Dawn Sherman Featured in the Chicago Tribune

Imagine the pleasant surprise I had today when I opened up the Chicago Tribune and saw the following teaser on the upper left hand side of the paper (click to enlarge):

TribuneAtheist

So I open up the Tempo (a.k.a. features) section and see Dawn Sherman‘s picture taking up nearly the entire page!

DawnSherman

Dawn is, of course, the 14-year-old activist who has fought against the mandatory moment of silence law in Illinois and “got God banned from Homecoming.”

(She’s my hero. And yours, too.)

The article, by Nara Schoenberg, is extremely positive in its portrayal of Dawn as well as her father, Rob Sherman.

Dawn was doing schoolwork on the Internet in October when she came upon the new law, which calls for a brief but mandatory period of silence at the start of the school day. She went to her dad, a former national spokesman for American Atheists, and he told her he already knew about the law and was going to a school board meeting to protest.

She said she would go along.

“My rights were being affected because, first of all, the teacher is being made to stop teaching, and I’m being [made] an audience to something that is heavily suggestive in the direction of prayer because of the title of the act. It’s called the student prayer and silent reflection act,” she says.

On Nov. 14, U.S. District Judge Robert Gettleman issued a preliminary injunction barring Arlington Heights-based Township High School District 214 from observing the moment of silence, calling the law too vague and “likely unconstitutional.”

What has the reaction to her activism been like?

Reaction at Buffalo Grove High School has been fairly mild, Dawn says: “There are two friends who hate me right now, two friends who think I’m awesome, and a bunch of friends who don’t really care.”

There are some lighter moments, too:

“I am not a lot like my dad,” she says, smiling at him. “He likes to go after things without a second thought. I like to think things through occasionally. He and I disagree on a lot of things.”

One way they have diverged: Dawn sings religious music in the Grace Episcopal choir. She loves the music, she says, and the words don’t bother her because she doesn’t attach much meaning to them. Her father says that singing in a church wouldn’t be his choice, but he doesn’t stand in his daughter’s way.

Then there’s the matter of hairstyles. Dawn says her father wants her to part her hair on the side, just like him.

“The Robbie Jr. look!” Sherman crows.

“I don’t want to be Robbie Jr. I want to be my own person!” Dawn says, laughing but not giving an inch. “That’s why I’ve never parted my hair over the eye.”

Her father smiles proudly. “She’s almost exactly like me,” he says.

Amazingly, the number of comments on the article are well over 700 as I write this. (By comparison, another article about Hillary Clinton has just over 100 comments.) They run the gamut from support to condemnation. (You can tell which ones were written by fanatical Christians by the stuck CAPS LOCK key in their remarks.)

Kudos to Dawn for doing everything she does.

Hopefully, other young atheists will follow in her footsteps.


[tags]atheist, atheism[/tags]

  • JoshH

    I’m not really sure what to think of the whole “moment of silence” thing. On one hand I see it as a possible stepping stone to bringing actual public prayer back into schools but on the other hand, if it actually led to prayer, isn’t that when those of us who care about the separation of church and state would come in?

    “My rights were being affected because, first of all, the teacher is being made to stop teaching, and I’m being [made] an audience to something that is heavily suggestive in the direction of prayer because of the title of the act.”

    The title was definitely a bad choice, but do they announce the title every day before the moment of silence begins? Also, how much teaching time is being used for this? She makes it sound like in the middle of class they stop what they’re doing for this moment of silence.

    I don’t know, maybe I’m just ignorant of it all. As an atheist, I really couldn’t care less about a moment of silence. I mean, it’s kind of ridiculous if you think about it (how many times in any given school day are there quiet times when nobody is talking, in which a religious person could pray to him/herself? …SEVERAL, no doubt). And hey, any of us godless folk could always use another minute or two of NOT talking to ourselves :D .

    Bottom line, I see the argument from both sides and I’m not really sure of which side to take.

  • http://emergingpensees.com MikeClawson

    I was glad to read this article in today’s paper too. I thought Dawn came across very well – very intelligent and articulate for a 14 year old. Her dad I was less impressed with.

    Also, while I personally have no problem with parents raising kids according to their own belief system, wouldn’t the kinds of stuff Rob Sherman did (e.g. teaching a two year old to say “God is make-believe”) be the kind of thing Dawkins would consider child abuse?

    Also, I think they both might want to find a better approach than constantly talking about “personal rights”. Going on about how she has a “right” not to be exposed to religion makes them seem rather intolerant and kind of self-centered. A better approach, IMHO, would be to focus on the problem of school-sponsored religion and make it about public responsibility and respect for diversity of opinions, not just about individual rights.

  • Siamang

    Now now, Dawn seems very bright. It’s possible she came to that opinion on her own.

    ;-)

    What about Rob Sherman were you less impressed with? Was it something in the article, or something else he’s done?

    Re the child abuse thing: I think the Child abuse charge is ridiculous and obviously Rob Sherman does too. Who’s the bad guy? Sounds like he’s raised an amazing young lady here.

    Going on about how she has a “right” not to be exposed to religion makes them seem rather intolerant and kind of self-centered. A better approach, IMHO, would be to focus on the problem of school-sponsored religion and make it about public responsibility and respect for diversity of opinions, not just about individual rights.

    Actually, the First Amendment doesn’t speak about public responsibility or the respect for the diversity of opinions. I think Dawn was talking in terms of rights because that’s exactly what her lawsuit references. You don’t win a lawsuit based on being “disrespected”.

    If you don’t think she’s saying the right things, you’re of course free to stand up against this law yourself. You’re a father. You live in illinois. You had standing, very good standing, to file this lawsuit. In many, many ways it would have been better for us if a Christian Minister challenged the law.

    You’re very good at telling atheists how we shouldn’t use our voices.

  • http://heathendad.blogspot.com/ HappyNat

    As an atheist, I really couldn’t care less about a moment of silence. I mean, it’s kind of ridiculous if you think about it (how many times in any given school day are there quiet times when nobody is talking, in which a religious person could pray to him/herself? …SEVERAL, no doubt).

    Exactly, there are many times during the day when people can reflect/pray/sleep or whatever else they need to do to get through the day. So why does it need to be mandatory? What is ridiculous is that politicians wasted time passing the bill and the schools were required to waste time each day. The amount of time doesn’t matter as much as the principle.

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff

    In fundi Christendom (all places where there is a cultural dominance of Christian conservatism) a “moment of silence” really means it is the time you have to pray and be just like everybody else. Maybe things are not like that in progressive cosmopolitan Chicago, but things are like that where I come from (unfortunately).

    We have to be careful about what laws we pass. What may seem reasonable (like allowing moments of silence) for one audience (like cosmopolitan liberal urban dwellers) may (and most likely will) foster a fearsome environment with bullying for other audiences dominated by people committed to the conservative “Christian framework”.

    If all Christians were like the Christians who regularly post on this website, I would have no problems with scheduled moments of silence. But unfortunately, most Christians are not anywhere as open-minded and tolerant as those who post here.

    Just last Sunday, the pastor of the church I attended was telling the congregation (yet again) in his sermon that they should not associate with people who don’t share their beliefs. Its all “us vs. them” with this conservative mind-set.

  • Renacier

    The base fact of the matter is that I don’t want to spend my taxes on funding prayer time in our schools. If we assume a 30 sec moment of silence daily over an typical 180 day school year (if my math is wrong, I’m going to look like a heel) we get an hour and a half per year of just staring at the tops of our desks, learning nothing.

    So, Georgia, you can keep your moment of prayer if you start sending me a reimbursement check for that 1.5 hour worth of my money that you’re stealing.

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    Siamang said,

    Re the child abuse thing: I think the Child abuse charge is ridiculous and obviously Rob Sherman does too. Who’s the bad guy? Sounds like he’s raised an amazing young lady here.

    I don’t mean to speak for someone else, but I don’t think Mike was actually calling it child abuse. He was just making an if-then statment. If Dawkins classifies Christian parents sharing their beliefs with their kids child abuse, then the same would apply to atheists. I agree with you, Mike.

    Personally, a moment of silence in schools is neither here nor there. I don’t even pay attention when we pray in church (don’t tell my pastor). To me, prayer is a personal and private thing. I don’t do it in public except when I go through the motions out of respect.

    Jeff said,

    most Christians are not anywhere as open-minded and tolerant as those who post here.

    Jeff, I have to confess that I was not as open-minded when I first started posting. You showed me tolerance and kindness first. I have to give you credit and applaud you for that.

    Just last Sunday, the pastor of the church I attended was telling the congregation (yet again) in his sermon that they should not associate with people who don’t share their beliefs.

    That is the predominant message in most churches I’ve been to. But in my case, my pastor encourages me and loves hearing about the discussions we have here. He’s changed many of his views from our conversations. But this is a rare case, and I’ve never met another pastor like him (except for Mike C). It’s sad. It should be the norm rather than the exception.

    But then again, it doesn’t only happen in religion. I went to a business meeting earlier this week where the president of the company advised me that if I’m an eagle, I shouldn’t associate with turkeys. He told me that an eagle can be tainted by turkeys. Another guy said turkeys are only for eating. And I said I’d risk being tainted for the chance of knowing the turkeys. I think they will now consider me a turkey. Oh well… such as life. If you tell me not to do something, I will go out of my way to do it. So… next week, I’ll make it a point to have lunch with the turkeys. :) (oops, did I go off on a tangent? sorry…)

  • http://hoverFrog.wordpress.com hoverFrog

    Good for her. Some of those comments are downright nasty though.

  • stogoe

    Good for her. Some of those comments are downright nasty though.

    What do you expect? They’re christians, and their Tribal Dominance is being slightly questioned. Of course they’re going to gang up and hoot and howl at the Other in an attempt to drive the Other away.

  • http://olvlzl.blogspot.com olvlzl, no ism, no ist

    Haven’t been in a public school during class hours in about twenty years but if that’s anything to go on they need hours of silence, not minutes. How do they learn anything with all the noise?

    Religious promotion has no place in any government funded or conducted activity, the wall of separation has to be absolute or there will be no end to troubles and infringement of rights. The “moment of silence” question is either innocuous or an open door through the wall, depending on how its conducted. It’s best to keep it closed.

    As for prayer in public schools, I’m not the first one to point out that the only way they could eliminate that is by not giving tests. A demonstration of public prayer is expressly prohibited by Jesus, its adoption by some Christians is in direct violation of his teachings. Any parent or minister or priest who wants to can teach a child to do it silently and without anyone knowing and they should do so. Actually, stogoe, you are partly correct, the prayer in the schools issue is all about politics and majorities spitting in the eyes of people who aren’t in their group. It has nothing to do with Christianity, if that is supposed to be trying to put the teachings of Jesus into practice.

  • http://emergingpensees.com MikeClawson

    What about Rob Sherman were you less impressed with? Was it something in the article, or something else he’s done?

    Mostly just the portrayal in the article. It just came across as somewhat hypocritical when he says that Dawn thinks for herself but then he jumps in on her interview and completes her thoughts for her, teaches her to parrot his beliefs at age 2, and goes on about wanting her to be “Robbie Jr.” Of course all of that is just a subjective impression and I could be totally off base.

    I also wasn’t too impressed when he “gleefully” talked about making certain comments for the express purpose of ticking off his neighbors. It makes me wonder if his activism is really about the issues or if it’s about his ego.

    Actually, the First Amendment doesn’t speak about public responsibility or the respect for the diversity of opinions. I think Dawn was talking in terms of rights because that’s exactly what her lawsuit references. You don’t win a lawsuit based on being “disrespected”.

    Maybe so. And maybe that’s part of the reason we live in a society that is already too individualistic and narcissistic. We’d all be better off, IMHO, if more people thought in terms of “we” and “ours” rather than “me” and “mine”.

    If you don’t think she’s saying the right things, you’re of course free to stand up against this law yourself. You’re a father. You live in illinois. You had standing, very good standing, to file this lawsuit. In many, many ways it would have been better for us if a Christian Minister challenged the law.

    Perhaps I will when my daughter is actually old enough to go to public school (if we choose to put her in a public school – IMHO, No Child Left Untested has pretty much sapped whatever value was left in the system). Right now she’s not even 3, so she’s not exactly being affected by the same things Dawn is faced with, and I don’t think I’m allowed to bring lawsuits like that until she is.

    You’re very good at telling atheists how we shouldn’t use our voices.

    What does it have to do with atheism? My advice could be for anyone who is standing up for the separation of Church and State. I think our whole society – atheists, Christians and nearly every other group – is too focused on individual rights and not enough on communal responsibility.

  • Jen

    I am afraid to read the comments. All I need is a “GODLESS SLUT” being thrown at a 14 year old, and it will ruin my breakfast

  • Jeff

    I guess we all have are heros. :)

  • Siamang

    I don’t mean to speak for someone else, but I don’t think Mike was actually calling it child abuse. He was just making an if-then statment. If Dawkins classifies Christian parents sharing their beliefs with their kids child abuse, then the same would apply to atheists. I agree with you, Mike.

    If that’s what Mike meant, then I agree as well. The that comment coupled with him saying he didn’t like Rob Sherman made me wonder if it was the teaching his toddlers the family beliefs that did it for him. In other words, i was wondering if Mike was condemning Dawkins for calling indoctrination child abuse, at the same time he was condemning Sherman for indoctrination.

    Which is why I sided with Mike’s position and the position of most theists I’ve ever met, to condemn the child abuse charge, and asked Mike who he thought was the bad guy in this one, Rob Sherman or Richard Dawkins. Or maybe it’s both.

    I’ll say that personally the whole drill your child to repeat “Jesus loves me” or “God is make-believe” doesn’t mesh with my philosophy or parenting style. It’s kind of an akward point between me and my mother, who would like there to be more “Jesus loves me” in my 4 year old daughter’s intellectual life.

  • JeffN

    Jeff said,

    January 11, 2008 at 11:14 am

    I guess we all have are heros. :)

    That post should have said JeffN instead of Jeff. Sorry for the mix up.

  • Stephen

    The upper case comments from Christians aren’t even the funniest ones. Things like this – “With her drive, she could actually accomplish something worthwhile, not just being a shill for her dad. What will destroying other people’s faith actually accomplish?” – that just make no sense at all are.

    He was just making an if-then statment. If Dawkins classifies Christian parents sharing their beliefs with their kids child abuse, then the same would apply to atheists. I agree with you, Mike.

    Well, I disagree. Teaching a child that God is real and teaching a child that God isn’t real are two different things. Mike, along with many Americans, is acting like the two are equivalent alternatives, and they’re not.

    Imbuing a child with your beliefs, while questionable, is not the part that’s child abuse. Creating a bubble of delusion around your child’s thinking which most people never break out of is the part that’s child abuse. Telling your child that God doesn’t exist encourages critical thinking – even if all they do is “parrot” that belief (which I’m not convinced of anyway), it still teaches them to apply skepticism to other things. Teaching your child that Pastor Bubba has all the answers is only going to cripple them.

    Honestly, I just don’t see a difference between telling your child “God does not exist” and telling her “unicorns don’t exist.” Religion doesn’t deserve any more respect than the latter.

    That said, I myself would still favor the not mentioning God at all approach for atheist parents.

  • Billy

    JeffN said: “I guess we all have are heros”

    I would consider this young lady a hero as she had the guts to do something — take a stand — from which I backed away. I truly wish I had had this girls guts when I was 19 and graduating from high school.

    I went to high school in Western Maryland (a northern suburb of the bible belt) and, after five years in a four year high school, I was getting ready to graduate. Graduation consisted of two ceremonies: Baccalaureate and Graduation itself.

    I decided that I didn’t need to go to baccalaureate. My reasoning was sound (to me, at least): the Constitution says no public money can be spent to support a religion (or SCOTUS had interpreted it that way decades before). I don’t need a religious blessing to leave a public high school. I told my class advisor I was not going to baccalaureate but would be at graduation.

    She told me I either did both, or did neither. I talked to the Vice Principal. Same answer. I went to the service in the school gym.

    I sat for three (THREE!!!) hours in the gym (with broken air conditioning and mid-June Maryland heat) and listened to a sermon. The sermon was presented by the father of on of the students graduating (he had three kids, one year apart, this was the youngest). This minister had dropped out of the Southern Baptist Coalition because they were too liberal.

    The sermon was fire and brimstone, accept jesus in your life or go to hell, only jesus can help you succeed, jesus can make you rich but only if you accept him for three solid hours. And we didn’t have iPods back then (we barely had Walkmans and those went through batteries so fast it wouldn’t have helped because he went on for three hours). One woman in the bleachers (where the parents/relatives sat) was overcome by the heat an fainted. He chalked it up to another soul saved for christ.

    Keep in mind, this was a public high school. I know there was one Jewish kid in the class. I know there was at least one agnostic (me) Unitarian. I also knew there were Catholics. But this one preacher went on for three hours.

    Looking back, I should have asked for the ‘go to both or none’ in writing and then contacted a lawyer specializing in civil rights. I decided, though, not to make waves.

    I am now 42 years old (today is my birthday) and I have decided that, for the rest of my life, I WILL MAKE WAVES!!!!!

    I admire this young lady and am impressed, deeply impressed, by her confidence and, yes, bravery. I wish I could have been like her when I was young.

    Sorry for the long post, its and Occupational Hazard.

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    Happy Birthday, Billy! :)

    I’m sorry you had that bad experience. And good luck in your wave-making. I just hope you won’t run anyone over with your wave-runner. ;-)

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    He was just making an if-then statment. If Dawkins classifies Christian parents sharing their beliefs with their kids child abuse, then the same would apply to atheists.

    Let me just clarify that Mike didn’t acutally say that. I was just interpreting what he said the way I understood it.

    Stephen, you said,

    Well, I disagree. Teaching a child that God is real and teaching a child that God isn’t real are two different things. Mike, along with many Americans, is acting like the two are equivalent alternatives, and they’re not.

    It is only natural that parents teach their own values to their children. What else can they teach but what they know and believe to be the right thing? I really don’t understand why you think this is a bad thing. I happen to be a believer, so my belief naturally comes out in the way I speak to my kids. I think it’s a very narrow mindset to say that just because you don’t believe in God, no one else should; if, in fact, that’s what you’re saying.

    Mike C. said,

    I think our whole society – atheists, Christians and nearly every other group – is too focused on individual rights and not enough on communal responsibility.

    I agree wholeheartedly, MIke! And I think we (as a society) are also raising our kids to be the same way, or worse. :-(

  • Siamang

    Perhaps I will when my daughter is actually old enough to go to public school (if we choose to put her in a public school – IMHO, No Child Left Untested has pretty much sapped whatever value was left in the system). Right now she’s not even 3, so she’s not exactly being affected by the same things Dawn is faced with, and I don’t think I’m allowed to bring lawsuits like that until she is.

    Actually, you are. Even if you have a preschool age child that can be expected to enter the public school. As noted in the Kitzmiller v. Dover trial, some plaintiffs children were not currently in the 9th grade, and so wouldn’t be expected to be read the Intelligent Design statement until four years later. They nevertheless were judged to have standing. From the decision:

    Although students subjected to the ID Policy in the classroom are affected most directly, courts have never defined Establishment Clause violations in public schools so narrowly as to limit standing to only those students immediately subjected to the offensive content. See Santa Fe Independent Sch. Dist. v. Doe, 530 U.S. 290, 313-14 (2000) (very adoption or passage of a policy that violates the Establishment Clause represents a constitutional injury). We therefore find that all Plaintiffs have standing to bring their claims in this action.

    What does it have to do with atheism? My advice could be for anyone who is standing up for the separation of Church and State. I think our whole society – atheists, Christians and nearly every other group – is too focused on individual rights and not enough on communal responsibility.

    We use the tools we have. According to the article, we represent 3% of the population. Would that our lowly 3% could stand up for our rights without having to resort to lawsuits. Would that we could stand up and teach the world how to live based on communal responsibility. Would that the Constitution had a “Bill of Responsibilities” and Dawn could bring a lawsuit challenging this law based on it failing to respect diversity.

    But as I’ve said to Stephan on Ebay Atheist, there’s nothing saying we can’t do both. There’s nothing in this article that says that filing a lawsuit is the only thing Dawn Sherman has done or will do. It may very well be that she does other things in her life that expresses respect for diversity, building bridges (she does sing in a Christian choir, after all), emphasizing communal responsibility, etc. She may swing a hammer every sunday down at a Habitat for Humanity build… It just wasn’t included in this article which is primarily about a lawsuit.

    “Stephan” on ebay atheist (a different person than the “Stephan” who posts here) has said that the way to gain respect is to fight back legally and not just piss and complain:

    What we are seeing in the stories you related are things that are clearly illegal, and would be shown as such by the court if they went that far. If people are willing to go there, that’s great. If they are not, then they should not complain about it.

    So all I can say is, “well, you can’t please everyone!” File a lawsuit and you get “advice” from Mike C. Don’t file a lawsuit and you get “advice” from Stephan.

    Everyone seems to know exactly what atheists are doing wrong when standing up and speaking their minds.

  • Siamang

    I know I should let you respond, Mike. But I’m fired up and have to keep writing. I know I should shut up and listen, but I want to say just one more thing just to be an in-your-face asshole about stuff. I apologize preemptively.

    I went to a Habitat for Humanity build for a couple days not too long ago. I ran electrical wiring for two different families’ houses. It was fantastic work, and I loved every minute of it. I don’t know the religious affiliations of the various people I was working beside, but I did meet a group of young Mormon elders who inspired me with their dedication to the project. I didn’t say one word about my beliefs the entire build… totally irrelevant.

    But anyway, an atheist wired a couple houses for a family. Did you read about that in your local newspaper? Was it on the news? (Apologies for the sarcasm). No. You read about a lawsuit where (self-centeredly, as all of our legal system is based on) someone stood up for their rights and their beliefs. Lawsuits are the things that newspapers write about. I didn’t blog about the experience either, and I haven’t brought it up till now, a few months later.

    It’s not news. Big deal, an atheist did volunteer work. I didn’t “use” it as a “look how good we atheists are” tool either at the site or on my blog. (I hesitate to write it here, because it’s too close to a personal horn toot, which totally overstates my level of involvement in charity work, which in my life is pathetically underdeveloped.)

    Anyway, my best intentions has me gaining international influence as an atheist bridge-builder and good-deed-doer who teaches the entire world how to build a society based on respect, tolerance and mutual love and kindness. I just haven’t figured out how to do that yet.

  • Maria

    I would consider this young lady a hero as she had the guts to do something — take a stand — from which I backed away. I truly wish I had had this girls guts when I was 19 and graduating from high school.

    Wow, that’s awful that a public school did that!

    Well, I disagree. Teaching a child that God is real and teaching a child that God isn’t real are two different things. Mike, along with many Americans, is acting like the two are equivalent alternatives, and they’re not.

    Yes, they are. And NEITHER should be forced on a child. It’s something a person has to decide for themselves-without being told to parrot it at age 2. No double standards.

    It is only natural that parents teach their own values to their children. What else can they teach but what they know and believe to be the right thing? I really don’t understand why you think this is a bad thing. I happen to be a believer, so my belief naturally comes out in the way I speak to my kids. I think it’s a very narrow mindset to say that just because you don’t believe in God, no one else should; if, in fact, that’s what you’re saying.

    Yeah, I agree with that too. I have no problem with parents teaching their own values to their children (when the child is old enough to understand and question, not at age 2!) as long as they don’t say “our way is the only way” and then not allow them to question and keep them sheltered and try and force stuff if the kid decides they want to go a different way. This is a problem with many conservative religious.

    I don’t mean to speak for someone else, but I don’t think Mike was actually calling it child abuse. He was just making an if-then statment. If Dawkins classifies Christian parents sharing their beliefs with their kids child abuse, then the same would apply to atheists. I agree with you, Mike.

    I do too, if that is what this means.

    Mostly just the portrayal in the article. It just came across as somewhat hypocritical when he says that Dawn thinks for herself but then he jumps in on her interview and completes her thoughts for her, teaches her to parrot his beliefs at age 2, and goes on about wanting her to be “Robbie Jr.” Of course all of that is just a subjective impression and I could be totally off base.

    I got that impression too. I wouldn’t want to see a religous parent behaving this way or a non-religous one. Just curious, how would people feel if this was a xtian parent telling his daughter things at age 2 and then finishing her sentences for her?

    That being said, Dawn does come across as pretty intelligent, and I agree with what she did. She just needs to individuate from her father more.

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    Siamang,

    I do truly admire you for having the courage to write about your experience. I don’t see it as tooting your horn at all. Such things should be talked about more, in my opinion. I also admire you for your hands-on approach in helping people.

    The fact of the matter is, as you well know, controversies and scandals sell. Stories of friendliness and tolerance do not sell newspapers. It’s all about what sells the newspapers. Sad but true.

    But the people that you worked with know what you did. They know you were genuine. Did they ever find out that you wer an atheist? If they had, you would have changed their view of atheists forever. That’s much more lasting than any news conference or an article.

    I know for a fact that by touching people’s lives directly, you are changing the world in a big way. It’s contagious, because they will tell everyone they know. I certainly do.

  • Siamang

    Did they ever find out that you wer an atheist?

    No.

  • http://emergingpensees.com MikeClawson

    I don’t mean to speak for someone else, but I don’t think Mike was actually calling it child abuse. He was just making an if-then statment. If Dawkins classifies Christian parents sharing their beliefs with their kids child abuse, then the same would apply to atheists. I agree with you, Mike.

    Yes, that is what I meant. I think Dawkins is wrong to call it child abuse to raise your kids within your own system of beliefs and values (though I also agree that kids need to also be given the freedom and encouragement to think through all these things for themselves and ultimately make their own decisions when they’re old enough). Rob Sherman has every right to raise his daughter to share his atheist beliefs, as long as she has the freedom to disagree with him if she wants to.

  • http://emergingpensees.com MikeClawson

    We use the tools we have. According to the article, we represent 3% of the population. Would that our lowly 3% could stand up for our rights without having to resort to lawsuits. Would that we could stand up and teach the world how to live based on communal responsibility. Would that the Constitution had a “Bill of Responsibilities” and Dawn could bring a lawsuit challenging this law based on it failing to respect diversity.

    Again, who’s this “we”? You are making this into an atheist vs. theist thing, while I am speaking to anyone who values the separation of church and state. I guarantee there are a lot more than just 3% who care about that. My advice was NOT “Atheists should go about this differently.” My advice was “Everyone should go about this differently.” Let’s not make this just about atheists. My advice was as much for myself as anyone, inasmuch as I am just as concerned about these issues as the Shermans are.

    Anyhow, I think you’re misunderstanding me Siamang. I’m not opposed to the lawsuits. I’m all for people standing up and fighting against these incursions on separation. I never said that Dawn shouldn’t be doing what’s she doing. I’m glad she is. And if in the lawsuit she needs to use the language of personal rights, then fine. But a newspaper article is not the same as a lawsuit, and, in the context of a newspaper interview, I think it would be possible for her, or anyone else who cares about separation (Christians included), to talk about the issue in a way that affirms community and diversity and a proper separation of church and state, and invites others to join in that cause, rather than in a way that simply says “It violates my rights to have to listen to beliefs I disagree with.”

    Imagine the difference in tone if in the article Dawn had instead said something like: “There are kids from lots of different backgrounds and lots of different beliefs at my school, and I don’t want any of them to feel excluded or like second-class citizens because of school policies that might favor one background or belief over another. The First Amendment was designed to protect against that kind of thing, and I think it’s important for all of us to stand up in support of it.” Can you see the difference between that and the statements that the Shermans actually did make in the article?

    (Of course with all the usual caveats that maybe they did say something like this and maybe it just ended up on the editing room floor.)

  • Siamang

    I’d agree, assuming that this is all that the Shermans had to say about the issue.

    (Of course with all the usual caveats that maybe they did say something like this and maybe it just ended up on the editing room floor.)

    I see you’ve had experience with members of our Fourth Estate. ;-)

  • Siamang

    Again, who’s this “we”? You are making this into an atheist vs. theist thing, while I am speaking to anyone who values the separation of church and state. I guarantee there are a lot more than just 3% who care about that. My advice was NOT “Atheists should go about this differently.” My advice was “Everyone should go about this differently.” Let’s not make this just about atheists. My advice was as much for myself as anyone, inasmuch as I am just as concerned about these issues as the Shermans are.

    I’m not trying to make this a you/us thing. Just that hey, when a family is fighting for my rights and yours, and you agree with it, it’s kind of self-important of you to let them fight the lawsuit, let them take the glare of the spotlight, let them get their house egged and who knows if threats or whatever, and then step back and say “Well… I wouldn’t have said it that way.”

    I know you’ve got your opinions, and I’ve got mine, and we all should say our minds so that we can understand each other.

    But this reminds me of an old online conversation about gay rights I had with someone who said he supported gay rights, but gays hurt their own cause by marching and protesting with shirts off or whatever. And he may have a point, of course… but it was all in a big discussion where it was clear that he was sitting on the sidelines not taking part in the gay rights movement in the 80′s and 90′s while I was marching. Note: I’m straight. I wasn’t fighting for myself or my own rights (except in the notion that tyranny anywhere is a threat to freedom everywhere). I was marching in the 80′s and 90′s. When shit was literally life and death in the gay rights movement… when people were getting beaten up in West Hollywood, I was marching. And his advice was that marches weren’t the way to win rights, and suing people was, and somehow gay rights people could win lawsuits and lawsuits alone, and that was the one magic key to mainstream acceptance. And I was like “well, sorry, but I didn’t see YOU leading the fight.”

    And my point is, people who sit out civil rights struggles don’t get to say later that if they were running the movement, they’d run it differently.

    Not that you’re sitting this one out. Not that your contribution here is any less than mine, each of us blogging and attempting to continue a conversation that our nation desperately needs. Not that I’m doing anything more constructive than you are.

    Because realistically, not everyone is an activist. And there are a lot of ways to contribute in our own way. I don’t know if I’d have the cojones to become America’s #1 Hated Atheist. But I admire the heck out of a certain tough-minded 14 year old girl!

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff

    The question of how to raise children is difficult. Its nice to say to raise them in your own belief system but give them the freedom to ultimately decide for themselves. The only catch is if the belief system itself is a totalitarian framework where one can only leave the framework with sever emotional trauma. So most don’t. For myself, I was raising my kids without any mention of religion what-so-ever. When my wife finally wanted to start attending a church, our 9 year-old (at the time) immediately concluded that God was all make believe. I had never said that before to him. He simply concluded it all by himself because he had no prior conditioning to think otherwise. When he did say God was make believe, I simply agreed with him. I then told him to just view church as some place to go to see what other people believe.

    Interestingly, at a parent’s meeting for the youth ministry, there was another parent who was distraught because her son came home one day saying he didn’t believe in God. This other parent was panicking because she obviously loved her child but didn’t want to loose him to the devil… I didn’t say a word… but couldn’t help thinking about how proud I was of my own child who basically did the same thing. I did feel a little sad for that other child and the stress and tension that must be going on in their family. I am a little worried about my younger child (now five) who might be susceptible to the conditioning and “God talk” that goes on in his Sunday schooling. I haven’t had any talks with him about religion. Of course, he might be picking up some influence from his older brother.

    My wife is one of those liberal Christians who doesn’t believe in Hell so she isn’t too terribly worried about things.

  • Stephen

    Just curious, how would people feel if this was a xtian parent telling his daughter things at age 2 and then finishing her sentences for her?

    I would think that’s significantly worse than with an atheist parent. I’ve already explained why this isn’t a double-standard, but you managed to ignore that part of my post. Kudos.

  • The Unbrainwashed

    MikeC said:

    We’d all be better off, IMHO, if more people thought in terms of “we” and “ours” rather than “me” and “mine”.

    If you like the collective versus the individual so much, China would make a great place to live.

    Religion, and its equally psychotic cousins ethnic pride and nationalism, are so preoccupied with creating an “us” and a “them”. People comprising both these groups desperately want to contend their value is derived from membership in a collective, rather than from being a unique individual who warrants value through their own actions and merit. It’s not only illogical to define oneself as a member rather than a person, it’s also dangerous (the danger is so strikingly obvious that I need not present an examples).

    I also oppose this communist idealogy on the grounds that not everyone is equal. Some people deserve charity or accolades or simply encouragement more than others. Adhering to a strict collectivism does a disservice to not only the elites of society, but to the common man who wishes to define himself rather than having a classification imposed on him.

  • Maria

    I would think that’s significantly worse than with an atheist parent. I’ve already explained why this isn’t a double-standard, but you managed to ignore that part of my post. Kudos.

    No, you expressed your opinion as to why it isn’t a double standard, just like I expressed mine as to why it is. that doesn’t make it fact. just b/c you feel that way doesn’t mean that’s how it is-people have varying opinions on this, and they’re not all going to agree with you.

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff

    Concerning the collective versus the individual, I just finished reading a chapter entitled “You are a work of art” from Robert Price’s book rebuttal A Reason driven Life to Reverend Warren’s book A Purpose driven Life.

    In this chapter, Price argues that we should be free to invent our own lives versus being duty-bound to follow an a “purpose” supposedly dictated from high.

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    Unbrainwashed said,

    Religion, and its equally psychotic cousins ethnic pride and nationalism, are so preoccupied with creating an “us” and a “them”. People comprising both these groups desperately want to contend their value is derived from membership in a collective, rather than from being a unique individual who warrants value through their own actions and merit. It’s not only illogical to define oneself as a member rather than a person, it’s also dangerous (the danger is so strikingly obvious that I need not present an examples).

    I have to disagree. Mike was not referring to “we” and “us” as a statement of separation between groups, but rather as unification. I believe he meant “we” the human race. It is my opinion that it is the self-serving individualism that separate the groups to begin with. That, and the unwillingness to make the other person or the group just as, if not more than, important as ourselves.

    Your statement is a clear example of this. Your argument comes from a place of refusing to understand what the other person is trying to convey. You just want to make the other person wrong because of your assumptions that you choose to believe.

  • http://emergingpensees.com MikeClawson

    If you like the collective versus the individual so much, China would make a great place to live.

    LOL, now who’s calling who the “communist”? Times sure do change, don’t they? :)

    And thanks Linda; you clarified what I was trying to say very well.

  • http://literaghost.blogspot.com/ literghost

    Mike C. –

    Only vaguely on-topic, but based on your 1/11 10:42 comment, I think you might enjoy reading Me to We by Craig and Marc Kielburger (link goes to Amazon).

    That’s all I have to say…but I just can’t resist an opportunity to recommend reading material to someone… :)

    – Miz L.

  • The Unbrainwashed

    @ Linda and MikeC-
    I fully agree that we need to look at the “we” in regards to unifying us as a human race. And the only means by which to forge this inclusive worldview is individualism. Maybe that sounds contradictory, but let me briefly expound on it. Religion and ethnic pride are inherently divisive ideologies, whether they incorporate racism or not. By dividing people amongst delineations inherited upon birth, as in the color of one’s skin or hair, the person becomes secondary to his inclusion in a group with others who share these arbitrary traits. By stressing the collective as opposed to the individual, we engage in too much classification in regards to petty and shallow characteristics. Instead of grouping people based on who they are, such as with talent, strength of character, sense of humor, we classify them according to birthright. We can never then become a unified humanity until those distinguishing factors become mitigated biologically (which won’t happen for a very long time).

    I also disagree with your assertion that other people should be more important than oneself. But that’s a whole nother topic regarding ethics and even though it’s somewhat related, I think the above discussion is far more interesting.

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    And the only means by which to forge this inclusive worldview is individualism.

    Unbrainwashed,

    I understand your explanation of individualism, and I agree to an extent. Yes, when we see others, we should see them as individuals and not as a part of a group.

    That’s where my idea of making others more important comes in. When we first focus on accepting others as individuals before we demand that we be accepted by them, then progress can be made. I don’t know if we can ever achieve our goal of a unified human race when we continue to put ourselves (and our rights) first.

  • http://emergingpensees.com MikeClawson

    Yes, when we see others, we should see them as individuals and not as a part of a group.

    I’d say it’s a both/and. One of the keys to understanding people is to understand how their various group identities have shaped and formed them as individuals, but we should never reduce an individual to merely their group identity. For instance, being a white, Christian, educated, middle-class, Midwestern American male has certainly shaped much of who I am, but I don’t want to be pigeon-holed as simply that. The whole is greater than the sum of the parts, but the parts are still important too.

    Or to put it another way, both psychology and sociology are important.

  • eddie szkodzinski

    as a great person once said don’t judge a person by thier race or religion but by thier personality and actions. now a todays we judge people by thier religion or group thier in not them personally.i am proud that my girlfriend dawn is athiest because that is what she is and nothing anyone says can change it.i am proud of her for her individualism and confidence agianest unfair laws

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  • donna mchargue

    I think this whole thing is ridiculous.Those parents should be teaching their budding narcissist that its not just about her.Every student there has the option to pray to whatever “God “they worship or alternatively observe a moment of reflection.Just because this young lady can’t come up with an original thought for fifteen seconds a day doesn’t mean that others can’t.Its fine to have your rights,but don’t tread on mine.At the age of 14 children should be learning about cooperation and some measure of conformity for the greater good.

  • http://hoverfrog.wordpress.com hoverFrog

    donna mchargue, I fear that you miss the point. You say “Its fine to have your rights,but don’t tread on mine.” but that is precisely what a mandatory moment of silence law does. It treads on the rights of individuals. There is nothing to prevent believers from having a voluntary moment of silence if they so wish it and no reason to try to stop that. It is only the interference in the lives of unbelievers that makes the actions of the Dawn Sherman’s of this world a necessity.


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