Atheist kid bullied at school

I have a friend whose daughter is an atheist. She goes to a school where the children are encouraged to participate in faith-based activities. It’s a private school, so it isn’t restricted under the areligious policy with which government schools are supposed to be governed. The thing is, she is frequently drawn into arguments where she has to defend her “lack of faith”.

What are the parents saying?

Many government schools have never entirely shifted from being Christian institutions, and still sing Christian songs and celebrate Christian traditions. A child whose parents have actively encouraged in the avoiding of organized religion may experience religious bullying in the classroom and playground.

Some atheist parents are happy to explain the basics of how certain religions work- how deities are worshipped, what ceremonies take place and so on. Others are more insistent that religion is meaningless and not worth discussing.

There are also parents whose faith is not limited to their own family, but it revolves around the sharing of faith, so children are encouraged to share their beliefs in the hope that others will be exposed to “the truth”.

A more vicious example of kids victimizing other kids is, for example, one child offering another child a bite of food which their religion forbids, just for laughs.

While parents are free to worship whomever they choose (or free to choose NOT to worship at all), children of atheists and religious adherents will likely discuss their own choices at school. If tolerance is not in place, children can easily get into fights about their choices or victimize each other. When adults hold strong views, these may be transferred to their children, who may not exercise tact when dealing with others.

It’s worth noting that during the course of 12 years at school your child will develop long-lasting habits when it comes to dealing with other people, as well as come across different options when it comes to faith (or the absence of faith). If these are done in the context of tolerance (even when it comes to robust discussion), this will ensure that he is confident with the choices he makes. Also, he will be able to remain friends with kids whose life choices are different to his own.

If you are a religious parent/an atheist parent, do you encourage your child to accept that other people have the right to believe in an alternative?

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