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Is it ethical to teach Atheism to religious children?

Specifically, someone else’s kids. I’ve recently had experiences where I have had good conversations with early adolescents about the nature and validity of “faith”. However, I worry about kids who live in Islamic communities. What if I turn them toward atheism and they are persecuted, harassed ...or worse because of it?

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Anemynous 7 May 2

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Teach them reason, logic, open-mindedness, love and tolerance. Atheism/agnosticism will take care of itself.


I chose the first choice, because no, it is not your business to parent or teach other people's children. My caveat is that, if the child asks what I believe, and they are old enough to understand and contemplate, or I should say mature enough, I will share with them what I believe. I will tone my language down. Like, not tell them that the bible is completely idiotic and I think people who actually believe it need their heads examined. But I will tell them that I don't believe in it, that I find it illogical and silly, and give specifics if they ask. I will also say, but you should make decisions on your own. Tell them I came to my decision after intense biblical study. Not by anybody else's standards. I've been an atheist for years before even trying to connect with others who share my non-belief.


Absolutely essential.


I absolutely agree that good parenting exposes children to multiple sides of issues, however, as a parent I would have been madder than hell if someone had attempted to parent my child. I think this is somewhat dependent of the age of the child, but I think this requires serious consideration.


It is MORAL to tell anybody the truth.

The first choice is wrong. It takes a village (world) to raise a child. If a child is being prepared to not understand reality, then that child will not be able to provide a positive contribution to the village, when an adult. I tell kids, "Some people do not think the bible stories are true."

Jacar Level 8 May 2, 2018

What if the village decapitates Atheists? Are you still doing the child a service?

@Anemynous Yes, Dying honestly beats living in delusion, at least in my book. Teaching children religion is unethical in itself, and spawning a child in no way makes you the master of what it will learn, no matter how many over bearing parents believe otherwise.

@dellik I appreciate your conviction. That's hardcore. 😉

@Anemynous I get it. Care must be taken to pass knowledge to those most vulnerable. Read recently about an atheist underground railroad. need to research more so i can at least contribute some bucs.
"May you live in interesting times." Ancient Chinese curse.

@Anemynous Watching others suffer is the worst. Especially women and children.

"It is MORAL to tell anybody the truth."

The problem with this stance is that this is exactly the reason the religious evangelize: they claim to have "the truth" and see it as their moral obligation to teach that truth.

So if it's moral for atheists to teach other people children "their truth", then its moral for theists to teach other people's children "their truth".

Me, personally, I think it's the parents right to set up who should teach their children, not strangers, and thus if you feel morally justified to tell the truth, save it for the adults.


I think there’s some nuance to be highlighted here. It’s not ok to “parent” someone else’s child without permission, but having open, honest dialogue with them about who you are and what you believe is not that. If your goal is to proselytize, then yes, I believe that’s crossing a line (that goes for any faith, or lack thereof). But you are under no obligation to hide who you are from anyone. I also believe that one should be honest about the consequences of hypothetical conversion, and you should be aware (which I’m sure you are) of any potential backlash that can come your way, even if you’ve done nothing wrong.
Me personally, I don’t believe one can be “converted” in any way to which they weren’t already predisposed. If you replace atheist/agnostic with LGBTQ for example, these principles are exactly the same. No one can be “turned” LGBTQ. They either are and haven’t fully realized it, or they aren’t. “Exposure” is not a catalyst of change, simply a window to view through and a mirror to reflect on.

Sorry but that's an absolutely terrible comparison

Well spoken. Yes... I think I proselytize a bit and I need to check that a little. Part of it is that I didn’t realize that Atheists and Anti-theists we’re distinct modalities. When I realized Anti-theist was a thing.... I started gravitating towards that. I think I need to reel it in just slightly. I really like the antitheist diatribes of Aron Ra, but this variety of excoriating rebuke is not always a useful way to communicate ones self. It’s good to keep your objective and the nature of the audience in mind.

@Ianwalker1980 Can I ask where you find fault in the analogy? I would genuinely like to know.

@ghettophilosopher go and tell an LGBTQ group they have been indoctrinated and can change their thinking with science and see how it goes.

@Ianwalker1980 That’s exactly my point. You can’t choose your sexuality; it’s intrinsic to your nature. In the same way, you can’t really choose your underlying beliefs. I couldn’t CHOOSE to believe in unicorns no matter how badly I might want to. I couldn’t CHOOSE to disbelieve that the Earth is round at gunpoint.
I COULD pretend to have beliefs different from what they actually are, but to continue the analogy, that would be like a gay person being in the closet. They’re not NOT GAY, they just deny that they ARE.

@ghettophilosopher ok I kind of get you, not sure it's quite true though. I think the nature vs nurture balance is a whole lot different.


I don't think you can 'teach atheism', you shouldn't feel guilty for sharing what you think and letting a child know that not believing in god is an option. I feel guilty at Christmas when I pretend Santa is real ?


One need only look to the golden rule: would you, as a parent, like it if the religious took your kids aside to teach them about religion?

The answer to this question is the answer to the polled question.


Impossible to "teach" Atheism. Atheism has no beliefs, no doctrines, and no opinions on Creation, Evolution, morals, or how to make the best chocolate cake. It is only a personal decision a person comes to for their own reasons. You could teach skeptical thinking, logic, and sound reasoning though!

This isn’t exactly true in my opinion. You can review my comments to others who made similar replies. Zero is good example of a concept that looks like nothing but is actually something. We live in religious society... what you are saying is only true under an idealized academic paradigm... not the one we actually live in.

@Anemynous I did see many of the other comments and they seemed to agree with me more than you. Can you give me some samples of what you would "teach" that actually derives from Atheism itself then, and not YOUR own ideas as an Atheist? Then I might understand how you can "teach" Atheism. Can you teach non stamp collecting too?

@Silverwhisper Define “Atheism” and you will have the answer you are looking for. If Atheism could not be taught, there would be no word or concept such as Atheism.

@Anemynous I was not looking for any answer, and the definition or Atheism is a lack of belief or a disbelief in gods. What stops you from telling me WHAT you would be able teach based on the "lacking a belief in gods'? It was your idea you could "teach" Atheism, so WHAT would you teach exactly???? Other people here are curious too.

@Silverwhisper Oh crap! I've been assuming the question was challenging the plausability that the concept of absence could be taught! Wow! Sometimes I'm thick... I will get back to you..

@Allen1812 True. And do you have any idea how one could "teach" Atheism?


What is teaching atheism?

Atheism is not a belief. It's a blank slate.

Specifically the notion that there is no deity, or at the very least, good reason not to believe in one. Understand, we are not starting with a blank slate. The conversation presupposes religious indoctrination in the subject. Critical thinking is not enough to eradicate erroneous ideology, but it is an important tool to that end. If we did not exist in a deistic social paradigm, you would be correct to question the relevance of such a teaching. However, we do not exist in a bubble. We can call it reconditioning, or un-learning if that makes more sense to you. Zero is an important and relevant concept, but without other integers... zero also would have no meaning. Context.


Life around us is what we see. When we are born we are not automatically born believing in gods. We are taught to believe.

If we were not taught to believe we would stay closer to the ground state we were born with - accepting what we see around us without using imagination to fill in uncertainty and unanswered questions. This is atheism.

@Anemynous No problem in making ANY children aware what Atheism is, and at the same time it might be good to teach ANY children the basic ideas in several religions if that was appropriate for the situation. No use in telling children there can be no gods since that is not provable anyway. Also that is narrow thinking and covers only one pitfall they might encounter in Life. But teaching them logic, skeptical thinking, and sound reasoning will inoculate their minds them against being fooled in many areas of life, not just from the dangers of deceptive religions. They will have to learn to walk their own path, so education and teaching sound reasoning will also protect them from many other scams and deceptions waiting for them out there. Just my view but I think it makes sense.


If they think they have the right to preach to my kid their religion, I have the right to teach their kids that there is no god. This only applies in countries that do not have a state controlled religion. I won't go into any other kind of country


Not directly. Start telling kids that god/s doesn't exist and you will be on a hiding to nothing.

Start by teaching critical thinking, examine how they can distinguish true from false, real from unreal. Build through easy stages - is Santa Clause real?How do we determine this? How do we check the evidence, how can we test for this? Try it with unicorns, pixies, ghosts and then gods.

Let them work things out for themselves.


Why not? I mean I'm on the fence with teaching other's kids something that the parents probably wouldn't want you to teach them, but kids are bombarded by messages from EVERYONE and EVERYTHING on tv, billboards, school, friends, etc etc etc. Why should atheism or agnosticism be singled out as the "bad thing"? Parents seem to be oblivious to politicians and companies advertising to their kids 24/7, but thinking critically and hearing other opinions is blasphemy? Lol


I'm actually living this situation...
I've met a few young teens who volunteer. They are both from (somewhat) religious families. They have both talked to me (together and individually) about God and Believing and have asked me what I believe. I told them. I didn't preach or tell them that their beliefs are wrong or stupid. I simply answered their question. As you might imagine, this brought on a number of other questions, which I also answered.
I made sure they understood that lots of people believe lots of things and that we (the world) won't always agree about everything. The important part was to be true to yourself. I encouraged them to keep asking questions, but to be careful who you talk with openly on this subject, that some folks may take offense. They know that I am proud of them for who they are, regardless of what church they follow or not. (secretly I'm even more proud that they keep asking these types of questions!)

That seems like a sane, measured approach. I don't know if I can pull it off. j/k
This is good stuff.


If you can't teach both sides if the coin in the21st century, I think there is something fundamentally wrong.

Coldo Level 8 May 2, 2018

Oh, there is something wrong. It's time for us all to grow up. I agree with you there.... but not everyone lives in a place where your rights not to believe in god are upheld. In fact there are places where if you get too uppity about it... they just kill you. For me this isn't really hypothetical... I'm in contact with youth in countries that have very strict protocols around this thing. It's a heavy thing for me to think about, but it's their actual daily reality. Sobering.

@Anemynous And its not just non-belief. Witness the recent report of a six year old telling of his father's religious shit by beating the kids when they complained about being hungry.
That stuff is happening in houses very near all of us.

I'm not sure one can make the argument that there actually exists a "coin," in this sense, where the probability of head equals that of tails.


Tough one. I'm not sure I'd talk to the child of a fundamentalist about religion. I think I'd be more likely to talk to a fundamentalist Christian child in the US than a fundamentalist Muslim child in the middle east.

If the child wouldn't be in danger for changing their beliefs, I'd absolutely talk to them if they wanted me to.

Thanks for actually understanding the context of the question. Several folks are commenting about how things "should be". I'm talking about the world we actually live in, right now with real consequences.


My answer is a switch of your title.
Is it ethical to teach religion to atheist children?

The religious do it because they don't want you to burn in hell. They are terrible.


For anyone (children included) to have a balanced opinion, whether it be on religion, politics, or flat Earth, all sides of the argument must be given, without it, ignorance will be the outcome.


What is "teaching" atheism?

Proto Level 6 May 3, 2018

Specifically the notion that there is no deity, or at the very least, good reason not to believe in one. Understand, we are not starting with a blank slate. The conversation presupposes religious indoctrination in the subject. Critical thinking is not enough to eradicate erroneous ideology, but it is an important tool to that end. If we did not exist in a deistic social paradigm, you would be correct to question the relevance of such a teaching. However, we do not exist in a bubble. We can call it reconditioning, or un-learning if that makes more sense to you. Zero is an important and relevant concept, but without other integers... zero also would have no meaning. Context.


I think children should be exposed to all points of view so they can make their own decisions.

I agree. But there are countries run by folks that don't share our opinions. Those are the kids I'm worried about. I don't give two shits about pissed parents in the US. I have the law on my side here... so no worries. Elsewhere, one could be murdered for saying these things to the wrong person.

Very true. I wasn't taking that into consideration.
But, I still think they should be exposed to it, just not at a young age. Maybe when they are old enough and are able to keep the family " secret", as messed up as that is.

Like evolution vs. creationism? Spherical Earth vs. Flat Earth? Boogie man vs no Boogie man?


With religion being a fundimental factor in almost every society, community, region, and government in the world. Why the hell does the one nation in the world that aspires to be the "Melting Pot", the champion of freedom, the opitomy of diversity fail miserably to teach theology in school? Not religious study, but world religion. Public school children should be encouraged to understand other religions so that they can both reinforce their beliefs at home as well as open healthy discussions about their different beliefs....

4time Level 4 May 2, 2018

I might have agreed with you last year. This year, I'm more of the mind that all deistic religion is a big waste of time, if not out right damaging to society. I thin kit once served a purpose and it is now time to let it go the way of the dodo... and I don't mind speeding it along. Pretty much every "value" we ascribe to religion is actual a "value" of healthy society. It is just us, providing support to each other. So let's get rid of the divisive nonsense. (opinions. no offense intended)

I agree with you but if you try to make these addicts throw away this crutch, provide their children with true personal responsibility, and begin to explain the divisiveness, misogyny and bigotry behind their belief; there will be far more fighting.


simply explain why you are agnostic without pushing that they choose the same. inform don't push

Yeah... I've gotten pushy. It's a new thing. I've had fantasies of doing door-to-door.

"Hi... I'm just talking to some of my neighbors about god. Have you rejected all theistic and superstitious notions from your life? Can I leave you a pamphlet that describes how you too can let Atheism into your heart and live a moral, rational life free from sanctimonious delusion?"

I was raised as a Jehovah's Witness... I could do this shit... lol!

@Anemynous omg yes! ?


Yes, but remind them there are thousands of religions all over the world, and they think they are right as well...

N7EIE Level 6 May 2, 2018

@ki-bee - So sorry to hear that. I am the only one in my family who has escaped from the dogma, and the dehumanization and ostracization I feel from them plagues my mind incessantly.


would I try and convince someone else when I don't claim to know the truth

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