life religion

What Religion?

Yesterday in class I had a twelfth-grade student ask me if I was a christian? Taken aback by this loaded topic, I took a moment to reply.

I stammered — “No, I’m not a christian.”

“Then what religion are you?” he persisted.

I found myself recalling this quotation by Douglas Adams:

“I really do not believe that there is a god — in fact I am convinced that there is not a god (a subtle difference). I see not a shred of evidence to suggest that there is one. It’s easier to say that I am a radical Atheist, just to signal that I really mean it, have thought about it a great deal, and that it’s an opinion I hold seriously.”

As regular readers know, I too have thought a great deal about it, and it’s an opinion I hold seriously, nevertheless instead of proudly declaring my radical atheism I quietly hedged, “I’m less religious,” (whatever that is suppose to mean).

Although I’m still surprised that he would actually ask such a personal question, I think I understand where it came from. The student interogator presented a distinctly muslim appearance and we had just watched a documentary about the Israeli / Palestinian conflict. The film, called Israel – Birth of a Nation, though balanced, covers the most heated conflict of the twentieth century and there is a heuristic convenience in knowing which religion those around you subscribe. I suspect he wanted to pre-determine my perspective on the conflict but my non-religious status defused any oncoming discussion in utero.

And that was it.

He dropped it and asked some other students what their beliefs were but as other students watched me, each doing their own mental analysis of the scene, I pondered why I couldn’t be the proud atheist role model I wanted to be?1 It’s unusual to talk about ones beliefs in a public school setting but since it came up, I wanted students to know that the perfectly happy, healthy, well-adjusted non-believing teacher in front of them practices what he preaches with regard to the importance of critical thinking.

  1. I wonder if the recent stabbing of a teacher in France just five days ago by an Islamic terrorist had me feeling reticent. I feel silly admitting my thought process but the chilling effect of such ideological murders is real. []