Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Possum #1 makes us proud.

I get alot of questions, from atheists and Christians, about how I raise my children and how atheism impacts their childhood. Unbeknownst to me, before the Winter break, my daughter had been asked to write a "pop essay" in her language arts class. "Pop essays" are like pop quizzes, in that the topic is not known before hand and the assignment generally comes when the teacher has failed to plan well and needs something to fill a gap in the lesson plan. In any case, the day before winter break, possum#1 was asked to write, for ten minutes, an essay on the following question: "What do you want for Christmas?"

Out of the mouths of babes...
What I want for Christmas, by Possum#1
There's a movie that's frequently shown in twenty-four hour blocks in which the main character, Ralphie, wants nothing but a Red Ryder BB Gun for Christmas. Ironically enough, he's asked to write an essay about his Christmas desire by a slightly shrewd teacher and told that he'll shoot his eye out. As I glance around this classroom, I see that many of my friends are feverishly pumping out manifestos dictating what gadgets and goodies they wish to find under their Christmas tree on the morning of December 25th. My mind, however, is reeling over the presumption that my public school teacher has addressed our classroom and assigned an essay in which she presumes that the entire lot of us are Christian or celebrate Christmas.

I take another look around my classroom and notice that Mahmeed is absent-mindedly cleaning underneathe his fingernails with the cap from his pen. Emily is feverishly trying to catch my eye and, having done so, mouthing the words, "I don't celebrate Christmas...I'm Jewish." in a quizzical manner. Jayden is doing what he normally does during such pop essays: he's looking out the window- probably wondering where his parents will get the money for January's rent and feeling guilty for daring to think about a gift. He's pretty sensitive.

I have never admitted it to any of my friends, but I think I must be an atheist. My mother is an atheist and has always told me to find my own path to spiritual comfort. I think I must be an atheist because I can't fathom any God who would allow the celebration of the birth of his son to become a time when my friends are consumed with thoughts of how they can convince Grandma to buy them a new Nano Ipod while other kids are wondering how their parent will manage the rent. What do I want for Christmas, I want a less assuming teacher. I want a teacher who thinks past the standard "What I want for Christmas..." assignment when she's aware that three out of her twenty students probably don't celebrate Christmas. I want a world where my friends will be asked to write essays about how they might use their winter vacay' to help other people. I want my mom to be healthy again. I want my grandmother to quit smoking. I want my grandfather to quite bugging her about it. But most of all, I want to not get an "F" on this assignment because you get angry with me for saying all of the above. Merry Christmas, Mrs. "X"* (name changed to protect identities).

Can I just say that I love my kids!?!?!?! I love that my daughter is getting to an age where she can make observations like she does. I love that she recognized the banality of the assignment and the injustice of her less recognized peers and cohorts. And, most of all, I love that- despite her usual shy demeanor- she had the courage to say what needed to be said.

Her teacher wrote this at the end of her essay:
"Possum#1*, thank you for your thoughtful remarks. I don't think you're an atheist but I respect your empathy for your friends. Please see me after class today. A+"

After class, possum#1 said that her teacher told her she couldn't be an atheist because her "ability to care for others feelings isn't an atheist trait." and that her "attitude was very Christian." WTF?!

211 comments:

1 – 200 of 211   Newer›   Newest»
erin said...

Pop essay?? Now there's one I haven't heard before.
Now, before I go on to my reaction to her essay, let me just say that as a teacher, I would NEVER assign that topic to students. Ever. Possum 1 is right, that is incredibly presumptuous of her teacher.
That essay is beautiful. She's an incredibly sensitive soul (and I don't see how that'd be changed any by religion), but also, I love how she's mastered voice so well in that essay. I think it's probably something that comes naturally to her, but as a teacher, I struggle so much with teaching students the effectiveness of voice in a narrative. I'd give her an A+, too. (Plus, I'd apologize for being an idiot and assigning that topic in the first place, but that's just me. ^_~)

Virginia aka Ginny said...

Your daughter writes better than I do! You've got a little genius on your hands. No surprise there though...judging form her parents. :)

And all I can say is Uggh...in response to what her teacher said to her. When will people learn?

Anonymous said...

Thank you for that, it is good to see that some students have managed to rise above the dismal level of education most of our public schools provide. Yet at the same time, it disheartens me that people who believe atheism and empathy are mutually exclusive are teaching the children.

susanbrown said...

What a great child you have -- she can add "writes well under pressure" to her list of skills!

Her teacher must not of thought of the message she was giving your daughter when she said, "ability to care for others feelings isn't an atheist trait" -- in effect, she's telling your daughter that you aren't empathetic -- wtf is wrong with that teacher!?

Steve said...

When I first heard the teacher's little comment on The Non-Prophets, my first reaction was very similar to the hosts'. As I thought about it, I came to the conclusion that it wasn't really the teacher's fault, because of her apparent isolated upbringing in a religious environment. As I thought about it more, I realized that it was entirely her fault, because she's an adult now and should know better than to say something like that, especially to one of her students.

Zornhau said...

Greetings from Scotland!

I put up with the same sort of rubbish from Christian teachers through most of my schooling. I salute your offspring!

William G. said...

I am a Baptist minister in your area. Why does your daughter expect her teacher to ignore Christmas? You do realize that you are living in the United States of America and that the teacher has just as much right to talk about faith as you do to turn your daughter into an atheist. Which I find to be morally reprehensible, how can you deny your child the beauty of God and His promises? How can you deny your children the love that comes from choosing Christ? It's obvious that your daughter is already lost. You will allow her to spin off in to the darkness of atheism and all of those consequences? I will pray for your daughter and for your family and that your "smart" children will see that there choices are not smart and that all of the wisdom in the world can not by you the love that comes from simply accepting Jesus Christ into your heart.

William's wife and John, Jacob, and Paul mom said...

My husband read your daughters essay to our family at dinner. From one mother to another I want to pray for you. I will pray that God softens your heart and shows you the error of your ways. Your poor babies are going to burn in hell if you continue to lead them astray and teach them that science and so called logic prevail. Faith always prevails! Faith alone can save them. They are like lambs to the slaughter. Please open your heart to the Lord, Jesus Christ and God. Allow the blessings of belief to soften your tongue and heart. I only pray that your daughter will use her brain for more righteous pursuits than mocking her friends. What a waste of talent. Gods blessings to you. We will keep reading this blog and hope your heart changes.

Matt said...

William wrote:

"I am a Baptist minister in your area."

And I'm an atheist, though I used to be a Baptist.

"Why does your daughter expect her teacher to ignore Christmas? You do realize that you are living in the United States of America and that the teacher has just as much right to talk about faith as you do to turn your daughter into an atheist."

Well, I wouldn't expect the teacher to ignore Christmas - but you're 100% wrong when you say that the teacher has just as much right to talk about faith.

Your position as part of a majority (along with your arrogant conviction that your beliefs are correct) has blinded you to the problem. There are very good reasons why teachers shouldn't be discussing matters of faith with students.

Would you want one of your children's teachers telling them that they aren't really a Christian? What if the teacher was explaining how superior Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam or *gasp* atheism was?

The separation of church and state ensure proper religious freedom - and serves you and yours, just as well as the rest of us.

"Which I find to be morally reprehensible, how can you deny your child the beauty of God and His promises? How can you deny your children the love that comes from choosing Christ? It's obvious that your daughter is already lost."

And I find it morally reprehensible that you're encouraging your children and your congregation to choose faith over reason. I find it appalling that you haven't left the dark ages and that you prefer fantasy worlds, feel-good non-answers and emotional crutches to the joy of experiencing reality with all of it's ups and downs.

I can only hope that your children's minds are not permanently crippled by the shackles of the religious nonsense you've fed them.

"You will allow her to spin off in to the darkness of atheism and all of those consequences?"

What darkness? What consequences? Oh, you mean the hell that YOU believe we'll be spending eternity in? You do realize that those threats like that are pointless, don't you?

Do you fear the penalties of not accepting other religions? I didn't think so.

"I will pray for your daughter and for your family and that your "smart" children will see that there choices are not smart and that all of the wisdom in the world can not by you the love that comes from simply accepting Jesus Christ into your heart."

We'll forgive you. We'll forgive your arrogance, your condescension, your ignorance, your threats of hell, your illusions of "smart"-ness, and your promise to pray for us.

Now if only you'd *think* and then *act*. 'Hands that help are infinitely more useful than hands folded in prayer.'

-Matt

Atheist in a mini van. said...

Matt, I think I love you. ;)

Matt D. said...

You love me? Didn't anyone tell you that atheists are incapable of love?!? :)

-Matt

Virginia aka Ginny said...

Matt Rules. :)

Atheist in a mini van. said...

You love me? Didn't anyone tell you that atheists are incapable of love?!? :)

-Matt


:)
Yeah, well that person can go to hell (since he believes in it). Besides, I was never very good at following stupid mandates. *throws love around like confetti*

karcass said...

Right on. I hope my daughter grows up with similar courage of her convications, whatever they turn out to be.

Anonymous said...

It must be great to be so "Christian" and so intolerant and ignorant at the same time.

You should complain to the administration of the school about the comments this teacher made to your daughter. Hopefully, they'll take appropriate measures, depending on their religious affiliation of course.

Mike Haubrich said...

I think that even apart from the religious assumption in the essay was the insensitivity towards the kids who may get nothing. Your child has empathy, and that is not something that can be taught by anthying but example. It can be taught by loving parents.

Good on ya for raising your daughter so well.

Glantch Horton said...

Well written, Matt. Too bad you were, if I may be permitted a biblical metaphor, casting pearls before swine. William and Wife (like good followers of the bible, they don't see much point in a woman having her own name, I guess) are completely brainwashed, and can only find meaning in making idle threats in the hope of inducing the same mental state in everyone else. You'll be getting the "America is a christian nation" idiocy in reply, I am certain.

Atheist in a mini van, you are right to be very proud of your daughter. It's amaing how, when you don't intentionally indoctrinate your children, they come to see the folly of religion all on their own. That's what terrifies the small-minded religious bigots, the Williams and Wives of the world: They know that their kind will disappear if more of us quit brainwashing our kids. Therefore, they only have, as a last resort, the accusation that it is *you* who are indoctrinating your daughter. Repent!

If atheism is a religion, health is a disease. Likewise, choosing not to infect your child is not, in fact, inflicting disease. That essay was the sign of a very healthy mind. Bravo!

LCR said...

I am visiting via Pharyngula and just had to right a comment in support. I am another godless Mom in a minivan in California, surrounded by overly enthusiastic Christians left and right. My neighbor's child frequently describes the hell my children will go to when they die and my son's classmate refused to play with him because he was not a Christian. I am teaching my kids to handle this with as much humor as possible and I am proud at the strength of character and intelligence they exhibit with every new occurance. But it is a struggle, isn't it? I am beginning to suspect that there are more of us out there then we think. You aren't alone in this and its really nice to know that I'm not alone either. :-)

Wayne said...

In case the deities of men listen and act, I pray for a world where people who minister to the spirits of others, or guide them to knowledge, have the sensitivity and clarity of pure hearted children.

It is children like this, not preachers, that inspire me to wonder if there might be divinity. It is children like this that teach me.

Thank you for sharing this.

Interrobang said...

That was really beautiful. I was a (lone) atheist in a high school full of fundamentalist, evangelical Christians. I was also a lot more confrontational than Possum#1; on a similar assignment, I informed the teacher that a) I didn't believe in God, and b) I wasn't going to participate because I felt overt religion shouldn't be in school, and then I walked out. That was yonks ago, in the Deep South of Canada.

BigHeathenMike said...

Hey there,
I found your blog from a link on Pharyngula and think it's great. I can only say that you have a cool daughter and I hope mine will be like her. That teacher and the little, "her 'ability to care for others feelings isn't an atheist trait'" crap is annoying yet expected from a religious person who just can't fathom anyone having morals and empathy without a sky-daddy.

Thanks and I'll return!

Morgan said...

Possummomma,

Normally when I read blog entries like this I move on without comment but seeing some of the responses here I wanted to voice my support and my admiration. Your daughter's eloquence, integrity, and courage in speaking up in this manner, and above all her perceptiveness and empathy in relation to her non-Christian classmates, add up to a portrait of a young lady whom I would be very happy to have any child of mine some day resemble. I don't know what age the possum in question is but in truth there's no age at which such self-possession and good character would not be impressive. In the same vein you yourself appear to be someone I can only hope to measure up to in the event I ever become a parent myself.

My heartfelt admiration to you and your daughter.

Anonymous said...

Very smart daughter, what grade is she in? Christmas is a recognized national holiday, and of course the custom of giving gifts has nothing to do with the practice of religion, so I don't think the teacher's essay instructions were inappropriate, but I certainly laud your daughter for having the courage to write the essay she did, as well as the teacher's honesty in giving her an "A+".

The note to "see me after class" for some ad hoc bashing of atheism, however, was clearly out of line on the teacher's part. Also the "I want a new teacher, who..." part of the essay could be deemed disrespectful, I'd suggest that your daughter steer clear of that type of remark in all of her future well-written and profound essays, of which I'm sure there will be many more.

badgermama said...

I've been an atheist since I was 7, and yeah, other kids used to describe hell to me. It didn't make their crazy-ass religion sound any more appealing.

And -- what a great essay from your kid!

Skeptico said...

Regarding what the teacher said:

… the "ability to care for others feelings” isn't a theistic trait either, it’s an evolved secular trait co-opted by some religions.

Anonymous said...

Well, all I can say is Thor and Odin may want a word or two with all of you once you shuffle off this mortal coil (and I don't imagine they'll be very happy either).

(Also, don't stare at Odin's missing eye, that really bugs him)

Anonymous said...

Well done! I have been delighted to read your daughters pop-essay and Matt's reply.

Pearls before the swine, to be sure. They have no idea how wonderful it its to be theist free.

Long live those who speak out against religion and it's evil ways!

Mark
San Diego, CA

Virginia aka Ginny said...

It's so nice to hear from other atheist moms like Icr. I can totally relate to your whole post. Thanks for chiming in!

Virginia aka Ginny said...

… the "ability to care for others feelings” isn't a theistic trait either, it’s an evolved secular trait co-opted by some religions..

Well said.

Don said...

I don't know how old Possum #1 is, but I've had less eloquent peers in college. She's got a gift - encourage her to use it.

She's also very brave for admitting her atheism in a school assignment, when she hasn't even told her friends. I hope she knows about this blog and all the supportive comments left by complete strangers in the same boat. My hat is off to her and you.

Anonymous said...

Good job on raising an intelligent and spirited young woman. Whatever path she chooses will be her own, not one lain down for her, and that's something to be proud of.

allen said...

funny, my first thought to the teacher's after-class statement, given the nature of the assignment and your daughter's thoughtful response, was that her teacher, who hadn't considered the feelings of others, mustn't be much of a Christian.

Natasha Yar-Routh said...

WTF indeed, the arrogance of theists is truly mind boggling but not, alas, unexpected. Possum #1 is already a very good verging on great writer. That she came up with that easy on the spur of the moment is truly impressive.

Her empathy and compassion speak well of her and you. I would nominate you for mother of the year.

It says much of the weakness of the Christians faith that they had to use the threat, implied or explicit, of hell to try to scare you to their viewpoint. Logic and reason seem to be beyond those who commented here and did their best to coerce you and possum #1.

Lindsay said...

I'm so happy to read things like this and to know that at least some people have the courage to voice their convictions. I'm happy to know that other people have the same experiences as I have had in years past. It makes me happy to the point of tears.

Thanks for sharing.

Phoenician in a time of Romans said...

Your poor babies are going to burn in hell if you continue to lead them astray and teach them that science and so called logic prevail.

Why on Earth would you want to worship a being that would burn children forever for something their parents did? Wouldn't it be more honest to label him "Satan" rather than "God"?

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for posting this. You give me hope that the world isn't simply raising unthinking clones. So many parents presume that not only should their kids emulate themselves, but that it is their duty to make it so. Giving your children the ability to think for themselves is a real gift. Clearly your child can, and eloquently at that.

voidling said...

Thank you Possum #1 what insight for a student you will go very far in life, as for being just thoughtful any and every religion and belief system has beautiful people like you , your Dad is right WTF...are these brainwashing types trying to do. Keep it up girl believe in the good of mankind but don't always trust them humans are weird!
Trust your family and their good values you have them too.

Anonymous said...

This is from a Atheist in a wonderful relationship with a Christian.

What shocks me is that these ministers and Christians express such deep and resentful scorn. She prays for me while I mock her beliefs yet we both love each other very deeply.

Our point of view is that Christianity teaches you to forgive and love thy neighbor while Atheism teaches me that my love for her should never be diminished by something so trivial as religion.

Us Americans have already been victims of religious hate and this new inflamed war between Atheists and Christians is reprehensible.

Haven't we had enough of this crap already?

Benjamin said...

Your post made me thankful I did not grow up in the U.S.

I spent most of my education in public schools, with a four-year stint in a Catholic school. But even in the Catholic school, no teacher (not even the nuns) would imagine saying anything like that to a student.

Australia does not have a grand proclamation giving freedom of religion. It is just a line in our constitution:

115. A State shall not coin money, nor make anything but gold and silver coin a legal tender in payment of debts.

116. The Commonwealth shall not make any law for establishing any religion, or for imposing any religious observance, or for prohibiting the free exercise of any religion, and no religious test shall be required as a qualification for any office or public trust under the Commonwealth.

117. A subject of the Queen, resident in any State, shall not be subject in any other State to any disability or discrimination which would not be equally applicable to him if he were a subject of the Queen resident in such other State.

Not much fanfare, eh?

Freedoms cannot just be legislated. Unless they exist as part of the values of the culture, they are not able to be practised as they should.

DeadWisdom said...

You've destroyed me with that beauty. I want to take these ideas and write them accross the moon for all to see.

Atheist in a mini van. said...

You've destroyed me with that beauty. I want to take these ideas and write them accross the moon for all to see.

I will pass your thoughtful commments along to possum1 when she wakes.

She tends to be a very bookish, shy child and all of this attention has her baffled. :)

Ghost said...

This is one of my first comments on another's blog, I'd like to say that I did enjoy the little anecdote, though it seemed a bit sad. I actually felt sorry for your daughter, that she sees the world in such a weary, depressd way.

I remember doing an essay just like this one, many years ago, when I knew that I would be getting 4 presents total, if I was lucky, and the gifts were small. But I still enjoyed writing out on paper what I wanted. I think that every child should be given the oppurtunity to hope and dream for the cherished gift, even if they know that they aren't going to get it this year, next year, or ever. I still haven't gotten the Thundercats Thundertank. But I remember how excited I got, just thinking about it. It's too bad your daughter hasn't been able to hold onto her childhood for just a while longer.

To Matt: You can spout anti-Baptist(or anti-Flying Spaghetti Monster, for all I care) insults all you want, it doesn't make them wrong, either. The simple truth is that No living person can provide proof for or against a God, a set of Gods, or a Pasta based life form. You're arrogant conviction that there is no god is just as foolish.

Teacher DO have just as much right to talk about faith, on that you are 100% wrong. Well, more like 80% - Teachers are not permitted to TEACH religion, but the are allowed to discuss it with a student, one on one. If the student does not wish to continue the discussion, he/she is allowed to stop it at any time. But that's not even the point here.. What the teacher did was no more than tell the girl that she had a Christian attitude. THere was no focing of Monotheisticism down her gullet, so stop making out like she was.

I'll agree that there are many Atheists who have that exact same kind of attitude. There are also Gnostics and Christians, Muslims and even a few of us "Unlabelled" who act that way. Some people, no matter what religion, are sensitive to others feelings. But to condemn someone for mistakenly labelling the attitude to something they find morally righteous? Even if you don't find it to be correct, I should think you can see how it is a compliment to a person's character, especially a child.

I can understand not exactly liking what Preacher Bill said, but that's no reason to go and sound off like a Heathen. You're making him look like he was right, and the sad fact is, he isn't right. Atheist in a minivan isn't denying her child anything but a sturdy leather bound book, be it a Bible, Koran(Quran, if you like, Torah or other such brochure. Your daughter is not lost, she's finding her place. A big grievance I have with religion is this Doomsday mentality that they all have. The world is going to end tomorrow, just like it was going to end 300 years ago.. Enough already.

But: If religion is a hoax, if there is nothing more to it than people feeling compassion for other humans they don't know.. People being nice just to be nice, even if it means "turning the other cheek" to vicious comments aimed solely at their hearts.. Well, I like those guys better.

Leif, Denmark said...

That's a great child you have there!

Bravo Possum #1! Thank you for allowing us to read your words. It is good to hear the free-thinking, skeptical voices out there. Words like these and especially from young people like you gives me hope for the future of this planet.

Your teacher on the other hand should read (and try to understand) Richard Dawkins in The God Delusion.

Mamid said...

I was raised in a non-christian religion and I hated it whenever the teacher(s) had "fill the gap" assignments like that. I wasn't christian. Our "Christmas" when I was growing up was 6 or so days at the end of February where, if I was lucky, I might get a present every day of the celebrations. My grandparents were Roman Catholics, but they respected my mother's right to raise me differently. So when the other kids were talking about all their loot the first day back, I'd show them the two or three items I got - a pencil or two, a new sweater and socks, maybe, just maybe a new toy. And I was told to be thankful for getting that because I wasn't christian. See, if my mother wanted to, she could have held those presents off for the two and a half months until it was the time for our celebrations, but she didn't.

Then there's the entire bullshavick about "new year's resolutions." One year, the teacher asked us to make them and we each had to have X amount. Well, my religion's new year wasn't till March so I didn't see the point. I could only come up with three things and was given an F unless I filled the list with the ten items required. The last thing on my list - to never make another resolution again. I've kept that resolution for over two decades.

Charity and compassion for others is a learned human trait. You don't need to be Christian or Athiest or anything to have them. It is also something you have to want to show and do.

I'm wondering about the teacher's "after class" talk with your child. What did the teacher want to talk about? Coersion into Christianity? Your child showed more compassion than the teacher ever did and they should be thankful for the lesson they've learned!

Clu said...

Good on you and your daughter, coming from a highly secular country (Sweden) it's great to see that there are people in the U.S that does not blindly follow the big sky pappy ;) this is sometimes hard to see from this side of the atlantic

-Clu

Anonymous said...

Truly amazing the arrogance of the baptist minister who, despite the girls very clear statement that her mother left her free to decide her religious beliefs for herself, still slyly paints the situation as one of the mother molding her child into an atheist. Because, you know, its simply not possible that she could simply lack faith on her own: no no. It has to be part of some conspiracy!

Amenhotep said...

Great stuff. Your daughter is a very effective atheist witness, and maybe, just maybe, her teacher has gone away with a little doubt in her mind. She'll think: maybe respect for others is an atheistic trait after all. Maybe you can be a good person without believing in sky-pixies. Maybe what I've been previously thinking of as "Christian values" are just core atheistic humanism.

It is little (and brave) witnesses like this that will topple the rubbish peddled by the brimstone brigade. I've seen it happen in my own family - when it becomes clear that all that is good about Christianity is in fact *humanism*, people who were previously firm believers (like myself) can ditch the pixie mumbo jumbo, and continue to lead ethical lives.

If it's any consolation to wavering Christians out there, if Jesus had been alive today, he would be an atheist. The parable of the Good Samaritan is the prime example of the fact that "faith" and "religion" are superfluous - it's our actions to our fellow people that count.

90kg or 200 000 of croatian atheism said...

Greetings from Croatia, a country by statistics supposed to be about 95% Christian. Please congratulate your daughter on an excellent short essay and skills in elaborating her thoughts.
Anyone who fist of all threatens someone else without reason, and this stands even if it is with reason, is not to earn any respect from a society - I mean especially if it mentions burning babies.
In fact, your daughters essay and some of the comments here are in absolute contrast.
While she has managed to express a couple of simple yet wonderful thoughts that will be recognized as such BY ANY human being on the planet because they are exactly that - pure, some other people weren't able to even attempt protect their beliefs without using the tools they have in stock given to them in the package of their beliefs - threats, induction of fear etc.
I face such arrogance and even frustration (ex yugo country amongst others - it's like someone left us with a gift of depression and frustration) and it takes ages to even got to a proper conversation where underlying problems causing much of the current frustration. here it isn't the problem of saying something, it's saying it so that it is taken into account at all, you have to shout, and then that can be arrogant as well
i might be too young to say this with any credibility (i'm 18) but I think your daughter will become a great person and it is not because of being atheist - it is because of her view on life and people around her
it is only sad society will often make her question those qualities and beliefs into the same qualities in order to protect their own beliefs of a person with a very well groomed beard and a turbocharged jetpack

Anonymous said...

You may have just convinced me that I want children. Your daughter is everything I wish I was when I was in school, I'm blown away.

Anonymous said...

In response to the righteous, it's time to drop this little Christian bomb.

To those Christians who manage to get through a day without pompous zealotry- you have my deepest respect to follow your faith in peace.

Anonymous said...

The essay let me feeling warm inside. Wow...

The ability (or inability) to have empathy has nothing to do with religion, alas many people do seem to think so in the US. Luckily, living in Finland I can be what I am, without someone bashing be.

Snark7 said...

William's Wife:
Your poor babies are going to burn in hell if you continue to lead them astray and teach them that science and so called logic prevail.


I have to say this:
If you truly believe this and if you believe this to be just and you still pray to and adore your "god", you are certainly the worst, most evil kind of person humanity has to offer.

If you *really* believe that your god burns kids for the sin of your parents, but still adore him, pray to him, glorify him in all your silly ways, morally and characterwise you have sunk to the lowest possible level a human can sink to.
Even child molesters may be better from a moral standpoint, at least they don't torture their victims eternally. Or glorify their torturer.

Well. Posts like yours at least serve to remind me, why I so thoroughly despise "true believers".
And it makes me thankful and proud that there are even children who have the courage and moral integrity to stand up to the utterly evil worldview the likes of you represent.

Anonymous said...

Seems hard for to believe that I child would write this.

Sorry to hear that you are an atheist though. I will pray for you and your family right now.

God Bless

intepid said...

Ghost (and others who think atheists should sit quietly),

I think it's wrong to call outspoken atheists arrogant (although very common).

I personally find it *unbelievably* arrogant that anyone can claim to know the will of a superior being who created the universe, but I don't expect to win arguments by pointing it out because being arrogant has nothing to do with being right or wrong.

Christians, Muslims etc are wrong not because they are arrogant, self-righteous or annoying; they are wrong because they insist on a particular version of the "truth" for which there is no evidence. You mention the FSM when making your point that religion can't be disproved? The whole point of FSM is to illustrate how stupid this line of reasoning is!

It is also detestable to tell someone they cannot be moral if they don't believe in your God (as the girl's teacher implied)... that's just sick, and illustrates perfectly how religion is NOT all harmless and about making people feel great. Christians don't own decency, and it is exceedingly *arrogant* for them to claim it as theirs.

crfullmoon said...

Brava, Possum #1 !

(I wandered away from checking Effect Measure and ended up here, somehow.)

Glad you don't have to stay in that school, or area, for that matter, the rest of your life.

Have you good people seen The Flu Wiki yet? The only time to get prepared for a pandemic influenza year is before one starts (and not many school or local officials seem to be able to deal with passing that info along). See Schools for a start. Current cfr is worth a look, too. (Has anyone read "1491"?)
All the best to you and yours.

AdventureDad said...

I'm half Swedish and live in the country which supposedly has the most atheists in the world, Sweden. I read somewhere it's somewhere between 35-65% who don't believe in God. Or at least aren't sure.

Personally I do believe but that's completely beside the point. I don't care if you're atheist, Buddhist, Christian, Muslim, Jewish, or whatever. I thought your daughter's story was beautiful and I think it shows you're doing a great job as a mother. You've clearly taught her some very valuable things about life and allowed her to form her own opinions.

We have some beautiful churches over here but I don't know anyone that attend. I might go with the wife once a year, that's it. But atheists here are what I call "passive atheists" People are well educated and simply aren't sure God exist since no one can offer indisputable proof. They don't shove their believes down the throat of anyone and you would never in a million year know they were atheists.

They are respectful, great people who mostly don't care what religion you are. People here make decisions based on education and logic, not religion. Main thing is that you're a good person. Best way to piss someone off might be to try to shove your religious beliefs, whatever they might be, down the throat of anyone. Then you will not make friends.

Thanks for a nice story. And what's up with the teachers final comment????? You can't be a good kind person if you're atheist?

Anonymous said...

i'm 34 years old, a college graduate, i feel like i'm reasonably well read, and i take a perhaps too great amount of pride in my own wit --- yet i very much doubt i could produce an essay nearly that good on no notice.

kudos to your daughter for it; if she keeps up that standard, i don't doubt she'll do well in life.

Amanda said...

How inspiring to read this post!

We moved to America with our infant daughter in 2005, and I am disheartened at how oppressive Christianity is here. Both my husband and I are atheists, and sometimes I worry about if my daughter will suffer abuse and/or ridicule because of us. And honestly, I don't think that I should be worrying about that in a country where we have religious freedom. Religious freedom also means freedom from religion!

Congratulations on raising such a wonderful child.

darrell said...

That was an extremely clever response to the prompt. I'm glad to see that not only can your daughter think for herself and reject the nonsense of religion, but she can also already recognize a bullshit busywork assignment from a teacher.

I also want to briefly address the "anonymous" atheist fellow with the Christian significant other who said:

Us [sic] Americans have already been victims of religious hate and this new inflamed war between Atheists and Christians is reprehensible.

I'm glad that your relationship works, but let's not forget that the majority of religious folks out there are not as reasonable as your partner. William, the wordsmith of a Baptist minister, is a prime example. Their beliefs are rooted in accepting nonsense at face value, and not just accepting it but believing that it is the only truth and forcing it on others. People talk about alien abductions or new age magic or far-reaching government conspiracies and they're called nutjobs...yet for some reason people defend the insane beliefs of the religious to no end. In fact they pander to them so much in this country that we have tax-exempt religious institutions being run exactly like businesses, scaring their followers with fire and brimstone and turning around and making money off them.

We can't give up on reason just because it makes you feel better that no one's fighting. We need to castigate those with a dangerously unfirm grasp on reality at every chance we get, otherwise the madness only spreads further.

Jake said...

How old is your daughter? That essay was amazingly well written. I second the suggestion to persue the issue of the teacher's comment to Possum; it was completely inappropriate.

Anonymous said...

I am 38 and majored in English and writing in college (when dinosaurs roamed the Earth) and I don't think I could have produced such a wonderful essay.

Kudos to Possum #1!

lilletlangtry said...

WOW! Go Possum #1! That is an excellent essay and I am very happy to have found your blog.

Have you and or Possum read Philip Pullman's _His Dark Materials_ trilogy? I think you both would enjoy it, and Lyra, the 12-year old heroine is a fantastic character, and as courageous as Possum #1's voice in that essay.

It wearies me to no end, this asinine assumption that any moral calculus is dependent on religious faith, not to mention the total abdication of personal responsibility entrenched in the "my Invisible Grandpa can beat up your Invisible Grandpa" trope of claiming one worships the "One True God." Congratulations on raising a girl with such a good head on her shoulders and such a huge and intelligent heart.

Katie said...

Wow, what an amazing essay! She seems like a very intelligent, insightful child. And brave, to boot! How many of us would have dared written that to a teacher? Kudos for raising such a confident young woman. I can only hope my kids will turn out that well, someday.

Anonymous said...

I don't understand the Athiest's paranoia of religion. I can only conclude that most are not secure in their beliefs. I mean, if you don't believe, why do you go all out to broadcast it, attack those who do, post this stuff? I mean, why don't you just be godless and thankful you live in a country that will allow you to be?

Mike Crichton said...

Your daughters awesome. Thank you for doing your part to ensure victory for the Atheist Conspiracy. :-)

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...
<... I mean, if you don't believe, why do you go all out to broadcast it, attack those who do, post this stuff? I mean, why don't you just be godless and thankful you live in a country that will allow you to be?>


This comment is why.
I guess all us atheist are just lucky to be alive in such a tolerant country.

Henry Roanoke said...

Too bad the teacher was so vile in her response. It's especially grating that she was not (in her mind) merely offering an opinion in equating atheism with immorality or a lack of empathy; she invoked this bullshit as it were established fact.

Religion is a universal toxin that compels believers in a given sect to abhor people in other sects and the god-free alike, all while touting their attitude as -- in an amazing burst of perversity -- loving and caring. This requires such ridicuous cherry-picking and bowdlerizing of the Bible that it's no surprise that religious, while not limited to the intellectually bereft, certainly appeals to the less educated and uncritical.

The rambling comment from "William G," who would be institutionalized for mental illness were his spewings not made under the aegis of his religious convictions, reads like a parody, but of course it sadly isn't. Ask his equally cross-eyed and bib-requiring wife how well faith in Christ prevailed on 9/11/2001 and at various other points in history. To persist in adhering to this and related nonsense is to engage in the most pernicious and reckless sort of willful ignorance imaginable.

It's no accident that, as the expansion of blogging and the Internet in general has revealed, there's an eerie correlation between poor literacy and religiosity.

One day, people will no longer quietly accept the equivocation of "Christian" with "decent" and will loudly call it what it is: marginalizing, backward, misogynistic, contemptuous and a perfect mechanism for creating generations of self-deluded, cross-waving bumpkinoidal freaks. Then, while the sane citrizens of the planet go about the business of improving life on this planet, these nutzoes can hunker down in their closets and babble about Jeebus just as their own goofy Bible commands.

Anonymous said...

Yikes, William and his Wife worship the god of blackmail, apparently. Worship me or I will flame broil your children for eternity? This is a loving god?

HA. What loonies.

Mac said...

I think your daughter is awesome! I wish I would have had the self-awareness and courage to write something like that at that age. It's hard to break away from the crowd.

I'm less impressed by the teacher. It's not so much the assignment, but the attitude toward atheism. I hope your daughter was able to cure her of the fallacy of her argument.

TheBlackCat said...

Anonymous said...
< I don't understand the Athiest's paranoia of religion. I can only conclude that most are not secure in their beliefs. I mean, if you don't believe, why do you go all out to broadcast it, attack those who do, post this stuff? I mean, why don't you just be godless and thankful you live in a country that will allow you to be? >

I don't understand the Christians' paranoia of athiests. I can only conclude that most are not secure in their beliefs. I mean, if you believe, why do you go all out to broadcast it, attack those who don't, post this stuff? I mean, why don't you just be religious and thankful you live in a country that will allow you to be?

mothworm said...

"I don't understand the thiest's paranoia of non-religion. I can only conclude that most are not secure in their beliefs. I mean, if you believe, why do you go all out to broadcast it, attack those who don't, post this stuff? I mean, why don't you just be godly and thankful you live in a country that will allow you to be?"

mothworm said...

Oops, I see someone beat me to exactly the same comment. I'll comment on what ghost said, then.

>>"I'd like to say that I did enjoy the little anecdote, though it seemed a bit sad. I actually felt sorry for your daughter, that she sees the world in such a weary, depressd way."<<

Where is possum#1 weary or depressed? She expresses empathy with her classmates that have been excluded or who won't be getting anything for christmas, even if they do celebrate it. I fail to see that care and concern for others as something to be lamented.

>>"Teachers are not permitted to TEACH religion, but the are allowed to discuss it with a student, one on one....What the teacher did was no more than tell the girl that she had a Christian attitude."<<

Maybe if the student brings it up--asks the teacher about their religious views, but even then that's an iffy situation. What this teacher did was call her over to tell her that her beliefs about herself were wrong, that an atheist cannot be a good person. Imagine if the teacher had said, "I don't think you're a Hindu/Jew/Catholic. Your ability to care for others isn't a Hindu/Jew/Catholic trait." Still think that would be appropriate? Of course not.

>>"But: If religion is a hoax, if there is nothing more to it than people feeling compassion for other humans they don't know.. People being nice just to be nice, even if it means "turning the other cheek" to vicious comments aimed solely at their hearts.. Well, I like those guys better."<<

If only there were "nothing more to it" than that. The problem is that there is a lot more to it, and 90% of the time it takes the form of people like Pastor Bill and possom#1's teacher.

darth said...

"atheist trait", lol.

wonderful essay :)

blindcarrot said...

You have every right to be proud of your daughter for her courage and apparent gift of words. I've never written anything nearly that good.

As for some of the comments, are you sure that William G. & wife are not a doing a Baptist minister parody for comedic effect? I really find it hard to tell, especially when the perspective is so over the top.

Noone Inparticular said...

Posssumama

Was directed here by Pharyngula. Your daughter is amazing and she clearly has a bright future. As PZ Myers says, there is hope for us as long as there are young people like possum#1 around.

All the best.

Mike Pelletier said...

The teacher's comments demonstrate how religion allows people to construct an "us vs. them" view of the world and then demonize "them". Athiests can't feel empath, but your daughter feels empatyh, therefore she is not an athiest. What is the value in believing athiests can't be empathic? It dehumanises them. When you dehumanise your adversary, it makes it easy to commit any atrocity that strikes your fancy. After all, they're not really people.

eotf said...

Your possum is wonderful. People like that teacher make me want to leave America altogether, but then someone like your kid comes along and convinces me to do the courageous thing and stay in the fight.

new.atheist said...

After reading this, I wish to one day be a mother like you and to have children like yours. I'm sure they're not perfect all the time, but your Possum #1 is both eloquent and empathetic. She is not a sheep, and we need more people who think for themselves in this world, despite the possible consequences. She took a stand, and I hope you share with her the praise of her in the comments on this page.

As an atheist, I wish her the best luck in this world. I cannot stand the arrogance of those who feel that belief is above action in this world. If there was a Jesus, from what I've read about him, he'd be proud of your daughter for thinking of her classmates instead of herself. She may have done the "christian" thing, but don't let that discourage her! I live by the philosophy that while I don't have faith in god, I have faith in mankind, and your daughter is proof that my faith is not misplaced.

For the teacher to say that atheists are incapable of having feelings for others, after your daughter clearly stated in her essay that her mother is atheist, is deplorable! Her teacher essentially told your little possum that her mother doesn't care about her! I hope you've re-assured your daughter that this isn't so, even if she already knows it. The way I see it, it's often that atheists are more caring for their fellow man, because we know god isn't going to take care of us; we have to take care of eachother.

Thank you so much for sharing this.

John said...

your kid seems like an impudent a-hole doomed to live a miserable life where she always sees the bad things around her. A true pessimist. Congratulations on raising a whining complainer!

Matt D. said...

John wrote: "your kid seems like an impudent a-hole doomed to live a miserable life where she always sees the bad things around her. A true pessimist. Congratulations on raising a whining complainer!"

I think my irony meter is broken.

Cat Martin said...

What an excellent essay! The marked contrast between your daughter's clear writing and use of correct punctuation and that of the Christian "Fundies" who left comments is quite telling.

The contrast between her sensitivity and theirs is even more telling.

John said...

irony meter? what - you can't call someone a pessimist without being one yourself? hmmm - what a catch-22!

Let's see - rather than identify with the rest of the class, the possum identifies with kids who don't celebrate Christmas. Fine - in an of itself - but she frames them as if they are helpless souls, beaten down by the teacher. When I was a kid, my Jewish friends shrugged stuff like this off - just like I would try to shrug it off if I lived in a mostly muslim or buddhist region. Heck - I used to love celebrating other holidays with kids of other religions - more food, desserts, toys, etc!!!

Then possum quickly falls back on the tried and true, "How can God allow the world to be such a miserable place?" tactic. ho-hum. Sorry if I take this to be pessimism shining through.

As if that wasn't enough, possum appears to only see the bad stuff happening in her family and her classroom.

Totally leaving religion out of it for a second, this kid is downright depressing. Does possum ever take time to celebrate things in life? Or is the glass always 1/2 empty?

irony meter? how about a real comment?

Nance Confer said...

Congratulations on raising such a wonderful daughter. And in the face of such crude ignorance!

Anonymous said...

I teach a literary journalism course at UC. Please tell Possum1 she could give any one of my students a run for their money. Any teacher worth a lick would would LOVE to have her as a student.

As for her teacher's comments and behavior, such a sad insensitivity and dereliction of duty -- to both the Constitution and her students -- demands immediate counseling and corrective action by her principal. I'm guessing that doesn't happen, though...

Matt D. said...

John wrote: "irony meter? how about a real comment?"

And the hits just keep coming...

John wrote: "As if that wasn't enough, possum appears to only see the bad stuff happening in her family and her classroom."

So, you've read a 10-minute pop essay that rightly points out the mistaken assumption of a teacher and demonstrates an impressive level of compassion for those around her - and determined that she's only able to see the bad stuff.

I've got a surprise for you - bad stuff is part of life. Pointing it out isn't necessarily pessimistic. Confronting reality isn't pessemism. Identifying problems is the first step toward resolving them.

Your inability to recognize this coupled with your flawed assumption that a 10-minute pop essay is sufficient grounds for you to characterize someone - demonstrate your ignorance and, ironically, your own gloomy pessimism.

While she was instructed to write an essay, your contribution here was voluntary. While she pointed out problems with compassion, you've simply spewed accusations of pessimism. While she identifed real problems in an attempt to correct them, you've focused on the negative solely for the purpose of non-constructive criticism.

So, yes...my irony meter went off the scale.

Is that answer sufficient?

Mattias said...

Greetings from Estonia, another lutheran country like Sweden where religion is not taken very seriously. I'd now like to rip the last comment to pieces, thank you.

john wrote
>your kid seems like an impudent a-hole doomed to live a miserable life where she always sees the bad things around her. A true pessimist. Congratulations on raising a whining complainer!

What? And religion then, does what? What you're saying is that religion is optimistic? How can you possibly say that? It does not matter if we are talking about christianity, or islam, or judaism, or whatever, they are ALL PESSIMISTIC. See, most people in the world are supposed to go to hell or, based on your beliefs, whatever the name of "bad place" is (most people are NOT christian, or islamic, or, again, whatever, and that makes them "bad"). And then there's the universal rejection of science... how many of US christians do not believe in the theory of evolution? How well do they even know it? The main problem of religions is that it makes the "believer" very aggressive towards any attempt to educate them. They just don't listen, or don't read books which are known to promote some other religion or atheism, and thus do not provide any more answers than some guy wrote in ONE book. Without thinking the "facts" over. They are like george w bush, they do not admit their mistakes. Atheists, as a rule, do. Gnostics do not think about possible answers to this and that, they already "know", and it does not matter that those "facts" interfere with everything we know about the world.
Think about this: is a man who lives in, say, iran, a person? A human? Homo sapiens? If yes, are you? If yes, then you should agree that you and him are biologically equal. But... YOU are right in saying nonsense, but his nonsense is nonsense?
What about the vikings? They had an awful lot of gods and that's nonsense right? But think about what would happen if you could go to a fierce viking and say, hey, you know that odin, thor freya and everyone else are just hoaxes? How could you possibly think of such a thing? Many gods? Hahaha! There is only one god, yahweh. And then there's his son who we mainly praise. And, of course, many of us praise god's son's mother, who was a virgin. Yahweh created the earth, the universe, and life, and atoms, and electrons, and neutrons, and protons, and he created gravity, and he made the stars expand until they explode, and he made gold and silver, and he made oxygen, and he made wolfram, and he made it so that three atoms could join together and make H2O and he made "dark matter" and photons and made it so that earth has an atmosphere and that venus had one and that mars had one but not that the moon had one. And he created people whom he made just the way he liked, and they are not the way he likes them because they believe in other gods. And the earth is just over 10000 years old.
You know what would happen? He'd fall on his knees, start praying and say thank you for enlightening me? "You had me at the second god's (was he called Jeebus?) virgin mother"? No, he'd not, because what you just said was complete and utter nonsense. A "whining complainer" right. What was that you just said. Oh, and great arguments by the way. Possum#1 looks like she has a meaning in her life, and that she can live without the waste of time of churches, praying and thinking about "almighty" god. Bloody hell, as a side note, god IS almighty right? Then how the hay does he just make us the way he wants? Um, perhaps we are good enough as we are?
And why do religious people think that a) because they live in a country with free religion, they are not to be critisized in any way? and b) atheists are not capable of love and care for other people, life, the universe and everything (he was an atheist, too, by the way)? And why are we supposed to be "lost"? What makes religious people "found"? Are we supposed to be baffled by the meaning of life and all that? Because what baffles me more is this belief. I'd like to ask a very standard question: who created god? Or gods (in the case of, say, hinduism)? You will now answer "he has always existed". How can you say something so empty? Define "always", please. Now you could say that hey, you do not know what caused the big bang yet either, do you. No, we don't, but we're getting darned close. And I'll say one more thing before i wander too far off the main course of this post: the human mind is too simple to understand everything. We will NEVER understand everything there is to understand, and i personally believe the line is getting closer. I might be wrong now, but we may NEVER know if there's something else beyond the universe. But i do believe the next step in evolution will come much closer to the answers. We will create the super-AI, and then we have completed our goal as an evolutionary link. The AI will know better. Hah. So there.
Let's come back to Possum#1. She writes well... better than 99% of the gnostics... then again, better than 95% of the atheists and agnostics as well. Her mind is CLEAR and not mutated by other people's silly thoughts. She does not whine, she states what's going on, tells us some things that she does not like and then suggests how things would be better.

Actually, I'm happy if any of you gnostics even READ this thoroughly. If you didn't, well, you are so typical. What's YOUR goal for life?

Virginia aka Ginny said...

The teacher's comments demonstrate how religion allows people to construct an "us vs. them" view of the world and then demonize "them". Athiests can't feel empathy, but your daughter feels empathy, therefore she is not an athiest. What is the value in believing athiests can't be empathic? It dehumanises them. When you dehumanise your adversary, it makes it easy to commit any atrocity that strikes your fancy. After all, they're not really people.

Yeah you really hit the nail on the head and this is EXACTLY why atheists need to be more outspoken and cohesive as a group. I'm not saying atheists should be obnoxious, but certainly staying quiet is a terrible thing to do. We stand to learn a great lesson from the days of Nazi Germany. We don't want a repeat of that kind of history. Thanks for pointing out the things you did.

John wrote: "your kid seems like an impudent a-hole doomed to live a miserable life where she always sees the bad things around her. A true pessimist. Congratulations on raising a whining complainer!"

I think my irony meter is broken.

Oh man, no kidding! That is the perfect way to describe it. Forget broken, that irony meter exploded!

Russ said...

Thank you so much Possums.

Thank you to Possummomma for the site. I've bookmarked it and will visit regularly. Your site is a bit of just the right spice.

Concerning the comments from the religious vilifiers, we have to remember that they attack us with the only weapons they possess: ignorance, fear, superstition and their imagined consequences.

Their ignorance of their own religion is profound. For instance, almost none of them, even the authoritarian clergy, have actually read their holy book. Studies done at theological seminaries show that, of all Christian clergy, only about one percent have read the Bible, and, in more fundamentalist denominations, ironically called Bible-believers, the fraction is much less still. It appears that ignorance of the Bible's contents is not a hindrance to clerical success. For example, I have an uncle who is a Lutheran minister who has an exhaustive list of all the Bible verses he has ever quoted in more than 30 years of ministry. The full tally is less than 300. As he comicly puts it, "300 incessantly repeated verses."

The ignorance of clergy runs much deeper, however. They don't know the political history of Christianity, they don't know the source of the texts(as an aside, saying it was God don't make it so), they don't know, or blindly refuse to see, that the claims made in their holy book are not accepted even by the most literal of literalists - a glance at the ten commandments, for instance, shows that we, at most, comply with what, maybe two of them. And, yet, we're the wealthiest, most militarily powerful nation on the planet. The clergy ignore the fact that omnipotent God is apparently asleep at the switch.

Sometimes when I need a good laugh, I'll think about how screwed up religious people's minds are. For instance, when they tell the Noah's Ark fable to their children they always leave out the part where the loving God killed every single child on earth. Not one child was considered to be as worthy of life as a rattlesnake or a naked mole rat. That is "love" only to a truly disturbed mind. Or remember that in Sodom and Gomorrah, Lott is the only one considered righteous enough to be spared. Lott, for his part, offers his daughter as a sexual plaything to a mob and later on actually commits incest with both of his daughters. Should I try to emulate the Biblical God in matters of ethics? Clearly, if I relied on the Bible or its God for moral guidance, in a just society, I would belong in prison. Anyone who thinks that the detestable Biblical God is worthy of obeying, is in dire need of good moral instruction.

A good read in this regard is the book "Farewell to God: my reasons for rejecting the Christian faith", 1996, McClellan & Stewart, Inc. (ISBN 0-7710-8508-7) by Charles Templeton, who together with Billy Graham started Youth for Christ International. He notes in his Author's Note that he rejects Christianity because it presumes "to propound and advocate beliefs that are outdated, demonstrably untrue, and often, in their various manifestations, deleterious to individuals and to society."

Thanks again, Possummomma.

To the Possum #1, let me say that it reassures me, indeed it gives me hope, to know that some young people have the courage and strength to express an unpopular position to an authority figure. When I was sixteen, I suggested to my Christian mother that one of her adult friends had the right to believe as he saw fit. She threw me out, literally, and I didn't see her again until just before her death fifteen years later. I lived under a picnic table until a caring family took me in. I'm so glad you have positive support from Possummomma. That is a treasure.

I have a fourteen year old daughter who sees the world much as you do. I want her, as well as you and all young people, to have the freedom to discover the best path through life for yourselves. I hope that my daughter's vision of the world is as clear, informed, and unrestricted as possible, so when she makes decisions for her world, they will be good for her, for you and for all of mankind.

Pat said...

Possum 1 is very gifted it sounds like you have some great children.

Have you taken issue with the school about the teachers aside? I just think if the roles were reversed and it was an Atheist teacher saying that to a Christian child there would have been some serious backlash for the teacher. Of course it will be the kid vs the teacher, and a less favorable position as the loud mouth atheist vs the school, but something should be done. The teacher is clearly in a position of power and abused it. They were wrong, and should be punished for it.

*Off my soapbox* You seem to have a wonderful family, and I only wish more parents would be willing their children to chose their faith.

Margaret said...

Go Possum#1! Excellent essay. Wish I could write that well, especially under time pressure.

Your teacher is an idiot, and offensive as well. The "ability to care for others" is a human (and humanistic) characteristic, not a Christian one. The Christian attitude, as exemplified by the Baptist minister and his disfunctional family is to enjoy roasting babies. Those "Christians" who have the "ability to care for others" have it despite, not because of their religion.

Allison said...

Stunning, just stunning. As with many others, I came here via Pharyngula (so, how big of a hit spike will *you* get for the PZ effect?).

I'm recently "out" on my blog, but not yet to my fundie family re: non-religion, and I'm simply delighted to see other parents who are raising their kids to think for themselves. It took me until my mid-20s to even begin what Possum #1 has already mastered. Good for her, and good for you.

Welcome to my blogroll. :)

John said...

a good way to not address what I said...

I can presume that the kid is a pessimist because when I was a kid, the same assignment wouldn't have bothered my friends who aren't christian in the same way as it bothers her.

We generally celebrated each others religions - enjoying the cultures of each person. We would never have seen an assignment like this as some sort of organized plot to beat down the people who aren't christian - because it is not. I am confident that my jewish friends would have thought the same. We might have simply pointed out to the teacher that we were going to write about Hannukah instead. No problem. And please - let me stop you right there if you are going to reply to me about nazis and thousands of years of religious oppression...this isn't even in the same ballpark.

However, the framing of other classmates as the downtrodden hopelessly forced into the shadows in this evil plot by the teacher is ridiculous. Her flawed family then takes centerstage after she questions a God that could allow other kids to want toys. Are you kidding me? this is a well adjusted kid? not in any universe I grew up in.

Thanks mattias for your diatribe about religion, I didn't read a word of it - because this isn't about religion to me. I am not very religious myself - but to get all hot and bothered about Christmas and a simple essay in class seems to be a bit over the top. Maybe I just grew up with too many jewish friends.

Mattias said...

>Thanks mattias for your diatribe about religion, I didn't read a word of it

You're welcome.
But to say this child is pessimistic is still not possible based on just this bloody pop essay. The essay is short, indeed a few-minute read. But that's what's good about it: you don't just read it, you think about stuff after you read it, too.

>I can presume that the kid is a pessimist because when I was a kid, the same assignment wouldn't have bothered my friends who aren't christian in the same way as it bothers her.

What? Indeed, it would have bothered in another way. Khm. So... they would have just written whatever they wanted from santa? Okay, anyway, that's not a good argument by far. If someone talks about politics (for example) and then another guy opposes his sayings, then can a third guy say that the second guy is a pessimist because he does not accept the first guy's beliefs? Or, sorry, just didn't shut up?
I must ask this: did i understand correctly that what you are implying is that she should have just written about the pony she wants, or that after this, Possummomma should not have posted the essay? Or something else? The assignment was, as you correctly imply, NOT a plot to beat down the people who are not christian. But that's not the point here, either. Firstly, she does NOT say anything bad about her classmates, and secondly, I'm sure she gets along fine with them. How is this connected in any way to pessimism?
Don't get me wrong here, i celebrate christmas, i like christmas food, music, and i also like the christmas mood. But I'm also thoroughly atheist. Now, the celebration of christmas is connected to tradition, i'm sure you understand that. Furthermore, i like your opposition to this, because the other comments are all very positive and that's not a very good sign. You also point out fairly intelligent stuff and that's good too. Keep it up.

Anonymous said...

@John: your kid seems like an impudent a-hole doomed to live a miserable life where she always sees the bad things around her. A true pessimist. Congratulations on raising a whining complainer!

@Matt: I think my irony meter is broken.

Matt, I'm with you.

When I was in junior high school (early 80s), I "came out," if you will, as an agnostic in a highly conservative Christian small town. Over the next several weeks and months, I experienced an amazing display of hatred and hostility from many of my classmates.

I wish that I had had Possum#1's compassion, strength of character, and eloquence to draw upon at the time. I do remember thinking it odd that the followers of a religion that spoke often of kindness, compassion, and being non-judgmental could be so rude.

John, since I have chosen not to become a Christian, my knowledge of Scripture is perhaps a bit weak. Would you please explain how your use of the phrase "impudent a-hole" is deemed acceptable or justified within your religion?

DaveX said...

I'll plant a tree for you and your daughter.

As for the pray-ers, I'll not plant trees for them , but I do hope they enjoy the pleasant homeopathic effects of some O2 converted by its leaves.

Virginia aka Ginny said...

Furthermore John, you should know that your comments very well could have been read by possum#1. You should be very ashamed of yourself for saying such mean things about a child. Where are YOUR morals dude?

John said...

Would you please explain how your use of the phrase "impudent a-hole" is deemed acceptable or justified within your religion?

Sorry - I thought I said that I wasn't very religious. Please don't try to throw stones here - to borrow a phrase from scripture :)

And someone else asks where she says something bad about her classmates. This is where I saw that:
I think I must be an atheist because I can't fathom any God who would allow the celebration of the birth of his son to become a time when my friends are consumed with thoughts of how they can convince Grandma to buy them a new Nano Ipod while other kids are wondering how their parent will manage the rent.

I think that she is looking down on her classmates for wanting a toy. I mean, is that so bad? Because some kids have a hard life, all kids should be consumed by this and not want toys? That, perhaps, they should feel badly for wanting a toy...because I presume she would feel badly for wanting a toy since she seems to be calling out a God who would allow this sorry state of affairs.

I, for one, don't think that there is anything wrong with a kid who wants an iPod nano...and I don't feel badly about that.

And no - I am not going to apologize or censor any of my comments. You want an open discussion - you got it. I am not going to presume that a kid might possibly read my comment and be offended and, thus, not say it.

a citizen said...

What a beautiful and compassionate essay, yet even those words are not enough to express its beauty! Wow, just...wow.

Anonymous said...

@me: Would you please explain how your use of the phrase "impudent a-hole" is deemed acceptable or justified within your religion?

@John: Sorry - I thought I said that I wasn't very religious. Please don't try to throw stones here - to borrow a phrase from scripture :)


Fair enough. Saw that after I sent my earlier response.

Regardless, the points stand:

(1) I think your choice of words to refer to possum1 was uncalled for, regardless of what inspired it.

(2) There are many people who are religious who say and do some very unkind things as part of their efforts to bring people into their belief system. I don't mean this as a generalized slam on religion. There are also many people who are inspired through their beliefs to say and do very wonderful things in this world.

a citizen said...

Also, I posted the middle paragraph with a link to the whole post on Democraticunderground.com, in the Religion/Theology section. I hope you don't mind, but I will take it down if you do.

Mattias said...

I don't either think that we should be less open. She's obviously mature enough to understand that whatever you do, you will always face some opposition. And it's not very hostile either, just blind(ed). Like the last one.
>I think that she is looking down on her classmates for wanting a toy. I mean, is that so bad? Because some kids have a hard life, all kids should be consumed by this and not want toys? That, perhaps, they should feel badly for wanting a toy...because I presume she would feel badly for wanting a toy since she seems to be calling out a God who would allow this sorry state of affairs.

Now THAT is blind. Do you really think that was what she meant? That craving stuff is bad? Do i really have to point out to you that this was not what she meant? Okay, here goes. You seemed more intelligent.
The emphasis in her sentance is not on the fact that people want things. She clearly states that, she reasons, if there was a personal god, with the qualities given to him by man, how could this god (not meaning a guy with a beard of course) let there be suffering? At least on such a large scale? How can he let people devote more energy into our current spending society, while developing countries are having a hard time providing people with WATER?
Besides (my own point), if people are suffering in order for god to test them if they qualify for "heaven", then what about animals? I hope we all agree that animals are not just "things", they have feelings and they feel pain, but they do not have the defect of believing in a higher power - they just live, like atheists. How come god tolerates that people make animals suffer for their horns, skin, and fur? You can now say that "hey, that's how nature works"- NO, IT DOES NOT! People have a choice here, i would never do anything like that to animals! I would not even have dealings with a person who wears fur coats... I'm by no means a vegetarian, i enjoy meat like most people do, but that IS different. Meat's food. We need food, specifically different nutrients, and as a rule eating meat IS good for you (just don't overdo it).

john_m_burt said...

Another Pharyngulator dropping in to kibitz.

I'm impressed that it took until some 30 comments in form someone (an "anonymous" someone, naturally) to accuse Momma of trying to pass off her own words as Possum1's.

All this talk of Possum1 being a "pessimist" puts me in mind of the people who are still saying, "Give the occupation of Iraq another six months -- what are you, a pessimist?"

Observing the existence of a problem is not pessimism.

One more thing: I wonder if Benjamin is aware that the items he quoted from the Australian Constitution (which he seems to think is so much more sensible than ours) were lifted almost word for word from the U.S. Constitution?

Jason Sares said...

I'm an atheist. Check my blog if you don't beleive me.

But I have to call shenanigans on this pop assay! I'm sure you are the author, not "possum 1".

Even so good job for sparking some lively debate!

Anonymous said...

Apparently Baptist ministers 'think' everyone has as low standard for what constitutes truth (fraud/threats as 'love' sheesh) as those sheeple that cluster around to hear them speak.

tries the 'authority figure' persona with this blogger? His intellectual atrophy is certainly showing.

im guessing, if he could, he would smite you with various punishments (and probably lobbies for more laws like that)..believe me, i grew up with just that type of vermin ...till i wised up and kicked them (all) to the curb. (never been happier in my life these past 5 years)

it's nice to know some kids can think. excellent essay.

i hope all the little xtian kids, finally get the toxicity of their religion retards their intellectual development.

Mattias said...

jason, before i pass judgment on that accusation, i'd like to hear from momma, because it's plausible that you're right. that'd be sad. i guess we'll have to wait until her morning though.

smax said...

Please just add me in the column of those who are impressed with and respect the actions & intelligence of Possum #1.
Sal

Atheist in a mini van. said...

I think that she is looking down on her classmates for wanting a toy. I mean, is that so bad? Because some kids have a hard life, all kids should be consumed by this and not want toys? That, perhaps, they should feel badly for wanting a toy...because I presume she would feel badly for wanting a toy since she seems to be calling out a God who would allow this sorry state of affairs.


I think this is a fair point that deserves clarification.

Is Possum#1 a pessimist? I'd have to say, "no." She is, however, very pragmatic. She's the child that wants an explanation for everything. She's very quiet and shy, but ever observant. I truly don't believe she was trying to put down her classmates. She really doesn't have a mean bone in her body. Ok. Well, maybe ONE mean bone, but that's generally reserved for pushing her four year old sister out of her room. :)

I've talked to her about this essay, quite a bit, ever since it came home (after the winter break). Prior to this class, she had been eating cookies and drinking punch with *Jayden and he had been telling her that he might not be coming back to school after the break. His parents were faced with having to move, because of income issues, and he would be in a new school district. Jayden is one of her closest friends in school. She said, "I almost couldn't finish my cookie." She was sad!!! Frankly, I would be more worried if her friend's plight hadn't left an impression.

If anyone is reading this, I had no idea that this was going to be so widely read. I'm, frankly, a bit boggled by the fact.

John said...

Mattias - now that you non-sensically cast me into a role of animal abuser (how did that happen?), I will give this one more try.

In that passage - she is contrasting children that can't get toys (and, presumably other, more needed goods) with her classmates who are wanting iPods. Saying that she doesn't believe that there is a God what would have a universe like this.

This means that she is holding up kids who are wishing for iPods as heartless kids who are ignoring the plight of the poor and differently believing kids around her.

This is a moral judgment on her part. She has clearly identified that that "indifferent" behavior is not a good one. Therefore, she is openly questioning her classmates behavior.

I explained that I don't think that these things are mutually exclusive. It is OK to want an iPod and to want to help others. She has done a good job of creating an "either-or" strawman here - and I have every reason to believe that is what she truly believes.

I believe that this represents the belief of a child who - for want of a better term - has lost her childhood. She truly thinks that wanting an iPod means that she would be somehow indifferent to the pain and suffering of her classmates that not only don't have enough for basic needs but also are being driven into a religious corner by a domineering teacher.

When I was a kid, my friends and I would have shrugged this kind of thing off - wished for a new bike - dropped off some canned goods for the needy and a toy for the giving tree. And I would have also enjoyed spending some time over the house of my Jewish friend as they celebrated Hannukah.

This kid sounds downright depressed to me - and, forgive me for this - but many of the rest of the posts here seem to have the same slant. Witness the fact that you seem to not be able to talk about this one essay without dragging in the evils of institutionalized religion and following it all the way up to animal abuse. I mean, do you feel badly about everything that mankind does? It really does seem to be a spiteful pessimistic forum to me.
All of this done while lauding a child who would feel guilty about the simple desire for getting a toy at Christmas. strange.

Anonymous said...

@john_m_burt: One more thing: I wonder if Benjamin is aware that the items he quoted from the Australian Constitution (which he seems to think is so much more sensible than ours) were lifted almost word for word from the U.S. Constitution?

Let's compare:

US:Amendment I: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; ...

Australia: 116. The Commonwealth shall not make any law for establishing any religion, or for imposing any religious observance, or for prohibiting the free exercise of any religion, and no religious test shall be required as a qualification for any office or public trust under the Commonwealth.

IMHO Australia's addition of the clauses about "imposing any religious observance" and "religious test ... for any office" are significant. While those meanings have to some extent been implied in some interpretations of the First Amendment, I think it would be change the tenor of the debate to have those words explicitly stated on our side of the Pacific.

Anonymous said...

How old is your daughter? This writing is almost belief! (there's a pun in there somewhere, I'm sure of it)

Keith said...

Possum #1, you are a very skilled writer. Empathy is such a valuable characteristic in life, and you have modeled it beautifully in your essay. Keep seeing people. You should be very proud of yourself. I am a follower of Jesus, and I know that He was always seeing people and letting their plight get to him. Your sensitivity is your strength. Keep writing!

ceinwyn said...

I'm a little late finding this post. (william made it onto fstdt.com and I navigated from there.)
I'd just like to say, I think your daughter's essay is outstanding. Asside from being extremely well written, it is no small thing to speak truth to power.
I was once asked, in a biolgy class to write an essay on my views of evolution vs creationism. I do not think I did nearly as well.

Steve said...

Your daughter has a brilliant mind, an impressive way with words, and a compassionate spirit.

Also, by empathising with the "outcasts" of the classroom, she exhibited some rather Christ-like behavior.

Imagine how much better it would have been if the teacher had challenged her students to write an essay on, "One thing I plan to do for someone else this Christmas" (or holiday season) -- everyone could have participated, no one would have felt excluded. Your daughter picked up on that. The teacher didn't.

By the way, there are still some devoted followers of Jesus out there who aren't belligerent, smug, condescending and judgmental. There are some who don't claim to know it all, but who are simply trying to follow the Way as best they can, which means treating others with dignity and respect and excludes name-calling. I hope that you have the opportunity to meet some of those types of believers -- to perhaps balance out the self-righteous finger pointing religious zealots.

Atheist in a mini van. said...


I believe that this represents the belief of a child who - for want of a better term - has lost her childhood.


I hate to laugh, but I really do have to laugh. You're saddling my child with the diagnosis of depression based on ONE writing sample? I didn't realize that introspection and empathy were characteristics of depression.

As for losing her childhood, that's someting I worry about everyday, but not for the reasons you stated. Possum#1 and Possum#2 are incredibly gifted, academically. Possum#1 has skipped a grade and take classes at a local high school because she is smart. I worry about her being in the company of older children and adults. That's why I encourage her to sluff off her backpack at four o'clock and venture outside for an hour of *just playing*. She's also faced death and had multiple surgeries before she was old enough to start school. That tends to age a person.

I can't convince any of you that this wasn't written by my daughter. If your impression is that she did not write this...well, I can't change that. I guess, if that is the case, you should dismiss it and move on. *shrugs*

Mattias said...

>This means that she is holding up kids who are wishing for iPods as heartless kids who are ignoring the plight of the poor and differently believing kids around her.

No, i do not believe this is quite what she believes, i already made my point last time (i thought). I think this was just an example. I do NOT believe she thinks that her classmates are doing the wrong thing or that she thinks everyone should, instead of buying an ipod, donate that money to charity. And somehow you took the animal abuse thing out of context, i did NOT accuse specifically you of doing that, i accuse mankind.

Mattias said...

Downright depressed, by the way? I think i have proven several times already that we can not judge her mood or mentality based on this short essay. Yet you keep implying this... i have a hunch that she's not the one who's depressed or a pessimist. Make your own conclusions.

Madog said...

I've started telling people that Christmas is a secular holiday, so it's OK for people to celebrate it regardless of their religion or lack thereof.

After all, if they celebrate it in Iran and Japan it can hardly be a Christian holiday only. :)

Darwinator said...

@ John

You're missing the point. You write well, but you've formed an opinion and you're determined to stick to it.

Possum #1 doubts any God who would allow the celebration of the birth of his son to become a time when my friends are consumed with thoughts of how they can convince Grandma to buy them a new Nano Ipod while other kids are wondering how their parent will manage the rent.

You can identify a situation as inherently unbalanced without passing moral judgment on the players. That's what's happening here.

It's not a morality judgment about the kids who want stuff. It's a judgment about the fairness of a world where some kids can have the expectation of gifts and some kids cannot. One set of kids has parents with enough money to spend on toys, the other group does not have that luxury.

It's a judgment on god, not on her peers. I agree with Possum #1; If there is a god, he's either not omniscient, not omnipotent or he's just an outright asshole.

new.atheist said...

John,

Is your opinion childhood supposed to be about not caring about anything? We may think that the ideal childhood is "carefree," but I think childhood is an opportunity for parents to teach their children to care about others and the world. I don't think caring is ever depressing! Even if she does think herself a bit above the other kids for being less selfish, acknowledging that others aren't so lucky is a step towards doing something about it. She is after all, still a child, and yet you throw accusations of being depressing and "thinking better of herself" as if she's an adult and you know all about her from one essay. While the essay was wonderful, the fact that it was from a child, and written in a short time-frame with no prior notice, does give her a bit of lee-way to have not expressed her ideas more clearly.

It does not seem that Possum #1 is being pessimistic, she may be realistic, and you yourself seem to find that pessimistic (hence the pieces of broken irony meters all around). I think it's obvious you are projecting much of your own opinions on the world onto the essay. You are a single voice pointing out a single line that you alone find depressing... I can only hope you looked for the good and hopeful in the essay too?

Mike Crichton said...

Anonymous said:

IMHO Australia's addition of the clauses about "imposing any religious observance" and "religious test ... for any office" are significant. While those meanings have to some extent been implied in some interpretations of the First Amendment, I think it would be change the tenor of the debate to have those words explicitly stated on our side of the Pacific.

Except the US Constitution already _had_ a "no religious test" clause before the Bill of Rights was written: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%22no_religious_test%22_clause

Also, the "Establishment" and "Free Exercise" Clauses of the First Amendment are generally considered to be an explicit rejection of any imposition of religous observation as well. You Ozzies' Constitution may make that _slightly_ clearer than ours does, but you still cribbed the idea from us. ;-)

MYOB said...

"The simple truth is that No living person can provide proof for or against a God, a set of Gods, or a Pasta based life form. You're arrogant conviction that there is no god is just as foolish."


I'm looking at an empty space on my floor in the middle of my living room. There's nothing there but the wood tiles that make it up. My end tables and the lamps on those end tables are in the corners and next to the furniture. Yet because I say that there is no end table with a lamp on it in the middle of that spot that I am foolish?

There is a reason it's called taking a leap of faith. Because it means going against all reason and logic in order to do so. Atheism is the default position. It takes indoctrination and ignorance to make one religious.

MYOB'
.

k said...

I'm a Christian (albeit of the rather liberal branch) and I agree that it was a wonderful essay; I would be bursting with pride if one of my daughters wrote something as well-reasoned.

Anonymous said...

John, this isn't all about you.

Oddly enough, not everyone in the world grew up where all of the children got all the ipods they wanted and were concerned about the poor at the same time.
You must be writing from some place I never went to school or you are operating on a faulty memory about how children possum's age think and act.

But what is really, truly sad, is that you feel the need to use your age, intelligence, and the benefit of an extended period of reflection to arrive at a critical analysis necessary, to somehow discredit this gifted piece of writing.
In doing so, you seem to be doing what you really want and that is using this forum to draw attention to yourself.
For some sad folk attention good or bad, is still attention.
It is OK to acknowledge that you feel that any attention not directed towards you somehow diminishes you.
It doesn't.
You are valued for who you are on your own merits.
Just because a wise child of Possum's age get's recognition that you did not at her age, diminishes from you not one whit.
It does help to define what potential Possum has.

If you cared about human potential, and you cared especially about Possum's potential you would encourage her independent analysis of the "Spirit of Giving", rather than abusing her using your template.

Abuse is a word I don't use lightly but I don't know who you think you are to speak of any child the way you spoke of Possum based on an essy written in just a few minutes.
Especially since you were hoping she would have the opportunity to read your posts.

I am hopeful that you will find someone as proud of you as we are proud of Possum- even though we aren't her parents.

We are proud of her maturity, her sensitivity, her intelligence and her empathy.
She is an asset to the human community.
The human community who cares for what she writes hopes for good things from her and good thing for her.

John, I hope the same from and for you.
I do hope that if your postings here, are an indication of how you view the world, I hope to have not met you, and I hope to not meet you soon unless you get the care that you need.

Your troubles and your needs are far beyond my capabilities.

I do hope you find a way to get all the ipods you need and to eventually realize that if someone else gets an ipod it doesn't diminish the number of ipods you have a single bit. Or that caring whether or not someone is hungry doesn't diminish the beautiful music an ipod can make.

I do hope you can find it somewhere in yourself to forgive yourself for the way you speak to and of people.

And yes, this is an atheist writing this, with another atheist looking over my shoulder.

Both of us hope you can find whatever joy you can in what you do and who you know.

monado said...

Oh, dear, dear, dear. Does that teacher realize how bigoted is her final remark? Somone should tell her that Christians don't have a monopoly on positive traits. Indeed, she's slyly insulting the non-Christian by suggesting that they can't have empathy or compassion. I guess she's never heard of "secular saints."

All I want for Christmas is religious tolerance.

Anonymous said...

I also came here by way of Pharyngula and I feel the need to chime in:

Apparently one must be depressed and have lost their childhood in order to think that the emphasis on Christmas gifts is shallow, selfish and appears to have absolutely nothing to do with religion.

LOL! Somebody better tell the Jehova's that!

Seriously John. Just go back and read what her mom wrote about Possum#1's friend Jayden. One or two Ipods probably would have paid the rent and it doesn't really take a pessimist (or a particularly observant person for that matter) to notice that.

I liked the essay. I thought it was pretty damn good.

If I were to criticize Possum#1 for anything, it would be that she was guilty of being presumptuous. She didn't, after all, really know what the other students were writing about and it's not fair to make unflattering assumptions. But that's pretty standard fare with kids . It's not pessimisism, it's the result of being human approaching the tween/teenage years and thinking you know everything.

Pete said...

An excellent piece of spontaneous writing. Possum #1 has already realised the shallowness of claims that Christmas is an important religious festival to most people, and offers a good critique through example. She also demonstrates her independent thinking by differentiating her belief from yours, and admitting to uncertainty ("My mother is an atheist" vs. "I think I must be an atheist because…"). How rare this thinking is, especially in children. So often children are automatically labelled with the religion of their parents, even though it's not until adolescence that they can really tackle such abstract problems, and younger children simply parrot their parents' belief.

As an example, at school I regarded myself as Catholic (my parents are RC). It was only towards sixth-form that I realised that I had never regarded Catholic teachings as more than allegory, and that it was the ritual, incense, music, and social circle that had kept me hooked. Now that I was old enough to properly examine those teachings, I slowly twigged that they were a particular group's interpretation of a rambling book of myth.

To anyone who thinks that atheism is a depressing worldview, it's not half as depressing as the disillusionment you experience at that moment: when you realise people have been spouting nonsense at you and expecting you to believe it unquestioningly. Atheism is the light at the end of that tunnel.

Commenter John: wandering into a blog and calling the blogger's child an "impudent a-hole" in the first sentence is a case of the pot calling the kettle black. I'm surprised anyone wasted time answering you.

whitney said...

I'm quite late in reading this post (I followed a link from Pharyngula). I'm usually very shy about commenting on people's blogs, but this story really brought back some memories...I was especially amazed by the comments of the teacher (both on the paper and in person), as they are almost word-for-word the comments I received from a middle school teacher after writing a similar essay. I'd always hoped my experience, in being called aside after class to be told that I was "too caring, too good of a person, to possibly be an atheist" were unique, but sadly, I see that they aren't.

But mostly I just want to say how beautiful possum1's essay was.

Russ said...

Dear Atheist in a mini van,

There are those who have questioned if your daughter authored that wonderful essay. You know the truth and that has to be enough, but so you need not wonder, many of us with first-hand experience with brilliant young people are behind you all the way.

As you are, I am sure, fully aware, such skepticism, in a venue such is this is quite unwarranted. A blog can have its wonderful moments, but they can be brutal, too.

I am fortunate to have a brilliant daughter, too, who also has a flare for wordsmanship. Her journals are full of great material - prose, poetry, essays - so my own experience is that my teen daughter has skills which far exceed the skills of most of the adults in our circle of friends which, I say in proud Papa-speak, some have candidly acknowledged.

You and I know, if we give them the chance, that is, mostly stay out of their way, these wonderful young people often perform truly great feats all on their own. Several adult posters here have shared with us their wish that their own writing skills were as well developed as Possum #1's. They likely know as fully as we do what it is to be in the presence of inspiring works of art created by young people.

Atheist in a mini van. said...

You and I know, if we give them the chance, that is, mostly stay out of their way, these wonderful young people often perform truly great feats all on their own.

Thank you, Russ. I needed to hear that. Thank you for your entire post. And, thanks, as well, to pete.

Arthur said...

I enjoyed the essay. Even though it was good I am amazed that it has received this much attention. I loved comments of John and the preacher and his family, the wife and I had a good laugh when John said that he would have persevered well if he had a minority belief.

My family was Jehovah Witness when I was in school during those years when everyone is trying their hardest to fit in. I used to feel physically ill during the x-mas season when I had to go to school and was forced to be different. Imagine asking a second grader who knows there is no such thing as Santa Clause if Santa is coming to visit and what is he bringing? I would often tell people in authority that Santa does not exist. This rather neatly translated to gods do not exist as I outgrew the dominant personal dogma of my parents. In any case going to school during xmas time was killer painful as a little kid. John, you don't know pain unless it is your own.

Ghost said...

Oh Yay! I got a few responses! Strangely enough, they pertained to the Flying Spaghetti Monster. First, though, Intepid, I don't know wherer you got the idea that I think atheists should sit quietly, but you're probably just making it up to elicit a response, so congratulations!

I guess it doesn't go without saying that the point of not knowing whether a Deity exists makes for a very foolish argument. And what I am seeing is more of a gathering of ANTI-theists, rather than Atheists. Of course, that's just my made up term wich basically means an Atheist who desperately needs to disprove the existance of a supreme being/beings. That's what Matt seems to be. You, on the other hand, seem to be an ignorant Atheist. To say that a religion is wrong because they "insist on a particular version of the 'truth' for which there is no evidence" is totally overlooking the point of religion, which is to "Have Faith without Proof". There are many things that are believed without concrete proof. Like the evolution of man. There's that whole, pesky, Missing Link baloney.

And yes, I used the Flying Spaghetti Monster to prove a point for which the Flying Spaghetti Monster was not intended. It's a literary tool.

So, we can't call Possum #1 depressed or pessimistic based upon a few paragraphs, but we can call the teacher a moral bigot(yes, I know, no one used that term, but it's implied) based upon the two sentences we were told second hand? Sounds a little like you're making up some rules. I find it odd that psychiatrists determine whether or not a potential patient is clinically depressed based upon a two page yes-or-no questionnaire, and we take that as fact(We, as a society, foro those of you who intend to argue the point).

And religion was never meant to be harmless or about making people feel great, dummy, it's about saving eternal souls from damnation. Or something like that. Every infromed Atheist should know this stuff. I mean, you didn't just decide to not believe in souls and salvation and Allah without some research, did you? That's like hating platypi because you don't like the word "platypi".

Mothworm: It's weary and depressed because that's how I perceived her to be. It may be false, but it also an opinion, and I should have said so, so I formally apologize. Now, for further proof, I'd have to say all the hardships she's endured, of which her mother has told us in a response, and that she seems so empathetic towards the plight of others. Yeah, I'd say she's depressed, but I wouldn't go as far as to say I'm a clinical diagnostician, so let's just leave that one to speculation, shall we?

And no, it's not an iffy situation to discuss religion privately. That's a 1st amendment issue, right there. Like I said, TEACHING religion is not allowed, talking about it without preaching it, is protected by a bunch of smart, dead politicians.

What the teacher said to her at the end of class wasn't the most tactful way to try to encourage a child, but she didn't tell her she was going to hell, so I give her 2 cookie points for tact, out of a possible 10. The point here is this: She was trying to encourage the child to (what the teacher believes as) a better life, and no matter what she would have said, there would be Anti-Theists crucifying her for it. It's that whole "No Good Deed.." thing.

I wonder, do all of you "outspoken" Atheists realize that, when a Christian zealot, Muslim extremist, or any book thumping maniac comes a-preaching, you can simply say,"No Thanks."? And walk away. That's what I do, especially with Jehovah's Witnesses. And they walk away, and I get to continue eating lunch, reading my book, or whatever I fancy.

MYOB: Yes, I'd call you foolish. I might even call you a moron or whacko if you walked into a room and said that there was no end table with a lamp in the middle of the floor, whether or not there actually was. an end table and/or lamp there. I called a friend a retard because he said," Just because you can see a spot(like graffitti) on the side of a building doesn't mean you can comprehend it." Who cares? (See, what I'm ding here is calling you a fool for trying to get into a philosophical argument on the comment section of a blog)

Atheism is not supposed to be the default position. Ignorance is. Ignorance is not believing in something because you haven't had the oppurtunity to investigate it. Atheism is taking into account all knowledge of known religions, and using that to decide whether or not you side with one sect or another. Ignorance should never be a reason to be Atheist. So go Mind YOUR Own Business and stop trying to be suave.

I could go on from here to try and make a point that the Psator's Point of View is NOT 90% of the rest of the religious populus' POV, but that would be fruitless. 78% of all statistics are made up, on the spot, anyways.

What I will say is this: I just read a few of the other things he's said, and he's pretty much an ass. To say that(paraphrasing) a child is deemed worthy to be preached to, and that her mother is an evil person, is just plain ridiculous. Possummomma, I don't think that should have ever been said about you. In my experience, though mostly with Methodists and Catholics, Christianity affords every soul an equal oppurtunity to be "saved"(or damned, however you look at it). He is obviously not a proficient Preacher.

Ghost said...

I really suck at typingand spelling, apparently.

Denise said...

I am either an aethiest or an agnostic, it doesn't much matter which label is applied. What I find shocking is that people who call themselves aethiests refer to a diety as male.

I found the essay refreshing! Thanks for posting it!

intepid said...

Ghost,

No I wasn't trying to illicit a response... I don't post comments to pick fights, and in this case I posted to argue a point in response to *your* comment (which in insulting the child of our host is much more provocative than my reply.)

Did I get the wrong idea when I interpreted your view as being that atheists should "sit quietly"? I somehow read your original comment as a suggestion we should not make such a fuss about things like the essay subject in question and the teacher's response. That's what I meant by sitting quietly.

"You, on the other hand, seem to be an ignorant Atheist."

Nice cheap shot there, but let me respond to the point you then gleefully make about religion being based on faith. Atheists KNOW that religion is based on faith, but they do not respect it as justification, because faith alone is worthless. Belief in evolution is based on concrete evidence, lots and lots of it. Belief in God is based on what evidence? There is no comparison to be made here.

"And yes, I used the Flying Spaghetti Monster [...] It's a literary tool."

What sort of tool exactly? Do you feel that you employed this tool effectively?

FSM illustrates the stupidity of suspending disbelief in something for lack of evidence. Are you suggesting that it is arrogant for people to say that the countless miscellaneous B-list gods don't exist? Atheists don't believe in God... why is that shocking? Atheists also don't believe in Thor, and I doubt anyone would consider them arrogant for it. This comparison is becoming an old saw but that doesn't make it less relevant.

"And religion was never meant to be harmless or about making people feel great, dummy"

Did it not occur to you that my point was in response your point:

"But: If religion is a hoax, if there is nothing more to it than [...] People being nice just to be nice [...] Well, I like those guys better"

Next time please use fewer personal insults.

mothworm said...

ghost,

I'm not sure what your personal background is, but I get the feeling that you're not exactly well versed in atheism or religion. If you honestly think that making a judgement on the existence of god and the factuality of evolution are equivalent, then probably not a whole lot else to be said. If judgement os not based on evidence, it's worthless. In any other situation, someone who made a grandiose claim that went against everything we know about nature and reality, would be thought of as, at best, silly. But, for some reason, you and others bend over backwards to give religion a pass, because "it's the point of religion to make stupid claims without any evidence", as if that's suddenly virtuous.

I find it odd that psychiatrists determine whether or not a potential patient is clinically depressed based upon a two page yes-or-no questionnaire, and we take that as fact

Leaving aside the actual validity of such tests, they are at least designed and targeted to determining if someone is depressed. They are not random "pop essays". I have no idea what possum#1's mental state is. It sounds like she's made it through a lot of hardships that most kids her age haven't had to face. Unlike a lot of people, I can actually remember what being a teenager was like, and most of us were depressed at one point or another. That's just part of the process. It hardly merits criticism.

And religion was never meant to be harmless or about making people feel great, dummy, it's about saving eternal souls from damnation. Or something like that. Every infromed Atheist should know this stuff. I mean, you didn't just decide to not believe in souls and salvation and Allah without some research, did you

That sound you hear is my eyes rolling. This may come as a shock to you, but an awful lot of atheists used to be christians. We're pretty familiar with what religion is "about". You were the one who said that religion was about "people being nice to each other".

You're also still missing the point about the teacher's comments. The problem is not that they discussed religion, it's that the teacher instigated a religious conversation and then (knowingly or not) denigrated the kid's beliefs (or lack thereof). That's not a first ammendment issue. You or I may be able to shut the door when themissionaries come calling, but a kid in school is stuck there. That's why there are different standards.

The point here is this: She was trying to encourage the child to (what the teacher believes as) a better life, and no matter what she would have said, there would be Anti-Theists crucifying her for it. It's that whole "No Good Deed.." thing.

All preachers, zealots, missionaries and pushy christians believe they are "just trying to lead people to a better life". That's no excuse for behaviour. It doesn't give you a pass. The Inquisition believed they were burning people to death for the good of their souls. Doesn't make it any less horrifying.

Again, like I said earlier, so back and read the teacher's comments with the name of another minority inplace of "atheist". Would you still be defending her if she had said "compassion isn't a Jewish trait"?

arensb said...

Atheist in a mini van wrote:
*throws love around like confetti*

This should go on a T-shirt.

Deoridhe said...

Well, all I can say is Thor and Odin may want a word or two with all of you once you shuffle off this mortal coil (and I don't imagine they'll be very happy either).

(Also, don't stare at Odin's missing eye, that really bugs him)


This is well after the fact, but I saw this and couldn't keep silent - I'm Asatru, meaning I worship Odin and Thor among others, and there is no dictate from them that humans must believe in them in order to avoid suffering. In fact, most of the afterlives are not ones of suffering, and the one that might be is based on BEHAVIOR not on BELIEF.

Don't use my gods as your mocking point; it displays your ignorance of them.

To the blog owner (I'm a new reader, though I may well continue to read!), the thoughtfulness your child expressed in her essay is truly impressive. I'm sorry her teacher reacted as she did, however. Compassion for and thinking of others IS considered a Christian trait, but sadly although her teacher recognized it in her, her teacher was unable to extend such to her.

Anonymous said...

If it weren't for the fact that I'm older than you, I'd ask you to adopt me. My mother was never that supportive of me. Ever. You have very good reason to be proud of your daughter, but she also had very good reason to be proud of her mother.

mothworm said...

ghost said:
Atheism is not supposed to be the default position. Ignorance is. Ignorance is not believing in something because you haven't had the oppurtunity to investigate it. Atheism is taking into account all knowledge of known religions, and using that to decide whether or not you side with one sect or another. Ignorance should never be a reason to be Atheist.


See, this is why I question your knowledge of atheism. Atheism is the default position. It's the only possible one. What you're describing above is picking a denomination, not examining the existence or non-existence of god.

When you say that we can only be ignorant about gods, you're begging the question. It takes at face value the theist claim that something exists, when in fact no evidence has ever been offered and none of the terms have been defined. It's as if I said "That glarb is blue" and we spent all our time arguing over whether or not glarb might be green, all the while ignoring the fact that "glarb" is a meaningless word.

A creature that has no knowable, definitive attributes, cannot be tested or interact with reality in any known way, is, for all purposes, non-existant.

mothworm said...

Denise said...
What I find shocking is that people who call themselves aethiests refer to a diety as male.


Because that's how the theists in our country refer to it. It's the same as if we were talking about a character in a book (which, we are).

Mattias said...

>I mean, you didn't just decide to not believe in souls and salvation and Allah without some research, did you?

I'd like to put emphasis on the problem of this sentence: it's wrong. MOST atheists have been, at one point, theists. How is this? Because most people in the world are theists. Children, as a rule, in early age, accept whatever their parents tell them, including their religion. It takes education, intelligence and time to become an atheist, usually not the other way around.

And denise...
>What I find shocking is that people who call themselves aethiests refer to a diety as male.

What i find shocking is that you were shocked by such a small issue. Yes, we could as well call the gods "he or she", but notice that it takes about four times longer to write that, as it takes to read it, and it clutters the text. Besides, by implying that we do not know the sex of god, you seem to also imply that god has a sex, as on earth, he or she. If you believe in a god, do you find that plausible? And do you find the word "history" shocking as well?

mothworm said...

Deoridhe said...
I'm Asatru, meaning I worship Odin and Thor among others,...

Don't use my gods as your mocking point; it displays your ignorance of them.


Deoridhe, I don't mean to single you out, you had some nice words for possum, et al. Your post just made me think of something which should be an "internet law", if one doesn't already exist:

In any discussion of gods and atheism that features an "I'm just atheistic about one more god than you" element in which someone mentions another "dead" or forgotten god (no matter how absurd) as an example, someone else will inevitably show up who claims to worship that god, and is insulted by the comparison.

Susan (Ayame) said...

Your daughter sounds like a wonderful and thoughtful little girl. I too, am an atheist mom, and I hope that my kids (4 and 18 months) can be able to express themselves this well in the future. :)

btw, I am going to subscribe to your blog. It's nice to know there's other atheist moms out there.

Susan in El Paso, TX.

Voidling said...

here we go again, cant you people see that there is goodness and thoughtfulness in any manner of belief system and religion. I'm horrified that you want to find and impose such separateness (Apartheid) on each other. This child be it an adult or what ever (I mean the author of this essay)is thoughtful full of morals and kindness something so many people find so difficult to recognise in their own religions or groups. Wake up!! not all Atheists Christians Muslims are bad some are just frighteningly fanatic as they have nothing else to do all day and are bored so its their way or the highway. SO HATS OFF TO THIS AUTHOR!
Humans are so highly primitive in this respect.

Deoridhe said...

In any discussion of gods and atheism that features an "I'm just atheistic about one more god than you" element in which someone mentions another "dead" or forgotten god (no matter how absurd) as an example, someone else will inevitably show up who claims to worship that god, and is insulted by the comparison.

Oh, honestly.

Firstly, I've been Asatru for more than a decade, and under this online identity I've written about it for quite some time, since 2003 at least. LOVE the implication I'm lying about my religion, though; ad hominem is such a lovely logical fallacy.

Secondly, I said "Don't use my gods as your mocking point; it displays your ignorance of them." I said nothing about being insulted that YHWH is being compared to them, just that assigning the attitudes some of YHWH's followers ascribe to YHWH displays your ignorance of my gods, who happen to not be YHWH.

Thirdly, how are deities with several eddas and sagas referencing them either dead or forgotten?

Matt D. said...

Ghost wrote:
"And what I am seeing is more of a gathering of ANTI-theists, rather than Atheists. Of course, that's just my made up term wich basically means an Atheist who desperately needs to disprove the existance of a supreme being/beings. That's what Matt seems to be."

I've described myself as an anti-theist, though I prefer Colin McGinn's definition to yours. I'm actively opposed to the idea that faith is a virtue, that religious teaching provide any benefit that cannot be attained through secular means and that people's irrational beliefs are deserving of respect or awe simply because they "deeply believe."

You also seem to have a few misperceptions about what atheism is, and where the burden of proof lies. Acceptance of a claim should be granted only AFTER the evidence justifies it. That makes atheism (lack of beleif) the default position until a god-hypothesis is supported by sufficient, reasonable evidence.

Lastly, your misperceptions have allowed you to mistake my position. You've recognized passion (or desperation as you called it) but misplaced the focus.

I don't desperately need to disprove the existence of a supreme being - I don't think that's possible, in any practical sense. What I am desperate for is the truth.

When someone claims that a god exists - I'm desperate for them to prove it. It seems like a potentially important issue.

When presented with bald assertions, logically flawed arguments and anecdotal evidence - I'll point that out, and I won't feel any need to be overly polite about it.

I'm passionate about whether or not my beliefs are most likely true, which means that I'm passionate about having consistent standards of evidence before accepting a claim. I'm passionate about ethical behavior - and I'm quick to point out that the "moral high ground" many religionists would like to think they hold is, in reality, a sewer.

So, yes, I'm desperate and yes, I'm an anti-theist...but not in the way you've portrayed them.

Virginia aka Ginny said...

Woo Hoo, more atheist moms! Welcome!

aiabx said...

>Thirdly, how are deities with several eddas and sagas referencing them either dead or forgotten?

And don't forget comic books. How can Thor not exist when he has his own comic book?

btw, excellent work, possum family. Good mom, good kid.

mothworm said...

Deoridhe,

If it seemed that I was implying that you were lying about your religion, I apologize. That was not my intent. I have no doubt that you follow such a belief.

Your post just reminded me of similar things happening in other discussions. I just found it amusing that no matter what religion or god someone picks as an example of something no one believes in anymore (or, at the least, that a Christian doesn't believe in), someone who actually worships said deity will almost always show up. Usually offended that their god has been dismissed.

Of course, as an atheist, I am dismissing your god, as I don't believe in it any more than I believe in YHWH. That was the point of the original comparison.

Deoridhe said...

mothworm:
Of course, as an atheist, I am dismissing your god, as I don't believe in it any more than I believe in YHWH. That was the point of the original comparison.

Have a cookie? Do you want a parade? I mean this entirely seriously - I don't care if you reject my gods or not. What I care about is that people reject my gods by claiming they hold certian characteristics in kind with YHWH, and that's both ignorant and illogical. In my experience, most atheists and agnostics prefer to be knowlegable and logical; I am sorry if I assumed incorrectly in your case.

Bruce Denney said...

Subversion is good.

We all need to subvert the systems more. Not just schools but everywhere.

mothworm said...

Deoridhe,

I didn't make the original comparison. I'm quite aware that Thor and YHWH have precious little in common other than being supernatural. Nor do I reject the existence of Thor based on my rejection of Christian claims of divinity. I reject both based on the lack of evidence for any kind of deity, no matter what name or personality you attribute to it.

Deoridhe said...

mothworm:
I'm quite aware that Thor and YHWH have precious little in common other than being supernatural.

Then I hope your dedication to accuracy will encourage you to point this out to athiests like the one I chastized for inaccuracy that their claims are, in fact, inaccurate.

Voidling said...

getting a bit much here I thought this was all about a thought provoking essay? A child with insight and feelings now we have a war of who's god is better, with insults and non related comment.
Possum # 1 I hope you can see how much conflict is out there you are special in that you see others for who they really are.
And fanatics you need to look at your inner selves with more clarity and not follow some religious leader blindly. Ask more questions and we may create a better living space for all.

Z said...

Possum #1 and you should both be very proud of her essay, her insitefullness, and her ability to see past peoples masks and say what she feels. It can take a persons lifetime to come to that point, and even then many never reach that point.

I hope that she is able to keep her head up and continue on this way with all the debate/discussion that her essay has generated. I only hope that my own children have the same ability to speak their minds without fear.

I must say that don't see anything wrong in children (of any age) wanting things for Christmas, or any time. While some want Ipods, others want health for their mother. This past Chrismas my own children wanted Ipods as well, and a place to call home as we were homeless. The key is being happy with what you have and knowing that you will never get all that you ask for, but it is still ok to ask. As Christmas is after all of time of magic and promise (even for those who have no belief in any religion) so anything is possible.

Matt D. said...

Deoridhe said...
Then I hope your dedication to accuracy will encourage you to point this out to athiests like the one I chastized for inaccuracy that their claims are, in fact, inaccurate.

Actually, one of the objections you lodged was:

"Don't use my gods as your mocking point; it displays your ignorance of them."

Which is an implied appeal that your beliefs deserve some special treatment or respect.

If someone misrepresents your gods or your beliefs, a correction is one thing but that seems to be largely irrelevant to the issue at hand, because the comparison related more to epistemology than theology.

The person who used your gods as a mocking point didn't do so based on the theology you accept but on his belief that all god claims are unproven and similarly ridiculous claims.

While I'm sure that it must be frustrating to find your beliefs used as a prime example of ideas deserving of ridicule, but you bear the burden of proof in demonstrating why those beliefs should be above ridicule.

Asserting it, simply isn't enough.

intepid said...

Deoridhe,

(if it was my comment that offended you)

My mocking comparison is simply a quicker way of making the following key points:

a) Christians are offended that atheists expect to see evidence of God before they believe in him.

b) Despite this, the vast majority of Christians would flatly deny the existence of Thor and Odin, not least because their own religion actually proscribes such a possibility.

If you're cross about anything I would think you would be cross that people who *are* capable of believing in the supernatural (ie Christians) would still rule out the possibility that your own gods are real.

I think it is silly to believe in Thor, but at least I don't think you'll go to hell for it.

BTW For Christian above feel free to substitute any "mainstream" religion.

intepid said...

Atheist-in-a-mini-van,

Sorry, I'll stop yakking on this overlong thread now, but I just wanted to say that I too am blown away by the quality of your daughter's writing-- If I had an eleven year old kid who could write like that I think I'd actually be a little scared of them :-)

Ghost said...

Intepid, How did I insult a child? By saying I thought she might be depressed? Wow, if that's the case, those of you "labelled" Atheists are way too sensitive.

I really don't know how else to respond to you, as "you're way too sensitive" seems to cover it. I called you an ignorant Atheist, yes. It's not a cheapshot, if I wanted one of those, I'd have gone for unintelligent, fickle and a buttface. But, as I can not know whether or not those are true, I chose to speak my mind. The fact that you believe evolution to be backed up with "concrete evidence" is just another reason I would give. We could go on and on about ALL branches of science and how they have definatively proven only a handful of things, but I'd rather save that for another time. You can contact me if you wish to have that discussion.

Now, as far as "gleefully" making a point about faith... What are you doing? You just completely disregarded what I said and made up your own version. I said that calling a religion wrong for the reason you give is pointless. If YOU don't believe in a religion because YOU need hard facts, I completely understand. Do you see the difference here? Quick analogy: You're colorblind(we'll say red green deficient), I'm not. I tell you that something is orange and you see it as yellow. Who's wrong? Yellow is wrong to me, and orange is wrong to you. I know it's not an exact comparison, and you'll love to point that out, since there can be no comparisons between Life With God(s) and Life Without God(s).

Literary tool? Why don't you pick one for me. Parody, maybe? Jutaposition, or Juxtaposed Irony? Hmm, how about Deus Ex Machina? Like that one? Seriously, what's that supposed to do, discredit my thoughts on Atheism and Human Nature?

"Atheists also don't believe in Thor, and I doubt anyone would consider them arrogant for it."
You were wrong. So, yes, I guess I DO find it arrogant, now. Should I refrain from calling you Arrogant AND Ignorant?

"Did it not occur to you that my point was in response your point: "

How does that change the fact that religion isn't put in place to make people all warm and fuzzy? And yes, it occured to me, and that's why I said it. Apparently, you misunderstand me completely. So here's a third attempt... IF there is no deity at all, then I still like those guys better than you. Cause at least they don't need a logical reason to be nice. Is that better?


Mothworm: "If you honestly think that making a judgement on the existence of god and the factuality of evolution are equivalent, then probably not a whole lot else to be said."

You really don't see any irony in this? The Factuality of Evolution is pretty simple: Scientists don't know shit. I coulde cite many examples, but my Favorite science "Oops!" has to do with Freud and his miracle Cure-All Drug, cocaine. Yeah, that one has nothing to do with evolution, but using Piltdown
Man seems less than punctual. And I'm sure I'd hear the "Well science has come a long way since then" argument, which has been used in approximately every argument since Science began.

I'm going to go ahead and skip over most of what you said, since you must have no idea what is on one of those tests for Depression.(ex. Is subject clean shaven?) Not to mention the whole point of a subjective yes or no test. And back to the whole Freud and Cocaine thing.. I'll just chalk that one up to a lost cause. Especially since I specifically said something about not being a diagnostician and leaving it be.

"That sound you hear is my eyes rolling." Yes, my eyes often make a sound when they roll too. Especially when I see that you highlighted my misspelled "infromed", that made me shake my head, too, which has it's own specific taste.

And again, you seem to be the one missing the point on the Teacher. She was, again, NOT having a religious conversation. SHe said two sentences(of which we were told.) and one of them was that she couldn't be Atheist because she was a good person. That doesn't sound like very good dialogue for an instigated Religious Attack. If you can't see this, then just drop it, cause you're in your own world about this teacher. Atheism isn't a belief structure, it's the Lack of a Belief in a God(s) or Supreme being(s). And you think I am not "well versed" in religion or Atheism? Good god, I can't believe I'm actually defending her right to free speech, especially over religion.

"See, this is why I question your knowledge of atheism. Atheism is the default position. It's the only possible one. What you're describing above is picking a denomination, not examining the existence or non-existence of god. "
Did you even read what I said? Wait, let me go copy and paste it for you.. "Atheism is taking into account all knowledge of known religions," Not just the title of each religion, mind you, but all Knowledge of each religion. That includes any text, documents, ideas, theories, artifacts, meatballs, sauces... pretty much anything they could possibly throw at you, literal or not. "and using that to decide whether or not you side with one sect or another." See, here, when I used "sects" I was using that term loosely. I'm pretty sad that I have to point out that I do this from time to time. Should I amend the definition to include "organizations, branches, affiliations and affiliates, or you can make up your own"? Cause I could do that, if it makes me look more "versed" in your eyes... I don't know how we got on the "My atheism knowledge is better than yor atheism knowledge" train, but I'm getting off of it. I don't care if I look like a "newbie" to anyone or not. But I will say this, Atheism isn't the only possible default poition of a human being, because Atheism requires a you to think and rule out the other possibilities(whether or not they have evidence). If someone doesn't know about God, has no clue that there is even a possibility, that makes him ignorant of God. He doesn't Lack the Belief in God, he Lacks the Knowledge of a god at all. You see what I'm saying?


And lastly to Matt D. I appreciate your view on your own personal Atheism, but I was talking to the other Matt. If that's you, too, then I we could get into a reasonable debate, if you want, I guess.. I do have to point out that, while you say that Atheism is a lack of belief, that can(as I've just written) be interpreted two ways. My explanation is above.

As far as Anti-theism, yes, I see a desperation in many of these posts to quash the "God Movement". I also find eery similarities in the "God Movement" to annihilate anything not of their one, true God. I do not use desperation as a slander, I use it as it actually means, "beyond urgent" or "making a final, ultimate effort; giving all". It's almost as if there are people out there who have made Atheism a religion in it's own right. And that's pretty scary.

As far as misperceptions and burden of proof, no, those are your ideals. Not everyone will use the same techniques to come to a conclusion. Some people want a preponderence, while others want irrefutable proof beyond a shadow of a doubt. I require equal amounts of proof from both sides of an argument. It sounds silly, especially when talking about an intangible deity, but I use more than so-called "concrete proof", which is just tangible evidence. Which is why I'm still as yet "Unlabelled. If you want to discuss thisfurther, you can contact me. But, as I am long winded, I won't burden this page with more responses.

Nicole said...

Three cheers for Possum and her Momma! You've had comments from atheists, Christians, agnostics, and at least one Asatruar (is that the right word?) -- you can now put a checkmark next to Wiccan.

As a non-Christian (and a non-monotheist), I have also been slapped in the face with the "no, no, you're not really Pagan; you're a Christian and you just don't know it yet" insult. As though Christians had cornered the market on all good human traits! Fortunately, I didn't run into that one until I was an adult. But when I did, it was infuriating -- when you give a man money to help him out of a tight spot, you don't expect him to persist in labelling your generosity "Christian" in the face of your claims to believe otherwise!

I only wish these arrogant people were not so readily accepted as representative of Christianity or of religion in general. I don't consider either to be evil, things to be eradicated from the face of the earth. I was raised by the most respectful Catholics you can ever imagine. My husband's grandmother, a Methodist, is a role model of a woman. My best friend in high school was a Jehovah's Witness. I choose to view them as examples of the best that a religion can bring out in a person, and I hope I can behave such that someday someone might say the same of me as regards Wicca.

I, too, want to know whether there's any follow-up concerning what your daughter's teacher shamefully said. I want to hear that she wasn't allowed to get away with that.

Empathy is a beautiful trait in a Christian. But empathy is a beautiful trait in any human, no matter what religion or non-religious belief they cite as their inspiration.


PS. Deoridhe, I get what's bugging you: not that others dismiss your gods' reality, but that they would ignorantly describe Odin as though he were just YHWH with a different name. I'm sorry to see that point ignored in people's rebuttal to you. I agree: that someone doesn't share my beliefs doesn't bug me; that someone would carelessly misrepresent my beliefs does.

Atheist in a mini van. said...

I, too, want to know whether there's any follow-up concerning what your daughter's teacher shamefully said. I want to hear that she wasn't allowed to get away with that.

I wrote a very short note. The teacher did call and say that her intention wasn't to influence Possum's beliefs or degrade atheism. And, I have to admit, I really don't think she'd ever considered the possibility that we might be an agnostic or atheist family. She made some uncomfortable comment about not having ever met an atheist, at which point I reminded her that we had met. She said, "Oh."
I accepted her apology and let it go at that. There's no reason to make it a huge deal - the last thing I want is for there to be retribution.

AlisonM said...

Very wise. While what this teacher said was in no way as extreme as what David Paskiewicz said to his students in Kearny, NJ, had you made a big deal of it, your poor possum might have been in the same situation as his student, Matthew LaClair, and that would not do at all.

As a mom of a 12 and 13 year old girls who are being raised with questioning minds, I have no trouble imagining that possum #1 wrote that essay, and for her to have done it under pressure and when presented with the topic as a surprise shows that she's been doing a lot of thinking about the subject. That shows a lot of promise for her in the future in some kind of helping career, even volunteering on the side - something people might not realize that atheists do as a matter of course. The hard work of one person accomplishes more than the prayer of millions, as they say. Being openly atheist and openly good, kind, and charitable, will be the best way to defend atheism in the long run, and your daughter has a head start on many of us.

Wriggley Voidling said...

Get a life these threads are so long and boring this is a special essay take it as it is and rather look in the mirror at yourselves.
I'd say opened a can of fanatical worms!!!

mothworm said...

Ghost,

Are you telling me that you're an agnostic who doesn't accept evolution? How, exactly, do you think we got here?

I said that calling a religion wrong for the reason you give is pointless. If YOU don't believe in a religion because YOU need hard facts, I completely understand. Do you see the difference here? Quick analogy: You're colorblind(we'll say red green deficient), I'm not. I tell you that something is orange and you see it as yellow. Who's wrong?

The colorblind person is wrong, and could easily determine this on their own by comparing wavelengths and spectra. See how handy science and evidence can be?

You expect us to respect the position of someone who ignores evidence? Someone may believe that evolution is false because they don't need to pay attention to the evidence, but they're still wrong, and any rational person gets to say so.

IF there is no deity at all, then I still like those guys better than you. Cause at least they don't need a logical reason to be nice. Is that better?

They need an illogical reason. If they're nice because they believe otherwise god will punish them, then they're not really nice people. If they're nice for the usual humanist reasons, then they're no different than atheists.

my Favorite science "Oops!" has to do with Freud and his miracle Cure-All Drug, cocaine. Yeah, that one has nothing to do with evolution, but using Piltdown
Man seems less than punctual. And I'm sure I'd hear the "Well science has come a long way since then" argument, which has been used in approximately every argument since Science began.


Freud wasn't a scientist. Piltdown man was considered suspect for it's entire existence and was pretty quickly corrected by other scientists. The theory of evolution didn't exactly hang on the validity of piltdown man. Science is self correcting. That's the genius of it.

since you must have no idea what is on one of those tests for Depression.(ex. Is subject clean shaven?) Not to mention the whole point of a subjective yes or no test.

It's been awhile, but I've taken them, so I am slightly familiar. You apparently missed the first sentence where I questioned their validity. My point was that a three paragraph essay on an assigned subject is hardly a diagnostic tool.

Yes, my eyes often make a sound when they roll too. Especially when I see that you highlighted my misspelled "infromed",

Here's the sentence in question:
it's about saving eternal souls from damnation. Or something like that. Every infromed Atheist should know this stuff.

I highlighted it because you lament my supposed lack of knowledge of what religion is about, right after essentially admitting that you don't know what religion is about. It amused me. I didn't even notice the spelling error.

Good god, I can't believe I'm actually defending her right to free speech, especially over religion.

I can't believe you are either. There are different standards of free speech in different situations. I'm not saying the teacher deserves to be fired, but she definately stepped over the line. I would call what she did "soft proselytizing". It may not have been an outright attempt at conversion, but it was close. That's inappropriate in an environment like a school where students are subject to authority figures like teachers.

Since you haven't addressed it, I'll go ahead and presume you would be fine with a teacher saying "Empathy isn't a Jewish trait".

"Atheism is taking into account all knowledge of known religions," Not just the title of each religion, mind you, but all Knowledge of each religion. That includes any text, documents, ideas, theories, artifacts, meatballs, sauces... pretty much anything they could possibly throw at you, literal or not. "and using that to decide whether or not you side with one sect or another."

You can repeat it all you want. What you wrote implied that you took the existence of a diety as a given and the only thing left to do was pick which group of his worsippers to join.

You don't have to read every single document of every single religion before you can safely be an atheist. None of the particular hand-waving woo-woo is relevant if there's no deity in the first place. This is what PZ Meyers has identified as the Courtier's Reply (http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2006/12/the_courtiers_reply.php). You can go on and on about the exquisitely fine threads and translucent baubles, but the fact remains that the king is naked.

Atheism requires a you to think and rule out the other possibilities(whether or not they have evidence). If someone doesn't know about God, has no clue that there is even a possibility, that makes him ignorant of God. He doesn't Lack the Belief in God, he Lacks the Knowledge of a god at all. You see what I'm saying?

If there's no evidence, nothing has to be ruled out because nothing has really been proposed. Whereas you speak as if you think there is actually a god (or at least evidence for a god) upon which to make a decision. A person who has never heard of the concept of a deity is an atheist--they have no theistic beliefs, plain and simple.

As far as misperceptions and burden of proof, no, those are your ideals. Not everyone will use the same techniques to come to a conclusion. Some people want a preponderence, while others want irrefutable proof beyond a shadow of a doubt.

I want evidence. Any evidence at all. Got any? Just because some peolpe use really lousy means of making decisions doesn't mean I should respect that.

I require equal amounts of proof from both sides of an argument.

So you remain an agnostic as to whether there are invisible gnomes in my garden?

Anonymous said...

Woot! Your kid is brilliant. I can relate to her (and your family) because my parents let me choose my own relationship with God or lack thereof. I have Baptist and Catholic grandparents and went to church with both as a kid. Neither made sense to me. What I did learn is that every person's relationship with the divine (or whatever) is very personal. What's right for one person isn't right for the next. I think a lot of main stream religious followers follow because the path has already been laid out for them - little or no thinking or effort involved. Cookie-cutter religion doesn't fit for me. As for judging others for their beliefs - I leave that to the Divine as well. That's not my decision to make.
I'm happy my parents let me find my way on my own. I don't need to believe out of fear, I believe out of reverence of the Divine in Everyone and Everything. How can I not believe something powerful is at work when I see the night sky, a perfect flower, an essay by a brilliantly talented kid? Ya, it could all be happy coincidences, but I guess I'll find that out when I kick the bucket!
I'm very proud of your daughter, and I hope she continues to write and express herself. She's a great kid. :-D

Peace,
SunRising

Deoridhe said...

matt.d:

Deoridhe: "Don't use my gods as your mocking point; it displays your ignorance of them."

Which is an implied appeal that your beliefs deserve some special treatment or respect.


So, you consider actually being educated on something before making claims about it (e.g. Odin and Thor judge the dead) to be "special treatment or respect"? So, if I made ridiculous and inaccurate statements about science in order to undermine evolution, you'd be fine with it because being accurate about science is affording it "special treatment or respect"?

I tend to afford this "special treatment or respect" to all of the topics I'm educated on, which is why I have, in turn and sometimes simultaniously, corrected people on Christian, Jewish, scientific, Egyptian, Celtic, and Norse points of detail when they make illogical or inaccurate claims about any of the above.

Note, if said individual had said, "Maat's feather may have an interest in your heart," I wouldn't have objected; that is an accurate representation of Egyptian theology. However, Odin doesn't get to chose the Einharjar, Freya does, and Thor has nothing to do with the dead, so stating they would have something to say to a person after death is patentedly inaccurate.

And I repeat, as you seem to have difficulty comprehending it, I don't care what you think about my gods. I care that atheists and agnostics don't shoot themselves in the foot by making a bad argument, which that particular one was.

intepid:

Your "point" would be sharp if the example of another religious tradition were accurate. As it stands, it just indicates your ignorance of the religion you are chosing to use as a couter example to Christianity. I will also note I correct Christians, too, both on my theology and on theirs. However, I usually don't correct Christians in a forum where none of them have made ignorant claims; that's a little too knee-jerk for my taste.

Nicole:

Thank you for comprehending my point. I was beginning to wonder if I was speaking Greek.

Matt D. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Matt D. said...

Deoridhe:

This will probably get lost and I'm pretty sure that we've managed to spin this thread in so many different directions that's it's close to mud - so this will probably be my last post on the subject.

I understand that the person made a theological misstatement. That isn't in question. You didn't simply point out the error, you went on to make an additional appeal - to not use your gods as mocking points.

That is the appeal to special treatment that I referred to, not the question of fact.

You've misrepresented my position as one of sanctioning ignorance when I clearly pointed out that the original point wasn't an issue of theological accuracy but a commentary on relative absurdity.

As someone who actually has studied your beliefs (or at least the beliefs I presume you hold, as people tend to hold slightly different personal theologies), I recognize the factual error. I also recognize that it is irrelevant to the sarcastic point the original poster was trying to make.

They were simply reaching for ANY belief that they were certain a Christian would reject in order to make a point. They were demonstrating the absurdity of ALL appeals to deities.

Had they said "Xenu will want to have a word with you" they would have ALSO been factually incorrect on questions of doctrine - but their point would still have been valid.

While I have no problem accepting that you might have been willing to point out a factual mistake about Xenu, as well - MY point was that I sincerely doubt that you would have said "And don't use the beliefs of Scientologists as your mocking point."

Your appeal on THAT issue was what I took issue with. It's special pleading and unjustified.

Finally, this notion of "fact" with respect to religious belief is, itself, a sticking point. As the "facts" of a theological beliefs are as varied as they people who hold them - there's an obligation on the part of the believer to justify their beliefs as facts. Something which never quite seems to get done.

I suppose we could substitute "orthodox" in place of fact, but the notion of "right belief" is similarly muddy. Though now I've definitely departed from the point at hand...so I'll leave it at that. :)

Ghost said...

OMG, I can't believe that I have to say this, but Mothworm, just stop trying to argue! Read what I have to say without looking for little holes to point out as flaws in my theories. If you had actually tried to comprehend what I was saying, you might have gotten to this: I don't know how we got here, that's the whole point of my "non-Labelled" status. There is no "concrete" proof of how we cam e to be. You take the theory of Evolution as fact, when there are steps missing. Then you claim it a fact. Good for you, you ignored the Absence of facts. There is no definitive proof that we came from monkies, but there is proof that those monkies evolved into upright animals with human characteristics and that WE are upright animals with (duh) human characteristics. Were I see that as a good connecting point that there may be truth to it, you apparently see it as solid and irrefutable. There are points on a scientists evolutionary map that show (A) to (B) to (C), and so on, where the letters represent each species of man. There are letters missing, which means that there are steps missing. You understand that that makes the "fact" of evolution actually a "theory" right? With most other subjects I'm not as nitpicky, but for evolution to be proved, there HAS to be a clear "Chain of Custody".

Again, you're not seeing what I'm typoing, the colorbling person isn't wrong. You can spout charts and spectrums all you want, but inevitably it comes down to the eyes the see the charts. Yes, the majority of the world sees the color wheel like you do. If majority rules, then Atheists are wrong. There are More people who believe in a supernatural power than don't.

How did I ignore evidence? I said your "facts" aren't evidence. If I discredit Allah as god because I'm told the evidence is spiritual feelings, does that also mean I'm ignoring Allah's evidence?

"Freud wasn't a scientist." Now you're just making stuff up. Psychology isn't a science either? Piltdown was disputed, just like Global warming and Evolution are still disputed, you have no point there. "Science is self correcting. That's the genius of it." Science has many beautiful qualities, but self correcting isn't one of them. It takes humans to question previous theories for science to work. THe best quality of science is perpetual skepticism. Questioning Science is what makes it work.

"I highlighted it because you lament my supposed lack of knowledge of what religion is about, right after essentially admitting that you don't know what religion is about." So, only expert theologians can question your beliefs? I didn't admit that I didn't know what religion was about, I left it open for an individuals interpretation. I know plenty about religion, but not enough to satisfy my curiosity. And since you don't seem to quick on the sarcastic uptake, I was lamenting you for your "eyes making a sound" comment. Cause it was a bit odd.

I'm not "fine" with anyone saying anything that's untrue, but I certainly don't discriminate based upon which beleif system the teacher used to make her point, no.

"What you wrote implied that you took the existence of a diety as a given and the only thing left to do was pick which group of his worsippers to join." Again, no, that's how you interpreted it. Atheism is one of those sects that I mentioned, and since Atheism doesn't worship a God(s), your "argument" with my statement is pretty absurd. The point of "writing it all I want" is that you were supposed to actually read it the second time around.

I'm done talking to you. No matter what I say, you're not going to try to understand it. You repeatedly taken my statements and tried to twist them into some allegory for my personal flaws. You're just trying to call me out, and it's annoying.

mothworm said...

There is no definitive proof that we came from monkies, but there is proof that those monkies evolved into upright animals with human characteristics and that WE are upright animals with (duh) human characteristics. Were I see that as a good connecting point that there may be truth to it, you apparently see it as solid and irrefutable. There are points on a scientists evolutionary map that show (A) to (B) to (C), and so on, where the letters represent each species of man. There are letters missing, which means that there are steps missing. You understand that that makes the "fact" of evolution actually a "theory" right? With most other subjects I'm not as nitpicky, but for evolution to be proved, there HAS to be a clear "Chain of Custody".

I haven't even made it past this paragraph, but I just have to say you're an idiot. Your level of understanding of science, evidence, and evolution is only slightly better than the average creationist's.

You're aware that every species of creature on the planet has an evolutionary history, not just humans? And the ancestral chain is established to different degrees in different species? There may be some discussion as to exactly which lineages are related, but the fact remains that those relationships exist and that evolution happened. The fossil chain is actually pretty low on the totem pole of evidence for evolution. There's mountains of evidence from morphology, DNA, etc.

By your logic, if I was orphaned at birth and later found some people I determined to be my grandparents based on DNA evidence, I couldn't actually say we were related because no one knew who my parents were.

Anonymous said...

Wanting to be a teacher myself, I hope I never make a mistake like that. It just shows that she has lost sight of the individuality of her students.

As to her comment, I am not Christian, and neither are the majority of my friends, but we all have a degree of compassion and empathy that I have known to be severely lacking in some Christians I know. Since when did having some empathy for your fellow man become a distinctly and exclusively Christian trait?

I am curious as to the religion of the teacher...

Denise said...

Peace Pilgrim used the word God when referring to God, and I have followed her example for years. So whether I am talking to Christians or feminists, when I say 'God,' each can apply their own meaning. God is a short, useful word.

I am not offended by the word history, as the etymological roots of history are not male. The feminists who use the word "herstory" are in error.

Anonymous said...

"With most other subjects I'm not as nitpicky, but for evolution to be proved, there HAS to be a clear "Chain of Custody".....No matter what I say, you're not going to try to understand it. You repeatedly taken my statements and tried to twist them into some allegory for my personal flaws."
(Ghost)

"I haven't even made it past this paragraph, but I just have to say you're an idiot. Your level of understanding of science, evidence, and evolution is only slightly better than the average creationist's.
....By your logic, if I was orphaned at birth and later found some people I determined to be my grandparents based on DNA evidence, I couldn't actually say we were related because no one knew who my parents were."

(Mothworm)


I'm pretty sure you proved Ghost right. Unless your grandparents were apes and you evolved into a human from them, your analogy is stupid.

Nicole said...

I found this blog through a Facebook group, and I'd just like to congratulate you on raising your daughter so well. I don't have children myself (I'm still in college), but I have younger siblings and i think you have done an amazing job. Anyone who tells you that you are a "bad mother" for allowing your child religious freedom is an idiot and a fool. Although your daughter is still in school, I suspect she has a bright future ahead of her.

Thor said...

w00t! Someone believes in me!

Hi 5 Deoridhe!!!

mothworm said...

I'm pretty sure you proved Ghost right. Unless your grandparents were apes and you evolved into a human from them, your analogy is stupid.

Ghost is complaining about a "missing link", and thinks that if you don't know every step of an evolutionary chain that you can't say evolution happened for certain. This is an age old creationist argument and belies a severe lack of understanding.

The analogy is simple. If you know A (apes/grandparents) existed, and C (humans/you) exists, there are ways of establishing lineage without knowing B (ancestral forms/parents). DNA evidence, for example.

Renaissance Woman said...

I randomly came across this blog and thought I would say congratulations. I am still young and dread the thought of having kids because of the world today. I am afraid to bring them up in a society that knows more about pop culture than anything else.


I want my kids to love to read, be outisde, and have a great time in life. Realize that the point of being here is to help others and grow to be a wonderful human being.

Thanks for sharing!!!!

Magpie said...

Beautiful. Just unbefreakingly beautiful.

Li’l P. has more empathy in one strand of her DNA than most people have in their entire congregation/coven/whatever.

Anonymous said...

"Ghost is complaining about a "missing link", and thinks that if you don't know every step of an evolutionary chain that you can't say evolution happened for certain. This is an age old creationist argument and belies a severe lack of understanding.
"


It looks to me like he(or she)isn't complaining about anything. It looks like he is questioning science. You have taken out of context Ghost's scientific approach to finding answers, and substituted an arguement that you think you can win.

It looks like you have watched a few episodes of CSI, read a few biased articles of the greatness of DNA and take that to be the definitive proof of the origins of man.

DNA profiling for the purposes of tracking an evolutionary chain and DNA paternity and maternity tests are two seperate processes, even when it comes to Grand parents. Those tests assume that there is a connection and then look at specific markers to verify that claim. Tracking evolution is a very precise process, and should be scrutinized, because of the sheer amount of genetic information involved. The fantasy wonderland of CSI has misguided you.

Doubting science is a very legitimate claim. Your ego is too big for your own good.

(The previous anonymous post was also me)

ang said...

I just found this site. I have been raising 2 sons for over 14 years as an atheist mom. Our oldest son is now 22 and experienced some of the Baptist Christianity as a youngster (I was a late bloomer:) He has faced some of the backlash of his non-belief. He also went through a "saved" stage as a young adult. The youngest is now 17. I've often said he is my experiment because he didn't know the Bible stories and did not attend Church as a child. He is a great young adult, smart, funny & talented. Many of their friends think we are the greatest parents because we do not push religion and have generally liberal views. There have been difficult times and a few kids that have been forbidden to visit our house by their parents. We can only hope that reason and logic will prevail.

Crystal said...

Wow, I'm a 13-year-old atheist and I wish there were more people like you and your daughter in this world. Oh, and that teacher is absolutely insane for her later comments about atheists.

mothworm said...

It looks like you have watched a few episodes of CSI, read a few biased articles of the greatness of DNA and take that to be the definitive proof of the origins of man......Those tests assume that there is a connection and then look at specific markers to verify that claim.

Oh give me a break. First an evolution "skeptic" and now someone who thinks that DNA evidence of relation is a tautology?

I was making an analogy to illustrate the absurdity of ghost's claim. I didn't say DNA was the only evidence for evolution. Go read Talk Origins (http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/comdesc/section4.html).

mothworm said...

Doubting science is a very legitimate claim. Your ego is too big for your own good.

Doubting a particular scientific conclusion is, though not without some good evidence. Doubting science itself is futile. Science is the best mechanism we have of knowing anything. What else do you propose we use.

Yes, I suppose it's possible that that ghost will revolutionize our understanding of science and disprove evolution (who had the ego problem?), but I sincerely doubt that the last hundred years worth of scientists and their discoveries all got the same wrong answer to the question of evolution.

Nicole said...

I have a question. Why do believers constantly say "I will pray for you". Please don't. I don't want your prayers. Please do not waste your time on my account.

Great Essay. I don't think the teacher was out of line asking the students to write an essay about christmas. That being said I think he comments to your daughter about being an atheist was way out of line especially in a public school. I hope you say something to the principal.

jaco_duar said...

How old is your daughter? I got turned on to this website from "Fundies say the darndest things" (a great site if you want a laugh) and haven't had much time to look around.

From what I can tell, you said she was "pre-teen", she is maybe 10-12?

I haven't seen an essay of that caliber even at my current educational point (10th grade). I'd just like you to offer my congratulations. This is cliche but I honestly think she will accomplish something incredible.

-JDS

yassensei said...

Bravo to Possum 1! It's nice to see that intelligence and sensitivity are alive and well in today's youth.

I'm a high school science teacher and an atheist. I would never presume to discuss religion with any of my students, as I believe doing so would be a tacit endorsement of atheism. My ethical code prohibits me from making such a statement. I find it amazing--and appalling--that some Christian teachers somehow think it is their right and/or duty to proselytize for jebus.

Funny, isn't it, that the same christian teacher who said that "ability to care for others' feelings" isn't an atheist trait clearly showed that the ability to care for others' feelings apparently isn't a christian trait, either. Hell--with that kind of attitude, I'll take atheist love over christian love any day of the week and twice on Sunday.

Possum 1 is welcome in my physics class anytime. I'll reserve a seat.

Dan said...

Thank you so much for posting this, as it's truly encouraging to read that there are still intelligent, compassionate parents with intelligent, compassionate, thinking children.

Possum #1 is a stellar human being in my book, and her essay speaks highly of her upbringing.

Warmest regards and again, deep thanks for posting this.

Alonzo Fyfe said...

Sorry, I do not have time to read through all of the comments.

However, I wanted to remark that the teacher in this case should be subject to official discipline. The act of demanding a formal apology on this matter will communicate the message that this is as bigoted a statement as a teacher can make – like telling a black student who has done a kind deed, “That is awfully white of you.”

It will communicate to others within earshot of this case that these types of attitudes betray a person of low moral character – a person worthy of condemnation. Many of those who hear this message will be students, whose attitudes of right and wrong (whose desires and aversions) are still more malleable.

It is an important message to communicate and, as I have been arguing throughout this blog, an important way to communicate moral messages.

We must consider the way that bigotry works. People ‘interpret’ events consistent with their prejudices. A teacher who thinks that an atheist cannot consider the feelings of others is going to interpret the actions of any atheist student as one inconsistent with the idea of concern for others. She will see the most selfless act on the part of such a student in terms of selfish motives – as a play for attention and a love of praise, perhaps.

We can see how Possom#1 (the pseudonym of the student involved in the above case) would have been regarded by this teacher if she had said, “I am an atheist” rather than, “I think I am an atheist.”

If these attitudes are not challenged – if people are not willing to publicly demand that bigotry such as this is wrong and those who engage in it are worthy of condemnation – then we are allies in perpetuating these attitudes, to the detriment of ourselves, those like us, and any atheist children who may follow along after us.

Simon Robinson said...

I thought Possum #1's essay was wonderfully thoughtful, caring and mature.

My wife is about to give birth to our first child - I would be so proud if he wrote such an essay in the future (give him a good few years first, of course!).

wendy Boucher said...

So happy to have found another atheist mom on the web. I was directed here by another blogger who knew I would appreciate this story. I too let my daughter choose for herself and I can only hope that at Possum #1's age, she'll be just as thoughtful and wonderful. Thanks for sharing!

Alexis said...

Got directed here by slacktivist.

My brother was once told by his English teacher that "the Big Bang" was an acceptable answer to things that we can't really prove, but "God" wasn't. In public school. (He was also harassed for being openly atheist in a school where most of the kids were Catholic.)

Sadly, teachers will impose their personal beliefs on their students. But smart, perceptive kids like Possum and my brother will out-think and out-empath them every day for the rest of their lives -- thank goodness.

Ann in FL said...

I know what I would have given the teacher for Christmas. I'd have printed out a copy of Bertrand Russell's "Why I Am Not A Christian" and given it to her gift wrapped. Beautiful essay!

Anonymous said...

That gives me hope that the next generations will have more sense than the previous ones. Gives hope that one day, people will strive to achieve greatness within them selves here on Earth, rather than what might happen in the state after death. Good Job!

Europe said...

-wow it's good to see that your kid are moving forward with open eyes. It's scary to see how religion can brainwash people. Seems like America is moving back in time..

Andreas said...

Damn, that was a great essay! Very articulate and reflected. The teacher's response was horrible, though. Here in Norway that teacher would have been fired immediately (and we have a state church!), but most of the Norwegian Christians are extremely moderate. And atheists make up about 25-30 % of the population... (Also, to put the political differences in context: the US Democrats would in Norway be a slight right-of-center party...)

Anonymous said...

Good job. Heard about this through the NonProphets. I'll be spreading this on my blog.

--michaeldepaula.com

Bob Kowalski said...

Next time someone says to one of the Possums, big or little, that they're too good to be an atheist, tell them to say this: And you seem too intelligent to believe in God.

Nomoxian said...

Your kid is awesome and you are also for raising such an intelligent, caring young woman.

HiveRadical said...

Do we have the original document you could scan in with revealing names blocked out?

I'd think a crowd of atheists would like to have evidence beyond mere assertions.

Many say that hard evidence is the clarion call of the rational empirical mind.

Atheist in a mini van. said...

Do we have the original document you could scan in with revealing names blocked out?

I'd think a crowd of atheists would like to have evidence beyond mere assertions.

Many say that hard evidence is the clarion call of the rational empirical mind.


It was scanned a few times and mailed to those who asked for it in the January. As of now, the essay is in her scrapbook with pics of the school year. I suppose I could scan the pages, but there are other kids in the pictures (science fair, her academic cohort, band pics, etc.,.). I would probably want to get permission from their parents first.

I would say that, at seven months post original excitement, you're going to have to accept that life has moved on. :) We're a family with four kids,... while it's the only essay that got a lot of attention from outside the family, it's certainly not the only essay (or drawing, or science project, or musical performance) that, as parents, we loved and felt pride about. I'm one of those obnoxious parents that makes a scrapbook for every year of school; including CD recordings of band concerts and stuff. But, I'll see what I can do.

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