You’re going to love this story from Dale McGowan.
This is the beginning of what his eighth-grade daughter Erin told him the other day:
“I was at the table in the cafeteria with these three other kids, and two of them asked the other girl where she went to church. She said ‘We don’t go to church,’ and their eyes got big, and the one guy leaned forward and said, ‘But you believe in God, right?'”
Ooooh, here we go. I shifted in my seat.
“So the girl says, ‘Not really, no.’ And their eyes got all [!!!] and they said, ‘Well what DO you believe in then??’
[Pause for effect.]
“And she said,‘I believe in the universe.’ And they said, ‘So you’re like an atheist?‘ And she said ‘Yes, I guess I am.'”
I looked around for popcorn and a five-dollar Coke. Nothing. “Then what??”
You can read Erin’s wonderful response here.
What can we learn from this?
8th graders can be pretty damn courageous.
When someone says she’s an atheist, it makes it a little easier for the next person to say the same thing.
When a second person says she’s also an atheist, the first person becomes a little more confident.
When two people say they’re atheists in front of a hostile audience, they’ve just made an incredibly powerful statement.
Dale offers one more important lesson for the hostile audience:
The other two kids also won a parting gift. They learned that the assumed default doesn’t always hold, and that the world still spins despite the presence of difference. They’re also likely to be less afraid and less astonished the next time they learn that someone doesn’t believe as they do, which can also translate into greater tolerance of all kinds of difference.
It brings to mind this short-but-powerful TED Talk from Derek Sivers:
When someone finally joins you, amazing things can happen.
(via The Meming of Life)