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I can fix ignorance; I can't fix stupid!

By Bob O ~

I'm an atheist and a 52-year veteran of public education. I need not tell anyone the problems associated with having to "duck" the "Which church do you belong to?" with my students and their parents. Once told by a parent that they would rather have a queer for their sons' teacher than an atheist! Spent HOURS going to the restroom right when prayers were performed: before assemblies, sports banquets, "Christmas Programs", awards assemblies, etc... Told everyone that I had a bladder problem. And "yes" it was a copout to many of you, but the old adage (yes, it's religious) accept what you can't change, change that which you can and accept the strength to know the difference! No need arguing that which you will never change.

Enough of that. What I'd like to impart is my simple family chemistry. My wife is a Baptist - raised in a Baptist Orphanage (whole stories there) and is a believer. She did not know my religious preference until our relationship advanced to the "next stage" We had a secular, government wedding at the courthouse and then I did it again in the Baptist Church. raising our children with the idea that they will make their own decisions when the time was right for them. Keeping with that premise, when the holidays came around the inclination is to evangelize your beliefs - even us atheists. Not so with us. I only discussed religion with my children when the questions were brought up by them. Being honest and straight forward BUT non-judgmental.

Our family celebrated an abundance of Christmases when they were young – from one based on the Quakers (I graduated from a Quaker College, BA; in France for advanced degrees); a Greek Orthodox Christmas; a Catholic Christmas; Seventh Day Adventist – the twins had a friend that invited us to their church; we celebrated Hanukkah, twice – the kids insisted on this, they enjoyed the many days of gifts. The use of the menorah, Yule log, and Christmas trees were prevalent each season. Celebrated in December sometimes and January at others. With each new celebration we were diligent about going to the appropriate church or synagogue and respectfully participating in all the festivities.

I've been criticized by many of my more enlightened friends who claim we confused the kids. If my kids wanted to be Catholic, I wanted them to be the best Catholics in the world - Muslims, the best Muslims, Atheists - the best Atheists. It should be THEIR decision not ours. Even got the blessing (????) from my Baptist wife. The grandkids enjoy coming to Lolli and Pop's for Christmas, because it's always different. And they're encouraged to ask questions.

Our oldest is headed for the Naval Academy where he will be required to take an oath that will reference the Christian religion. He will take it with the knowledge that his will be based on his personal commitment to his honesty and integrity - he and I have discussed his decision because he felt uncomfortable being insincere (reference the serenity prayer above). He knows that many that are believers will take the oath and will not fulfill those pledges.

I think that on occasion we atheists fall into the trap that religion sets for their followers – we judge. That should not happen! The vast majority of them (religious people) will not change and trying never works. I have my serenity prayer version that I live by, and it helps me cope. "I can fix ignorance, given the chance; I can't fix stupid!"