By now, everyone has heard about the Satanic Temple’s attempt to start an after-school program in elementary schools in order to fight back against evangelical Christian groups like the Good News Club. As the Executive Director of Young Skeptics, I’m 100% in favor of taking on the Good News Club and their emotionally abusive practices, and I’ve done so on multiple occasions. We started Young Skeptics as a secular alternative to the GNC, and continue to work toward national expansion of the program, despite what was reported in Hemant Mehta’s article last week saying we “haven’t gained much traction.” We will be ready to open new chapters nationally in January.
When we came up with the idea for Young Skeptics, we toyed with the idea of an atheism club, but knowing these kids are anywhere from 6 to 12 years old, we felt it was inappropriate to do that for a number of reasons:
- We feel religion, and discussions of faith or lack thereof, belong at home and in religious institutions, not in public schools.
- Trying to get kids to sign up for a program about atheism (or satan) would be a waste of time and effort. It’s extremely rare for a child to identify him/herself as an atheist, so we’d be severely limiting the pool of interested students.
- We’d be perceived as no better than the evangelical groups, targeting children for indoctrination.
- Children who signed up and attended (if any) would be subject to bullying, harassment, and aggressive proselytizing by their Christian friends and/or classmates with a negative view of atheism (or satanism).
The fourth bullet may be the most important. By opposing the Good News Club, we are standing up against the bullying and intimidating tactics used by the GNC. But asking kids to sign up for a club that would subject them to ostracism could be just as harmful. If our goal is to provide an environment for our kids to allow them to feel safe, then introducing a Satanic Temple Club is the wrong move.
Regardless of the content of the Satanic Temple’s curriculum, they will be perceived as teaching satanism the way Christians perceive it — evil deeds, animal sacrifices, etc. It sucks, but that’s just the way it is. Perception is reality, and we all know many Christians aren’t exactly big into research.
If our goal is to fight back against the Good News Club by offering an alternative club for kids that focuses on critical thinking and evidence-based reasoning, so they have the tools to fight off indoctrination (and other false claims) on their own, then we should work toward religiously-unaffiliated clubs like Young Skeptics.
I get it. The Satanic Temple wants to make waves so high that they ruffle the feathers of the Good News Club and its supporters, so much so that they pull out of schools or get kicked out. But with over 3500 clubs in public schools in the US, I don’t see that happening. More likely, I envision the Satanic Temple’s clubs to open in a handful of schools thanks to legal precedent, but failing to bring in attendees and eventually fading away — ultimately seen by evangelicals as a victory for Christians against evil satanic forces (despite what the clubs are actually about).