Kenyan Atheists Want to Reward Kids Who Failed Their Religious Studies Exams

Atheists in Kenya, a group that does just about everything it can to challenge religious orthodoxy in the nation, announced a rather controversial way to achieve its goal.

They’re offering a cash prize of 10,000 Kenyan shillings (~$100 USD) to the students who achieved the lowest scores in their religious studies Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education exams. (The KCSEs are the tests you take to get into college.)

We don’t want you to feel like you failed in these subjects! On the contrary, you did spectacularly well!

Two students (1 male and 1 female) shall emerge winners for each of the categories (subjects)from across the country. A random algorithm shall be applied to arrive at the winning applicants. To participate, you must have scored a grade of E in one of the religious subjects — CRE, HRE, or IRE — in the 2017 KSCE (Kenya School of Secondary Education).

To get a grade of E, you have to score below a 30 on a scale of 0-100. To get into a decent school, you usually need a C+ (55 or above) on the various tests. CRE, HRE, and IRE represent the exams for Christianity, Hinduism, and Islam, respectively, and they are all optional classes in the national curriculum.

The sentiment here is obvious: The group wants to “promote religious skepticism in Kenya” by rewarding students who bomb the religious exams.

But the logic is really counterproductive here. In fact, it plays right into the hands of the religious. If I were religious, my beliefs wouldn’t be threatened by the atheist who fails an exam asking details about my faith. I would be far more afraid of an atheist who gets a high score on that exam and still proudly proclaims that she believes none of it.

Atheists in Kenya shouldn’t reward the kids who did poorly on those tests. They should reward the kids who scored the highest and who are willing to publicly proclaim that the entire subject matter is absurd. We’re atheists not because we’re ignorant about religious beliefs but because we’ve examined them closely.

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