Atheist Ireland to Develop a Course About Atheism for Young Students

Atheist Ireland launched an important new initiative yesterday in which they will be “financing, developing, designing and piloting Ireland’s first primary school course about atheism.”

As it stands, the grade levels that Americans would consider “elementary” already teach kids about religion. (Most schools are denominational, after all.) But atheism isn’t mentioned in the curriculum and it’s barely touched upon even when the kids get older.

This project will help fill that void:

The initial project will involve a set of ten lessons for one age grouping, to be decided (either Junior and Senior Infants; or 1st/2nd class; or 3rd/4th class; or 5th/6th class). Ultimately we would like to develop it into four sets of ten lessons, one for each of those four age groups.

The lessons will be 30-40 minutes in length. Professionals will be employed to write lessons, and a co-ordinator will be employed to manage the project.

Our lessons about atheism will be based on the Toledo guiding principles and will be taught in an objective, critical and pluralist manner. They will teach about atheism, not teach atheism.

We also hope to make course material available for parents whose children are in denominational schools, and who want material for their child to study while they are opted out of the Religious Education / Faith Formation classes.

The lessons will be piloted and implemented in Educate Together (a group of multi-denominational) schools. It’s incredible that no one has done this already, but it’s a fantastic idea: Expose children to the idea that not being religious is perfectly fine (and moral!) and atheism is one of the options they can choose when they’re ready to. It’s early to tell what the pushback will be like, but in a country where religion ranked dead last on a list of 119 possible priorities for citizens, I’m betting there won’t be too much.

More details can be found at the AI website.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • LesterBallard

    Sounds like a good idea; I bet it goes over well.

  • GodVlogger (on YouTube)

    Atheist Ireland has been doing a FANTASTIC job on so many fronts:
    Holding conferences,
    Challenging Ireland’s blasphemy law,
    Frequent presence on radio interviews and television shows,
    An active YouTube channel,
    Media coverage for topics like women’s reproductive rights, etc.

    A “Tip of my hat” to Atheist Ireland.

  • Curmudgeon

    I’m reading the article…. and for some reason, I can’t stop smiling!

  • Scott

    Mick Nugent is also a public advocate for doctor assisted suicide and is doing some really brave and important work in Ireland on that issue, as well as other humanist issues. If you’re interested you can check out the Right to Die Ireland website.

    Mick is a bit of a legend in the heathen community in Ireland. You might even say he’s our friendly atheist (If I may)

  • chicago dyke, TOWAN

    dead last out of 119?

    i need to move to Ireland and embrace/reclaim my Irish heritage.

  • SJH

    What exactly is a class about atheism? It’s not necessarily about teaching science or reason because you can do that and be religious. In fact the Church, historically has been a leader in education in terms of science. So are they simply teaching children that there are a lot of religions out there but you don’t have to believe them? That seems like a very short curriculum. Just tell the kids they don’t have to believe anything. It only takes about give seconds.

  • advancedatheist

    In other words, in practice “atheism” doesn’t refer to some mysterious void in the universe formerly occupied by god beliefs. Instead, given how many atheists use the term, it means something like “the criticism and rejection of theism and related beliefs.” Unfortunately many atheists don’t stop there, but they attach to this kind of atheism an arbitrary liberal social ideology which atheism in no way implies.

  • Renshia

    Ah your ignorance of what could be taught, is over shadowed by your ignorance of what you think the church has been a leader in. The truth is that the church traditionally held back education, fighting and killing as hard as it could to prevent the common folk from having it. Even once accepting it as inevitable, it tries to restrict what can be learned.

    So take your lies and your knowledge gained from sermons and not research and stuff it. Look into the truth of what you speak before you come here.

  • Anna

    Sounds good to me. It’s amazing how almost everything geared towards children is pro-religion. There aren’t many instances of atheism in children’s media period, let alone positive examples of disbelief.

  • TCC

    Description of content.
    1. The variety of world views in modern culture, including their origin
    2. The scientific world view – at odds with religion? The question of creation
    3. The technological view of the world and the person
    4. Challenges to religious experience (such as materialism, individualism, etc.)
    5. Apathy and religious indifference.

    Yep, definitely sounds like what you’re talking about, except, you know, the opposite of that. Yeah, that.

  • Robster

    “Faith Formation” Read: Indoctrination. How is faith formation allowed in schools? It’s more suss than the nonsense faith “teaches”.

  • SJH

    What exactly can be taught that is not taught at most respectable schools? Use your power to reason? Be skeptical? Science? Evolution? The Big Bang theory? These are not atheist issues. They are virtues and scientific issues that are taught in most schools.

    Also, please explain your accusation of the Church. The Church has not held back education. This is a myth that atheists try to push. Which I have looked into. I think that if you go back into history and you will see the truth of the matter. If you have evidence to the contrary please elaborate.