My Atheist Dilemma: Truth and Reality

I am currently working closely with an indigenous children’s home based in Malaysia. They are undoubtedly the most wonderful bunch of kids I have met in my life. Their attitude towards life, and the drive to break out of a socio-political system that seeks to marginalize them is a lesson by itself. These kids have been raised as Christians by their pious caretaker – and “mother”, as she’s lovingly known to the children – who in my opinion, is an incredible human being. She took these kids out of the jungle, and raised them almost single-handedly – providing shelter, education, and food.

The other day, during the English tutoring session I conduct weekly with the children, one of the young ones asked me,”Do you go to church? Do you love Jesus?” I smiled, as best as I could, showing off my rarely revealed dimple in an attempt to avoid an awkward situation. When I realized he was still looking directly at me, I diverted his attention by talking about a Smurf’s book I brought along for class.

This whole incident got me thinking: To what extent should I allow my personal beliefs and principles dictate my influence on these children? 

On one hand, I have nothing but respect for their caretaker, who has treated me dearly, cooking wonderful meals for me frequently; she reminds me of my late grandmother. I respect her for what she’s doing, and I respect her personal belief. On the other hand, I am this Militant Atheist and Humanist, who is adamant that religion should not dictate education. Take the issue of Creationism versus Evolution, I am certain that evolution is real, because of all the facts and evidence presented by Science; while the evidence for Creationism or Intelligent Design wouldn’t even complete two sentences. The kids believe that god created them, I held my tongue back furiously when I heard one of them making that statement. Do I attempt to challenge the status quo of this peaceful and loving eco-system, or am I forcefully pushed into a corner of silence, accepting that Christianity is the established system of belief at this home, with these children?

For now, I have decided that I would be more helpful to them by educating them sans the destruction of the religious bubble they reside in. I would not want to risk angering or upsetting the caretaker and ruin my relationship with the children.

However, I can’t promise myself that I wouldn’t strike back the next time the science of reality is challenged by the bogus science of religion.

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3 thoughts on “My Atheist Dilemma: Truth and Reality

  1. Alex Autin says:

    This is a very interesting dilemma, and one which many atheists face. I think you’re making the right decision. Does the caretaker know you’re an atheist? If so, she seems reasonable enough so that the two of you could come to an agreement as to how to handle these questions from the children. Their education is the most important issue, and while you are not in the position to challenge the views of the caretaker you are in an excellent position to teach the children the excitement of learning and discovery which could, in the future, lead them to figure things out for themselves. Challenging the caretaker would most likely be disastrous and could lead to your being removed from them altogether.

    • Chris Lim says:

      I haven’t really discussed the topic of religion with the caretaker, as I am aware of her pious stance on Christianity. She knows I come from a Christian background, but I have pointed out that I am non-practicing.

      Yes, through the process of writing this post and asking myself that all-important question, which you aptly addressed, I have concluded that the process of education itself – pure fact-based education, without the inclusion of bogus religious nonsense – is the foundation to building a future where the children might some day seek out the truth to challenge the religious doctrine they have been brainwashed into. And for now, my role is to build that foundation, albeit subtly with little controversy.

      • Its difficult but as these aren’t your own children you need to weigh up the consequenses of speaking your mind and not. It may be that holding your tongue now but helping them find their own truth later is the right decision. Often children are too young to have detailed concepts of evolution fully explained to them and while they are in the care of someone with an opposing view, a basic child’s explanation will not suffice.

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