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Atheist in Catholic school

(80 Posts)
KidsTunes Tue 08-Sep-09 11:18:30

Our DD started in a Catholic school last week and we're atheists - or, at least, me and her mother are, I don't suppose you can really assign a tag like that to a 4 year old. She's going to that school because we live out in the countryside and it's our local school, and besides 90-something percent of schools in Ireland are Catholic.

Anyway, they do a morning prayer in class, and the idea is making me feel a little squirmy. We discussed it with the principal before she started, and he recommended we don't take her out of the classroom when there's religious education going on so she wouldn't feel excluded, but now I feel odd about the whole thing

Any thoughts?

seeker Tue 08-Sep-09 11:24:08

It's going to get worse - what about all the preparation for First Holy Communion, the visits from the priest, the Holy Days of Obligation, the Saint's Days, all the stuff around Lent and Easter........is there anywhere else at all you can send her?

Sorry to be so negative!

PortAndLemon Tue 08-Sep-09 11:25:25

Plenty of people went to Cathlic schools and came out as atheists grin.

I don't know how it works in Ireland, but in England and Wales the Catholic ethos sort of pervades everything, so it would be tricky to take her out of "religious education" anyway. You could take her out of specific classes but avoiding all prayer and all religious stuff is likely to be impractical.

Have you discussed with them what will happen around preparation for Confession and Communion in a few years' time? The classes are likely to be more specific in focus at that point.

AMumInScotland Tue 08-Sep-09 11:35:48

Could you talk to the principal and the class teacher about how she can "opt out" of the prayer without necessarily having to go out of the class. Like, she doesn't have to close her eyes and bow her head (if that's what they do), but should sit quietly not-praying while being respectful of what they're doing?

If it's all through the school day, then it's hard for her to have to physically go out of the room, but she could be excused from actually taking part.

throckenholt Tue 08-Sep-09 11:45:53

we have a similar problem - although ours is a C of E school.

We make a point of talking about how other people think about religion at home, and our own views as well. Our kids are well aware that some people believe things and others don't.

So far it is isn't a problem for them. For me - I get hugely wound up by things like the topic they are working on now - Christian thankfulness. I get really annoyed by christians hijacking moral values as theirs - as if the rest of us didn't manage to decide they were a good way to go on our own !!

MrsBarbaraKingstanding Tue 08-Sep-09 11:51:05

Seeker is right, there will be much heavier catholic issues to come.

I'd suggest just living with itand balancing it out at home with talk about what id presnetde at school is just one way of viweing things and ensuring she knows about other viwepoints and that there is freedom to choose when an adult.

My kids are at a catholic school, we are catholic, but we still take this approach. DH and I joke that we'll be disappointde if they still decide to be catholics after all our 'valid alternative' presnetationsgrin.

stillstanding Tue 08-Sep-09 11:52:31

If you are set on her staying at this school and don't want to move her, could you not think of the catholic elements as part of her education?

I personally think that exposure to religion (within reason - and I know some people here have some extreme examples which I would not be happy with) is a wonderful thing and easily counteracted at home with lots of interesting debates on what you believe and what others believe and why and how important it is to be tolerant etc etc. All great lessons in life.

seeker Tue 08-Sep-09 11:57:50

And bear in mind that whatever they say there will be active proselytization by staff, helpers and other children. You may have to reconcile yourself to having a catholic child if she stays there!

stillstanding Tue 08-Sep-09 12:10:50

Do you really think that, seeker? I often think that there is quite a bit of hysteria on MN about exposure to religion and how a bit of a singsong and even evangelism is going to turn one's child into a raving fundamentalist!

I think on balance that it is probably unlikely that KidsTunes's DD will leave school a catholic with her background. I went to a pretty full on CoE school and can't think of single one of my school friends who ended up a christian.

Which is not say that there won't be phases or that KT's DD won't come home with some questionable views at some point but, again, a good opportunity for a long chat and not something I would be worried about in the long term.

KidsTunes Tue 08-Sep-09 12:23:27

> Plenty of people went to Cathlic schools and
> came out as atheists

For instance me

For confession and communion I expect we'll just go on holidays

Hmmm. I'm a little bit reassured now

elliephant Tue 08-Sep-09 12:40:49

Quiet frankly, I would chill. Most people survive an Irish Catholic education unscathed these days, well able to make up their own minds about what they believe in. (Remember the churches aren't exactly stuffed to overflowing these days). Personally I agree with not allowing your DD to opt out at the begining but when it comes to Communion etc she does not have to participate, although some children like to help out - maybe in the choir or making decorations. You will probably find anyway that there are other children of different faiths, as well as non believers, in the school. While the curriculum does include bible stories and tales of saints the emphasis is on values of tolerance and kindness rather than reciting the stations of the cross. Regard it as an opportunity for your DD to explore other 'cultures', remember as her parent you are still highly influencial - school is only one part of her education.

EleanoraBuntingCupcake Tue 08-Sep-09 12:43:16

as long as there aren't any nuns you should be ok.

undercoverelephant Tue 08-Sep-09 12:44:21

I was raised "aetheist" (meaning that no-one mentioned religion until I went to school!) but went to an English primary school with the usual Christian assembly/morning prayer.
TBH I treated the prayer as just another new (if slightly odd) part of the whole school experience. But then school can seem odd in many different ways! It certainly didn't make me feel one way or the other about Christianity.
I'm still aetheist - my experience was that the parental/home environment was the greater influence (although I understand that RC teaching enters more aspects of curriculum than just RE, so see your point).
You don't get aetheists in Catholic schools in these parts...RC schools are heavily over-subscribed so you have to prove your Catholic credentials to ensure a place!

undercoverelephant Tue 08-Sep-09 12:45:58

"It certainly didn't make me feel one way or the other about Christianity.
I'm still aetheist "

Doh - meant to say that my aethism now wasn't the direct result of my primary school influence!(need coffee)

sorky Tue 08-Sep-09 12:46:12

I suppose it would depend on how Atheist you are really.

I would never, ever in a million years send my kids to a faith school.....ever! I'd rather drive a 40mile round trip!

I take your point about Ireland though, difficult to avoid them I'd have thought.

Having you thought of moving country? wink

EleanoraBuntingCupcake Tue 08-Sep-09 12:49:48

christianity is part of the national curriculum in scotland so all school faith based. ironically if i had sent dd to the catholic school i could have opted out of the god stuff.

WowOoo Tue 08-Sep-09 12:54:02

Eleanora, your post has made me almost choke on my tea.

I was agnostic until I got old enough - and there were no nuns around - to proudly declare I was an atheist. grin

Fennel Tue 08-Sep-09 12:54:08

We are atheists but if it was our local school, and nearly all the local children went, I'd put up with it. I'd whinge and grumble.

Our local school isn't a faith one, it's a community village school, but does have far too much evangelical christian input for my taste, even so. I mutter and moan about it but actually I'm pretty confident it isn't the end of the world. my children already have exposure to raving atheist views (mine and DPs) and raving christian views (their grandparents) so though I don't like it, at all, I wouldn't worry too much about the school influence.

seeker Tue 08-Sep-09 12:56:38

Irish catholic schools are VERY different in their approach to English ones - it's a completly different experience.

Oh and, because I'll have to say it soon, I may as well say my usual mantra for religion in schools threads. I don't have a problem with children learning ABOUT religion in school. In fact I think it's really important that they do. My problem lies with them DOING religion.

ilovemydogandmrobama Tue 08-Sep-09 12:57:28

Thing is, if you take her out of the RE stuff, it makes her different than the other children. Fact is that none of the other children necessarily have a belief system at that age, although the parents do.

You're honest with the principal. You aren't being hypocritical by 'pretending' to be Catholics for the sake of a good education.

Kids usually have a way of working these things out themselves.

EleanoraBuntingCupcake Tue 08-Sep-09 12:59:38

i went to an irish catholic school adn i am amazed by how religious dd's non faith school it. lots of happy clappy singing supplemented with weird bible stories - all bit billy graham, makes my project work on st patrick look positively satanic.

MrsEricBanaMT Tue 08-Sep-09 13:00:19

I think it's important for athiests to be educated about religion. They are great stories. Just try to answer her questions, as she will get a bit confised at what's 'true' and whats allegory but that's a good lesson for her to learn for literature, philosphy and the hiostory of ideas on the whole. No indoctrination either way hopefully, just facts so she can make up her own mind.

Fennel Tue 08-Sep-09 13:03:21

I can believe that Seeker (that Irish Catholic schools are more vigorously religious than most English schools). But for us there are competing claims, like being able to walk to the local school, be part of the local community. If you live in an Irish catholic community I suppose you have to compromise a bit.

GrimmaTheNome Tue 08-Sep-09 13:05:26

In your situation you probably have to make the best of it. Ensure she has a grounding in whats really real, make sure she's exposed to other worldviews so she doesn't see it as RC or nowt.

I've a Buddhist friend whos little boy goes to a catholic school who apparently discusses the different views happily at home and school - it does all rather depend on the attitude of the teachers.

Fennel Tue 08-Sep-09 13:06:05

Well I was brought up in a very evangelical christian household, and went to Cof E primaries, I didn't meet any inspiring adults who were outwardly atheists, as a child. Everyone was either Christian, or didn't talk about these things.

and still I did manage to be rather vehemently atheist as an adult. I would have preferred to have been exposed to a proper alternative world view to Christianity as a child, I think it's a shame that atheist adults don't talk to children more about these things, including in schools, but children can find these thigns for themselves in the end.

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