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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You should most certainly tell the truth, with the obvious explanation that it is an opinion that some disagree with. Children look up to you as not just an educator but as one to "trust" how does their willingness to trust you fit into your deception? I understand why you chose to respond as you did and I also understand the ramifications of telling the truth, that does not mean it is the wrong thing to do.

I understand your predicament.I worked as a therapist for years often with people who were suicidal and had "lost their "faith".When I've been asked I've always told the truth about my beliefs and it has NEVER interfered with my sessions.In fact (and i know its anecdotal) its always reinforced trust which is the imperative issue.

I don't think children are any different from regressed patients in therapy.Honesty and integrity will always prevail

Turning the question around would be a good option. Asking the child if they believed in god. Followed up with asking why they believed or didn't. The point being you avoid assignment of the atheist tag onto yourself and you force the child to think for themselves. Logic, reasoning, and critical thinking should be administered to our youth as soon as possible.

I work in medicine- I always give the same unsatisfying answer. " I am afraid that I cannot tell you. I'm sorry" then I quickly change the subject. Many times my patients tell me "that's alright- I know you are a christian because you have a good heart." Which is fine- so long as they did not reach that conclusion from what I say. I hold this position moreso for children- like the uncle who tell children where babies come from, yes, the child will find out eventually, but it is not my place to tell.

I understand that your position is very difficult- you are on display in front of several difficult people who look to you for guidance- So, while I don't like your answer I certainly forgive you. I am not certain I would not do the same thing. Thank you for being a teacher.

I can actually answer from the viewpoint of the student! It hasn't really been that long since I was twelve.

I remember having a serious discussion about religion with a teacher when I was ten or eleven or so, but with a complete reversal of your situation. I was the atheist and she was the Christian, and she sat me down and explained to me why she and everyone else in the room was and why I wasn't. The important bit to this anecdote is that I accepted that. Granted, it might have been easier for me because everyone in my community believes in a god and therefore I'm used to not having the same beliefs as my teachers, but children are in fact cabable of empathy, especially towards teachers that they respect as authority figures and as people.

If you're afraid of some sort of clash or backlash, I don't know what you can do about it, but from what I've learned as a student, no kid wants to be lied to by a trusted adult. Especially at such an impressionable age, it might be better to open up a kid's world than to go with the flow.

I can totally see the unintentional harm in being honest.  But you don't have to be dishonest in fear of the repercussions of actual honesty.  It shouldn't hurt to admit that you're not a christian.  However, if she asks what you believe, being a teacher I think the perfect answer would be something along the lines of "I believe in learning about everything."  You really cannot go wrong with that.

But as someone mentioned before, that child respects you as an authority figurehead in her life.  Do not be dishonest with her, as you would not want her to be dishonest with you.

Obviously everyone has their own viewpoint and answer. That sort of points to an answer of: customize it to each situation.

As someone who has endeavored to be honest while avoiding verbal and/or physical attacks, I try to use the truth while tailoring it to (my perception of) the person's intelligence, viewpoints, and goal.

If you are unsure of the reason for the question and suspect the questioner is religious you could say (if you really did believe at some point in the past) "I believed in god. We should stay on topic though." Note the past tense. The statement is true (if you used to believe) but leaves off your current stance and curtails further questions at that time.

If you know the person is religious and wants to create problems for atheists then it is quite correct to lie to them - you are defending yourself from a veiled attack. If the "sweet" smile is not standard for this student she could have been baiting you. (Yes, I realize this is unlikely - but only unlikely, not impossible.)

If the student is asking this in private and seems troubled, you need to estimate what their goal might be and, if it seems like they might be trying to come to terms with being agnostic or atheist, it might be best to be totally truthful to reassure them that they are not alone.

IN AROUND 1964 A COWORKER AND FRIEND, JOHN SHENSKY, GAVE ME THE NICKNAME "NASTY NEIL" WHEN I ASKED HIM WHY HE HAD DECIDED TO "ADWARD" ME WITH SUCH A NAME, HE REPLIED:

"WELL NASTY, IT IS BECAUSE YOU ARE ALWAYS TELLING THE TRUTH AND MOST PEOPLE DO NOT WANT TO KNOW THE TRUTH."

SO, HERE IS SOME TRUTH FOR YOU! :-)

UNLESS A PERSON IS IN SOME TYPE OF DANGER, THEY SHOULD NEVER EVER LIE ABOUT ANY THING AT ANY TIME!

NEARLY NOTHING HAS ANY VALID REASON TO LIE ABOUT IT!

LYING IS WRONG!

PERIOD!

END OF STORY!

PEOPLE WHO LIE ARE HYOCRITES AS THEY DO NOT LIKE OTHERS TO LIE EITHER TO, OR ABOUT THEM OR SOMETHING THEY CARE ABOUT.

PEOPLE WHO LIE ARE DISHONEST, CAN NOT BE TRUSTED, HAVE NO MORALS, NO HONOR, NO ETHICS AND NO INTEGRITY.
NEIL C. REINHARDT

Wife: "Do you think this pants make my ass look fat?"

Scenario 1: It does, but you lie "No, darling whatever made you think that?"
Scenario 2: It does and you tell her truthfully the pants make her ass look gigantic.

Which of these do you think is more conducive to maintaining the peace?

Also please press the caps-lock once more. Using caps is the equivalent of screaming in people's faces, it is extremely rude.

And Scenario 3: They do, but you tell her "no, it's all that cheesecake you eat that makes your ass the size of Texas".

This approach is known as getting to the real problem and is particularly not recommended.

In relation to the OP question, this approach would become "No I don't and people who think there is a god are deluded fools". Also not recommended for teachers and others who work in the public sector, in the US anyway.

Though a small movie... The Invention of Lying, the first 3/4, felt like the ideal life for me. Little white lies are the foundation for a messed up society. In my fantasies about social renewal, I would decree an ethic that lying, even the smallest white lies, are frowned upon.

But of course we're stuck in this ridiculous society, where it seems that in everyday life, lies outnumber truths, by both our peers and our leaders.

HOPEFULLY IN THIS, YOU FIND SOME USEFUL INFORMATION YOU DID NOT KNOW AND PERHAPS SOME WAYS OF LOOKING AT THINGS YOU HAD NOT YET THOUGHT OF.

-----------------------------

WHAT FOLLOWS IS SENT TO A CHRISTAN FOR ONE REASON OR ANOTHER

--------------------------------


The odds are about 100% the only reason you are a Christian and not a Jew or a Moslem, is because you were raised by Christians and not Jews or Moslems. �

Had you been raised by the members of a religion other than the one you were, you would then believe in it just as strongly as the one you believe in now. (And YOU would do so without any actual proof.)

You were raised by Christians who taught you the same things they had learned from their parents. Things not learned by experience, the use of common sense and by logic. Those who raised have both learned, and taught you things which run counter to physics and to nature.

I doubt you even realize the odds are also 100 % the reason you do not believe, as well over Three Billon others do, in "Many Gods" rather than just the one god of the Christians, is because you were not raised by Hindus, or any others, who do believe in many gods.

How do you know the Hindus and all others who believe in many gods are not right and there actually are many gods?

Did you know humans have invented, then named and worshipped at least 25,000 gods so far? � That most of the millions of open American Atheists were once all Christians?

How do you know the well over one Billion Atheists in the world are not the ones who are right and that there are No Gods?

Or do you know most Americans who are Atheists are so Afraid of what Christians might do to them, they do not make it public knowledge they are Atheists? �

( Sadly some are even too afraid to inform their own close friends and their relatives what they really believe. )

The truth is, and many Christians agree, Evolution is both a Proven Theory and a Proven Fact. A fact which clearly proves we humans are only One life form out of many millions of life forms.

As we are only one life form out of many millions of life forms, we humans have no more intrinsic right to life than does any other living thing. Like it or not, we have no more right to life than any thing we kill to eat. Yet I doubt you have any trouble eating chickens, fish or beef. (I certainly do not.)

The only reason we "rule" and we can kill other living things to eat is because of the arraignment of our hands with our fingers & opposing thumb. This alone allows us to grasp from small, to larger things with both precision and dexterity.

Thus, we can build shelters, make tools and use weapons. Make and use writing devices we then use to record, compose and design. to draw and paint and play musical instruments. As I said, the facts are, the arrangement of our fingers and thumb on our hands is the only reason we humans rule.

Last, Atheists are the Leaders, or among the leaders in every field I know of other than Crime. (And of course, religion.)

As far as Crime, here in the United States, where Open Atheists comprise around 5% of the population, Atheists are Less than one Quarter of One Percent of those in American Prisons. Of course this means the other 99.9975 percent are all religious people and by far, most of them are Christians!


Proof of this is in these website's which lists many of the more famous open Atheists,

http://www.jmarkgilbert.com/atheists.html

http://www.celebatheists.com

IF you've read this far, you may be asking yourself just why you would want to reject the childish superstition of religion. So I'll share what I said, & what I am sure many other Atheists have said once they have finally De-Programmed themselves,

It is something to the effect of:

"Now for the first time, I know what true freedom of thought and of action are."

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