Skeptics Guide to Surviving Religious Education

14 Jul

by Benjamen Johnson

I remember suffering through many years of religious education while I was a child. My mother was Catholic and that’s how she was going to raise me and my sister despite the fact I hadn’t believed in God since first grade. So I was sent to religious education every Wednesday night. I used to dread it; I hated learning about things that I knew were fairy tales.  I also felt really uncomfortable in class because I knew I was an outsider.

Of course I had to go and marry a Catholic. So my children starting religious education is non-negotiable. But I can give them some of the benefit of my 3+ decades of living as an atheist and skeptic. So if you’re skeptical of what you are being taught in religious education or religious private school, or even an non-believer who loves a believer and has to go through marriage classes, maybe these tips will help you get through the experience.

Learn, Learn, Learn…

Instead of feeling frustrated, look at the experience as an opportunity to learn, much of our culture and history is based on religion. For example many common phrases like, “a land flowing with milk and honey” and “an eye for and eye and a tooth for a tooth” are taken from the bible [1].

Furthermore, it always helps to know your opponent. Being a non-believer in a world of believers isn’t easy. Someday you’ll have to defend yourself. If you already know your opponent’s side of the argument, you’ll be able to stand your ground. I’d lay odds they won’t understand a skeptic or an atheist.

Ask Questions

If you don’t understand something, chances are the other students  or even the teacher don’t either.  Don’t be afraid to ask questions, just don’t be a jerk about it. Your goal isn’t to badger the teacher about some point of inconsistency, but to actually make the teacher think about what they are teaching instead of blindly following a syllabus. It’s doubtful that you’ll sway the teacher much, but you might wake up some of your bored classmates and get them thinking.

Talk to Your Fellow Students

Don’t just sit through class and leave, get to know your fellow students. Many of them are probably having the same doubts you are. Even if they are dyed-in-the-wool believers that doesn’t mean that you can’t be friends. Regardless of their beliefs, a class taken with friends is a lot more fun then one taken alone.


1.) Dawkins, Richard. (2006). Childhood Abuse and Religion. The GOD Delusion. (pp. 340-344). New York: Houghton Mifflin Company

One Response to “Skeptics Guide to Surviving Religious Education”

  1. Random Ntrygg July 14, 2011 at 6:25 pm #

    good post – you can learn even when you don’t agree with the content.

    learn about it, instead of learning it

    and view it as literature and a cultural phenomenon that is referenced in a lot of other literaure, tv and movies

    putting religion in it’s proper context is the best method to prevent it from being elevated and special uncritical social status

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