Monday, October 13, 2014

The Young Atheist's Survival Guide by Hemant Mehta

The Young Atheist's Survival Guide: Helping Secular Students Thrive, Hemant Mehta. Denver: Patheos Press, 2012. ebook, 134 pps.

     High school is a time of change for adolescents. Some are on the way to defining themselves along the atheist spectrum and others have been there for several years. The majority of students in the United States profess some sort of faith. For those who don't, they may find an inner strength in standing up for the Constitution.

     Hemant Mehta recounts some of their stories in The Young Atheist's Survival Guide. Especially poignant for me was the student athlete in Oklahoma who refused to mouth a prayer after a basketball game. Unfortunately, this happened in 2004. She was unable to obtain the support that is so readily available to students who are defining their non-belief today.

     The coach told her to go to the lockers. But that wasn't enough. A conversation was held the next day with someone higher up. She was kicked from the basketball team. No adult even had the courtesy to tell her. Instead, false accusations were made. The student athlete became a home-schooled teen. 

     When high school kids are allowed to "vote" on including a prayer at their graduation or told that their speeches will not be read first by an authority, they figure they can run rampant over the rights of minority students. One such minority student was a non-theist valedictorian. The speeches of other kids were wildly applauded. His speech-- not so much.

     The humiliation of having to sit in the hallway during "Bible story time" in a public school is not quickly forgotten. Also not forgotten is what a second grader went through when she admitted that the story of Cain and Abel made no sense to her. Having an entire auditorium of kids scream "god bless you" at a student who does not share the predominant faith is not something a high school teen should have to go through. Having kids shout out the words "under god" during the pledge at another teen who also has no faith is also mean-spirited.

sapphoq reviews says: From a Sunday school class told to draw a christian and then draw a non-christian to bullying principals, teachers, and administrators who really ought to know better, there is plenty to get angry about in this book. Perhaps the anger will drive you into action. For those who don't really understand what the big deal is about secular students in the public school system, The Young Atheist's Survival Guide is a must read. For the rest of us who do get it, this book might propel some of us into action. Highly recommended. And yes, for the record, I am an atheist.

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