This site is not maintained. Click here for the new website of Richard Dawkins.

← Sunday School for Atheists

Sunday School for Atheists - Comments

kraut's Avatar Comment 1 by kraut

"An estimated 14% of Americans profess to have no religion, and among 18-to-25-year-olds, the proportion rises to 20%"

There is hope, after all

Sun, 25 Nov 2007 20:23:00 UTC | #86441

Janus's Avatar Comment 2 by Janus

The title annoys me, but it's a good article nevertheless.

And yes, very encouraging.

Sun, 25 Nov 2007 21:29:00 UTC | #86447

Chrysippus_Maximus's Avatar Comment 3 by Chrysippus_Maximus

Most non-religious people are idiots... Just like the rest of the population.


Sun, 25 Nov 2007 21:38:00 UTC | #86448

BAEOZ's Avatar Comment 4 by BAEOZ

Most non-religious people are idiots... Just like the rest of the population.

Yay me! That was a compliment wasn't it?
Anyway, I'm reading theological-politico treatise atm and find it easy to read (compared to other philosophers.)

Sun, 25 Nov 2007 21:44:00 UTC | #86449

Will in Aus's Avatar Comment 5 by Will in Aus

I'm all for organisations like this. As long as the children are not "led" to atheistic/humanistic conclusions, but rather pointed in the right direction and left to discover their beliefs through critical thinking and analysis of the evidence, no harm could really come from such a program. It's really good to see people engaging in such ideas....there's hope for us yet!

Sun, 25 Nov 2007 22:08:00 UTC | #86450

Goldy's Avatar Comment 6 by Goldy

Why Sunday?

Mon, 26 Nov 2007 00:47:00 UTC | #86459

bored's Avatar Comment 7 by bored

How ironic that the teacher is called Bishop!

"she realized Damian needed to learn about secularism" - surely all you need to do is watch the crap that's on tv every day?

This sounds a like they are trying to create 'Atheist children', i wonder if RD deplores this phrase as much as 'Muslim child' or 'Jewish child', instead of 'child of Muslim parents' etc.

Mon, 26 Nov 2007 01:08:00 UTC | #86461

Oromasdes1978's Avatar Comment 8 by Oromasdes1978

I'm a bit sceptical about this, I am all for kids being given the chance to learn about the world without being lied to, but sunday school for atheists?
I would need more convincing about this, just as I dont want religion shoved down kids throats, I would feel the same about atheists views being shoved down kids throats when they are too young to understand it.

Plus sunday? Shouldnt kids be out getting mucky or something, I would have thought thats the best way to learn about the world around them! Hmm I am not a parent or ever going to be one, what do other parents think about this?


Mon, 26 Nov 2007 01:38:00 UTC | #86465

Chris Roberts's Avatar Comment 9 by Chris Roberts

I have often wondered about this; especially recent;y as my little one is at nursery (and the only ones around here are run by church groups....)
A big sign on the wall declares the "JESUS IS THE KING OF TRUTH" - a terrible irony, but I never worried about my other two going there and I will allow here to indulge in her childhood.
But she will learn about jesus in the same way she learns about santa and the tooth fairy - until she's old enough to know better.....

Mon, 26 Nov 2007 03:13:00 UTC | #86474

Cartomancer's Avatar Comment 10 by Cartomancer

I think the point of this article was that in messed-up countries like America, with loopy faith heads roaming the streets quite openly and trying to eat children's brains, it is quite helpful and even necessary to have some sort of corrective that will help these children to avoid this nasty fate.

I find the idea of the American style summer camp and the Sunday School quite sinister myself as it happens. Smells terribly of regimenting and processing children, inculcating group behaviour rather than stressing individuality. At that age all I wanted to do was play independently on my own or with a close friend. I would certainly have resented having half my weekend and most of my summer sacrificed to something I did not choose to do myself and sent away from my parents for a long period of time. Nevertheless, it is a specific cultural construction and if American parents want to have their sprogs tormented in this manner then it is a good thing there are secular, free-thinking alternatives available.

Mon, 26 Nov 2007 03:29:00 UTC | #86476

SilentMike's Avatar Comment 11 by SilentMike

I personally think anything that stops the US from spiralling towards the dark ages is good.

If non-believers need places where their children can meet others like them then it's good that those places are there.

And "Bishop". Yeah that is indeed funny. Just another one of life's little larks.

Mon, 26 Nov 2007 04:05:00 UTC | #86486

Peacebeuponme's Avatar Comment 12 by Peacebeuponme

"He's a child of atheist parents, and he's not the only one in the world."
Dawkins will be pleased...

Mon, 26 Nov 2007 05:00:00 UTC | #86493

35bluejacket's Avatar Comment 13 by 35bluejacket

Is it possible that you have inherited in your thought the old school of "dualism" of Manichaeism? Materialism is not the opposite of spirituualty nor is knowledge the opposite of ignorance. Ignorance is just a lesser degree of knowledge.
The reason I bring this up is that I have seen many people on this site use "dualism" in their syllogisms, perhaps not knowing where it comes from or knowing they think that way. We should keep in mind that religion has perpetuated that erroneous and dangerous school of thought into our culture.

Mon, 26 Nov 2007 06:20:00 UTC | #86510

Barbara's Avatar Comment 14 by Barbara

Sunday School for atheists? The concept is good but I'd rather it be called something else. Whatever it's called, the faith-heads will call it religion. :(

I like the idea of having a place where children of atheist parents can go to:

Develop a sense of community

Learn morals and values (and charity?)

Learn how to respond to the God-fearing majority

Learn critical thinking skills

Learn about world religions

Learn life lessons through story telling

Enjoy music

Enjoy art

Take part in discussion to encourage personal expression, intellectual curiosity and collaboration.

Learn about the role persuasion/coercion plays in decision-making.

Experience an overall nurturing environment.

Mon, 26 Nov 2007 06:44:00 UTC | #86514

flobear's Avatar Comment 15 by flobear

I think this is a great idea. As an American, I can see how children or parents might feel isolated in communities that have high Sunday school and church attendance. It's part of our national character to torture and brainwash our children. I'm in favor of removing the brainwashing and just keeping the torture part.

Cartomancer: I find the idea of the American style summer camp ... quite sinister myself as it happens.

The only camps I knew about growing up had nothing to do with religion. Though this might have to do with the region I grew up in (not the bible belt). Mostly the camps around me were about sports and games. Since both parents have careers these days, it's a good way to get the little ones out of their hair during the summer.

I'm for it!

Mon, 26 Nov 2007 07:04:00 UTC | #86522

onlysky's Avatar Comment 16 by onlysky

I'm always disappointed when I read a great article like this about the important need for community resources for Atheists, especially with regard to children, and then I read the comments and see how many Atheists are frightened and contemptuous of this idea.

My theory is that most of the Atheists who think that this could be an example of "Atheism indoctrination" or "Atheism being shoved down kid's throats" are probably Atheists by conversion themselves, who have no idea what it's like to actually grow up as an Atheist.

As a former child of Atheist parents myself, I find it very hard to fathom the idea of Atheist indoctrination. Atheism is the default position. Growing up in an atheist family just means growing up without religious indoctrination. I don't see how Atheist summer camps or community groups would be doing anything more than teaching children to use reason and value evidence, explaining values and morality without using religion, and most importantly, providing a sense of community and belonging to children who are very likely to feel a sense of social isolation if they grow up surrounded on all sides by an overwhelmingly religious community, as I did.

I wish some Atheists would get over their overly righteous sense of individuality and realize that there is a very great need, in such a religious world, for organization, community and outreach among Atheists. There is really no basis for the criticism and disapproval of these efforts and programs as far I can see.

Mon, 26 Nov 2007 07:19:00 UTC | #86526

Fedler's Avatar Comment 17 by Fedler

I think this is a great idea! As an atheist married to a Catholic I've often wanted an outlet like this free of the religious overtones. My daughter currently attends "Bible School" at our local church on Thursday nights and I allow it for the social interactions (being an only child she doesn't get much peer interactions) and I've been wishing for some counterbalance like this.

Unfortunately, we are left with some of the trappings of the religious tones, such as calling it "Sunday School", but it doesn't have to be on Sunday. I agree with Barbara, the religites will call it a religion no matter what. That's their habit.

Mon, 26 Nov 2007 07:31:00 UTC | #86533

35bluejacket's Avatar Comment 18 by 35bluejacket


Amen brother

Mon, 26 Nov 2007 07:38:00 UTC | #86536

upsidedawn's Avatar Comment 19 by upsidedawn

I'm all for it as long as the kids enjoy participating and want to go. But all I can think about is the drudgery of having to give up my free weekend time attending Sunday School every week as a child. It didn't matter that I bought into the religious crap as a kid. I still hated having to get dressed up and go to Sunday School and church.

Mon, 26 Nov 2007 07:58:00 UTC | #86542

Cartomancer's Avatar Comment 20 by Cartomancer

Manichaeism? Pffft! Mani nicked cosmological dualism from the Zoroastrians of his native Persia.

Mon, 26 Nov 2007 08:18:00 UTC | #86554

35bluejacket's Avatar Comment 21 by 35bluejacket

True, it was mentioned by Zoroastor but expanded greatly by Mani. But what is your point of bringing this up?
The question is: is dualism a good or bad concept, not who the author was.

Mon, 26 Nov 2007 08:37:00 UTC | #86561

_J_'s Avatar Comment 22 by _J_

I think this is a great idea. And I'm not even American.

I hope it's less boring than the Methodist Sunday School I went to. It sounds less boring. In fact, it sounds pretty cool. Do they take people in their twenties?

At least there shouldn't be any danger of the kids here having to put up with the unexplained absurdities of 'normal' Sunday School. I remember being told that 'God could do anything' when I was but a wee toddler. I spent ages asking increasingly ridiculous questions about smashing planets into each other. I think the teachers gave up on me in the end. Really, filling naive children's heads with nonsense like that in a place called a 'school' shouldn't be acceptable. How nice it'd be to go to a Sunday School where all of the amazing claims were factual.

For people who are suggesting that needn't be held on a Sunday - technically, sure, but that's missing the point, isn't it? The article makes it clear that one of the chief motivations for this is to give kids something 'normal' to do whilst all their friends-of-theistic-parents learn how to grovel at god. They're not doing that on Thursday nights.

As a last suggestion: for kids who can't make it to these, Sunday mornings should be filled with Star Trek repeats. It's more or less the same thing.

Mon, 26 Nov 2007 08:38:00 UTC | #86562

eric711's Avatar Comment 23 by eric711

This is great, I hope it takes off. As someone who grew up in a secular household, I can say I would have benefitted by a secular Sunday School if it were available at the time.

Mon, 26 Nov 2007 08:52:00 UTC | #86570

Cartomancer's Avatar Comment 24 by Cartomancer

Well, I could lie and say there was a lot more to my comment than self-serving antiquarian pedantry, but there wasn't.

Though it does go to show that the idea of cosmological dualism is much older still than late antiquity. I'm not entirely sure what Manichaean cosmological dualism has to do with this though. Mani posited, following Zoroaster though changing it round, that matter as we understand it is bad, while spirit or light (also a kind of matter to him) is good. He also thought the universe of light was trying to separate the two into their original unmixed conditions after an incursion by the universe of darkness which created the universe we see ourselves. This is not the same as positing that only the physical world we see around us actually exists with no spiritual dimension at all, and thus anything "spiritual" is by definition unreal. To Mani (and to Descartes, but not in quite the same way) both the physical and the spiritual were real, material things. To the modern thinker the physical is material and real but the spiritual is unreal, intra-mental and imaginary.

Mon, 26 Nov 2007 08:56:00 UTC | #86571

JFHalsey's Avatar Comment 25 by JFHalsey

As a parent of two little ones living in the Bible Belt, I think this sounds like a wonderful idea. I wish there was one in our area (yeah right, it'd probably get burned down).

Both my children currently attend a daycare run by a church, because that's the only place we can take them. I worry constantly about the indoctrination they will face growing up, from their grandparents and daycare as well as the majority of their peers; it'd be great if there was a place they could get together and see that they're parents aren't the only athiests in town.

Also, as a parent, I can definately empathize with the quoted Willey when she said that we need more social groups for support and fellowship. I've been strongly tempted lately to start attending a church just for that reason, indoctrination be damned.

Mon, 26 Nov 2007 09:14:00 UTC | #86575

kevlaw's Avatar Comment 26 by kevlaw

It's funny that so many people have commented on the incongruity of a "Sunday School for Atheists" since the body of the article doesn't call it that only the title (probably added as a provocative touch by the editors).

The body of the article talks about humanism, not atheism. Teaching kids about humanism seems like a fine idea.

Mon, 26 Nov 2007 09:21:00 UTC | #86579

briancoughlanworldcitizen's Avatar Comment 27 by briancoughlanworldcitizen

What we need is an online place for kids of atheist parents to get together. My daughter is quite comfortable about her utter lack of god belief, but we live in Sweden where its more the norm. Tricky for the American bible belters

Mon, 26 Nov 2007 09:38:00 UTC | #86583

35bluejacket's Avatar Comment 28 by 35bluejacket


Thank you for your views. Certainly intellectual history has interpreted dualism in many ways but the effects of this concept has permeated our culture. Examples of this would be; the devil at war with god, good vs evil,(how many movies have we seen this scenario?), or the physical world as we know it as being evil or something to conquer, (Manifest Destiny?) and the world of the spritual being good, or evolution the opposite of creationism, or that science (knowledge) being the opposite of ignorance.
Ignorance is not the opposite of knowledge anymore than darkness is the opposite of light. Darkness is just a "lesser degree" of light, the same with ignorance.

I'm always open to corrections.

Mon, 26 Nov 2007 09:57:00 UTC | #86589

Barbara's Avatar Comment 29 by Barbara

@ briancoughlanworldcitizen:

While an online place for kids of atheist parents to get together is a good idea, it can be dangerous too. One can never be sure who they are interacting with online these days. With adequate adult/parental supervision, I think a place for face-to-face interaction is a much better and safer option for the children.

Mon, 26 Nov 2007 10:40:00 UTC | #86603

Zaphod's Avatar Comment 30 by Zaphod

Not believing in god doesn't make you a Rhodes scholar.

Not that being a Rhodes scholar is anything special in my book.

Mon, 26 Nov 2007 11:21:00 UTC | #86609