The War of the Mind is Being Fought by Teens

“…we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” 2 Cor 10:5

Legally, adults cannot proselytize in public schools, though they certainly try and sometimes succeed even though the administrators know a lawsuit could sap their entire budget.  But the goal of converting kids to Christ is so important (mostly because they’re less inoculated against bullshit than adults), and Christianity is such a lousy impediment to sleazy behavior, that believers keep looking for ways to skirt the law.

The new big push is peer evangelism.  Whereas you’d think public schools are for education first, these people seek to use the students at these schools to turn them into a bastion for ministry.  This is the message of the major web site for this push: Every Student, Every School.

Of course, even though they’re being used by adults who are perfectly willing to distract their children from their education with important tasks like telling everybody within earshot that some weirdo dude rose from the dead 2,000 years ago, it’s still the student’s right to do that.  So what can we do?

Part of the problem is that unlike our opposition, we’re not willing to treat young people like pawns in the culture war.  We’re willing to help them form secular clubs to achieve solidarity.  These clubs are essential in their defense living in the atmosphere of disdain crafted by religion in the public school environment.  I would tell high school students to ignore the proselytizers and focus on their academics.  But that’s easier said than done?  Can we do anything?  Should we do anything other than trust secular students to be able to push back if they feel so inclined?

I went to the apologetics part of the web site.  It’s just a video talking about how they have all the evidence on their side.  Yeah, just like a hobo has all the money.

The whole mess is run by a guy named Sean McDowell who was/is a high school teacher.  He’s also an abject loon (the article is hosted on Conversant Life, a site I tussled with way back in my xanga days).  He’s the one in the video talking about how Christians have all the evidence on their side (of course, he doesn’t mention any of it).  It would never happen since McDowell would have everything to lose and nothing to gain, but I sure wish I could get a crack at him and let him and see how his *ahem* evidence holds up.

I say we use this to our advantage.  We’re content to go about our daily, scholastic lives, but if they want to engage us?  Awesome.  We can prepare young atheists with the rebuttals to the lame arguments they’re bound to hear from peer ministers.  Pascal’s Wager?  Shred it to ribbons and laugh.  First Cause Argument?  Reduce it to powder and watch them stumble and choke on it.  They may be outnumbered, but fortunately all the evidence, literally all of it, is in our hands, and it is a weapon that can be turned back at the indoctrinated minds of the faithful.  We can tell high school secularists that the religion discussion is fine, but the purpose of schools is for education and that discussion should always take a distant backseat.  However, once a believer opens the door that the atheist student is free to walk through as far as they wish…or to tell them to piss off before hurrying to their biology class.

What about you guys?  What is the proper response here?  This is my job, so good ideas are welcome and appreciated.

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About JT Eberhard

When not defending the planet from inevitable apocalypse at the rotting hands of the undead, JT is a writer and public speaker about atheism, gay rights, and more. He spent two and a half years with the Secular Student Alliance as their first high school organizer. During that time he built the SSA’s high school program and oversaw the development of groups nationwide. JT is also the co-founder of the popular Skepticon conference and served as the events lead organizer during its first three years.


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