What Happens at a Christian Home-Schooling Convention?

When I heard that the Illinois Christian Home Educators‘ annual convention was coming to town, I knew I wanted a first-hand account of what happens there — partly because I’m not Christian, and partly because I teach at a public school. Would it fit my stereotypes or would it defy them?

When I saw that the Creation Museum’s founder Ken Ham was a speaker, that clinched the deal.

But… since the bulk of the conference happened on a Thursday and Friday (when I was giving my final exams), Ryan Brandau and Mike Brownstein, both guys in their 20s, volunteered to go on my behalf. Ryan attended all three days (Thursday – Saturday) while Mike was only there on Friday.

Their reports are below. Ryan’s account is in black. Mike’s account is in red.

Before the convention, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. As a 25-year-old man there on my own, would I stand out? I was prepared, though, with a backstory just in case anyone asked questions. Why isn’t your wife with you since spouses are let in free? She was a nurse and couldn’t get the time off. Why are you here? To check out my options since my “son” is still too young to be in school. To back up my story, I downloaded some pictures of my nephew to my phone. I even dug up an old ring an ex-girlfriend gave me that could stand in for a wedding ring if it wasn’t inspected too closely…

Thursday

Session 1) 12:30p Keynote: “Box Free Living” — Diana Waring

Diana began her presentation with the story of the Good Samaritan, an example of how one should “love their neighbor.” She explained that parenting is like building a house — you need a good foundation… and that foundation is achieved through Biblical parenting!

What was “Box Free Living”? She said boxes are “what we use to make the world small enough… to ensure our children turn out ok, apart from God’s constant help.” Though, from what I heard, a better definition for her boxes would involve demanding perfection from our children.

Diana also spoke about children being “mirrors” of their parents. What the parents see as weird or wrong, through their actions, are picked up by children.

In all honesty, I agreed with much of what Diana had to say, at least to some degree. I don’t think that children should feel that they have to perform in order to earn love, and I agree that demanding perfection will only hurt children. Any speaker could have made the same points Diana did in a completely secular way… but she chose to invoke God, the Holy Spirit, and various other concepts. At one point, she even went so far as to claim that, without the Holy Spirit’s help, these “boxes” would crush our “houses” (or our families).

Session 2) 2:05p “Six Days or Millions of Years” — Ken Ham

Ken Ham is most likely known to atheists as the man responsible for Answers in Genesis and the Creation Museum. In case anyone in the auditorium wasn’t aware of that, he made it a point to let us all know. Repeatedly. He seemed quite determined to sell his books, DVDs, magazines, and the like.

This, his first session, was about the battle going on in the church about the Creation, specifically about the amount of time involved — Were we created over six days or millions of years? Of course, Ham informed us that every word of God is correct, and that God is the only being we can trust to never lie.

But apparently other Christians can. He showed several examples of Christians trying to merge the idea of a divine creation with the notion that the world has been around for millions of years. (Ken kept saying “millions,” ignoring that credible sources go with billions instead.)

Beyond the church’s internal struggle, Ham explained why it’s so important for those of us in the secular world to believe we’ve existed for millions of years. It has nothing to do with the vast amount of evidence in favor of that. It’s actually because secular people are afraid that “if you don’t have millions of years, you don’t have evolution.” And without evolution, there’s no way we could possibly deny God.

That’s when Ham started to sell his books. He cited his book, Already Gone, in which he states that 2/3 of children eventually leave the church (Good for us!) and those children who attend Sunday School are more likely to leave the church than those who don’t. Why is that? Because church leaders are trying to fit the idea of “millions of years” together with their religious beliefs. As children see that Genesis isn’t literally true, they think the rest of the Bible must also be suspect.

Ham likes his statistics and he kept them coming. Like when he pointed out that this problem wasn’t just limited to Sunday schools. According to another of Ken’s books, only about 17% of conservative Christian college presidents believe in the inerrancy of the Bible.

After many attempts to scare us with numbers, Ham spoke about the Old Earth Creationist belief that the word “day” might mean something other than a literal 24-hour day. He danced his way around various meanings of words and pointed out that no one questions “yom” (the Hebrew word for “day,” apparently) in any other verse that it’s used in… aside from the creation. So from what I could gather, Ham thinks that if a word with multiple meanings is used in one way for most of a book, it must also be used that way in every other instance…

A key point Ham wanted us all to take away was this: “Believing in ‘millions of years’ doesn’t affect your salvation, but the salvation of the next generations.” In other words, even though you may be a Bible-believing Christian who thinks ‘millions of years’ is possible, your kids may see that as a stepping stone to question the rest of the Bible and ultimately leave the faith altogether. He probably has a good point… but that’s not a bad thing!

Interestingly enough, Ham mentioned the infamous “You KNOW It’s a Myth” atheist billboard in passing. He also said — I believe I wrote this out accurately — “It’s not God’s fault there’s a catastrophe in (Joplin, Japan, etc.)… it’s our fault.”

Session 3) 3:25p “Why Homeschool?” — Michael Donnelly

There were several talks going on at the same time, and none of them stood out to me, so I randomly picked this one… boy, was it worth it.

Donnelly started out by explaining the most important reason to homeschool your children: Religious/moral instruction.

“Homeschooling,” he said, “is the single most effective way to fulfill our role as stewards for our children.” Following the several Bible verses he gave to back up his claim, he made it clear that he believes in some pretty solid gender roles. Moms, you see, have “patience,” whereas dads are “rough around the edges.” That’s why moms must handle the homeschooling.

After offering some reasons why homeschooling is effective — none of which involved academic excellence, which he touched on later — Donnelly told us why other approaches were not as good. What’s wrong with public schools? Public schools are “the most important tools to turn children from parents, God, and country.” He gave us a few quotations to think about, including one from Adolf Hitler, most of which concerned how public schools are a method of controlling what our children believe and value. The longer he spoke, the more he sounded like some sort of conspiracy theorist. He even said that the public school system in America was “openly hostile to Christian values.” His proof? A statistic that 80% of children in public schools turn from their faith.

During the last part of his talk, he discussed the academic side of homeschooling. He gave numbers that indicated homeschooled kids do better on standardized tests than any other children — lauding homeschooling as the reason they do so well. He didn’t consider the possibility that parents who homeschool their children are able to give them years of one-on-one tutoring and obviously have a vested interest in their kids’ education. You don’t always see that in public schools. But a fairer comparison would have involved parents who homeschool their kids and parents who send their kids to public school but who get their kids a tutor, help their kids with homework, and are actively involved in their child’s education.

There was also one more example of his clear-cut views of gender. During a short question-and-answer session at the end, one couple asked him about their children, a boy and a girl, who have a sibling rivalry. Donnelly found it funny that a boy would “compete” with a girl, as if the two were clearly not on the same level.

Session 4) 4:45p “Learning How to Think Biblically” — Ken Ham

Yep. Ken Ham again.

A lot of this material was the same as Ham’s earlier talk. Again, he pointed out the alarming rate at which children are leaving the church (as if this were a bad thing…)

Ham’s main points in this talk, however, dealt with the foundations for belief. He explained that a Christian education should not be adding God to secular material. Rather, it should start with God. No wonder the man behind “Answers in Genesis” believes all doctrine should start with Genesis and build up from there.

Most of his talk after that dealt with converting others to follow Christ. He said that preaching about Jesus only worked if the targets of conversion already believed in God, sin, and everything else in the Old Testament. In order to convert everyone else, he said, you have to start at the beginning with Creation.

(So the way to convert long-time atheists is by saying the world is a few thousand years old…? Good luck with that one.)

Let’s say you wanted to do that, though. How could you make a convincing argument? All of that information could be found in Ham’s books at the AiG booth (for a modest price, of course).

Ham mentioned the time when 300 atheists went to the Creation Museum, even holding a mock communion in front of the museum. He explained that the atheists had hardened themselves to God’s word, and it’s likely none of them converted as a result of visiting the museum… but he had hopes that at least one or two may have. (Hemant adds: No one did.)

During his presentation, Ham also stated several times that there are “only two religions in the world, God’s word and man’s word.”

All in all, there was nothing I heard during this talk that was different from what you would learn if you spent an hour looking at his website.

Friday

This was the day I (Mike) attended the convention and, to be completely honest, I knew what I was going to see would be crazy. Having been to many Tea Party events in Lafayette, Indiana and being aware of the rhetoric out there about Creationism, I had an idea of what kind of crowd I would be dealing with. I expected a rather white, slightly female-dominated crowd with a conservative ideology on just about everything. Contrary to many of the Tea Party events, though, I was expecting a lot of kids and families. I expected to see vendors with textbooks full of propaganda, and I was especially eager to check out their math and history books. Especially with Ken Ham there, I figured I’d see a lot of very conservative thinking and Biblical drilling in these textbooks.

Session 1) 9:40a Keynote: “The Genesis Family: Raising Godly Children in an Ungodly World” — Ken Ham

Waking up with the knowledge that I would be listening to even more of Ken Ham wasn’t exactly the greatest thrill of my life… but since this was a morning presentation, I was able to overhear some conversations in the audience as I sat and drank my coffee. In a nutshell, there was a lot of “I’m so happy he’s here” and “This is all so obvious; why don’t people understand?”

There wasn’t a lot of new material this session, especially for anyone who has read his work or spent a day arguing with Christians online. Basically, he thinks that True Christians™ are failing because they’re accepting our side’s ‘millions of years’ foundation. The right approach, as we heard yesterday, was to start everything from the literal Genesis account.

Who’s to blame for why children are leaving the church? Ham blamed the moderate Christians and their desire to merge an old earth with their Biblical faith.

What was most unnerving about this whole session was the response. The crowd was eating up everything he had to say, and I worry they are now even more determined to indoctrinate their own children this way. One telling quotation from Ham was, “We’re losing them as young kids. This means we need to be training them as young kids.”

Ken Ham may be unconvincing and un-engaging to a non-Creationist audience… or any audience that clearly disagrees with him. On the other hand, he had most of this room enthralled. He seemed to be very well-liked by most of the people in the audience, and he filled the auditorium during his subsequent speeches throughout the day.

Session 2) 11:25a “Handle with Care: Family Conflicts over Media & Entertainment” — Phillip Telfer

As interesting as the title sounded, I didn’t get a lot out of this session… but I did get to hear some good ol’ fashioned sexism.

“Women have a different sensitivity than men do,” Telfer said. To illustrate this, he referenced something he was told at a men’s retreat: Women are like butterflies — the smallest breeze and they think there’s a tornado. Men are like buffalo — they could be in a tornado and act like they don’t even feel a breeze.

Got that, ladies?

When pressed, he tried to justify his sexist comments by using a pottery example. Fine china is more delicate, but is still very loved and valuable… whereas there are stronger pots made for hard work. I guess the fact that he tried to justify what he said meant he at least recognized that his comments were sexist… but he didn’t seem sorry he said them.

After the talk was over, I approached Telfer to ask him about video games (a passion of mine). Telfer is quite against them. He explained that his children are not allowed to play video games, and they’ve turned out fine… His kids may be fine, but are video games (or lack thereof) the reason? I don’t think they’re the “great evil” he made them out to be. He did, however, acknowledge that video games do have some benefits and that there was research being done in using them to help with certain brain disorders.

Session 3) 1:45p “Parents’ Rights — A Crisis Is Coming” — Mike Donnelly

Did anyone else know the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) is going to destroy the homeschooling movement? Because that’s what Donnelly says is going to happen. (More on this at the bottom of the post!)

Donnelly is a Constitutional Law professor at (conservative Christian) Patrick Henry College and he refuses to be a part of the American Bar Association. He was upset that the liberal world is conspiring against the homeschooling movement.

Donnelly mentioned that International law, Sharia Law, and international norms are taking precedent over the U.S. Constitution and the Supreme Court.

Just about anyone who has taken a basic Civics class would know that this statement is false. While the Supreme Court may lean in an ideological direction, all nine justices will tell you that their decision making is based on the U.S. Constitution above all else — yes, even Justice Scalia. Overall, though, Donnelly wasn’t very engaging and he spoke almost entirely from a script he had on a music stand. As someone who disagreed with him, there wasn’t really anything he said to engage me.

Oh. And on a complete side note, Donnelly looked like and had the same candor as the Sleazy 80′s stock broker from Futurama:

Mike Donnelly Totally Looks Like Sleazy 80's Stock Broker

Session 3) 1:45p “Defending Christian Faith: Fossils & the Flood” — Ken Ham

Why do I keep going to Ham’s sessions?!

There’s nothing really new here. Once again, Ham gave his same old arguments. He delved into how evolution occurs within the same “kind,” which he defines as the same “family,” which is why there was ample room on Noah’s Ark.

I wonder if Creationists just ignore insects in their talks, because insects on the ark would make the entire matter way more complicated…

Session 4) 3:00p Keynote: “Daring to Ask for More” — Eric Ludy

This guy is all about “high octane Jesus Christ” (his words). Seemed pretty accurate to me. He was yelling on the stage, trying to motivate the crowd to get out of their comfort zone and preach to the world, to follow God wherever he demanded they go. He also spent a lot of his time talking about some guy named C.T. Studd (I agree with Ludy: awesome name).

Ludy wanted the crowd to understand some “facts” about Jesus. Such as: “You are safer in Afghanistan with me (God) than in suburbia America apart from me.” God won’t stop you from dying, but maybe that’s not a problem: “This generation needs men willing to be spent to the death for Jesus Christ.”

So Ludy wants children to spend their lives preaching Christianity in dangerous places where their lives are in danger… scary!

Eric Ludy was perhaps the most chuckle-worthy speaker of the day. He mentioned a book he wrote called The Bravehearted Bible in which he claims “puts the manly parts of the Bible back into it.”

Just as Ryan mentioned, his message was about being able to give up your life for God and spreading the word of Christ. To me, that sounded like he was encouraging a strange form of martyrdom because he stressed that you should let God use you as he sees fit. He thinks God needs to be more militant.

On that note, he pointed out a phrase (which he called a “war cry”) that is in Exodus and used by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF): “Raq Chazaq.”

He translated the phrase completely differently than what it really means, not to mention he butchered the hard ch sound that is in the Hebrew language. Roughly, in modern Hebrew, this phrase means “Only Strength,” and is a phrase similar to “Semper Fi” in the Israeli Military.

The audience was really into it, though, and very engaged. I even overheard a mother say how much she liked the “war cry” and was going to start using it more often.

Session 5) 4:35p “The Measurement of a Man” — Eric Ludy

Ken Ham was giving a talk on “The origin of races” at this time, but I decided I was done with him unless he was giving another keynote. And since Ludy was doing another session, I wanted to hear more.

Plus, how could anyone resist that title…? :)

He started off by saying women were allowed to sit in, but this message was for the men. It was about how to be manly. In a Christian way.

The way to do that, I found out, was by standing firm in your beliefs, never budging, and eventually dying because of your beliefs. At one point he used a scale of 1-10 to describe something, but all I remember is that atheists were a 0.

Session 5) 4:35p “History via the Scenic Route” — Diana Waring

The final speaker I saw was Diana Warring. Like Ryan said, she was probably the best speaker I encountered at the conference, because she actually gave the best advice when it came to teaching compared to all the other speakers I heard. This time around, her presentation was about how teaching history could be a lot more fun if you gave the kids information they could relate to, in addition to the synopses they might read in a textbook.

An example she gave was that a teacher could tell the kids that Patrick Henry didn’t wear shoes until he was 9, in addition to telling them (the more famous anecdote) about how he stated: “Give me liberty, or give me death!”

She had a lot of great advice… if you ignore the parts where she said to use the Bible.

Saturday

Session 1) 8:00a Keynote: “Key to Rebuilding the Foundation in Family and Culture” — Ken Ham

Another talk with Ken Ham?!

Needless to say most of the information was the same as before.

But it was interesting to note that, before Ham took the stage, U.S. Congressman Randy Hultgren (R-IL) and his wife took the stage.

Hultgren thanked everyone for being involved, did a bit of badmouthing President Obama, talked about the deficit, and then said: “[Believing that the Founding Fathers wanted] separation of church and state is ridiculous.”

In case anyone is interested, his contact information is here

Session 2) 9:45a “Exposing the Wizard of Oz: A Christian’s Guide to Teaching History ” — Diana Waring

I went here because I actually liked what Waring had to say in her first session on Thursday. Maybe in the midst of the sexism and bad science at this conference, I could find something worthwhile. But that wasn’t the case this time around.

To be fair, Diana did have some good points. I agree with her that anyone teaching history should be considerate of the fact that the people involved are, well, people, and not just characters in a story. Every story in history has multiple angles from which to view it, and we ought to take that into account when reading a historical document. Makes sense, too.

Then, she got careless. Waring said she considers the Bible to be even more credible than primary sources when looking at history. (As if the Bible is full of historical facts…)

She added that she is uneasy teaching kids about Roman/Greek gods to children, because that may confuse them. Maybe she worried kids would believe in those gods instead of the Biblical one? I’d say Ancient Mythology is no more confusing or true than Current Mythology. But that’s just me.

Session 3) 10:55a “The Things Christian Parents Don’t Talk About” — Derek and Cheryl Carter

This session was surprisingly good. A better name for it, though, would have been “How to be a Parent.” They really didn’t get into secrets or uncomfortable discussions Christian parents might have. Instead, the main point was about treating your children with respect and how to be respected back. They discussed having a vision statement for your family. They talked about the need for strict rules, but added that the rules should be able to be appealed if the child has good reason.

All in all, I would say this session probably gave me the most positive information to use later in my life. The Carters should be commended for teaching these things, and I love that their session had very little religious talk (though it wasn’t devoid of it entirely).

At this point, though the convention wasn’t over, I stopped going to more sessions. I had seen enough of them to get the idea of what they had to say, and I really wanted to talk with some of the other attendees.

All of them seemed to have about the same things to say. They were star-struck over Ken Ham’s presence, for example. On the few occasions I told people why I was there, they politely asked what I thought of Ham and his presentations. The parents I spoke with all believed that their children were being prepared for the outside world the best way possible through homeschooling. One girl working at a vendor booth told me that I should go to the Creation Museum of the Ozarks and that there was a freethinkers group that went there from time to time I should get in touch with. (Hemant adds: Really? Which group is this?!)

I knew going into this convention I would be bombarded by Creationist propaganda. I knew Ken Ham would lie about science. But I wasn’t expecting to see so much overt sexism, and the lack of response to that. That concerns me quite a bit.

Did I learn anything? Yeah, a bit. I’m not a parent yet, but I think there are some lessons I could take away from this weekend that could be helpful for my future family. I’d say the Carters were the best presenters I saw, followed by Waring in a distant second.

Here’s what worries me the most. First, how much political power these people hold. Second, the number of children that many of the presenters have.

There were a few things that surprised me during the day I was there. I knew Ken Ham was a Creationist, but I learned that Ken Ham was not a fan of President Obama, and he had no problem making that clear in his speeches. I learned how many of these parents didn’t necessarily see a value in college. For example, one of Mike Donnelly’s presentations was about the benefits of apprenticeship over a college education.

I learned how well connected these families are politically. It was stressed repeatedly that parents should get to know their elected officials personally and write to them often. ICHE is also planning a number of events in Springfield, IL to talk to elected officials about their issues — as opposed to the maybe-once-a-year lobby days many secular advocacy groups have. They are planning to have a day where they get at least 4,000 people to go down to the Capitol Building in Springfield.

They stressed bringing kids, which is an emotional grab on the elected officials, and I don’t blame them. This form of lobbying works. In Indiana, when the Planned Parenthood issue was being discussed, there were kids wearing “Defund PP” stickers walking around the state house. Senators and Representatives mentioned these kids on the floor during debate. Although they may have been pure rhetoric, those statements became part of the public record.

I was also surprised to learn about the opposition to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). This statement is all about improving the lives of children in the world. Among the things listed in it: it prohibits the government from doing cruel and unusual things to children, protects them from capital punishment, says that they have the right to their own identity, and the right to have a relationship with both parents (even if separated).

There are only two countries that have not ratified this treaty: the United States and Somalia.

One possible reason we have not signed it is because of the protocols of signing international treaties. When the U.S. signs a treaty, it must codify the treaty’s promises within the laws — which requires Congress to pass it. It shouldn’t be that complicated, but it is.

The PAC Parental Rights was on-hand and their representative gave me an annotated sheet of their talking points after we had been discussing UNCRC and International norms for about 10-15 minutes.

It seems like this convention would be something that HSLDA would be more in favor of, but they have a lot of complaints. Let me point out just two of them: 1) They don’t like Article 37 which guarantees children protection from corporal punishment. They viewed this as the government telling parents they’re not allowed to (reasonably) spank their kids, which is seen as an infringement on parents’ liberty. 2) They don’t like Article 12 which says children have the right to freely express their opinions and religious preferences. With all the talk this weekend about kids leaving church at a young age, you can see their problem with it. Basically, they believe the government will agree to this statement and then use it to restrict homeschooling.

When it came to the textbooks and their vendors, I also expected them to have a Christian slant. Some secular companies were there (e.g. Rosetta Stone), but by and large, these were Christian companies trying to sell their products.

I only looked at History and Math books because those are subjects I know pretty well.

With the history books, they were definitely slanted across the board. For example, there was no history older than the ancient Egyptians. It makes sense only if you accept Young Earth Creationism. It was also very Euro-centric, with very little about India or China before they were “found” by the Europeans.

With regards to U.S. History, there seemed to be 5 major periods: the colonization of America, the American Revolution, the Civil War, World Wars I and II, and Ronald Reagan. Other history was present in the textbooks… but not nearly as much as you would find in a secular textbook.

A lot of the student books asked the students to find Bible verses that were appropriate when describing these events, which I think is a waste of time. It might make the history more personal, but it’s not fair or accurate to teach history that way.

As for math, I was pleasantly surprised. Most of the books seemed very good about their methodology on how to teach the concepts, if you ignore the Bible parts.

Yep. There were Bible parts to the Math books… One of the books for Geometry had the students looking up Bible verses to help them with congruency proofs for triangles.

What can atheists take away from this experience?

1) We need to do a better job of talking to political leaders. They may not always listen to us, but that might happen more often if they knew us on a first-name basis. We should always be in the back of their minds when they’re casting a vote. We need to do a better job of sending our elected officials letters, visiting them, and demonstrating our concerns. The homeschooling crowd can mobilize rather well, and they know how to keep their members informed. We could do that better.

2) We need to be aware of the rampant sexism in their community. These people really exploit the gender roles and norms. Is that a generalization? Yes, but it’s not an unfair one. They really think that the man should be working, and the woman should stay home and educate the children.

This was made clear even when the talks were about curriculum. For example, Diana Waring said — and I quote — “War history is more of a boy topic, and I guess the blood-thirsty girls will like it, too.”

Gender roles exist in society, but I kept thinking all day about the gender-gap in education when it comes to the science and math fields. It doesn’t help when groups like this one perpetuate the notion that women can only do certain things and they wouldn’t (or shouldn’t) be interested in fields traditionally dominated by men.

I think the atheist community needs to do a better job of listening to Jen McCreight, Greta Christina, et al. when they discuss the sexism that is occurring at atheist conventions, on blogs, etc.

Women who are brave enough to leave this sort of fundamentalist and Christian point of view deserve better from our community, and we’re not making a good case for ourselves when we’re being sexist as well. We’re better than the Christians I met this weekend, but not always, and not by much.


  • http://standardspicywhatnot.blogspot.com/ Naomi

    Very interesting post. I often think about being a fly on the wall at these things. I actually know a good deal of homeschoolers, mostly of the secular kind, but I know a few religious types, even taught a group swimming at one point. I don’t mind homeschooling itself but the sexism and religious blinders do annoy me about the Christian ones.

  • Marguerite

    “In other words, even though you may be a Bible-believing Christian who thinks ‘millions of years’ is possible, your kids may see that as a stepping stone to question the rest of the Bible and ultimately leave the faith altogether.”

    It can have that effect on honest parents, too. As a liberal Lutheran, I tried to reconcile evolution and the Bible, until my teenaged daughter said to me, “Look, Mom, if the Garden of Evil and Noah’s Ark aren’t real, and you think most of the Old Testament doesn’t reflect God’s true nature, then how do you know the rest of this stuff is real? Where do you draw the line, and how?” Ouch. Out of the mouths of babes…

    “Moms, you see, have “patience…”

    What is this patience of which he speaks??? I have four kids, and I’d like to buy some, please!

    Seriously, the gratuitous sexism amongst evangelicals is one of the absolute worst things about them, IMHO. Every time I read one of them talking about how women are only fit for specific roles because of their “nature,” my teeth grind together.

    I homeschooled my oldest for a year (because she was way ahead of the average kindergartner). Though I took the more liberal approach to homeschooling, I spent lots of time reading up on Christian homeschooling, and it disturbed me. As I said above, the sexism is awful, but Christian homeschoolers also seem to want to keep their kids in a bottle, safe from “secular” (read “scientifically valid”) influences, and that really, really worries me.

    Thank you for this post. It appears that in ten years, nothing has really changed amongst Christian homeschoolers. I worry for their children.

  • http://brainyfeet.com Laura White-Ritchie

    Thank you both for the awesome reporting.

    As a home educating atheist mom, this whole thing disgusts me. These people perpetuate so many horrible stereotypes about home education!

    Most of the people I know who home educate their kids are non-believers who want to nurture their kids’ natural curiosity encourage critical thinking and show them (by living the example) what it means to be independent, self-directed, lifelong learners.

    What we do is SO FAR REMOVED from what they do, that I hesitate to even call it the same thing. Which is one reason why I almost always use the words “home educate” rather than “homeschool.”

    Ugh! I could rant for ages! I won’t. But I could. Thanks again for posting this …even though it got my blood boiling. :)

  • apolymathman

    Nice article Hemant. To be honest I was half expecting another anti-homechooling rant so I was pleasantly surprised. People do tend to conflate homeschooling with creationist idiocy and that’s not ALWAYS the case; the two are orthogonal but admitedly often found shacked up together in the wild. There are some of us about who are completely secular and use the Bible as a source for comparative religion and cultural studies.

    As for the sexism thing, again please don’t be tempted to throw the baby out with the bath water. My daughter spent yesterday grooming ponies at the local stables but today we stripped down and rebuilt the derailleur on her bike, hooked up her Arduino to a pair of thermistors to investigate the thermal inertia of our garden pond and she’s just asked if she can spend the afternoon researching fuel cells. She WAS supposed to be working on her project to design a moon base today but hey, I’m not one of those Dads who’s all anal about schedules. Actually, thinking about it, fuel cells might be a decent way to power transport on the moon if there IS water up there. I’ll give her a hint.

  • http://criticallyskeptic-dckitty.blogspot.com Kev Quondam, Kevque Futurum

    It’s a shame that a homeschooling convention doesn’t actually, y’know, deal with important topics (or maybe it did and the authors of the article just didn’t go to them.) Instead of peddling Christianity, they should be engaging the parents in proper ways to teach, in methods that make their children learn more.

    But who am I kidding? Homeschooling by and large is a Christian thing so kids don’t get “indoctrinated” to liberal thinking.

  • Marguerite

    LOL. Didn’t get a chance to edit within the five-minute window, and clearly I should have. I meant the “Garden of Eden,” not the “Garden of Evil.” Freudian slip there…

  • Claudia

    Thanks to both Ryan and Mike for their reporting.

    I’m still a bit perplexed by how huge an issue evolution is to these people. Why not astrophysics, which for my money is even more threatening to notions of a young Earth (You don’t like 4 billion? How about 14 billion?) and how “special” we are. But then I remember all these “testimonies” of former Christians saying that the realization that evolution is true was the final nail in the religion coffin, and I guess maybe they’re right. For some reason, evolution IS a huge threat to their faith. I’d love for a former Christian to explain how that works.

    One small quibble with the language:

    The homeschooling crowd can mobilize rather well, and they know how to keep their members informed. We could do that better.

    “We” and the “homeschooling crowd” are not mutually exclusive. These are decidedly religious homeschoolers but there are plenty of secular homeschoolers. People often make the mistake of assuming that if you homeschool it must mean your a religious nut, which is unfair to secular parents who simply don’t find suitable educational options for their kids (for whatever reason) and decide to homeschool.

    Having read the entire post, I wonder; How would an undercover evangelical Christian report on an atheist convention?

  • Rich h

    Snarky comment,

    Ryan,
    The next time you need a wedding ring, try this

    Useful Ring

    The good news, after the convention, you can still use it :)
    Cheers!

  • http://chaoskeptic.blogspot.com Iason Ouabache

    Yep. There were Bible parts to the Math books…

    I really hope they didn’t use I Kings 7:23-26 to teach kids geometry or they would grow up thinking that Pi is equal to exactly 3.

  • oliver

    Grecoroman mythology turns kids into atheists.
    No kidding. I was like 9 or 10 when I started reading about Hercules after watching the TV series, you know, the campy one with Kevin Sorbo, and one year later I no longer believed in Christianity.

    So we ought to teach children about the greatest empires of History, and their polytheism.

  • Kimmie Deckard

    I raised seven children in an Apostolic private school, very comparable to the home-schooling agenda. Thankfully, they have recovered and are born-again atheists. :-) but not w/o hours of therapy, I might add. A butterfly? F*ck them and the horse they rode in on. I AM a hurricane! lol

  • Marguerite

    No kidding. I was like 9 or 10 when I started reading about Hercules after watching the TV series, you know, the campy one with Kevin Sorbo, and one year later I no longer believed in Christianity.

    I would totally worship Kevin Sorbo.

    Wait, did I say that out loud?

    Seriously… the “problem” with studying other religions is not so much that kids are likely to go worship Zeus, as they are to start wondering. “Wait, here are stories about another god, or a dozen other gods… what makes the stories in the Bible more real? How do I know that the Bible stories are any more real than these other myths? Hey, what if the Bible is just myths, too?” I think evangelicals understand that on some level, which is why they sometimes hesitate to expose their kids to other religions. These are not thoughts they want their kids having.

  • http://www.utexas.edu/ce/k16/ut-high-school/overview/ John Nicholson

    http://www.utexas.edu/ce/k16/ut-high-school/overview/
    The web that I stated is a new thing with Texas. They are starting to have schools which are like home schools for places where the population is low, drop outs, and other reasons. From what I see the lessons are more towards Khan Academy than toward the stuff in this article. At least, I hope so.

    I think this is going to be the future of schools. The reason is the high level of standard which can be put on the videos and courses. Science labs and sports are some of the issues which I see that can not be place in video classes. I am unsure about English classes and some others. I do see history and math classes being placed in videos.

  • Philbert

    Nice work guys – I just wish you had gone to the “origin of races” session. Ham’s views on fossil records are well explored, but his racial ideas need more exposure. PZ Myers noted a display in the creation museum showing Africans as descendants of the cursed Ham (the Biblical one, not the modern one). This idea was once used to justify slavery. I think it is important to find out what is being taught on this subject.

  • Ryan

    Philbert,

    He went into it some during his other talks. Basically, he says that we’re all the same race, and says it’s just like different breeds of dog. Of course, in his other talks, he was clear that some breeds of dog are better than others, so I suppose that should be a red flag. I’m sorry that I didn’t go to it, but honestly, I had heard more Ham than I could ever want to, and just couldn’t talk myself into going to another one.

  • Trace

    Very long post. Thanks to “our” undercover agents ;)

    We are unschoolers (dont follow a curriculum) so we dont go to most homeschooler conventions, but I know some families love them.

    In our family I am the main caregiver of our child and the one doing the bulk of home instruction. I find in most co-ops or support groups we attend, being an adult male is a rare but valuable commodity. Some parents have even told me it was good for their kids to have a male instructor in class.

    Although “evolution” gets most of the bad rap among YEC homeschoolers, anything dealing with geological/astronomical ages is a big taboo too. Chemistry can also be an iffy subject to teach.

    I recently left a Bible-based group when I got tired of all the self-censorship that was required of non-YEC science instructors. As a result some of the families in that group have started an “inclusive” co-op in the area (sorely needed in the rural part of NY where we live). It is all your fault, Richard ;)

    Through the years, I have found out that when it comes to science, Catholic/moderate Protestant homeschoolers are your friend. Social studies can be a different matter and positions there have more to do with political worldview than religious affiliation.

  • lurker111

    I’d have to be a “fly on the wall” to attend one of these conventions. Anything else and they’d notice every time I threw up.

  • Miles McCullough

    I think the typical fundamentalist attitude toward gender roles could best be summed up as “different but equal.” I’ve even met a few liberal types who disappointingly fall for this meme hook, line, and sinker.

    What’s so wrong with this idea is not just that it sets up men and women for strict gender roles, it’s that it sets up women and men for different rewards for a job well done. Men are supposed to desire money, power, ruthlessness, and adoration, while women are supposed to desire love, affection, cleanliness, and tranquility. From there it’s only a short step to “Wives submit to you husbands in all that you do.” And when the guy goes out and works long hours for a promotion ignoring his family, it’s the family’s job to be dutifully appreciative, even if everybody is unhappy with the situation (except the corporation, funny how that always works out).

  • Steve

    You’d think that a better way to get children to not question religion later on would be not emphasis the obvious nonsense so much. By teaching them that it’s so important, you keep it on their minds all the time and they’re more likely to seek out information about it.

  • Candide

    It doesn’t stop at gender-roles, unfortunately.

    My fiancee comes from a homeschooling family that attends these kind of conventions all the time. Not only was she pounded with the message that “men are supposed to work, women are to be keepers at home and helpers for their husbands” but that ADULT DAUGHTERS of Christian families must be in submission to their fathers until the time they are released (if you’re looking for a reference point, think the Roman paterfamilias.)

    I asked my future father in law at what age he thinks his TWENTY YEAR OLD daughter (my fiancee) to be an adult who is capable of making her own decisions, and I’ll never forget what he told me:

    “Not until I give her permission to be married or I die.”

    In other words, many (most?) of these Christian homeschooler types believe that their adult daughters are legally (according to “God’s law”) bound to their fathers. Many of these young women have been denied college educations, aren’t allowed to hold jobs, or even go out of the house without their fathers by their side.

    Want to read some scary stuff? Look up the “Commandments of Men” blog by Lewis Wells over on Blogspot and how he was basically left standing at the altar when his ex-fiancee was snatched back by her father using the Bible as a bludgeon.

    • Kaydenpat

      It definitely sounds scary that an adult woman would allow her father to “snatch” her back for any reasons — religious or not.  Wasn’t she capable of making her own decision?  Hope she never gets married — you never know what her father will order her to do/not do with her spouse.

  • http://blu28.wordpress.com/ Brian Utterback

    I would like to point out a slight inaccuracy in Mike’s commentary. He said “their decision making is based on the U.S. Constitution above all else — yes, even Justice Scalia”. I am not sure why you say “even” here. Scalia is a strict originalist, so not only does he always follow the Constitution, it is from a single viewpoint and moment in time. So, in that sense he follow it perhaps more than the rest of the Justices. On the other side of the coin, International law has been cited in some Supreme Court decisions, a fact that has enraged many. So, while the ideal may be apparent based on what was taught in your civics class, the reality is far more complex.

  • Claudia

    I think the typical fundamentalist attitude toward gender roles could best be summed up as “different but equal.” I’ve even met a few liberal types who disappointingly fall for this meme hook, line, and sinker.

    Liberal type here. I happen to share the idea that we are “different but equal”. Just like in virtually every species, male humans and female humans are different. We are not born blank slates and conditioned to every preference. There’s a reason transgendered and some gay children are identifiable through gender nonconformity at incredibly early ages sometimes, there is something in their biology that gives them preferences and impulses that more associated with a different gender.

    Now, two things are notable here. One is that “but equal” is very important. There’s no doubting that behaviors that are “male” are deemed “superior”. This value judgement has to do with a patriarchal culture that deems typically “female” behaviors as subordinate and lesser. Though more insiduous in highly religious communities, liberals are not immune, as any woman who has freely chosen to be a stay-at-home mom and recieved harsh criticism from feminist friends can attest. This is bullshit. There are female-associated behaviors and male-associated behaviors, but our decision to celebrate some and condemn the others is wrong.

    The other thing is that statistics and individuals are different things and this matters. It is ethicially wrong and very stupid to assume that just because you belong to X group associated with Y behavior you MUST conform to this. It is even more stupid to use these associations to make blanket policies (more boys like guns than girls, so no women in combat positions!). However just because we know that individuals vary greatly and are understandably concerned with stereotyping, doesn’t mean we can pretend that certain correlations don’t exist and, ideally, use them to make better policy. If girls shy away from math and/or science, then it would make sense to install programs to reinforce those subjects in school for girls. If boys are more likely to be violent, programs directed at conflict resolution would be a good idea for boys etc.

  • http://diff-path.blogspot.com Jennifer

    As an atheist homeschooler, I feel the need to comment here. I have been to a homeschooling convention myself and was appalled at all of the creationist garbage, and at the sheer number of people out there who subscribe to those beliefs. BUT I did find a lot of useful information too. It’s a matter of picking and choosing which lectures to attend and which vendors to shop with. Obviously if you’re going to a Ken Ham lecture, it’s going to be filled with creationism. But I attended some really great lectures on learning styles, teaching methods, ideas, and things like that. While I find the level of indoctrination that happens in much of the homeschooling community to be deeply disturbing, I also want people to know that there ARE those of us out there who choose to homeschool because we really and truly want the very best education for our kids. I love the flexibility in homeschooling; I can customize my kids’ education around topics they happen to be interested in at a given time, using methods that appeal to their own learning styles, at whatever pace is right for them. We can go on lots of field trips, participate in homeschool group activities, and have experiences out in the real world. I think this is greatly preferable to them having to sit all day in a classroom of 30 other kids, memorizing what is needed to pass the next standardized test and then forgetting it. I am constantly torn between wanting to do something to help the kids who are indoctrinated through religious homeschooling, but also strongly wanting to protect my own rights to educate my children as well. Even many families who choose to homeschool for religious reasons, are doing it because they want the very best for their kids – something they and I have in common – and I know many families who are providing a great education and raising good people. So PLEASE don’t judge us all based on the picture above alone.

  • http://wonderfulpages.com/sawdust KirbyG

    Wow. A flood of weird emotions here.

    We used to be conservative Christians, and my wife and I actually gave seminars (on child development, math concepts and young kids, and home organization) at a number of conservative Christian homeschool conferences.

    Yes, just like all of the Ham talks sounded the same, all of the conferences sound the same. As an above commenter noted, there is very little actual “homeschool” stuff that happens, and a lot of “OMG don’t let the atheists get your kids, here’s how to prevent them actually being exposed to anything but what you believe”. It gets to the point where they blur together and there is little difference between one and the other, no matter who the keynote is or what the them is.

    We are now atheists and we still homeschool in an area where the vast majority of homeschoolers are very conservative Christian (and the vast majority of secular homeschoolers are “unschoolers”). I too dislike being lumped in with these folks when people say “homeschoolers”, but our numbers (here) aren’t large enough to have a conference or much of a group.

  • http://wonderfulpages.com/sawdust KirbyG

    One thing to note about the increasing divide between religious and secular homeschoolers is that the religious types are homeschooling from the beginning for reasons of faith. They also are much more likely to (as in: most of them use) a “school at home” approach, with texts and boxed curriculum where the student just does a chapter a day and moves on. Very little parental teaching, very little curiosity-based learning, very teach-to-the-test, just like public school.

    We have observed that a larger and larger percentage of secular homeschoolers are those who are pulling kids from the school system due to behavioural problems or learning disabilities. This means that the standard “Oh, homeschoolers have much higher academic results than public school kids” is becoming less and less true, and the stereotype of wild socially-maladjusted homeschooler kids is now more prevalent than ever among secular homeschoolers.

    We still hang out with christian homeschoolers (the ones who will allow their kids to be seen with ours) because we find them to be one-the-whole better behaved and nicer to be with.

    We need more secular parents to believe in the homeschooling process and to take up the challenge and to be models of parenting and freethinking education, or else homeschooling will become the realm of christian wackos and atheist monster-kids.

  • Miles McCullough

    Claudia,

    Gender roles exist as descriptive correlations of natural preferences and as proscriptive guidelines for behavior.

    I should have been more clear that excusing the latter with the phrase “different but equal” was what stuck in my craw, not the former. I tend to think that the former would be better named gender differences to distinguish between the two, as “roles” imply proscriptive value, and then I go off all cocky and forget that I don’t control the English language.

  • Cyndi

    I homeschooled my daughter for eight years. At the time unless you had a degree in education you could only homeschool under a Christian umbrella program. I wasn’t atheist at the time but I wasn’t Christian either. But I refused to put my daughter in the shoddy schools here in Memphis so I suffered the programs and the guidelines set forth under the Gateway Christian schools program. I was required to join one of their social groups and encouraged to have my daughter join some of their activities and clubs.

    I ended up pulling her out the first year and I taught my daughter “underground” for the remainder of her academic years. I just couldn’t handle the people and their attitudes on education and child rearing. I wanted my daughter to think for herself, not follow their biblical standards. I was required to attend a church in order to stay in their program and the church we picked is pretty awesome but the Gateway program is brainwashing religious crap.

  • Celeste

    “Women who are brave enough to leave this sort of fundamentalist and Christian point of view deserve better from our community, and we’re not making a good case for ourselves when we’re being sexist as well.”

    Well said. Thank you for that!

  • OverlappingMagisteria

    She added that she is uneasy teaching kids about Roman/Greek gods to children, because that may confuse them. Maybe she worried kids would believe in those gods instead of the Biblical one?

    I think there is some truth to this. Learning about the Greek gods was one of the things that had me start questioning my own religion. Seeing a previous religion that was obviously wrong and was now discarded made me wonder if Christianity would someday be discarded. Will students be studying Christian mythology in 1000 years from now?

  • http://hoverFrog.wordpress.com hoverfrog

    In the UK it is the parents’ responsibility to provide an education for their children. The state is good enough to spend our taxes on schools and colleges so that parents may draw upon the expertise of trained educators and a national curriculum of topics and standards. It remains the parents’ responsibility though. As I understand the US system each education area (state, county, city, town) has it’s own rules and laws.

    What the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child sets out to do is to provide checks and balances to ensure that the child is safe and that parents and guardians are undertaking their responsibilities as they are supposed to. They aren’t about limiting the views of parents but about ensuring that the views of children aren’t suppressed. Education Otherwise (homeschooling in the UK) is concerned about the UNCRC because one of the checks involves access to the educational environment. For a school that is fairly straightforward but for a home educator it means access to the home and some people just aren’t willing to permit that.

    I’m not surprised that creationist level parents are concerned about it. The UNCRC will force parents to treat children like people with their own thoughts and feelings rather than vessels that they pour their faith into. It will allow the children freedoms that these parents seem to want to deny. Freedom perhaps to decide that Christianity isn’t for them.

  • http://politicsandpucks.blogspot.com Mike Brownstein

    Hoverfrog,

    Firstly thank you for your comment. I definitely agree. My gut reaction, and the same as some of my colleagues was that the Convention protects children in general, and that benefits everyone. The discussion I had with the Parents Rights representative was along those lines. I understand the objection, but if the US is to undergo educational reform in the future this convention may become more important, because you’re right about the fact that we have regional standards.

  • Lady Copper

    “I’m still a bit perplexed by how huge an issue evolution is to these people. Why not astrophysics, which for my money is even more threatening to notions of a young Earth (You don’t like 4 billion? How about 14 billion?) and how “special” we are. But then I remember all these “testimonies” of former Christians saying that the realization that evolution is true was the final nail in the religion coffin, and I guess maybe they’re right. For some reason, evolution IS a huge threat to their faith. I’d love for a former Christian to explain how that works.”

    Claudia, as a deconverted, former Creationist who was homeschooled the entire way, the main reason why evolution is absolutely not compatible with Christianity is the whole original sin doctrine. If there was no literal Fall in a literal Garden, then was there a literal curse? When? Why did God allow the enormous amounts of death necessary for evolution BEFORE anyone sinned, and then lie about it? Why did Jesus die for a Fall that never happened? It really does completely fall apart. I know lots of believers who believe in evolution also, but it requires a huge tolerance to cognitive dissonance and unwillingness to examine their beliefs very closely.

    As far as racism, we used to get the Answers magazine, even way back when it was Ex Nihilo, and I remember quite a few articles about how closely related the entire human race is and what an evil racism is. Actually, they usually went on at length about how believing in evolution was a major cause of racisim. Oh well!

    Our family was always really into apologetics and so far 2 out of 5 children have deconverted, so don’t get too discouraged about the fundie homeschooling taking over the country. They are worried about “the world” for good reason.

  • http://facebook.com/amandajeantetz Amanda Tetz

    She added that she is uneasy teaching kids about Roman/Greek gods to children, because that may confuse them.

    obviously the reason she doesn’t feel comfortable teaching her children about those gods/goddesses/myths is because it’s easy to draw the conclusion that if those obviously-false ancient myths have fallen out of style, who’s to say christianity won’t follow suit?

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff P

    I wish all the secular home-schoolers good fortune. I wish the religious home-schoolers who aren’t doing it just for indoctrination purposes good fortune as well. As for the religious home-schoolers who are doing it solely for indoctrination purposes to shield their kids from the evil secular world, I hope they teach their kids to ask “Would you like fries with that?”.

  • Claudia

    @Miles, thanks for the clarification. There’s never a misunderstanding that I’m unwilling to write a ridiculously long uninvited commentary on, in any event ;-)

    @Lady Copper, that’s really interesting, I had never thought of that. I suppose being a lifelong atheist all the cognitive dissonance required for belief seems similar to me. I can remember reading a children’s Bible at the age of 12 and reading the story of Noah (always a favorite with the colorful animals and such) and thinking “What?! God drowned everyone?! Wow!” The cognitive dissonance to accept the flood story and a loving god seems like it would be first rate to me, but then the original sin stuff is more central to the mythology, so I suppose evolution would invade a much more essential doctrine than the loving god drowning infants.

  • http://wordsideasandthings.blogspot.com/ Garren

    A fascinating read. Thanks for going and telling us about it!

  • michelle

    What we do is SO FAR REMOVED from what they do, that I hesitate to even call it the same thing. Which is one reason why I almost always use the words “home educate” rather than “homeschool.”

    ^THIS. I hate the way many liberal or highly educated people automatically look at my son as if he must be socially inept or maladjusted as soon as we say we home educate. And the look on the Christian Homeschoolers’ faces when they ask which curriculum we use and we answer: K12, museums, state and national parks, the aquarium, the internet and the public library. We take crap from both sides.

    In our current political climate the idea of more government oversight in homeschooling laws feels a little scary – we can’t even protect public schools from the christian wakadoodles! However, it does frighten and sadden me to think of all those kids out there being taught by parents who are themselves uneducated. After years of diligent study they will be (as a former commenter already pointed out) little prepared for anything but seminary or fast food.

  • Marguerite

    Claudia, as a deconverted, former Creationist who was homeschooled the entire way, the main reason why evolution is absolutely not compatible with Christianity is the whole original sin doctrine. If there was no literal Fall in a literal Garden, then was there a literal curse?

    I was never a creationist, but I’m going to speculate that another big reason for disliking evolution so intensely is that it’s virtually impossible to reconcile with the idea of a God who created this one special planet and designed us in his image. If you believe the world is only 7000 years old, and that God created Adam and Eve out of clay and breathed life into them, then it’s easier to believe in a God who is truly invested in this particular world and its people.

    I know there are people who believe in evolution AND Christianity, but I’ve never quite been able to reconcile it, myself. If Darwinian evolution is correct, then God did not design us in his or any other image– we just happened via natural selection. People who say, “Well, sure evolution is real, but God set the world up so that we would be the end point” are basically missing the point, it seems to me– they’re saying, “Darwinian evolution is not real,” whether they understand that or not.

    So yes, IMHO, evolution is absolutely the enemy of Christianity, whether literal or liberal. If evolution is real, then God didn’t design any of this, and there is no personal loving God watching the fall of every sparrow. So of COURSE evangelicals see evolution as the Big Enemy. How could they not?

  • Darlene

    I’ve been to those conventions, but never bothered with the lectures, at least not like these. I enjoyed talking to the vendors and actually looking the books instead of finding them online and hoping they were what I wanted. My husband and I had a few giggles at some of the more overt religious stuff, and accepted the sorrowful sympathies of everyone who discovered we only had one kid (not quite a quiverful!). And I’d say the number of people who go to these things and don’t quite believe all the way are higher than we’d think. We’ve home schooled for years, and

    I do think the organization created by churches working with churches is powerful, and something secular groups don’t seem to match. They have social groups and powerful connections already built in, we don’t.

    And, yes, the sexism and misogyny and racism is probably a bit uglier coming from an atheist–who I’d hope had better thinking skills–than from someone who I know believes blindly.

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff P

    @Claudia,

    As many of the religious commenters here at FA have told us, “Good” is just operationally defined as what “God does” or what “God wants”. Therefore, with holding this operational definition of “Good”, there is not so much of a problem for the religious with floods indiscriminately killing or God damning the multitudes to hell. It’s all good if God does it. You just need to suck it in and get with the program. :)

    Evolution, though, causes real problems with the core reason for the Christian concept of God.

    From the secular perspective, though, it’s the other way around. A secular person could accept a young-earth hypothesis if the evidence supported it. In such a situation, perhaps all life was seeded on the planet (as is) by an alien culture. Life on the alien planet could have evolved over billions of years. Of course in our particular case, all the evidence points to life evolving right here over billions of years with no need for aliens… The secular person has a greater problem with the ethics behind floods and damning to hell because “good” is defined differently than how religious people define it. Some secular people view “good” as a first principle before anything else (including any notion of God). Other secular people view “good” as being contingent on culture and events on the ground.

  • Alex

    This may seem like a minor point to some, but it bothers me a great deal: the clear gender roles being forced down these kids’ throats.
    Sexism and religion seem completely inseparable to me, but most feminist forums I read want so desperately to be inclusive, and most atheist forums seem convinced that sexism is no longer an issue. Those are the two groups most frequently bashed by the evangelicals, I wonder why we haven’t all gotten together on the issue.

  • http://annainca.blogspot.com Anna

    She added that she is uneasy teaching kids about Roman/Greek gods to children, because that may confuse them. Maybe she worried kids would believe in those gods instead of the Biblical one?

    Oh, good. That’s my strategy for teaching children about religion. If I focus on stories about all the different gods and goddesses from every world culture, I’m sure it will prevent my kids from seeing the biblical deity as the only viable candidate. It should become obvious to them that there’s no reason (except cultural influence) to consider monotheism more likely than polytheism or Yahweh more logical than Zeus.

    For further reading about religious homeschooling and the kind of sexism found at this convention, I recommend Write These Laws on Your Children: Inside the World of Conservative Christian Homeschooling by Robert Kunzman and Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement by Kathryn Joyce. Fascinating (and scary) stuff!

  • http://www.pbase.com/jfinite Justin Bonaparte

    Great writeup, thanks for the interesting look!

  • Austin

    I’m appalled that people go to such great lengths to brainwash children. That thing about the UN resolution? I find that horrifying. If kids aren’t allowed to express themselves then you might as well start brainwashing them like Hitler’s youth. I don’t have any problems with homeschooling but that is ridiculous. I am home schooled part time through an Internet program. (just 2 classes.) I want to scream at that Illinois congressman to pick up a history book. And a SECULAR history book.

  • ckitching

    He gave numbers that indicated homeschooled kids do better on standardized tests than any other children — lauding homeschooling as the reason they do so well. He didn’t consider the possibility that parents who homeschool their children are able to give them years of one-on-one tutoring and obviously have a vested interest in their kids’ education.

    Or how about the fact that you can’t homeschool a child with a minimum-wage single-income. You may not have to be incredibly wealthy, but there is a big difference between supporting a child with two incomes at minimum wage versus one. It is well documented that academic performance is greatly affected by the level of family income if for no other reason than the fact poverty is associated with malnutrition.

    Correct for all these factors, and I’ll bet homeschooling doesn’t do so well, especially given the nonsense these people are teaching to their children as fact. Good thing most of the standardized tests don’t make sure the children are tested for accurate historical knowledge or an understanding of scientific principles.

  • Annie

    Thank you Ryan and Mike! Nice job. I am not surprised by any of this. I have nonreligious friends who homeschool. They went to one convention (not even marketed as a Christian one) and thought it was way too religious for their liking. I can only imagine what a christian event would be like. You took us there. Thanks!

  • John-Henry Beck

    There was a mention of the Creation Museum of the Ozarks and a freethinkers group visiting it.
    Sounds like that would be referring to the Springfield Freethinkers and the Branson Freethinkers. We had a visit there on May 22nd. (I hear they were open just for us, being not normally open on Sunday.)
    I didn’t go personally, though…I was still recovering from Rapture Day in Wichita. But I understand we had at least 15 people go. To what I hear was just a cramped little place. Not exactly impressive.

  • Larry Meredith

    wow… that was a really long article and I actually read every word… now my eyes kinda hurt, and it doesn’t seem like I learned much from it. It’s pretty much what I’d expect from an event like this.

    I think the comment at the end about the atheist community being only slightly less sexist than fundamental Christians was going over the top. We’re much less. There’s some sexist comments here and there but much of the time it’s just immature joking around that people like Jen McCreight take far too seriously by tediously counting every time an atheist dares mention her breasts.

  • amey

    The Standardized test thing is a misleading argument. Many states do not require any kind of testing, so often the only students who would take those tests are students who would do well. If you think your child is struggling, why would you voluntarily test them? Also worth noting is that there are standardized tests that parents can give at home, which means we’re relying on parents to enforce the testing conditions (keeping to time restrictions, not helping interpret questions, etc).

    Ken Ham is being more forceful and pushing the Young Earth position even more right now because of a blow up that happened at another homeschooling convention and he was disinvited. It’s been playing out on HS message boards. Apparently he agreed to mediation with that particular convention company and then backed out, probably because one of the terms of the mediation was to “shut up about the whole thing already” which means Ken Ham would have to stop waving his “Free Speech” and “persecution” flags on Facebook and everywhere else.

    I’m a secular homeschooler who would like to attend a conference to see other curriculum options, but the only one held in my state features Ken and similar people and I just don’t want to give them my money. So, I manage with online samples and similar things.

  • http://darkenedstumbling.blogspot.com/ Leum

    The Standardized test thing is a misleading argument. Many states do not require any kind of testing, so often the only students who would take those tests are students who would do well. If you think your child is struggling, why would you voluntarily test them? Also worth noting is that there are standardized tests that parents can give at home, which means we’re relying on parents to enforce the testing conditions (keeping to time restrictions, not helping interpret questions, etc).

    The No Child Left Behind Act mandates standardized testing in certain grades for all public schools. It doesn’t specify which standardized test, leaving that decision up to the state, but there’s definitely universal testing.

  • Darlene

    Or how about the fact that you can’t homeschool a child with a minimum-wage single-income. You may not have to be incredibly wealthy, but there is a big difference between supporting a child with two incomes at minimum wage versus one. It is well documented that academic performance is greatly affected by the level of family income if for no other reason than the fact poverty is associated with malnutrition.

    Correct for all these factors, and I’ll bet homeschooling doesn’t do so well, especially given the nonsense these people are teaching to their children as fact. Good thing most of the standardized tests don’t make sure the children are tested for accurate historical knowledge or an understanding of scientific principles.

    Actually, I know several single parents who are homeschooling. It isn’t easy, but it is very possible. Coops and group classes help, and other homeschoolers will often pinch in to help care for each others kids. I’ve helped school kids for friends who had to work…and most homeschoolers I know are on single incomes, maybe not minimum wage but we all choose to give up the things that second income could give us and live on a tight budget.

    And all homeschoolers aren’t teaching nonsense. And all homeschoolers don’t do well on tests, they as a group average higher. I work with gifted kids, and many parents of gifted kids end up Homeschooling because schools, especially public schools, don’t have the ability to meet their needs. They resist advancing kids, and it’s almost impossible to allow a kid to move at his or her own pace in a traditional school, something that Homeschooling excels at. Throw all those gifted kids in the mix, plus the individualized learning and it’s no wonder many kids do better.

  • http://www.freedomloversacademy.com Kristina

    The No Child Left Behind Act mandates standardized testing in certain grades for all public schools. It doesn’t specify which standardized test, leaving that decision up to the state, but there’s definitely universal testing.

    This does not apply to homeschooled students.

    The Standardized test thing is a misleading argument. Many states do not require any kind of testing, so often the only students who would take those tests are students who would do well. If you think your child is struggling, why would you voluntarily test them? Also worth noting is that there are standardized tests that parents can give at home, which means we’re relying on parents to enforce the testing conditions (keeping to time restrictions, not helping interpret questions, etc).

    There are some states that do require standardized testing for homeschooled students. In fact, there are some states that require it for homeschooled students in grades that they don’t require it for students that attend brick&mortar schools. And, in those states, the homeschooled students are still outperforming public school students. I do think it is a bit disingenuous to assume that homeschool parents would help their children ‘cheat’, but public school teachers wouldn’t. It happens across the board, although it helps no one.

  • http://www.freedomloversacademy.com Kristina

    Or how about the fact that you can’t homeschool a child with a minimum-wage single-income. You may not have to be incredibly wealthy, but there is a big difference between supporting a child with two incomes at minimum wage versus one. It is well documented that academic performance is greatly affected by the level of family income if for no other reason than the fact poverty is associated with malnutrition.

    I have no documentation, and cannot remember where I read it, so you can take it or leave it… Homeschooling seems to be the great equalizer when it comes to income vs education. I know several families (secular homeschoolers ;D) who are living on minimum-wage single-incomes. One of the families has one child, one has two, and one has three. They all eat well, mostly organic, one vegan, one gluten-free (which can be darn expensive), growing a lot of their own food in their backyards. They don’t complain about their income, either. They just deal with it. Their kids are intelligent, and learning well. However, because of their income, they live in horrible neighborhoods. The neighborhood schools are awful. I guarantee that their school experience would not be as good as someone across town in the wealthy neighborhoods.

  • michelle

    Or how about the fact that you can’t homeschool a child with a minimum-wage single-income. You may not have to be incredibly wealthy, but there is a big difference between supporting a child with two incomes at minimum wage versus one. It is well documented that academic performance is greatly affected by the level of family income if for no other reason than the fact poverty is associated with malnutrition.

    I disagree. We are currently homeschooling two children with the part time minimum wage earnings of one parent. And we are not malnourished – we have a garden, we can food, and we don’t buy expensive box foods or junk foods – we buy the ingredients to make our own food. So, we actually eat better than the average American while spending drastically less on groceries. Also, as I said earlier – the public library is an excellent addition to any curriculum. It is a great way to have access to lots of materials (especially with the inter-library loan system) at zero cost (so long as you return things on time.)

    However, because of their income, they live in horrible neighborhoods. The neighborhood schools are awful.

    Absolutely! We don’t live in a poor neighborhood, but a poor TOWN. There is only one school district, which has perpetually been on the list of Academically Distressed Schools since the list was created. I KNOW our kids are getting a better education at home. And, yes, our children do have to take the same standardized tests as every other kid in our state.

  • Jamie Mularkey

    This was a really good article. Although, Ryan’s brothers are extremely more awesome than he is.

  • Rollingforest

    “we’re not making a good case for ourselves when we’re being sexist as well. We’re better than the Christians I met this weekend, but not always, and not by much.”

    Okay, these are the kind of comments that annoy me. Yes, Ken Ham et al are sexist, but comparing the Atheism movement to them and saying that we are not much better than them on this issue is insulting. The members of the Atheist movement are some of the most progressive people in America and on the blogs I read have been respectful to women. There have been issues at Atheist conventions, but the problems themselves were not gender related and referring to them as “horrible instances of sexism” is warping the issue. One group was rude to a woman debating the use of the word “female” but they would have been even more ruder to a man requesting that the word “male” not be used. Another presenter commented on the beauty of a blogger, but nowhere did he say that only women should have their beauty commented on.

    In all of these cases, the worst was always assumed about the men who spoke because they were men. If women had done the same thing they would have been given the benefit of the doubt. In both cases, the words of the men were spun to make them seem to say things they never said. You can’t get to gender equality by demonizing the men in the movement. Jen seems more prejudice in this way than any of the people she criticizes.

  • The Flash

    @Jamie Mularkey

    I agree Ryan’s brothers are clearly superior to him in every way.

    It was a pretty good read though.

  • Mom2Many

    Y’all do know you sound just like the radical conservative Christians you are busy stomping on, doncha???

    There seems to be a real lack of knowledge about the orgins of the modern homeschooling movement. Because the radical conservative Christians are the squeeky wheel doesn’t make them the majority.

    Those of us who have homeschooled, actually unschooled, for decades, don’t spend all that much time worrying about what other homeschoolers are doing as long as it doesn’t affect homeschooling laws.

    And, before anyone gets all gleeful over the UNCRC, remember that part and parcel is their intent to have a universal curriculum that is tied to teaching a decidely 1984, lockstepped bunch of brainwashed people.

    As to brainwashing, I’d suggest y’all go take a good look at the history of public schooling in the U.S. The type and form the brainwashing is to take is clearly spelled out.

    Having been stuck in public school for 12 years, there is one thing I did learn, and others might want to remember, do you homework!

    That applies in particular to folks who think homeschooling is expensive, NOT!, and that a single parent can’t do it. And the comments about nutrition, ah, that would be another NOT! You’re buying into what the DC Whorehouse is selling you! One more reason for their cradle to grave takeover of its citizenry!

  • Meg

    I homeschooled my kids for 11 years and I never went to a Christian Homeschool Conference. A Methodist friend of mine refers to the one here in Indiana as a Church Revival Meeting.

    OTH, Chicago is also home to an amazing homeschool conference – http://homeeducatorsconference.org/ – This is an inclusive, secular event and my kids and I made the 4 hour drive for years in order to attend.

  • teachermom

    Mom2Many is right. You all simply form the opposite ranting extreme to Ken Ham and his ilk. Both are irrational,reactive,fear-based positions…opposite sides of the same coin.

    We are traditional Christians, and I am a 35 year educator, late in life home educating mom. We use few textbooks because my goal is to teach children how to think critically and creatively from primary source documents and related excellent literature of all types. The curriculum of the public schools nowadays is a skills based and skills oriented environment…offering the stale ashes of pre-digested thought. We do not choose materials in which either Christian or humanistic bias is evident.

    We feel that real Christianity has plenty to say to people of both intellect and faith. Unlike my fellow radical Christian conservatives, I feel no pressure to defend God or His holy scriptures to atheists or those who choose to worship their “convictions” more than or instead of God …the materialist convictions of the humanist/atheist or the blind faith of those Christians fearful of thinking and reasoning.I base this on Jesus’s admonition not to cast “pearls” before swine…those folks who cannot really receive truth due to their mighty agendas.

  • Therese

    I wish you’d go to more than just the fundamentalist homeschooling conventions as it is not a balanced view of the huge and varied community of home educators. Although I enjoy the humor in your writing, it’s important to understand that not all home educators have the same values, beliefs or styles. Of the dozens of homeschoolers I know and regularly interact with, none use the same curriculum, have mirrored beliefs and many of us are different faiths (or no faith at all). And that’s ok! Generalizations are unfair at best and dangerous at worst. We’re not all the same. No more than you that public school are the same. Don’t assume that you are an expert on homeschoolers because you know this one “crazy” family that homeschools. And one more point…thankfully, we live in the United States that gives us the right to teach our children as we see fit; be it public, private or home school. No one should tell another what is best for them or their kids. Don’t agree with homeschooling? Don’t do it. Don’t want your kids in public school? Don’t put them there. Simple enough, but the tough part is keeping your nose out of that decision. It is personal, not made lightly and should be respected.

  • Harold Baize

    Their opposition to UNCRC is more chilling when you consider some of the terrible things that happen in fundamentalist home schooling.

    This case is a family just a few miles from where I live (Chico, CA).

    http://www.khsltv.com/content/localnews/story/Paradise-Couple-Sentenced-To-Prison-For-Beating/rW6lmxkD-0mOMNy7s0nQXQ.cspx

    or tiny url:
    http://tinyurl.com/43jhqts

  • http://www.shockandblog.com/ Jinx McHue

    “To check out my options since my “son” is still too young to be in school. To back up my story, I downloaded some pictures of my nephew to my phone. I even dug up an old ring an ex-girlfriend gave me that could stand in for a wedding ring if it wasn’t inspected too closely…”

    So in the world of atheism, it’s okay to lie and deceive. Brilliant! Just brilliant!

  • Harold Baize

    They were home schooling and fundamentalists. They believed in “biblical discipline.”

    More details in this article:
    http://www.chicoer.com/news/ci_14388171

  • Harold Baize

    Jinx McHue said:
    “So in the world of atheism, it’s okay to lie and deceive. Brilliant! Just brilliant!”

    No atheists do not condone or engage in deception more than others (i.e. christians).

    In this case it’s called undercover reporting, and yes it is brilliant. Using a false identity is often the only way to get accurate information on weird political or religious groups. Would be nice if that were not necessary, but it is.

  • http://www.shockandblog.com/ Jinx McHue

    Don’t you have to be a reporter to do “undercover reporting?” Anyway, I seriously doubt that these people really had to lie to gain access to the convention. What did they think? That they wouldn’t be welcomed? That the speakers would censor themselves? That the cops would be called? Please. I bet that if I contacted the people behind the convention and the speakers and asked them about this situation, every single one of them would agree that these people lying about their identities was completely needless.

  • http://www.shockandblog.com/ Jinx McHue

    “No atheists do not condone or engage in deception more than others (i.e. christians).”

    That made me laugh out loud.

  • Harold Baize

    The Schatz parents were following the parenting suggestions of this fundamentalist group that encourages corporal punishment:

    http://www.nogreaterjoy.org/

    They even propose “training” for babies.

  • http://www.freedomloversacademy.com Kristina

    They were home schooling and fundamentalists. They believed in “biblical discipline.”

    The Schatz parents were following the parenting suggestions of this fundamentalist group that encourages corporal punishment:

    http://www.nogreaterjoy.org/

    They even propose “training” for babies.

    What you said is true, Harold. But, this did not happen because of them being homeschoolers. It happened because of them being fundamentalists. I’d like to invite you to read this article, written by a homeschooler about it. She did a very thorough investigation on the whole matter.

  • gr8tolzw8

    WOW!!! you sure go to a lot of trouble to knock down Christians. if you would have expended 1/2 the energy you spent on this event and writing this article on studying the history of the public school system and the world from old textbooks before they were written to alter history, you wouldn’t have just proven to me how ignorant you are.
    WOW!!!

    oh…i just noticed you moderate your comments. isn’t THAT bias??? not very open minded!!

  • Lynn

    “We” and the “homeschooling crowd” are not mutually exclusive. These are decidedly religious homeschoolers but there are plenty of secular homeschoolers. People often make the mistake of assuming that if you homeschool it must mean your a religious nut, which is unfair to secular parents who simply don’t find suitable educational options for their kids (for whatever reason) and decide to homeschool.

    Yes, yes, yes!! I am a borderline secular homeschooling parent. I do teach my children about God but I do not use the Bible as my text book. In fact, I don’t even own a Bible…which would make many of my homeschooling friends gasp in shock.
    As with any group, there are always those that fall firmly within the stereotype & it seems you found them at this convention. Please do not view all homeschoolers through this lens as many of us would have cringed at those seminars as well. In fact, we all stayed home & did fun stuff instead of going in the first place!
    Regarding curriculum, yes science & history are still the challenging ones to find. Luckily the number of secular homeschoolers is rapidly increasing which greatly encourages companies to produce the materials we desire.
    Thanks for the article, but mostly, thanks for staying friendly about it!

  • Julie

    @Michelle, if you’re using K12, are your children homeschooled or public school students whose parents teach at home? There’s not only a legal difference, but a funding difference as well.

  • C Honaker

    “Friendly Atheist”! After reading this I can clearly see that that is a joke!

    I find it extremely offensive that atheists are offended by my right to be a Christian and to raise my children as Christians! Really, is it not bad enough that atheists are so offended by the mere mention of “God” that our public schools have now virtually banned all references to God. Now they also decide to stick their nose in our personal family life too! What gives atheists the right to say that we have no rights! You believe what you want and raise your children the way you see fit but do not come telling me that I should raise my children by your standards! You are no better than the terrorists that believe that their way is the only way that is acceptable. Get over yourself! Each person as the right, yes I will say “God Given Right”, to believe as they choose and to raise their family in a manner that they feel is the “right” path for them.

    As for the sexist comments, please give me a break. You are clearly attempting to stir things up with those comments that are complete lies. I am sure that there are some people that still believe that the “woman has a place” but that is not prevalent in homeschool families anymore than it is in the general population of society. Although I do not agree with that philosophy it is STILL the parents right to raise their children, not yours!

    It is also clear that you deliberately attended the workshops that were Christian based and none of the workshops that were about curriculum. If you did attend those you did not bother to mention it.

  • Mandie Barber

    Well, I have to say that you atleast went to see what it was all about. However, you didn’t seem to go with an open mind. I mean yes you may not share the same beliefs; but not all of us do. I thought that was one of the reasons this country was so great was so you can be an Athist,others can be Buddist, Muslims, or anything else they want to be. So they are Christians.
    Yes they don’t agree with your beliefs but you clearly don’t agree with theirs. So let them have their conventions and their get togethers. It’s their American right.
    Most of those parents just want the right to raise their children how they see fit. You have to admit most of the kids there were polite and clean looking.

    One thing that was stated in here was about looking at their textbooks – math and history and to see what they were putting in them. They look at the public schools textbooks the same way.
    Athist, you weren’t very friendly in your articles. While we enjoy the freedom of the press, they too enjoy their freedoms. So while you can state your opinions just know that the laws that protect their freedoms to have such conventions and teach their children these “aweful untruths”, are also the laws that give you the freedom to have this web page. Just don’t be to hasty to put one side down so much.
    Oh and homeschooling has been around in this country longer than public schools. Just saying.

  • Kim dE

    As a Christian homeschooling parent who attended this very conference, I’m not shocked or surprised at the negative spin given by the “non-religious” secret spies. If you have not ears to hear, what can be expected.

    What is slightly troubling, however, is the cynicism from fellow homeschoolers…I mean, home educators… who prefer not to be associated with the Christians. May I remind you that were it not for the many faithful, God-fearing families with the assistance of HSLDA attorneys, who fought legal battles in the 1980′s to make homeschooling legal in all 50 states, you may not enjoy the freedoms you have today? Maybe you should include a little moment of prayer in your daily homeschool routine and thank God for the gift you enjoy each day.

  • Mandie Barber

    So now that you read my first post I will tell you this. I was one of those children that was being taught “untruths”. I was homeschool my whole life till I went to college. Yes I did go and I made DEANS list. I am a Christian and will fight for my right to be so. We don’t go forcing our selves on you. We don’t go to any special meetings you all may have. Yet, you chose to come to one of ours. I don’t care what you say, our coutry is out to dumb down it’s people and homeschooling is a threat. You want to know why they are turning our kids into dumb people. Because you can’t control smart people. It’s happened time after time in history. God has called us to follow Him. So homeschooling our Children is our right,privilage, and calling. I don’t live in IL. but I grew up there. Just keep in mind, there are grown up homeschool kids out there and we are a force that no one has seen before!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Kristen Lowery

    You are wrong when you say that just the parents of really smart kids want to have standardized testing done, and somehow this skews the results of comparing homeschoolers to public school students.

    Three of my four children are on the Autism Spectrum. I have them tested so I can know how they are progressing. I know quite a few other homeschooling parents of children with disabilities that do the same.

    Unlike public schools in my area, I don’t halt my regular teaching for three weeks prior to the testing so I can teach them how to score well on tests. My oldest was in public school for four years and the school did exactly this each year. As a homeschooling parent I am not pressured to have the kids do well so I can receive funding.

    My children fall across the board when it comes to their scores. My oldest always scores in the top 97% while my third child scores in the lowest 5%. I test to help me evaluate where my children may need more work, and where they could be challenged more.

    The main reason that I pulled my oldest out of public school was that they couldn’t provide what she needed. She would know all her work after studying at home, and then get to school & score 30% on the test (yes this is the same kid that scores in the top 97% on standardized tests). She would do weird things, and the school would treat it as misbehavior instead of a part of her Autism. I requested that she recieve an aide, and although she legally fell into the category where they should have provided her with one, the school told me that she’s really not “bad enough” and that they didn’t have one to spare. I could have fought it legally, but what it came down to is that I had a vested interest in my child, and the school had none.

  • http://dave-homeschooldad.blogspot.com/ Home School Dad

    I was at the ICHE conference in question. I saw many of the same speakers as these guys did. One thing I agree with Ryan on was that the end of Ken Ham’s Six Days or Millions of Years talk did seem a little like an infomercial for his books.I thought that he really toned down that aspect of his talks at the keynote sessions I saw on Friday and Saturday.

    In his take-a-ways for Atheists, Mike said
    “They (Christian Homeschoolers) really think that the man should be working, and the woman should stay home and educate the children.” For the past 3 years I have home educated our children and my wife has worked outside the home at a public school. No one in the Christian Home School community ever has criticized me for teaching my kids at home and having/letting/allowing/whatever ing word floats your boat my wife work. Not only that, but Mike Smith, the president of the Home School Legal Defense Association and a key note speaker at the conference commended me publicly after learning of our situation.

    In regards to his curriculum comments about the history texts being Eurocentric, Mike must have missed the Mystery of History book that was featured at many of the vendor’s stands. This book while it covers all The Americas and Europe in its first volume spends most of its time in Asia Africa and the Middle East. It starts at the beginning of time (Creation) and goes to the time of Christ. I used it this year with my kids and learned many things about ancient civilizations like the Phoenicians and Sumerians that I don’t remember learning in secular public schools.

    Lastly, I would like to say that I agree with commenter Jinx who said that Ryan didn’t really need a cover story. As a former print reporter and current Blogger I will not say that what he did was deceptive. Just unneeded. Ryan, Mike and Hemant would have all been welcome to the convention. Grandparents and Pastors are always admitted free to the conference each year so they can get a better understanding of what their children and parishioners are endeavoring in home education. I think you all would have been welcome without any need for any pretense.

    In fact if I were running the event I would have allowed you for free since I believe that atheism is a religion and since you seem like you are leaders in the atheistic religion I would have let you in @ the pastor’s rate.

    P.S. If I haven’t conveyed this already. I thought this was an interesting take on the conference and may even include some of your observations if and when I ever get around to writing my review of the conference.

  • April

    very good article

    but, as others have mentioned, please don’t automatically assume that homeschooler = christian

    i am an atheist AND my kids are educated at home

  • http://www.thecharlottemasongirl.com Sue

    It’s always interesting to see what others think of things I hold so dear. We woldn’t expect to come to agreement on these issues, but it’s good to discuss. One question I have – you seemed to think that Christian homeschoolers hold to a sexist idea of men’s and women’s roles. That we think that the man should go out and work, and the woman should simply stay home and teach. You also seemed to appreciate the teaching of Diana Waring.

    It strikes me that her teaching so prominantly at this event would refute that idea.

    I’m also involved with the fight against the UNCRC. The items you mentioned in your article are not even the ‘tip of the iceberg’, so to speak, in this issue. I would invite you to check out parentalrights (dot) org to see all the sovereignty our nation would give up, and how far into the home the UN would reach if we ratify this treaty.

    Thanks for this glimpse into your thoughts on this topic.

  • http://www.homeschoolingonthecheap.com Suzanne Stewart

    I suppose I’m one of those “moderate Christian” homeschoolers someone mentioned. And while I do not go out of my way to avoid conservative Christian homeschooling groups or families, I do find it difficult to function as a homeschooler because of them.

    Very little in the way of Christian homeschooling curriculum appeals to me for use with my children because of the viewpoints expressed – and I’m not just talking about evolution here.

    I’ve also found that to be a single homeschooling mom makes me unwelcome in some of these circles. No excuse that my ex is a drunken, abusive adulterer – I’m not married. And as such, I’m obviously not living out my ordained biblical gender role. (I’ve actually been told that a woman’s “Christian duty” is to be a wife first, a mother second, a supporter of her church third. When I asked where being a person fit in, I was told “dead last.” Go figure – I’m made in God’s image, but I’m not important?!? LOL)

    So, in self defense, I devised my own curriculum and methods for teaching, and then wrote a book about them. I shy away from conventions and support groups because I find they don’t support me in my situation. I write for a Christian homeschooling blog, but I have to be careful not to be too “me” in my posts, or they probably won’t make it past the editors. If you think being a secular homeschooler is tough, you should be the non-fundamentalist, non-conservative Christian homeschooler smack dab in the middle of the Bible belt. At least ya’ll HAVE groups and forums….LOL

  • Shirley Love

    I am Mandie’s mom. We try to live by the Bible and the Lord finds lying an abomination to Him. Proverbs 6:17. I had a problem with this article from the beginning when the author admitted to lying.
    You can call him an undercover agent all you want but I think coward would be a better word. The real problem here is not what we Christians teach our kids as much as the fact that many of you do not want to face the fact that there is a real God and His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ died for our sins. One day we will all (Christian, athesit, Muslims, etc.) stand before God and have to account for our sins. How we raise our children and what we teach them will be part of that accounting. Only
    those who have accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior will enter the gates of Heaven.
    You like your sin too much and do not want to repent of them and change your wicked
    ways. I am going to pray for you that God will not let you have a moments peace until you accept Jesus as your Savior. If you are right and I am wrong, oh well. But if I am right and you are wrong, do you want to face the consequences?

  • http://hoverfrog.wordpress.com hoverfrog

    Jinx McHue

    Anyway, I seriously doubt that these people really had to lie to gain access to the convention. What did they think? That they wouldn’t be welcomed? That the speakers would censor themselves? That the cops would be called?

    Why not? Atheists have been thrown out of other events organised by Christians.

  • Shirley Love

    Only when they came in and caused a disturbance.

  • ACN

    If you are right and I am wrong, oh well. But if I am right and you are wrong, do you want to face the consequences?

    I love Pascal’s Wager. It’s a thinly veiled threat all tied up with the bow of concern for my well-being.

  • http://www.webcontentxpress.net/ Lizette

    I’ve been dying to get an answer to my question for years and no atheist has been able to answer it for me. As a christian, I don’t hang out at satanic gatherings. Why do atheists and non-Christians insist on worming their way into Christian conventions? My Christian friends say it is because they have a yearning for Christ – is that right?

  • Life educator

    After reading this, and especially the comments, I’m convinced more than ever that homeschooling is the best decision for us. Most importantly, the Word of God will continue to be the foundation of our studies. Thank you, to the “undercover reporters” for revealing how sneaky and close-minded you are. You’re probably very proud of yourselves that you were able to get into a public event without being detected. It’s really a shame that you had already determined your opinion before you got there. With an open mind you might have learned something valuable while you were there. On the other hand, based on what you’ve written here, you’re probably not interested in the truth, just like a lot of people who have commented.

  • Jean

    I’m a homeschooler but not an evangelical, so I’m an outsider to these particular conventions (which do tend to focus more on parenting than academics), but it seems to me that the very conservative Christians–Ken Ham and so on–are working on closing themselves off more, not less. There was a bit of a controversy earlier this year when Ham criticized another presenter at the same homeschooling conference (for not being YEC enough) and was disinvited from the rest of the conference series. He reacted by calling everyone else unchristian. It seems to me that the conservative contingent feels that they sort of own the homeschooling movement and get to be gatekeepers, and they’re talking about “taking it back.”

    I’ll be attending the HCS homeschooling convention in Sacramento in August. Stop by if you can for another perspective on homeschooling.

  • http://www.freedomloversacademy.com Kristina

    Why do atheists and non-Christians insist on worming their way into Christian conventions? My Christian friends say it is because they have a yearning for Christ – is that right?

    Well, for my part, it’s the only way I can get get access to some curriculum to get my hands on it, versus seeing samples online. Personally, I look to see if it will be a good fit, and whether or not it has a Christian component. You might be surprised, since you are a Christian, how many homeschool curriculum’s websites keep their Christian component under wraps, so to speak.

    Since these conventions usually allow non-Christians to attend, why does it bother you that we do? In fact, I don’t have a yearning for Christ, and these conventions tend to turn me off even more.

  • Kristen Lowery

    I would invite you to visit the CHAP convention in PA also. We have a huge convention with about 100-150 workshops over 2 days. Although Ken ham was one of the speakers this year(I think he did the rounds of all the conventions that would have him), many, many of our workshops center around education. There are routinely workshops on helping the struggling learner, specific subject area helps(i.e. Spelling and the Brain), dealing with high school transcripts etc. I don’t know if the conference you attended didn’t have these things or if you only went to sessions you thought would be good fodder for your ranting.

    By the way, I agree with Ken Ham positionally, but did not attend any of his sessions because I don’t like his tactics any more than I like yours. Very seldom is anyone’s mind changed by being “attacked”. I believe in open discourse and debate without anger and blame games being played.

  • http://www.freedomloversacademy.com Kristina

    Anyway, I seriously doubt that these people really had to lie to gain access to the convention. What did they think? That they wouldn’t be welcomed? That the speakers would censor themselves? That the cops would be called?

    Why not? Atheists have been thrown out of other events organised by Christians.

    Only when they came in and caused a disturbance.

    Actually, it seems to be pretty common. The problem is that there are many Christian organizations that don’t want outsiders to know what they’re saying, for fear they’ll be misrepresented, if nothing else.

    And, while I agree that at most homeschool conferences, this isn’t the case, and I don’t think the ‘cover story’ was necessary, the people doing the reporting didn’t know this. They had never been to a homeschool conference, and they only had the experience of others at other evangelical events to draw on. They went in prepared to defend themselves.

    I am wondering where this post was posted, that all the Christian homeschoolers are coming out of the woodwork…

  • ACN

    I’ve been dying to get an answer to my question for years and no atheist has been able to answer it for me. As a christian, I don’t hang out at satanic gatherings. Why do atheists and non-Christians insist on worming their way into Christian conventions? My Christian friends say it is because they have a yearning for Christ – is that right?

    You’re the largest religious group in my country. A religious group that has used its popularity to trample on the freedom of (and from) religion that other people are constitutionally guaranteed.

    It isn’t enough for you to worship your deity freely. You try to institutionalize this practice and thrust it into our secular educational system, and demand that our secular government reflect your religious beliefs in its laws and governance.

    We try to get into these conventions so we can try to stay on top of whatever ludicrous thing you’re planning to do next.

  • C Honaker

    You’re the largest religious group in my country. A religious group that has used its popularity to trample on the freedom of (and from) religion that other people are constitutionally guaranteed.

    It isn’t enough for you to worship your deity freely. You try to institutionalize this practice and thrust it into our secular educational system, and demand that our secular government reflect your religious beliefs in its laws and governance.

    Question for you ACN – Have you actually read this post? You have every right to freedom of and from religion just as we have every right to our beliefs yet it is the atheists that made such a stink about God that schools are not even allowed to say “Merry Christmas” anymore. What I don’t, and never will understand, is why you can’t just leave us alone as we leave you alone. Live by your beliefs and allow us to live by ours.

    We try to get into these conventions so we can try to stay on top of whatever ludicrous thing you’re planning to do next.

    Wow. That’s quite a statement. Are you really that paranoid about letting other people believe as they see fit? Or will you not be satisfied until we are all atheists?

  • Steve

    Christianity (with few exceptions) isn’t “live and let live”. It’s little more than 2000 years of murder, torture, oppression and ostracization of anyone who is even the slightest bit different.

    Atheists are perfectly fine with letting you believe what you want. But that’s simply not enough for most Christians. For you “freedom of religion” means “freedom to force everyone else to believe as I do”. It’s not about your beliefs. We may think they are silly, but if that’s all it were, it would be ok. The problem has always been the actions of Christians.

    Especially in America, right wing Christians (who, to stay on topic, happen to dominate the homeschool movement) constantly try to get society to bow down to them. Whether it is by sneaking and forcing creationism into schools, subjecting people to public prayer all the time, politicians being forced to feign belief in your god, or by passing religion-based laws that everyone has to follow. There is just no escape from Christianity.

    As demonstrated here, many so-called home schooling conventions are little more than advertising shows for creationism. Both by the speakers and the text book companies. Aside from the fact that there also atheist home schoolers, that’s interesting to us because the teaching of creationism in schools is one of the biggest issues when it comes to freedom of religion and church/state separation in the US.

  • Carole

    Hi. I found your undercover review via thatmom.com. I am a homeschool educator and I have chosen not to attend any of those conventions because there is almost nothing of value being communicated at them. Please know that not all homeschoolers are like that! It is a travesty that speakers are using hyperbole and fear tactics to sucker so many people in to their strange belief systems. It is even more tragic that people who have chosen to educate their children at home are not thinking for themselves before jumping on the band wagon. I feel very strongly about this – probably even more so because I am a Christian. I don’t believe that any of the stuff they are teaching (that you mentioned in your post) has anything to do with true Christianity. (My beliefs align most with Tim Keller’s…) Thanks for the interesting read … despite the fact that it confirms just how awful those conventions really are!

  • Darrylynn Silva-Costa

    I am a Christian home schooling mother of 4. I appreciate your thoughts and I’m sorry that you were so offended. I have disagreements with various speakers at these conventions. I find that I have disagreements with those in secular circles as well as those I deem spiritually like minded. My children study different religions and their origins as well as different views on evolution, creationism and a broad spectrum between. It is not a threat to me or the God we serve. Some schooling mothers disagree and I can respect that. While I appreciate your articulate views, the elitist tone is probably as off-putting to me as the tones in the session were to you. Having said that, you were not speaking to me. You were speaking to atheists. Those convention speakers were not speaking to you they were speaking to primarily Christian home school families. Your intended audience matters. Just ask my 5th grade son who just completed his persuasive essay. :)
    We disagree on many things, but I’m sure you can agree that it is a parent’s right and indeed their responsibility to raise their children in a nurturing, loving, environment where one can learn their family’s values and views on the world. Whether that be a secular world-view or a biblical world view.
    In my experience with home school families I have found them to be extraordinarily committed to their children and to their well-being and education. Often giving up incomes and worldly goods in order to stay at home with their children and school them. That is noble. I know many one car home school families of 6+. As a teacher I’m sure you can appreciate that. In a world where families are more and more reliant on the government for everything from educating their children to feeding their children at school, driving them to and from school to providing healthcare for their children. Most of these families expect very little from anyone but their families and their churches. Why is that a problem for you? I certainly don’t have an issue with you being an atheist. God gives you the choice so certainly I wouldn’t be compelled to take your choice away, but don’t ridicule these families who are working and doing their best. I would thank home school families who work quietly with their children and would encourage them to not be unduly critical of those who do not believe as we do. Our orders come from a higher order.

  • Partial Observer

    Kristen Lowery Says:

    By the way, I agree with Ken Ham positionally, but did not attend any of his sessions because I don’t like his tactics any more than I like yours… I believe in open discourse and debate without anger and blame games being played.

    Kristen, I would like to encourage you to continue to engage with the scientific literature. A river of discoveries flows from the fields of archaeology, anthropology, psychology, paleontology, geology, ethology, genetics, and evolutionary biology. Nature is not as small as Ken Ham would have you believe.

    Darrylynn Silva-Costa Says:

    I’m sure you can agree that it is a parent’s right and indeed their responsibility to raise their children in a nurturing, loving, environment where one can learn their family’s values and views on the world.

    Darrylynn, thank you for your well-reasoned post. Few would deny your right to do these things. However, don’t our responsibilities transcend merely exposing a child to family beliefs and values? Is not exposure to the marketplace of ideas a virtue?

  • Diana Waring

    Mike,

    Just to clarify, you wrote, “This was made clear even when the talks were about curriculum. For example, Diana Waring said — and I quote — ‘War history is more of a boy topic, and I guess the blood-thirsty girls will like it, too.’”

    Sorry that it sounded like I was making a sexist statement. In actuality, it was a ridiculous thing to say, intended to be a joke on me. Since I have spent the last several months studying WWI & WWII, it was a tongue-in-cheek comment that did not in any way reflect my actual belief. Obviously, it flopped. Have never said it before, will never say it again. I apologize to you and to all who attended!

    If you had been in the Actively Engage Learning & Actually Enjoy Learning session, you would have heard me take on this very issue.

    So, again, please accept my apology.

    Thanks,
    Diana

  • Darrylynn Silva-Costa

    Thanks Partial Observer:
    I absolutely agree. As I mentioned I study with my children a great deal of religions, origins and scientific theories. I am a Christian. My worldview is as a Christian. I will not apologize for that. Any person who teaches anything to anyone has a perspective and a technique. I choose to do that with my children. Many folks chose to send their children to schools only to complain about the methods, curriculum and techniques used. These families are schooling their own children in their homes in their own ways in America. Being critical of them, while you are free to do so, is silly and frankly a waste of time. They were pursuing a convention legally, honestly and under no other pretense than to prepare themselves to execute schooling their children and exercising their religious freedom.

  • Partial Observer

    Darrylynn Silva-Costa Says:

    I am a Christian. My worldview is as a Christian. I will not apologize for that.

    Thanks for your response, Darrylynn. No one is asking you to apologize.

    As I mentioned I study with my children a great deal of religions, origins and scientific theories… Any person who teaches anything to anyone has a perspective and a technique. I choose to do that with my children.

    We appear to be misunderstanding each other. By “marketplace of ideas”, I was referring to different interpretive lenses (not content). Allow me to further refine my question:

    Homeschooler A teaches three courses:

    - A Christian perspective on Marxist thought.

    - A Christian perspective on Buddhism history.

    - A Christian perspective on the Early Church.

    Homeschooler B also teaches three courses:

    - A Marxist perspective on Marxist thought.

    - A Buddhist perspective on Buddhist history.

    - A Christian perspective on the Early Church.

    Do we agree that the pedagogic approach of Homeschooler B is most beneficial? That ideas are best explored on their own terms? That exposing a student to interpretive paradigms contradicting our own is psychologically valuable?

    These families are schooling their own children in their homes in their own ways in America. Being critical of them, while you are free to do so, is silly and frankly a waste of time.

    While I personally find more value in criticism than said laissez-faire approach, let us “agree to disagree” on this topic.

  • Darrylynn Silva-Costa

    @ Partial Observer:Do you have children?

  • Partial Observer

    @Darrylynn: Yes.

  • Darrylynn Silva-Costa

    I only ask because you are obviously very learned, but seem to speak in theory.
    I don’t necessarily disagree and wouldn’t keep my child from participating in a lecture by a person of differing views from mine or from reading a book or viewing a documentary with a different perspective. Having said that, I school my children. Do you mean to imply that children in public schools are afforded the opportunity to learn from Marxist, Buddhists and Christians by the same? Hardly. Most public school children in my state aren’t even allowed to take their books home with them. It’s far more likely my children will see a great many views through books, college visits, political rallies (not right wing), seminars, documentaries, travel and online learning than those in a classroom paid for by government.

  • Partial Observer

    @Darrylynn: Thanks for a good conversation (sorry if it grew a bit abstract for your taste). My best.

  • Darrylynn Silva-Costa

    Likewise. No apologies necessary.

  • Kimberly

    For some perspective, while Creationist Christian homeschoolers do teach Creationism, they also teach their children about evolution. I’m sure you saw that when you took a look at the Science books. And while Christian homeschoolers do teach their own faith, the overwhelming majority also understand that history cannot be taught without teaching about the various religions around the world that shaped it. (i.e. through the Classical method which is widely used) There is a huge misconception that Christian homeschoolers do not teach these things.

    I for one admire that you went in with an open mind and actually found some food for thought at the convention.

  • http://www.hslda.org Mike (“Sleazy Stockbroker”) Donnelly

    Dear Friendly Atheists – I’m glad you took the time to come and spend an entire day with the Christian homeschooling community – that shows a real commitment to understanding those with whom you disagree with so fundamentally. Even among Christian homeschoolers there is quite a lot of diversity. For my part, I was a pretty firm agnostic, to the extent that you can consider an agnostic “firm”, until age 29. While in law school I discovered that the evidences for Jesus Christ actual existence and his claims of being who he claimed to be were convincing. I do understand the argument of atheism and agnosticism and appreciate the thoughtfulness of some of those who ascribe to that belief system. Should you, however, have questions about homeschooling or about why Christianity actually does make sense feel free to give me a call. I can be reached at 540-338-5600. I may look like sleazy stockbroker – but I promise I don’t behave like him. :-)

  • Steve

    For some perspective, while Creationist Christian homeschoolers do teach Creationism, they also teach their children about evolution.

    The problem with that is that a great majority of creationists – at least laymen have no clue about evolution. Many don’t understand the basics, let alone the details. The theory of evolution is constantly misrepresented – partly deliberately, but partly out of ignorance. So how are they supposed to really teach it if they don’t understand it themselves?

    I also seriously doubt that a creationist Christian would give equal time and merit to both (before anyone asks, atheists or scientist don’t give equal time to both because creationism not science and clearly false). As opposed to a Christian who just presents both without have an ideological investment in creationism. It’s a bias that’s also clearly supported by most text books.

  • Donita

    I am a homeschooling Christian and I just wanted to say thank you for doing some homework on what you are talking about. And for giving, what I thought, was a fair presentation of your observations.

  • Cheryl

    I have attended many ICHE conventions, and I agree that they take a very conservative perspective of Christian life. I for one, would probably have objected to much of the “Media Choices” seminar. However, the Bible gives a great deal of latitude for personal convictions among believers, so we are free to disagree on items that don’t change the doctrinal foundation of Scripture.

    With that said, I am a dedicated Bible-believing, young earth creationist homeschooling mom with a degree in Electrical Engineering from UIUC. So yes, I have an analytical, scientific education and still believe in a literal creation.

    The reason is two-fold: I will concede that it is a matter of faith, just as everyone has faith in SOMETHING. I believe it’s most reasonable to have faith in Scriptures which have never been legitimately contradicted by science nor philosophy. I also choose to submit my life to a man who lived and spoke with divine authority, willingly died for my benefit, conquered death by resurrection, and offers me forgiveness for my many human failings (I’ll call it what it is – sin) as well as strength to overcome them.

    Beyond that, there is simply no evidence for evolution or an old earth, but there is evidence that refutes or at the very least complicates it. For one, there have been no transitional species fossils found. Secondly, genetic mutations usually lead to death or elimination of function, and none have been discovered that could yield a brand-new species. In addition, some varying-complexity species are mutually dependent, which would require them to have co-evolved. More interestingly, even a conservative mathematical analysis of the earth’s population demonstrates that, if the human species did come about millions (or even hundreds of thousands of years) ago, as evolution teaches, then today’s population would be orders of magnitude greater than it actually is, even if cataclysmic events that destroyed 99% of the human population throughout history are assumed. On the other hand, if we take today’s population and extrapolate it backwards, it estimates that humankind has been around for only several thousands of years, which is consistent with the Biblical account. And yet evolution is REQUIRED teaching in public schools, while any other viewpoint, especially a Biblical creation viewpoint, is largely PROHIBITED. If evolution is still a THEORY, then why is it taught as a fact? It seems that society is so steeped in its desire to deny a Creator that it will cling to and indoctrinate its children with the theory of evolution even as it crumbles under its grasp.

    Aside from the evolution debate, atheists, non-Christians, and many liberal Christians will likely never understand the perspective of Bible-believing Christians. Please note that I am NOT speaking for so-called Bible-believing Christians who use the Bible for their own selfish gain. I am speaking for those of us whose entire motivation is to live for God and His glory; who believe, as Scripture says, that “In Him we live and move and have our being” Hence, our choices and lifestyles, and the ways we teach and raise our children, are with the perspective that our purpose in living is for God’s glory. If you don’t share that perspective, you can’t hope to understand or agree with us, without divine intervention – “The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit” The good news is that anyone can receive the Spirit of God through submission to Jesus Christ. Most will not choose to do so because “Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.”

  • Michael

    I would like to echo Cheryl’s comments – very well said.

    Everyone has faith in something and everyone has beginning presuppositions on which they build their understanding of the world (i.e., a “worldview”). For the atheist it is faith that there is no God. This is faith, of course, because an atheist (or anyone else for that matter) could not prove the non-existence of God. Strong or weak in their faith, an atheist believes that no God exists.

    Presuppositionally, the atheist chooses to believe that all that exists is physical and energy matter. This, of course, cannot be proven. But it is accepted by faith among atheists.

    Christians also have faith and presuppositions. They believe that God exists. They also except by faith that there is more to this world than just matter and energy.

    The Christian (and I am defining this person as someone who believes the veracity of the Bible and who has had a conversion experience in accepting Jesus the Christ as the sin substitute for their own iniquity) believes that their faith has a very reasonable basis. In other words, in view of the world they observe and including the existence and moral reality of man, the biblical account not only of origins but also of the history of Jesus best fits that observation.

    From that vantage, the atheist religion does not to fit the facts and, therefore, would appear to be a religion of irrationality. Two of the more obvious facts standing in the way of a rational atheism – the existence of life and the existence of morality — therefore tend to be a focus (among other issues) of Christians. Hence, the strong interest in debate on origins.
    Macro Evolution, which is antithetical to the biblical account and scientific observations of life, has been used by many a good atheist as a foundation for the materialist (secular humanist) religion. It also, regrettably, has been a siren call luring the weak or undecided mind into the emptiness of atheism. And the immediate benefit to base Man, that of a pragmatic morality (i.e., do whatever feels good to you), tends to solidify (at least for a time) the conversion to belief in no-God. That’s a challenge that needs to be addressed by Christians because the philosophy is obviously set up as a rebuttal to the truth of Scripture and an alternative to the understanding of Man. Loving Christian parents would certainly be concerned about this subtle – and yet highly disastrous – trap and its tendency to undermine the authority of Scripture and the reasonable basis of faith in Christ Jesus. For that matter, they would (and are) concerned about the ignorant, the uneducated or unthinking adult caught in the web of evolution’s despair. Consequently, entire apologetics ministries addressing the historicity of a God-directed creation of life on earth have developed over the years. I believe such ministries are, for the most part, doing a fine job in dispelling the myth of macro evolution.

  • http://www.libertysjourney.blogspot.com Liberty

    If you were surprised at the sexism at a Christian homeschool convention, you really need to look up the Quiverfull and Christian Patriarchy movements, which are virtually the same thing. This is how I was raised.

    Quiverfull teaches that any form of birth control, including natural birth control, is wrong, and that women should have as many children as they possibly can. This is why I have eleven younger siblings.

    Christian Patriarchy teaches that women are never to have jobs outside the home, or – god forbid! – careers. Women are always to be under male authority: a woman is under her father’s authority until marriage, then under her husband’s authority, and if she is widowed she is under her son’s authority. An independent woman is considered a dangerous thing. This is why I left.

    Also, these groups are now advocating that girls should be kept home from college, as it will corrupt them. This is called the Stay At Home Daughters movement.

    So yes, do some googling, and you will be shocked. These people openly declare their endorsement of patriarchy, and proudly.

    Also, just an fyi: Quiverfull and Christian Patriarchy exist solely within the homeschool movement (without it they could not exist), and though not all homeschoolers are part of them (by a long shot), they actually have quite a bit of influence and control over the homeschool movement itself.

    Vision Forum and HSLDA, for example, both endorse both Quiverfull and Christian Patriarchy.

  • Steve

    If evolution is still a THEORY, then why is it taught as a fact?

    Gravity is also a theory. For someone who claims to have studied electrical engineering, you know nothing about science. Granted, it’s applied rather than pure science, but you should have picked up some things along the way.

    First, look up the definition of “scientific theory”. It doesn’t mean what you think it means. “Scientific fact” also has a very specific meaning

    Also this:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evolution_as_theory_and_fact

    I’m not going to bother dissecting your so-called arguments. It was good for a laugh though. Especially the population “analysis”. Oh boy…

  • Neal

    Hey, Cheryl, as an electrical engineer with an analytical mind and a degree hard-won through work and learning, you no doubt respect the expertise and authority of other scientists who have won their own knowledge through years of grueling study — unless they are biologists.

    Then, your analytical mind (indoctrinated though it has been into the application of Maxwell’s equations, a mere theory) qualifies you, who have done no research whatsoever into the evidence for the theory of evolution, to dismiss it entirely on the basis of a handful of philosophical and empirical arguments which you yourself clearly have not subjected to any measure of rigor.

    Take, for example, your extrapolation of modern exponential population growth trends. If you’d bothered to learn anything about Darwin’s thought process while he grappled with the patterns he’d observed in nature, you would realize that it was precisely that insight of Malthus which led him to natural selection.

    Further, if you’ll cast your mind back to your differential equations class at UIUC, you’ll no doubt recall the equation x’ = rx(1-x). What do you remember about it? Well, at first glance it’s separable. Solve it. Graph it. Do you remember what it’s for? When you do, I’m sure you’ll see why your population dynamics argument is completely facile.

    The other “problems” you’ve pointed out with the neo-Darwinian synthesis yield similarly easy answers — I’ll let you do the research. You know how, since you’ve earned a college degree.

    Let me finally take a moment to address your philosophical point. The scientific method stands behind all of our civilization’s achievements. It’s a method to which you yourself have implicitly subscribed in your study and mastery of electrical engineering: from Maxwell’s equations to quantum theory, your entire discipline is pinned under by results given by the same method which, upon dispassionate examination of biological evidence, yields Darwinian theory.

    Why would you rather put your faith in a Bible riddled with contradictions and lies? Look these up. How many animals did Jesus ride when he entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday? What day was Jesus crucified, Passover or the Preparation Day? After his conversion, did Paul visit Barnabas in Damascus and then go to Jerusalem, or did he go straight to Arabia, speaking to no Christian? After Jesus was born, did Joseph and Mary stay in Bethlehem, or did they go to Jerusalem and then straight back to Nazareth? Did Paul say women could be deacons and apostles or did he require them to be silent in church? Does Isaiah actually say the Messiah would be born of a virgin, as Matthew cites, or was Matthew wrong? (Oh, and by the way, Quirinius was appointed governor of Syria years after Herod died.)

    Let me exhort you: put your faith not in ancient myths, but in reason and evidence. Make rational inquiry your epistemology. The world is grand and beautiful, and only scientific investigation has begun to dimly light the soaring cathedral of the cosmos.

  • Neal

    Let me take a moment to illustrate why presuppositionalism is sophistic nonsense. The chief argument for Biblical Christianity (as Michael has submitted, and which I believe he has learned from Answers in Genesis’ material, since they are, I understand, the chief propagators of this lie) is as follows.

    A “worldview” is a core set of assumptions, deductions from which govern the acquisition and interpretation of knowledge.

    The presuppositionalist requires
    (1) Every worldview must not contradict itself and must “acount for” fundamental facts such as
    (a) reason;
    (b) morality;
    (c ) beauty;
    (d) and anything else he decides to add to the list.

    (2) The Biblical worldview (all Scripture is inspired by God and inerrant in its plain interpretation, as laid out by e.g. Answers in Genesis’ hermeneutics department) is able to account for everything.

    (3) EVERY other worldview either contradicts itself or cannot account for some proposition.

    Therefore, the Biblical worldview is correct.

    Observe the following problems:

    (i) There are no criteria for what a worldview must account for.
    (ii) The Bible, given a literal interpretation, contradicts itself so it cannot be a correct worldview. (See the end of my previous comment.)
    (iii) Not once does anybody actually prove the uniqueness claim.
    (iii)(a) In fact, it’s easy to come up with worldviews which are self-consistent and account for everything. c.f. Pastafarianism.
    (iv) The Biblical worldview cannot account for God (and in fact shoves everything it actually can’t explain back onto God). Why does GOD exist? What purpose does he have? Why is God by nature rational? Why does God continue to uphold the universe? The Biblical worldview must concede that it cannot account for these facts, which reside within its worldview.
    (v) Requiring a worldview to be able to “explain” everything that is thrown at it is both artificial and denudes “explain” of meaning.

    Hopefully this illustrates presuppositionalism for the metastatic Calvinism it is. Under more reasonable conditions (including a meaningful definition of “explain”), it’s pretty clear that methodological naturalism is the best worldview.

    Cheers!

  • Sam

    As a home educating, bible-believing mother, I make no apologies for how I’m raising my children. I take great offence to the rhetoric of those “worried” about our children and the “uneducated, sexist, and ignorant” parents raising them. If you worry about anything, worry about helping us protect our freedoms as parents—the very lifeblood of this lively debate! Both sides have their beliefs and we all wish to raise our families accordingly. At least we don’t pretend to be objective as you do. It’s obvious the very objective of this article is to undermine and reject any rational thought toward God. The vast majority of Christian homeschoolers are giving their children a much needed good education in the face of rapidly declining American schools. Many of us are raising our children to a higher standard—not fearful of mythologies and cultures but embracing them through a biblical worldview. Reading and discussing classic literature and great philosophers of all types and from all eras, studying history, science and art through even secular books and museums. I’m not afraid of science. True science, especially the study of physics and astronomy, has strengthened my faith tremendously. I don’t hide the world from my children. However, I am a mother who will fiercely protect my children from the study of such things outside of their relevancy to us. Tell me this. If life or death hung on something you believed, would you not do everything possible to influence the outcome? Say your family is home and you get word that at 2pm an explosion will destroy your home and everyone in it… At the very least you would call home and give warning though some of us would choose to drag our loved ones out. Please do not impose upon me how to raise my children and I will not impose upon you how to raise yours. If in the end it is all as you say, I simply hope to have raised the best kind of citizens– thoughtful, selfless leaders—who return to dust and are no worse off. However if it is in the end as I suspect, my children will face eternity and will hopefully have lived not only a successful temporal life but will look forward to a glorious eternal one as well.

    • JH

      You should worry. As you dont I can only assume youre OK with mental child abuse.

  • Justin

    I appreciate what Richard Dawkins wrote in the preface to the paperback edition of The God Delusion (concerning theologians Tillich and Bonhoeffer): “If only such subtle, nuanced religion predominated, the world would surely be a better place, and I would have written a different book.”

  • Lady Copper

    Coming back again, could not resist even though this is such an old post now!

    @Cheryl:
    ‘I am speaking for those of us whose entire motivation is to live for God and His glory; who believe, as Scripture says, that “In Him we live and move and have our being.”’ Did you know that that Bible verse is a quote from a Greek philosopher/poet dude and was originally NOT in reference to Yahweh? People have had that sort of all-encompassing devotion to many, many gods through history – why does a jealous God, one who also loves us and really wants us all in Heaven, let there be so MANY deceptions? Maybe a few are necessary, but why so freakin’ many? Just wondering…
    Anyway, I really liked your post, perhaps because it sounded almost word for word what I would have said two years ago.
    I was such a fervent YEC that I started studying the topics a lot more deeply than I ever had because I wanted to know how best to witness to several unbelievers, both IRL and online, that I knew. I had always said that if ever I somehow became convinced that there was no God that I would probably end up killing myself due to the lack of meaning and joy in life. I also always used to think that care for the environment was something that only made sense with a loving Creator, that if it was all “survival of the fittest” that we should not care or even be happy if another species disappeared because it meant we were winning. I loved books like Eternity In Their Hearts about all the ways God gave people to know and follow Him throughout history in different times and places. I loved listening to challenging preaching about loving God better and more fully. I really, really, really believed it all. I really, really, really believed I and many others had thoroughly tested it and proved the faith to be true. I believed the promise that if you seek enough, you will find.
    As time went by and I investigated and discovered how ethics and morality could come about with nothing supernatural at all; how evolution really worked and how many thousands of transitional fossils there actually were; how the Bible was put together (see documentary hypothesis, History of God book, tons of YouTube videos); and so many other discoveries, I could see less and less room for the Bible God in reality. It was extremely painful to let go of my faith, having been a Christian for over 20 years and my whole family and almost all my friends being devout, but as I came out the other side I discovered that the whole process had been worth it.
    As a homeschool graduate, I really am glad for that form of schooling and respect all those hardworking homeschooling parents out there. Someday I will probably homeschool my children too through elementary school. Keep up the good work on educating your kids and please don’t be scared to question your faith – if it’s true, it can stand the questioning; if it’s not true, it will hurt a lot at first, but you will be so glad to have found out.

    @ Michael,
    Atheism means “no belief in god.” If it’s a religion, it has the most incredibly easy entrance test ever. As others have said, my hobby is not collecting stamps. I also have fun not doing underwater basket weaving. And when I have time, I enjoy another hobby called not making model airplanes.
    But seriously, while it may superficially look as if atheists all follow some sort of code, like they are all political liberals, want to stop prayer in schools, are prochoice, and are probably members of PETA too – meaning they have similar values and so it must be a religion! – it is teeth grittingly irrational to say that atheism is a religion. I used to think that too, so am quite mortified to remember saying that. Also, atheists do not follow a code. There are atheists of every possible persuasion, just not religious ones.
    I would encourage you to watch some debates on YouTube. Look for the ones where both parties are the best of the best that each side has to offer. People like Christopher Hitchens and Dan Dennett and Sam Harris are some of our good ones and they have probably debated with some of your favorite authors/speakers.

    The truth shall set you free.

    • Lyn

      Hello from an Aussie home school mum.  I have been a bible believing Christian for 16 years and I stumbled across this article and these posts.  Your post interested me because I have also been through a time of questioning my faith.   
      I went to a public school and my parents were not Christians.  Several years ago it dawned on me that my whole belief system could be based on a book written just by a bunch of guys who made up a really good story.  It was upsetting at first to think this could be the case, but I knew that I couldn’t live my life based on a lie and determined to research it.  I went into this as open minded as anyone can really be and I was prepared to go in any direction the facts led me.  I ended up coming to a different result than you and it makes me curious about the information you found that perhaps I didn’t find.   
      Like yourself, I searched the creation/evolution debate.  From reading the posts, it seems that many are convinced that evolution is an undeniable process.  It makes me wonder what I missed in my research.  If evolution is proven, why did I not see this?  Perhaps you, or someone else, could answer a few questions for me, please.  I do not want to provoke an argument.  I just want to get to the facts.  I truly want to know what you discovered. 
      One point creationists make is that there is no evidence of an increase of genetic information in the fossil record.  Is this not true?  Stemming from this question, do the transitional fossils you mentioned show this increase in information?  Perhaps you could please give me some examples of these transitional fossils.  I’d like to find out more about them.  
      When you look back at the very beginning of the evolutionary process, how do you explain where the matter came from?  From my understanding it didn’t start from absolutely nothing.   
      Lastly, I would like to clarify something in regards to stating things as fact or theory.  Now this is a generalisation, so I am not putting everyone in the same box when I say this.  Usually when I read or hear evolutionary information, it is presented as a fact.  We all know that a fact is something that can be shown to be true, to exist, or to have happened (Encarta Dictionary).  So, how can we ever be 100% certain of the earth’s age when there is no way to verify it?  More than this, can evolutionists really claim as a fact that man evolved from apes?  Do you take issue with evolutionists claiming these things as fact, or do you agree that it is so?   
      I agree that we shouldn’t be scared to ask questions about our faith.  After all, we base our lives on what we believe.  Hope to hear a response, although I know this is an old post so will understand if I don’t get one. 

      • ACN

        One point creationists make is that there is no evidence of an increase
        of genetic information in the fossil record.  Is this not true?

        It is, in fact, a bald faced lie.

        From the ICC:

        It is hard to understand how anyone could make this claim, since
        anything mutations can do, mutations can undo. Some mutations add
        information to a genome; some subtract it. Creationists get by
        with this claim only by leaving the term “information” undefined,
        impossibly vague, or constantly shifting. By any reasonable
        definition, increases in information have been observed to evolve. We
        have observed the evolution of

        increased genetic variety in a population (Lenski 1995; Lenski et
        al. 1991)
        increased genetic material (Alves et al. 2001; Brown et al. 1998;
        Hughes and Friedman 2003; Lynch and Conery 2000; Ohta 2003)
        novel genetic material (Knox et al. 1996; Park et al. 1996)
        novel genetically-regulated abilities (Prijambada et al. 1995)

        If these do not qualify as information, then nothing about information
        is relevant to evolution in the first place.

        A mechanism that is likely to be particularly common for adding
        information is gene duplication, in which a long stretch of DNA is
        copied, followed by point mutations that change one or both of the
        copies. Genetic sequencing has revealed several instances in which
        this is likely the origin of some proteins. For example:
        Two enzymes in the histidine biosynthesis pathway that are
        barrel-shaped, structural and sequence evidence suggests, were
        formed via gene duplication and fusion of two half-barrel ancestors
        (Lang et al. 2000).
        RNASE1, a gene for a pancreatic enzyme, was duplicated, and in
        langur monkeys one of the copies mutated into RNASE1B, which works
        better in the more acidic small intestine of the langur. (Zhang et
        al. 2002)
        Yeast was put in a medium with very little sugar. After 450
        generations, hexose transport genes had duplicated several times,
        and some of the duplicated versions had mutated further. (Brown et
        al. 1998)

        The biological literature is full of additional examples. A PubMed
        search (at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi)
        on “gene
        duplication” gives more than 3000 references.

        According to Shannon-Weaver information theory, random noise
        maximizes information. This is not just playing word games. The
        random variation that mutations add to
        populations is
        the variation on which selection acts. Mutation alone will not cause
        adaptive evolution, but by eliminating nonadaptive variation, natural
        selection communicates information about the environment to the
        organism so that the organism becomes better adapted to it. Natural
        selection is the process by which information about the environment is
        transferred to an organism’s genome and thus to the organism (Adami et
        al. 2000).

        When you look back at the very beginning of the evolutionary process,
        how do you explain where the matter came from?  From my understanding it
        didn’t start from absolutely nothing.  

        Matter and energy came from the big bang. What exactly do you mean by “beginning of the evolutionary process”?

        So, how can we ever be 100% certain of the earth’s age when there is no
        way to verify it? 

        Do you think it is just some number that we’ve pulled out of our posteriors? There are a number of independent dating methods that indicate that the earth is very, very old.

        You can read about them here:
        http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/faq-age-of-earth.html

        can evolutionists really claim as a
        fact that man evolved from apes?  Do you take issue with evolutionists
        claiming these things as fact, or do you agree that it is so?  

        Evolution is both a fact and a theory.

        SJGould:

        In the American vernacular, “theory” often means “imperfect
        fact”–part of a hierarchy of confidence running downhill
        from fact to theory to hypothesis to guess. Thus the power
        of the creationist argument: evolution is “only” a theory
        and intense debate now rages about many aspects of the
        theory. If evolution is worse than a fact, and scientists
        can’t even make up their minds about the theory, then what
        confidence can we have in it? Indeed, President Reagan
        echoed this argument before an evangelical group in Dallas
        when he said (in what I devoutly hope was campaign
        rhetoric): “Well, it is a theory. It is a scientific theory
        only, and it has in recent years been challenged in the
        world of science–that is, not believed in the scientific
        community to be as infallible as it once was.”

        Well evolution is a theory. It is also a fact. And facts
        and theories are different things, not rungs in a hierarchy
        of increasing certainty. Facts are the world’s data.
        Theories are structures of ideas that explain and interpret
        facts. Facts don’t go away when scientists debate rival
        theories to explain them. Einstein’s theory of gravitation
        replaced Newton’s in this century, but apples didn’t
        suspend themselves in midair, pending the outcome. And
        humans evolved from ape-like ancestors whether they did so
        by Darwin’s proposed mechanism or by some other yet to be
        discovered.

        Moreover, “fact” doesn’t mean “absolute certainty”;
        there ain’t no such animal in an exciting and complex
        world. The final proofs of logic and mathematics flow
        deductively from stated premises and achieve certainty only
        because they are not about the empirical world.
        Evolutionists make no claim for perpetual truth, though
        creationists often do (and then attack us falsely for a
        style of argument that they themselves favor). In science
        “fact” can only mean “confirmed to such a degree that it
        would be perverse to withhold provisional consent.” I
        suppose that apples might start to rise tomorrow, but the
        possibility does not merit equal time in physics
        classrooms.

        Evolutionists have been very clear about this
        distinction of fact and theory from the very beginning, if
        only because we have always acknowledged how far we are
        from completely understanding the mechanisms (theory) by
        which evolution (fact) occurred. Darwin continually
        emphasized the difference between his two great and
        separate accomplishments: establishing the fact of
        evolution, and proposing a theory–natural selection–to
        explain the mechanism of evolution.

        • Lyn

          Thank-you for your reply to my post.  You’ve addressed the three main questions I asked and your answer to the first one has given me plenty of information and references to research.  It looks like it will take me a while to do, so I will reply now and research later. It seems that I need to clarify the second question I asked in relation to where the matter came from at the beginning of the evolutionary process.  I was referring specifically to the very beginning of when particles began the slow process of evolving into man.  Where did the first building blocks of all life come from?  You mentioned the big bang.  What banged?  Where did it come from? There has to be something, so where did that ‘something’ come from?   Just on a side note, I want to check that my post didn’t come across as abrupt or rude.  I want to emphasize that I am curious and interested in the information you have if you are happy to give it to me.  However, I detected a condescending tone in relation to “pulling numbers out of your posterior”.  Perhaps I’m wrong and this was a joke, but if it was intended to be a snide answer, then I’d rather not have to deal with that kind of reply, thanks. I will further explain my question regarding how anyone can be certain of the dates given to fossils.  My understanding is that dating methods are based on observations of how things work in the present.  I’ve looked at the link you gave me and onto other links from that one, thanks.  Whilst it becomes way too technical for my limited science knowledge, it still is clear to me that there is no way to prove any of it.  No matter how much confidence you have in it, would you agree that it could be wrong?  And, regardless of how much technology improves, or how much more we know, how can you ever put the age of anything into the “known” box if you don’t have a witness to verify the time of the fossil’s death or the formation of the rock?The last question you addressed was about fact and theory.  I agree that fact and theory are two different things and that theories are structures of ideas that interpret facts.  I know that facts don’t go away.  But, can you explain why you say that ‘fact’ does not mean absolute certainty?  You further defined ‘fact’ in science.  Is this a recognised definition of the word in the science community?  To me, when I ask for facts, I am asking for information that is proven and known to be true.  I want certainty.  Is that not possible in this field of science?  If you were to clear all the creation/evolution theories and ideas aside, what would we be left with that is proven and known to be true?  Furthermore, what would we be left with that is proven and known to be true with absolute certainty?   Thanks again for your reply.  I am looking forward to looking up the information you gave me on the increase in genetic information.  Kind regards, Lyn

          • Anonymous

            Where did the first building blocks of all life come from?

            DNA isn’t all that complex chemically speaking. It’s a beautiful molecule, but it’s structurally rather simple. And it’s self-replicating. That’s the key

            We also know that amino acids can be created under certain circumstances when you put together chemicals and supply them with external energy. The original Miller experiment was flawed, but there have been others.

            Our own cells started as a symbiosis of separate lifeforms. We have distinct DNA in one of our cell structures called mitochondrial DNA. It originated in bacteria that were absorbed by other cells.

            Btw, we didn’t evolve from apes. We ARE apes. But we had a common ancestor with other primates a couple million years ago.

            What banged?  Where did it come from? There has to be something, so where did that ‘something’ come from?

            “Big Bang” is a misnomer. Nothing exploded. It’s the expansion of spacetime itself. Most of the matter created was hydrogen, helium and lithium. All heavier elements up to iron were created by stellar fusion/nucleosynthesis. The molecules in your body literally come from dying stars

            Second, things can indeed come from nothing. Virtual particles constantly pop into existence and disappear again. Simply out of the quantum vacuum. But they are measurable. In black holes sometimes particle/anti-particle pairs pop up near the event horizon. When one gets sucked into before they can annihilate, the other one can escape. This is called Hawking radiation.
            Another cool thing is the Casimir effect, where two uncharged plates are put to close together as to prevent the formation of certain particles. But virtual particles are still created outside the plate, thus exerting a pressure that pushes them together. This force can be measured.

            Third, that something was created from nothing is just as much of a misconception as as all the stuff about evolution. Never mind that it’s hard to define terms like “before” and “nothing” when spacetime itself didn’t exist, there was either a singularity or a uniform quantum field. Natural fluctuations in the quantum foam could have caused the expansion of space. More exotic theories postulate parallel universes.

            Also, if a complex, intelligent being created the universe, where did that being come from? What created it? If that being always existed, why can’t a singularity have existed before?

            But as said in another topic here, all that really gets us nowhere. Even knowing that the universe was caused or even created, that doesn’t make any particular religion true. They are still manmade concepts and no one has yet shown why we should follow any of their laws.

            But, can you explain why you say that ‘fact’ does not mean absolute
            certainty?  You further defined ‘fact’ in science.  Is this a recognised
            definition of the word in the science community?

            Yes, it’s the standard definition. Fact either means observed data or a scientific theory that’s so widely accepted that it’s extremely unlikely to be overturned. Like the heliocentric model for example.

            Evolution is a fact in both senses. Evolution is observable. It’s undeniable. Even most creationists don’t deny it on at least a small scale. The sticking point (even in the science community) is the mechanisms that govern it. It’s about “how”, not that it exists.

            Evolution is a lot better understood than gravity by the way. We know that gravity exists, but we don’t know why. Reconciling gravity with quantum mechanics is the holy grail of physics.

            If you’re asking for absolute certainty, it’s no wonder religion is so appealing to you. It offers all the answer and conditions people to never ask questions. Science is the opposite. Sure, we know certain basic things with certainty. But all scientific knowledge is conditional. Everything can be overturned if something better comes along. That’s the beauty of the scientific method. It’s self-correcting.

          • Anonymous

            Where did the first building blocks of all life come from?

            DNA isn’t all that complex chemically speaking. It’s a beautiful molecule, but it’s structurally rather simple. And it’s self-replicating. That’s the key

            We also know that amino acids can be created under certain circumstances when you put together chemicals and supply them with external energy. The original Miller experiment was flawed, but there have been others.

            Our own cells started as a symbiosis of separate lifeforms. We have distinct DNA in one of our cell structures called mitochondrial DNA. It originated in bacteria that were absorbed by other cells.

            Btw, we didn’t evolve from apes. We ARE apes. But we had a common ancestor with other primates a couple million years ago.

            What banged?  Where did it come from? There has to be something, so where did that ‘something’ come from?

            “Big Bang” is a misnomer. Nothing exploded. It’s the expansion of spacetime itself. Most of the matter created was hydrogen, helium and lithium. All heavier elements up to iron were created by stellar fusion/nucleosynthesis. The molecules in your body literally come from dying stars

            Second, things can indeed come from nothing. Virtual particles constantly pop into existence and disappear again. Simply out of the quantum vacuum. But they are measurable. In black holes sometimes particle/anti-particle pairs pop up near the event horizon. When one gets sucked into before they can annihilate, the other one can escape. This is called Hawking radiation.
            Another cool thing is the Casimir effect, where two uncharged plates are put to close together as to prevent the formation of certain particles. But virtual particles are still created outside the plate, thus exerting a pressure that pushes them together. This force can be measured.

            Third, that something was created from nothing is just as much of a misconception as as all the stuff about evolution. Never mind that it’s hard to define terms like “before” and “nothing” when spacetime itself didn’t exist, there was either a singularity or a uniform quantum field. Natural fluctuations in the quantum foam could have caused the expansion of space. More exotic theories postulate parallel universes.

            Also, if a complex, intelligent being created the universe, where did that being come from? What created it? If that being always existed, why can’t a singularity have existed before?

            But as said in another topic here, all that really gets us nowhere. Even knowing that the universe was caused or even created, that doesn’t make any particular religion true. They are still manmade concepts and no one has yet shown why we should follow any of their laws.

            But, can you explain why you say that ‘fact’ does not mean absolute
            certainty?  You further defined ‘fact’ in science.  Is this a recognised
            definition of the word in the science community?

            Yes, it’s the standard definition. Fact either means observed data or a scientific theory that’s so widely accepted that it’s extremely unlikely to be overturned. Like the heliocentric model for example.

            Evolution is a fact in both senses. Evolution is observable. It’s undeniable. Even most creationists don’t deny it on at least a small scale. The sticking point (even in the science community) is the mechanisms that govern it. It’s about “how”, not that it exists.

            Evolution is a lot better understood than gravity by the way. We know that gravity exists, but we don’t know why. Reconciling gravity with quantum mechanics is the holy grail of physics.

            If you’re asking for absolute certainty, it’s no wonder religion is so appealing to you. It offers all the answer and conditions people to never ask questions. Science is the opposite. Sure, we know certain basic things with certainty. But all scientific knowledge is conditional. Everything can be overturned if something better comes along. That’s the beauty of the scientific method. It’s self-correcting.

            • Lyn

              Thanks for your reply.  I appreciate the time you took to answer my questions.  However, let me state that I find your comments in the last paragraph rude.  I’m the first to admit that I know very little.   (BTW my science knowledge is a product of the state school system.)
              I just want to first clarify something in relation to the issue we are discussing.  Most people I know would take the term ‘evolution’ to mean not only the development of life, but also the origin, because if you discuss development then you naturally end up at the beginning of that development.  You may say this is incorrect, but media and education have taught this concept to the masses, so I know that I am not alone in this interpretation.    
              That point aside, I do appreciate the information you have given me, but it still does not convince me that atheism does not require a level of faith.  Underlying evolutionary information are assumptions, unverified claims and honest acknowledgment of not knowing the answer.  It seems to me that both sides of the evolution/creation debate to some degree rest their belief in unproven and untested elements of the issue.  Case in point is your acceptance of dating methods.  To make the assertion that the way things work in the present is how they always worked in the past is belief without proof.  People can believe it all they want, but you cannot verify it until someone can say they saw that fossil fish die X million years ago. 
              You mentioned that there is some certainty in science, but all scientific knowledge is conditional and everything can be overturned.  So, if something better comes along, all that you’ve told me could be wrong, or at the least not exactly as you thought?  Then why should I believe this theory or that, if next year they could well be saying, “well, I need to adjust it,” or worse, “I had it wrong.”  This may be how the science model works, but it doesn’t mean that I am foolish if I don’t accept the theories of today, no matter who is proposing them and how plausible they may seem at the time.   Furthermore, if everything can be overturned, then the statement that you know basic things with certainty can’t be true.  Nothing is beyond doubt.  Why, then, is a Creator not a possibility? 
              You make an interesting assessment as to why God is appealing to me.  However, if as you say, religion offers all the answers and conditions people never to ask questions, what am I doing on this forum?  I thought I was asking questions.  But, doing this I’m ridiculed by you and accused of having a distrust of scientific method and process simply because I am asking the very questions you say that religion conditions me not to ask.  I’m confused.  Should I not question science? 
              Thanks again for your input.  I appreciated all of it apart from the nasty little comments, and it seems that this form of criticism is not isolated.  From what I’ve read on forums, there are many atheists who see themselves as having a superior intelligence to the dumb folk who believe in creation, or anyone who just wants to ask questions about evolution.  The two replies to my post demonstrate this.  Try not to insult the people who are simply trying to find out what you believe and why you believe it.  It doesn’t really fit in with the “Friendly Atheist” website name.
              I will no longer be posting on this forum as I have got all the answers I need, thanks.  I will continue to look into this debate through other sources.

               

              • Anonymous

                You are wrong about evolution. The word literally means development. It does not include the origin of life itself. Never has. The book was called “On the Origin of Species” because it’s about speciation and about how different species come into existence. Not life. Only religious pseudo-science peddles that misunderstanding for very obvious reasons. If you want to study that look into “abiogenesis”

                Evolution is THE central topic of modern biology. You can’t have biology, medicine or pharmacy without it. All our understanding of germs, viruses and vaccines depends on it to some extent.

                And it’s not an assumption FFS. People don’t just guess these things. At most, that’s how it starts. But no scientists leaves it at the level of a hypothesis. We’re talking about one of the most studied, most developed fields of science. There is a mountain of evidence for it. Evidence from widely different fields. Fields that weren’t even around when Darwin came up with natural selection. Most notably genetics. We can sequence genomes to see how species are related to each other. Which shows us that one of our chromosomes is a fusion of two ape chromosomes for example.

                Just because there are small gaps here and there, doesn’t mean the whole thing is wrong. It’s very unlikely at this stage that something entirely different will come along. So you can rest assured that no one will overturn the whole thing. Rather people will expand on certain aspects of evolution or come up with different explanations for certain parts. There is some disagreements about whether one mechanism for development is more important than another. But no one questions the thing in its entirety.

                Heliocentrism can be overturned in theory. In practice it won’t be. People sometimes say the theory relativity overturned Newtonian mechanics. But it only expanded on it. Newton’s laws are still good enough at small speeds and for most everyday problems. And relativity serves us well enough in most aspects. Otherwise GPS wouldn’t work. Other experiments confirm its predictions to great precision. If there is some astronomical phenomenon to contradict it – as can be read about here and there – we’ll expand it on it again.

                To make the assertion that the way things work in the present is how they always worked in the past is belief without proof

                We are talking about radioactivity!! The decay of atoms into smaller particles. Something that has been discovered over a hundred years ago. What kind of proof do you need to belief that it has always worked the same. Come on. I won’t want to be too hard on you, but this is ridiculous. Physics doesn’t just suddenly change. Matter doesn’t just suddenly behave differently

                Should I not question science?

                Not to the extreme extent you do. You think there is nothing definite, so you question all of it. Including the method itself.

                You need to learn to judge how well certain things are supported by evidence. Some theories we are absolutely certain about. Some – like evolution or quantum mechanics to a larger extend – are in continuous development, but we have a mountain of evidence for it. Others, like string theory, are unproven (which is why calling it a theory may not even be correct).. It’s  a matter of degrres

  • http://odonnellweb.com COD

    Another secular / atheist homeschooler here, albeit one that has managed to get two kids to high school age without ever going to a homeschool convention. My wife went to a few when we were just starting, but she went more just to shop the vendors for curriculum stuff. {sarcasm} Nice to see that the stereotype is still going strong {/sarcasm}

    For those of you that don’t quite get why a secular family would homeschool, my 5 minute presentation from Ignite DC may help.

  • Katie

    Interesting posts.

    I find it interesting how your “undercover reporters” felt the need to go undercover and make up a back story. So over the top.

    In a world where anything goes, Its funny how the only people considered crazy out there are the ones with a different opinion than your own. Not so open minded.

    Homeschoolers are free to homeschool according to their beliefs …some are Amish, some are Athiest, some are muslim some are Christian …but they all have their own point of view. Why should that be surprising?

  • http://www.justvisitinghere.blogspot.com Kathi

    I’ve been homeschooling my kids for 9 years now and am Christian in my belief. I thoroughly enjoyed reading your observations at this convention. I live in Oregon and have only attended our state’s “Christian” convention twice. Once to look at curriculum and once for my work.

    I have never attended any of the speaking events because I know that they will have a slanted point of view. And, you’re correct about gender views of this crowd.

    Oregon is very diverse in its homeschooling population and I do appreciate the fact that I have the freedom to homeschool my kids. No matter how families choose to educate their children, I think that educational freedom is wonderful.

  • Roni Seren

    Realtors VA The Excellent read, I just passed this onto a colleague who was doing a little research on this topic. And he actually bought me lunch because I found it for him. So I should thank you for the free lunch I got.

  • http://www.facebook.com/cindy.hendry Cindy Hendry

    I still do not understand why atheists would go to a Christian convention in the first place . There are some Christian homeschool conferences coming up on the east coast hope to see you there

  • Karen Loe

    As a secular homeschooler, an atheist homeschooler, the ONLY game out there for conventions for homeschoolers are Christian conventions.  They are very much as described above.
    I found my way to this old post through some weird train of links, beginning with an atheist link.  The last link before this was Christian somehow…

    Anyway, if you are a secular or an atheist homeschooler, check me out at my blog:
    http://taytayhser.blogspot.com/

    I LOVE Hemant’s website!  Woo Hoo!

  • Non Christian Homeschool

    I really enjoyed this post. For a non-Christian homeschooling mother, (a minority in the south for sure), it was very terrifying and enlightening. I was going to attend one of these, (because there is a lack of non-secular conventions in my area), in hopes of an array of topics and curriculum. You saved me time that would have been wasted-time I could never get back. I am educating my children about ALL religious, philisophical, and spiritual practices and believe it is their right to choose one, a combination, or none. I pulled my children from public school due to lacking seperation of church and state, mounting safety concerns, and lackluster education. We then attempted non-religious charter school. What really angers me is that even in PUBLIC school, the whitebread bible beating education is still present. I want my children to learn about Christ, and the Bible but in an objective way. I will never forget the day my young daughter came home in tears asking me why she was a sinner and how did she turn away from God? She didn’t want to burn in hell. She didn’t want to be held under water to be saved, and she didn’t want to drink Christ’s blood or eat his body. She was FIVE at the time. I have no problem exposing my children to other viewpoints, but those views can be expressed in a less damaging age appropriate way. I wonder how Christ would feel about what this teacher told my daughter’s class? What do her comments say about her character? I spend a great amount of time putting together my own curriculum because non-secular curriculum is difficult to find in all areas. For example, we just finished studying Native American beliefs and now we are reading and learning about Mary Magdeline and her “lost” books of the Bible (using the Bible as a history book written and edited by many). Very interesting, as the possibility that she was Jesus’ head disciple, not a prostitiute, as the Catholic Church may have skewed her story to promote church interests. My wish for Christian and all homeschoolers is that they are taught everything and then some, but most importantly to think for themselves and to love learning. I truly think this represents most Christian homeschools. There are extremists in every group. I have a Christian friend who truly believes that if children are nutured, well educated in all religious studies, and raised with sound character, they will choose the path right for them. Many Christians believe that if you pray about it, you will find Christ in your heart and know it is true and right. If this is the case, why not give your children a well rounded education and let them decide for themselves? Christians, like those at the convention you attended, turned me and many others away from Christianity. I truly feel this is the reason that people turn away from church. You learn about love, forgiveness, etc but look around at examples in your church and Christian world and the two don’t mesh, not creationary millions or billions. I love Jesus, I love what he taught-unconditional love and forgiveness…acceptance. Where were these messages in the convention? Why not focus on living what he taught instead of force feeding. Living what Jesus and others teach is very difficult, force feeding and control is easy. Everyone can benefit from learning about Jesus, Buddha, and many other amazing teachers in history.