I plan to spend the time teaching my boomerang to come back. Don’t stay away too long!

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  21. I had an instructor in college, Nate, who did much as you described – he put me to sleep. The one from whom I learned the most, was the one who delivered his information with words that made us smile – THAT was my goal.

    But it has been my pleasure.

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