Don’t mention the G word in schools

IF you ask a class of 5th graders to write about someone they “look up to,” don’t be shocked when at least one of them decides to write about God.

That’s exactly what happened in Millington, Tennessee earlier when 10-year-old Erin selected God as her idol because, as she explained, “He is the reason I am on this earth.”

A red flag went up for Erin’s teacher who told the student she couldn’t pick God and directed her to choose someone else.

Erin complied and picked Michael Jackson, a choice acceptable to the teacher.

Not surprisingly, Erin’s mother was upset by the message the teacher was sending to Erin and the other kids about not expressing their faith in class.

After the mother went public with the story, the “God is my idol” controversy circled the globe with tweets in multiple languages.

The school district immediately recognized that the teacher had made the wrong decision. In a meeting with the family, school officials, including the teacher, apologized and acknowledged that Erin has the right to write about God.

Under current law, as explained in the U.S. Department of Education guidelines, “students may express their beliefs about religion in the form of homework, artwork and other written and oral assignments free of discrimination based on the religious content of their submissions.”

Of course, students attending public schools can’t take over classrooms by delivering sermons or leading classmates in prayer. But if student speech meets the requirements of the assignment – and Erin’s clearly did – students are free to express their religious or non-religious views.

The Tennessee school district’s quick response in support of Erin is in sharp contrast to how a number of other schools have handled these conflicts in a string of high-profile cases over the past decade.

Who can forget, for example, the school district in New Jersey that went to court to defend their decision to keep a second-grade child from singing “Awesome God” at her school’s talent show?

In 2006, a court ruled that the school district was wrong to censor the child. But the damage had been done, illustrating how one bad story can create the false impression that all public schools are hostile to religion.

Erin’s teacher later admitted that she was confused about what the law required – and nervous about allowing God-talk in a public school classroom.


24 thoughts on “Don’t mention the G word in schools

  1. Growing up in the ‘Non-God’ school system, I can’t even express how much of my life has been wasted trying to understand the Godless philosophy, in the assumption that it is what truly smart people live by. The problem is, day-after-day, living according to God has proven ten-times more beneficial, in work and spirit, than seeking to live by my own accord. It isn’t true because we believe it, we believe it because it is true.


    • Is it acceptable to talk about the Abrahamic god in a publicly funded school? Not all the atendees of said school come from a Judaic family. Some of the students may be from Hindu, Buddhist, atheistic, and agnostic parents. Why is it OK to foist your paradigm on kids, regardless of parents wishes?

      Surely, such religious eduction should be undertaken by the kids parents in the sanctity of their own homes, churches, familial surroundings, etc. There is no place for religious instruction and/or indoctrination in a publicly funded education system.

      If parents feel strongly about religious education, send them to a religious school. It’s their choice.


      • Yes because clearly a conversation between those who seek to live for a higher power and by a higher authority on the grounds of what is good – God – would bring about total chaos and hostility. Better to just ignore God altogether, despite the universal tendency of all prior human generations to believe in a God.


    • Come off it Macduff! :- “It isn’t true because we believe it, we believe it because it is true.”

      It’s “true” because you’ve been conditioned (probably from the cradle up) to ‘believe’ it’s “true”. (Not ‘factual’, mind.)

      And while that may do no harm ~ particularly to people too unimaginative or afraid to take responsibility for their life and the world in which it’s lived ~ it doesn’t, in reality, achieve any more than any other sophorific.

      By all means live with whatever crutches you will, but plase don’t declare a thing ‘true’ unless you can demonstrate it’s so.


      • if the spirit of God was bound to human experiments to demonstrate his actuality it would nullify the entire mission of the Christian man and render his life on earth meaningless before God.To live by faith or not is each man’s choice, but at no point is God, even in a purely hypothetical scenario, below man. This omnipotent being, even in a pure hypothetical, would show himself on his own terms, not when man desires proof.


      • Yes mcwatty9, I’ve heard all that before.
        But all it does is prop up undemonstrable castles in the air with equally undemonstrable foundations.

        How do you know that “but at no point is God, even in a purely hypothetical scenario, below man.”?
        Or that “This omnipotent being, even in a pure hypothetical, would show himself on his own terms, not when man desires proof.”??
        etc. etc.
        ….and, in fact, what demonstrates this ‘being’s’ alleged omnipotence at all?
        That ‘He’ can’t even overcome ‘sin’ in the world surely demonstrates ‘His’ impotence.
        Or, at the very least, his dependence upon the support and connivance of his ‘creations’.

        ie. …Those who would have to be omniscient to know of god’s alleged omniscience.


  2. “But the damage had been done, illustrating how one bad story can create the false impression that all public schools are hostile to religion.

    Erin’s teacher later admitted that she was confused about what the law required – and nervous about allowing God-talk in a public school classroom.”

    Why would the Teacher feel nervous, if it wasn’t that there was increasing hostility to religion?


  3. i, ROBOT?
    By Carson Weitnauer

    Prominent atheist Richard Dawkins says emphatically, “What are all of us but self-reproducing robots? We have been put together by our genes and what we do is roam the world looking for a way to sustain ourselves and ultimately produce another robot child.”

    Sam Harris, a leading atheist public intellectual, has provided the argument for this understanding. Here’s what Sam Harris wrote on his blog: “You seem to be an agent acting of your own free will. The problem, however, is that this point of view cannot be reconciled with what we know about the human brain. All of our behaviour can be traced to biological events about which we have no conscious knowledge: this has always suggested that free will is an illusion.

    ”What’s important here is the argument; this isn’t an appeal to authority, as if “what Sam Harris says about atheism must be true.” Instead, we’re looking to understand his logic and reasoning.

    Harris is saying that the evidence from neuro-science is that our brains control us, which eliminates the idea that “we” control our brains.

    So, if atheism is true, then we need to re-imagine how we understand human beings.

    Is free will an illusion as atheists argue?

    Atheism requires us to stop thinking of humans as independent, free actors who make their own choices, who decide to love people, and who take courageous stands for noble causes. Instead, we need to think about human beings in pretty much the same way that we think about robots.

    How do we understand robots? Here’s a definition from Merriam-Webster: “A machine that looks like a human being and performs various complex acts (as walking or talking), of a human being.” From Wikipedia: “A robot is a mechanical contraption which can perform tasks on its own, or with guidance. In practice a robot is usually an electro-mechanical machine which is guided by computer and electronic programming.” Why, if atheism is true, should we think that humans are like robots? Think through this:

    For humans, all of our behaviour is caused by biological events which we have no knowledge of and no ability to change.

    For robots, all of their behaviour is caused by software/hardware events which they have no knowledge of and no ability to change. Sam Harris is quite clear on this point. For instance, he considers the argument that quantum mechanics implies that there is indeterminacy in our brains and this means there might be some kind of free will. Here’s his devastating response:

    “The indeterminacy specific to quantum mechanics offers no foothold. Even if our brains were quantum computers, the brains of chimps, dogs, and mice would be quantum computers as well. (I don’t know of anyone who believes that these animals have free will.)”

    When it comes to free will, what’s the difference between chimps, dogs, mice, humans, and robots? The only difference is the kind of physical cause. For organisms, their choices are determined by a biological cause like DNA; for robots, their choices are determined by a digital cause like software. But the “thoughts” and actions of both humans and robots are determined by causes outside of their control. Therefore, when it comes to what determines our thoughts, desires, and actions, we are very similar to robots.

    What are the implications of this? Let’s consider what we know about robots.


  4. Part 2
    Does a robot have free will? No. Robots act in strict accordance with the software programs embedded in their hardware and within the limits of their mechanical capacity.

    Can a robot act morally? No. Robots just do what they are programmed to do. A robot might kill an innocent person, using a gun, but we wouldn’t blame the robot. We might destroy the robot to keep otherpeople safe, but the blame belongs to the person who designed the robot and its software.

    Does a robot have hope? No. Any individual robot’s existence is trivial, temporary, and insignifi cant in the grand scheme of things. It is hard to even know what it would mean for a robot to have hope.

    Can a robot love? No. A robot has no soul. If a robot acts in a benefi cial way towards a human, this was not the robot’s choice, and wasn’t prompted by “love”, but was pre-determined by the robot’s software. We can’t credit the robot for the good action, since the robot didn’t choose to do it and couldn’t have done otherwise.

    Can a robot reason? No. It can run through various algorithms to arrive at the right answer to questions. This may facilitate playing chess or Jeopardy better than humans can. But no thinking originates from the robot itself; the robot is only running the software program that its creators developed. Nor is the robot coming to its conclusions having carefully weighed various reasons and choosing the most rational idea; instead, it is deterministically acting upon whichever algorithm its program is designed to select in that particular circumstance.

    Does a robot have purpose? At first glance, it might seem like they do. After all, the designer of a robot creates the robot for a certain purpose, and people make and buy robots in order to accomplish certain goals. There is a reason and a goal to their existence.

    But would human robots have purpose? No. We are an accidental byproduct of the cosmos. It just so happened that our earth was conducive to life, that life began on this planet, and that random mutation and natural selection led to our existence. But there is no plan to this or any rationale to our existence; there is simply no purpose for our lives. There is no goal for our lives, besides perhaps the propagation of our genes, but our genes don’t intend to do that. In addition, whatever purpose we choose to adopt for our lives is entirely arbitrary. There is no transcendent standard by which to measure various “purposes” for human existence as more or less worthy.

    Therefore, the causal chain leading up to the creation of robots is a purposeless one. There’s the DNA script which automates the human actions, which causes the design and assembly of the robots, and then the software automates the robot’s actions. But at no point in the chain did a person choose to build a robot – the forces of nature compelled a human organism to build one. And all of the purposes for which humans build robots are themselves arbitrary. So our lack of purpose erodes even robots having purpose.

    So, to conclude: robots have no free will, no moral ability, no hope, no love, no rational capacity, and no purpose. Since, if atheism is true, we are like robots in the relevant way (our thoughts, desires and actions are just determined by DNA instead of by software), humans also lack free will, moral ability, hope, love, the ability to reason, and have no purpose.

    Therefore, if atheism is true, then the rational conclusion is that humans are very much like robots. This is a profoundly cheerless and dreary perspective on humans.

    To the degree, then, that you have reason to think that humans are more than loveless, hopeless, purposeless robots, you have a reason to believe that atheism is false.

    Courtesy Reasons for God, http://www.ReasonsForGod.or

    Printed in CHALLENGE the good news paper—August, 2013


    • ?? “Does a robot have free will? No. “.
      How would HE know??
      I might as well ~ and as validly ~ claim that the robot DOES have Free Will.

      If that’s so ~ and I make no admissions/assertions ~ how does this twit know that said robots is acting “in strict accordance with the software programs embedded in their hardware” purely because they have exercised their Free Will and chosen to do so? Has anybody asked the robots?
      ….or the god of the robots, which I say exists and lives in a universe-sited tin can. The evidence is there to see ….. for all believers.

      At the end of the day there’s as much evidence for Robotic Free Will as there is for ‘Human’ Free Will.

      ….and as for the rest of the assertion:- (“within the limits of their mechanical capacity.”), one might point out that the the limits of a robot’s mechanical capacity might well include walking on water… Jesus allegedly did.
      Again, the actual evidence for either of them doing so is of equal value. 😉


  5. gawd you’d make me laugh, Mon….if you weren’t so serious.

    Every ‘conclusion’ proposed in this lot is ILLogical (and mostly an attempt to promote a ‘god of the gaps’.
    Before ANY such issue can be reasonably (ie NOT in a religiously robotic manner) be entertained the author needs to
    (a) define his terms (and parameters!), and
    (b) have even a tiny factual idea about what a brain is and how it works.
    And, MOST PARTICULARLY, why it exists at all. For example, how does the author ~ or anybody else among god’s groupies (a good analogy! 😉 ) differentiate between the function
    of “software” and ‘brain’.
    He/they do NONE of that.

    …and the waffle about ‘love’ is a basic ~ and very obvious ~ strawman. Any activity motivated by ‘love’ in a homosap can be performed at least as well by an appropriately-programmed inorganic CPU….and much less haphazardly and/or erratically

    And the bottom line is this: both organic and nonorganic CPUs are made of basic locally-produced matter and designed to be programmed. (and, let’s face it, it’s much easier to construct and program an organic CPU; any two fecund morons (of opposite sexes) can do it ~ often without a clue about HOW they’re doing it! 😉 )
    And since all programming is aimed at performing a particular task, and nonorganic robots come with design-and-operational manual, the only real question: is what purpose is the organic CPU aimed at??

    It’s clear ‘god’ doesn’t know.
    So what;s your best guess? 🙂

    And if you’d read ‘African Genesis’ you might pick up a few insights; there’s half a chapter about the function OF the human brain. (ie. not HOW it functions.)


  6. The issue of religion (God) has both positives and negatives. Virtually all the world’s institutionalized religions, or faiths, are composed from documents which both declare themselves knowers and authorities on the person and will of God for all humankind when very much in those manuscripts are OPINIONS, not the priviledged knowledge of God.

    Exposing the very young mind to such highly convoluted and complex and contradictory and threatening dogmas would not be done nor allowed by loving, rationally healthy parents.

    On the positive side of the notions of an involved, loving cosmic parental power at work in our lives can be the ideas of the most humane of civil, moral ideals and principles. Standing in another ‘ shoes ‘ naturally builds bridges between people, other than our otherwise selfish and competitive natures. Learning to keep ones desires moderate helps one better maintain a more rationally clear-minded peacefulness. Realizing how majestic and precious the Heart of life is opens ones soul to so many new perspectives and experiences.

    I am – Protesting material nature’s harmful, killing life-order, and priviledged witness of various loving mystical persons involved in this life, and student of the prophets moses, jesus and krishna.


  7. Well Mag, this issue divides between those which submissively believe in documents labelled as the knowledge and authority of God from those which have found, and are determined for, genuine knowledge concerning this life’s ‘ concealed ‘ presence of parties which express both a commitment and dedication to the most humane of civil, moral values and practices.

    You discount my holy knowledge as ‘ woo woo ‘, which implies you’ve closed your mind on the subject of God, or perhaps you’re trying to negate you, or anyone, has any responsibilities to others, both human and animal.

    Personally, I care about those which suffer in so many many ways in this life, and largely unjustly, but please, lets not jump the track to argue what is injustice.

    Personally, I dislike harming and killing animals for food, fashion, medicine etc. I dislike the violent people in this life… and those in political power hold the blood of countless millions upon their own life. I dislike money and capitalism… not that labour should be forced without gain, but the enormous harms those are responsible for, across countless billions of lives.

    Now, I could go on, but if humankind ever sincerely desires and intends a true progress, then we NEED help, which I reason can only be found in a loving cosmic power, hence, God.

    I’m interested to know where you stand on material nature’s harmful, killing life-order. I’m interested to know where you stand on the issue of our social responsibility, if any.

    I remember you.


    • Mere assertions on your part. I have heard the ‘closed mind’ argument before, many times. It is a useful way to denigrate others that do not agree with your paradigm. Have you closed your mind to Hinduism? Same tactic, futile technique.

      As to your final sentence, it sounds that your do not like the idea of a materialistic outlook on life and (dare I say) evolution. The idea of an overseer to all this is indeed compelling to a concerned human being. Just because one would like this kind of scenario to be accurate does not make it so!

      Note: what is genuine knowledge?


      • I’ve offered numerous significant evidences of my ‘ priviledged ‘ ( by my meaningful sacrifices and sincere determination for whats right ) personal perceptions and experiences of the ‘ concealed ‘ mystical presence in this life, so who’s demeaning who here !

        ( btw : in my understanding, knowledge derives from a personal witness of some thing, in turn compared to some other thing, soby gaining meaning and value. Typically, other people are involved, and if a concensus is found, we usually believe some genuine knowledge has been gained, relative to how independent and honest those others parties perceptions and statements are, also how broadly set there knowledges are, how open they are to large new ideas, and, of course, how ego-centric and competitive they are. ( superior status-hungry science’s achilles heal ))

        Confusing good reasons for my arguements for a loving spiritual powers intervention in this life with merely ‘ liking that idea ‘ represents a closed-minded attitide. Certainly, by rejecting all my claims colors you entirely as closed-minded.

        I’m not disputing the sciences of archaeological digs and carbon dating… what I am pointing to is there’s more going on in this life than science is willing to look into, and we all can see science has lead the world into a technological, industrial mass-consumerism and fatale toxic planet genocide.

        My point remains… although our institutes and authorities rave about how progressive we are, most stand beside the saying ‘ the more things change, the more they stay the same ‘ . I reason we NEED help, and I place no trust in corporate-financed science to resolve this life’s ills.

        You Mag, appear to accept this life’s harmful order, discounting and opposing various efforts for a true and lasting resolution. I can’t prove you wrong, neither can you prove me wrong, and each of us hold our views with faith ; your faith is in this life you think you most really know, and in material science. Time will tell.


      • Thank you for your cordial reply. We will start with ‘closed minded’. This is an interesting conundrum. I am well read in various fields and enjoy attaining knowledge, regardless of whether I agree with said literature. Other people’s paradigms are very interesting to me, this is one of the reasons I contribute to this site (along with others of various philosophies). Just because I reject the idea of a ‘celestial overseer’ after reading ontological arguments, does this make me closed minded. Maybe it is because it is your particular view that I reject? I also reject phrenology, tarot, new age beliefs, numerology out of hand. Does this also make me closed minded? One may argue that I would be closed minded if I did not read other opinions or contribute to this site. Ergo, am I open minded. Interesting dilemma, isn’t it?

        Basically, I agree with your statement that capitalism is basically flawed, and that it cannot be looked at to fix anything. It works on growth to survive as a viable economic system. The problem here is that the growth should be around 4% (as postulated by Adam Smith), not the 12% that current multi nationals insist on. It also works on the premise of depleting resources in order to achieve greater profits, with scant regard to the problem caused to the ecosystems, environment, and problems caused to the denizens of said economy.

        We now have the major dichotomy in our individual paradigms. We do need help, in this regard you are absolutely correct in your assessment. The difference between us is that I reckon we need a huge shift in the way we run the economy and view the ramifications of our consumerist society. We need a more equitable system to feed, clothe, educate, and house all societal members. This shift in dialectical materialism must come from us, not some supernatural entity that (if one actually exists) seem to display scant regard or even care for his creation? We have to figure it out for ourselves

        Thanks for reading this overlong diatribe.


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