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Saturday, November 5, 2011

When No Means Kill?

I've blogged before about my son's version of the Pledge of Allegiance, but for those of you who don't hang on my every post (Why the hell is that anyway? Maybe it's my overuse of the parenthetical citation)...I'll recap it for you. During the Pledge, he covers his heart with his right hand, like every other kid in school. Just before they are to recite the words "under god", he takes his right hand from his chest and slides it up to cover his mouth for those two words. He then casually returns his hand to his chest to say the important part, "...with liberty and justice for all."  This was not something I had talked to him about. The first time I saw him do it was during his fifth grade "graduation". Before that, I had not given much thought to him reciting the Pledge. It was something he had come up with on his own, and I have to admit...it made me very proud.

He is in sixth grade now, and is still doing the same thing each morning. A few weeks back, a few of the students noticed him covering his mouth during the Pledge and confronted him after class. Their question: "Do you believe in god?" My son's response was simple: "No". This did not sit well with a few of his classmates. After some pushing and name calling, it seemed the incident had come to an end. When my son came home from school, he didn't mention any of this to us. Later that night, he was playing games on Facebook (Yes we're "awful" parents...we let our sixth grader use Facebook) when a string of threatening messages were sent to him by two of his classmates. I am not going to share the entire message thread, but I will say that on more than one occasion he was sent, "I am going to kill you tomorrow" (After one of those my son asked, "why, because I'm an atheist?"...to which the boy replied, "No dumbass, because you don't believe in god. I don't know what atheist means"). It was after this last comment that my son came to me and explained what was going on. He was very frightened. He couldn't understand how his simple answer of "no" could anger anyone so much. I wish I didn't...but I do. There's nothing worse than seeing you child hurt or afraid.

I was able to contact the parents of both children and the situation was diffused. However, one of the mothers said something that really shocked me. When I explained to her that it seemed the "genesis" of the disagreement was that my son doesn't believe in god, she replied, "Oh, well we're Catholic. I can see why my son got confused." CONFUSED!!! WTF'nF!!!  I don't think either one of these two boys intended to kill my son. But I do think religion is teaching them they are superior to other people. Not that their ideas and beliefs are superior...but THEY are superior. That seems very dangerous to me.

We allowed our son to stay home from school the next day. When he did return to school, the boys apologized to him. All was forgiven. The incident has not deterred him from telling people what he believes however (which was something I was concerned about). A few days later, we were approached at the local mall by a pair of Boy Scouts and their troop leader. They asked him if he was interested in joining, he said, "I'm an atheist, and you don't accept us. I don't want to be where I'm not wanted." As we walked to our car I had a few tears in my eyes. He's also still covering him mouth during "under god". He'll be okay.

I shared the story on Google+ and received many kind words from the people who read it, including Penn Jillette. He later mentioned it towards the end of a Penn Point video he did about atheists being bullied (video below). The video brought a big smile to my son's face. He had one of those "hey, I'm not alone" moments watching it (which, as I've mentioned before, is what Penn's radio show did for me). Penn's a great guy. My heart goes out to that family in Cincinnati he talks about in the video. You are not alone either. We (atheists) all love you.

8 comments:

  1. I'm sorry to hear that your little one had to go through that, but I'm also glad to hear that it had a suitably positive resolution. Give him a big hug from me!

    The closest I came to religious bullying in school was actually from my religious education teacher when I was about 11. I had loaned a friend a copy of the book "The Omen", and he was caught reading it in class (it was naturally confiscated, and he bravely told the teacher it was mine). In year assembly, shortly after, the RE teacher stormed towards me, threw the book in my lap and said, "I don't want to see this satanic filth in my school again, you little anti-christ". And that was it ... fortunately, that was also the end of it, none of my classmates cared (it's Britain, so most people are fairly apatheistic) and, if anything, it pretty muched helped destroy what few remaining threads of faith I might have had.

    You're absolutely right in say that your son, and indeed all young non-believers in similar such difficult situations, are not alone. There are plenty of us out there, and our numbers are increasing by the day. And that can only be a good thing, especially to those who suffer discrimination and abuse at the hands of so-called loving theists.

    Great post, cheers for that ...

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    1. Did you report that teacher to the principal? Or was she within her rights to confiscate a child's book and call you names?

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  2. Thanks Kris. Hug delivered. I wish more people were apatheistic in the U.S. We're just "maggoty" with Christians.

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  3. As a fellow parent and atheist, I just have to say how proud I am of what your son does every day! Major kudos to him! Please pass along a hug, if you wouldn't mind, and let him know that there are other kids just like him. My Son is one of them! He also refuses to say the "under god" part of the pledge. He's also open about his atheism, and has been a bit of a role model to other kids at his school.

    I would encourage your son to be as open as he'd like about it, and maybe he can be an inspiration to other kids who have been afraid to "come out", for fear of being different. Again, major props to him!

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  4. Absolutely ridiculous. My son is only 8 months old, but I'm terrified for him, I got bullied incessantly in school just for being smart and pretty, I didn't identify as an atheist until I was 18.

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  5. I hope that by the time my daughter goes to school in 2 years she wont have to deal with any of this discrimination and bigotry, but I doubt that's going to happen. It's sad that we have to deal with it today! It's estimated that 31.5% of the world is Christian, 23.2% Muslim, 15% Hindu, 7.1% Buddhist, 0.2 Jewish, 6.7% unknown... that means only 16.3% are right.

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  6. I'm terribly curious. What did the boy scouts say in reply to your son?

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    1. Nothing. Crickets. They looked at me and then the adult leading their "pack" or "troop" or whatever they're called.

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