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Foisting your beliefs upon others.

(25 Posts)
ilovemyhens Mon 03-Jan-11 20:44:47

Why is it that atheists insist that it's wrong for believers people to push their beliefs onto others, but are quite happy to belittle their own children's simple belief in God?

My SIL has just told me a story about a science teacher at her son's school who teaches the children that God doesn't exist and forbids them to even say "bless you" if someone sneezes hmm He has them all terrified and gets into long and protracted arguments with anyone who disagrees with him, before handing out whatever punishment he sees fit hmm

Why take away a child's belief in God? Surely there's time for them to make up their own minds once they're older. If it gives comfort to them and gives them something to believe in, then why is that so wrong?

It's a basic human right that people, including children, should be allowed their beliefs. Why undermine a child's belief about the world?

jaffacakeaddict Mon 03-Jan-11 21:16:27

Sounds as though your SIL should ask about the school's equality and diversity policy. If she doesn't have any children who are taught by that teacher she may be the perfect person to raise the matter with the departmental head or headteacher. It sounds as though someone should have a quiet word with the teacher and they may be the appropriate people.

ilovemyhens Mon 03-Jan-11 22:16:25

The school isn't in this country, it's in Germany and I don't think she wants to make a fuss. I suggested that she should complain, but she didn't seem keen. I don't know what the equality laws are like in Germany.

GrimmaTheNome Mon 03-Jan-11 22:21:19

>Why is it that atheists insist that it's wrong for believers people to push their beliefs onto others, but are quite happy to belittle their own children's simple belief in God?

I'm very sorry this particular teacher does this, but IME the boot is nearly always on the other foot.

I don't think the scenario you've encountered would happen in the UK (I certainly hope not) but we hear all too often of teachers (esp in primary) asserting the existence of God as a fact.

Neither is acceptable professional behaviour.

ilovemyhens Mon 03-Jan-11 22:29:06

I agree, it's not professional.

Himalaya Mon 03-Jan-11 23:23:02

Hmmm hmm....Isn't what you say when someone sneezes in Germany ' Gesundheit' (health)? I think if you say 'Gott segne Dich' don't you sound like you are doing an impression of a priest (I.e.: the expression just doesn't translate in the context of sneezing). Maybe he is just correcting their German (if they are not native speakers)?

Anyway you could get all riled up about the apocryphal German science teacher, or you could reflect on the fact that by law every state school in Britain had to run a daily act of worship, and children are given very little option but to participate.

ilovemyhens Tue 04-Jan-11 00:07:41

It's an International School and the science lessons are in English, so they say "bless you" to each other just as people in this country might say after somebody has sneezed. That's just traditional, not really religious at all. Nobody dies anymore just because they sneezed. My nephew has this particular teacher for his science lessons and this is what happens.

State schools in Britain no longer have a daily worship though do they? When I went to school we had a daily assembly which included saying The Lords Prayer and singing a few hymns. It was hardly brainwashing. Those of us who weren't interested just went through the motions and got on with the rest of our day. We got to make out own minds up once we were old enough.

Himalaya Tue 04-Jan-11 07:39:50

Nope. It's the law. Schools get pulled up by Ofsted if they don't do it.

Children have to attend right up to sixth form, unless their parents withdraw them. Few are willing to single their children out like that.

Having just argued that it's unprofessional for one teacher in one school in another country to state categorically that there is no god, can you really say it is OK for all schools (state schools anyway) in this country to state categorically, on the head teacher's authority that there is a god (and it is the Christian one) every day through songs, prayers and sermons? They do this at my children's (non-faith) school. As you can imagine, I'm not best pleased.

TheFeministParent Tue 04-Jan-11 07:56:51

But a child's belief always comes form a source and why shouldn't a parent discourage it if they feel that religion is damaging?

Personally I allow my children to believe in God, I don't, but would be very surprised if they did as adults as I feel the belief is much like Father Christmas- just for children. It's also a little easier for death isn't it? to say someone has gone to heaven.

I talk of religion as 'they believe, some believe' although I can't stretch to religious practice, I have to say that certain religions oppress women. I would be very distressed if any of my children came home having converted to Islam.

jaffacakeaddict Tue 04-Jan-11 10:00:50

Himalaya - I'm sorry but I have to correct you slightly. In your post dated 3rd Jan you referred to religious observance in Britain and in the post which you made at 07.39 you referred to Ofsted. I live in Scotland where we have our own education system. There is no daily religious observance in non Catholic state schools and Ofsted does not apply here. We are, however, still part of Britain. I'm sure that as a nation we have some room for more expats if you would wish to move to the enlightened north ...

StrawberrySam Tue 04-Jan-11 10:19:27

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Himalaya Tue 04-Jan-11 10:51:05

jaffacakeaddict opps blush thanks.

GrimmaTheNome Tue 04-Jan-11 18:38:51

Seems to me that this isn't really much to do with the old god/no god debate.

Its simply that this teacher is a bully.

Lamorna Tue 04-Jan-11 18:55:50

I agree tha the teacher is just a bully.
Children will make their own mind up and parents and teachers views are irrelevant really,in the long run.

ilovemyhens Tue 04-Jan-11 21:32:45

Which is more damaging - to tell children that there is a God and then allow them to make up their own minds as they grow and mature,


To deny them the right to have a belief in God?

When I was at school we had a daily assembly which involved some simple worship and I believed that God existed. I grew up in care and having that belief saw me through some very bad times. Once I was old enough, I ceased believing and didn't give a stuff about whether He existed or not. It is only in recent years that I have become a Christian. I am 40 years old now.

Having two children myself I can see that it gives comfort to have a belief and even when I didn't believe, I never denied them the right to say their bedtime prayers or grace before a meal. They seemd to have a need for it.

Is it really so harmful that children might believe?

Himalaya Tue 04-Jan-11 21:45:45

I don't deny my children the right to say whatever they want at bedtime or before a meal. They barely shut up most of the time.

Its never popped into their head to say bedtime prayers or grace though, or to pray to Mecca, or to worship the godess Shiva, or Thor for that matter.

GrimmaTheNome Tue 04-Jan-11 22:02:53

What I think is least damaging is to try to avoid telling them dogmatically that their either is or isn't a God.

Don't prevent them believing if they want to, but neither scorn quite natural scepticism and logical thinking.

There was a recent thread (I didn't follow it all) but there was a child who had been terrified by tales of a hellfire God who was comforted by her parents atheism, only to have this disputed by a teacher who insisted there was a God as matter of fact.

Teach kids how to think, not what to think.

Snorbs Tue 04-Jan-11 22:09:01

"Which is more damaging - to tell children that there is a God and then allow them to make up their own minds as they grow and mature,


To deny them the right to have a belief in God?"

Those aren't the only two choices.

What I do is make sure my children know that while I personally don't believe in gods, they are free to ask questions and to make up their own minds? For what it's worth my DS is currently agnostic and my DD is verging towards christian. It seems to work for us.

StrawberrySam Wed 05-Jan-11 07:02:02

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Himalaya Wed 05-Jan-11 09:37:26

ilovemyhens - There are two issues here - one is what parents tell their children about the world, and the other is what schools tell children.

Parents will naturally tell children what they themselves genuinely believe to be true - answering their questions and pitching their answers at an appropriate level for the child's development (asking them to do anything else would be quite strange, although I like you some parents who are nominal Christians etc... teach their children religious practices because they think it is a good thing for them, even though they don't believe in the supernatural aspect themselves).

You would hope that parents would also tell their children that other people believe other things and follow other traditions, and would also encourage their children to be questioning, not take things at face value, listen to other opinions, think logically etc...

Then there is the role of the school. You were quite upset that one teacher passed on strong atheist views, but think it ok for schools to conduct daily worship. Can you see that this is somewhat of a double standard. I know you don't think it is a big deal for children to be told to pray, sing songs about Jesus etc..., but can you see why others might think this is not an appropriate role for schools to play. How would you feel if your child's school had the children reciting Islamic or Hindu prayers everyday (and not in the spirit of 'lets learn about Islam etc..')

EauRouge Wed 05-Jan-11 09:46:28

Hmm, I'm an atheist and I would not tell DD that there was no god. I will encourage her to think critically and ask for evidence about things before believing in them, but after that she will be free to make up her own mind.

I was brought up C of E and as a child had loads of nightmares about the devil and going to hell, I don't want to put DD through the same thing so I will be shielding her somewhat from all religions until she is old enough to think about it rationally. If she asks if there is a god or what happens when someone dies then I will tell her the truth- no one knows but lots of people believe lots of different things. I don't see what's harmful or damaging about that.

ilovemyhens Wed 05-Jan-11 19:38:10

I wouldn't expect my child's school to be reciting islamic or hindu prayers because I don't live in pakistan or india hmm

The uk has a rich Christian heritage and I don't see what is wrong with a simple act of worship each day.

Thankfully I don't have to worry about this because both my dcs attend Catholic schools even though they aren't Catholic.

I don't understand the hostility towards Christianity. I think we ignore it at our peril, but I don't expect anybody to understand that.

StrawberrySam Wed 05-Jan-11 20:18:01

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Lamorna Wed 05-Jan-11 20:51:57

' I will encourage her to think critically and ask for evidence about things before believing in them, but after that she will be free to make up her own mind.'

That seems the sensible response EauRouge. You can try and influence them, if you want to, but it won't work, I would be very surprised if you got any adult to say 'I believe such and such because my mother does'! (or my teacher does). Usually it makes anyone go in the opposite direction!
Get DCs to question everything, including you, they are much less likely to be easily led if they question things.

Snorbs Fri 07-Jan-11 14:20:45

"I would be very surprised if you got any adult to say 'I believe such and such because my mother does'! (or my teacher does). Usually it makes anyone go in the opposite direction!"

But there is lots and lots of evidence to suggest that that is exactly what happens with religion. Most people who follow a religion have parent(s) who follow the same religion. Such people typically don't carefully examine the various different religious beliefs there are in the world and then choose the one that makes the most sense to them. The evidence seems to suggest they just follow in their parents' footsteps.

ilovemyhens I think you misunderstand the resistance many feel to prayers in school. It's not a matter of hostility towards christianity per se. It's more a feeling that religious worship of any flavour seems out of place in schools. If a family wishes to carry out acts of worship at home or in their preferred places then go right ahead. But a school? What makes it so vital that a school carries out religious worship when, say, a workplace doesn't?

There is also the issue of state-funded schools implicitly or explicitly excluding applicants based on what the parents believe. That doesn't sit well with me.

Sure, I'm all for religious education in schools as you're absolutely right - there is a rich christian heritage in this country as well as a strong heritage to other faiths too. But that's very different to an act of worship.

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