I'm a High School Atheist Going to Christian School That Uses a Curriculum Written by Fundamentalists
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Hello. My name is Tyler. I’m 17 years old, an atheist, and currently in my senior year of high school at a private Christian institution that uses a curriculum known as Accelerated Christian Education.
If you’re unfamiliar with ACE, it’s a school curriculum for children K-12 written by fundamentalist Baptists. As you can imagine, these are probably not the most qualified people to write an educational program. On its website, ACE describes its methods this way: "By integrating character-building principles and Scripture memory into the academics, the program helps children grow to see life from God’s point of view."
If teaching God’s point of view requires you to teach blatant mistruths, maybe it’s time to rethink God’s point of view.
When conversing about my atheism, I invariably feel like I’m at an AA (Atheists Anonymous) meeting. Not that atheism is a disease to cure. It’s just that when you talk about it to people who believe in God, or God forbid, are religious fundamentalists, behind questions like “Why?” or “For how long?” I get the impression they think there’s a psychological or emotional problem that’s causing my disbelief.
No doubt, this reaction is to be expected, but I don’t have to like it. Having only a high school education, there are only a handful of topics I consider myself worthy to discuss with an individual of learned status. Most of the time I prefer to listen and cull the available knowledge from someone smarter than myself. The topic of the existence of God has been something different.
I have a reputation at school for loving to play devil’s advocate. (Pun intended.) I do it because I want to know that my opponent has fully thought through his or her ideas. But in this specific case, I am not disagreeing for the sake of disagreement. I am disagreeing because I really think that my opponent is, for lack of a better word, wrong. Wrong about what is arguably the most formidable question known to man.
Granted, this position becomes far more difficult to hold when it’s not only my peers with whom I disagree. As far as I can tell, the entire culture around me takes an opposite stance. My parents, my relatives, my friends, my classmates, my teachers, and my principal, if they believe as they profess, are all theists. Christians, more specifically. There may be the odd closeted atheist or agnostic here and there, but I have no knowledge of where any of these like-minded people might be or how to go about finding them. If I left my house and drove for 15 minutes, I can confidently say I would have more than 20 churches at my disposal.
So it's by no small coincidence that I am enrolled in a Christian school. And I’m an atheist. Sounds like fun, right?
A part of me enjoys going through ACE and finding its weak points. In the interest of honesty, were I given the the chance to start over and do my education elsewhere, I’m not sure I would change a thing. I think that ACE is at least partially responsible for my questioning nature.
As an aspiring rebel, I was never one to accept everything I read in my PACEs as absolute truth. When ACE told me that things like rock music was bad, I would shrug it off and listen to the Beatles anyway. It never mattered to me what any ACE executive would’ve thought. Even when they were right in front of me while I was at the ACE International Student Convention, what they thought of me just couldn’t have made less of a difference to my opinion of myself. Passing ACE’s excessive dress code was a necessary evil that I actually remember as a good time. I met some new friends and bonded with some of the ones I already had. Though, if I’m honest, I didn't have fun because of ACE; I had fun in spite of it.