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?
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.
The paragraph where you talk about prisoners/religions is a myth. It's kinda cool that atheists have become popular and united enough to have our own urban legends, but nonetheless. That myth is based upon a single purported personal correspondence from an ex prison employee. The fact is, USA/Canadian prisons do not census the beliefs of their inmates. I don't care to go through the entire 'demonstration' yet again, so I suggest you do some investigative research for yourself into the origins of this claim. It's fun to actually research such things, and you'll integrate it better anyway since it will come from your own hard work.
Most of what is said is pointless because most humans are hardwired for some kind of belief that can account for how or why we got here. Instead of contemplating the uncontemplatable (how this life we know can be)--it is much more palatable to believe that something created it.
And to put it straight--something did create all this -- I just do not know how something could come from nothing --or what could have existed forever.
The biggest problem is that so many blindly pursue the notion that God is something that should not be questioned because there are things that we have to accept that are beyond explanation. People also seem to be hard wired for thinking that if you do not think like them, there is something wrong with you. And if you do not believe in a mystical God, you have something exceptionally wrong with you.
Given that Communism was an Atheistic government, I am also not very impressed with the godless as well as the God-fearing.
In fact, I am not very impressed with the human race. It appears to be a grand experiment that is failing and is a painful result of a unique consequence of a large explosion that happened to create a couple of gases that got things to happen that is as mind boggling as an almighty God that created an enormous amount of pain and suffering along with a stupendous capability for love and beautiful things.
Driving a car is a "godless" activity, too, and the activity is responsible for millions of deaths and injuries worldwide over the last century. I don't suppose you own/operate a car, then.
Perhaps avoid the subject and tell the student it doesn't matter what you believe. Then summarize the reality of this issue - "there are many people who believe in a god(s), and there are many people who don't. That is for you to learn about and make a decision about on your own."
I would really like it if the school systems actually worked that way but often in certain areas of the country they do not. Living in the midwest and growing up in a 99% white christian community I can attest to this.
If you tell her that you do not believe in god; she could take you at your word and believe it because you told her so and she trusts you. If you lie to her then you do her a disservice also. The best way to go is to think of something that would make her question her own beliefs and give her tools to come up with an answer for herself. IMO Teach them to think not blind belief systems.
One must consider who and what is it you are teaching to-- An open minded community, a bigoted community, a close minded community, a very simple community, a very complex community. One can teach in Hanover, NH and be mindfully creative, while a few miles away, they root for Rick Santorum.