I personally don’t follow Ken Ham on twitter, so I thank Luciano Gonzales for drawing attention to this ignorance and issuing the challenge for bloggers to reply. It’s funny that Ken Ham would question what type of positive message an Atheist could pass on to their children, because unlike religion a secular life is limitless. No one aspect is held back because of what someone else says is true. Every opportunity is available, and no God can tell you that you don’t have the right to learn. Living a secular lifestyle gives us the opportunity to show our child that there is a big world outside of our little community, and she should embrace every chance she gets to create a new experience.
We are not forced to teach our children that those that disagree with our beliefs are not as good as we are. That their lives are not worth as much because they do not follow the same path. No, instead we get to teach our children that it is these different paths that make it possible to embrace our differences and use them to expand our minds. We can teach them that by engaging someone new you open yourself to a chance to gain knowledge you may otherwise have never encountered. When you teach your child to have an open mind when meeting someone new they allow themselves the opportunity to have a wide range of people to influence their journey. Unlike a believer that must engage, proselytize and if unsuccessful, move on. Atheists can choose who they want in their life without restriction and I can’t imagine anything more positive than that.
The positive message doesn’t just stop with one-on-one contact. This freedom that we receive as Atheists allows us to teach our children that there is no limit on how much they can learn. When they go to school they learn facts, not falsehoods. We can let our children know that while they are exploring the world of science they are not confined to only those things that do not conflict with their religion. Secular children can research cancer treatments, rates of success, how treatment has evolved and what is to come without having to believe that Jane Doe was saved by a miracle of God and John Doe died because it was part of God’s plan. What is more positive than teaching our children that there is always a chance that things in life will change. You never have to give up because advancements in science and technology are constantly bringing in new information … it’s up to us as a society, not God, to find the answers.
A positive, secular message is also quite prevalent in politics. As soon as we can begin to teach our children about the legal system in our country we can teach them about justice and equality. Instead of sending the message that people who hold different beliefs are automatically wrong and undeserving of the same rights as everyone else, we can teach them the truth. The truth is that it doesn’t matter how much money you make, the color of your skin, the gender you identify with, who you choose to love or your faith (or lack thereof). You are still an American and still deserve all of the freedoms are country was founded on. If we allow believers to use their faith to make our laws, we lose everything that this country is supposed to stand for. You may have the right to worship as you please, but you do not have the right to make it public policy and that is a positive message I will absolutely pass onto my child.
So if Mr. Ham really believes that a positive message is one that is built on discrimination, ostracization and dehumanization, I am proud to say that we disagree. The fact he thinks pushing this onto children before they are even able to question it, I cannot even comprehend. I will never teach my child to hate, teach her that there are limits to what she can do in her life and that she shouldn’t respect those that are different than she is. I will make sure to teach her that reason and critical thinking will get you much farther than blind faith. I will make sure she knows that she is responsible for the choices she makes and that the impact she makes on the world will be there long after she is gone… so she should try her best to make it a positive one.