My Aussie Heretic ears started burning when I heard this news from Australia. Burning is not generally a comfortable sensation for a self confessed heretic, but this was good news. A Humanist Society is close to being approved for an atheistic curriculum for primary (elementary) school children. Parents will have the option to send their kids to a class where they will be taught that the evidence for the existence of God is as flimsy as the evidence for the existence of the Flying Spaghetti Monster or the Invisible Pink Unicorn. This is good news for diversity, and free thinking.
Follow this link for the brief news story-
Mind you, I wouldn’t send my own Aussie Heretic protégés to that class. I would be very glad for them to be educated in an environment that includes such a broad range of perspectives. But I wouldn’t send them to the class. I would send them to a class that teaches the facts and spirit of many of the world religions. Then they could make their own informed decisions about what makes sense to them.
I’m comfortable telling my kids that there is no evidence for the existence of God. There really isn’t any evidence. But there is plenty of evidence that the myth around God, and God language, is purposeful. I want them to understand that as well. And they CAN understand that, at the right age.
American author, Ann Lamott, tells the story of the time her 8 year old son, Sam, said to her, "I think the reason they call God 'God' is because when you see something really, really beautiful, you go, 'God, that’s beautiful!'" As Ann said, "OK, that works for me." It works for religious education too.
At a certain age kids realize that Santa is purposeful myth. They realize that there is no evidence for the existence of Santa. At the same time, they realize that Santa language still serves their purpose of Christmas fun and gifts. Why ruin a good party?
I would like to see a curriculum on spiritual atheism in schools. After acknowledging that there is no evidence for the existence of God, we could talk to kids about the power of myth and language. We could talk to kids about what they find wonder-ful in the world, and how they would best describe this wonder.
It’s so natural to use God language to capture even a hint of the wonder of life. We describe a sunset as ‘heavenly’ or a dessert as ‘divine’. We describe best friends as ‘soul mates’. We shout the name of the almighty during our seven (sorry eight) minutes of horizontal hokey pokey and know we are neither addressing our partner nor any deity in particular. We grasp at language to hint at experiences of wonder, and draw on myth that fills ordinary moments with extraordinary meaning. The myth of incarnation is God becoming human, the ordinary becoming extraordinary, the natural becoming miraculous.
What do you think? Should schools in America include some sort of broad, non dogmatic, world religion’s class? Should schools in Australia embrace the inclusion of humanistic curriculum? Should we be offering spiritual atheism to kids who have come of age, no longer need a magical, theistic God and are looking for the power of myth to describe life?