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Teaching atheism to primary kids...

(95 Posts)
sparklewater Thu 05-Nov-15 19:09:18

Posting here for traffic. Have somehow ended up agreeing to talk to DD's school tomorrow, as they're having a prayer for world peace week - learning about different religions and the refugee situation.

I popped along to one to see what was going on as have no religion and got nobbled. They want me to explain that not everyone believes, but that we still help others because of x, y, z.

Any advice on how to do this without coming across as negative about religion?

CalleighDoodle Thu 05-Nov-15 19:11:56

By doing as youve been asked. You dont believe in a creator god but you still treat people as you would like to be treated because x y and z

originalmavis Thu 05-Nov-15 19:13:50

Sounds like you are on a hiding to nothing there. You never ever ever discuss religion or the lack of in schools. Someone will be mortally offended.

Can you change it to 'we live I a country where you have the freedom to practise your beliefs in peace'?

ChiefInspectorBarnaby Thu 05-Nov-15 19:15:00

So why DO you help/ care about other people if you're not guided by a faith? That's what you need to tell the children. Also I don't understand why atheism needs to be anti-religion.

honeysucklejasmine Thu 05-Nov-15 19:17:45

I don't see that you need to criticise religion. Just state that you don't have one, but you do good things because... Etc.

ChiefInspectorBarnaby Thu 05-Nov-15 19:20:00

Oh and you can't just say that you do good things because it's the right things to do. A religious person would also state that. You need concrete reasons. Which being an atheist you will already have. The children might ask "Why?" To lots of your points so you need to be able to fully justify them.

Mistigri Thu 05-Nov-15 19:23:49

Older primary or younger primary?

With older students I would probably talk a bit about the fact that human beings, for all their visible physical differences, actually have surprisingly little variation at the genetic level - so refugees literally are "people just like us". And maybe talk a bit about the concept of altruism as an inherited human trait, we don't need religion to tell us to be altruistic towards our nearest and dearest, it is hard-wired.

Might be a challenge to make that digestible for a primary audience though.

ChiefInspectorBarnaby Thu 05-Nov-15 19:25:32

Being altruistic is not an inherited human trait.

JaWellNoFine Thu 05-Nov-15 19:27:19

I would say that I, personaly have not seen any evidence of the existence of a god and his good works. I have however seen a lot of evidence of people being good and believe that people are generally good and don't need to be coerced into being good with threats of hellfire. So I have put my faith in the goodness of human beings and believe we control our own destinies. I also cannot balance the bible with science and science wins.

specialsubject Thu 05-Nov-15 19:29:47

threats and hellfire started in the days when there was a lot more incentive to steal or kill because otherwise you didn't eat. There needed to be a way to restrain people and give an incentive not to steal, and the threat of damnation worked quite well.

There are of course still (sadly) plenty of parts of the world where this still applies.

Theknacktoflying Thu 05-Nov-15 19:30:42

this sounds so bizarre - inviting an atheist to a pointedly religious service?

Atheism is anti religious - a firm disbelief in there being no deity or merit in any practised religion.

I would decline the invite

PiccalilliSandwiches Thu 05-Nov-15 19:31:03

I always thought I was an atheist, but actually humanist fits much better for me. Didn't really know what it was to be honest. There are some useful resources here OP if it fits for you.

Theknacktoflying Thu 05-Nov-15 19:32:02

Equivalent to asking a drinks representative to talk at an AA meeting

StitchingMoss Thu 05-Nov-15 19:34:12

Theknack, it's not religious - read the OP! It's a discussion about all different religions and I applaud their progressiveness in including atheism - what a refreshing change.

velourvoyageur Thu 05-Nov-15 19:37:31

You could bring in the idea of a social contract?

SmillasSenseOfSnow Thu 05-Nov-15 19:41:36

Atheism is anti religious - a firm disbelief in there being no deity or merit in any practised religion.

Actually, no. Atheism, without the addition of 'gnostic' on the front, means a lack of belief in god(s). Not a positive claim of there being no god(s) (which someone might also make, but it wouldn't be essential to them being an atheist).

But this topic could quite quickly get out of hand...

VikingVolva Thu 05-Nov-15 19:41:59

You need to separate out atheism (definite belief there is no god) from agnosticism (there are areas which are beyond our knowledge, and so no fixed belief about them).

You could find out what presentation they are having about Buddhism, also atheist, and explain why your belief in there being no god is different from that.

SmillasSenseOfSnow Thu 05-Nov-15 19:43:40


There is agnostic atheism and gnostic atheism. 'Atheism' does not refer exclusively to the latter, no matter how much religious people on the internet (not actually referring to MN here) would like it to be so in order to destabilise atheists' position in the eyes of the undecided.

VikingVolva Thu 05-Nov-15 19:44:23

spectacular cross-post!

A-theism does mean 'no god', just as a-gnostic means 'no knowledge'

StitchingMoss Thu 05-Nov-15 19:44:26

I think it's as much about explaining its possible to live a good life without God as it is to explain why u don't believe.

The godly don't have the monopoly on charitable giving and morality for example.

AuntieStella Thu 05-Nov-15 19:49:03

They're presumably also doing mono-theism and pan-theism grin

So they ought to be getting a reasonable idea that there is no monopoly on loving-kindness.

AlanPacino Thu 05-Nov-15 19:49:18

I would just say something like 'Some people are Christians and believe in a God and some people are Muslims and believe in a different God and some people are like me, they're not a Christian or a Muslim. But we're same in lots of ways. None of us like being sad and we know that when we're happy and kind we can make the best choices. That's why I'm kind, because I don't like to feel sad and it makes me sad when I see other people are sad. I'm happiest when people are happy' or some such stuff. I think it's important to stress the similarities between those with and without believing in a certain religion.

SmillasSenseOfSnow Thu 05-Nov-15 19:51:33

Words mean what they are used to mean. Unfortunately it seems that atheists who have a lack of belief in god(s) are losing the battle against this particular change. Unless my given definitions have been particularly transient neologism, something I have yet to see evidence of.

Theknacktoflying Thu 05-Nov-15 19:53:50


There is going to be a prayer ... so you are going to stand up and tell them that you don't believe that there is any worth in what they have just done ...

Walk away ....

The school have decided to equate religion with charitable giving ...

hackmum Thu 05-Nov-15 19:55:59

Atheism is simply a lack of belief in god or gods. So being an atheist doesn't mean you have to live a good life. It just means you don't believe in god.

You could put the case for humanism, which is what your OP sounds like - which, at its simplest, is: We don't believe in god, but we do believe it's important for people to be kind to each other. You could teach them that humanists believe in the Golden Rule, which is to treat others as you would want to be treated.

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