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The Young Atheist's Survival Guide: Helping Secular Students Thrive Paperback – December 3, 2012
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In a fast moving and well written manner the book discusses the problems, and solutions to these problems, encountered by young American atheists in the public school system. These problems centre around discrimination by their religious school mates, and school officials. One telling example from the book was a pastor who asked his students to draw a picture of both a christian and an atheist. The students drew the christian as a happy and good man, while the atheist was depicted as a drinker, a smoker, and a bad person.
In response to this, and more generally, to meet like minded people and to discuss issues, atheist students are now forming atheist clubs across the USA. It would be warming to be able to say that school teachers and administrators unreservedly performed their job and duty and helped and encouraged these students to do so, but this is not the case. Atheist students were confronted with opposition and outright vilification by their teachers and their school bureaucracy. More so, from their fellow students and parents, some students received physical threats. No sign of "love thy neighbour". In response many students successfully called upon the USA constitution, which separates church from state, in a bid for equal recognition and acceptance.
In the USA, it is illegal for public schools to promote religion, and schools must deal equally with students of all and no faiths. More so, atheist clubs are legal entities, and must be granted the same rights and privileges as other student groups. Interestingly, students can legally chose to remain seated and not recite the oath of allegiance, as it refers to god.
The book concentrates on examples from the lives of the students concerned. Interwoven with this is the wider world, parents (there's and others), the media, lawyers, the school, the community, priests and pastors, and how these affected the struggle by the student's to form their own groups and participate in their school life. It is very sad to say that some parents disowned their children when their atheism was revealed. Happily, the book does conclude with a realistic and optimistic view of the future.
The book is both a summary of the situation to date, and a primer on how to form and foster an atheist group at school. It contains examples, contact details, and text that will help any student interested in pursuing this worthy goal.
If you are a student, the parent of a student, either in or not in the USA, or you work or have dealings with a school or students, or if you have an interest in human rights, then read this book.
An easy read that I highly recommend.
Thanks Hemant Metha for writing this. Thanks Ellery Shempp and all the activists since the 1950s who have risked torment and abuse by doing what is right.