I'm a 6th grade Social Studies teacher.  The topic of religion as a part of culture comes up all the time.  Today during a discussion of Greek myths, a student (a 12 year-old girl with a sweet smile) asked me if I believed in god.  I paused and said, "Well, sure."

I felt that I was having a discussion with a child about Santa or the Easter Bunny.  I didn't want to be the one to tell the child that all the adults in her life have been lying to her.

This has been bothering me all day.  When this comes up again - I'm sure it will - should I lie as I did today, or should I tell the truth?

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personally I dont believe in lying to children but also, you are a teacher and I know parents can be crazy. But I feel your pain in this respect.

Tell the truth - or, if it's all you can manage, "take the 5th" - which is what the counselors at my psychiatrid day treatment center do. Yes, a crazy person is dispensing advice. "I'm not allowed to discuss my personal beliefs" is their rote answer "I'm not allowed to discuss my personal beliefs because my salary is partly paid with tax dollars; discussing my personal beliefs would be a violation of the Constitution." ... You will not be surprised to learn that belief is very strong among the mentally ill; after all, the mentally ill are mostly indigent, and religious belief is always strong among the poverty stricken. Belief, alcoholism, drug addiction - do you see an escapist trend? Interesting - 90% or better (me included) smoke, and this extends to the professionals who treat us, the counselors, the nurses, the therapists, even the psychiatrists ... Anyway, I'm the only openly gay and atheistic person at the center. Because X* Psychiatric Day Treatment Center is a madhouse that keeps banker's hours, I'm very popular - it's true! I get Valentine cards, and I've been elected "Client of the Month" 3 times, and even the psychotics rouse themselves from their stupors to say "Hello, Mark" when they see me. "I know you don't believe in God, but I pray for you, anyway" - I hear that all the time ... Well, before I get into my X anecdotes, I'll get back to you. I don't know where you teach. I don't know what the ramifications of coming out as an atheist would be for you as a professional. You have to protect yourself - from the parents of your students. When it comes to Santa, I myself merely smile and nod at the child and hope that the conversation goes no further. I take comfort in the fact that finding out that there was not Santa was the first step on my own journey to atheism. "A magical being who lives in an exotic place and who keeps track of who is naughty and who is nice" - I've heard this crap before!

*We are required to sign an anonymity agreement when we enter the center. I am not Mark Romano at X but Mark Ro.


What if you say something like ... "I believe a lot of people do, what does your Mom and Dad believe?  Why do you feel they believe that?  What do you believe?".  Just ask questions. 

I would not have lied to this girl.  I would keep it 'age appropriate' & 'confessed' that although most Americans DID believe in god, I personally didn't.  Then waited for her comment or next question.  Piece of cake.

Maybe combine letting the students know you won't tell them and that what you believe doesn't matter, with questioning their own beliefs and how to search for a logical explanation. Show them how to critically think about the matter through asking them questions instead of telling them you do or don't believe. I definitely would say don't lie to them, that's further narrowing their views of the world. 

Hi Alysha, I like your idea.   Religions are so DIVISIVE !

My mom is retired now but she taught public school for about 40 years and my father is also retired but he was an Episcopal Priest.  Before you judge negatively believe me when I tell you that both of my parents raised my siblings and me with very secular values.   My mother would have told the child politely that her personal beliefs were not her business.  I don't think it is appropriate for teachers to lie nor should they discuss things with students that should be discussed by the child's parents instead.

What I would briefly say, and what I have said to my children is, not to believe something just because somebody says so or writes it in a book. If a thing is true, then there will be proof for it. Question everything.

As far as lying to kids ... yep, i have. Once when my son was very little and he wanted to go to the park. I was pooped that day so I told him that the park was closed..

as a youth worker, my view is to not lie.  I would tell young people that i don't have religious beliefs.  I never bring up the topic of religion.  However, I tell young people that ask that beliefs are personal and they should never feel pressured into believing one thing or another.  I point out that there are many beliefs and ways to view the world so i suggest they investigate them to make up their own mind, and that they should feel free to change their mind whenever they wish.

I think your reply was right, you might also add I am not sure or I do not know exactly, because in each family the parents have their own explanations and you can ruin their believe by telling truth I think



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