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My Homeschool Story

The Thinking Atheist had a podcast about homeschooling last Tuesday. I wish it had been a day that I could listen to the show live, because I might have called in if it was.

I was a home schooled kid during high school. I had been in the public schools from K to 8th grade. I strongly suspect my parents wanted to homeschool me since they had been listening to Focus on the Family shows about how horrible the public schools are. I jumped on the opportunity because I was having social trouble at school. My peers were a total enigma to me. I didn’t know how to deal with the middle school meanness except to run from it, I was totally ignorant when it came to the music and shows my peers liked, and I couldn’t get why anyone would care all about what clothes I wore or how I did my hair. So I was eager for the chance to stay at home to study and get to take walks at lunchtime when all the neighborhood kids were away at school. Sometimes I think having the socialization of high school would have been helpful to me, but it wasn’t being home schooled that made me an introvert. That’s just the way I was.

Most people whose stories I’ve heard about homeschooling reference a mother who was a housewife and who spent the whole day teaching the kids lessons. That is not how it was for me. I was more self-taught than parent-taught. Mom was the primary breadwinner in our family, and while Dad was the stay at home parent he wasn’t heavily involved in my studies. I would check the assignments on the curriculum list, do the work, and get Dad to supervise if I needed to take a test. I also required his assistance for spelling tests. I did well when it came to things like grammar and reading and book reports. When it came to things like Algebra I barely learned anything…I seriously needed a teacher who was trained to teach math. I didn’t catch up in Algebra until I took some remedial courses in college. But that did not stop me from scoring all A’s in High School, whether I’d truly learned the material or not. Somehow I still managed to score a 27 in the ACT exam, mostly riding on my advanced (for my grade level) reading and vocabulary skills.

My school curriculum was decidedly of the Christian fundamentalist sort…and I mean more fundamentalist than my parents or church. In subjects like math and physics, this mostly meant there were quotes in the introduction of each chapter about how things like math and logic and physics came from God, blah blah blah. The actual material on math and physics was still the same as I probably would have seen in a public school textbook. However, that was not the case for biology. I can’t remember if the curriculum was strictly six-day creationist, but it treated the idea of theistic evolution as a dangerous “compromise with the world.” Almost needless to say, I learned no good information on the theory of evolution but I did read a lot of creationist propaganda. In fact, there was a sizable section of my biology text that was all about how evolution is a lie. It’s a shame that I never had been exposed to much real scientific information about evolution at the time so I didn’t know any better than to buy into the propaganda.

The things I remember from my history lessons were about how George Washington was a devout Christian (highly in doubt) and included a film by David Barton called “America’s Godly Heritage”. What is really funny when I think back on it is that David Barton seriously had me convinced that all of America’s problems started in the 60’s with the sexual revolution and the liberal takeover. When I first saw the film Walk the Line about Johnny Cash, I was shocked to learn that drug abuse existed in the 50’s. This film came out in 2005, six years after I had graduated high school and 2 years after I realized I was an atheist. This is an example of just how sheltered and misinformed I had been. I also recall that my economics textbook was based in the Old Testament, mainly around the leadership strategies of Moses. However, even if it were truthful at all, it was so dense and boring to read that I never understood any of it. Economics was another subject I had to wait until college to learn.

So do I regret having homeschooled, and do I think I would have done better had I stayed in the public schools? Honestly, I don’t know. It’s hard to say what would have happened if we had made a different decision. I liked homeschooling in that I could work at my own pace and not have to sit around and wait for the slower learners in a classroom setting to catch up. In most subjects I am perfectly capable of reading and researching on my own. In others, such as Algebra, a good teacher would have helped greatly. Of course, it would have been much better if I had a real biology textbook rather than the Christian Fundamentalist propaganda textbook from the Christian Liberty Academy Satellite Schools program.

For anyone who is interested, here are some picture of my class ring from high school. The images were of my own choosing when I was 18 years old.

Presupositionalism: Shackles for your reason

I listened to a Thinking Atheist podcast last week. The title of the podcast was “Proof that God Exist,” which is the title for the website of the Christian apologist who was the guest speaker, Sye ten Bruggencate. The guy is a presupositionalist  who fully expects unbelievers to not understand his arguments because unbelievers have rejected God and do not accept the authority of Christ over their reasoning. Yes, Sye, you can keep your mental handcuffs to yourself. And he says he could prove that everyone really believes in God, even atheists, because God (though Paul) said so in Romans. It’s just that atheists are suppressing the truth though their wickedness or something like that. And people accuse atheists of being arrogant? What utter bullcrap. I’m amazed how Seth and his other guest stayed so polite to this guy. They must have been fully prepared for what this guy was about to spew.

There was another interesting thing the apologist said, and that is that God is not really all loving, but he is all good. And that this god does not intend for everyone to go to heaven, because he is sovereign. This is consistent with the idea Romans Chapter 9 that is was perfectly just for God to have loved Jacob but hated Esau before they had even been born or done anything. (This passage was the source of much doubt for me when I was studying this book for Bible Quizzing. Jesus loves all the children of the world? Perhaps not so much.) And  according to Sye,  the original sin, Eve’s sin, was not eating an apple (or whatever kind of fruit would contain knowledge of good and evil) but was rather her desire to be autonomous and make her own choices rather than just blindly obeying god. So, desiring to make our one’s own choices in live is evil. The ultimate in “anti-choice” theology.

Another big whopper he said was that a real Christian cannot reason out of Christianity because they have surrendered their reason to God. Like what he clearly has done. Don’t think outside the box, don’t question the box, just believe and obey. Therefore, there are no true ex-Christians. Voilá.

If you would like to listen to the podcast itself, you can access it on the web here:://www.blogtalkradio.com/thethinkingatheist/2012/04/14/proof-that-god-exists. It is also available via iTunes. I recommend the other podcasts by The Thinking Atheist as well. It is one of my favorites podcasts ever.

Mocking faith?

I found this on my Facebook wall today, though I’m not exactly sure where it originated. Nor have I heard of Simon Amstell before today. I do like this quote though, and I think it captures perfectly what Richard Dawkins had to say at the Reason Rally about how to deal with faith. I don’t think I would ever talk to a religious person (or any adult) as a child, and I’m sure Simon is making a joke here (he is a comedian, after all). But seriously, is there not a large grain of truth to this?

 

Question with Boldness: Thoughts on Belief

“Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blind-folded fear.”
— Thomas Jefferson

What do I believe? I find it a bit odd when people say that atheists believe in nothing. To be human is to hold beliefs, for better or worse.  I am giving some thought to the things that I believe. I can’t say that I know that all of these things are true, or that I can prove them to be true, but they seem true to me.

  • I believe that people are basically good. That when they are freed from fear, want, and desperation people will usually do the right thing.
  • I believe that the natural word provides enough mystery and wonder to make the notion of supernatural miracles just seem silly and wrong.
  • I believe that the best guides to the truth are science and philosophy working in cooperation with one another. Science provides the facts, and philosophy makes the facts meaningful.
  • I believe that the best guide to morality is reason guided by empathy.
  • I believe that all gods in all religions were invented by human minds, and that the supernatural claims of all religions are false.

When I was a Christian teenager, when my doubts about the religious tenants that I had been taught would rise to the surface, I would try to beat them down again by declaring my belief (even if only to myself) and insisting that I really did believe. The problem with that is clear to me now. I had been told that there were certain things that I must believe, no matter what, or my soul was in danger of eternal damnation. Or even worse, that if I disbelieved in the story of Christianity my remaining years on earth would become empty and meaningless. To tell the truth, I was pleasantly surprised when I found out that this last statement was a complete and utter lie. Life actually becomes more meaningful when you are not trying to force yourself to believe in things that don’t quite make sense.

Beliefs

Beliefs (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Actually, I’d say it’s not so much that I didn’t believe the doctrines, but rather that I didn’t know that not believing them was a viable option. It’s hard enough to question your beliefs even without the threat of punishment if you should change your mind. This is the difference between this enumeration of beliefs that I am doing now and what I did as a Christian teenager. Now I am actually pondering my own mind and behavior and trying to pull to the surface what I really believe, rather than making a declaration of the things I think I ought to believe.

Everyone has beliefs. In fact it would be impossible to function as human beings without beliefs, because we are always acting in the face of incomplete knowledge. I find myself in a bit of a dilemma when trying to enumerate the things that I believe because I have the strong suspicion that a large number of things I believe are lurking below the surface of my consciousness…the assumptions that I hold without knowing that I am holding them until the truth comes up and slaps me in the face.

This is a point of humility for this atheist. Sure, you can make a lot of the fact that I boldly questioned the religious beliefs of my upbringing and found them to be utterly unsupported. It is a big deal. I had a lot of help–such as a friend who questioned me and asked “how do you know?” and books and professors that teachers who showed me that there are other ways to look at the world. The sort of beliefs that worry me the most now are those that are so engrained in our culture that we may rarely if ever be exposed to other points of view. What other irrational and unsupported beliefs might I be holding now?

The red flag that I might be holding one of these false beliefs is if I get angry or offended at someone else’s words. Why would someone else’s expressed opinions ever have that effect on me?  The key is to keep learning and keep searching and keep questioning. Any opportunity to adjust my belief to be more in tune with reality is an opportunity that should not be missed.

So go ahead, offend me.