Category Archives: School

How to Deal with Religious Bullying and Spiritual Abuse

My oldest daughter, L, is now in the 3rd grade. Recently she brought home a Chick tract, which a girl in her class brought to give everyone in the 3rd grade. The tract is a “comic” designed to appeal to kids and get their attention, turning the story into the story of how to be “saved by Jesus.” Never mind that the school is allowing the tracts to be passed out to the entire grade (and probably the entire school)! That’s a battle I want to fight. But I digress.

L says this girls bugs her regularly because she knows L doesn’t go to church. It turned into bullying in my view when L asked the girl to stop talking to her about it and the girl refused.

I decided to look up the website on the back of the tract for some background information. I won’t post it here, but let’s just say this girl’s dad is a few fries short of a Happy Meal. His website claims that the “power of Jesus” healed his mental illness and it can “do the same for anyone.” Yikes. Shit just got really real.

My husband and I told L to respond like this: “I’m not interested, so please stop talking to me about it.” And if the girl refuses, we’ll take further action. We were clear with L that she should not respond hatefully, nor should she tell the girl that she’s wrong or try to engage in any kind of argument with her. As we often tell her, you can’t argue with stupid. Probably not the nicest way to put it, but just look up a religious Facebook or YouTube comments argument and you’ll understand.

Anyway, it’s been about 2 months since the last time L came home saying that this girl was bothering her, so it sounds like the kid got the point.

The moral of the story? Respond firmly, but kindly. It’s not this little girl’s fault that her dad is pressuring her to bully. But, I hope L can help her understand it’s not ok to do so.

Two posts in one day…I must be coming down with something…*cough*…

Bee

Freethinkers and Education

I’ve mentioned before that education was not important to my family. In fact, only one other family member has any kind of degree and she was in her 50’s when she went back to school. I am a first generation college graduate and this is a source of pride for me. My husband was in school when we met, and he encouraged me to go back to school to finish my degree. I was skeptical that I’d be able to do it with two kids and a graphic design business, but I found a degree plan at the University of Oklahoma that worked for me and stuck with it. Almost all of my undergraduate degree was online, and the last two years were 100% online through OU’s College of Liberal Studies.

You may think you don’t have time to get it done. You may think you don’t have what it takes, but getting a degree and doing it online was one of the best decisions I ever made. Please don’t think you can’t do it. I managed to use the Pell Grant and subsidized loans to make it out of school with relatively little debt. You can do it too. It’s worth it.

I know this sounds odd, but as a Christian, I thought god would solve all my problems. I thought he “called” me to be a singer, so I deluded myself into thinking I could make a living that way. Some people can, but I never could and should have realized that. I thought I would be in god’s service forever, so I never bothered to better myself for the world. It was a bad thing to be considered worldly, and I wanted to appear godly.

When I deconverted, I realize how important it is to know things about the world. I realized the importance of being able to think critically, to communicate, and to write well (though my proofreading skills might say otherwise!). I’m so glad I learned to value education. Even though a lot of it is just playing the game, that little piece of paper opens up more opportunity for success than pretty much anything else.

I figured, what’s the use in being a freethinker if I don’t know how to think to the best of my ability? So I nurtured this new love for knowledge and now I can’t get enough. I’m going back for my master’s this summer!

Sexuality and Consent for Young Kids

Yesterday a friend on Facebook posted an article about teaching kids consent, no matter what age. This came at an appropriate time for me because I am dealing with yet another situation with the same little girl (who is my daughter’s best friend). This little girl and my daughter bonded in pre-k last school year and were put in the same class again this year. The little girl signed up for the same sports team last fall, so the girls spent a lot of time together. The little girl is very touchy-feely. She hangs on my daughter constantly, pulling at her clothes, grabbing her hands, touching her shoulders, and whispering in her ears. I’ve watched this behavior on the playground from afar, and it’s clear to me that it bothers my daughter, but she loves her friend and does not want to tell her to back off.

We had the little girl over last weekend to help the family out in a pinch (otherwise I would have said no!) and I watched this same behavior. I decided to talk to my daughter about personal space and appropriate and inappropriate touching. We’ve talked about this before and my daughter knows about her private parts and such, but I wanted to discuss consent with her. I wanted her to understand that she is allowing her friend to touch her even when it makes her uncomfortable. I used the article about consent to help guide me on what to say, and I think the talks with my daughter turned out well. She must understand consent, and I worry that allowing this little girl to hang all over her is messing with that concept. I instructed her to tell her friend, “Stop, I don’t like that,” whenever she feels uncomfortable from all the touching. I told her to be sure to tell her teacher if the touching does not stop after that. I hoping this will help.

Sometimes I feel like I’m overreacting, but sometimes I feel like this little girls is a very bad influence on my daughter. Her parents make no attempts to teach her anything real about life, and instead threaten her with hell and teach her to pray. This is very confusing for my daughter, who has been taught to face her problems head on all her life. I’ve tried to encourage her to make new friends, but for some reason, she has bonded with this little girl. I don’t understand it because the little girl doesn’t seem to treat her that well. I think it’s time to talk about standing up for herself as well. Thank goodness for the Internet! How did parents do it before the Internet!?

Anyway, I highly recommend the aforementioned article regarding the healthy sex talk. I think talking to our children about these things is the most important thing we can do as parents. Being open and honest and arming them with information gives them the best chance to make good choices about sex. I hadn’t realized that teaching consent at such as young age would be so important. It definitely is. My daughter needs to understand now how important her body is, and this will only help her grow into a confident woman who can stand up for herself.

An Atheist Parent’s Thoughts on Tragedy

Well I don’t know about you guys, but I’ve seen enough anti-atheist status updates on Facebook to last a lifetime. It’s so bad, in fact, that I’ve decided to clean up my friends list a bit and weed out the bigoted, offensive people who are claiming that godlessness is the reason for the tragedy at Sandy Hook elementary.

What we really should be discussing is the early detection of mental illness and access to health care, not gun control or religious affiliation. While I do think gun control does need to be discussed, that is not the issue here. The issue here is that a deranged person committed a horrendous act, and no one knew he was that mentally ill. Or if they did, they did not help him get help. But the religious folk I’ve known for years and have tried to stay friends with via social networking have decided to make ill-informed and ignorant remarks about how they think not allowing prayer and religious worship in schools is the cause of school shootings. I’ve had enough, and I publicly and politely asked my friends to refrain from insulting me. Basically they’re saying that because I don’t believe in their god (or any god), I am capable of murder. They are saying that I’m evil…yes, one “friend” actually said I’m evil.

And Christians wonder why we get so angry! They wonder why we see religion as harmful. It’s harmful because it excludes. I’ve never told my Christian friends that they’re stupid or ignorant for believing what they do. I’ve never tried to convert them to my way of thinking. I’ve never told them they don’t matter to me because they believe differently from me. Christians, this is why we’re angry. You are so blinded in your faith that you fail to see that other people do not, and will not ever, believe they way you do. You fail to understand that we are still people, and good ones. We love, we give, and we help. But because we don’t believe mythology is reality, you call us evil sinners and say we are going to burn in hell.

These tragedies are only going to drive the two sides farther apart. I didn’t even have time to grieve for the loss of lives because I was too consumed by the hatred and ignorance being spouted by Christians online, but I felt morally obligated to try to combat it. I’m just shocked that people don’t understand the real issue and are so quick to place the blame on something completely unrelated.

Atheists, agnostics, and freethinkers, we have to stand together. We need to do good things as a unit. We must fight for freedom of religion, and the lack of it. We must speak out for reason and logic. I am tired of being quiet. The world needs good examples of freethinkers doing good things and making a difference in the world, and I will no longer stay silent, even if it means losing friends.

Released Time for Religious Studies in Public Schools

My child has yet to reach this age, but upon talking with a neighbor, I learned that Berryhill Public Schools, the school that my child will attend this fall, participates in a released time program for religious studies. I do not yet know in what grade released time begins, but I know that my children will not participate, no matter how “Constitutional” released time is.

If you are not familiar with release time, check out the Wiki. According to Wiki: “Released Time is a concept used in the United States public school system wherein pupils enrolled in the public schools are permitted by law to receive religious instruction. The principle is based on the constitutional right of parents to direct the religious education of their children.”

Everything I know so far about Berryhill’s released time program tells me it falls under the Constitutional guidelines in the Wiki. However, the neighbor informed me that kids who do not attend are ostracized. They are seen as outcasts and are bullied, and, according to the neighbor, the administration looks the other way at bullying in general. Scary stuff. The neighbor also says the “religious education” is held at a Baptist church. Always. There is no teaching of Hinduism, Catholicism, Judaism, Buddhism, or anything other religion. The question for my readers – do you think it’s still Constitutional since only one religion is promoted? Based on the Wiki, it’s hard to say. I do believe it’s ethically wrong.

I also read some reviews of the school online, and one states that having their children in Berryhill is like having them “in a Christian school.” Great. Before we moved here, we asked everyone about the district. All said it was a great school. Now I know why. They do have good test scores, but their ethnic diversity is low, and obviously their religious makeup is mostly Christian.

My hopes for this school are not high. And if you’re wondering why I called the school by name, it is to serve as a way for researching parents in Tulsa, Oklahoma and the surrounding areas to be able to fund this information. I wish I’d known before we moved here.

Public School Time!

My oldest daughter is now officially enrolled in pre-k in the public school system. I’ve been looking forward to this for a long time. She’s been in a Christian preschool since she was 8 months old, so I’ve had to be very careful about encouraging her  free thought. I was always afraid that she’d run to school and tell her teacher, “Mommy says some people don’t believe in god!” Heh. That would be a fun conference.

But now that she’ll be out of that environment, I feel much more comfortable helping her find answers to her tough questions. She asks about death often, so we observe dead bugs and talk about roadkill and what happens when people die. She’s fascinated with the fact that life can end, and I think it’s fostering a love for living inside her. She is full of life and seems to enjoy ever second. She loves people wholeheartedly and loves to be kind to those who are unkind to her. I feel more confident that we can discuss the different religions with more freedom now that she isn’t required to go to chapel or read Bible stories.

I know it seems odd that an atheist or agnostic person would put their children in a Christian school, but I have reasons. First, the hours worked well for our family. Secondly, she really got a fantastic education. They offered yoga, music, reading and handwriting skill building, and more art than I have room to store. Thirdly, as a person who will grow up in a conservative and largely Christian area, it’s important for her to have knowledge of the Bible, it’s stories, and Christianity in general. Otherwise, she might feel ostracized or embarrassed as an older child. All in all, it’s been good for both of my girls.

She’s growing up and I know life is about to get super-fun. Her intelligent and curious mind is growing every day, and I’m so proud of the little freethinker she is becoming. I’m jealous that she gets this opportunity in life. I feel like I missed out on so much in my childhood because of my restrictive upbringing. I’m very much looking forward to watching her bloom!